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!

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A Brief Guide To Copyright For Musicians

b7-copyright-picCongratulations! You’ve finally finished recording the music for your first CD, and you can’t wait to get it mixed, mastered, and into the eager hands of your (paying) fans. But before you send that package off to Disc Makers, you’ll need to think about protecting your hard work from piracy by securing a copyright for your music.

While some musicians might have a fair idea of what copyright is, I suspect more of them have a better grasp on copyright mythology than the reality of it. And there are plenty of businesses out there who prey on those who believe the myths. But the facts are these: copyright is not difficult to understand, and getting one for your music is easier and cheaper than you think.

What Is Copyright?

A copyright is legal protection extended by the U. S. Government that covers such original, creative works as books, paintings, photographs, music, and films. Any such work that exists in a physical form can be protected from infringement (theft) by law. Notice I said physical form. You can’t copyright an idea; whatever that idea is needs to be written or recorded somehow. A CD of your music is an example of an original, tangible work; playing a song without writing it down or recording it would not be eligible for copyright.

Do I Need to Copyright My Songs?

The U. S. Copyright Office is very clear on this point: you do not have to register your music. Although a work is considered copyrighted from the moment it is set in fixed form, no legal protection for it exists. Except for work-for-hire situations (in which the employer is the author), someone else could take your work, copyright it, and be forever recognized in the eyes of the law as the original author. Therefore, all musicians should copyright their music to enjoy the advantages of recognized authorship and legal protection.

How Can I Copyright My Music?

8960378333_a5fa2aa6d2As with most things, there are two ways to go about getting a copyright for your music: the wrong way and the right way. The first of these is the so-called “poor man’s copyright.” or PMC. Here’s how it works: the songwriter records his music, writes out the lyrics and chords, and puts the charts and recording in an envelope that is addressed to himself. He then sends it to himself via certified mail and puts the unopened package away in a safe place when it arrives.

While it might sound good, PMC is inferior to the Constitution-based protection afforded by copyright. To begin with, one could simply mail an empty envelope to himself and add the recordings and charts (which may not be original) whenever he wishes. PMC is also only slightly less costly than registering with the Copyright Office. Sending materials in a Priority Mail Express envelope from and to an Atlanta location runs around $23, including collecting an adult signature. Add to that the fact that PMC doesn’t stand up in court against a copyright granted by the U. S. Copyright Office, and it’s easy to see the other way is the better value.

Getting a copyright for your music is easier than you might think. It costs as little as $35, and you can register your work online in as little as 10 minutes. There are services out there that will do this for you, but they’ll charge far more than what you’ll pay directly. (While researching this article, I found services that charged anywhere from $69 to $120; some charged even more.) I suppose they stay in business because they’re able to capitalize on either the ignorance of this process or the fear some have of doing anything with the U. S. Government. I would avoid such services. After all, you’ve probably recorded your music and booked your shows all by yourself. Why stop the DIY now?

If you’re still a little hesitant about jumping in, watch this excellent video. It walks you through the online registration process explains the process of online application:

Resources

The following resources contain good information about copyright law. Those published by the U. S. Copyright Office, especially “Copyright Basics” (the basis for this article) , should be read first.

The dates listed after the title of the work are the dates the works were copyrighted or updated. If no date follows the title, none could be found. The date after the URL is the date I visited the site.

Elton, Serona, Esq. “Musical Arrangements and Copyright Law.” January 2011. http://www.copyright.gov/eco/eco-tutorial.pdf. July 29, 2013.

Heller, Annette P. “General Copyright Information.” http://www.trademarkatty.com/copyright. July 29, 2013.

Nevue, David. “How To Copyright Music.” Updated March 2010. http://www.musicbizacademy.com/internet/how2copyright.htm. July 29, 2013.

U. S. Copyright Office. “Copyright Basics.” May 2012. http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf. July 29, 2013.

U. S. Copyright Office. “Registering a Copyright With the U. S. Copyright Office.” May 2013. http://www.copyright.gov/fls/sl35.pdf. July 29, 2013.

