Interview: Sennheiser's Hear.I.Am Campaign Continues to Bring Out Raw New Talent
(ShackMan | Posted 2010-09-02)
"We, like many other companies, had almost all of our focus on the main acts several years ago – the big 'stars' who were making all of the Top 40 hits. This is no longer the case. We've started a whole new group solely to deal with the indie bands and support them in their careers because, not only are they our main focus group for our headphone and microphone business, but they're also the most loyal fans."
Those are the words of Stefanie Reichert of Sennheiser, VP of Strategic Marketing and one of the main movers and shakers behind Sennheiser's Hear.I.Am Campaign and partnership with Pick the Band, which brings fans and unsigned bands together to find the latest and greatest in independent talent with a passion for playing and the motivation to promote themselves to the hilt. She's talking about Sennheiser's growing interest in the demographic and, particularly, an interest in finding new sounds and new bands; both fans and bands are responding in kind. There are bands of all genres, sizes, and diversities all over the Hear.I.Am site.
For those who've missed the boat so far, Hear.I.Am offers a full-on distribution deal for a 3 song demo with Universal Records, music gear prizes, and a performance at a major music festival for the band with the best music and strongest promotion. They're already looking for winner number two, and the previous winner, a group called Trucker, couldn't be happier. Hear.I.Am continues to present an open forum for bands to promote themselves and run for a chance to take a shot at fame. But who's eligible for all of this?
“Well, we certainly aren't excluding anybody,” Stefanie says, very businesslike, but anyone listening can tell that she's proud and excited about everything that's happening in the competition. “We've nearly hit the 900 band mark and it's only been two and a half months. The longer this stays in the marketplace the more it catches on and keeps catching momentum. I really expect these numbers to double or even triple at some point. If that ends up being the case, well, we might even continue it for a few more rounds.”
Looking around the website design, Sennheiser and Pick the Band may have created something that can even stand on its own outside the contest. It's almost Myspace-like in a way, but streamlined specifically for listening to and sharing music (and the layout looks pretty cool too!). Front and center are easy-to-use links to spread the band's sound through Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and E-mail. Other than that, only the band's name, pictures, song files, and a video or two sit neatly sorted, more than likely along with links to Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter pages, and a tidy comment space. It's like a pre-sorted indie version of Youtube where fans can simply scroll through bands and listen at will or even create accounts and offer support to specific bands.
“You know, it's an interesting observation. It's true that it's at least that, and it's a very seamless and easy open source forum for bands' material.” Stefanie seems genuinely intrigued by the idea of a self-standing site over the phone, and continues, “Here, bands can put their focus where it needs to be, with no real need to update their spaces. That's taken care of. While so many are getting to be very good at taking care of and maintaining webspace, this is a huge help for the ones who aren't yet so Internet savvy as well. It's a win-win situation where the focus stays primarily on the music.”
And it's that focus on music and growing a fanbase that brought Sennheiser and Pick the Band together in the first place. “A lot has changed in the music industry in the recent past. There is a lot more independent music out there and a lot more available platforms for promotion with the outbreak of social media, and it really has accelerated over the last 2 years. At the same time, it brought about a wave of interest in the consumer for discovering new artists. That's what brought us to Pick the Band in the first place. Their infrastructure was already answering a lot of the functionality needs we had to execute our campaign.”
Pick the Band, of course, fit the no-syndication, new-music-supporting bill from top to bottom. Just look at how they describe their own outfit, as quoted from their website: “No “suit” is going to tell you what your public wants. Your fans will tell you directly what they like and what they want. You will just do what you do best…make music!” With Pick the Band already supporting and promoting unsigned bands, Sennheiser brought to the table the capability to share music through social networking sites as well as media promotion packages which get sent free to every band who signs up. “There are Facebook badges, posters, e-mail blast templates, and we have already designed all of it for them but with plenty of room for customization. The bands get all of this stuff so that they can turn around immediately to their current group of fans and start a multiplication chain. If every one person tells two people and those two people tell two more people, and so on and so on...” And bands who have wider promotion and a greater reach naturally stand a better chance of winning the grand prize.
It's not so bad to be on the fan side either. Every time you promote your favorite band, you're entered to win a trip to a full-on music festival complete with VIP treatment from start to finish. Plus, you have that warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing that you helped get your favorite band to play at a gigantic festival.
The current prize? A slot playing at the CMJ Festival in New York in October. Whether you are band or fan or both, this is a contest worth checking out. Even Stefanie has been listening: “The quality of bands has been continuously increasing as we keep going with the contest and it gets out to more people, and there are several out that, I have to say, are really darn good! That only serves to prove that there is a lot of talent out there that just needs to find a platform so that it can be showcased, and through our partnership with Pick the Band and the creation of the Hear.I.Am. campaign, that's exactly what we've decided to become.”
For more information, check out www.sennheiserusa.com, www.picktheband.com, and www.heariam.com.
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College. He will be spending the Fall and Winter months on a national tour with his band, Ribbons (www.myspace.com/ribbonsmakemusic).
Feel free to e-mail James with comments, questions, concerns, at email@example.com.