Gecko Interview, Part 1

Today’s guest is Gecko! A singerstoryteller at heart, this wild lizard has been all over Europe, and he’s done more than his fair share of Sofar shows, normal shows, featurings, plays, kids’ shows and more. Recently he’s been making waves on Tiktok, so time to give him a call and ask him some questions. 

Connor: Hi Gecko! So why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself really briefly, to anyone that might not know you yet?

Gecko: I’m Gecko, I’m a singerstoryteller based in London. I do, in normal times, a lot of gigs all over the place. But these days I have been mostly making little videos. In this room that I’m currently in, which has a greenscreen behind me. I enjoy writing songs that have a kind of different interesting angle, sometimes a character and often, quite wordy songs.

C: Why don’t we jump into the greenscreen thing, what kind of videos are you making?

G: Basically last year pre-lockdown I made an album, but the plan was always to release it last year. However the plan was a lot of touring around that. But luckily the record had been made, we were just mixing it and stuff last year, we’d done all the recording pre-pandemic. 

So going from not being able to do any gigs, which is like the standard way to get the word out about something, I’ve just been diving into making a lot of videos and stuff for it, but just going next-level. Recently I have been getting very involved in Tiktok as a way of reaching new people. It’s been kind of crazily good. And I have just been enjoying, there’s a sort of go for it attitude like greenscreen kind of vibes of stuff. It doesn’t need to look super slick, just to get a point across. I’ve been enjoying making videos in that way. 

C: How was that initial step for you to go towards Tiktok, because I think a lot of musicians perceive it as a platform geared more towards, I would say younger audiences probably?

G: Yeah definitely. And I think when you first look at it, the platform kind of gets to know you, the algorithm gets to know you and kind of puts content that makes more sense to you. But when you first open it, it’s mostly just sort of teenagers dancing. Like it’s hard to understand what the hell is  going on. So I think potentially for a lot of artists it’s like “What is that. I’ve no interest in that kind of thing”.

I kind of knew it had been a thing for ages, I just never went for it. A couple of months ago, I kind of looked a few times and not really thought of what I could do that would make sense. Then I think I got the greenscreen partially for live stream stuff. Basically at the start of the pandemic I was using my old laptop and it was really struggling to do anything and then I got a new computer and it just opened up the possibilities. Like when I was first making videos I was kind of trying to do stuff on my phone. I’m still using my phone to film stuff, because the iphone has got a wicked camera but actually editing stuff on your phone is just a bit fiddly. Once I got the new computer I got a new set-up. I suddenly had like the ability to livestream and be able to do a greenscreen at the same time. It all kind of led in to doing more of that stuff. 

And then I just thought right let’s get my head around what tiktok is. And basically it’s a great platform because anyone has the same potential if you know what I mean. A video can go viral even if you have two followers and it doesn’t matter. The video keeps getting further into the algorithm so this is just an unbelievable possibility of reach that’s an organic reach, you don’t have to pay for it. 

And people are looking for stuff and actively looking for stuff that’s new. The thing that is difficult for musicians is you can’t just put a song on there. You need to have a bit of an angle, a bit of a hook. One of my songs is about Rapunzel, but it’s a feminist version and it’s sort of got a little caption feminist retelling of Rapunzel so instantly people click on it and they know kind of what they are gonna get and are intrigued to see how I’m gonna explain that. 

C: Would you say that the lyrical or somewhat comedic side of your act comes forward more on this platform?

G: Definitely. I think that’s definitely a helpful thing, in terms of stuff that has comedy in it goes viral, but equally I think that’s just stories that go well. You could have a really meaningful ‘aw this is a song about my grandma’ or something and that could equally be the hook. It doesn’t have to be funny, it just calls for some explanation of why someone should listen to it or watch it. Which is fair enough, you’ve got to get into the mindset of what would make you stop for a second and listen to something.

C: The attention span is so short obviously, it’s between 15 and 30 seconds.

G: Yes, so your video can be a maximum of a minute. If you’re gonna make a video that’s in the longer range than 15 seconds to a minute than it’s harder to hit. Because a lot of what the algorithm considers is like an average view time. But also equally I think a really short video is harder. If you’ve got a video that’s around 20 to 30 seconds and you’ve got quite a high average sort of view time that’s like a sweet spot.

G: Because it can go really well for a short video, but also like I think the percentage has to be higher if it’s shorter, if that makes sense. 

C: Do people really tend to start following you once they’ve engaged with the content, or what is your experience with the platform?  

