One Simple Secret of Success

The secret to success in the music business? Work at it. Every day. Practice, write, network, repeat. Every day.

Read on.

Make Your Music Business

simple Every feel like there’s no traction? Like your client growth, your services, and your music business as a whole just isn’t getting anywhere?

You start things, but life happens and you just never get this music career flowing?

I believe there is one answer to this: there’s a problem with your consistency.

Now, for bakers, consistency is a problem solved by adding more sugar or flour (I guess, I’m more of a chef than a baker). For basketball players, consistency means hitting shots at a good percentage and practicing strong fundamentals every practice and game.

But for you, it’s really a bit easier…or harder. You just have to DO your thing, every day, every week, and every month.

I truly believe some music business people succeed over others because they simply do it more. They wake up every day, even when they don’t feel like it and they…

  • Work on their demo…

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A Message For Musicians Who Live In The Real World. [Editorial]

You’ll be on a faster track to earn your living making music if you do two things extraordinarily well: develop your fan base and communicate with them often. People are much more likely to support you if they understand your mission.

TheMusicalMeltingPot

In 2014, fifteen years after the first warning signs heralding the now legendary decline of the recorded music industry, the blame throwing and endless infighting that centres around that most black hole-like of music industry topics – online file sharing – continues.

What cannot be argued, however, is the simple fact that what happened over the last decade and a half definitely happened. Now, it is time to either find a solution to the problem of making a living as a musician in the twenty first century, or continue looking backwards, missing new opportunities, and eventually succumbing to the musty bargain bins of cultural irrelevance.

A complete solution that is universally embraced and applied  by the whole music business has yet to appear. And before we can hope to reach that point, we have to ask: Where do we start?

I would suggest that we begin by reminding ourselves of…

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Unethical Questions to ask in the music industry

There is something wrong with the music industry if it considers paying its interns to be taboo. While you can’t succeed in music without passion, it is equally true that you can’t take passion dollars to the bank.

Fresh Ways to Generate Fans

Note: I’ve updated this post twice since it was originally published last October. Thanks to an article by Simon Tam of Last Stop Booking, the list is up to 22 fresh ways to get more fans!

Self-proclaimed music marketing master Michael Brandvold writes a very good blog on music marketing, but I’d say he cinched his title with his “2000 Things to Generate 20,000 Fans” post. It’s an evolving list, of course, but he already has 60 ideas down, and they’re all good.

Michael is careful to say that not all of his ideas will work for you, and not all of them are easy. Furthermore, he defines generating a fan as actions that meet one (or more) of the following:

  1. A brand new fan who has never followed you before.
  2. Engaging with existing fans to get them to participate.
  3. Engaging with existing fans to get them to convert on an action.

Here are just a few of the ones generated so far, along with some of my own. Be sure to visit Michael’s article to get more information about each idea.

  1. Reply to Tweets that mention you. This is just good manners.
  2. Select a fan of the week. We all wanted to be lunch line leader in school, right?
  3. Share the stories behind your songs.
  4. Start a blog about your musical experience. Folks like to know more about the people they like.
  5. Blog/v-log/Tweet your studio experiences.
  6. Tweet/blog about things other than your shows. Be interesting.
  7. Phone some of your fans to thank them for showing up. Nice personal touch.
  8. Send handwritten thank-you cards to fans thanking them for their support. A really nice personal touch!
  9. Have a design a T-shirt contest.
  10. Get a radio station to plug your Name The Band contest. One of the bands I was in did this, with great results.
  11. Have a Studio VIP contest. Come on, we ALL would love to see one of our favorite bands in a session!
  12. Create a lyrics board on Pinterest.
  13. Write for music-related blogs and mention your website.
  14. Take pictures at the gig (or have someone else do this). Post them on your blog and invite fans to add comments.
  15. Video testimonials given by fans at the gig. Post them on your website.
  16. Find a different angle for the show. Find some different ways to get folks involved in the show. Maybe you could film a music video at the venue, or let fans write the set list. Could you do an unplugged first set? Get folks to show up by making the show stand out among the others.
  17. Don’t overplay the same town or venue. You get too predictable that way.
  18. Get a street team together. This is a group of fans that will promote your show on their social media platforms and send emails to their friends. If their enthusiasm is contagious, you’ll get some more fans at your gigs.
  19. Make a YouTube video out of several Vine videos shot by fans on cell phones.
  20. Issue a press release for every gig.
  21. Get a radio station to give out free tickets. Perhaps they’ll do an interview.
  22. Incorporate other artists into your act. Find a comedian who can warm up the crowd for you.