U. S. Copyright Office. “eCO Tutorial.” February 2013. http://www.copyright.gov/eco/eco-tutorial.pdf. July 29, 2013.

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USPS truck image: David Guo

The Digest, Volume 10

112112-Fiona-Apple-400The Fifty Best Songs of 2012, by Jon Dolan and David Fricke, et. al. on Rolling Stone.

Some list! Predictable: Taylor Swift (number 2), Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen, who is behind Seoul brother PSY. Questionable: Carly Rae “Call Me Maybe” Jepsen (at number 50). And Fiona Apple – my favorite ever since “Criminal” – comes in at number 12 with “Hot Knife.”

Recordings Not Live, by Bob Lefsetz on The Lefsetz Letter.

The paradigm has shifted, Bob tells us in his latest letter. It wasn’t too long ago that bands practiced, got good, played out, got a following, then recorded an album. Today, that order has reversed itself: now you have to record so that venues can hear what you sound like before they book you. And, of course, you need a following before you can get booked. So what’s a new band to do? Simple – just be like PSY and have one killer song.

Does South Korean Rapper PSY Hate America? by Annie Reuter on 92.3 NOW.

gangnamstyle_wp“Gangnam Style” rapper PSY is scheduled to perform for President Obama during an upcoming Christmas in Washington special, but apparently there are some anti-American skeletons in his closet that have preceded his visit. His 2002 song “Dear America” contains some forceful language about US armed forces in Iraq.

A Simple Reason Why Audiences Are So Small For New Music Concerts, by Elissa Milne on elissamilne.wordpress.com

A resident of Sidney, Australia, Elissa has no patience with musicians who attribute a poor showing to their claim that “Australia is so backward.” It’s closer to the truth, she argues, that indie musicians have a small turnout because the music has no fans. Written with an elegant bluntness, her article should be read by musicians in all countries and of all genres.

Ten Truths About the Modern Music Business, by Jason Feinberg on PBS.org.

The definition of Y in DIY needs to be stretched to include a team if artists intend on being successful by going it alone. There’s simply too much to be done. Other truths: keep an eye on your metrics at all times. Facebook is gaining on email as a band’s preferred communication tool. And someone in the band really needs to understand marketing.

Dream Big: How to Succeed in Today’s Volatile Music Biz, by Mike King on Berklee Music Blogs.

In an interview with American Songwriter’s Adam Gold, Mike King learns about the tricky business of developing a content release plan (hint: it’s not just about Facebook), the value of giving music away for free, digital royalties, and pitching to the industry.

How Do Musicians Really Earn a Living? on Live Unsigned Blog.

merch-tablesIt might be surprising, but for many musicians music is not the primary means of making money. Small wonder, then, why labels want in on merchandise sales. Making a living in the music business is tough, which is why most musicians rely on additional income streams, such as teaching music, playing in multiple bands, or running sound for other bands during gig downtime.

Playing Profitable Shows as a Band: The 25 Percent Rule, by David Roberts on Music Think Tank.

Roberts provides a good template for planning a profitable tour, suggesting budget guidelines for fuel and a (very austere) food budget. Most importantly, however, the band needs to budget for a 25 percent profit – no matter what.

Live Streaming’s Long Tail, by Cortney Harding on Hypebot.

Face it: tours are expensive, taking their toll both physically and fiscally. Live streaming a show is an option, although a slow-growing one. However, as Harding explains, live streams of shows can be profitable ventures when they target specific fan bases: cult followers, shut-ins (think thirtysomethings with kids), and casual fans who may not be willing to commit. (Note: check out stageit.com, a cool way to stream a show, collect a cover charge, and virtual tips, all on one website.)

Will An Internship Help Get a Job? by Katie Reilly on Intern Like a Rock Star.

Don’t count on it, says interning guru Katie Reilly. Better to use experience from an internship to get leads, to gain valuable experience, and to prove to others that you’re serious about working in the music industry.

The Digest is a weekly feature of the Sketchbook blog that provides an annotated listing of links to relevant articles about events, trends, people, and things that have a direct impact on us as musicians. If you find The Digest useful, or if you want to suggest improvements, please let me know. Also, if you have content you’d like to see included, please send a message via Twitter or Facebook. And share the love by passing The Digest on via email or social media.

