TheLiveLine: Get On The Phone With Your Fans

EEver wanted to call your favorite (most hated?) artist, listen to his or her voice talking to you and leave him (or her) a very personalized, sincere message? There is a service for that, and it can do much more.

Originally, I wanted to keep an intro part for this article longer and more informative, but after conducting an interview with TheLiveLine‘s Director of Business Development Scott Holmen and Marketing Assistant Alex Gilbert, I understood that the guys spoke for themselves in full.

Start out by visiting the Dotted Music page on TheLiveLine (you can leave me a voice message by calling (702) 967-9028) and read on to know how you can benefit from the service, currently in Beta. The chat has been long, but it’s worth reading.


Andrew Apanov: Can you describe TheLiveLine in few sentences to those users, who are not familiar with the service yet?

Scott Holmen: TheLiveLine has created a place for fans to engage in two-way conversation with their favorite artists. This can be via web or phone, live conversations or messages.

Alex Gilbert: What makes TheLiveLine more interactive from others is for fans being able to call their favorite artists, and hear everything in the artist’s actual voice. Our users love this feature. You can leave them voice messages, and they may even respond to you. On the other side, our artists also love being able to hear their fans in their own voices, too.

How was it created and how long have it been around? Why the mobile accent?

Scott: It was created by integrating mobile with social website. On Twitter, it is cool to read what your favorite artists are typing but on TheLiveLine you can actually listen to their voice giving you updates, news or just rambling about their day. The audio component is what really makes us better than many other social sites.

Alex: TheLiveLine has been around for about 3 years. The mobile accent is key in our business model, as we know that technology exponentially increases. EVERYONE has a mobile phone that’s more than likely equipped to them 24/7, everyone is quick to grab it for business and leisure purposes and with TheLiveLine incorporating both voice and text, we can offer much more than just the simple webpage.

Is the service aimed toward a particular industry, like music, or do you try to cover lots of different entertainment fields at once?

Scott: We have built our Beta mode mainly around music but we intend for TheLiveLine to be a service in professional sports, acting, and other industries where fans want to connect with the major players in those industries.

Alex: I believe in business as a whole, everything is connected. We definitely go for the big picture with music, entertainment, and more. I mean, stylistically, you’ve got those crossover points. For example, metal and MMA fit together naturally, as well as on the other side of the ring with TV and internet. While we (like any individual) have our own personal preferences, TheLiveLine is a full force entertainment atmosphere. We want to make EVERYONE happy.

For example, the Vans Warped Tour – a tour that’s easily made its way into music culture. But if the Vans Warped Tour only had bands that YOU like, who else would go? You’ve got to have a variety, as well as those crossover points. The Vans Warped Tour also adds much more than music, giving it the “more than just a concert” feel. We do the same. All the time you see fans of [insert genre here] who find new music they end up falling in love with. We sort of create a gateway where you may discover something you’ll end up falling in love with, plus we have the mobile aspect for you to dig into.

Audience from what industry shows itself as the most active and supportive one, though?

Scott: We have started with a strong offering in Heavy Metal and have found that the fans are insanely fanatical and the artists are truly wanting to connect with their fans. The Heavy Metal community has proven to be a great genre for us to run our BETA in. They are MORE than willing to give us their thoughts on what is working and what needs help. I am grateful to them for helping us out so much.

Alex: We do want all the audience we can get, but if you go to TheLiveLine, you’ll see we have a ton of heavy metal. We love metal, we’re metalheads, and not trying to be pigeonholed as “that metal website”, but as that’s the majority of what we have, and I’ll agree and say our metal users are the most active and supportive. But whatever kind of music you like, come visit TheLiveLine, and I’m sure you’ll find something that you can like!

How important is the social networking ingredient of the service?