So how about it? Do you know some cool marketing trick to get more fans to the shows? Please comment and share how that has worked for you!

14 Things To Look For When Auditioning a Band

giggingSo you’ve been taking guitar lessons for a few years, and you finally feel like you’re ready to join a band. Or maybe the band you’re in now just isn’t working for you any more, and you’re ready for a change. Or perhaps you’ve been on the shelf for a while and you’re ready to get back out there and gig.

Whatever the reason, you suddenly find yourself faced with an audition. No problem. You play the sort of music this band plays, you know your audition songs, your chops are solid, you sing pretty well, and you’ve worked hard on crafting your tone. You’re ready.

Or are you?

Many musicians go into an audition with a “me” mindset: they’re looking at me, they’re judging me. And while that’s true, it’s only half of what should be going on. Even as the band is evaluating your performance, you should be evaluating whether or not they are a good fit for you. To you, it’s their audition.

So how do you objectively audition a band? Below is a list of some characteristics to look for.

  • Can you get along with everyone? It doesn’t matter how spectacular they are if you can sense the drama from the moment you arrive for the audition. And if the band has seen a lot of turnover within the past year, think hard before you take the gig.
  • What sort of reputation does the band have within the community? You may not be able to find this out, but you should at least try to talk to former band members or with club owners of current and previous venues.
  • Do they have a website, or do they rely on Facebook? Social media is important, but websites are mandatory. A website is the one place where you can showcase your music, videos, photos, and calendar. In short, it’s the one place you can control completely. If the band has been together for more than four months and hasn’t put up a website, they’re not serious.
  • Do they have active social media in place? A band that does not interact with its fans on Twitter or Facebook is a band that doesn’t understand the power of social media. Odds are they don’t do marketing well, either, and that their turnout is low.
  • Are their instruments of good quality (name brand) & in good repair? Instruments don’t have to be top-of-the-line, but their sound does need to complement that of the rest of the band.
  • Is the PA in good shape? Is it powerful enough for the venues you’ll play? Does it sound clean and punchy?
  • Does the band have clear goals? Is it just for fun, or is it serious about making good music and money? Is everyone on board with them? Are the goals realistic?
  • Is the band working now? If not, is it at least gig-ready?
  • Do they have showmanship? Watch videos of them live. Do they work the crowd or just stand there?
  • Are there issues with tempo or tuning?
  • Is there evidence of drug or alcohol abuse?
  • What are the attitudes toward practice?
  • Is there a dress code for shows?
  • How will you be paid? Is it a straight fee, or a percentage of the door? Are you expected to help pay the sound man? Are you expected to chip in for gas to the person who brought the PA and lights in the trailer?

A good band will already have most of these characteristics evident already, and if you’ve gone to school on them before the audition, you’ll walk in with a good feel for what to expect from them. If the band is lacking in some of these points, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should pass on an opportunity if one is offered. You should, however, have in mind which characteristics are non-negotiable.

The band will evaluate you on everything you bring to the table. You should evaluate them the same way.

How To Book Better Gigs, Part 2

9397483030_3a000e94e2In part 1 of this series I suggested that bands wanting to play corporate parties, weddings, and festivals take stock of their current status before contacting promoters and booking agents. Since these gigs pay considerably more than the average club date, the person in charge of hiring entertainment will want to make sure the band is worth the money. Therefore, an artist or band must evaluate everything : press kits, set lists, equipment, what the band wears, and personnel. Assuming your band has those elements in top shape, you’re ready for the more lucrative gigs.