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Image credits: Fiona Apple – http://www.philly.com; PSY – http://www.metrolyrics.com; Noisecreep merch table – http://www.noisecreep.com

The Digest, Volume 7

The Digest is a weekly feature of the Sketchbook blog that provides an annotated listing of links to relevant articles about events, trends, people, and things that have a direct impact on us as musicians. If you find The Digest useful, or if you want to suggest improvements, please let me know. Also, if you have content you’d like to see included, please send a message via Twitter or Facebook. And share the love by passing The Digest on via email or social media.

MusiCares Offers Relief for Musicians Victimized by Hurricane Sandy, by Katie Reilly, Intern Like a Rockstar.

MusicCares, an organization benefiting musicians since 1989, works year round to provide “a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need.” Recently they announced a new fund aimed at helping musicians who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. The fund provides the for basics, such as clothing and shelter, and for musical instrument and recording equipment replacement. Katie’s post has links for assistance application and for fund donations.

Lars Ulrich: Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss, The Trichordist.

Charlie Rose featured guests Lars Ulrich of Metallica and Chuck D from Public Enemy in 2000 to discuss Napster, the internet and the future of the music industry. Chuck D saw a bright, sunny future for music sales. Lars saw the darker side of the then fledgling medium, one in which millions of artists, musicians, photographers, authors, writers and other creators would have their living illegally appropriated by internet robber barons.

New MySpace Too Good to be True? by Jennifer Van Grove, The Washington Post.

Designed for artists and their fans, the new MySpace, is not a redesign. It’s a new product with a new purpose and a design meant to evoke emotion. MySpace wants to draw people away from a “boring internet” and into relationships with creatives and the content they produce.

Unpaid DIY Music “Competitive Advantage” For New MySpace, by Bruce Houghton, Hypebot.

Over five million artists, most of them unsigned, have uploaded 27 million songs to the social media site, accounting for half of the music played there. MySpace hopes to use this advantage to help them offset a projected revenue shortfall, or in other words, balance the books on the backs of the unsigned artists. Predictably, MySpace doesn’t see it that way, suggesting instead that they’re helping “artists … foster … unique relationships with their fans.”

Music Career Killers: Sure Ways to Ruin Your Chances For Success, by The DIY Musician.

Feel like you don’t have time to work on your music because you’re spending all your time marketing it? That’s an excellent way to ruin the career you’re trying so hard to start. Boring your fans and taking crap gigs on the offhand chance that they’ll yield one more fan are career killers, too.

Why Piracy Isn’t the Music Industry’s Biggest Threat, by Mike Doughty, Immutable/Inscrutable.

“Dear music industry,” writes musician Mike Doughty, “there are some amazing middle-aged artists. There’s loads of genuinely NEW artists who are in their 40s, and they would be loved by people with money to spend. Oh, PS, you guys really, really need money right now.” He goes on to suggest some great ways to widen one’s audience with older listeners who really want to go to the shows.

Pianos Aren’t a Center of Attention Anymore, by William Loeffler, TribLive.

It’s a pity the pro-life movement doesn’t extend to pianos. The Great Recession and associated economic downturn forced cuts in music education programs nationwide, thus cutting into sales of new pianos. Add to that the surge of interest in less expensive digital pianos, and it’s no surprise that some older acoustics find their way into landfills. Fortunately, there’s pianoadoption.com.

How to Help Protect Your Health as a Musician, by Barry Gardner, Musician Wages.

Whether you’re on tour or in the studio, your life as a musician definitely comes with physical stresses that can affect your health. Gardner offers a few suggestions that can help keep you healthy and in front of the crowds.

Doing a Holiday CD? Know Who Owns the Copyright, by Music Clout.

It’s tough to go wrong with a CD of Christmas tunes. They only have a limited, seasonal appeal, but once everyone’s in the mood for decking the halls, they’ll be in demand. Most classics are in the public domain, but you’ll want to do your homework to make sure you’re not stepping on some toes.

Why You Should Think Twice Before Saying Yes to a Gig, by Geraldine Boyer-Cussac, The Successful Musician.

It may be difficult for a lot of musicians to turn down a gig, especially those who are just starting out and need the exposure. Yet Dr. Boyer-Cussac reviews four situations when you should just say no, the main one being if you don’t know exactly how much you’ll get paid.

