Alex Douglas

Trombone, Washboard, Blues Harp”

Upviral - Viral Loop Marketing Tool 

I first came across UpViral because I read a lot about filmmaking and the associated equipment and one site, in particular, Planet 5D, runs a lot of competitions to win cameras and accessories from different companies. After entering a couple of dozen or so I started to think about how I could apply this marketing technique to the band so I looked into the platform.

How it works, in a nutshell, is that you create either a giveaway prize draw and/or a free gift in exchange for someone agreeing to sign up to your email list. That sounds pretty simple, right? That's because it is. However, that's not the best bit, this is: When they sign up they get points and the system generates a unique referral link for each person. If they then share the link on Facebook, Twitter, emails, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or any other way then they get more points awarded. You get to decide exactly how many points they get for each action completed, sending someone to the contest, sharing the link on each platform, signing someone up to the contest etc.

And what do points mean? If you know the answer to that catchphrase then you are showing your age!

The more points you get, the more chances you have to win Think of these like a digital raffle ticket, the more you have in the box, the more likely you are to get picked. You can give away prizes when people earn so many points such as PDFs, MP3 downloads etc. You can also award points for people signing up to your social media platforms as well.

I tried a couple of small contests to win a vinyl and another to win some festival tickets to kind of dip my toes in the water. These went OK and I got a few people added to our mailing list as a result. So then I wanted to go for a big one and get a prize set that would really entice a lot of people. Now here is where you have to be smart. If I had bought an iPad or something similar that a lot of people across a lot of demographics want, sure I would have got a lot of people signing up and sharing the contest to earn points but they aren't likely to be potential customers, i.e. people who like the band and will come to a gig or buy an album in the future. I had to think up a set of prizes that would appeal to our existing and also potential crowd.

I surveyed on social media and also just used my common sense to find things and came up with the following prize package:

  • Crosley Vintage style portable record player 
  • The Jive Aces “Diggin’ The Roots” double album on vinyl 
  • The Jive Aces “Just for the Record” vinyl 
  • Complete set of The Jive Aces CDs (11 albums and 2 E.P.s) 
  • Pair of tickets to a Jive Aces show of your choice 
  • £100 Vivien of Holloway gift certificate 
  • Yellow Kala ukulele (the “Bring Me Sunshine” model!) 
  • One-year subscription to Vintage Rock Magazine 
  • One-year subscription to Vintage Life Magazine 
  • "Deliciously Decorated" by Charly White from Restoration Cake

I also decided to give away an MP3 track form the new album when people reached 6 points. To earn that number they'd only have to sign up and share the contest a couple of times.

I then created a webpage on our site where the giveaway was embedded. You can see this at http://www.jiveaces.com/contest. The form is no longer visible as the giveaway has long since ended but it gives you an idea for context.

I then took some photos before a gig on the beach in Deal in Kent when we happened to have three girls singing with us and all wearing Vivien of Holloway dresses to create promotional images for the contest featuring some of the prizes. See the main one below:

Then I had another idea to involve the companies I got the prizes from and so I told them about the giveaway and asked them if they would promote it on their social media, I would send out a "thank you" email to all the people who entered and as a consolation prize and give them a special offer on their products such as %10 off on their website store for a limited time. That way, each of the brands would get exposed to each other's customers as complementary but non-competing products (magazines, clothes etc).

To be totally honest, I didn't really set this up well in advance with them so I got a little bit of support on this idea but not a great deal. This is the thing I have to concentrate on for the next one so if you are a brand that wants to get involved with this then email me at promo@jiveaces.com!

I ran the contest for a month and here is how it went: I had 759 people sign up, some of whom were on our mailing list already so I got about 560 new people. Not bad methinks! I was hoping for a thousand but I am still learning...

To promote the draw I spent a little money on boosted Facebook posts and an ad, sent it to our email list and posted it on social media copious amounts of times, plus tagged all the companies whose products I was giving away so they could easily share it.

To make the draw really fair (instead of the computer randomly picking a winner) I actually printed out every single entrant's name times as many points as they had (the top points earner had over 500!) and chopped them up into a box. We then did a live stream on our Facebook page and made a big song and dance about it (literally!). You can see the video HERE.

So the key to this I think is finding prizes that will appeal to your target audience that are or are potentially interested in your band/brand/product and then involving as many collaborators as possible and getting the word out.

All in all the platform is pretty simple to use and the tech support was fairly quick too. The interface to set everything up is nice and clean and straightforward and easy to see what you have done and what you still need to do. It also takes you through in a fairly logical step by step order. They are also continually adding new features and quite aggressively developing the platform. In fact, the feature to award people points for signing up to your social media only started after I launched the giveaway so I added it as an option as soon as it was available.

