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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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.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Of the Music Business

TOp3z2BP4D0buTIBWRlyKiAVv-pjEEuIygLDG9XMwqo,M7PkHcgnFPUw_Q5AHpOtJP_oBaDtUKm8uMUp-KNlhtQI had a conversation with another musician the other day. He was grousing to me about how hard it was to get a gig in this town. I hadn’t had that problem, so I asked what he meant by that.

“It’s obvious!” he began. “These club owners expect you to bring your own following to the gig!” He waited a bit, apparently expecting some sort of condolence from me. When he got none, he went on.

“I mean, nobody in our age group goes out anymore. Nobody has the time! Nobody has the money! I mean, I don’t go out unless I’m playing.”

I was about to say something to all of that. I wanted to tell him that of course the owner expects you to bring a following, that people in his age group (mine as well) do go out, and shame on him for being part of the problem: not going out and supporting other musicians. I changed my mind, though. I realized whatever I said would make no sense to someone who actually believed the world owed him a living, a club owed him a place to play, and that he didn’t have to lift a finger to draw a crowd. The crowd would be there, waiting on him, chanting his name, and waving the Zippos in the air.

The Ugly

Unfortunately, there are more musicians out there just like him who believe that if a club owner could only hear how good they are they would land the gig. Here it is, the ugly truth: the person who books your band does not really care if you are any good! Being good is a perk. He or she expects the booking to put butts in seats, sell food and drink, and make money. In the case of a club, the owner that pays your band $800 expects to earn at least four times that amount because you’re there. He has overhead in his lease, his insurance, his staff, and his product, plus he has to make a profit. If you’re not bringing in fresh faces, it’s only good business if he replaces you.

250878012_55b96c985cAnd the club owner isn’t the only one interested in your money-making potential. If you have an agent, he wants a cut, too. Same with your publicist, your merchandise company, and your CD distributor. Don’t forget: you are the product, not your music. You may be the best act out there, but that title means nothing without fans.

So the next thing you have to consider is why you don’t have a following.

The Bad

If you’re not doing what you can to market your band, then stop wondering where your friends are and start telling them. Send out emails letting them know where you’ll be next, and when. Put that information on Twitter and Facebook. Create a group of contacts in your smartphone and text them a couple of hours before the show. Make up some flyers with upcoming show dates and contact information: put these on tables at your gigs. Take pictures at the show and put them on your website and Instagram. And don’t expect the club to do any marketing for you.

But if you’re doing all of that and you still have empty seats out in front of you, then you don’t have a following because no one likes your music. Period. The tribe has spoken.

Your friends may listen to a track you uploaded to Reverb Nation and become fans; they may like you on Facebook and hang out with you on Google+; they may even tell you that they’ll make it to one of your shows. But if they haven’t shown up in 3 months, then you either need new friends, or you can assume the old ones are just not into your music. And that isn’t the club’s fault, either.

The Good

So what can you do if you this article hits close to home? Plenty. First, determine why you’re not getting gigs or why the ones you do get have low attendance. Then do one (or both) of the following:

  • Work at your craft until you’re ready to perform. Get good here. Go back to the basics of scales, modes, and arpeggios. Study. Take lessons. Listen to lots of different music, both inside and outside your genre, and learn how to play it. Read a wide variety of poetry to help you with your lyrics. Go out and listen to other musicians.
  • Work on your business chops. Get good here, too. Read all you can about the business of music. Get some networking skills and use them when you go out to listen to other musicians. Learn as much as you can about social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You don’t need them all; learn which ones are best for you.

Notice the first word in those points: work. Like the musician at the beginning of this article, you can grouse all you want to, but it won’t solve anything. It won’t make you a better musician. All it will do is alienate you from those working hard on their own careers and who have no time to listen to someone else complain.

So if you’re not getting the bookings you want, take charge of your career and figure out why. Assess your music honestly and be willing to make changes. And don’t waste time and energy blaming others: you are the master of your fate.