Now, how do you get them?

First, learn how to network.

Networking 101

Note: if the word networking scares you , read this article and consider going with someone else to a few public events.

Your network simply refers to the hierarchical relationship of your friends, your friends’ friends, and so on down the line. You don’t need to create a network: it already exists. You simply need to write it down in some form, then improve on it. So whether it’s in paper form or an app, invest in a good planning system. It needs to contain your contacts, a way to group certain contacts together, a calendar, and a place for notes. Use it daily, and carry it with you wherever you go.

3342687115_d2fa440a6dYou’ll also need an elevator speech. This is a 20-second commercial you can give to someone in the time it takes you to travel with that person in an elevator. You may never have to give it there, but you’ll use it often on cold calls, whether in person or over the phone. Keep it less than 250 words, and practice it often with the rest of the band. (This article has a great deal of useful information on writing such speeches.)

Your networking kit isn’t complete without business cards. If you or your band does not have them, you’ll need them. Nothing says professional faster than a good business card. You need not go for flash, but you do need the band’s name, contact person, contact info, and website printed on good, heavy cardstock. Make the color stand out with a glossy finish. It’s worth every penny.

One more thing: networking is all about building and nurturing relationships, whether you do it in person, over the phone, or online. If you only turn to your network when you want favors, you’ll soon find that your contacts have no time for you. Remember the cardinal rule of networking: you can get what you want by helping people get what they want.

You’re now ready to start networking.

Start With Who You Know

Musician Stan Stewart suggests starting with your friends and from them drawing up a list of people you know that might be able to help you. Contact your friends and simply tell them what you want.

… strike up a conversation about wanting to gig at this place. “…and I was wondering if you know the manager there…” You get the idea.

Let’s say you want to play for a certain company’s New Year’s eve party, and you have a friend who works at that company. Contact him or her and see if you can get the event planner‘s name. Also ask if you can use your friend’s name when you call the event planner. Regardless whether you get the gig, don’t forget to send a thank-you note to the event planner and your friend. If you do get it, however, a thank-you lunch with your friend is in order.

While your friends are perhaps the most willing to help you out, almost anyone can open doors for you. Know where to go for networking opportunities. Some suggestions include:

  • Club owners you’re now working for (great source of referrals)
  • Waitstaff and bartenders at the clubs you’re now working
  • Music stores (employees there are an excellent source of information)
  • Musicians in other bands
  • Professional musician organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SOCAN; the AFM (musician’s union; local songwriter’s associations)
  • Networking social media sites, such as LinkedIn or Plaxo
  • Alumni associations (most of these have LinkedIn groups)
  • Parties, informal gatherings
  • Bridal events (usually heavily attended by caterers, formal shops, bakeries, florists, and so on)
  • Churches/places of worship

Search Social Media

8583949219_f55657573eIf your friends can’t help, you can usually find out who books acts from the venue’s website. If you’re lucky, there will be a link to that person’s email or social media on the site as well. If you’re really lucky, you’ll see a phone number. If you can’t find any of this, however, Google is your friend.

But if all you can find is a Twitter link, take heart: you can still save the day. Follow them, says Stan, and engage them. (This is definitely the place for your elevator speech!)

Tell them who you are. Then, play it by ear: you may need to wait for a second or third interaction before you ask for a gig directly. An indirect approach may give you an “in”…. When the time is right, be sure the digital version of your press kit is ready to send.

A word about using social media contacts: don’t abuse them. The same networking ettiquite applies to these relationships as well. And while you may not be able to take a Twitter or Facebook contact out for lunch, you can retweet Kickstarter campaign and gig announcements. You can also listen to and comment on a fellow musician’s Soundcloud postings, and you should certainly thank people for liking, repinning, following, retweeting, and mentioning you and your posts.

