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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).


The joy of discovery; Marketing in the brave new media world

I work in the music industry as a singer songwriter and record company director. I have been running my own record label ‘Redhed Records’ for the last 5 years and am grappling with the vast changes in the way music is marketed and accessed. 

To me there seems to be two quite distinct routes to introduce and bring an artist to the attention of a music lover.  

Historically, the traditional and familiar model the major record companies have used for the last 60 years to create successful album and ticket selling artists. Our stars appear from no-where and as if by magic are suddenly all over our TV’s, radios, magazines, stages and generally flooding our consciousness. The gorgeous, sexy demi-gods alongside the unique, talented and bizarre conspire to create the magical and heady business of Rock and Roll.  In reality, sexy, talented or not, they are also at the forefront of a very strategic, powerful, clever and expensive marketing campaign known as ‘The Big Push’. Audibly and visually bombarded we become buyers. 

Part of the reason it worked, I think, was the inherent mystery of the whole thing. It created potency. Working as a team, the artist’s star quality and the environment that was created for them by the label was an unstoppable force with the inner workings remaining just that. Now, however, with the huge popular success of the reality TV shows the internal, commercial machinations are well exposed and the artists revealed as little more than fronts for much less attractive mortals.

Who is responsible for exposing the process and bursting this particular bubble? Is it Simon Cowell for showing us Leona Lewis working in the call centre before entering the X factor on prime time TV? Do we believe it now when we see her glammed up on the front cover of vogue?

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How to REALLY Get Your Music on Blogs: Crafting a Killer Pitch Letter


Writing an excellent pitch letter is really an art form in itself. Popular music bloggers receive TONS of e-mail daily, and it’s impossible for most of them to read and respond to every single submission that they get from an artist. So how do you stand out in the crowd, and make sure that bloggers open up YOUR e-mail while scanning their inboxes?

First and foremost, your pitch letters have to be personalized. This doesn’t mean that you have to start from scratch with every e-mail you send, but there should be at least a sentence or two (preferably a paragraph) tailored specifically to the blogger you are e-mailing. Your pitch needs to sound more like a conversation, and less like an actual pitch. If your e-mails usually sound dry and generic, then you’re e-mail will be instantly lost, forgotten about, and/or deleted from the blogger’s inbox. Here are (in my opinion) the ESSENTIAL steps to follow in order to craft the perfect music blog pitch letter:

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Rock History: A Dialectical Narrative

The history of Rock music, like that of virtually any prominent cultural form, is constituted by a series of chaotic changes during its relatively short lifespan.  From our own particular historical vantage point, more than forty years after rock’s “golden age” (roughly, the late 1960s), it is now possible to identify and ascribe cause to some of these historical changes.  Of course, for any rock fan, the various narratives and value systems that make up rock culture are so familiar that they have assumed the shapes of reproducible clichés.  The narrative of rock as music for the “rebel” has been reworded, reconstituted, and resold so often that it has required constant revision in order to remain fresh (and, by extension, to continue to fit into its own definition as “rebellious music”).

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A&R Tips: The Art Of The Press Kit

If every artist, band or group represents it’s own brand, and must be sold as such to the public and to the music industry, then every brand needs to be packaged in a way that will effectively showcase it’s strengths and marketability. By now, most musicians understand the importance of a press kit- it is your brand, your image, it is you in a package and is the key to selling venues and a&r reps from both major and indie labels on the fact that you WILL make them money. But just making a press kit isn’t enough. In an industry with such a low barrier of entry, anyone can make and submit a press kit, decreasing your chance of actually getting recognized by those who matter. So what will you do to make your press kit more remarkable than the rest?

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My Last Day On The Job. Thank You.

Every single day for more than two years, I have logged into Music Think Tank to either post articles or to manage the site.  Today is my last day as the Community Manager of Music Think Tank.

Although I will still be writing articles, the job of managing and growing the community is being passed on to Bruce Houghton and his team from Hypebot.