If you are interested in using UpViral, CLICK HERE to sign up. Full disclosure, that's my affiliate link to their service so they'll give me a little slice. But if you do sign up, play hard to get! By that I mean if you go through the process of signing up and give up towards the end they'll come back to you with a discount. When I did it I got a 50% discount for an annual plan paid in advance.

I hope this has been of use to you guys, hit me up if you have any questions!

Cheers, Alex

P.S. here are a few more individual images from the shoot.

Twitter Promote Mode - Review 

In my quest to take over the social sphere... OK, expose a few more people to our music, I tried out "Twitter Promote Mode". Instead of making individual ads, it just forwards your first 10 tweets of the day to more people who don't necessarily follow you and costs £79/month (or $99). You choose three of a small list of very generic interest demographics such as "Entertainment", "Travel" etc and off it goes.

Now, they do say it's in "Beta Testing" which means it is not a full-on, battle-tested product yet (although allegedly good enough to charge that much for it...).

What the website claims is the following:

"For a low monthly fee, your Tweets and account will automatically be promoted. Reach up to 30,000 additional people and add an average of 30 new followers each month.*

With a caveat at the bottom...

"your performance may vary".

The demo graph they show you is this: 

Who knows if this is a real graph or made up for demo purposes but looks pretty good, right? Over 360% more reach than their organic reach to existing followers, whoop!

And they have gained 53 new followers too. OK, not so impressive but not bad.

Well, these are our results:

Firstly, to make sure I was getting my money's worth I did way more tweeting than normal. I was averaging just under seven tweets a day. Our usual average is 30 - 100 tops. 

This is how many people we reached:

As you can see, our yellow "promoted" reach is a lot less than the example graph. It says we reached an extra 24% over what we would have reached without  Promote Mode. This equates to 10762. Only a third of the "up to 30,000" alleged.

And new followers?

A whopping 14. For the first half of the month, it was averaging about one a day but halfway through it stopped completely. I will add that we gained a total of 39 followers this month, 14 from Promote Mode and 25 organically. This is maybe slightly up on the average but not the most we've ever had in a month, probably due to the effort put in trying to get my money's worth.

So to sum up, is it worth it? I would say no, not for that price. The results were marginally better than the organic reach and growth and I think £79 can be much better and more wisely spent.

Next up; Tweetpi.com. I'll let you know how that goes in a future post!

Cheers, Alex

The Art of Vintage - Guest Interview with Chris Wilkinson 

For this post, I have invited my first guest to the blog, Mr Chris Wilkinson. Originally a Devon native, Chris has been playing the guitar and singing in bands for the past 15 years and has released three albums on the Western Star records label with bassist Yann Mahdjoub in the UK performing as the rockabilly duo The Bonneville Barons. The two of them then went on to form the Western Swing quartet The Zazou Cowboys, by which time he was also playing the guitar and drums for a variety of other groups including Lynette Morgan & The Blackwater Valley Boys, Becca Langsford, The Radio Ramblers and Charlie Thompson & The Chickasaws. After fleeing the country (OK, getting married and relocating to Sacramento California, but that didn't sound as exciting!) in 2016, Chris met bassist Zack Sapunor & electric 5-string Mandolin player Olen Dillingham, and formed a trio playing western harmony swing & jazz, named The Sweet & Low Melody Co.

He now makes his living between playing jazz, country and hillbilly guitar (including with The Jive Aces on the occasional USA tour) and graphic design work, specializing in vintage style and has worked with many bands on the swing and rocking scene over the past few years in both capacities.

 

Being a lover of vintage graphic design, having taught myself by doing the Jive Aces flyers and posters, I have learned a lot from his work and thought you might too. In fact, I was so impressed how his work captured a truly authentic 50s style yet felt very clean and fresh that instead of attempting it myself, I hired him to design the artwork for both a movie poster for our "Rock 'n' Roll Movie Star" music video for the fictitious sci-fi B movie "Hotrod Gang from Outer Space" and also our latest two albums and accompanying double album vinyl set, "Diggin' The Roots Vol.1: Rockin' Rhythm & Blues" and "Vol.2: Hot Jazz" (which, if you will excuse the shameless plug, are both available in our STORE, see later in the interview for that).

Chris came on tour with us this Spring with his guitar and took a few minutes to answer some questions...

1) How long have you been doing graphic design and how did you get into it? 

