Fresh Ways to Generate Fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


14 Things To Look For When Auditioning a Band

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

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

Or are you?

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

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

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

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

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

A Music Marketing Secret From the Big Top


Circus life under the big top

We all need the clowns to make us smile.

– Journey, “Faithfully”

Next to Google, free is truly our friend. In fact, free is so popular on Google that it comes up nearly 14 billion times in a search. We are influenced by free. We want to be disease-free, debt-free, and worry-free. We want our work to be hassle-free, and our YouTube videos to be commercial-free. We want our purchases to be tax-free.

So if free is what the people want, why shouldn’t musicians embrace that truth and give it to them?

That’s exactly what blogger David Hooper suggests in “Music Marketing Lessons From a Circus.” He points out that not everyone goes to a circus because they want to. Parents go because young children can’t take themselves there, nor can they look out for themselves. But not only do parents wind up going, they wind up spending money on things other than rides for their kids.

Musicians should copy this strategy when it comes to club dates, because attendance works the same way. Your family will almost always show up because their family. Some of your friends will almost always show up because they’re your friends. But neither group would attend because of the music alone. So that leaves everyone else there, and the only reason they show up is either because a lot of men will be there, a lot of women will be there, or both.

While that fact may be a hard reality, there is something musicians can do about it. They can give tickets away for free.

Think about the businesses that give stuff away. Some restaurants let children under 12 eat free on certain days. Circuses give out passes that grant free admission to children. And radio stations always give away concert tickets. Musicians, Hooper argues, should do the same thing for their loyal fans because it

… gives you the best of both worlds … it lets you treat your most loyal fans in a special way (a free ticket) but also encourages them to spread the word about the show to somebody who pays.

The “buy one, get one” technique is good for building up a fan base where you regularly play, but it is especially useful when breaking into a new market. If you give five loyal fans passes, and each one brings a paying guest, then ten people show up to the new venue just because you’re there. Add the five family members and another five friends, and you’ve got 20 new faces in the club before you strike the first note. Moreover, if each person spends an average of $20 per person on food and drinks, the club gets $400 more than it would have without you there. Owners notice numbers like that.

Handing out passes might cost bands in the short run, and they should only go to those fans who are the most likely to show up. But whatever the strategy might cost short-term, it has the potential for a much larger return on investment down the road.


Top photo: psiho.child

How To Book Better Gigs, Part 1

2884588290_facd4f41eaMost bands that have played bar gigs for a few months eventually get the itch to move on to a higher pay grade. It usually starts when a musician who hasn’t had the wedding/country club/festival/corporate party experience talks to another one who has. As the tale of great working conditions, great pay, and free food unfolds, the musician who has never played for such occasions suddenly begins thinking his band could do that. Why not?

But before you start calling four-star hotels and resorts to book your band, all the musicians need to collectively take a breath and take stock of where they are now. You must honestly answer this questions before you proceed: is your band really ready for an upscale gig? You may think so, but consider that some wedding and country club gigs can pay anywhere from $300 to $500 per musician, depending on location, performance duration, and the size of the band. Then consider the following:

  • Does the band have the right look? Do you play gigs in shorts and t-shirts, or do you make an effort to dress up and look like you’re actually worth the money you charge? You don’t have to wear tuxedos, but wedding planners will balk at a press photo that shows a band dressed in clothes that look slept in. Have some quality promo shots made with everyone in business casual or similar attire. Hand out those photos only to individuals who book top-shelf venues or events.
  • 7921822358_df2065e7e3Does the band have adequate PA and lights to pull off a show in a large banquet hall? Lights and a sound system may come with the venue, but don’t count on it. And if you wind up bringing an underpowered PA, or if your mixer is unreliable, you’re going to run into problems. You may have to rent better equipment or hire someone to run sound for you, in which case you’ll need to add that into the budget as well.
  • Do band members have the necessary equipment to play a large banquet hall? Musicians will need to do some serious investing if the drums are warped or sound dead, the bass player’s amp crackles, or the keyboard player’s horn and string sounds are too cheesy.
  • Does the band regularly update its repertoire? Danger, Will Robinson, if you rely on the same, tired set list you’ve had for the last year! Those at the reception will have requests, and you’ll be expected to be able to play at least a few of them. You’ll probably have to learn some new songs for weddings, and if you’re a rock band, chances are you won’t play “Butterfly Kisses,” Stand By Me,” “At Last,” or “Because You Loved Me” at your regular venues. If some in the band don’t learn new music well, you had better pass on such gigs. In fact, if some in the band can’t do that, you have (or will have) other problems besides booking higher-paying events.
  • Does the band have regular rehearsals? If your band has a “learn it at the gig” approach, you have even bigger problems.

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re worth the big money. You’re ready to take the plunge and start networking with wedding planners, resort owners, and anyone else you know who might be able to help you land one of these shows. If you’re not, figure out where the band needs to upgrade and do it. From a dress code to regular rehearsals, from investing in new equipment to investing in new personnel, it’s easier than you think – you just have to take the long view and make it happen.

And remember: if you seriously want to earn better money as a musician, you can’t afford not to take the long view.

