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!):
"TheUglyDance.com 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 fuldans.se 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 fuldans.se. It was going to be called theuglydance.com. 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:TheUglyDance.com 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.