I started doing graphics stuff primarily for my own band's CD's and posters, approximately 12 years ago when I was in my early 20's. It was partially out of necessity, but there was also a large part of me that wanted to have control over not just the sound of the music I was involved in, but also the entire presentation (I think they call that OCD!). I definitely had an awareness that everything mattered, album covers and presentation style was just as interesting to me as the musical side of being in a band. Naturally this stuff snowballs, and in a small world like the vintage scene I just ended up getting asked to do album designs and T-Shirts for friends and acquaintances, which was a big learning curve. What I quickly found out was that it's really different trying to produce work based on someone else's ideas when you're simply used to just pleasing yourself, and I think every graphic designer in the world will attest to that - it can really be challenging realising someone else's (potentially flawed) vision, whilst still maintaining your own integrity and style.

2) When did you start specialising in vintage style design and how did that come about? 

The vintage thing came pretty much right off the bat because at first I was only producing work for my own band and had complete control over what I wanted to produce, so I was just figuring things out and exploring everything that I personally loved about mid-century style. Pretty quickly, one of the things I noticed was that for some vintage-style bands, their artwork was such an after-thought. I'd be blown away by the authenticity of their musicianship and recording techniques etc, but then you'd look at the CD cover or whatever and it'd be hideous! It's partially due to the fact that vintage stuff is essentially alternative/indie music and not funded by major labels, so the resources available to these artists are limited. But I was staggered at how little some people paid attention to their posters and album covers because for me it always made up such a large piece of the overall package. If you look at album artwork from the 40's and 50's it was big business - serious painters and graphic giants were hired by Columbia or Victor, and the artistry in those covers was immense. So I had a sort of mission statement, and that was to produce the kind of artwork that stood up to the finest stuff from my favourite era of graphic design. In my eyes, the more artistry that was put into each design seemed to be directly equal to a more "vintage-looking" end result. 

 

 

3) What are your inspirations for creating new pieces in vintage styles? Do you use any specific reference materials on a regular basis? 

I get a lot of inspiration from the internet - it's pretty much an endless supply of visual ideas and the only trick is knowing where to look. Instagram is great for that. I see so much amazing stuff on there which I always favourite so I can return to it later when I'm looking for inspiration. The problem is just trying not to spend too long scrolling through endless food pictures and memes! Aside from music-related stuff, one of my favourite things to search for is packaging artwork - the lettering and design on the vintage packaging are amazing to me, from matchbooks to flour sacks, that stuff is high art in my eyes. I'm a big fan of commercial art - things that were created for an informative purpose and might seem relatively workmanlike, but still had this amazing sophistication and a high level of artistic merit. My ultra-creative friends Tina Vines (Vines of the West) and Derek McDonald (Golden West Sign Arts) recently turned me on to the work of Dorothy & Otis Shepard, a couple who created some unbelievable commercial art in the early 20th century, and I've been really into that lately. Of course, there's nothing like having a library of reference books, and I have a few favourites from people like Jim Flora, Robert Crumb, books on vintage cartoons, comic books, album covers, book jackets, movie posters, advertising characters and so on. 

But for the most part it usually comes from the 'client' or job that I've been asked to do - usually, their style (or the genre they're aiming for) will dictate a few key things, and kind of set the tone for what I'll do. I always aim to create something fitting for that particular individual or project, and also invite them to submit ideas and influences, favourite album covers or any particular inspiration so I can get a handle on how they'd like to be perceived. There are some amazing graphic artists working within the vintage world today who have a 'thing', and their work is immediately recognisable because they've forged such a personal style. But I don't think I'm really in that category, I tend to try and create something truly tailor-made to each band or project - - not every record would benefit from having a cartoon on the cover. It might be very simple, like just adding the right carefully-chosen fonts to a photograph, or doing a stylised portrait, but they're all satisfying to me.

 

 

4) What are your top three tools (sites, plugins, software, resources etc) to help get that vintage look? 