The goal of Music Think Tank has always been to create the tallest “stump” that site contributors can stand upon to broadcast a message.  To this end, merging Music Think Tank with Hypebot will ultimately enable the height of the stump to grow to a size that is equal to, or greater than, any media outlet that targets this audience.

Over the last two years, MTT has grown to welcome over 30,000 unique visitors a month; we have over 5,000 regular subscribers (RSS and Email combined); over 1,000 of you have registered to contribute to the site; and over 5,000 comments have been posted to date. And, this was all achieved under circumstances where not a single site contributor had to invest much more than a few hours of time!  It has been the network effect of all of us combined that has grown this site.

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Paradox or Paradise: Music Choice in the Digital Age

At first glance, it appears as though the benefits of a culture abundant with music outweigh the drawbacks tenfold—a rich culture has the potential to whet a fan’s appetite for even more, and may further encourage them to become, themselves, creators of culture. More choice is always a good thing, even if in the end, it adds to the frustration and confusion faced by individual fans.  But is that true?  So far, we have only investigated choice overload in culture through the narrow lens of a record store and have yet to explore the digital sphere.  While there are many reasons to believe that the web has created a “paradise of music” for fans, as we’ll soon see, that may not necessarily be the case. It is worth noting that many of the paradoxes of choice overload that I elaborated on in my previous essay were found to be most prevalent in the material domain.  And, while psychologist Barry Schwartz suspected that the paradoxes we experience in culture are quite different, he asserted that the end result might be the same.  That, much like in the material domain, a culture plentiful with music has the potential to lessen the amount of satisfaction that fans get from their choices and increasingly causes them to opt out of the process all together.  In a paper titled Can There Ever Be Too Many Flowers Blooming, Swartz outlines three of the paradoxical effects of choice overload in the cultural domain.

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How to REALLY Get Your Music on Blogs: Becoming an Active Community Member


Once you have a healthy list of blogs related to your music, lifestyle, location, personality, and fans, it is time to pick a few and start participating in the conversation.

Pick 10-20 blogs that you feel are most relevant/beneficial to your music, and just start reading and commenting furiously. Your comments must be absolutely genuine, and encourage further discussion about the topic. Get to know people, agree with some, disagree with others, and be real.

Resist the urge to self-promote right away. You must gain some respect and establish yourself as an active community member FIRST.

While participating in the ongoing conversation, share articles you enjoyed with your social networks, and let bloggers know that you did it via comments, or even a personal e-mail. Being the first to give is a great way to get on the good side of a blogger.

Sing their praises - they will remember you when finally ask them to check out your music.

If you are gaining respect in the community, if the discussion is extremely relevant to your music, and if somebody else could truly benefit by your plug, then MAYBE consider asking other community members to check out your tunes. This is the most appropriate time to do so.

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Why You Should Pay For Music

Let’s get one thing straight: I love free music. If a musician decides to give away an album, I’m the first to download it. I am against the RIAA lawsuits that sue people for sharing music. Rather than scaring people into buying music, I advocate a culture in which people actually want to spend money on music, because they understand the positive repercussions it has on the medium of recorded music, and the lives of the artists that produce it. What I hope to do in the following paragraphs is persuade you that not only does paying for music benefit that artist you claim to support, but also benefits you, the listener.

I’m not going to make a legal argument. It may be valid but just isn’t relevant in practice. A law is only as effective as the means by which you can enforce it. And, unless something crazy happens in the world of Internet regulation, no one will be able to forcibly stop people from sharing music. After all, if there was no bouncer outside a concert venue, we could expect to see ticket sales plummet just as fast as CD sales. The problem is that many people just don’t value music in a meaningful way. What do I mean by that? Well, I understand perfectly well that people value music in the sense that they enjoy it, and love rocking out on their iPod. However, they don’t value it in the sense that they will willingly fork over $1 for a song, thus helping the artist who made it continue to produce awesome music. If I’m going to convince you to buy your next record, it’s not going to happen by scaring you with abstract arguments about copyright law.

