Anyone can make a record for next to nothing these days. Almost any other hobby is more expensive: photography, mountain biking, even video gaming. When a teenager singing into a webcam gets exponentially more views on YouTube than your latest “professional” video, the answer isn’t more money.You’re just not there yet. (hey, don’t feel bad - I’m not either) Tracking at Abbey Road Studios won’t get you there. Hiring T-Bone Burnett to mix your album won’t get you there. A full-day mastering session with Bob Ludwig won’t get you there. 10,000 pressed CDs with 18-page inserts won’t get you there. A $5,000 promotion budget won’t get you there either. No matter how much money you throw at your project, we’re all limited by a stubborn principle called free market pricing. People are only willing to pay what a product is worth to them, not what it costs to produce. The intrinsic value of music is in free fall, and people won’t pay for it if they’re just not that into you. So why are musicians flocking to fan funding (also known as “crowdfunding”) sites like Kickstarter, Sellaband, Slicethepie, PledgeMusic, and artistShare in droves? My guess is that they figure “why not give it a shot”? Well, I’ll tell you why not, and offer a better option.
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Are You Really Selling Music? Nate Talbot poses a simple, yet powerful question: What am I selling? The post tells the story of Ray Kroc who helped McDonald’s become one of the largest fast food chains in the world. According to Kroc, he was in the real estate business because every McDonald’s was located in a high traffic area. The point that Nate is trying to make is: YOU are the product. Artists connect with fans through their music and their stories
“Music is more than a series of notes that someone enjoys hearing. Music, unlike any other medium, is something that consumers make personal.” (Read on )
It is common knowledge that establishing, building upon and maintaining a fan base is one of, if not the most important goal of any emerging artist who is looking to use their music to forge a sustainable career.
But in order to make sure that your efforts are maximized and your fan base grows properly, it is important that you understand that not all fans are equal.
‘Fan’ is a metric of measurement of a persons dedication to your music.
While everyone likes to say they are a HUGE fan, the reality is a little different: your fan base will range from the mildly engaged Listeners to the overly-dedicated Superfans.
Although creating legitimate and valuable relationships with fans is important, it is also extremely time consuming, especially as your fan base begins to grow. Therefore it is crucial that you understand who your fans are, in terms of dedication, so that as you invest more and more time into establishing and maintaining relationships with fans, you continue to see an increasingly beneficial return in terms of on and offline influence, engagement and sales (both music and ticket sales included).
A brand is a promise of quality and consistency. No matter where in the world you go for a McDonald’s hamburger, you know what to expect. No matter what product you purchase from Apple, you can expect sleek high-tech design and an easy to understand user interface. Brand management is protecting the image of the brand and carefully selecting how to best exploit it.
For an artist, that means a consistency of persona, and usually a consistency of sound. Regardless of what genre of music the artist delves into, the feel is the same and you can tell it’s the artist at first listen. Madonna has changed directions many times during her career but her brand has been consistent. Her persona remained the same even as she changed to and from the “Material Girl.” The Beatles tried a wide variety of directions but you never once questioned who you were listening to. It was always fresh and exciting, but distinctly them.
Andrew Dubber, a music industry commentator and founder of Music Think Tank, has ventured to Delhi. He is working with a group called Music Basti; it is a youth-run charity. It organizes music workshops in homes for street children. Professional musicians, many of whom are successful recording artists, run the music workshops.
In partnership with Music Basti, Dubber intends to record an album of songs featuring the street children and release it online. He wants to do this to simply try and raise money for the charity. All proceeds from the album sales will go to the group to support their work. He hopes that it brings their cause to a wider audience too. The album once recorded and mixed down, will be released through Bandcamp. It will be available for free and as a pay-what-you-think-it’s worth.
Dubber intends to use various forms of online media to build a story, create meaning, and connect the cause and music to people on a deeper level.
You know your song is great, but is it a hit? Will it inspire listeners to share it with their friends, hand over their email address, or maybe even open their wallets? You need feedback from average music fans who have nothing to lose by being honest.
SoundOut compares your song to 50,000 others from both major labels and indies. They promise to tell you how good your track is with guaranteed 95% accuracy (I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what that means). Starting at $40, they compile the results of 80 reviews into an easy-to-read PDF report. Top rated artists are considered for additional publishing and promotional opportunities.
The head of business development invited me to try out the service for free with three 24-hour “Express Reports” (a $150 value). I used the feedback from my Jango focus group to select the best and worst tracks I recorded for my last album, along with my personal favorite, an 8-minute progressive house epic. You can download all three of my PDF reports here.
Given that it’s pretty much dormant (and we never did much with it in the first place), I’m always surprised to see our MySpace page show up as one of the top three results whenever I do a vanity Google search for my band. I was curious to see the Google rank for the MySpace pages of well-known artists and conducted a quick search experiment last week. It wasn’t exhaustive — I just started with some of the bigger “indie rock” names of the past decade and threw in a handful of classic rock acts as well. Also, for band names of more than one word, I didn’t put quote marks around the full name, I just typed the band name and hit return, figuring that’s what most people would do when conducting a search.
For most of the acts, the Google Music Search player appears at the top of the results (no surprise there). And in almost every case, the band’s MySpace page was one of the top five search results. Of the 10 other artists I conducted searches for, Led Zeppelin was the only one where a MySpace page wasn’t one of the top 10 search results. Facebook only made two top-10 appearances (one of which was a search for my own band), though it was in the 11th or 12th spot for several acts. Last.fm made a surprisingly strong appearance and was a top-10 result for almost every artist.