Well, it's important to say that I do everything in Adobe Photoshop - I know, I know, it's not the usual program for a graphic designer, but I just got too deep into it and I've gone too far to turn back now! But it's ok, I can get away with it, and I've found ways to work around problems like not rasterizing text (which took me a long time to learn). But I think the important thing with any creative tool is that it should almost vanish when you use it and just allow you to get your ideas out, whatever they might be. My second must-have tool is definitely a pen/tablet - I have a little tiny Wacom Bamboo tablet that I've used forever, and it's essential for me to get as close to the natural feel of the drawing aspect of what I do. I'm not terribly up-to-date when it comes to technological gear - I tend to find something that works for me and then just stick with it. I haven't been a big fan of plug-ins or filters that are advertised to give instantly 'vintage'-looking results, but I recently discovered the True Grit Texture Supply, and I really like their comic book-style halftone brushes and Mid-Century print effects kits for PhotoShop. But as far as giving things a vintage look, I really believe it just comes from surrounding yourself with vintage inspiration and being somewhat obsessed with it. What is it about this old poster that looks so good? I try to deconstruct everything and identify the key elements that appeal to me, and then I focus on every little aspect of its design, from top to bottom. Training your eye to spot these things is just part of the process, and it's taken me over a decade to be this nerdy. 

5) What are a couple of your favourite projects you have worked on in terms of having come out exactly as you envisioned it?

Ironically given the fact that I'm predominately creating work influenced by the past, I'm not a nostalgic person when it comes to my own stuff. I'm always striving to get better and advance in everything I do, so as much as I'm proud of things I've done, naturally I always aspire to greater things in the future. That said, I feel like I've hit a bit of a stride recently with the Dorothy & Otis-influenced work, incorporating a kind of airbrush-look that's reminiscent of the beautiful Mexican movie posters of the 40's with dazzling angles and stylised portraits. The CD cover I did for Peter Petty's debut album 'Ready, Petty GO!' was done in that style, and came out very close to my original idea, and the bulk of it came to fruition in about a day.

The interesting similarity with any creative endeavour for me, whether it's music or artwork, is that the outcome is frequently different to what you envisaged, but it can often be something good that you weren't expecting. It's rare that something turns out 100% exactly like I had in my head, but I've come to realise that's not necessarily a bad thing. The cover I did for Knockout Kings CD "Heat Rising" is a good example - they pretty much gave me carte blanche over the complete design and I'm really pleased with it. It was one of those projects where I didn't really know what I was going for until I got started, then all of a sudden a kind of path seemed to present itself. 

Selfishly, some of my favourite projects have been the ones where I haven't had to compromise my concepts in any way and people have just let me roll with an idea, those are definitely the most fun jobs to do. The perfect example of that is a guy like Pat Capocci - because of his profile and sheer reputation as a fantastic musician I've gotten a lot of exposure from the design work I've done for him. I did a couple of album covers as well as a bunch of little design projects and he's always extremely generous and gives me a very long-leash on what I can do.

6) You have now worked on two (sort of three as one was a set of two) projects for the Jive Aces as well as being a guest guitarist on tour in the USA; how did you find working on those projects and working with the band? 

Well first off, it's worth mentioning that I can't think of a harder-working band than the Jive Aces - everybody in the group has their own areas of responsibility and expertise, and watching the guys work is a real lesson in working towards a shared goal. That attitude seems to spread across everything the band does, so it does encourage you to be more 'pro' and work harder when you're among that for any length of time. I did the artwork for the two-album series, "Diggin' The Roots" (also released as a double LP set with gatefold sleeve), and from start to finish, it was a pleasure. The guys gave me complete control over the artistic direction, and the only guidance I received was that the two volumes needed to coordinate or connect visually in some way. The result was a pair of connecting album covers showing the band in two different musical moods, interlinked by a flow of text banners, music notes and fading colours. When you're used to working to the size of a tiny CD it's great to have the chance to design for a large canvas, so I especially love the huge widescreen format of the gatefold LP sleeve when it's laid flat and the artwork seamlessly flows across both sides.

Around the same time I also did what I would consider a bona fide 'dream job', designing a stylised movie poster for an imaginary B-movie Science Fiction flick called "Hot Rod Gang From Outer Space", which was used in the music video for the Jive Aces original song 'Rock 'N' Roll Movie Star'. I treated the project as if it were for a genuine film, and for a short time, I got to live out my fantasy of being a '50s-era B-movie poster artist! (see above for poster)

Performance wise, I first met the group while I was still living in the UK, and we even did a couple of shows together when I was playing with Lynette Morgan & The Blackwater Valley Boys. Since moving to the US, I've been extremely lucky to be asked to guest with the band during several of their US tours, which they do about twice a year. As a guitarist, playing with the band is a unique situation for me. I don't often get the opportunity to play with such a versatile group - everyone in the band is a real musician, and the band's repertoire covers a wide range of musical styles that I really enjoy. I feel like we share a lot of the same musical influences, and they're equally aware of all my guitar heroes like Hank Garland, Charlie Christian, Les Paul & Grady Martin etc. They welcome me very warmly, always encouraging me with solos and feature songs etc. They're always more than generous when it comes to showcasing all of their guests and frequently shine the spotlight on guest vocalists, musicians and dancers in every place they play.