In my next post I’ll discuss some networking techniques that can help you book weddings and corporate events.


Top photo courtesy of Son of Groucho on

Bottom photo courtesy of Miki Yoshihito on

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.


Image credits: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 –

Mind If I Sit In?

culturebullyA friend of mine from California recently wrote on Facebook about a great blues band he had listened to that afternoon. They were professional in every way, he said, except they “made the mistake of letting strangers walk up and join them for a song or two.” My friend concluded by saying, “This practice should never be allowed.”

I agree. It seems counterproductive that a band that has worked hard to perfect its sound – and harder still to get the gig – would risk it all on a complete unknown who walks up and says he can nail David Gilmour’s guitar solo on “Comfortably Numb.” It’s one thing if it’s an open mic, as not that many people who are there are expecting to hear rock history being made that night. But getting, playing, and keeping a gig is hard work, and the band needs to be mindful of that fact, even if a patron isn’t.

Here’s what someone who asks to sit in says to the band:

Hey, mind if I sit in?

And here’s what someone who asks to sit in actually says to the band:

Hey, mind if I sit in? I realize you’ve been playing for years and have developed a unique voice and style, but that doesn’t matter to me. I’m not concerned with your years of lessons, what you had to sacrifice or how long it took you to buy your gear, or the months and months of practice it took you guys to get to this point. I want you to back me up while I show off for my friends. And it won’t bother me at all if I mess up and you look like schmucks.

Such requests should be met with a gentle, tactful, yet firm no. Someone who wants to sit in might have the best intentions in the world and may also have an amazing amount of talent, though that’s never been my experience. And to be completely fair, there are venues that encourage musicians (usually jazz) to sit in with the band. But those who would sit in, as well as those who would let them, must realize that the band risks its reputation when it allows strangers to perform with them. And a band is only as good as its last gig.

Image credit: culturebully

Got Gigs? Here’s How to Get Them

crowdIf you’re a bandleader with little to no experience in booking shows, this guest blog by Deron Wade is for you. I talked with Deron on LinkedIn a few weeks back, and the conversation turned to booking gigs. He asked if I would take a look at an article he wrote for Tune Cube, and I agreed. Turns out it’s loaded with great advice for those who are relatively new to the art of booking the gig. I have reprinted it below, with his gracious permission.

Booking Gigs? Some Magic Tips to Help You Out!

Your band has been playing in front of your friends and they love your music….

You are a solo singer/songwriter now comfortable enough to sing in front of a crowd, play your guitar and put on a show without knocking the mic-stand over……

You’ve been taking your beats to the streets and now you’re ready to take your rap game to a whole new level……

In every situation, you are ready to start booking shows,  but where do you begin?

Know your niche market

Your niche market = who you are selling your music to.

“Wait a minute, what does selling my music have to do with booking a gig?”


You need to have a venue that supports the atmosphere of your music (What’s the stage set up like?) and has a demographic of listeners that like what you do. For instance: If you are an acoustic artist,  is it a smart decision to play a venue that has a huge  heavy metal following? Probably not. In everything you do, you should be asking yourself, “How is my time being spent here? Is this going to be a valuable experience for me?”

I can’t count how many times music artists have come up to me and complained that the venue took advantage of them. When I ask, “Well, what did you want from the venue?” Their response is,  “We wanted to play.”

“Didn’t you play?”

“Well yeah, but there wasn’t any one there and then they had us get off after three songs.” Continue reading “Got Gigs? Here’s How to Get Them”

Gig Economics

getting-paid-21You know that great feeling you get right after you’ve played a great gig at which everyone had a blast, the club owner was delighted, and you just got five crisp twenties counted into your hand for your efforts? That’s the feeling that can vanish faster than the Statue of Liberty for David Copperfield when the waitress brings your tab. So you fork over $25 for the tab, adding another $5 for the waitress because she works for tips, too, and because you’re not a schmuck.

Then, after you’re all loaded out and you start the car, you realize you need gas. Another $40.

Of course, if you’re gigging and don’t care about the money, that scenario might not seem like a big deal to you. But if you are an independent musician or a serious cover band, then you know it’s not much fun driving home in the wee hours of the morning while fuming that you’re only netting $30 from the night. Fortunately, there are a few things we musicians can do to wind up keeping more of what we earn.

