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Media Masters Podcast – Episode 1 – Dan Harbison, Caesars Entertainment (Part 1)

I’m taking up a new hobby in 2014 and launching a podcast. The idea is simple; I’m going to talk to some of the leaders in digital, social and traditional media who I’ve gotten the chance to know (and a few I’ve never met) to learn more about their work and share it with people who may find it interesting and relevant.

My first call was to Dan Harbison (@darbison), who’s currently the Global Head of New Media at Caesars Entertainment Corporation in Las Vegas, NV. I’ve known Dan since about 2005 from his days as the Sr. Director of Digital Marketing and Media at the Portland Trail Blazers, and he’s a guy who I respect tremendously. We talked for over an hour, and probably could have gone on for another hour. We split the conversation into two parts.

The first episode (just over 40 minutes) covers Dan’s outlook on database marketing, the differences between working in the NBA and the gaming/casino industry, what makes a great hashtag, and whose marketing during the Super Bowl actually worked. I really enjoyed our conversation and hopefully a few digital marketing/social media geeks out there will as well.

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10 Questions on Social Media with Our Lady Peace’s Jeremy Taggart

While social media’s established a strong foothold in the sports world, I’m always fascinated by how every day people use it. You know, people who aren’t digital marketers, public relations reps, journalists, or @Ochocinco, for that matter.

Along those lines, one of the cool things about Twitter is that you can interact with people of all walks of life, and people with whom you’d otherwise probably never come into contact.

Before last weekend, the only time I’d “interacted” with Jeremy Taggart, it was a very one-sided experience. I’d went to go see his band, Our Lady Peace, at the Webster Theatre in Hartford, CT for a small concert with about 1,000 other people. Taggart, 36, has been drumming for OLP since 1993, and has played on all seven of the band’s studio albums.

Jeremy Taggart - Our Lady Peace

Jeremy Taggart has been drumming for Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace since 1993.

The band has enjoyed plenty of success, perhaps best known for their 2002 singles “Somewhere Out There” and “Innocent” off the Gravity album. They’re back in the studio now working on their eighth studio release.

As for Taggart, he’s one of maybe 1,400 people or so I’m following on Twitter, but one I follow with greater interest than most as the drummer for one of my favorite musical acts. But it became more interesting when I received a follow back from Taggart a week ago. I had DM’d him and thanked him for following, and a dialogue ensued, covering his interest in basketball and golf, and a few questions about when the band hoped to return to the Boston area.

When he’s not drumming for OLP, Taggart is involved in radio and TV programs, and also gives drum lessons. He’s a busy guy as you’d imagine, and he’s by no means a Twitter addict, but social media does have a utility for him, whether it’s for interacting with fans or just keeping up with the PGA Tour.

I emailed 10 questions to Taggart to learn more about what social media means to his life and endeavors. His measured responses are indicative of a busy guy who finds value in Twitter and other social media outlets, but also represent a realistic take on their overall importance in society. That’s something I think we tend to lose perspective on as digital marketing pros who spent all day living and breathing these technologies.

Tell me a little bit about how you first got into Twitter and social media. Have you always been into technology?

“Not much for the technology, but I’ve always had something to say. Twitter allows a tiny opportunity to be creative.”

You’re actively involved in TV and radio shows, and teaching drum lessons as well, so how does the medium work for you in those pursuits?

“It’s great for informing people with all of my endeavors. I’ve crossed Canada doing drum clinics; without Twitter and Facebook, nobody would have come. It was packed from people telling (other) people online.”

You follow a lot of sports related people on Twitter, especially golf, some humor feeds, and other bands as well. What do you think that people/feeds that someone follows says about them? And what do you get out of Twitter?

“For sure it says something. It’s one’s taste. I’m a drumming golfer who loves baseball and humor!”

How often do you check Twitter? Are you checking throughout the day, or just whenever someone tweets at you?

“Once a day usually.”

I see that points to your mySpace page. While mySpace gets almost no publicity these days among digital gurus, is it still a viable platform for musicians to connect with fans? And how do you see yourself or the band using Facebook, Google+ or newer social networks for connecting with fans and promoting albums and touring?

“That is just because I haven’t updated that site in a while! Social media is essential to bands nowadays.”

What does social media mean to a band like Our Lady Peace? You guys have enjoyed some major success through the years, but radio airplay and the music industry in general seems much different now, especially if you’re not a hip hop or pop act. Do you see social media playing a major role in how the band promotes itself these days?

Our Lady Peace

Our Lady Peace

“It’s free advertising for smart publicity departments. As much as I can’t stand the constant updating, it’s how we find out about things these days across the board.”

How much of an active role do you guys in the band take in this process? Raine Maida (Our Lady Peace’s lead singer) seems to be pretty active on Twitter as well, and if I remember correctly a few years ago, you guys let fans vote through your website on which album they wanted you guys to recreate in a live show…

“We all are pretty active. We have always done tests with fans to find out what they want, and they don’t have a problem telling us when we ask!”

Bands like U2 spend millions of dollars on elaborate staging and technology for megatours that play to 70,000 people a night, but can you imagine doing something like asking fans at an OLP concert to tweet in setlist requests, or using social media to change the live experience?

“We are pretty good at making our own set lists. There are boundaries. Ha ha!”

Being active on Twitter, do you find yourself having dialogues with OLP fans? How has that changed the relationship between a band and its fan base?

“It just makes it quicker and easier to get info to and from them. I’m not sure whether it’s changed anything though.”

And finally, Spiritual Machines contemplates a world in which computers and technology start taking over our lives, blurring the lines between man and machine. With all of the data that we’re contributing to social networks, and the rapid advance of technology, is that idea any more scary than it was when you guys released that album in 2000? Are we really screwed in 2029?

“We are getting close, and I’m sure we will eventually merge with technology. Everybody is so afraid to die these days it’s insane. Yes. Overpopulation will eventually be the straw to make the camel buck our asses off. Then the world will be able to breath again. That will be nice.”