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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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!

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.

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?

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

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

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

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

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

The Ugly

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

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

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

The Bad

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

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

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

The Good

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

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

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

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

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

How To Start and Run a Band

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

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

First Steps

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

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

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

Getting the Band Together

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

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

Keeping It Moving

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

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

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

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