Small Business Profile: North Avenue Studios
Orange City, Fla., recording studio gains exposure through web-TV series.
Recording studios open for business at an immediate disadvantage. The pool of potential customers is limited to a small sector of society: musicians with money.
Often, when a musician is ready to choose a studio to record a professional sounding product, one question filters through them all: who else has worked with this studio? After all, it’s a logical question. If this studio produces what I think is quality, a musician might assume, then my product will be that level of quality, too. In the entertainment industry, the best marketing tool to attract new clients is a good reputation.
So what do you do when your new business relies almost entirely on this kind of word of mouth to find customers within a limited market? You have to find a way to put your name in that market’s mouth.
Or in this case, as David Plakon, co-owner and studio manager at North Avenue Studios, explains, “You have to infiltrate different circles of musicians [who also have] a good reputation.”
North Avenue Studios reaches these circles of musicians with Off the Avenue, a web TV series featuring mostly in-studio performances by local and national artists.
As these videos circulate the Internet, both the studio and the artists raise each other’s credibility through mutually beneficial advertising. When up-and-coming bands cut and release videos at North Avenue, the act itself becomes a signpost of rising success in the community. As well, the strategy works on a simpler level. As Plakon notes, “When our viewers see their friends in our studio, it makes them more likely to come do their projects with us.”
That the studio is top-of-the-line in equipment and gorgeous in appearance helps. Viewers can’t escape this fact. Behold the magic of advertising through a web series. “Video allows people to get a feel for the studio, what we do, who we are,” Plakon says. “It’s a good teaser for what we can do full production.”
With the studio becoming the setting of Off the Avenue videos, an aesthetic is sold, along with the sample of services and the artistic endorsement. A reputation is built right before clients’ eyes.
“North Avenue Studios is founded on two principles:” Plakon says, “Creativity and Professionalism. We want everyone that comes to us to leave feeling that they’ve received valuable creative input and a quality product delivered quickly.”
Each episode is a reaffirmation of this goal. When another buzzworthy band is featured on Off the Avenue, North Avenue Studios offers both new and returning viewers another unique way to experience their mission in action.
Since the company was founded in February 2010, they’ve released over 70 web-episodes of Off the Avenue and have developed the series into a once-weekly release. That’s a long way in just two years, considering the first video, as Plakon admits, “began with me just wanting a live video of the band I was in at the time.”
North Avenue Studios earned their notable reputation due in part to Plakon’s idea to branch out from his single video endeavor and foster a prominent web presence. Social networking has proven time and again to be a wonderful tool for small businesses, and this case is no different. Videos have a special way of spreading throughout all nooks and crannies of social networking sites.
When the videos are distributed through Blip (blip.tv), they’re even easier to share. As Plakon mentions, “Blip.tv is great because it automatically sends your content [everywhere]. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, Vimeo, YouTube, MeFeedia, Vodpod, Roku, etc.” That’s a lot of dead birds for one stone.
With this distribution method, the company has since obtained clients, as Plakon says, “ranging from garage bands to large corporations.”
What the North Avenue staff lacks in size, they make up for with state-of-the-art skills and well-educated backgrounds. Full Sail University is twice represented in company history, first with former engineer Lee Rosario and now with their current off-site freelance engineer Mark Mason, who utilizes an HD portable setup to get professional sound outside the studio. Their newest engineer/producer Steven Howell comes from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Plakon himself graduated from Stetson University’s Digital Arts Program and uses a broad spectrum of this knowledge to aid the business in as many facets as possible.
“As a small business owner, you have to wear a lot of hats,” Plakon says. “My main job is making sure things are running smoothly across the board, but that means I have to dig in and get my hands dirty in the process. I do everything from marketing to web design, video editing to mixing, tracking, mastering, filming . . . basically whatever needs to be done.”
The future looks even brighter for North Avenue Studios. The web-series Off the Avenue recently teamed up with prominent music blog, Consequence of Sound, who will release the videos as they’re produced. This extends the brand of North Avenue Studios to even greater reach at a national level, all because of one excellent video strategy.
And it gets better. A whole new side of the business has been planned: North Avenue Media. Plakon says, “we realized with the growing popularity of Internet-based video consumption, there is an increasing demand for web-based advertisements. We’re going to be focusing primarily on commercial accounts.” The now-under-construction website, North Avenue Media, is set to launch this summer.
Seems like a lot of growth for a young company, doesn’t it? It’s a testament to the power of video in the role of Internet marketing. Not only does the source of rich media optimize a company website, but a video engages consumers in ways other advertisements do not. Consumers come to the Internet for entertainment as much as they do for information. Video allows businesses to provide both.
That’s what makes North Avenue Studios and the Off the Avenue series great phenomena to watch develop in the business world. The company becomes like an ever-growing tree-trunk, with its roots planted firmly in Orange City, Fla., but its branches, like the web-series, reaching way over the neighbor’s fences, making the whole business known to a larger audience.
What is the best way to gain followers for the lowest cost without being spammy?
-David Plakon, co-owner and Marketing Director of North Avenue Studios
Let’s start with a basic tenet: The only way to gain followers worth having is by not being spammy. Sure, you could use one of those automated tools for gaining followers or even buy your followers, but remember that social media is about developing relationships, not just about acquiring a huge number of followers.
While a high follower count might indicate that a lot of people appreciate the information you share, for a small business particularly, it often signals instead that you inflated the number through some artificial means. The important thing to think about is not how many followers, but how many who are actually interested in what you do. It’s better to have 100 dedicated followers than 10,000 ones who don’t care what you say.
On the other hand, reaching some critical mass has some value, so here are a few suggestions on how to provide content that engages existing readers and encourages new followers:
Don’t annoy your current followers. A post on the DIYThemes blog included some interesting information about the value of content on Twitter, including what Twitter users consider not worth reading. Check out the post and steer clear of those types of tweets, including sharing old news, using too many hashtags, and posting links without commenting on them.
Think of it from your readers’ (i.e., customers’) perspective. They don’t want sales pitches, and they don’t want boring information that doesn’t provide some value to them. Give them something worthwhile. That can be information, or a discount, or anything else that makes them want to stay connected with you—and, more to the point of your question, makes them want to share with their own networks, thereby naturally increasing your follower base. Other effective tactics include holding contests or giveaways or experimenting with Facebook promotions to reach your followers’ followers.
- Rob Croll, Full Sail University Internet Marketing Program Manager and Marketing Zeus columnist
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