I used to illegally download in high school. I remember when Napster first came out. It was incredible. It was fast, free, and delivered on-demand music; what could be bad about that? I can say, in all honestly, I did not once think about how it could negatively impact a musician, until I saw first-hand what it was doing.

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In Gratitude... I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Today is my birthday and today I have a great deal to be thankful for. To have a long career in the music business is something I’m very proud of. These past 12 months have been an incredible journey and I want to acknowledge a few people that have made it a year to remember.

And I want to remind us all about something Derek says, It all starts with who you know and it’s our connections to each other in the world that make us.

Derek Sivers

Most of you know (and worship) Derek. The reason why is because you have probably met him, and because he has probably given you great advice on how to make your music career better (or better yet, he has written you a check for your music). Even though he’s not in charge at CD Baby anymore, what he created so lovingly and well lives on with his spirit intact.  But there’s a part of him you may not know.  He’s an impeccable friend.  When the phone rings it’s never “how are you?”  It’s always….  “Have you ever thought about what you would do if one day (fill in the impossible, and most thought-provoking question you can think of…)  Derek is always helping me push my limits as a creative entrepreneur  and my the re-invention of my business has a lot to do with him. Derek remains my sounding board in this business. On days when I get discouraged and think it all won’t fly couldn’t fly, he is my biggest cheerleader and thought provoker and idea generator.  Thanks D…

Millie Millgate

If I had to nominate the hardest working woman in the music business,  Millie gets my vote.  As the head of Sounds Australia , her job is to make sure all Australian artists who attend international music conferences (SXSW, CMJ, Liverpool Sound City, Great Escape etc.) have a platinum experience, and because of her they do.  Its so easy to go to a conference and get swallowed up by the overwhelming experience but Millie ensures that this won’t happen by  getting her charges connected to all of the right people to not only play in front but also meet and network with. She never stops thinking about how to make each conference better and more effective for artists, label owners and managers. Her book on how to tour Australia, where she covers every possibly angle and answers every possible question you may have is like everything she does detailed , meticulous, and impressive.  She inspires me when I watch her in action…. She graciously invited me to Australia last September, and introduced me to APRA who hosted a series of master classes, and I’m here now at Song Summit celebrating my birthday in gorgeous Sydney.

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Avoid These Mistakes! 15 Critical Marketing Mistakes That All Musicians Need To Avoid

Musicians are entrepreneurs whether they want to believe it or not. By writing music under a band name, pen name or even just their own name, they have effectively created a brand that must be properly marketed if it is to thrive and flourish. But there in-lies a major problem: not all musicians know anything about marketing and they will eventually make some critical mistakes that lead to the demise of their short-lived venture. It is, however, the musicians who take the time to learn from past mistakes made by other musicians, and furthermore learn to correct these mistakes, that are the ones who build up the kind of influential brand that has lasting power.

These are 15 potentially crippling, yet ultimately avoidable marketing mistakes that are all too commonly made by the emerging music community, along with tips to help you as an artist to overcome and succeed in the best way possible:

1. Social Media is not the only way to market your band. This is the number one mistake because it can absolutely cripple a band from ever finding success. Far too many artists forget that social media is a device to be used within a strong, well-rounded marketing campaign. If you, as an artist, expect to just sit in front of your computer, friend thousands of people and wait by the phone for the call from an A&R rep, you will be severely let-down when that call never comes. And please do believe that it will not come.

If you are going to use social media as a part of your overall marketing strategy, and it is strongly advised that you do, use it wisely and properly, and as a part of a bigger strategy. A great example is one of the hottest emerging bands on the jam band scene, The McLovins, who found literal overnight success on Youtube when their cover of Phish’s You Enjoy Myself had close to 100,000 views in the blink of an eye. While it was clear that this video had gone viral, The McLovins didn’t just sit back and wait for people to friend them on Facebook or follow them on twitter- they went out on tour, taking their music to the people who had a newfound interest in the band. Only two years later, they have been covered in both Rolling Stone and Relix magazines and have performed at Gathering Of The Vibes and Mountain Jam.