Scott Holmen

Scott:The social network component is critical for several reasons. People want social. This has been proven many times over by MySpace, Facebook and other sites. Since people want “social” they are used to it. It isn’t a huge leap to go from Facebook to TheLiveLine. Many of the features are similar and navigation is familiar to anybody who has been on other social sites. If users want social and are used to it why wouldn’t we incorporate it. The cool thing is that part of that Social experience can involve conversations with artists that are otherwise difficult, if not, impossible to connect with.Alex: Social networking is always important. Everyone does it now, it’s a daily habit, and though it seems most prominent in our younger generation, the Mom’s and Dad’s are social networking like crazy, too. TheLiveLine has our own Facebook pages, Twitter, MySpace, and social networking sites of that nature as well, and social networks aren’t just valuable for socializing, but also very important for business, especially in this digital age. In regards to TheLiveLine and our social networking, like Scott mentioned it’s the mobile aspect and actually being able to feel close with your favorite artists.

Please tell me about the most interesting and prominent events happened on TheLiveLine. Who have you worked with?

Scott: TheLiveLine ran a voting campaign to pick Megadeth’s set list for the Golden Gods awards. This was a really fun campaign because the fans were anxious to give us their input, the band was anxious to give the fans what they wanted and TheLiveLine had the perfect platform to facilitate this vote. We have also run several contests and always get a kick out of sending a brand new autographed guitar, or other merch, to a fan that has entered a contest.

Alex: I think all of our events are interesting, so I’d have to say working for TheLiveLine as a whole and being an all around business man is definitely prominent. There’s a lot more “behind the scenes” action than one would think. We work with a ton of different people ranging from artists, celebrities, record labels, PR agencies, advertisers, corporations, you name it. The events Scott mentioned are definitely big, and some others I can add was our Tantric, Adema, Burn Halo tour we sponsored and powered mobile for, The Ultimate Testament Karaoke Contest we’re running with Ultimate-Guitar and Dean Guitars has a killer concept and is a total blast, and even bringing on some TV celebrities like Lacey Conner from Vh1: Rock Of Love is very interesting. We are also regular dudes as well. Business trips for events down in Los Angeles are always a blast, as well as lunches / coffees with Fearless Records in Huntington Beach.

How can this service practically help musicians in their careers and marketing campaigns in particular?

Scott: We are passionate about helping the “up and comers”. We are able to get an understanding of which types of music any given fan enjoys. Fans also let us know what geographic they are in. With this information we are able to tell a fan, “Hey if you like Anthrax you should go check out XYZ band at XYZ location on Friday at 7pm”. This helps raise awareness for the up and comers and introduces fans to new music that they can support. We can also do text, voice and email blasts on behalf of our artists announcing album releases, tour dates, etc.

Alex: With our business model, musicians can actually monetize, but thinking realistically a lot really depends on a) that musician’s credibility, and b) how proactive they are in their project(s) and with their profile at TheLiveLine. People really need to know that TheLiveLine is much more than just a website, and that we are a business doing MUCH more than just building up a website. A big part of the monetization is obviously advertising, but it’s the unique channels of advertising that we offer besides the typical web banner.

These being SMS ad tags (an SMS text is 160 characters, a lot of the time we’ll save 40 characters for an ad tag that stylistically matches what’s being promoted), and IVR (integrated voice response) advertising, which at the end of hearing an artist’s voice message, you may hear a quick voice advertisement for guitars, again it’d be something that would stylistically match up. We’re not going to slap on a Barbie doll ad with our metal artists, haha! The best that can happen for an artist is that they’ll make some money alongside all of TheLiveLine’s services and capabilities we offer them. The worst that can happen is a ton of free promotion. It’s really a win-win situation.

In regards to marketing campaigns, it’s pretty unique to be able to add a phoneline as an extra channel of promotion. Everytime an artist updates their AudioBlog (same as voice message), an SMS text message goes out to all their opted in fans on the site, alerting them so-said artist has recorded a new AudioBlog. The immediacy of texting is key – the average email is opened in 48 hours, the average text is opened in 4 minutes. Any last minute show changes, cancelations, a great idea that’s burning in the artist’s head, or literally whatever, they can immediately tap their fanbase and receive response, versus an email newsletter that may never reach the fan in time, Facebook comment, etc. I know for all those on-the-go guys it’s tricky to be by a computer at times, but they’ve always got their cell phone on them.

I know that TheLiveLine has been used on tours, please tell me a bit about such partnerships and on how the live scene can benefit from you.