The Digest: Volume 5

The Digest is a weekly feature of the Sketchbook blog that provides an annotated listing of links to relevant articles about events, trends, people, and things that have a direct impact on us as musicians. If you find The Digest useful, or if you want to suggest improvements, please let me know. Also, if you have content you’d like to see included, please send a message via Twitter or Facebook and let me know that as well. And share the love by passing The Digest on via email or social media.

Elliott Carter, Modernist Composer, Dies At 103, by Tom Huizenga on NPR Music.

Carter’s music, write Huizenga, was championed by many of the world’s great orchestras and conductors. Not limited to classical music, the composer also penned songs, opera and chamber music, the latter earning him Pulitzer Prizes for his string quartets in 1960 and 1973.

What’s the Real Cost of Signing a Major Record Deal? on Music Clout.

Willing to exchange a bigger cut of your future royalties for getting your music “out there”? You’d be surprised how many new artists are willing to sign a Faustian contract with a major label for just that reason. It’s not that the majors are to be avoided, but keep in mind that most new artists make absolutely no money from royalties until they’ve recouped their promo budget.

Johnny Cash Box Set Honors the Man In Black, by Steve Jones on USA Today.

Just in time for holiday giving – a new, 63 CD box set of Johnny Cash’s recordings. Johnny Cash: The Complete Columbia Album Collection will set you back $230, but it includes 35 albums on CD for the first time and original LP artwork.

How I Made $13,544 In A Month (on Kickstarter), by Ari Herstand on TuneCore Blog.

Kickstarter? Oh, sure, everyone’s heard of that. Sign up, launch your campaign, and make tons of money Amanda Palmer style – right? Not exactly. That’s the theory, but as Ari Herstand explains, it’s much more involved if you want to do it right and have a successful campaign. Don’t neglect the video or do a bad one, and do keep your fans engaged on social media before, during, and after the drive. Most importantly, remember that careful planning pays off. This one’s a must read.

Improving Your Live Show, by Rick Goetz on Musician Coaching.

Rick’s interview with Amy Wolter reveals some pretty easy things we can do to make our live shows better and more engaging. First, says Wolter, don’t feel like your songs need to sound exactly like the record. After you get into that mindset, you need to plan what you’re going to do during the show after you’ve rehearsed the songs.

Forbes Names Top Six Grossing Dead Musicians, by Bruce Houghton on Hypebot.

Here’s a hint as to number 1: his initials are MJ. The King is probably annoyed at that.

Get Your Music Used in Film, TV, & Ads, by George Howard on TuneCore Blog.

The video goes into greater detail, but highlights include getting to know music supervisors. Visit universities where budding filmmakers are getting started and offer a free score. Also, create something to show & post it to YouTube. Work at getting a buzz going around it. Then find out who the players are.

Musicians, 77 Percent of Your Fans Prefer Email Marketing, by Chris Robley on DIY Musician Blog.

Not only does e-mail beat all comers as the preferred channel for getting marketing messages, it also drives more consumer purchasing than any other channel. This finding by ExactTarget suggests that you start sending out those old-fashioned emails if you want more album sales and folks at your shows.

Start Your Teaching Business in 30 Days, by Greg Arney on Musicians Wages.

Ever wonder what it would be like to teach music lessons from your home? Maybe you want to do it but don’t know how to set up a studio. Fear not – Greg Arney outlines a 30-day, comprehensive blueprint on getting up and running as a private music instructor. From deciding where and how much, to writing your policy, to setting up a website, just about every detail you’ll need to address is covered.

Marketing for Musicians: Sell What You Love, by Marcome on Marcome Blog & News.

Canadian new age artist Marcome wears many hats: composer, keyboardist, vocalist, arranger, recording engineer, and producer. And when she’s not doing that, she’s busy marketing her albums. In this article Marcome pauses to share some  things that have helped her get the word out about her music, such as creating great music, developing a mailing list, selling the music, and not giving up.

How Much Will You Pay For Music in 2013 (Infographic)? on D Wave.

There are over 500 music services on the internet and over 600 million people worldwide using those services. Still, the amount you’ll likely pay to hear music from your favorite artist may surprise you.