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How to REALLY Get Your Music on Blogs: Finding the Best Blogs for Your Music

This post is part two of the “How to REALLY Get Your Music on Blogs” blog series here on Tight Mix. You can download the entire series for free in the form of a .pdf e-book here.

In the first part of this blog series, I suggested that you write down some defining characteristics about your music, your lifestyle, and your fans. I hope you kept that piece of paper, because now you are going to use those keywords in your search to find the best blogs to approach with your music.

Where to start your search

Searching for anything online can be a complete waste of time if you are looking in the wrong places. It is often difficult to figure out the best place to begin your search, and can be quite overwhelming. I have tried out dozens of search websites in my days with Ariel Publicity & Cyber PR, but I always find myself coming back to the same few resources. Here is a list of some excellent places to start searching for music blogs:

Google Blog Search


Google Blog Search is basically just Google, but only focuses on content published within the blogosphere. The search engine indexes blogs by their site feeds, which are checked often for new content. You can also subscribe to an RSS feed of your search terms, which can be a very helpful tool if you want to get the freshest content related to your search sent straight to your feed reader.

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What I Learned About Marketing From New York Times Best Selling Author Michael Port

I’m a self-help & business book junkie and as you well know, Music Success In Nine Weeks is a self-help book for musicians. If you read my newsletters and dig my philosophies, this probably comes as no surprise. So, as I’m nearing a birthday in June, I decided to treat myself to a weekend with New York Times best selling author Michael Port.

I read Michael’s amazing Book Yourself Solid about a year ago, and I think all musicians who are struggling to make money with live shows should read it.  I adore his teachings. So, when he e-mailed me and offered a private seminar for just eight lucky people, I took him up on it and had a phenomenal experience.

Here’s one of the golden nuggets I took away:

Marketing = Relevancy.

Social intelligence is an enormous part of being relevant and if people like you, they will naturally follow your marketing because you’re relevant to those people. Now, when you’re a musician this is difficult because your music may not at first occur as relevant to them (because they may not have heard it yet). This is where social media can become your best friend and your most useful tool for connecting to more fans because you can show what is relevant to you and therefore, relevant to them. Because social media is a fabulous, “keep in touch” tool.

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After 15 years of practice...

Since 14, I was determined to be a great singer. But my pitch was bad, my tone was bad, and everyone said I was just not a singer.

At 17, I started taking voice lessons, and practicing two hours every night. I’d go into a soundproof room for two hours of long-tones, scales, arpeggios, and practicing specific song phrases over and over.

At 18, I started touring, doing two to four shows a week, always as the lead singer. Often they were outdoor shows, sometimes with no PA system at all, so I really had to learn how to project to be heard.

At 19, I was still practicing two hours a night, but still having a problem with pitch. People kept telling me I was just not a singer - that I should give it up, and find a real singer.

Then I heard a man giving a demonstration of Indian vocal music, and his pitch was so perfect, I went rushing up to him afterwards to ask how he did it.

I said, “How are you able to hit the notes so perfectly dead-on? Are you just natually good at this?”

He said, “No! When I first started singing, not only was I not within an inch of the note - I wasn’t within a football field of the note! I was horrible!”

“So how did you do it?”

He jabbed a finger in my chest, and looked me in the eye. “Practice. Thousands of hours of practice, and eventually I got it. I can show you how.”

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How to REALLY Get Your Music on Blogs: Defining Your Music, Your Lifestyle, and Your Fans

Music blogs have become an extremely effective medium for artists to garner positive, and sometimes career-changing exposure for musicians. Getting featured on a blog can cause significant boosts in music and ticket sales for an artist, and there are tens of thousands of new music blogs springing up each day. The potential reach for your music in the blogosphere is HUGE! However, getting featured on blogs is a very meticulous and time-consuming process. Blog promotion can be frustrating at first, but if you are persistent and work hard at it, the benefits for your music career can be astronomical. As with anything, it’s important to have a plan before taking the leap.

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