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Image credits: Top – the author; Bottom – Chad Miller

How To Start and Run a Band

mount-everestSo you’ve played around in a few bands over the years, and you’ve seen things that worked and things that didn’t. And perhaps you’ve wondered if you could put together something that was better.

Congratulations! By having a vision of something greater than what you’re in now, you have achieved half your goal of having your own band. But that was the easy part. The other half takes sustained, hard work, and there are no shortcuts. But if you’re serious about starting a band, you’ll find the work enjoyable.

First Steps

As with any new venture, time spent planning what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to go about it is never wasted. (That’s especially true if you’re launching this new project with another musician.) As badly as someone may want to climb Mount Everest, he doesn’t wake up one morning, decide to climb that day, and immediately set out. It’s the same with a band, a business startup, or a marriage. You’ll be far more satisfied with your band if you don’t skip these first steps.

  • Begin with the end in mind. Be very clear with yourself about why you want to form a band in the first place. Know what kind of music you want to play. Covers? Originals? Rock? Progressive? Jazz? You’ll want to have a clear direction in mind before you begin inviting other musicians to the party.
  • Write a good mission statement. If your mission is to just play out and have a good time, don’t expect to attract great players or book huge gigs. Your statement should address where you want to go, what you’re going to do to get there, when you expect to arrive, who will help you, and how you intend to get it done. A mission statement solidifies direction in the minds of all involved and helps discourage time-wasters from auditioning.
  • Set measurable goals. Identify specific dates for key events, such as hiring personnel, learning songs, and recording a demo. Establish how often you need to play out and where. Come up with actual dollar figures you think the band can make its first year, second year, and so on. Write these down, and make sure your new band members buy into them.
  • Write down your rules. Be sure to make clear what you will and will not tolerate when the band is together. Never assume anything. Communicate your policies on drugs, alcohol, punctuality, preparedness, and so on to all who audition.
  • 03-Social-Media-Management8777Start networking now. You probably have a Facebook page, but don’t ignore other social media platforms that can help you as well. LinkedIn is a great site for musicians, as a profile there says you’re serious about the art and business of music. And with 340 million users, Google Plus shouldn’t be ignored. Use a combination of these networks to identify clubs and their owners. Contact them now, before you build your band, and start building relationships with them. This will help you later on, when your band is ready to play out.

Don’t be discouraged if these first steps take a couple of months or more. Better to plan thoroughly now than to wing it later on. Besides, if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

Getting the Band Together

Now that your planning is done (or almost done), it’s time to put the band together.

  • Don’t rely on classified ads to find musicians. Craigslist is fine, but you should also contact other musicians to find out who they know. Turn to your networks on LinkedIn and Facebook to help you identify good prospects. Visit some music stores and pick the brains of the salespeople. They’re better than any website when it comes to knowing people that are looking for bands. There are also sites that help bands and musicians find each other, such as Bandmix and the new Giggem.
  • Hire the right musicians. They need to be a little better than you are, or at least at the same level. If they’re better, you’ll be challenged more. And be willing to wait. The good ones are probably working, and you may need to make your case to them more than once. Besides, a bad hire wastes your time and sets you back.
  • Establish a regular rehearsal schedule. It’s better to have short, effective rehearsals than marathon sessions. Two or three hours is plenty of time if everyone is on time and comes prepared. (Those are two of your rules, right?) You may feel the urge to push a session past that, but you’ll just wear everyone else down and lose any efficiency you thought you’d gain.
  • Create a website, establish a social media presence, and start a mailing list. Stick with just a couple of platforms at first. Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus need regular attention, and the person who handles your social media doesn’t need to be overwhelmed.
  • Assign responsibilities. Decide who will book gigs, who will run sound, and who will handle the website and social media.

