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Wednesday
Oct282009

In Defense Of 1,000 True Fans - Part II - Matthew Ebel

In part ii of my 1,000 true fans series I chose to interview my friend Matthew Ebel. I have known Matthew for a few years because he runs in the same geeky podcasting circles that I proudly run in.  Matthew is the type of artist I refer to in my book as a “Builder” meaning Matthew is constantly pushing his career forward using not only musical innovation but also technology.  

What I find most striking about this interview is the fact that Matthew makes 26.3% of his net income from just 40 hard- core fans.

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Monday
Oct262009

Ending agreements in the beginning for bands. 

Many musicians feel like the band they are in is destined for success and that the group will never break up. Even after being a part of a number of bands, there is still that glimmer of hope—which is not a bad thing, but often times it can set you up for problems further down the road. Imagine that things are really starting to take off, money is coming in, you have forward motion and momentum. At this point, things feel good, everyone is happy, decisions are made fast, and quite possibly, never formalized in writing.

Now fast forward two years. For some reason, whatever reason, someone is leaving. The band is breaking up. If there was already fighting going on, it escalates: arguments over who gets what, who is owed what, and who has rights to what. Everything is twice as challenging and twice as hard. In a lot of cases, people hate each other, the fights get louder and harsher. This is not an atmosphere in which any equitable decisions can made.

Simple Solution

It really comes down to a very simple solution: In the early stages, while the band is new, while things are getting ready to happen, and most of all while everyone is happy and friendly, work to set up your end agreements then.

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Sunday
Oct252009

‘It’s tough to beat up a guy that never quits’

Babe Ruth mouthed that ungrammatical gem, and a slumping Nick Swisher of the New York Yankees just invoked it at a critical moment in his career.

Hang with me a moment, and you’ll see what this has to do with us music artists. Swisher made the last out in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series the other night. It was a frustrating moment, since a hit in that spot could’ve finished off the Angels and put the Bombers in the World Series.

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Saturday
Oct242009

Happy 'Quit MySpace' Day

Everyone uses MySpace - because everyone else uses MySpace.

But the site fails to recognise or make use of the fact that they have what could well be the greatest asset on the internet: EVERY FRICKIN’ BAND ON THE PLANET.

We all have our complaints and issues with MySpace. It isn’t all it could be - and while it’s improving in increments, it’s not good enough. This article is a call to arms. It’s time for a revolution. Either they start doing independent music right - or we ALL walk.

Let’s give them one year - then we’re gone. Here’s why.

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Tuesday
Oct202009

The primary job of a manager is to take care of your lazy artist…

When a westerner (an American for example) walks by the office of a co-worker, and the co-worker is quietly sitting there doing nothing, the westerner’s first reaction is that the co-worker is lazy and probably slacking.  On the other side of the world, when an easterner (someone from Japan for example) walks by a co-worker, and that co-worker is doing nothing, the easterner’s first reaction is that the co-worker is most likely engaged in deep thought whilst grinding away at a solution to some problem…

I want to say two things in this post: 

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Monday
Oct192009

What happened? A rant about the work ethic of many musicians

What ever happened to true effort, the desire to learn and develop ones ability? What happened to the problem solvers? What happened to the ones that could look at a problem or at something going wrong and continue on in the mode to make it right or at least better? What happened to the hunger that was followed with the effort to do that extra work, take that extra step or go just a little more above and beyond? When did the laziness set in, the complacency, and when did the expectations grow to the point where some think it should simply come their way and they deserve all they want with as little effort as possible.

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Wednesday
Oct142009

Hot Tip: Be one of the first to jump into the Augmented Reality buzz..

Artists looking for a stunt or promotion angle. Look into augmented reality (Wikipedia).  Six months from now or sooner, journalists will be looking for interesting augmented reality stories.  Come up with something unique and hire Ariel to get you the PR bang you are looking for.  I just posted an example (sort of) on my site.  This is for artists that are also geeks (yes they do exist).

