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

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

TheMusicalMeltingPot

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

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

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

I would suggest that we begin by reminding ourselves of…

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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!

A Music Marketing Secret From the Big Top

 4145675374_35f086d4a5

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.

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Top photo: psiho.child

How To Book Better Gigs, Part 2

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

Now, how do you get them?

First, learn how to network.

Networking 101

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

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

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

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

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

You’re now ready to start networking.

Start With Who You Know

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

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

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

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

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

Search Social Media

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

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

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

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

Dealing With “No”

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

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

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

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

How To 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

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 – March 23, 2013

fire saleIs the $1.99 Album the Next Big Thing for Musicians? Digital Music News

On February 26th, Amazon decided to offer several albums at the fire sale price of  just $1.99, including Bruno Mars’ latest album, Unorthodox Jukebox, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis‘ The Heist. As both albums had been out for more than four weeks, they promptly climbed up the Billboard 200 chart. But who will pay the artists’ royalties? Or will that change, too?

Emerging Trends in Social Media, and How They’ll Impact Music Music Think Tank

Obviously, mobile devices and apps will gain importance to musicians in 2013, with increased emphasis on email marketing to mobile users. Band websites that are not now optimized for mobile browsing will ultimately cost their owners fans and revenue. And thinking beyond the obvious ways we connect to the web needs to be part of a band’s marketing strategy.

Musicians Accused of Buying Virtual Fans on YouTube BBC Newsbeat

A US-based data monitoring company reports that artists are buying followers and comments in order to bolster their image with the music industry. Is such a practice ethical? Doesn’t it cheapen the music? That’s debatable, but apparently the scheme works well enough for Justin Bieber, who was outed after his YouTube video views surged into the millions.

Songwriters: Find Your Natural Audience Music Think Tank

What’s the difference between Taylor Swift and Nick Cave? Ms. Swift is a pop artist, while Mr. Cave is what the industry calls a niche artist. And you can use these two extremes to figure out where your music lies. Ask yourself who you are, and if your music is more mainstream or more indie. And remember, you’re the mirror of your audience. They’ll come to see themselves in your music.

Unwanted Electronic Gear Rising in Toxic Piles The New York Times

e-waste-dump-nigeriaOld cathode ray tube monitors used to be an easily recyclable item. Not anymore. Since the arrival of the flat screen monitor, the CRTs have become fodder for warehouses, overseas waste shipments, or landfills here. And, as reported in another Times story, unwanted pianos are also finding permanent retirement at the dump. Maybe I should shop for gear there instead of the local music superstore.

Transitioning From Covers to Originals The Big Picture Music Production Blog

If your band has been playing out for a while, chances are one of the members has suggested writing and performing a few original tunes. Problem is, you’re known for being a great cover band. How do you make the transition? Bobby Owsinski offers four good suggestions as to how morph into an original act. One of the secrets? Don’t sound like the record.

Tips For a Great Recording Session Galaris Music Industry Directory

studioIt should go without saying that you need to practice outside the studio. A well-rehearsed band not only saves more money on studio time, but also brings more energy to a session than one still trying to work out parts. Galaris also recommends bringing spares of everything, getting used to a click track, and not believing you can fix it in the mix.

Ten Ways to Unclutter Your Band’s Website Bandzoogle

Exactly how many social media feeds do you need on your website, anyway? Will 40 pictures of the lead singer taken at the same gig really add gravitas? And while you’re cleaning up your website, ditch the guestbooks and hit counters. An uncluttered web presence is your friend.

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: Top – http://www.sunriverrealestatenews.com; Middle – http://www.flatrock.org.nz; Bottom – http://www.tvphotogblog.blogspot.com

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?”

Everything.

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”

Should You Give Your Music Away?

man in the black jacket with cdCan you imagine someone asking you this question twenty years ago? I can’t.

The fact is, the concept of giving one’s music away for free is a concept that has only surfaced in the last two or three years, and I’d say its nativity was in 2007 when Radiohead announced that they would let their fans pay whatever they wanted to for their new album, In Rainbows. I mean, how can you compete with that kind of a pricing structure?

Fast forward to today where Jamie Leger is telling musicians that they should give their music away because it’s not like people are buying it anyway – they’re listening on YouTube or downloading it from a bit torrent site. And if nobody is buying, then what good is having the attitude that you must be fairly compensated for your work? The world, Leger says, doesn’t owe you a living. You’ve got to figure out how to make one, and it’s a good bet you can’t make it on the paltry royalties paid out by Pandora or Spotify.

The music industry paradigm has shifted. People had bands in the sixties, and their music was about peace and love. Today people have brands, and music is just a tool to promote that brand. Bands are businesses now (they always were), and businesses have to make profits. Free music, it seems, has become the new method for getting people in the door.

Think of it this way: would you rather have the revenue from one customer shelling out $0.99 for a download on iTunes, or would you rather have that one customer coming to your shows on a regular basis and buying your merchandise? Doesn’t it make sense, Leger asks, to build relationships with your fans so that you have a sustainable income? And if you can get that relationship by giving your music away, isn’t it worth it?

Recently I got the chance to talk with some teenagers who had been to various concerts over the weekend. One of them proudly pointed to a necklace she was wearing that day. “Look! I got it at the show for $40!” she gushed. It looked like it might have been worth about $5. She said she’d found out about the band from a friend, who had sent her some MP3s from their first CD. She liked them enough to buy tickets to the show ($10) and buy their merchandise. It would have taken 5 people buying CDs at $10 a pop to realize the same revenue from one girl who paid $50 at the show because she’d heard free music.

So is it worth it? You tell me. Join the conversation and say whether you think artists should give music away in order to get fans. Vote in the poll below and add your comments.

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Image: real.com