One Simple Secret of Success

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

Read on.

Make Your Music Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Work on their demo…

View original post 558 more words

“MUSIC PRODUCER AVAILABLE”

This reminds me of more than a few Craigslist ads.

"My Brain Train"

“Down and almost out Producer available for recording projects producing easy to bullshit artists. If you aren’t concerned with the end result, we can still have a fun time in the studio and hanging out afterwards. Most of my connections are dead or in prison but that’s cool. We can still pretend together. I also have original songs. One is really ready to go. It’s called “You’re Not the You I Used To Know”. Call me. I am a self admitted desperado. Let’s make something nobody will ever hear.”

View original post

Unethical Questions to ask in the music industry

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

Why We Play

20140130-101112.jpg

I ran across this post on tumblr by the blogger radiantscape on the Hunaid blog, and I had to share it. “Evolution” is a wonderful tribute to artists and explains well why we continue to pursue our “irrational” craft in a rational world. (Or is it the other way around?)

The photo is the one used in the article, which is reprinted in its entirety below. To view the post in tumblr, click here.

Evolution

What makes people stand on the streets for hours, play their heart out for a paltry few dollars, in the cacophony of tourist, shoppers, families, office goers, and many more oblivious pedestrians. And at the end of the day carry their huge load to hopefully a roof, or somewhere, they can recharge for another day.

This is not just a portrait of an artist on the busy street corner, but the artist within all of us. We pour our heart out to our art, without expecting anything in return, like a mother giving birth is one of the most painful but blessed experience, we go through this every day. Art is the impression of our emotions, our hopes, our disappointments, our heart breaks, but we must go on to express it, we can’t stop its birth, we cant get attached to it, we need to get through this labour every day, producing ever more and better. We are sometimes called selfish, sometimes attention deficit, absorbed in our own world and not worthy of making a living, by the rational world of people, who equates everything with money, position and status. Imagine a monochrome world of rational people with no colors of art? Would you like to live in it?

Go hug the creative within you today, they are the organic breed in this synthetic world.

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.

________

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.

________

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 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 flickr.com.

Bottom photo courtesy of Miki Yoshihito on flickr.com

A Brief Guide To Copyright For Musicians

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

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

What Is Copyright?

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

Do I Need to Copyright My Songs?

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

How Can I Copyright My Music?

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

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

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

________
USPS truck image: David Guo

Becoming An Excellent Sideman

danny2final_0I love reading Danny Barnes’ essays. He packs a lot of wisdom earned from years of experience into them, and not one word gets wasted. And Danny doesn’t provide any dramatic revelations about music or the music business. It’s just all common sense.

His article on playing in someone else’s band is an outstanding example of applying common sense to musicianship. To begin with, he points out that you’re not the star of the show. You have an obligation to remember that “your number one job above all else is to make the leader sound good, look good and feel good.” In exchange for following what he calls “the rule,” you get money, an education, and valuable network contacts. Not a bad deal.

The rest is pretty easy. Just remember who the leader is (or “the dude,” who is probably not you, Danny says) and keep him happy. What follows is a litany of what it takes to be a sideman extraordinaire. A few things you need to remember are as follows:

  • Don’t worry about money or business arrangements. You’ll get paid if the leader has something good going, and business arrangements aren’t your concern.
  • Don’t self-promote your CD or band. It’s bad business, and it doesn’t keep the dude happy.
  • If you’re on tour, stick to buisness. You’re at work, not on vacation. Sightsee another time, unless you have a couple of days free.
  • Try to be the easiest person the leader has ever dealt with. No one likes a jerk, and you can be replaced.
  • Travel light, and be courteous while doing it. Have your tickets, boarding passes, and passport handy. You don’t need to check a bunch of stuff on the plane. If you drive, offer to pump gas and check the oil.
  • If you charge something to your hotel room, pay for it. Small tours generally can’t splurge for room service or mini bars. Pony up.

Now it’s your turn. What advice about being a good sideman would you offer to someone just starting out?