7) And finally, what are your top three simple tips for people to watch out for when creating vintage style designs for album or flyer artwork?

1. Lettering is art 

I'd definitely pay more attention to the art of lettering - it's unbelievable how much information the appearance of lettering can convey instantly, regardless of what it actually spells out. I usually try to avoid using easily recognisable computer fonts or things marketed as self-consciously 'vintage' or 'retro' - these things always stick out to me, and it's usually overkill because you've seen them used on a zillion other projects. A while ago I got really into the art of hand lettering (for a primer check out the work of Golden West Sign Arts master sign painter Derek McDonald) so if I can't find what I'm searching for I'll attempt some hand lettering, which is always a challenge but it definitely captures a more traditional, vintage style. Again, more artistry = more "vintage".

2. Borrow from your influences, but don't steal wholesale!

If you're serious about being a proper designer I would always avoid appropriating someone else's work - I frequently see artwork that's simply an old movie poster or pinup photo hastily cut & pasted together, and aside from looking pretty poor, it's not very creative. (hastily hides last Big Jive All-Dayer flyer - Alex)

3. Learn from the greats 

I think it's important to remember that visual inspiration is everywhere, and if you're stuck on a project or don't have any ideas then you only need to flick through a reference book or do a Google search and there's a world of inspiration waiting, free of charge! Set the bar high and look at work from the best of the best, and absorb as much creative influence as possible. I've often done that, particularly when I can't think of which direction I want to go with a certain project and just need a creative boost.

A big thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer some questions about his process. Hopefully, this has helped some of you with ideas for your next vintage-inspired design. If you would rather save yourself the work you can always hire Chris! Contact him at telegramforcw@gmail.com or check out his slowly expanding Instagram feed at @stuffbycw.

As always, leave any questions or comments below!

Cheers, Alex

NEVER PAY FOR FACEBOOK PAGE LIKES!/I Paid For Facebook Page Likes 

OK, I know I said in a previous post that you should never pay for ads which just get “likes” for your page. And I said that because you should never pay for ads which just get people to like your page. 

Facebook are essentially selling you a dead parrot. Cue the Monty Python meme...

What does that mean exactly? For a quick recap in case you haven’t been pouring over my blog posts... or indeed any reporting on any social media at all, like those people who have been living in mine shafts for example, Facebook have been systematically throttling the organic reach of Page posts meaning that all the people who who have opted to “like” your page, presumably because they are interested in your art and want info from you, don’t. Or at least very few of them do.

I have noticed a massive drop in reach and engagement on posts over the last year. We were actually getting more interaction and reaching more people when we had about 2/5 of the following than we do now. There is obviously more competition now and there is only so much timeline space, that’s also a factor but Facebook have been restricting who sees your stuff regardless of the fact people actually asked to do so.

So, the other day I was looking at my page and was presented with this attempt to get me to spend money on something I know is and they are even telling me, is increasingly worthless:

I thought “sod it “ and chucked a tenner at it and set it to the minimum spend of £1 per day with all the relevant targeting to make sure I was reaching likely candidates and also set it to only the UK and the USA as that’s where we tour the most and let it do its thing. The least I would get is a few more fans and a blog post so you’ll know exactly what you get for your money in case you were curious.

So here are the results:

I got 40 new people liking my page so spent about 25p per person. If I share a page post I reach about 1000 people on average give or take, out of 27,000 so that 25p is worth 1/27 of a person I can now promote to on a post by post basis.

Next take a look at the next set of statistics:

This tells me that there was no other activity other than the likes, that it showed the ad to over 1300 people that that I had a mediocre “relevance” score out of 10. This is odd because when I use almost identical demographics on my other Facebook ads I usually get a much higher relevance score around the 8 or even 9 mark sometimes. 

In conclusion I won’t be doing this again but it did satisfy my curiosity. I do know one person who has spent a considerable amount of money on Facebook to build up his audience, which he has, only to not be able to reach them.  

So, if you are thinking about it, don’t and then read my other blog post on what to do instead HERE

Cheers, Alex

Three Flyers Outside Paris, London and LA - Keep It Simple 

A few weeks ago I got a message from someone in distress. Allison, the founder and manager of the Satin Dollz whom we have worked and performed with, in LA for 10 years and more recently in Paris and London was in a pickle. The Paris group were about to do a showcase and the promo flyer that was presented to Allison was this... As you can see, it is less than satisfactory for a number of reasons: The colour schemes, the random fonts, the placement and size of the text, the bad (blocky) extraction of the images (where the photos have been cut out of other backgrounds), the placement of the main subjects, the odd fade out, etc etc etc. With only a few days before the showcase and having to get them printed, she had a problem.

