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How an Artist-Friendly Indie Label Provides Value in the Digital Age

Customer Case Study

"To justify why record companies exist in this digital age, we have to provide value across the entire marketing process, including publicity, promotion, and project management. Socialtext helps us organize and share the vast amounts of information this requires." - Epitaph Records CEO Brett Gurewitz

Epitaph Records was founded by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz, with the aim of starting an artist-friendly label from a musician’s point of view. Perhaps most well known for being the little indie from L.A. that spawned the 90s punk explosion, Epitaph stayed independent even while breaking gold and multi-platinum acts such as The Offspring, Rancid, NOFX, and Bad Religion. However, as low cost, "do it yourself" recording and distribution options started to become available to artists, the traditional role of the record company started to be threatened. But artists need more than just recording and distribution. Epitaph specializes in meeting all the needs of recording artists, from facilitating their creative vision for album packaging, to delivering customized state-of-the-art marketing campaigns, to cataloging and archiving the album once it’s finished. That requires collecting huge amounts of data and acting on an infinite number of details and decisions. To manage all this and to revolutionize their business, Epitaph turned to Socialtext.

Summary
Problem
  • Managing the end-to-end marketing process for an artist, while keeping costs down
  • Keeping organized while running multiple projects with a small staff
  • Ensuring creative ideas and important details are not lost
  • Giving people in different divisions access to the information they needed
Solution
  • Collect and organize all the information about projects and artists in Socialtext Workspaces
  • Share updates and links to resources openly with Socialtext Signals microblogging
  • Stay informed via Socialtext Dashboard, with activity streams showing important page updates and integrated RSS feeds showing key industry blogs posts
Benefits
  • Employees perform their jobs more effectively, and work with far less stress, now that they have access to all the information they need
  • Recording artists report higher satisfaction thanks to more personal service, custom project management, and timely, in-depth reporting
  • Epitaph saves time and money with quick development of new business processes and continuous improvement of existing processes

All Access Pass: How Employees Create And Share Via Socialtext Workspaces

Everyone can now access valuable information that was previously locked away

With a large roster of artists, overlapping schedules, and a small staff to handle it all, project management can quickly spiral out of control. While Gantt charts and timelines may work for some businesses, they don't lend themselves well to the fluidity of the music industry, or the progressive marketing style of Epitaph. So Brett set out to get a handle on project management in a way that wasn't expensive or overly structured. Socialtext Workspaces turned out to be the perfect fit. Ideas are now collected in wiki pages and organized with tags. Meeting minutes are taken and then posted in a shared location so that everyone has access to the information discussed, and can follow the decisions that were made. People working in every department now have access to valuable information that would otherwise have been locked away in files stored on network drives, or worse, buried in a co-worker's e-mail inbox. For example, someone scheduling interviews with the media can now easily see a band's schedule, and all the information about an upcoming release.

"If you think of our organization as a mind, Socialtext is our memory center."

Brett Gurewitz, CEO

Processes are improved instantly, on the fly, for everyone

Many parts of the marketing process are repeatable so rather than starting with a blank slate each time, Epitaph has created a series of template pages, which employees can use when creating new pages in their workspaces. These templates are used to speed up project management tasks, and help ensure a consistent format for the information. With business processes clearly defined in these templates, when an incremental change is required it is easy to modify the pages, and the improved process is then instantly available to everyone.

A central place for everyone to share ideas, suggestions, and links

Epitaph's staff is filled with creative personalities, and providing a place for them to share ideas is extremely important. To do this, they created the "Great Ideas Blog,” providing everyone in the company a place to share their ideas and suggestions, as well as respond to and build on those of others. They also have the "Interesting Read Blog," where they post links to articles, books, and other sources of information about the music industry, music sharing, music technology, or their artists. This has proven far more effective than sending an e-mail to the entire company, as people can now look at the information at their leisure, comment on it, and tag it to group similar items together. These blogs also serve as a company archive, enabling new people to easily find information when they join.

I’m With The Band: Employees Connect With Socialtext People & Signals

People around the world get to know each other

While Epitaph has remained true to its small company roots, they have grown to include divisions in Europe, Canada, and Australia. With Socialtext People, staff members in LA and around the world are able to easily learn about each other from their profile pages. Each person can display their photo, share contact information, and add tags to highlight their skills, interests, and projects they are working on. Via integrated social networking, people can choose to follow individual colleagues, which gives them a way to filter the information and activity they monitor. Epitaph also employs many interns. By giving interns a profile in their Socialtext People directory, everyone is able to "meet" these new people, see who they are, and welcome them to the company.

Answers are easier to find

One of the most important things in the process of releasing an album is timing, so Epitaph staff can't afford to miss critical information, or let important details fall through the cracks. That is why communication is so important, and that is where Socialtext Signals plays a key role. Signals enables people to post concise bits of information openly to everyone in the organization. If someone has a question and they are not sure where to even start to look for an answer, or who to ask, they can post the question in Signals. Anyone who can help now has a platform to respond, which greatly increases the chances of finding the information needed, and speeds up resolution time. Socialtext Signals is also tightly integrated with Socialtext Workspaces. For example, when someone updates a wiki page with important new information, they can automatically send a link to the page in Signals, so everyone knows about the update, and can quickly access it.

"People have really taken to Signals. It is like Social Telepathy. Everyone can keep in touch without directly corresponding all the time"

Brett Gurewitz, CEO

A vehicle for inspiring the team

Broadcasting information can also be fun. There are often times when Gurewitz simply wants to inspire his staff. By Signaling words of encouragement, or plans for what's in store for the company, the CEO is able to maintain the feel of closeness that is so important to the culture of his company.

Monitoring The Levels: How Employees Stay Informed Via Socialtext Dashboard

Can monitor what’s most important all in one place

With a great deal of information to consume, information that resides in Socialtext as well as from other sources, it is important that Epitaph's staff have quick access to the items they need to be aware of. Socialtext Dashboard provides them with a go-to home page, where people can see at a glance the updates to pages they are working on, new information posted by their colleagues, and RSS feeds to important blogs and websites that they need to monitor. For example, by adding RSS feeds to industry sites they can monitor what is being said about an artist, upcoming shows, and even rumors about album leaks. By staying on top of all this information, they can be proactive instead of reactive, avoiding potentially harmful situations before they occur.

A Standing Ovation

A secret weapon that helps Epitaph continue to differentiate itself with customers

For Epitaph, success can be measured by the satisfaction of the artists they represent. Epitaph has always viewed the artist as their customer, rather than the consumer buying the CD at stores or downloading it online. In today's chaotic music landscape, where technology gives the artist more freedom than ever before, labels must deliver state-of-the-industry marketing. Socialtext gives Epitaph a way to manage the projects, leverage the creativity, and share the knowledge and insight of everyone in the organization to do just that. With Epitaph, artists can be artists on their own terms, knowing they have a winning crew supporting them every step of the way.