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There isn't a bigger Bad Boy fan in this world than myself. Ask anyone who knows me or check out my profile and you'll find that I am a huge fan. At the same time, as loyal Bad Boy Blog readers will know, that doesn't mean that I won't be critical when it's appropriate.

This is one of those times. Being critical is a good thing when it's constructive and that's what I am aiming for here. While most readers know me here as a blogger and fellow Bad Boy fan, managing online websites and communities is what I do - online strategy is what I do. I own the iFroggy Network, of which BBB is a part, and I'm the author of a book called "Managing Online Forums," which discusses strategies and tactics for managing online communities. It received advance praise from recording artist, and Bad Boy producer, Ryan Leslie, as well as Debbie Hammond, CEO of ClockWork Entertainment, Jordan McCoy's co-label.

Putting together my professional experience and area of expertise and my long history of being a Bad Boy fan and observer, I've come up with 5 things that Bad Boy can do right now to drastically bolster their online strategy, leading to more traffic, more sales, more money - more everything.

1. Sell Everything!

And I mean, everything. Don't leak songs, post songs on MySpace or otherwise release them without them being available for sale. If someone likes the song, it's possible that they'll want to buy it. With the state of the music business as it is right now, I don't understand why music is posted online or released in some way when it is not available for sale. If I love it, I want it - now. That new song you post on MySpace should be up for sale no later than 1 second before you post it.

There is no doubt that piracy is wrong. It shows a serious lack of respect for the rights of others and everything that went into the creation of the music. Here at Bad Boy Blog, we do whatever we can to discourage it. That said, unfortunately, it is a reality of the business. When you release a song and someone says "oh, I love it, I need it!" and you don't have it available for sale, you drive away people that would buy it. Right or wrong, some of those people, you push to piracy.

As someone who makes a point to obtain music through legal or appropriate means, I've worked hard not to cave to this temptation, despite my love of music. I just don't want to download music illegally. Yet, I'm penalized as a consumer when music is not available for sale. Example: I want the remix of "I Am (Interlude)" by Diddy featuring Lil' Wayne (and I'd like the one that features Aasim with Lil' Wayne, as well). It has never been put up for sale. However, it has been illegally distributed by file sharers. So, if you want to download it illegally, you have it. If you want to buy it, like I do, you don't have it. So, thousands and thousands of people, if not more, have it, because they downloaded it illegally. But, I don't because I won't.

It's not like this is even a new track. It came out in March of 2007! And was never put up for sale. Like I said before, I'm one of the biggest Diddy and Bad Boy fans there is. I want every track he's on. I have a huge music collection spanning vinyl, CD, cassette and digital audio that has cost me thousands and thousands of dollars. And, yet, I can't obtain this track. The "Last Night" remixes are another example. How can none of those be available for purchase? And why did it take so long for the "Damaged" remix with Fabolous to be released?

Another element in this is iTunes' "Complete My Album" feature. When an iTunes user purchases a single from an upcoming album, "Complete My Album" allows them to apply the amount they paid for that single toward buying the album. So, if you have an album priced at $9.99 and they buy singles from that album, before it is released, totaling $1.98, they will now only have to pay $8.01 for the rest of the album. It's a great idea. But, if you are not making your singles available on iTunes before or when you leak them, you are not taking advantage of it.

How big can "Complete My Album" be? Well, in June, The Unofficial Apple Weblog reported that "Complete My Album" had accounted for 52% of the iTunes sales for Lil' Wayne's million plus selling "Tha Carter III". Hopefully, this made more people take notice.

It's amazing to me that, in this day and age, with the music sales as they are, that this isn't being done. I don't care if there is some sort of legal issue. You need to figure it out, as an industry, and fix it so that you can bring back some of your income. It's one thing to complain about pirates and file sharers and it's another thing to encourage them by making it impossible to buy your music. You can't penalize people who buy music. Make it easier for them, not harder - don't make them suffer.

On a related note, you have to put albums up for pre-order at least a month out. A month from release, you generally should have a very good idea if it's coming out or not. Two days before it was due to be released, "Hustlenomics", by Yung Joc, was not available for pre-order on iTunes. Why?