So, I was in the middle of a US tour and we had a pretty busy schedule. I didn't have a lot of time and had to think up something simple yet effective that would communicate who and what they are. I don't really do graphic design jobs for anyone else anyway as we are so busy but I like to help out friends when and where I can so I stayed up late for a couple of nights and threw together a flyer for her.

Ultimately, apart from showcasing the talents and image of the Satin Dollz, I wanted to create some classy because apart from being great singers, dancers and tappers (and all being stunning) they are a class act. The current flyer did NOT communicate this in any way and almost went out of its way to say the opposite.

Here is the flyer I came up with for the Paris Dollz:

She was very happy with it and they printed and used it the next week at their showcase.

The only thing that changed from the above was that I replaced the custom logo for their standard one to keep in with their other branding:

Then I got the next call... "Ooh, wouldn't it be nice to have matching ones for the London and LA Dollz too!". Yes. Yes, it would...

Since it was a simple design and I find that half the battle is coming up with the idea and the placement of things. Sometimes I have spent a couple of hours on a flyer, had a crash and lost all my work but it has then only taken 20 minutes or so to recreate what I had done as all the "think" work and trial and error was not wasted. Anyway, that's an aside. Here are the other two flyers:

Los Angeles

London

Yes, I even snuck in a cheeky plug for The Jive Aces on those ones too (Shut up, it's my job! 😂😂😂).

I like the versions with their logo but for this design, I prefer my logo as it is very clean lines and adds to the simplicity but overall it was better to go with their own logo for general branding purposes to integrate with their other promo.

The main lesson from this is that if you are short of time, you don't have to settle for something crap. Just keep it simple and add only things that integrate to your message, style and design aesthetic and get rid of the stuff that doesn't.

Hope this helps. Leave me any questions in the comments below.

Cheers, Alex

Social Media Tool Review - Boostfy.co 

N.B. I'm not in any way connected to this company and don't get anything for writing this, it's just a tool have found useful.

We have had an Instagram account for a few years but have only started using it in earnest for the past year or so, especially since Facebook started sucking more and more and choking our reach (yes I know they are the same company...). Although it has it's inherent restrictions I am enjoying using it more than other social media I think because it is exactly that, much more social. In comparison to Facebook now, we get an average of 80-100 likes on an IG post with only 4000 followers and are getting between 40-80 likes on a photo on Facebook with 27,000 followers. This puts the value of IG followers at 6X - 8X over FB page likes in terms of reachability.

I am completely against buying views, likes, followers etc for the purpose of making yourself look more popular than you are. Allegedly the theory is that if you look big then you will attract more real people. There may be some truth in this, however, there is one small downfall and that is that it is dishonest. In the long run, I also think it will destroy the foundation and trust that (good) social media is based upon.

I was sceptical when I first came across Boostfy. Let's face it, who hasn't had dozens of those nefarious emails promising new followers for $xx? As I saw it as an ad on Facebook I did give it the benefit of the doubt and furnished it with a click.

The way it works is that you put in your Instagram account details you then add a bunch of targetting options. Pretty simple. There is a field for hashtags, a field for locations and one more for accounts. You can use any one, two or all three of these in conjunction and you can choose one of three "modes" that just weight the likes towards one of these three things.

The system then goes through and finds posts and likes them. That's it. It just finds posts with the specified hashtags and/or followers of the input accounts and likes them. This then stimulates reciprocated attention and people check out your account and if they like it (and presuming you have targetted smartly and relevant)

You can also blacklist hashtags and accounts if there are specific ones you don't want to include.

For example, if you are a mechanic who specialises in classic cars you will want to target hashtags such as #hotrod #classiccar #classicvehicle etc. Then add accounts who's audience you want to steal... I mean target... such as events and car shows etc. You then may want to blacklist certain makes or models of car you don't service like #subaru or whatever.

You get a seven-day free trial and then it costs $200 for a lifetime plan. The tech support is pretty fast too. Using this I have grown our Instagram by over 1600 in a few months sometimes getting as many as 130 new follows a week. The average is about 70-80 though and a low week is about 40-50.

So, dues to its accurate targeting ability and the one-time fee I think it is pretty good value and seems to work. Try out the trial at boostfy.co and let me know how it goes for you.

