Deadmau5 Presents: How to Kill It in the Digital Age

February 4, 2011

Deadmau5 – Dr. Funkenstein (Danny Jay Remix).mp3

I rant a lot about the music industry. And it never fails to give me plenty to rant about, especially when label execs and major label apologists insist that something must be done to allow them not only continued employment but that their industry be legislated back to its former glory.

However, if there’s one thing the music industry has proven it’s unable to do, it’s connect with its customers. Most major label artists are pretty much silent partners with their label-supplied publicity team. Sure, they may fire up the occasional blog or tweet a thing or two, but these additional avenues are often paved with identical “Buy this!” posts and tour date announcements.

Yes, fans do appreciate this information but this isn’t really a connection so much as it is targeted advertising. And it’s redundant advertising. Music fans usually have accounts at iTunes, Amazon, etc. so diminishing returns on these updates are almost immediate. The live gig announcements are also useful but again, most music fans will have found a better aggregator like tourfilter to alert them when a band they like is coming to their town (and presumably assisting them with partying down).

The problem is that hundreds of smaller artists are running their business the same way. I like (with as capital “L” and an upturned thumb) over 100 bands/artists on Facebook.

First, a quick primer on Facebook for the .004% of readers who are not Facebook members; “Liking” a band adds their stream of status updates and posts to your feed, which allows you (the fan, or “Liker”) to see all of these updates in real time, scattered amongst your friends’ announcements of mood swings and where specifically they need help on their farm.

So, I have a lot of indie artists supplying me updates periodically throughout the day. The problem is most of these feeds are indistinguishable from a publicity feed set up by a major label. I would say that easily 90% of the feeds I subscribe to do nothing more than loop “click to buy” links and announce tour dates.

Because so many of these bands use this connection tool for nothing more than advertising, their information becomes subject to “ad blindness” by regular users. We begin to tune out their posts much in the way we tune out banner and sidebar ads. Pretty soon their “connection” is reaching no one.

There are very few exceptions to this unfortunate misuse/underuse of the biggest platform available to new artists. Whitey’s feed is usually entertaining but he doesn’t have an artist page so you’ll actually have to be his Friend to get it on it. A few others will post videos from other bands they like or single out something that happened on tour, but for the most part it’s always tour/buy/repeat.

And then, just when you figure that the new boss is a lot like the old boss, even when they’re their own boss, you stumble across someone of sheer brilliance who gets what this is all about and revels in the limitless possibilities of a direct line to a few million fans:

D E A D M A U 5

The man lives on Facebook. He posts everything. He uploads videos. He has photos. For everything. He spouts random shit. He gushes about new equipment. He asks questions. He posts notes thanking his fans for being awesome. He’s consistently entertaining.

Basically, Deadmau5 invites you into his life. He knows he’s living the dream and it seems like he’s still as awed by the whole experience as his fans are. So he uses his online existence to allow everyone to live vicariously through his detailed and frequent posts.

There’s never any dismissiveness or jaded attitude. He’s just genuinely thrilled to be in the position he’s in. And as you read the posts and view the massive amount of photos, you catch some of the jittery “holy-shit-can-you-fucking-believe-my-life” vibe that pours out of every post.

Check out Deadmau5 geeking out during a conversation with Jim Carrey!

Look, it’s Deadmau5’s cat, Meowington!

He loves that cat! How do we know? Peep his neck tat!

Check out this hunk of electronics! It makes “pewpewpew” noises apparently!

LOL! Live Windows fail!

How can you not want to support this man? He lives and breathes and loves music. He wants you to be as close to being him as is humanly possible.

But that’s not all. He actually enjoys hanging out with his fans and works hard to repay their loyalty.

Deadmau5 has carved out his own island in the ether of shit-hot indie world-builder Minecraft. While that’s impressive on its own, he also sprung for 20 copies of the game for his fans. How many artists have purchased copies of a game just to get more people to hang out with them? That’s a fucking connection. Tell me that investment won’t pay off.

He also keeps close tabs on his online presence. If something seems a bit “not him,” he’s fixes it, going so far as to remove the label’s publicity team from the Administrators’ list. He has no interest in being pimped into irrelevance by a thousand pushy label-created ads.

This is how to make the digital world work for you. He’s also on Twitter and still maintains a “well, it was already there” Myspace presence, but he has conquered Facebook. And why not? 500 million registered users is a whole lot of potential fans.

Every artist, indie or not, needs to be taking notes from Deadmau5. Once you’ve seen it done right, you’ll wonder why you’re giving your fans and potential customers so little.

Take more pictures. Digital cameras are cheap. Show them what happens away from the stage. Talk to them as people rather than some loosely connected group of open wallets in search of spending suggestions. Find a common interest away from the music and explore that. Just say whatever comes to mind even if it doesn’t seem to be “closing the deal.” Facebook is full of random statements and observations. People know when they’re being treated like the business end of a mass mailing, no matter how “interactive.”

You make music and you have anywhere from a few hundred to a few million people who love you for it. You’ve already won over their ears. Grab their brains and their hearts. Their wallets will have no choice but to follow.

(Hat tip to Techdirt for their recent article on Deadmau5 which allowed me easy access to the label v. mau5 battle. Big, big tip of the oversized novelty mau5 head to Deadmau5 himself for, well, being himself.)


  1. You almost made me want to sign up on Facebook and ‘friend’ Deadmau5, then I remembered I signed up several months ago, and still refuse to friend anyone (how the fuck does that work anyway?). This is a site that I on occasion refer to as MyFace or SpaceBook (which technically puts me squarely in the .004% category). Twitter and Formspring I have down cold, but I have a sneaky suspicion that Facebook would take on a life of its own if I started friending people. I’ll pass. It’s like I tell my kids, if you never try crack you’ll never know the fun you’ll miss. That said, I loved your sweet post, and window into Facebook as it is supposed to work. Seems like ~10 Deadmau5 friends would be ‘just right.’ Any more ‘friends’ and I might open up a Second Life account to escape (and subscribe to your blog there of course…you do write for Second Life?).