  • Pack a cooler. Just because you’re playing for a club doesn’t mean you have to eat there. A cheeseburger, fries, and drink at a club can run about $10 – $15 before tip, and that’s excluding any alcohol you order. Add in a mixed drink or a couple of beers and you can count on spending about $30 on food alone. Getting fast food on the way might save a little, but you’ll come out way ahead here by packing sandwiches, snacks, and drinks in a cooler. Savings: $20 – $30*.
  • Negotiate discounts. Most club owners will offer discounted meals and drinks to band members as part of the compensation package, and sometimes your band can eat for free. Alcohol is rarely included, although soft drinks, tea, and water are. It never hurts to ask, though, and you should always ask. Savings: $10 – $15.
  • Drive slower. You can’t get around using gas to get to the gig, but you do have some control over how little you can use to get there. It’s no myth that you can increase your gas mileage by up to 25 percent just by driving slower, and performing regular maintenance. Trade for a more fuel-efficient car if possible. (About a month ago I went from a minivan to a Saturn. I now get 35 miles per gallon, and I can still fit in 3 keyboards, two powered speakers, stands, and gig bags!) You can also try leaving about fifteen minutes earlier for the gig and driving 5 – 10 miles an hour slower. Finally, download one of the many smartphone apps like Gas Buddy or Gas Guru (both available on iPhone and Android) to help you find the best gas price. Savings: variable (though by combining these strategies I’ve realized a 28 percent savings at the pump).
  • Know where the cheap hotels are along the way. A couple of the gigs my band plays are nearly 2 hours away from my home, which makes for a rough drive back at 3 AM. I’m able to stay the night with our drummer most of the time, but not everyone has that luxury. For those occasions when you’re just too tired to drive, or when you shouldn’t, an inexpensive hotel makes the best sense. It’s a smarter idea still to research them beforehand to avoid wasting time looking for one at 3 AM that fits your budget. You’re not really saving money here, unless by doing so you wind up avoiding a ticket or driving into a ditch.
  • gBagFromAboveKeep spares in your gig bag. We all keep spares of the obvious things: strings, picks, drumsticks, batteries, and so on. But it’s usually the want of that odd accessory that can ruin a gig. Once I left the house without packing the wall-wart power supply for my Yamaha CP 33 stage piano. I had about an hour before the gig, so I drove (okay, I raced) 15 miles to the nearest Radio Shack, bought a replacement, and got back with about 10 minutes to spare before downbeat. Alas, it was the wrong size! I got through, but I bought a backup power supply at the music store the next day. Savings: variable (but $20 over a year is probably realistic).
  • Charge more for gigs that are farther away. This is the biggest variable over which you have complete control. Your band should already have a good performance fee schedule in place that is both competitive in the marketplace and fair to the musicians. But sometimes good gigs are farther away than those you usually play, and you’ll need to adjust the cost of doing business if you want to take them. Likewise, club owners should expect to pay more if they want you. If you normally charge $500 for a five-piece, get at least an extra hundred to help cover gas and oil; get more if there’s an overnight stay involved. I put the extra $20 into my tank and consider it money saved. Savings: $20 – $35.

To find out just how quickly these savings add up, try this for a month or two: take out the money you would have spent at each night’s gig and set it aside. (Assume you earn $100 per gig.) Getting a comped meal or carrying food and drink each time will probably save about $60 per month ($15/meal * 4 gigs), and driving your well-maintained car slower could net you a $10 savings over the same month. And if you get an extra $30 in a month in tips, sock that away as gas money.

Congratulations! You’ve just saved $100 – a night’s pay!

Now go celebrate at the next gig with a chicken finger plate and a couple of beers.


*Savings are estimates only. Your mileage may vary, depending on location.

Image credits: Top photo – Bottom photo –

Updated 6/25/13

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

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

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, 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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Ethics for Musicians: Case Study

choiceNote: the following scenario has been fictionalized, but it is based on an actual event told to me by another musician. All names are completely fictitious and are not meant to resemble any individual or organization.

Bad Whiskey is a four-piece classic rock band that gigs in and around a major metropolitan area of the United States. They’ve been together for a little over 18 months, and they’ve attracted a small following. They’re doing a lot of the things bands are supposed to do: interact with fans on social media, send out email reminders of shows, and post flyers advertising their gigs. Still, they’re frustrated that they haven’t started making better money at the clubs. Most of the time they earn between $300 to $400 a night, but they’re hoping that their third appearance at The Drunken Dromedary, an $800 New Year’s Eve gig, marks a turning point for their fortunes.

It’s Black Friday, and the band’s leader and rhythm guitarist Ian McDarth is out Christmas shopping when he gets a call from the owner of The Four Polo Ponies of the Apocalypse, a club they’ve been trying to get into for the last six months. The owner tells McDarth that he has an opening for their New Year’s Eve bash. About 600 couples will be there, there’s an in-house PA and engineer, and the gig pays $2,000. “Are you interested?” the owner asks McDarth.

times squareMcDarth assures him that he is interested but tells the owner that he wants to verify the availability of his band members before he commits, and that he’ll call the owner back at seven that night. After he hangs up he calls the other members of Bad Whiskey and tells them to hurry to his house for an emergency band meeting. When the others arrive, McDarth tells them the news. Everyone is excited about the opportunity, but they realize they’d have to cancel their gig at The Drunken Dromedary to take it.

“I don’t feel right about canceling,” says drummer Billy “Crash” Stokes.

“It’s another $300 per man, Crash,” replies lead guitarist Mike Portman. “Besides, we’ve been canceled on before by clubs.”

“Not by The Drunken Dromedary, though,” McDarth says. “What do you say, Jack?”

Bassist Jack Pastor is quiet for a while, then replies, “Guys, you know me and Amy got a baby commin’ in February. I could pay off my car note with the extra money.”

McDarth looks at his watch. “It’s almost 7,” he says to the others, ” and I need to call the owner back. What do I tell him?”

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