Cheers, Alex

The Curtain Never Comes Down 

Being in a band that travels so much together you definitely get a sense that, as the great Count Basie once allegedly said "The curtain never comes down". A group of people travelling together who you not only play the music but love classic styles from the 40s and 50s and wear vintage or vintage style clothes every day and are also often carrying instruments and related gear, you tend to stand out from the average commuter and get some attention. This makes us a walking ad for ourselves whether we like it or not which is a great opportunity.

A couple of years Mike from The Seamstress of Bloomsbury approached us and pitched making some American style baseball jackets (aka letterman or college jackets). At first, we thought "Great!". Then we thought it might be a bit cheesy with seven or eight of us walking around with our own logo emblazoned across our backs and fronts. then we tried it...

Since then these jackets have become one of the best advertising tools we have ever accidentally happened upon. One thing we realised is that the authentic styles from the 40s and 50s are timeless and classic. Most clothes from other decades, if you were to walk around head to toe in, look silly or clownish or like you were "in costume" from a play or wearing for some kind of ironic effect. Even recent eras like the 60s and 70s don't have the same universal appeal as pegged pants and a gabardine shirt with two-toned crepe soled suede shoes.

We hand out more business cards in airports than anywhere else when wearing these on tour. Also, the number who come up to us and tell us they love our "Bring Me Sunshine" or other videos has increased tenfold. They probably wouldn't recognise our individual faces but the names and flash of yellow seems to sink in. between that and our yellow suits we accidentally hit upon some corporate branding (even though we aren't a corporation!).

So my point is not that you have to literally have a neon sign stuck to your head with an arrow but if you already stand out (in a good way) then you may as well utilise it towards channeling interest towards what you do!

Apart from that, they also became a great bit of merchandise too (which are available in our store, ahem. #ShamelessPlug)

Hope this is a bit of food for thought.

Cheers, Alex

Facebook Tip - Maximising Event Page Effectiveness And Efficiency 

If you are like us (The Jive Aces) you will probably be playing a huge variety of shows that range from local dance nights run by enthusiasts to large festivals run by a team seasoned professionals and everything in between. This can mean that the consistency of web presence can vary greatly and you may find some missing altogether. You may also organise your own events and book other bands or be a promoter yourself. You can, however, take control of this to a degree to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of Facebook Events on your band page.

One way you can do this when creating Facebook events is to ensure that everyone involved is added as a co-promoter. For instance, for our Big Jive All-Dayer event, we had four other bands and three DJs. I added them all as co-promoters of the event. They then got a notification and all they have to do is accept and the event gets added to their Facebook Band Page or profile event calendars automatically. This also avoids them creating duplicate events and splitting the potential audience's attention where they may have missing details etc. That way, when they use the "invite friends" function all the involved parties will be inviting people to your event which creates more interest and builds momentum in one place which Facebook seems to reward. They certainly penalize you if you invite lots of people who don't respond.

The above can also work if the venue or promoter are being slow in creating events, you can do the work for them and when you add them as a co-promoter you will give them a digital kick up the bum! In the example below, I have done this to Ian (MWAHAHAHAHA).

[UPDATE] Some people tried to follow these instructions on mobile devices in the app. Don't bother, just use your laptop and save your thumbs. These instructyions are for the computer. If you are a mobile power user you may be able to do it in the browser on your phone/tablet but you'll need to force the website to show you the desktop version, not the mobile version.

As a band, you can also apply this in reverse if you are playing a venue or festival and you want to add it to your page calendar. You can actually increase awareness of your band/act by utilising the promotion that the festival is doing themselves.

Instead of creating a new event yourself and again, find the venue or festival's page and go to their events and find the correct one. Open up the event you are involved in and click on the three dots to see the drop-down menu. Choose "Add To Page". See the example below of the Trackfest event we are playing at.

You'll then see a pop-up box asking you which page to add it to. If you have more than one page then choose the correct one (you can add it to as many as you like).

If you navigate back to your Page's event calendar you will now see the event added in as your own.

Ideally, you also want to be a co-promoter as then Facebook will give you more invites so you will have to contact the venue/promoter and get them to follow the above instructions in the first part of this post so if they don't know how then refer them to this blog!

To finish, I highly advise having all your events listed on your Facebook Page calendar (yes, on top of your own website which you spend ages maintaining, I know the struggle is real!). The number of messages we get on Facebook asking "when are you playing in my town next?" or "when are you next in [BLAH]?" despite regularly publishing the website gig guide link is unreal! What can I say, people are too lazy to work out how to make a couple of clicks outside of Facebook! You can't have your event's listed in too many places. The key to event promotion is quantity first, quality second. It is and always will be a numbers game!

