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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
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 ...

Monday
Aug302010

Why You Should Learn to Build Fans by Being a Fan

As musicians, it’s almost guaranteed that at some point you will have said or at least thought “I need more fans!”, and while there are countless blogs, resources, and gig slots open for you to act on that, I often feel that the best way to learn why someone does something is to be that someone – or as they say “take a step into their shoes”.

So I thought I would apply that theory to building fans and work out why I recently became a loyal fan of the artist Jason Mraz – what was the psychology and marketing that really made me warm to not just his music, but him as a artist (or brand).

I wanted to know how I went from being just aware of his hit single ‘I’m Yours’ to downloading albums of tracks, checking out his videos and tour dates - what steps did I go through as a fan, and what breadcrumbs did he leave online to turn me into a fan? 

It’s worth noting that I first heard ‘I’m yours’ in Summer 2009, yet only recently became a fan of his - what was my hold up? Here’s what I think happened.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug272010

The Crowdfunding Quandry: Sales Vs. Art Vs. The Little Voice Inside Your Head

Here we are at WEEK 9(ish):  60 days in, with 15 days remaining.  Phil has $3,888 raised (39% of the $10,000 goal), and $6,112 needed to get to his goal. It’s been a journey to have a front row seat during this process.  As you may know I believe that crowd funding is a vital tool that artists will be using for the foreseeable future and I have been blogging a series here on MTT called in Defense of 1,000 True Fans, where I have been interviewing artists who are proving the model and creating sustainable livings from their music.  Phil points out that 200,000 people have been exposed in some way to his campaign and that 0.0003% people engaged.  I would like to point out a few other things.

First of all I want to commend Phil: To have 60 True Fans or “Super Fans” (the amount of people who have contributed to his campaign so far) is no mean feat.  Especially since Phil very rarely performs live and he has not had a mass exposure event (such as a placement on a major TV show).  These are two factors that seem to make major impact for artists, according to the interviews I have conducted so far.

Click to read more ...