How To Establish Yourself as a Jerk in the Indie Music Scene, by Normandie Wilson on Music Clout.

Being a complete jerk isn’t a skill one picks up automatically after attaining the national spotlight. No, these skills are learned and practiced on the hard climb up. We’ve all known bands that run way over their time limit on a twin or triple bill, and we’ve probably seen a few who have disrespected the audience at one time or another. Here’s what not to do if you want to keep playing in the sandbox.

The Digest, Volume 3

The Digest is a new weekly feature to the Sketchbook blog. Each issue provides an annotated listing of links to relevant articles about events, trends, people, and things that have a direct impact on us as musicians. If you find The Digest useful, or if you want to suggest improvements, please let me know. Also, if you have content you’d like to see included, please send a message via Twitter or Facebook and let me know that as well. And share the love by passing The Digest on via email or social media.

Is Reading Music Important for Drummers? by the MD Education Team on Modern Drummer.

Should drummers learn how to read notation, or can they do just as well in their careers without that skill? The Education Team at Modern Drummer wanted to find out, so they asked a few professional drummers. Jeremy Hummel, Jim Payne, George Marsh, and others weighed in with their takes on the subject. The consensus? It sure won’t hurt you, and it may well help you land a sweet gig.

What Record Labels Are Looking For When Scouting Artists, on Music Clout.

The first thing that will attract industry attention is a full calendar of well-attended gigs, at which you sell your CDs and merchandise. But that’s expected of everyone: you have to make your act stand out. Have a band app out for the iPhone and Android? That could give you an edge. So can striking a careful balance between writing music that sounds familiar yet uniquely familiar to A&R representatives.

Is Your Art a Hobby or a Job, on Grassrootsy.

While the IRS has its own definitions of these terms, Grassrootsy has a handy checklist to help us decide. Do folks know you write music? Are you not making any money from it? It could be a hobby. On the other hand, if folks you don’t know come to your shows, you have a job on your hands.

Five Lessons You Can Learn From My Album Mistakes, by Shane Lamotte on DIY Musician.

Why spend good money on album production when you can’t give it away? Find out some of the lessons Shane learned such as why promotion is at least as important as production (“If you build it, they will NOT come.”), and why it’s important to build a buzz before dropping $20,000 on an album.

The Four Deadliest Practice Mistakes Ever – And What To Do About Them, by Grace on Artiden.

It’s estimated that over 93 percent of pianists don’t know how to practice piano properly, Grace says in her introduction, usually because they don’t focus on the connection between the entire body and the piano. Most of the time pianists focus on the connection between the fingers and the clock. Feel like you simply must get in three hours today? It’s quality, not quantity.

Interview With Entertainment Lawyer Joseph Stallone, by Aaron Bethune on Play It Loud Music.

Ever wonder what the difference was between copyright and trademark, and whether your band needed one or the other, or both? Can someone steal your song, and what can you do if that happens? Blogger Aaron Bethune sought out the answers to these and other questions from Joseph Stallone, a noted Texas entertainment attorney. Download the podcast to find out about managers, contracts, and your band’s most important asset – its name.

How to Network On the Gig, by Geraldine Boyer-Cussac on The Successful Musician.

Most of us probably don’t spend enough time building our networks, and that’s a shame, really, because it’s these very networks that can help us land jobs. Dr. Boyer-Cussac observes this is especially tragic when musicians fail to network with the very people they are working with. She advises going for diversity in your network, along with reaching out to people whom you do not know very well.

Ten Lies We Tell Ourselves About Networking, by Hannah Morgan on US News.

Dr. Boyer-Cussac tells you how to network; now Hannah Morgan tells you why you won’t. We whine that we don’t know anyone, or that we don’t have time, or that we’re too shy (but we will play our instruments in a crowded stadium!). Fortunately, noted speaker Hannah Morgan has some good advice for fighting against this negative self-talk.

The One-Sheet and Why You Need One, on Music Clout.

In order to have a loyal fan base that will come see you, watch your videos, and buy your material, they first need a way to find out about you. There are people who can help you, by just spreading the word. Help them out: give them the one-sheet, a 50-year-old music industry concept that is still good today.

