Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor this week published a list of essential guidelines on how to be successful online. Reznor knows a thing or two about Internet success. He became the best-selling artist on Amazon’s MP3 store despite giving his music and videos away for free, engaged his fans in a breath-taking Alternate Reality Game and recently became the Webby Artist of the year.
Critics have always argued that Reznor’s position is unique, and note that his band’s millions of fans around the world are thanks in no small part to promotion through his former major label. Reznor countered this kind of criticism by focusing his advice on the needs of aspiring newcomers. And while some of these suggestions may be specific to musicians, most of them actually make a lot of sense for up-and-coming online video makers as well. So since we here at NewTeeVee continue to get countless questions as to how to establish and promote new web shows, we’re stealing some of his best ideas and passing them on to you.
Here are five essential guidelines to establish yourself online:
“Forget thinking you are going to make any real money from record sales.“ The same is true for video: Don’t expect to make tons of money with any of the existing video download stores, even if they offer you awesome revenue share agreements. Instead, opt for free and try to monetize other things down the road, once you have established an online fan base. The team at Ask A Ninja, for example, used DVD and t-shirt sales to finance their work before the big ad dollars started to roll in. Reznor suggests collecting email addresses in exchange for free downloads and using these contacts to both advertise upcoming releases as well as merchandise sales. That’s a little harder if people watch your show on YouTube, but you could still promote your newsletter with t-shirt raffles and higher-quality downloads.
“[G]et your music everywhere.“ The same is true for video; don’t rely on just one site. Sign up with TubeMogul and let them put your video on YouTube, blip, MySpace and any other site possible.
“Have your MySpace page, but get a site outside MySpace.” Replace MySpace with YouTube, and you know what we’re talking about. There’s a good chance most people will see your show on the major video sites, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least have a blog somewhere else. Something that you can update even if you don’t have any new episodes, where people can leave comments. Having a place where you can gather a dedicated and friendly community can also be a great morale-booster, and you’re gonna need one of those when the inevitable bad-spirited commenters start to appear on your YouTube channel. Or, as one online video maker at the recent NewTeeVee LA meetup put it: “People on YouTube are mean!”
“Remove all Flash from your website. Remove all stupid intros and load-times…Constantly update your site with content – pictures, blogs, whatever. Give people a reason to return to your site all the time.“ Amen to that. Except for the inevitable embedded Flash video players, of course.
“Make cheap videos.“ Uhm, yeah. No, we don’t want you to spend less on lighting when you shoot your show’s episodes. But there’s inevitably gonna be a time when you have no new episode to publish. That’s when low lights and rough cuts are OK. Publish outtakes (if they’re funny), director’s commentary (if you have something to say) or faux celebrity sex tapes (if you’re into that kind of thing). OK, maybe you shouldn’t go with the last suggestion, but the point is to constantly put out something to remind people you’re still alive.
Have any other suggestions to share? Feel free to add them in the comments.