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When I think about the professional musician, I like to break down opportunity into day job and night job. The night job is the dream – rock and roll stardom, touring, selling records, award shows, bodyguards, fawning fans, public meltdowns, etc.
Being more pragmatic as a person – I have spent much of my career on the day job part of this industry (and that’s not just you giving guitar lessons).
Music Publishing to me is the day job part of the business – regardless of your status as a performer. Even the big folks love the mailbox money of publishing. As an independent artist, I think it’s even more important.
Publishing, with all it’s complexities, still has the opportunity to create income streams for artists at all levels – especially if you are up for creating alternate types of content. All music shown on television and the web around the world earns public performance income.
It’s the success every musician dreams about - making it big on your own. But you know what? It’s no fairy tale. The career of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis has been a long, hard road - one that a lot of people would have turned away from a long time ago.
The duo brought home four Grammy’s in January and, although Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA) is helping them with distribution, they’re still not signed to a major record label. So how did they get here?
Here are some key lessons to learn that helped Macklemore and Ryan Lewis find their success.
Today, social media is the cornerstone of your music career. It’s what lets you stay in touch with your fans and easily notify them with exciting news. With all the social media guides out there, you’d think no one remembers one of the key behavioral aspects to being human – socializing. I know, it’s hard to find a balance between social and promotional – afterall, you still need to sell your show or record. Here’s 5 secrets to help you find that social media balance.
1. The 80/20 rule.
So exactly what is the balance between personal/interesting content and marketing content? I don’t like putting a formula to something as spontaneous socializing, but a general rule of thumb is that 80% of your content should be personal, funny, interesting, and entertaining, and 20% should be reserved for marketing pushes. Go beyond 20% and people start ignoring you. Keep it social. Keep it fun.
2. Drive interest.
Just like the flow between social media and the offline experience, you should also create a flow between your social media channels and your website. Your website is the hub of your career online. It’s where you make sales and have more detailed information for fans. Link creatively to your website, so that you give people fun and interesting reasons to visit.
There’s a buzzword I see popping up a lot lately in articles about how to become a career artist: superfans. The idea is that if you have a subset of your fans who will support everything you do – buy every album you release, go to all your shows, buy all your merch – then you can build a sustainable career with the support of these hyper-dedicated fans.
As someone who has made a career as an independent artist, I have found no better way to build a collection of superfans than partnering with existing fans to put on deeply connective concerts in their homes. The remarkable success I’ve experienced with this model has led me to abandon traditional club touring, instead performing almost 150 house concerts in the last 2 years.
Ariel Hyatt | Cyber PR’s 2014 SXSW Survival Guide
Quick. Simple. And they make a huge impact. What’s not to love?
#1 Remember Peoples’ Names
Ya ya ya, you meet a lot of people… we get it. If you want people to remember your name, you better sure as hell try to remember theirs. Find a good system. Make notes. Facebook stalk. Do something.
#2 Send Thank You Notes
A small and simple gesture that goes a long way to ensure you leave a great impression.
#3 Database Relentlessly
Keep organized and detailed databases of your mailing list, the local media, your supporters, promoters, and everything else. This will save you tons of time and help you manage relationships with ease. There’s a kazillion great databasing tools out there and a simple spreadsheet does the trick as well.
Having attended every SXSW for the last 17 years, I’ve seen it all. The following are some tips on how to successfully navigate your through the most overwhelming music conference of them all.
Envision What You Want Before You Arrive
My first bit of advice: Arrive prepared. Know who will be attending and create some goals before you get there.
Attend at Least One Music Conference Each Year
I believe all serious musicians should make it part of their job to attend at least one conference a year. They can be expensive to get to, but think abut it this way: music lessons and equipment were at one time expensive, and those things are also vital for your career. Conferences are the best place to meet people who work in and around the music industry, and conferences are a relaxed environment to connect with people in the industry who can change the course of your career.
I have read a ton of articles over the past few months about how important understanding publishing is to the independent artist, and it is. What confounds me is that even with all of this information, there is still confusion in the marketplace on how this works, especially when it comes to streaming services like YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud and others.
Lots of people in this business don’t understand it. Friends of mine at labels and management companies don’t understand it, independent artists don’t understand it and as more music consumption services come online, it is becoming more valuable to get the whole picture.
There is a great article here that gives a thorough overview of how publishing and other performance royalties work – so I don’t want to be repetitive, but I do want to take this opportunity to dive a little deeper into the way publishing works on YouTube – especially when it comes to cover songs.
“Music is spiritual. The music business is not. - Van Morrison
It’s almost that time again - that time of year when every band and singer worth their salt makes that annual pilgrimage to Mecca (Austin) for the week-long SXSW festival. A week of no sleep, watered-down drinks, bad food, unrewarding performances and the heartbreak of the ultimate realization that it wasn’t really worth it. Never have so many spent so much time and money for so little notoriety and reward.
But wait! I bring news and hope for all who just can’t take it anymore. Even though you know that you’re really not missing out on anything, you were at least hoping to network and snare some sort of deal. After all, this could be the year! This could be our big break! This could be our time! Or not.
Although the stripped down sound retains a certain laid back charm, even the most old school sounding musicians appreciate the access to high-quality music tools made possible through the ownership of PCs, laptops, tablets, and phones. A 2013 survey from “Artist Revenue Streams” indicates that nearly half of today’s musicians feel comfortable with the idea of producing or recording music through internet sites and mobile apps, while an even greater share of artists are willing to promote their work and connect with fans in such a technologically savvy manner. The secret, of course, is finding an application that will streamline the process without negatively impacting the quality of your work.
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(Updated Feb 25, 2014)