I did say to sell everything, right? Why isn't the audio and/or video from live performances sold? When you go on tour, make it a point to record the audio and video, from at least one stop, in a high definition format. And then sell it. Couldn't they have recorded a single Diddy and Snoop concert in a high quality format and released it? How about a DVD? I would have loved to buy that. Instead, I'm relegated to poor quality clips on YouTube, taken by fans in the crowd. I couldn't make it to the concert. I'm betting that plenty of others are in a similar boat, as well.

Related to live performances, this isn't a Bad Boy specific issue, but an industry issue: when I watch a performance on an awards show and I think "wow, that sounded awesome, I want to buy that audio!," I should be able to. I know it might be sticky legally between the TV networks, the labels, the artists and all of the publishing, but figure it out, make it happen and make some money. Remember when Diddy performed "Last Night" live at the BET Awards with Keyshia Cole and Lil' Kim? I watched that and I loved the special rendition they did. I wanted to buy it! I couldn't. I was able to get the audio from the TV recording, but I'd like a high quality version. When Wal-Mart sold the recordings of Diddy's appearance on their Soundcheck feature, that was a step in the right direction. I bought them. They have since stopped. But, that sort of sales strategy needs to be revisited.

Once again: sell everything. Allow me to buy everything you do or, at least, as much as you possible can. Please, please take my money!

2. Don't Mistreat Those of Us Who Buy Music

This relates to the first point, but I want to go beyond "penalizing" people who buy music and discuss how Bad Boy has mistreated us. I am going to cite two specific examples.

When "Hustlenomics," by Yung Joc, was released, I purchased the iTunes version (and the MVI, Best Buy, Circuit City and Japanese versions - yes, I bought 5 versions - but that's beside the point). When iTunes downloaded it, I noticed there was something wrong. The introduction was different and two of the tracks were only half length snippets. So, I paid for 3 tracks that I did not receive. Bad Boy fixed the issue on iTunes, but those who pre-ordered the album (or purchased it shortly after it was released) never got what they paid for. I know I didn't.

The same thing happened again, just a few months ago, when Bad Boy released the "Dance Mixes" EPs. This time, the "Long Way 2 Go (Maurice Joshua Club Mix)," by Cassie, was actually "Just Watch Me (Solitaire Club Mix)," by Jordan McCoy, which was already included. Once again, people (including me) paid for a track they didn't receive. And, once again, Bad Boy fixed the issue on iTunes, but didn't rectify the issue with the people who were shorted.

It's hard enough to get people to buy music these days. But, when they do and you don't give them what they paid for, you're just angering them and pushing them away. So, what should they have done? Given people what they paid for, by any means.

From a technical perspective, I don't know how iTunes works, but it's somewhat difficult for me to believe that Apple doesn't have a mechanism in place to allow for the correction of incorrect items or misplaced downloads, where they can offer the user a redownload of the corrected album. This seems like the best way as if the user purchased it at iTunes, there is a good chance they'll open iTunes again, when such an offer can be shown. Especially when they find that they didn't receive what they bought.

If that's not possible, how about offering the track for free download? At least, for a limited time. Acknowledge your mistake, apologize and offer to give anyone the track. This action would take a negative PR situation and turn it into a positive one. It's good for you to take accountability and to offer a real solution, rather than acting as if it never happened This is light years better than what actually happened, which was more like: "well... thanks for the money!!!"

3. Treat Your Fans Like Intelligent People

This can be summed up with: be honest. When there is a message on MySpace from an artist, fans want to believe it is actually from that artist. But, they can't believe that when it's clearly not, even though you are acting like it is. This leads to justified feelings of resentment, due to being lied to. They won't trust you next time.

For example, let's take these four posts as an example: one each from Cheri Dennis' MySpace, Danity Kane's MySpace, Day26's MySpace and Donnie Klang's MySpace.

