Review: Jay Frank – Hack Your Hit
Jay Frank – Hack Your Hit (Futurehit, 2012)
In his revelatory first book, Futurehit.DNA, music industry insider Jay Frank explored the impact that modern recording and digital distribution technology are having on popular music. Rather than guiding readers to creating more artistic music, he took on the mercenary’s role of advisor-to-the-would-be-popular. He explored the ways in which modern listeners discover and consume music, and his insights as the former head of Yahoo! music yielded useful ideas for garnering listeners and the public recognition (e.g., chart action and sales) that goes along with all those ears.
In this follow up, Frank ups the promotional ante and lowers the moral barriers. This collection of ideas is even more mercenary in nature, and though it will help you maneuver around a lack of a label, industry experience or contacts, it does so in part by teaching you to use, and in several instances, game, Internet-based promotional channels. Frank builds upon the premise that the average music listener is not a fanatic, and that their music discovery is viral- and marketing-induced. As in his debut, he provides interesting analysis of how the music discovery curve has changed, and how artists who want to be discovered need to adapt.
Growing an audience with mechanisms other than music and live performance is a task many musicians are loathe to undertake, and the book’s focus on non-musical mechanics is sure to alienate a few. But the ease with which all musicians can distribute their music on the internet has made it more difficult for any one musician to be heard, and working out-of-band is a basic necessity to a modern music career. Many of Frank’s ideas – networking with fans and artists to grow your fan base, giving away music to expand your business, treating your most ardent fans as your most passionate customers, using contests to build a mailing list, optimizing your website for search results – are standard marketing fare.
Where he gets clever, and some would say less ethical, is in recommendations for juicing your YouTube placement by watching your own videos, pumping up your sales figures (and thus your chart placement) by buying your own songs at digital retail, and even buying Facebook fans(the latter of which he disclaims “I’m not for that, but it is a consideration”). One could see these as digital versions of practices common to the pre-Internet record industry, but their availability to all doesn’t make them any more savory. Still, Frank may be right that this is what it takes to succeed in today’s mainstream.
Hack Your Hit isn’t as uniquely informative as was Futurehit.DNA; other titles, including Ariel Hyatt’s Music Success in Nine Weeks and David Nevue’s How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet, cover similar ground. What distinguishes Hack Your Hit, for better or worse, is Frank’s knowledgeable perspective as a music industry gatekeeper and his willingness to let readers draw their own ethical line. With forty tips, many very simple and quick to implement, musicians are bound to find a few ideas that will help them along the road to a larger audience.
Jay Frank’s Home Page