Industry Spotlight: Steve Busch (Total Assault)

Surprise! I know our routine the past several weeks has been two blogger spotlights, an industry piece, and at least one advice column, but the time has come for a change. Over the next several week you will begin seeing several new columns pop up, including contributor pieces from a number of notable industry professionals. If you know of a person or publication that would be a great fit for this series, please do not hesitate to email and share your story.

Today we’re leaving the world of blogging and PR to learn about life in another area of music marketing: Social media. It’s probably the biggest paid of buzzwords in business today, and if you want to make a career out of it, especially in entertainment, you need to have skills that are second-to-none. We always knew the day would come when this area of music was explored in a spotlight feature, but we wanted to wait until we found someone who we felt represented the best the industry had to offer. We searched far and wide, then asked some friends, and at the end of the day one name kept coming up more than the rest. Ladies and gentleman, prepare to meet Mr. Steve Busch.

Ten years ago, there were few, if any, jobs in music for people who specialized in digital strategy. The internet was popular, sure, but it wasn’t until the boom of social media that companies began to realize the full potential of their digital reach. Steve Busch was fortunate enough to get into the industry just as social media was beginning to take off, and in the years since he has become a wizard in everything from YouTube to Twitter (and essentially everything in between). He’s worked for a number of companies, but currently calls Total Assault his home. You can read his journey with music below.

If you would like to stay up-to-date on everything Steve is doing, make sure you bookmark and frequent Total Assault. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

H: For those unaware, please state your name, the company you work for, and your role at said business:

SB: My name is Steve Busch and I am the Director of Social Media at Total Assault.

H: To what or whom do you attribute your interest in music?

SB: I’d have to say much of it came into fruition with MTV. Like many of the kids of my generation, I would religiously watch music videos before school in the morning, then come home and again… music videos all afternoon. I wasn’t allowed to watch Beavis & Butthead, but I would tape it, and wait for my parents to go to bed, and then sneak into the living room and watch the episodes over and over… and believe it or not Bevis and Butthead did a great job of offering music discovery.

H: Do you recall the first album you purchased with your own money? Do you still own it today?

SB: I sure do. Metallica’s …And Justice For All. I don’t have that CD anymore, or any other CDs for that matter, but it’s on my iTunes. I still listen to it regularly.

H: You’re the first Director of Social Media we have featured, but your journey in music started long before the job you hold now. What first attracted you to the music business, and where did you first find work (unpaid internships count)?

SB: I always felt a connection with music growing up, so much so that I moved to LA from the Bay Area when I was 18 to work “in music.” I started out promoting shows, and from there, put out a few records for local pop punk bands that are no longer together for various reasons, all the while tour managing, which all led to Myspace.

H: You worked with the editorial team at MySpace for a number of years before taking a marketing job at indie label Suburban Noize. Was working in digital marketing always a career goal of yours?

SB: Over my six or so years at MySpace, I was fortunate enough to get a broad scope of experience, working in editorial, content production and artist relations.  My experience ran the gamut and to be honest I enjoyed every role I played. I’ve found that digital marketing encompasses all that is creative in building an artist or a brand and I’ve always enjoyed that development process.

H: This is a good point in your journey to note that you, like many of the people we’ve featured, also do a lot of freelance work. Could you tell us a bit about the video work you do and how that all came together? Do you have other projects outside that and TA that are tied to music?

SB: I have produced music for many years, and have licensed songs for films and advertising. I currently make electronic music under a few different pseudonyms including Dead Planets and Killtron. I also produce lyric videos and other video content. It really helps with my position as a digital marketing expert to know what it feels like to be on the other end, with a need to market myself. I’ve learned a lot through the years through trial and error of putting my own creative content out for public consumption.

H: Onto your work at Total Assault. What drew you to this position?

SB: A few different things drew me to my position. I was particularly interested in working with artists from the neutral perspective of a digital marketing team. It’s nice to know we get to solely keep the artist’s interests in mind. I was also excited to develop a team that will inevitably go on to become experts in the field.

H: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Social Media Director on a day-to-day basis?

SB: Oftentimes, we don’t have the control over what content the talent is creating, or the consistency of when they produce content, but it is our responsibility as the social media team to take the content we are given and make it interesting and palatable for public consumption.

H: Social media is a growing career field for many aspiring industry professionals. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people make when marketing through these channels?

SB: Focusing too much on numbers. For example, I highly advise against buying numbers, which has become quite the trend. Whether it’s Twitter followers, or Youtube views, it’s one of the most counterproductive efforts you can make, and it can have an adverse effect almost immediately. Kids are pretty savvy. They see 100,000 Facebook fans, and only 10 people liking the posts and engaging, they will figure out your ruse quick, and won’t hesitate to call you out on it.

H: There are entire web communities dedicated to mastering the art of social media. What’s one piece of advice you could offer people hoping to better their efforts?

SB: Again, don’t get caught up in the numbers. Put your efforts into creating good, consistent content, and connecting with the fans you do have. Stick to the basics and those Facebook fans and YouTube views will follow. If I could give artists any one piece of advice it would be to be patient and allow the brand to grow organically. It is better to have 10 die hard fans that will promote you to no end than to have an inflated sense of success with no real backing.

H: Total Assault has helped break a number of artists of the years. Where do you turn when hoping to discover new music?

SB: I rely a lot on friends and word of mouth. Blogs like Pretty Much Amazing and Noisey are good for discovery, and the Mishka blog is a good source for new and weird stuff.

H: Do you feel there is still a need for record labels in the modern music industry?

SB: I think that there is still a role for record labels to play, depending on how one defines “record label.” There is still a large gap between your garage and Madison Square Garden, and many bands lack the tools needed to get from point A to point B, so a label is still necessary in that sense. Major labels are arguably still key, if not necessary for radio play for pop artists. I think those labels that have progressively incorporated a good digital strategy can offer artists something valuable.

H: You’ve had a few job titles in life up to this point. What is your ultimate career goal?

SB: Ultimately, I’d like to comfortably call myself an expert in all things digital strategy.

H: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

SB: It would be nice to see the music industry create an internet radio solution that could serve as a discovery engine for fans, while being economically viable for both the artist and the platform.

H: Total Assault seems busier than ever. Before we let you go, would you mind sharing with us anything special you have on the horizon?

SB: I am pretty excited about all of our projects right now. We have a new group out of the UK called Charming Liars. They are on the road with Sick Puppies right now, working their butts off. We have a new all girl pop group called Girl Radical that was put together by JC Chasez from N’sync. They prove a great example of building your social presence through consistent, fun and engaging content.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.