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…

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10 tips to help musicians get into the industry

Print this article and read it daily. It’s the best advice about how to succeed as a musician. Perhaps numbers 3 and 10 are the most important: support your local music scene and don’t ignore your network. If you never go out to shows, don’t expect other musicians to come to yours. And if you don’t return favors or phone calls, people will assume you’re just selfish.

Oh, yeah. Listen. Listening is good.

My Creative Biz

Working in the music industry can be a dream for many that is never fulfilled. Here are 10 ways an emerging musician can get into the industry.

1. Network, especially in your local industry. Go out to local gigs, follow local blogs, newsletters and street papers, listen to local radio stations. Meet as many people as you can. You never know you might meet the perfect band mate or songwriting partner.

2. Once you have a band together practice lots. Practice your instrument, your live performance and your songwriting. Organise some opportunities to perform in front of friends and ask them for real constructive criticism. You want to be as professional as you can be for your first booked show.

3. Attend local venues.  Go out and support your local venues, and make sure you go to shows by local bands, not just touring bands. Make a note of how the…

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Playing Music from Memory: Pt 1 of 3

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“Performing from memory indicates a deep understanding and internalization of the music,” says Michael Griffin in the first of his three-part series, Playing Music From Memory. Memorization, which leads to a more intimate connection with both music and audience, is a skill that can be learned.

Learning Strategies for Musical Success

For musicians, an ability to play from memory opens up the world of practising via the imagination, which grants freedom from notation. Performing from memory indicates a deep understanding and internalization of the music. Playing from memory involves performing a piece one has learned as a result of rehearsing with notation, to the point where notation is no longer required as a guide. Some musicians claim that memorization allows them to develop their expressive ideas more freely and to communicate those ideas more effectively. One study found that an audience with musical training rated memorised performances higher in terms of communicative ability. An audience feels a greater connection when notation and music stands are omitted, and when distractions such as page turning are not an issue.

Playing from memory is a skill that should be encouraged during lesson time. Young musicians can start by memorizing easy pieces they like, as…

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14 Things To Look For When Auditioning a Band

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

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

Or are you?

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

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

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

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

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

How To Book Better Gigs, Part 2

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

Now, how do you get them?

First, learn how to network.

Networking 101

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

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

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

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

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

You’re now ready to start networking.

Start With Who You Know

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

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

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

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

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

Search Social Media

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

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

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

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

Dealing With “No”

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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USPS truck image: David Guo