Case-study: When Getting Your Music Discovered Gets Ugly

from the ugly-is-the-new-pretty dept

I go through huge amounts of links and information each day when it comes to the music business, but this is by far the coolest and funniest way of getting your music discovered I’ve seen in a very long time (OK Go, eat your heart out).
The idea of The Ugly Dance is very simple. You go to the site, upload your picture, it’s placed on top of a (slightly customizable) body and you can choose all kinds of maniacal ways of dancing. Here’s yours truly dancing like nobody’s watching:
It’s a project by Swedish band Fulkultur and appears to have been around for about half a year right now. Obviously, this type of thing spreads; getting their music heard by a lot of people (and what a catchy song it is). When I wanted to create a second dancer (to send to a friend), I got the following message: 
A very reasonable thing to ask… and since I was in such a great mood and figured the donation would not be much effort anyway, I went ahead and gave them some money, even though I believed clicking the Donate Nothing button would still allow you to create more dancers, although I later found out that this is in fact not so.
There are even a bunch of tribute videos and remixes out there (yes, every one of those words links to a unique video, have fun).
These videos are the result of the ecosystem at work! It’s a fanbase that co-creates, amplifies and adds value to your original message.  It’s a perfect example of using something viral to getting your music discovered, but also of creating a movement which is easy to join, because it’s obvious what you have to do to participate (also read Derek Sivers’ post about this).
I got in touch with the band and asked about the success. Anders Tjernblom, one of the band members, filled me in (even though he was on holiday!):
" was actually not a result of some great promotional master plan. It just happened.

It started off as an idea to get visitors to my band Fulkultur’s (meaning Ugly Culture/Crap Culture) Myspace page. I have had this idea about a dance application for about a decade. In January last year I started programming it in my spare time, and a couple of months later I wrote the song Fuldans (Ugly Dance) specifically for the application. It was not the other way around, as most people think.

On May 17 we released and sent the link to some friends. When I checked the stats a couple of days later a few thousand people had made their own dancers. I could feel something was about to happen. Just the day after someone shared a link on a Swedish blog, and it generated a tsunami of visitors. 30 000 people rushed in in just a few hours. The week after we hade a few hundred thousand hits, and it was a continous struggle to keep the server alive. Two weeks after the release, and 700 000 visitors later, I thought everything was under control. Then the Americans came.

Someone had written English instructions for the website, and had published it on some major American website. Our current server could not handle that amount of visitors. We decided to close the server for international visitors, to find a better solution.

During June/July we created an English clone of It was going to be called Even the music was translated, and our aim was to raise money for the band to write and record more music. The clone was released by the end of August. 

Now, to answer your question: have had 7 milllion completely unique visitors. A few very kind people have donated, but they are very few. If we should have done anything differently, we should probably have sold T-shirts or something. Something real for the massive amount of visitors to buy. But we are still very happy for what we have accomplished. We will try to keep the website alive for as long as possible, although it is not a cash cow at all."
I think partly due to the fact that this success "just happened", they never really got the chance to think things through very well. They did a spectacular and exemplary job at getting people’s attention and making the initial connection, but there appears to be no focus at all on retention. There appears to be no link to the band’s MySpace, which they were trying to promote. Due to the fact that most people are on Facebook and Twitter now, I think it would have been a better idea to put those links in the foreground, but most importantly; there has to be a way for people to connect. A simple Facebook ‘Like’ button below the Flash application would have gone a long way.
The second part is the business model. I think it’s great that the band went into this without a very clear picture of a business model. They just had an exciting idea and executed it and this genuineness shows in the final result (and echoes throughout the ecosystem as you can see through the fan vids on YouTube). From a marketing perspective, asking for a donation or getting people to buy your music out of sympathy is a bad business model. As Mike always says, it’s about giving fans a reason to buy. A good thought experiment is to imagine a totally selfish consumer and to see what you could offer them so that they spend money on you. They should spend it for themselves, not for you.
This means making sure you retain as much of the original traffic as you can without getting obtrusive. This means shining a light on the early followers and encouraging them in what they do, because they’re helping you amplify your message and are providing social proof. At the same time you should connect these people to each other, forming an ecosystem. You’re still the reason why these people are connected, but the communication in the fanbase should be non-linear (as opposed to artist-fan), because that’s how the ecosystem can start to come alive (think of it as hosting a party where nearly nobody knows each other). The business models simply come from listening to the ecosystem and playing into their desires (just like Younger Brother did).
In the end, giving fans a great reason to buy is the ultimate way of connecting with them.