Keeping It Moving

  • Book your first gig within 2 months of your first rehearsal. This keeps the momentum going, for a booked gig helps drive rehearsals: it’s a measurable goal. Also, a band needs a shakedown gig early on to identify problems that need to be worked out. Open mics are perfect, low-key events for a first gig, and it’s okay if you don’t make any money on this one. But send out email reminders about your gig, hand out business cards to everyone there, and get email addresses.
  • Gig regularly. Not doing this is one quick way to kill a band. You don’t have to play 120 dates per year, but you need to play out as often as it takes to achieve your goals.
  • Band_Practice_by_BiffnoLearn new material and rehearse it regularly. Not doing this is the other quick way to kill a band. Keep up with the set lists for each venue, and make sure you swap out material before you return to one of them. And make sure everyone involved in your new project understands the difference between practice and rehearsal.
  • Oil the machine. Don’t neglect marketing. You have to keep the fans coming back. Keep the website up. Post regularly on Twitter and Facebook. Your fans want emails from you; don’t disappoint them, but don’t spam them, either. Work the crowd during the break and collect email addresses. Repeat.
  • Have outside interests. Don’t make music your whole life, even if it is your life. Make time for church, family, friends, and hobbies. You’ll be a better musician because of it.

Is it possible to have a good band and not do some of these steps? Which ones are you going to skip?  The fact is that all bands do all of these things at some point, or they break up. There are no other options, no shortcuts. You have to gig regularly, or there’s no point in starting a band. You have to learn new material, or fans will stop coming to your shows. And if you’re going to play out, who wants to play with sub par musicians who break the rules?

Starting a band is hard work, and keeping it going is harder still. But if it’s in your blood, if doing anything else makes no sense to you, then embrace your calling and begin charting your path to success. The rewards are worth the trouble.

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Image credits: 1 – www.snowbrains.com 2 – www.beyondattitude.com 3 – www.musicianswantedtoronto.ca 4 – deviantart.com

The Digest: Jay-Z, Mozart’s Violin, and Why Your Local Music Scene Sucks

1358789558_jay-z-beyonce-640

Jay-Z/Samsung – The Lefsetz Letter

Bob Lefsetz, the no-holds-bared music industry commentator, is at it again, and this time he slams Jay-Z for selling his music out to the corporations. Samsung is giving away his latest album for free to those who use their smartphones; the album will instantly go platinum as a result. Lefsetz argues that marketing ploys such as this one mean the focus has shifted away from the music and toward the novelty of the stunt. And the problem with stunts is that they’re only good once.

The Lost Half Decade Of Music Recorded After Napster – Hypebot

Between about 1999 and 2004, there was a lot of exceptional music made by a lot of talented artists, who, thanks to new and affordable recording equipment, were able to make the music they wanted to make. ADATs reigned supreme in the 90’s, but they would give way to the more powerful (and less expensive) DAWs of the 21st century. Facebook and Twitter (circa 2003 – 2006) helped artists spread the word. But the core power tools for promotion and dissemination online simply did not yet exist. Andrew Dubber argues it’s time to give that lost music the chance it never really got.

Steven Tyler, Joe Perry Inducted Into Songwriters Hall of Fame – Rolling Stone

Other honorees included Elton John and Bernie Taupin (recipients of the Johnny Mercer Award for lifetime achievement), Foreigner, Billy Joel, and Berry Gordy (honored by Smokey Robinson with the 2013 Pioneer award).

tumblr_m7gw3vMYAT1r3nzmmo1_500Why Your Local Music Scene Sucks – Music Marketing [dot] Com

You can’t get fans to support you just because they’re in the same area code, says David Hooper. They don’t owe it to you to buy your music; you have to give them a reason. It has to be good. And if it is, you’re halfway there. Do unto others and set the example, Hooper adds: go out and see other acts. Get the ball rolling, and you’ll soon have the following you want.

The Average iTunes Customer is Spending Less – Billboard

Apple recently announced it had 575 million iTunes accounts, compared with 100 million in September of 2009. While that sounds impressive, a closer look at the numbers shows that more people are actually spending less, bringing the dollar value of each account down from $74 in 2009 to $40 today. Glenn Peoples discusses what this means to Apple and the music industry.