Dealing With “No”

You need to understand that you’re going to hear “no” a lot. Successful people always do. During my days in business-to-business sales I read that one will hear “no” ninteen times before hearing a “yes.” It was true then, and it’s still true today. So when you get hit with a no, follow Stan Stewart’s advice:

Don’t burn any bridges. Don’t storm out or get pissy. Just say “I hope you’ll keep my press kit in your files.” If you’re still dying to play for a particular venue, continue to network. You’ll continue to meet people who are connected and they can help you get a second chance.

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Photo credits: John Anthony Loftus  (top); dereskey (middle); Jason A Howie (bottom)

You can follow Stan Stewart on Twitter at @muz4now; his website is www.muz4now.com.

How To Find the Perfect Audience

EricaatpianoPianist, cellist, and author Erica Ann Sipes recently posted a fine article about finding an audience for your music. Rather than focusing on clever marketing strategies, her article instead went straight to the point of why any of us want to play music in the first place. For me, this article (reprinted below, with kind permission) was as much of an epiphany as was finally understanding the Circle of Fifths, and I hope you get as much value from it as I did.

Finding the Perfect Audience – It’s Easier Than You Think

© sevaljevic – Fotolia.com

The perfect audience.

I’m not talking marketing.  I’m not talking programming.  And I’m not talking about anything that has to do with money or “making it.”  
 
I’m talking about the perfect audience in a very personal sense.  It’s a key, I think, to opening many doors for musicians of all ages and stages.  Whether it’s the nine-year old who’s about to walk onstage to play for a handful of judges, the symphony member who is about to join 100 other colleagues in the concert hall, or the recording artist that is about to spend hours in the recording studio hoping for the perfect take – each of these musicians desires to do his or her best.  But for whose sake?  For whom are we playing?  Are we trying to speak to and please each individual in the audience?  If we are, isn’t that asking a lot of ourselves?  
 
A few months ago a friend posted a YouTube video on my Facebook page that answered this question  for me in a powerful way.  In the video a tuba player that played with the Dukes of Dixieland band, Richard Matteson, talks about a recording session he was involved in with Louis Armstrong.  In the course of the session the band witnessed Louis performing for two very different but important audiences all within the confines of the recording studio’s walls.  And those very well-defined audience members, his wife and God, made the performances what they were – personal musical gifts that were given with unconditional love coming from both directions.  Here is the video so you can hear the story for yourself:
 

“I always play for somebody I love.  That’s all.  You play for somebody you love, all the time.  They wanna listen, that’s cool.  If they don’t want to listen, it’s still cool cuz I was gonna play for Him and her anyway.”  

Does this type of approach to performing exclude anyone else that might be sitting in the audience? Personally I don’t think so.  In my experience it’s performances like this that hand the music and the musician’s own self over to the audience in one powerful package that has the ability to move, embrace, and thrill whoever is open to receiving.  
 
Perhaps this reveals something not-so-positive about me, but my personal audience is myself, all the time – not the perfectionist self or the practice room self, but the me that fell in love with music when I was a little girl.  Performing is a gift for myself that I like to share with anyone else who cares to listen.  If they like the gift too, that’s cool.  If they don’t, that’s still cool.  
 
You’ll still find me smiling and walking onto the stage again…and again…and again.
 
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Sipes, Erica Ann. “Finding the Perfect Audience – It’s Easier Than You Think.” Beyond The Notes. September 14, 2012. http://ericaannsipes.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_10.html?m=1 August 3, 2013. Article reprinted by kind permission of the author.
 
You might also find Erica’s new book, Inspired Practice: Motivational tips and quotes to encourage thoughtful musicians, just as interesting. Erica describes her project “as a coffee table book for the practice room or the music studio.” Loaded with advice from her own career as a musician, Inspired Practice also contains uplifting quotes to encourage musicians when they need it most.