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How You Can Contribute To MusicThinkTank

Anyone can join the discussion and contribute relevant articles to Music Think Tank.  Begin by signing up and then logging in to publish your posts directly to MTT Open. Please make sure that your posts are in the proper format before posting (see previous posts) and that there are minimal errors such as grammar or spelling. Popular articles are occasionally moved to the front of the site. Contributors own and operate this blog (more info).

Monday
Oct042010

Dividing Ownership in a Group Project

This post contains suggestions on how to effectively divide ownership in a group project - prior to taking on the burden of launching and operating a legal corporation.
 
The tasks within this post may seem like a lot of work.  However the process described below is essential to building a motivated organization…regardless of the legal structure (and legal minds) you employ.
 
If you are working with equals that you know and trust, the group should be able to read this document, negotiate the items on the ownership earn-in spreadsheet, and then construct a signed letter of intent in under three hours; it doesn’t get much easier than that.
 
Fictional scenario:  a group of professionals are about to create and promote a new media website that will attract and entertain a slice of humanity; as visitors come to this website, the business goals will be to convert visitors into fans (subscribers and repeat visitors), and then to eventually sell something that has perceived value to a percentage of the fan base. 
 
Everyone involved desires to protect their investment (time, money, art, etc.) and to preserve their ownership rights until the day arrives when the group decides to turn the project into a real company.  The following is a list of people involved in the (fictional) project and a brief description of the assets that each person proposes to contribute to the project:

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep302010

Music Management Skills: Network in person, not just online.

For most of the past few weeks, I’ve been offline more than online. And those moments I’ve been online, I’ve been working exclusively on client projects instead of mixing in networking and promotion.

I’m not intentionally becoming a social media hermit, though. It seems that Lori and I move about once every two years, on average. And every time we move, it takes us time to get caught back up with our online relationships while we focus on the very physical activity of creating the latest version of our ideal home. (Lori will accurately tell you that she does about 90% of the packing and unpacking, while my very focused contribution to the move included dealing with all the trash at the old house and guarding the moving van while our crew was unloading at the new condo.)

Does that mean I haven’t been building my network during that time? Absolutely not. I’m still meeting new people, but I’m doing it in person: in elevators, in the coffee shop, on the train. Chances are, a few of the folks I met during my “offline mode” will end up being far more valuable members of my network than if I had picked up 100 extra followers.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Sep272010

The Stream that Snuck up on You

Have you noticed that you’re streaming more audio and video? That your purchase of CDs and DVDs has dramatically decreased? That your DVD cabinet and CD racks have a layer of dust on them (literally, or otherwise)? That your digital CD/DVD cabinet (i.e. iTunes) is being opened less frequently? (Apple knows this, by the way, it’s why the new AppleTV has no hard-drive; it’s all streaming…really think they’re not going to do the same for music?)

We’ve started up the Kurzweil Curve with respect to streaming, and it’s only going to accelerate from here.

The interesting thing is that, because the transition has been relatively gradual, you probably haven’t noticed that this radical behavioral and technological change has occurred. You haven’t noticed because it hasn’t hurt; in fact it’s felt good.

There are opportunities here. For content creators, the sooner you reconcile the fact most people aren’t likely going to want to own a digital copy of your music/movie/tv show/book (let alone a CD, etc.), the sooner you can devise profitable streaming models.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep222010

Learning When To Listen

As a musician–a creator of sounds–it can be difficult to understand the concept that music is mostly about listening, not creating.

It’s about listening for just the right amount of silence between notes. Listening for the sounds that give you cues how to act next, and how to hone your performance.

The skill of listening is what separates the great musicians from the mediocre ones.

Becoming known as a listener will help you score gigs as a session musician and will greatly enhance your own musical mastery. 

Here are four scenarios where listening can greatly affect your performance.

Listening To Other Musicians

The greatest factor to playing well with other musicians is each musician’s inherent ability to listen to each other.

Listening is an amazing tool. It will let you know when a drummer wants to end a song, or when a guitar player is stepping down to finish a solo. Listening gives you the foresight to step in and play when another musician needs help.

Listening To Your Audience

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep222010

The College Bound Musician's Checklist

It’s that time again. School is now in session, which means a whole new breed of young musicians are heading off to college for the first time. Whether or not your focus of study is music,  the college experience can be an excellent opportunity for you to hone your chops and establish the sort of demand that will launch your career. 

But as you will soon realize, four years will go by in the blink of an eye. It is critically important that you have something to guide you through all of the important baby-steps that will take you from a dorm room band to the most important act in the surrounding area. Use the following checklist to ensure that no opportunity is overlooked as you begin to establish yourself in your new local scene:

[  ] Create Your Ideal Fan

As a musician looking to establish a fan base, you have to know exactly who and where your fans are. A marketing technique taught in college, one that can be very useful, is to create a highly-detailed description of who your ideal fan is, summed up into one person. Give that person a name, and describe every aspect of that person on paper: what is their background, what clothes do they wear, where do they shop, what are their hobbies, what other music do they listen to, what sort of food do they eat, what beer do they drink, maybe they don,t drink beer but rather drink wine, etc. Once you know EXACTLY who your fan is it will be much easier to pin-point exactly where they will be.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep212010

Where Good Ideas Come From

This post comes from Fred Wilson’s blog.  The quick video below is worth watching.  Not only is the content within the video interesting, the video itself is a great example of leveraging the creative use of video to promote something else (a book in this case).