G: It’s definitely a much higher percentage people who just like it. Like say there is a video and it’s like a dog doing something or whatever, I feel like people are potentially less likely to follow that, because that’s just a funny moment that happened. But if you’re obviously there as a musician, the videos that have gotten better results are me doing music. So I feel like that’s more of a reason that someone will be like “Aw yeah I’ll follow them or check out their page. Oh there’s quite a few videos that I like” so you definitely see the route of someone liking one video, then they like another video and another and then they follow. So I think if you’ve got a back catalogue, stuff that feels similar people will connect with that. Even if they like something, they are there to watch a bunch of tiktoks so it’s just an extra step. And also followers are useful, videos do go to their following page, but people don’t go on their following page as much as they are going on the ‘for you’ page. And that’s the prime spot, the ‘for you’ page, so you kind of can build a following. But every video is going out to a completely new audience each time.

C: It’s good to realise that everything you make needs to be comprehensible for a new audience.

G: Yeah, people are getting around that by doing like part 2. So say I do a song, and then I’ll do a bit of the song and then I’ll do another bit and that’s part 2. And people might see part 2 and they will be like “Ah cool, let’s check out part 1.”

C: As long as you give them that kind of indication like, hey there is more to check out. 

C: Okay so speaking of viral. You also had a picture go viral, a couple of years ago.

C: What exactly happened and what were the consequences? Did you gain anything from that?

G: No I would say I absolutely got nothing from that apart from some laughs. So basically that was a picture I took in a shopping centre at night when they were setting up the reindeer for Santa’s sleigh. Basicly the reindeers were just out on the floor and they all looked dead, but there was one reindeer that was already up so it just looked like Rudolph had gone on a killing spree. It was an amazing scene, because it looked like the people that were setting up were kind of like paramedics.

That’s kind of what I’m saying in terms of like It wasn’t really anything to do with me so like there is no real reason that someone would go like “Oh I like that photo of those dead reindeer I wonder who took that. At least with Tiktok there are a lot of people reusing stuff but there is like a link back to people who did it. So there actually is some sort of accreditation.

C: Who would have thought that one of the newest platforms would actually have the best accreditation. 

G: I feel like this Christmas I might do a Tiktok explaining about that situation, which could be my payment back for it happening. I feel like that might be quite fun.

C: Do you imagine you’re going to keep producing as much video content as you have been once everything opens up again? Is this going to be an integral part of your operation from now on?

G: Yes, probably not as much but definitely it’s going to be a continued part for sure. It’s kind of realising the potential of that in terms of reach, means that maybe you can be more selective how you tour and make a more sustainable way of touring. It’s hard to kind of totally work out how it’s going to be like but fingers crossed.

C: And how has the conversion been from Tiktok, have you seen people actively jumping to Spotify or Apple music?

G: Yes definitely, but also I didn’t push it too much.

C: Just been giving content right now.

G: Often with social media the marketing angle is trying to get people to go somewhere else and actually, I think for a lot of this stuff I rather want people to see it. I would rather make the best thing I can for a Tiktok. It’s like, Spotify is a thing, that’s cool, but that’s not my end goal. Spotify for me is part of a process that I want someone who likes me and listens to my album there. But actually getting loads of people to go on Spotify doesn’t really do that much for me in the bigger scheme of things.

C: That’s a great way to think about it. That the message is actually more important than any more followers on a different platform.

G: Yes exactly. And I think that’s often what people find most difficult in regards to social media. You feel like it’s just a grind trying to get people to do something else the whole time. So I’ve been really free with the content, I made this stuff for Tiktok but I don’t expect my audience to already go to Tiktok for it, I’ll put it on Instagram so they can get it there as well. It’s free and easy, just go for it, have it wherever you are, I don’t care I’m not trying to change your day.

C: I think that shines through as well, that people recognize that you’re not trying to keep selling them stuff or trying to send them somewhere else, he is just cool and giving us content.

G: Actually what it comes down to is you don’t need a huge number of those people. I’ve done a Kickstarter, you only need 200 people to back that and you’ve got six grand or whatever to make an album.

C: And imagine 200 people nowadays, it’s not that much you know it’s very doable.

G: Exactly. When thinking about 200.000 people have seen this Tiktok, I don’t need many of them to go into that bigger thing. And actually be committed to this. So say another 50 of those people get involved in the next album. That’s so good, that’s going to be such a big part of making another thing.

This is the end of part one, part two will be online soon!

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