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Comments on “Case-study: When Getting Your Music Discovered Gets Ugly”

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Jose_X (profile) says:

empowering users with software and cute effects

I started (and placed on hold) a reproduction effort of the Copying is not Theft animation by Nina P to turn the graphics into vector shapes (svg) to reproduce the meme in scalable format and build an interface to allow people to easily change any frame or object in there (with any number of shortcut features possibly added over time).

I imagine a lot of people have built tools to do some of this same sort of stuff, not to mention that the Adobe tools probably allow for a lot manipulation short-cuts, but are any of these tools open source?

Anyway, speaking of affectionate outfits fit for this forum’s volk effect

Karl (profile) says:


This is a perfect example of bands doing things that are unique and entertaining, and for which they are uniquely qualified to promote.

Now I know, I’m not exactly one to jump on the “YouTube sensation” bandwagon. I don’t believe that system actually creates lasting and significant art (any more than I believe the major labels create lasting and significant art – fundamentally, it’s the same idea).

But this is very different. What this band created was not “art” in the classical Van Gough sense. They created a way for other people to create art. They were as much “art enablers” as they were artists.

This, I think, is where the future of art lies. And for those who are successful at it, it is a lucrative future indeed.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Its not new. Newgrounds Audio Portal meet Flash portal all the time to create music vids for the stuff. Some of them you know already.

Anyway its mostly done via the forums in the form of flash request (because like someone I know.. they don’t operate in a vacum)

I wonder if Tom Fulp & Team will be interested in setting up a feature for it rather then mining through the forums. Anybody know how to contact him?

Heni says:

definition junkculture/crapculture

Fulkultur (crapculture/junkculture) is the finest word popularized during the recent couple of years in Sweden. It originates from Raymond Williams high/low culture abolition in the 60s. And the following sling back of a separation during and because the widespread of american popularculture (mainly the entire 90s). We all watch, listen and read popularculture (be it american or local), but we know its not very deep in the message. Not saying it doesnt have any meaning for us, its just not that complex. Its a quick fix, might even feel guilty after watching/listing/reading it. Its not low, indicating that there would be a scale to measure culture. What is the best word to explain something you watch and (most of the times) enjoy, but is probably not good for you (like junk food)?

mosiac user says:

the bleedin edge evolution

Two things came to mind when I read the final paragraphs.The first was a vague feeling that the description of of a totally selfish consumer didn’t sit quite right,and sounded sorta like Frosty’s reaction. The second thing I thought was that his follow-up line “They should spend it for themselves, not for you”, was one of the best encapsulations of CwF+RtB that I have heard since the phrase was born. It also highlights the difference between new model business methods,and the actions of the Music Trolls of main street old model music business. Old style Music Trolls believe “We own it! We own it!You Pay!”,whether a freely heard song would have resulted in a sale or not.Piracy as a lost sale is their code.

Saying that listeners should buy of themselves,for themselves is not the same. This band didn’t stop the music from being heard,they just counted on payment for playing/modifying the ugly dance game. They now realize that the ugly dance game isn’t really a scarce good. Even they reconsidered T shirts as a better scarce good. Looooots of T shirts. In the end recognizing that a fan-base represents a live ecosystem,capable of voluntarily supporting your music is an expansion of the 1000 true fans philosophy. It’s a growth,and a homage to where CwF+RtB can go.

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:

Re: the bleedin edge evolution

I realize that the concept of the selfish consumer is an uncomfortable one. The word ‘selfish’ has some very negative connotations and I’m always hesitant to use it.

However, using this concept is an excellent tool in figuring out solid business models instead of letting certain psychological factors such as your own ego or pride get into the way.

Thanks for your comment. I love your reflection.

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