The Pirate Bay Goes Cloud-Based to Dodge Police Raids, by Tom Pakinkis on Music Week.

“Moving to the cloud lets TPB move from country to country, crossing borders seamlessly without downtime,” according to a statement by The Pirate Bay. Worst of all, those hosting providers have no idea that they’re aiding and abetting the illegal file-sharing site.

The Digest, Volume 2

Note: The Digest is a new feature to the Sketchbook blog. My goal is to provide a weekly annotated listing of links to relevant articles about events, trends, people, and things that have a direct impact on us as musicians. If you find The Digest useful, or if you want to suggest improvements, please let me know. Also, if you have content you’d like to see included, please send a message via Twitter or Facebook and let me know that as well. And share the love by passing The Digest on via email or social media. 

Performing, by Bob Lefsetz in The Lefsetz Letter.

What was so special about the Beatles and Prince? Sure, they have huge catalogs of great music, but their real staying power lay in their acts. The message is clear, musicians: if you want a career in music today, you’re better off focusing on your live skills than your recording chops.

Memorizing – A Few Tips, by Melanie Spanswick in Classical Mel’s Piano and Music Education Blog.

And speaking of performance, how about that Franz Liszt? Melanie Spanswick tells us that pianists and other musicians have this Romantic Era Hungarian pianist and composer to thank for starting the precedent of memorizing one’s music instead of relying on the score. Liszt felt that solo pianists (another concept of his) who relied on printed music did so at considerable cost to their stage presence and charisma. Fortunately, Spanswick offers a few simple but effective tips on how to commit music to memory.

Is Your Day Job More Important to Your Music Career Than You Know? by Normandie Wilson in Music Clout

Wilson wastes no time in cutting to the chase: “Let’s be serious,” she writes. “This economy totally sucks. A regular paycheck is your best friend.” Moreover, a day job gives you a chance to schmooze and make some good connections (especially if you’re in sales), and it gives you cool perks, like paid vacation days, a free copier (sometimes in color!), and free internet.

When God and Mozart Hang Out, They Listen to These Speakers, by Michael Calore in Wired.

Peter Lingdorf’s new speakers built for Steinway, the Steinway Lingdorf Model LS Concert, are far beyond the best of the best out there. How good are they? There’s absolutely no distortion, even at 120 dB. They are so good, in fact, that Steinway engineers were able to tell the difference between Model D pianos made in their Hamburg, Germany and Long Island, New York factories simply by listening to an audio CD played through the speakers. Of course, such audiophile quality comes at a price: $190,000 per pair, or enough to buy two Model D pianos.

How To Skyrocket Your Twitter Promotion, in Music Clout.

What are the best ways to make Twitter a stronger music promotion tool? The good people at Music Clout who follow the industry’s hot topics suggest following people you’re interested in (labels, A&R companies, engineers, and so on) as well as other people in your genre.

Four Things You Should Be Aware Of Before Signing With a Music Manager, in Music Clout.

Your manager will likely be the most important member of your team, so it only makes sense that you take your time and exercise caution in picking someone you trust. Before you sign any agreement, Music Clout recommends that you examine their history with past clients, their success rates, their reputation in the industry, and (perhaps most importantly) payment. Reputable managers take a cut of your earnings. Warning bells should go off if they ask for payment up front.

Amanda Palmer’s Accidental Experiment With Real Communism, by Joshua Clover in The New Yorker.

Amanda Palmer, who raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter to fund her new solo album and then asked for volunteers to play with her for no pay when she went on tour (with her band, the Grand Theft Orchestra), is Joshua Colver’s pick for Internet’s villain of the month. Unwilling to share her Kickstarter fortune with musicians who supported her tour is bad enough, but Palmer’s hypocrisy becomes even more glaring when one considers that she is a folk singer, presumably interested in social justice. Yet beneath that, however, is an interesting set of problems about art and work in an age when both are becoming more and more devalued.

Music Fans In the Internet Age: Same Behaviors, Amplified, by Refe Tuma in Hypebot.

Has the internet killed off the music fan? The good news, says Refe Tuma, is that the fans haven’t gone anywhere, and they aren’t likely to anytime soon. The internet hasn’t killed music fandom; fandom is alive and well. But music fans have changed, and the internet has had an influence on their new behaviors.