The Evolution of Music Tech – SoundCtrl

“In just the past decade, the advent of innovative, volatile and disruptive music technology continues and is accelerating – pushing the industry to accommodate a consumer base that is empowered, hyper-connected, and always-on.” This fascinating timeline shows how this technology snowballed as the public demanded more.

amandine_beyer_violin-3d0c1dfceeed93893dd24bc46b78951a099b5b27-s6-c30Playing Mozart – On Mozart’s ViolinNPR

It’s not an ornate instrument, as one might expect, but rather a plain, “workhorse fiddle” made in Bavaria. It and the master’s viola are kept at the Salzburg Mozarteum under heavy security. They were finally brought to the United States for the first time, on separate flights, and with a nondescript security detail. Still, all of the arrangements for the Boston and New York concerts were worth it to Miloš Valent, who said holding Mozart’s viola  “is something extremely personal.”

Independent Radio In the Digital Age – Engadget

Independent radio stations WFMU and KCRW belong to no corporations and answer to no one but the listeners themselves. They have survived media consolidation and an internet revolution. Their bi-annual pledge drives show they were into crowdfunding well before Kickstarter, and it’s allowed for some fiercely independent programming. Their format? “We specialize in playing hippy noise music that people hate,” replies WFMU’s general manager.

Twitter’s #Music Flops, But Twitter Is Still Key to Your MarketingMusic Think Tank

Even though Twitter #Music didn’t live up to the hype, Twitter is still critical to your marketing game plan. Among other things, the micro-blogging platform allows you to plug into your musical niche quickly and easily, thus allowing you to build relationships with industry leaders. Twitter also enables musicians to find and engage with potential fans.

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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 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.

Photo credits: Top – http://www.insidetheframe.net; Middle – http://www.tumblr.com; Bottom – http://www.npr.com

Feeding the Muse

stuck-in-a-rutSo you’ve recorded a few CDs, and they’ve done well. You’re on your fourth tour, and your fan base is growing. So far, so good. Except that the only posts on your Facebook and Twitter now are your fans clamoring for a new album.

When suddenly you realize you’re just not feeling it anymore.

Or you’re in a cover band, which has been riding a huge popularity wave for the past 8 months, but it’s suddenly gotten old. You haven’t had time to learn any new music in months, and while fans still show up to your gigs, the numbers are not quite what they were.

And suddenly you realize you’re just not feeling it anymore.

It’s a sick feeling. Did I peak and not realize it? you ask yourself. Is this all there is? Am I wasting my time and my life at this? And in an attempt to break out of your writer’s block, you write more songs that start to sound a lot like what you’ve written before, which only adds to your frustration and deepens the rut. Or you pull out a couple of done-to-death standards from your B-list and work them into Saturday night’s set list, even as you vow to get the band together and learn some more music soon. Real soon.

We all get in ruts from time to time. The trick is recognizing them for what they are and knowing how to work through them. Fortunately the folks at Music Marketing [dot] com have listed over a dozen ways to get out of your comfort zone and feed your creative muse. Among them:

  • Get out of the band you’re in if it stifles you. You may like everyone in it, but if you art suffers from it, what’s the point?
  • Post videos of unfinished songs on Facebook. Ask for fan feedback. This deepens the relationship you have with them, which is another source of inspiration.
  • Play in a venue that makes you nervous.
  • Join a band that plays a different genre than what you’re used to. I got out of rock for well over a year and played jazz, and it was such an inspiring and liberating experience. It forever changed the way I compose music.
  • Write a song with someone else. Fresh perspective is always good.

NatureYou can also try one or more of these suggestions:

  • Start a new project. Rather than find another band, start one of your own.
  • Introduce some original material. If you’re in a cover band, adding a few of your tunes will add variety to a tired mix. It’s also a great way to find out how your music goes over with a real audience.
  • Experiment with a different sound. Hire a sax player or percussionist for one of your gigs, or rework an entire set as an acoustic one. You may not want to shake things up like this all the time, but it’s good when you do. And your audience is sure to appreciate and talk about it.
  • Go on hiatus. Academics take sabbaticals, usually to write a book or some other project. But by getting away from a routine and focusing on something fresh, they often return to their posts with renewed enthusiasm. It can work for you, too. Just make it clear to the rest of the band that you need some downtime to recharge. If they’re not comfortable with that notion, however, you’ll need to be prepared to make what could be a hard choice.