As crazy as it sounds, the art of learning how to write well will immensely help in your journey to make a living with your music.
Everything from properly targeted emails to self-penned biographies and album press releases are areas where writing well can have a direct impact on your success in the new music industry.
The great thing about writing is, it’s fairly simple to learn. Set a goal, and write a set amount of words per day. It just might help you in the following ways:
1. Blog Reviews
Want music bloggers’ to review your music? Then you need to create a personal, well targeted email directed solely at them. If your message looks like it’s been cut and pasted to 500 other blogs, you probably won’t get many reviews.
Develop your writing to create relevant emails, that will catch the attention of each individual music blogger.
Mainly, they’re unaware of the number of legal and alternative options to consume music that are available; they want to hear music and grow to like the songs before they buy them; or they don’t know the artist, either not well enough or at all, or don’t trust them, due to recent line-up or sound changes. Rebuilding that trust takes time and isn’t easy.
As well, fans file-share music when there’s too many hoops to jump through on an artist’s website or because the offer that the artist made, whether by price, package, or delivery, was terrible. Next, we looked at the role that the biases of digital technologies play into file-sharing—the different ranges of social behavior they promote in audiences.
We also tried to understand how choice overload can cause decision paralysis, leading fans to become overwhelmed. To cope, they take the path of least resistance, attempt to explore all of their options at once, and end up committing to no decision at all.
Lastly, we looked at how fans employ their own Internet law of economics when buying music and end up file-sharing it to mitigate the risk purchasing with an album they wouldn’t have otherwise bought. A number of motivations were intentionally left out of this analysis. Let us now explore some of the more common reasons why fans file-share:
I’m often amazed when I go to an artist’s website, and I look around, and I’m trying to find basic press information and I can’t.
It seems that in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and Facebook Fan pages, and constantly focusing on your two-way conversations, we’ve forgotten the important basics.
This is a revised excerpt from my book, Music Success in Nine Weeks, (which, btw 65 artists are blogging their way through I’m proud to say) and it talks about an asset that no matter what we all face with new digital solutions, new platforms and apps that we’re going to be forced to learn, we should always remember: Your press kit.
It’s up to you to post your press information clearly and succinctly, so that you’re easy to find and write about. Posting an accessible press kit to share with journalists and new media makers( bloggers, podcasters, etc.) is good common sense.
Assuming that you have strong songs and an kickass live show, here are ten (10) simple things you can do to get more gigs:
1. Create a YouTube channel for your band.
Upload a live performance video on YouTube that represents your band at its best. Include a phone number and e-mail address too, so that anyone who wants to book you can contact you easily. Say something like “Contact ________ to book us for a live show.” To show professionalism and interest, try your best to respond to every inquiry within 48 hours.
2. Print up nice business cards
…with your band name, links to your music, live videos, and a phone number and e-mail address that can be reached for booking purposes. Also, include a link to your website so they can learn more about you. You’d be surprised how many bands STILL write down their phone numbers on dirty napkins and torn pieces of paper. Wherever you go, tell people who you are, how good you are, where you are playing next, and how easy it is for them to book you directly.
I remember as a kid in the late 1970s that where I lived there were three television stations & no cable or VCRs or home video games. My oldest brother is seven years older than me & the big thing with him & his friends was coming over to the house & playing whatever new vinyl record loud enough to rattle the paneling on the wall. It was a social event. New albums & a decent stereo were the center of the social world & what made you the coolest kid in school & my family’s house was a center for cool. Every new Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, or Kiss release meant a week of non-stop rocking.
A couple of years later my other brother hit high school, the center of things in teenage social events had shifted from music to a couple of things; the Atari gaming system & the VCR. This time around our family wasn’t at the center of a social circle & my brother spent most afternoons at some other family’s house. Until my dad broke down & got us the Atari & VCR so that thirty years later I can still close my eyes & pretend I’m playing Yars’ Revenge & still have dreams inspired by watching Dawn of the Dead when I was eight.
With over 40 years of experience in the music and entertainment industry, T Bone Burnett surprised the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit at Georgetown University when he said that the future of music is analog. This was shocking because most of the music industry conference has been focused on the Internet and digitization. David D has posted about T Bone Burnett’s concern about the quality of recorded music such as the MP3. What do you think about the quality of recorded music? Do you care more about convenience or about better quality? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
“To someone starting out at as an artist today, his advice would be “stay completely away from the Internet.” (Read on and watch the video)
Music is so spread out online these days. Why? And why do artists not get paid for all the free plays they give away on these websites? These are two huge questions that I’ve been studying, and the answers are well worth addressing.
Part of music being so spread out has to do with the fact that the internet is still fragmented itself. The web is still set up like our real world - you have “sites” with their own “addresses” and you have to physically go to them. This is part of the problem for sure, and it turns out that it is actually easily solvable. With the software, you can pretty much make up your own rules, which means you could make everything just come to the user instead, almost like the iphone model, where every app is in one spot waiting for you at all times. That’s another topic though.
The rest of the problem really seems to be about preference. There are hundreds of music sites out there, and certain fans, or fan-bases, like to stick to certain ones for certain reasons. It could be the difference in interfaces or the difference in people in the network, but it usually has to do with simple preference.
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(Updated Feb 25, 2014)