Excelling Under Pressure, by Gerald Klickstein in The Musician’s Way

The primary distinction between those who excel under pressure and those who crack, says Klickstein, lies in how they prepare to perform. They operate from “a place of awareness” and do not rely on muscle memory.

Microsoft Unveils Xbox Music, Its New Streaming Music Service, by Seth Feigerman in Mashable.

The software giant rolled out the new music streaming service to many customers on Tuesday as part of an update to the Xbox gaming console. Updates to Windows 8 PCs and tablets will be ready October 26. Spotify redeaux?

Advice To a Young Musician

I ran across the following this morning while perusing the Craigslist music ads. The headline read “Can Anyone Help Me Get Signed.” (I crossed out the genres and influences to eliminate bias toward any particular genre. The genres are immaterial. Lots of kids feel this way.)

Hey im XX years old. Singer, songwriter, and I play the acoustic guitar. I’m looking for a producer, or manager who can help me get a record deal. My genre is xxxx xxx xxx. My influences are Xxxxx, Xxx Xxxxx, Xxxxxx, Xxx Xxxxxxxx, and many more. If you can help please email me asap. Thanks

The thing is, this could be any musician, at any age, and in any genre. Where to begin? So many problems to deal with, so many misconceptions to overcome.

Let me begin by saying that I hope you make it in this business, young musician. I really do. But you have your work cut out for you before I see your act at Bonaroo, or the Ryman, or Madison Square Garden, or The Iridium.

Now, let’s get down to business. The first thing you need to realize is that the world doesn’t owe you a living, much less a record deal. They’re not given out for free just because you ask for one. You have to pay your dues, and that means writing good music, recording a CD, playing gigs (at which you sell the CD), and building up a loyal fan base. Then you repeat all of that until you get the results you want. That formula hasn’t changed, and there are no shortcuts.

But before you even start, ask yourself why you want to be a musician in the first place. Do you enjoy writing music to the point of being unable to imagine doing anything else? I can’t tell from your post. It sounds like you’re all glassy-eyed over the romance of a record deal and what you think that entails: money, tours, limos, more money, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you need to get your career vision firmly in your head before you start down that road, not after. How will you know you’ve arrived at your destination if you don’t know your destination?

Read what artist management guru David Lowry has to say about starting a career in music and creating a buzz. Musicians are the product, he says, not the CD, and that you have the sole responsibility of promoting you. Use Twitter and Facebook, but don’t spam your followers. No one wants to follow someone who talks about himself all the time. Engage your followers, and you’ll build a fan base. Managers and booking agents only get involved when there’s a good following built up and there’s something to take to the next level.

Learn about the music business. Read this great article by Christopher Kanabe, and pay particular attention to points 8, 9, and 10. Your post suggests you’ll put your hand in the hand of the first “manager” that comes along, and I sincerely hope you don’t. Never forget that music is a business, and that there are many ways to lose money in this business. If someone offers to represent you, do your homework. Talk to past and current clients. Visit some shows that this person has booked.

Finally, read this excellent blog post by Danny Barnes on how to make a living in music. Then read it again. It’s so packed with good advice that it should be required reading in any university course about the music business. Here’s what he has to say on the music industry (emphasis added):

the main business strategy is to build your own audience. if you have a draw, agents, labels or investors [which i do not recommend] and stuff will come to you. if you skip this step and start trying to talk to industry people and you don’t have a draw yet, you are going to be sorry [unless you are really hot looking or have a famous parent and/or willing to sign away the rights to the whole thing of course]. build your own audience. if you can sell your own records that you make yourself and do your own shows, you can attract the attention of industry folks and get your calls returned.

It shouldn’t be surprising that this attitude about the music industry is so prevalent. Not when American Idol invades our living rooms every year showing talented Nothings becoming Somethings, and everyone getting the idea that he or she can do it, too. It’s America’s annual Hunger Games, only these Tributes can’t wait to compete. Instant music career! May the odds be ever in your favor!

I sincerely hope this article has been of some help, young musician – whoever you are. Keep reading about and studying this business you want to be a part of. Keep practicing your instrument, and try to write something every day. Network with other musicians. Post your music on YouTube. Play out, and do it often.