I love the final quote in this video: “Chance favors the connected mind.”

My posts on MTT…

Monday
Sep202010

Real Time Rock Stars - A Report From The #140Conf 

This week, I traveled to Boston to speak at the #140 Conference. It was short and it was sweet and it featured 3 people I am thrilled I got a chance to speak with including the irrespressible and inspirational Amanda Palmer.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Sep132010

Finding 5,000 Fans Under Your Nose: A Case for Facebook Ads

One of the biggest challenges a music marketer faces is selecting a channel (or multiple channels) to focus their efforts on. More than anything, this means researching and understanding the ways existing and potential fans discover and consume music.

In the case of a young, hip band like A B & The Sea, it was clearly the social channels — with a product that is almost universally appealing and a fanbase that spends hours upon hours daily on social networks, it was a no-brainer. All Smiles, however, is a different case entirely.

Jim Fairchild spent most of his musical career influencing a generation as the guitarist in Grandaddy. More recently, he’s touched another generation as the touring guitarist for Modest Mouse. His work isn’t relegated to these well known bands, however — he’s also put out two LPs and a few EPs as All Smiles (with some help from fellow indie-famous friends).

The first All Smiles LP was put out by Dangerbird Records, replete with marketing budget, press tour, and all the other standard trimmings of a major indie album release. The second LP, however, came out independently with little more than an old-school (read: largely ineffective, for a variety of reasons) PR campaign behind it. As a result, it made about $1,900 (against production costs of $19,000) and Jim, somewhat disappointed, wrote it off in favor of other professional engagements.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep092010

The Musician's Social Media Food Pyramid

It happens to me all of the time when I teach artists social media.The face goes blank, the frustration begins to settle in and then the artist says it:

“I just don’t have anything interesting to say.”

REALLY?

I’m shocked by this every time.  You are an artist; you do things we mere mortals are totally enamored by: you PLAY MUSIC, you write songs, you perform them in public!

So PHLEEASE, do not tell me you have nothing interesting to say. I ain’t buying it.

All you are missing is a System for Social Media Success.

Luckily, unlike sheer god-given musical talent, social media is a learnable skill.

As I was teaching my system to a client in my kitchen a few weeks ago over coffee and bagels and it HIT me… and so I created:

THE MUSICIAN’S SOCIAL MEDIA FOOD PYRAMID!

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep092010

Music, community & file-sharing: from Napster to Ping

The launch of Ping, Apple’s new Facebook-meets-iTunes service, has once again underlined the somewhat novel idea that people want to chat and interact to a greater degree about the music they like. If it succeeds, it will be because people don’t just want access to music: they want to belong to a music community. 

In making predictions, it’s wise to look to the past. The tendency towards community isn’t surprising to anybody who has watched file-sharing evolve over the past decade. 

A (very) brief history of file-sharing 

The first wave of file-sharing, Napster, was a lonely affair: users searched and downloaded music through the central hub with as much social interaction as a simple Google search - i.e. none. You downloaded from a computer - whether there was a person in front of it was irrelevant. 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep082010

Using Fan-Funding Techniques to Help Direct a DTF Marketing and Sales Campaign

One of the online sales techniques I’ve been advocating in my online courses at Berklee is for artists to create different physical and digital products and make them available on their own site at tiered price points. The idea is that you can offer something for all of your fans – the hard core fans might be interested in something from you that is a little more personalized and rare, and newer fans might be able to get something from you that wont break the bank. All the while you have the ability to offer something that cannot be purchased at traditional retail, which makes the experience of purchasing off of your site more rewarding for your fans. Here’s an example from the Yim Yames site:

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep072010

Merch Table Essentials: 15 Ways For Musicians To Increase Sales, Fans and Efficiency

As album sales are becoming a less meaningful component in the overall success of an artist or band, the live performance sector, including ticket sales and merchandise sales, is becoming increasingly important. While the live show itself must be unique in order to encourage repeat customers and ultimately drive ticket sales, the merchandise table has the opportunity to drive significant revenue and first hand, artist-fan engagement. But just having a merch table is not enough, as there are essential elements that must be accounted for in order to make the effort worth while.

Assuming that you have accounted for the typical ‘guts’, such as T-Shirts, CDs, Hats, Stickers, etc. there are essentials to any effective merch table that will do three very important thing:

- Increase your sales
- Increase your long-term engagement with new and existing fans
- Decrease wasteful overhead when investing in the merch for your next tour

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug302010

(Not) In The Pages Of The Rolling Stone.... A Little Music Business Ditty

Here’s a little music business story for you… This one is all about MENTORING and Rolling Stone Magazine.

A Few weeks ago I participated in the mentoring sessions at the NYC New Music Seminar.This was special for me because I helped develop the mentoring sessions as an advisor to the NMS. Spending time with active artists in an intimate atmosphere where we could ask each other questions one-on-one got me thinking about the value of having access to music industry professionals and the pure gold in having mentors no matter how big a role they play in your everyday life.

Which, brought me back to a mentoring experience I will never, ever forget. It 1998 at South by Southwest. Where I signed up to meet David Wild, an editor from Rolling Stone.

As a young publicist with a stable full of full-time touring artists, the number one request I was getting from absolutely every artist who came through my agency was, “I want to be in Rolling Stone.” This request came to me no matter how small or how big the client was. And I dreaded this request because I had a problem:

Click to read more ...