Daft Punk was able to avoid a creative rut by using some old-school techniques to record their latest album, Random Access Memories. Thomas Bangalter explained that the duo wanted to expand its creative horizons before their music became boilerplate. Musicians can’t thrive in a comfort zone, he said. “That’s not what artists are supposed to do.” You owe it to yourself as well as your fans to keep pushing your music to new heights, but you can only do that by having a creative vision and sticking to it.

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Image 1 credit: Chris Yaw

Image 2 credit: DesignPics Inc.

Updated June 12, 2013

The Digest: Fresh News About the Music Business – March 30, 2013

ramonePhil Ramone, Music Producer, Dies at 72 NPR The Two-Way

While the cause of death was not immediately disclosed, Ramone was known to have been hospitalized with an aortic aneurysm in February. Ramone, a South African native, studied at the Julliard School in New York when he was a teenager and went on to earn 14 Grammy Awards.

Topspin Offers 5 Direct-to-Fan Lessons From SXSW Hypebot

South by Southwest is more than just a venue – it’s a place where artists can learn about the latest trends that affect their music and what lessons they can learn from those trends. The Hypebot article describes five of these lessons and strategies for musicians and those who work with them. Among them: the digital streaming experience must evolve to allow fans to dig deeper into the music and discover the artist completely. Also, artists must also go beyond the metrics, such as followers and likes, and focus on the authenticity of their messages.

Get Ready – Apple’s iRadio Is On the Way! Forbes

Slated to launch sometime this summer, iRadio is acknowledged to be the next logical step in the progression of iTunes, iPods, iPhones, and so on. So what took it so long? The sticking point seems to have been profitability: Pandora pays artists $0.12 per 100 spins, and Spotify pays a whopping $0.35 per 100 spins. Apple, however,  wants to pay only $0.06 per 100 spins. Whether or not they get that rate isn’t etched in stone, but if talk of a launch is buzzing about, you can be sure that Apple has the hammer and chisel ready.

House Concert Tips and Advice Music Music Marketing [dot] com

house-concertIf you’re considering playing a house concert, take time to listen to this podcast first. The folks from Music Marketing [dot] com discuss topics ranging from which artists benefit from house concerts the most to whether house concerts should be streamed to getting Beyonce to play your house. And for more information about house concerts, click here.

Guitar Giant Gibson Takes Control of Teac Scotsman

The deal is worth a reported $52 million, and according to the guitar company, will help it expand into Asian markets.

Why Your Facebook Page Isn’t Growing Music Think Tank

Face it. You’re probably not going to get above 6 percent engagement on your band’s page, and that’s on a good day. In fact, most users have fewer than 256 followers. Some of that is your fault: you don’t post interesting content, you don’t use pictures or infographics, and you don’t engage with the community. But Facebook has stacked the deck against you. You can’t reach 100 percent of the people out there because the advertisers are paying for that privilege.

The Rise of the Musicpreneur Music Think Tank

Tommy Darker has written the first of three articles that provide “a well-organized overview of the tasks involved in being a modern do-it-yourself artist,” and it’s worth a read, especially if you’re just starting out on the indie artist road. What follows is a solid tutorial on music business terms and tasks, such as sustainable business model (what you do to stay in business), and growth/metrics (how you measure how well you’re staying in business). Then there’s stuff about web presence, branding, SEO, online platforms, and so on. If it seems intimidating, then you’d better read it twice and brace for parts 2 and 3.

Bob Moog Inducted Into Inventors Hall of Fame Music Industry Newswire

robert-moog-2Dr. Robert Moog, inventor of the legendary Minimoog Synthesizer, earned his rightful place among his fellow peers recently when he was posthumously inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame. A statement from his company headquarters in Asheville, NC, explained Moog’s honor as one given to “individuals who conceived, patented, and advanced so many of the great technological achievements that have changed our world.”