Scott: TheLiveLine can be used for a few different aspects of touring. One example is simply to enhance the event for the fans. So, inbetween sets when there is some down time, we might have a poll on the screen like, “What is your favorite Soulfly album ever”? this keeps the fans entertained. We can also reply to their entries with a discount code for merch or concessions at that show. This gives the fan some savings and drives sales for the venue of merch and concessions. We can also engage fans with the interest of building a larger database or “mobile fan club” for the artists. So at the show we may project “To enter the Testament mobile fan club text CHUCK to 12345”. This will give the artist the fans phone number so that they can keep the fan updated on what is going on with tour dates, album releases, etc. on an ongoing basis, after the show.

Alex Gilbert

Alex: Yeah, we recently sponsored the Tantric, Adema, and Burn Halo tour where fans could text in to receive exclusive tour info and deals. For the tour as a whole, in-venue mobile was a big factor. We did a “Text NOW1, NOW2, etc.” to receive a digital coupon in the form of a bounceback text message (say 10% off of merch JUST for tonight), as NOW is the key idea. Of course we had to make different NOW keywords since some venues take a merch cut for the night, so we make sure everything was fair between artists and management. With building a mobile database like that, for next time around we can geo-target, so a kid in Kentucky will get the most relevant info with upcoming Kentucky shows for Band X, in store appearances, as will a kid in Nebraska getting all relevant info closest to his/her location. We don’t want to be texting the kid in Kentucky show info in Nebraska, and vice versa. Our technology is extremely dynamic, has incredible analytics, and is really amazing.

TheLiveLine itself is the perfect touring tool. You literally only need a cell phone to update your AudioBlog, which that then syncs directly to the web. I know how hard it is to get internet access on the road, and TheLiveLine has proven a great tool to promote, again with the aforementioned immediacy.

If you have an inquiry for tour sponsorship via TheLiveLine, we’d love to hear from you. Hit up the contact page on our site.

Are there any other interesting companies you have partnered with?

Scott: We have connected with several brands that are a part of the music industry or associated with the music industry. It has been a pleasure to work with ESP Guitars and Dean Guitars as well as ARK Films on multiple creative projects.

Alex: The one’s Scott mentioned are great companies, and equally great people! I personally love being in touch daily with the labels and PR agencies we partner with. It’s always a pleasure working with Candlelight Records, Prosthetic Records, Bullet Tooth, Fresno Media, Pop Music Live, and many, many more. I’m on the phone for a good majority of my day (and love it), and anyone in the office knows my obsession for the always delicious Klondike ice cream bars. I always seem to smoothly sneak that in my business calls with the people I get to know more on a personal level (especially since they now have Reese’s flavored ones, hell yeah!), and turns out everyone shares my love for Klondikes.

If there’s one thing that the whole world loves and cannot hate, it’s got to be those Klondike bars. Do you like them, Andrew? We are also in touch with some other potential partners, as we are always looking to expand.

Damn, we don’t have these Klondike bars over here :( Is the service limited to territory geographically?

Scott: No, service is available internationally.

Alex: Anyone can use TheLiveLine, from both a fan and an artist talent perspective. It’s basically free to call any artist, which is definitely one of our top 3 FAQs. The only cost that would occur is between the individual and their carrier, so if you don’t have unlimited minutes, text, whatever else on your phone plan, it’s going to cost the same amount as if you were to call / text anybody else.

What can you say about “TheLiveLine 2.0”, which is in the work according to the website?

Scott: TLL 2.0 will have many of the same features as our current version and MANY more features. More content on the web and more features via mobile. You will have to check it out when we release it but don’t be surprised if you call your favorite artists “AudioBlog” and they actually pick up the phone to talk to you.

Alex: TheLiveLine 2.0 is still a work in progress. There are plenty of ideas for expansion, as well as possible premium packages.

Any other huge features going to be implemented soon, or any big events that you can reveal?

Alex: We do have plenty of features and big events in the pipeline. I can’t reveal too much at the moment, but I can promise we are expanding fast, and many are taking notice on both a general public and business level.

Thanks for the interview. Stay tuned to TheLiveLine!

Find out more and join TheLiveLine at this location.