The Boston Herald has called them “the next Hub heroes.” The Boston Phoenix said they’re “rock’s great new hope.” In the six months since RIBS released their debut EP British Brains the band has exploded on Reddit, been spun on radio stations throughout the country, played on bigger and bigger stages in Boston, and opened for the legendary Helmet. We sat down with drummer Chris Oquist to talk social media as RIBS releases two brand-new songs (scroll down to listen).
Tell us about RIBS – who are you?
We're a four-piece rock band from Boston.
You leveraged social and digital for your June 2010 release British Brains – tell us about your social strategy and the impact it had on the release.
We spent a long time on British Brains - Keith [Singer Keith Freund] had been working on those songs for five years. Our main focus was just making sure the record was as good as it could be. And when we had something we believed in we did everything we could to get it to as many people as possible. We teamed up with Newbury Comics to offer a limited edition pre-order of the physical CD online for a month before release. We used this great online tool called Bandcamp to sell the digital version. But the biggest lift for British Brains definitely came from social media.
Keith had been a long-time Reddit user, and posted the story behind the record on the day it came out. That post just went crazy - it resonated with people. Within one day we had almost seven hundred comments, twenty-thousand listens. It was our Ed Sullivan Show moment, as Keith likes to say. The huge response from Reddit served both to validate the effort we put into the release and to legitimize us to a lot of people. We sold about six-hundred copies of British Brains in the first week of release, which is just something we never expected. These days, that's better than some major label releases do.
Does the band have any plans to tour? If so, any previews into the digital/social strategy for informing your fans about the shows and selling tickets?
We just announced an East Coast tour for May, kicking off here in Boston on May 5th. Prior to that we’ll be doing some one-off shows in Brooklyn and Long Island that we’re very excited about. With strategy, I feel like it's less about tools and more about finding out how fans want us to stay in touch with them and managing the energy around a tour effectively. Of course, we’ll announce shows on our blog, team up with bands to promote online, create Facebook events, do online pre-sales, reach out to local bloggers, use the buzz online to get press and share that press online to create more buzz.
You announce a show a few months out and it’s important to keep people excited about it, to create momentum. But I think what's really powerful is the extent to which you can create connections with people nowadays. Because of the success on Reddit, we have fans on our email list from all over the country, and even from Korea, from Norway, from Japan. That's something we feel very fortunate about - being exposed to people everywhere at this early stage of the band. They've been with us since the beginning. I'd love to reach out to them individually to the extent that we can: "Hey, we're coming to your city. Thanks so much for the support. Come see us, have a beer with us. What bands should we be playing with in your town?" Show them how much they mean to us, and empower them to help us. Give them a very real sense of ownership over our success. Because it is real.
Let’s turn to finding new fans - do sites like Pandora and Last.fm really help new fans find your music? Any other digital or social technologies or platforms helping you find new audiences?
Definitely. It all comes down to: "where are the people who might like RIBS and how can we reach them?" Music discovery tools like Pandora and Last.fm are great, but so is YouTube, which so many people basically use as an online Jukebox. We've had people use RIBS songs in film school projects and skate videos - that absolutely gets our music in front of new people. And then there are awesome, just awesome sites like thesixtyone that help people find new music.
We can’t not ask the question – is MySpace still relevant for bands and musicians? How do you leverage this community? How is it different than Facebook?
A platform is only as relevant as the network of people on it. We keep Myspace current and occasionally receive messages from fans or from other bands, but have mostly abandoned it as a central tool. Facebook has done a really, really good job of allowing bands to keep their fanbase informed without having to spam them all the time. We can geo-target show announcements so that only people in Massachusetts will read alerts about our next Boston show, for instance. Myspace just reads like a big bulletin board.