And take the advice of Sir Winston Churchill:

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.

And you’ll get your record deal.

Can You Succeed Without a Record Deal?

I’ll help you out here: it’s not a trick question, but the answer isn’t simple.

It’s a question every musician ponders at some point.  “Do I really need to try to land a record deal? Is that selling out? Maybe I can just sell CDs on my own, keep more money, and handle my own promotion. After all, my friends love my CD!” 

Bryden Haynes is studying law in London, UK, and came up with a rather complex formula to determine if success without a record deal was possible. He begins his article by defining a few terms: “success” means a level of financial freedom, and “record deal” refers to a major or independent label that has a decent budget to promote your work. “Band” or “musician” means a solo artist or group performing original music. I need to point out here that Haynes made his calculations with UK artists and prices in mind, but after converting pounds to dollars (the dollar is trading at $1.56 against the British Pound as of this writing), I’m confident that his conclusion will stand equally well on this side of the pond.

Haynes assumes that the average 25-year-old UK resident earns around $28,392 per year. Arguably some earn more, and some earn less, but let’s accept that as average for now. He further assumes that there are around 600,000 bands in the UK (each with about 4 members) that want to succeed with their music, i.e., get a record deal and make over $28K a year playing gigs and selling CDs.

After doing a bit of research, Haynes discovered that the average band brings in about 15 paying fans per show to venues featuring original acts. Again, that number could be more or less, but if the cover is $10, and the band plays 2 shows a week, then each band member can look forward to bringing home a whopping $3,650 per year just from playing gigs, before expenses. That figure may sound low, but remember we’re working with averages here. And even if the band doubles the fans at each show, it’s still only $7,500 per musician per year. Not to worry, though. Haynes figures that each band member can still pocket a cool $187 per year from music downloads.

Depressed yet? By this point, many of those 600,000 bands are, too, and they fall away. In fact, over a five-year period, only about 20 bands will make it to the Top 40 charts, and only about 15 of them are actually earning over $28,000 per member per year.

So all of the number crunching comes down to this: if you’re a band, your chance of making a decent living from your original music without a record deal is 0.00025%. However, if you submit demos on a regular basis and follow up on the submissions, your odds of getting a record deal increase to 1 in 3428. And if you use what Haynes calls a pitching website (Bandcamp, Soundcloud, or Taxi), your odds improve to 1 in 200.

I can live with those odds.

I need to point out once more that these figures are based on conditions in the UK; I converted pounds to dollars only for the sake of convenience and clarity. But I’m convinced that Haynes’ conclusion is equally valid in the US, even taking into account the larger numbers of bands and music venues here. It’s still going to be worth pursuing the record deal. While your mileage may vary, the odds are overwhelmingly against you if you try to establish a successful (decent wage earning) music career without outside help from an established label. They can shell out the million dollars it takes to launch an act. As Haynes puts it:

Yes, you might have gone on to sell millions of copies of your album on your own (and therefore lose 50% of potential profits), but the odds are against this happening – and even if it did happen, the record label would simply capitalise on your new found success and increase your success further, possibly making up for the percentage they take.

Go for the record deal, and enjoy the journey!

Guest Post: Rebel With a Dremel Installs New Life In an Old Friend

by Dave Currans

Editor’s note: Dave Currans is a guitarist, live sound engineer, and recording studio owner from Woodstock, Georgia. He plays guitar for Fineline and works as a monitor engineer for Northpoint Church. This is the first of several guest blogs he has offered to write for Sketchbook. “Rebel With a Dremel” provides detailed instructions on how to install a pickup in an acoustic guitar.

I bought a Washburn Jumbo acoustic guitar brand new in 1992. I love this guitar. It has been in every honky tonk and dive in North Georgia. It has been played in several churches. It is on a friend’s CD. Every mark, dent, and scratch that’s on it was painstakingly applied through the normal wear and tear that a 20 year old working guitar acquires. Picking this guitar up and playing it, for me, is like putting on an old favorite pair of jeans.  It is a member of my immediate family. In fact, it’s older than my daughter (but not by much). Did I mention how much I love this guitar?

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