Hope this helps. Leave me any feedback or questions in the blog comments.

Cheers, Alex

 

Paying for "Likes" Vs Advertising "Actual Stuff" on Facebook 

As you’ve probably heard and/or experienced, Facebook Page posts are getting less reach because Facebook thinks it knows better what people are interested in than the people themselves. That's "artificial" intelligence for you. That could be a really covert way of taking away what was once free and trying to charge you for it but that could just be a healthy dose of cynicism...

Therefore paying for ads which have the sole purpose of getting "likes" to your page are becoming increasingly worthless so my advice is DO NOT PAY FOR ADS WHICH ONLY INCREASE PAGE LIKES. You will only have to pay more to reach all of them anyway. 

As an aside, you are an artist who creates something which people have an emotional impact to and has a worth. Don’t forget that but I think I will go deep on that topic in a future blog post.

Instead, if you are going to pay for FB ads, pay to advertise a specific thing; A live gig/event, an album etc. That way you are directing the person to an exchangeable product. If you target correctly and people like the product they will end up liking your page anyway. 

Wait, there’s more! Under the "Connections" section, you can also target your ads so they only show to people who don’t like your page so you are reaching new people if you want.

And more importantly, you can also target the ad to people who have not yet responded to your event page.

Then when they start liking the ad, you can then invite those people to like your page and as they have responded and shown interest in your wares, they are very likely to take up the offer.

You can also do this with any old posts. If you click on to see who has liked the post you can also invite them to the page. I recommend systematically going through every single post you have ever made from the time you started your page and doing this. I did it for the Jive Aces since we started the page in 2009 and increased our page likes by about 700 hundred. It took a few hours but was worth the effort.

Hope this helps!

Cheers, Alex

Photoshop Quicktip - A5 Flyers "Quick bleed" 

Here is a quick tip for photoshop users who are designing their own flyers for events. If you are in the UK and Europe you will most often be using the A5 size of paper for flyers, usually portrait.

For flyers, you will need what is called a bleed. This is where the flyer is printed on a slightly larger paper than A5 and then cut down to size. This is to ensure that the image or background image goes right to the edge as printers cannot print edge to edge as they then have nothing to grip on to.

In Photoshop when you open an A5 document it has no bleed attached so you have to add it. If you are like me and can't be bothered to work out how to set up and save a template which would be sensible, or you are working on someone else's computer or just "reasons" then this quick tip will help you out and save you from having to calculate mm or pixels numbers. You'll thank me later for saving you from maths!

Open up an A5 document in Photoshop. Do not alter the width and height at this stage to add the bleed. The reason is if you add 6mm to both height and width you will get the correct size of the document however if you want to add guides then it is a pain to calculate.

Once the document is open, make sure your rulers are on. If they are not on then click CMD/Ctrl + R. Then make sure "snap is on" in the "View" menu.

Then click and drag a guide from the ruler to each edge of your document.

Next, you go to the "Image" menu and choose "Canvas Size".

Then make sure the "Relative" checkbox is checked and that you have your units set to the correct one. I am working in mm but in the US they often use inches and the standard bleed is 1/4 inch. Then you add double the amount of bleed (i.e. for a 3mm bleed all around you need 6mm, 3mm for each side). Also, make sure the anchor is set to the middle. This will ensure that the additional white space is added evenly all around the document and not to one side only.

This tutorial has probably taken you a few minutes but once you have done it once it should literally take you about 10 seconds to do this. Now you can go about creating your amazing work of art to entice people to your show or buy your albums etc!

You're welcome!

Cheers, Alex

When the Jive Aces heard Louis Prima’s band they knew they had to have a trombone player and it was Alex Douglas who got the call. He remembers before he was in the band when Ken gave him a cassette tape of Louis Prims's mid 50's band which he played to death.

Alex spent more time in drama class at school learning about theatrical lighting and stage tech than music and really started playing properly upon joining the band.

Apart from trombone (and also washboard, blues harp and a couple of other things) took up photography after being inspired by the many sights on tour and likes to snap the scenery and other performers when he get's a chance. Below is a gallery of some of his pictures from his Instagram feed.

He also does the promotional stuff for the band and has designed many of the flyers, posters and album covers as well as writing and producing (and sometimes shooting and editing) the music videos. He has started a blog with some of the tips he has picked up over the years which may help other independent artists, musicians and performers to get their work out there. To read that,  CLICK HERE.

Alex plays Columbus Washboards.