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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.

Image credits: Top – http://www.npr.org/blogs; Middle – http://www.joyike.com; Bottom – http://www.djproaudioinc.com

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 8

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.

Advice, by Bob Lefsetz on The Lefsetz Letter.

Bob Lefsetz, music business attorney and all-around music biz guru, publishes a great newsletter, and I urge all who are even remotely interested in music as a career to subscribe to it. “Advice” contains pearls of wisdom like focus on your fans, engage them on social media, post your shows on YouTube, and form good relationships. You’ll find no career shortcuts here, because there are none.

Songwriters’ Groups Speak Out on Internet Radio Bill, on ASCAP.com.

A joint letter to Congress from performing rights organizations ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and the NSAI claims the Internet Radio Fairness Act (the “Pandora Bill”) will harm songwriters by legitimizing the “gross inequities that have developed … as a result of opposing rate setting systems applied to the amounts paid to songwriters, composers and publishers versus those paid to record labels and recording artists.”

The Upside of Music Piracy, on Live Unsigned Blog.

If you can’t beat ’em, should you join ’em? Perhaps, according to some bands who have made new fans out of people who first heard their music from a burned CD or a bit torrent site. You can embrace Neil Young’s “new radio” and get more fans to your shows who will buy more merchandise. Is it more important to lose sales or gain fans?

Get Your Band Noticed On Music Blogs, by Clyde Smith on Hypebot.

Most bands only think about Twitter or Facebook when they hear the words “social media.” But music blogs are also excellent ways to cultivate new fans and retain the ones you’ve won over. Clyde Smith gives a few suggestions regarding how to connect with music bloggers and get them to write about you.

Planning the Perfect CD Release Gig, on Live Unsigned Blog.

The release party needs to be as good as the CD, and it should certainly reflect the time and energy you put into your creation. Consider booking a venue that will sell out – pictures taken there will look better than those of a dozen people standing around in a hall that will hold 300. Work the social media, and send out press releases in time. Read on for more great suggestions.

Tunecore, Artists Release CD; Hurricane Sandy Victims Benefit, on Tunecore.

After the Storm includes tracks by Andrew Belle, jackopierce, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Thousand Foot Krutch, The Parlotones and Rosie Thomas, as well as submissions from bands in Ireland, Russia, and Germany. One hundred percent of the album’s net proceeds will benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

An Interview With Classical Pianist Nick van Bloss, by Melanie Spanswick on Classical Mel’s Piano and Music Education Blog.

Pianist and music educator Melanie Spanswick recently interviewed British concert pianist Nick van Bloss. In recent years van Bloss has come out of retirement from the concert stage, and he has released recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Keyboard Concertos on Nimbus Records.

Musician Business Cards, by David J. Hahn on Musician Wages.

Success in the music business hinges on the quality of one’s contacts, and a business card is a great way to start that relationship. Serving as inexpensive, pocket-size billboards, business cards announce who you are, what you do, and how someone can get in touch with you. You know what should go on one, but Hahn goes one better with some stunning examples.

Ten Reasons Why Your Facebook Fans Hate You, by Chris Robley on DIY Musician Blog.

Hint: it ain’t because of a lack of Facebook users. Odds are your content isn’t reaching out and grabbing anyone. Or you may be live tweeting your life with updates every 20 seconds with stuff folks just don’t want to know. Or you’re too negative. Or you’re doing any of the other annoying things on Robley’s list. Stop it. Just stop it. Now.

Home Recording Studio Success, by David Cutler on The Savvy Musician Blog.

There are many benefits to a good home studio, guest blogger Barry Gardner writes. It’s cheaper than studio time (if you know what you’re doing), you have the flexibility to try things you’d never have time for otherwise, and you pick up some new skills along the way. The article is a good introduction to recording for those who are considering the investment, and it addresses key considerations for equipping a studio.

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Photo credits: Treble Clef – my.opera.com; Captain Jack Sparrow – thehookupic.com; Hurricane Sandy damage – businessinsider.com; home studio – Robert W. Oliver