    • I had you in mind when I dropped in the quick explanation for the .004%. You’re right about Facebook. It can quickly spiral out of control. On one hand, it’s a lot easier to make “friends” than in real life, but on the other hand it may be quite awhile before the training-wheel quotation marks come off.

      I do not write for Second Life as I find my First Life to be uncommonly busy and very fulfilling. If I decide I need some warped-looking avatar to fill in on the blog front, you’ll be the first to know (after all my Facebook friends).

    • Not only am I with the 0.004 percent, I’m firmly in the camp of the 0.001 percent who think 99% of the Twits, No Lifers and Loserbookers should be put to death.

    • That’s nearly 500 million you’re sentencing to death with that statement, SM. Don’t make me break out Godwin’s Law.

    • 500 million? Shit, that will keep me busy for a while. That’s so many, it might even start feeling like work.

      OK then, pass me the kill-switch and I’ll get started. Jesus, the sacrifices a guy must preform to make the world a better place to live!

  2. It occurred to me today that Facebook has almost destroyed any semblance of family harmony we once enjoyed. It has, indeed, spiraled out of control. My two teens spend an inordinate amount of time facebooking, tweeting, formspringing, lookbooking, tumblring, tinychatting and every other –ing the internet affords. There is something insidious and pernicious about this much ‘networking.’ Facebook is the worst offender as it siphons off the most amount of family/study time. I have come to hate Mark Zuckerberg (not the man…his site). How many friends can one realistically keep track of? I had hoped my daughters would become doctors or lawyers. My youngest fancies herself an Anna Wintour protégé and my oldest is now pursuing journalism (my new goal is that they will marry doctors or lawyers). My oldest can be so absorbed in the internet that it can take calling her name 10+ times to get any kind of (feeble/annoyed/irritated/sarcastic) response. I got so fed up with this last week that I packed some of her belongings in a Saks 5th Avenue shopping bag and dropped her off at a teen homeless shelter (mind you, she lives at a tony Las Vegas address) sans phone, iPod, computer and cash. She checked in carrying her paper bag of belongings and a hardcopy edition of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, completely oblivious as to why she had been kicked out. Being the worry-wart and sensitive soul that I am, I retrieved her three hours later. I wish I could say she learned something from this experience and spends less time on the Internet, but three hours at the shelter was not enough and besides it gave her ‘great story fodder’ (at least her attitude did a 180 after her best friend counseled her). Sure, I can pull the router (and I do) and assert some parental authority, but Facebook is always there when they are back online. Still, it’s nice to read about Facebook done right especially if you have the discipline to whittle down your ‘friends’ to a handful (or two) and I have to admit that I would readily friend you (and SM and many of your other contributors) if I was ever in a friending mood. I guess there is an upside to being a loner: time.

    • Thanks for that harrowing tale, elizabeth. Like all harrowing tales it begins with Facebook and ends at the homeless shelter. I’m sure I’ll have my own problem with distant children in the future, despite the fact that they’ll only be 10 feet away, using whatever the hell social media has in store for us at that point.

      At least they won’t be playing World of Warcraft. On the other hand, they may just be tending a virtual farm. I’ll take what I can get until they reach that age.

  3. Once upon a time, I used to wonder why most musicians had such shitty, or even non-existent, on-line presences. Then they started getting on-line presences and my wondering stopped. Most were (and apparently still are) inadequate and impersonal. Most websites were either updated every other year, or so clearly written by the label PR department that you could have written them yourself. Official photos, official tour dates and a few songs or videos if you were lucky to ZZZZZZZZ

    The closest I’ve gotten to deriving anything pleasurable from a band’s on-line presence was the time I leveraged an Internet relationship to come painfully close to a post-concert hookup with a musician I had a major thing for. Unfortunately, I was cock-blocked by her guitarist (and occasional boyfriend) literally at the exit. Selfish bastard!

    If it happened today, I’d have been cock-blocked by the fact that every chimp in town could contact her 257 times a day. She’d be spending so much time sorting through a hi-tech communication avalanche, we probably wouldn’t have made an on-line connection, never mind a real life one. She also might never have found the time to write, record, or rehearse her music. (Mind you, if we did hook up, neither of us would have had much time for anything else.)

    Which is the main reason I bring this up. Thanks to today’s communication technology, ordinary people can have their entire lives absorbed by it. Absorbing your life is essentially Facebook’s business plan. But that raises a potential minefield for anyone in the public eye. Even an indie band with a small fan base can get sucked into a black hole of instant communication.

    Credit to Dead Mao 5 for his hands-on attitude toward his on-line presence. It’s good to see the artist in control for a change. But I think musicians should avoid social media fan fluffing in favour of making and perfecting their music. Sure, you can use it to get your name out there and create some fan-boners, but you can’t give ’em all a piece and expect to have anything left.

    That’s why I prefer my musicians to toil away in dark caves and come out only to tour.

    • All personal, sexually charged anecdotes aside, that may be what’s keeping some of these bands from crafting a quality online presence: too many options.

      If they still want to have time to tour and write music, they may find it easier to have the label flacks write up all their personal, sexually charged anecdotes, most of which will still come out sounding like “FOR SALE” or “NOW APPEARING AT…”

      It’s kind of a shitty situation to be in, but a much better shitty situation than being kept out of the public eye by your label reps who would prefer that you just stayed in your un-recouped cave and cranked out product that they could press onto tiny, plastic, overpriced discs.

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