All of these messages are promoting the opportunity for fans to be extras on the, then unshot, video for "Many Moons," Janelle Monae's first single. What's the problem? With the exception of the Cheri Dennis one, they all suggest they are the person who is the subject of the MySpace that the message is being posted on.

"... its Aubrey!"
"... its your boy Robert!"
"... its your boy Donnie"

And then what follows is pretty much the same message, nearly word for word, punctuation point for punctuation point, from each "person." Are we to believe that all 3 people speak the same way? (I'm sure Bad Boy sent this out on other MySpace pages, as well - these are just the first three that came to mind). And it's happened with other messages on different subjects on numerous other occasions.

Cross promotion is a great thing that Bad Boy does throughout their business, as they should be. But, for it to be truly effective and as effective as it can be, it has to be truthful and it has to make sense. This is what seems like the standard Bad Boy artist blog post these days:

Hey guys! It's your (INSERT GENDER), (INSERT NAME)! I just wanted to tell you that (INSERT MARKETING MESSAGE). Check it out!


People pick up on this. People know it's some marketing person or intern and not the artist. There's no shame in that, but play it for what it is. Get the word out, but don't pretend to be something your not. They know it's not Gorilla Zoe when Diddy and him say the exact same thing.

4. Communicate Better with the Press (a.k.a. Me) and Fans

You want to maximize coverage, so you should want to communicate with all of the entities that makes up the "press:" traditional media, new media, bloggers, music reviewers, whatever. If you can't answer a question, issue a no comment and thank the person for inquiring. I am not just talking about requests for comment, though, I am talking about communicating events related to artists and how they go about it, not only to the press, but also to fans through MySpace, their websites, etc.

One good example of this is when Diddy was on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in May. I didn't mention it on Bad Boy Blog until after it was aired and there were clips online. Is it because I didn't want you to see it? Is it because I didn't think it was newsworthy? Because I didn't care and was lazy? No, it wasn't any of those things. It was because I had no idea! They posted a MySpace bulletin a half hour before the show was due to air and that was all I ever saw. By the time I received that bulletin, it was too late. I know it may not be finalized until shortly before the appearance, but as soon as you know for sure, blast it out.

At worst, I don't see why there couldn't be a weekly e-mail out to members of Bad Boy's media distribution list outlining Bad Boy appearances and events for the upcoming week. If you want people to mention these things (i.e. you want coverage to generate more coverage and people and fans to tune in, call in and otherwise support it), you have to make them aware of it in advance. This allows you to maximize the value that you derive from said event or appearance.

5. Get the Websites Right

Finally, one problem that has long plagued Bad Boy is that they just cannot get the website thing right - with the label website or with their artist websites. It's a general lack of attention to detail and of dedication to the long term success of the sites. This has been a regular theme here at Bad Boy Blog and I even wrote about it before I launched Bad Boy Blog, at my personal blog back in 2005. I wrote about it in February of this year, after the new Bad Boy site launched in disappointing fashion and in April, when the Danity Kane site launched in a similar way.

I have to give Bad Boy some credit here, though. Over the last year, they have improved dramatically, mainly in the posting news and videos category. They have made some big steps and they deserve praise for these advances. That said, overall, it's not near where it should be. Problems?

Broken features and coming soon sections. It's best to launch with a few features that you'll cover well, then it is to launch with many features that include some that are either dead or coming soon. You don't want to launch half done websites. The Bad Boy Online site launched in February. While it has improved since then and a lot of the issues that I discussed have been addressed, there are still glaring problems. For example, the search bar still doesn't work. The "Store" button still says coming soon. These features should be removed, fixed or launched.

The general insistence on flash over functionality leads to the long term value of the sites being diminished. When you have these big, beautiful Flash based layouts that take up the whole screen but don't have much on them, you may wow people on their first visit, but after that... not much changes and it's not as easy to highlight the latest information.

Content is what keeps people coming back and, while they have improved, content is what they need to spend time developing. This includes how they manage the forums and communities that they have for fans. At the end of the day, content and community is what leads to more traffic. And more traffic leads to more ad money and more sales. Not just on the Bad Boy homepage, but on artist websites. Bring it all together - and profit.