Wednesday
Oct142009

The Lottery Model, The Free Culture Model, The Click Control Model

Q: What happens when you put a lawyer, an economist, a business executive, a government bureaucrat and an artist into a locked room?  A: The business executive assaults the economists, the lawyer sues the executive, the bureaucrat falls asleep, and the artist writes a song about it.  This is the copyright debate.

Over the last couple of years, and as a background task, I have tried to make sense of the copyright / copy restriction debate.  Is more or less copy restriction better or worse for rightsholders?

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Tuesday
Oct132009

In Defense Of 1,000 True Fans - Part I - The Mountain Goatsl

Since I started my career in this business. I’ve always been working within the 1,000 True Fans model.

Here’s my story: In 1996, I was living in Boulder, CO and I had just started Ariel Publicity, my boutique PR firm.

Acoustic Junction and Zuba two local bands became my first clients. Both had been staples in Boulder for a couple of years, and both made fantastic livings touring and selling their independent releases from coast to coast. They did this with no label, no distribution, and no major marketing budgets: just a manager, a tour manager, and me.

I also represented The Toasters, Bim Skala Bim, The Slackers, and Skinnerbox, (and practically everyone touring during the third wave of Ska).

These artists and dozens like them all made full time livings from playing and touring.  They had a core group of fans that supported them by seeing several shows a year, buying merch and buying albums.

Today, it feels revolutionary when we hear about bands that make a living based on their music.

What happened? What changed?

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Tuesday
Oct132009

How I knew I was done with my company

I thought I would never sell my company. I started it as a hobby in 1997. When NPR did a story about me in 2004, I said I’d stick it out until the end, and I meant it.

In 2007 I did a ground-up rewrite of the the website from scratch. And man, it was beautiful code. My proudest achievement of my life so far is that backend software. Wonderfully organized, extensible, and efficient: the culmination of everything I’d learned about programming in 10 years.

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Monday
Oct122009

Cancellations and Rescheduling

So the show got cancelled. Whether it was your fault, the venues fault, the manager’s fault or the weathers fault, it really doesn’t matter. It is strange to me that when something goes wrong, people seem to be much more about figuring out who did something wrong and assigning blame over the much more obvious and much more effective problem solving and doing what you can to make the best out of the situation.

Gigs are going to get cancelled or rescheduled. Times are going to occur when you are going to be double booked. You can take the right steps to organize and track things the best you can, but problems occur and sometimes they just can’t be helped. I have heard bands scream and moan about this booking agent or that manager messing up. Then I have seen the online postings where bands blast venues and then the venues go back blasting bands. This really doesn’t solve a single thing and it keeps you further as well as takes up time you could use to reschedule, take steps to make sure it does not happen again and reach out to your fans and people that were going to come to the show.

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Friday
Oct092009

Why the New Music Seminar Matters a.k.a. A Love Letter to Tom Silverman

I just got back from the New Music Seminar in Chicago, where I participated as a player. 

The New Music Seminar is an extraordinary and important event. 

Why? Because Tom Silverman gets it. 

Tom gets that right now industry vets have gone from being effective experts who understood how to effectively produce hits and make money in the music business are now scratching their heads asking “what do we do now?”

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Thursday
Oct082009

Music Marketing That's Made-To-Stick

Everybody these days wants to create buzz. They want to grab people’s attention on a large scale. And they want to do it sooner rather than later.

Therefore, everyone wants to know the secret steps they can take to ensure their marketing idea sticks — that it gains traction and reaches the people who need to hear it the most.

A good lesson on this topic comes from musician Paul Hipp. Check out his YouTube music video called “We’re Number 37” — which, as of this writing, has nearly a half million views.

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Wednesday
Oct072009

Not happy with existing venues? Make a new one.

Gary Jules was a musician in Los Angeles who wished there was a Hollywood venue more friendly to musicians. A place where people would come to listen, not talk over the music. A place to play, not showcase.

Because there were no venues like that, he decided to make a new one.

He noticed a little coffee shop on Cahuenga. A perfect middle-of-Hollywood location, but had no music.

He asked if he could play there on Tuesday nights, and bring his own crowd and sound system. They let him.

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