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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 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.”


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:


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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. 

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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:

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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

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(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:

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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.

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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.

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Making It In One Year - Is It Possible?

My name is Josiah Mann and I am the lead singer and founding member of the band Sufficient Cause. Our goal - ambitious or irrational as it may seem - is to become fully supported by our music, recorded or performed, within 12 months from today. We plan to do this without signing to a label (outside of a new type of record deal being made just for us…). We do not have a fan base. We have never released any music and we’ve never played a single show. We’re nobody.

Let me explain. From day one, I’ve done things differently than other musicians. Four years ago, after I had written my first couple of songs, I started out like many other musicians. I booked a gig at a little coffee shop and invited all my friends. I had played guitar for about a year and had played classical piano competitively, but singing and performing my own songs was a different story. The first show was pretty rough. I was extremely nervous and my voice quivered uncontrollably. I had never really heard my voice loudly in a speaker so I could hear how poorly I really sang, causing me to shy away from the mic. I couldn’t even hold my friends’ attention. It made it somewhat less stressful that everybody was talking over my music, though… Everybody told me “You just gotta keep doing it,” and “You’ll get used to it eventually,” but I didn’t see the point. After I’d played about 5 or 6 times at the same coffee shop, I threw in the towel. Not because I was scared; in fact in a former life I was a Heavyweight Golden Gloves Champion and National Chinese Kickboxing Champion. There was very little I was afraid of. But after a few performances, I knew I wasn’t ready.

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Building a Festival: One Beer at a Time

Hailing from the blue collar world of western Pennsylvania, my bandmates and I understood a hard day’s work from the vantage of a steel worker or a coal miner.  We quickly mastered our extremely technical jobs of putting beers into boxes and found enough time to work as many as three jobs at once.  Highland noticed our enthusiasm and we were invited back.

After working a couple of times at Highland I realized the trend.  Look to your left, it’s a musician; look to your right, the same.  Highland Brewery supports musicians!  They understand that making music isn’t always the most lucrative of careers so they scour the local music scene and ask their favorite bands if they’d be interested in occasionally making a few extra bucks…wow!

Well, one day after looking to my right and left sides, I realized that I had been working with some of western North Carolina’s top musical acts.  There really were some incredible bands working at The Highland Brewery and nobody even knew it.  I spent the rest of the day thinking of a way to remedy that problem. 

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If I were a record label and you were an artist, would you marry me anyways, would you have my baby?

It’s been said that over a million songs a year are being uploaded to the Internet, and that number is growing.  In addition, the number of new “artists” entering an already crowded marketplace is exploding.  And as you all know, it’s not only hard to generate a return on investment when promoting artists and music, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to fight through the noise.  The last thing music fans need right now is another PUMP; what fans do need and want…are FILTERS they can trust. 

From this day forward, this label will cease to PUMP out anything and everything you create.  Moreover this label will no longer support or promote artist websites and brands.  This label is going to have one management team, one fundraising initiative, one website, one set of widgets, a unified scheduling page, one mobile app, one social stream, one streaming radio service and one voice.

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Last Week On Music Think Tank


For Musicians: 10 Tips For Turning Your Fanbase Into A Tribe

Fans of groups such as the Insane Clown Posse (the Juggalo), the Grateful Dead (the Deadhead), and Jimmy Buffet (the Parrothead), are all apart of communities that exists beyond the band. The music is what brought these groups of people together, and the loyalty to the music acts as the glue bonding them together, but the artists themselves have no responsibility to control the group - the community acts as it’s own separate entity, with its own leaders and followers.

These fans belong to a tribe.

What Is a Tribe?

Tribes exist as a way to connect and to share an interest in a topic, and it is because of this that you as an artist must recognize that creating a tribe is an essential step towards success and career-longevity. And since a developed tribe acts as its own entity, the incessant ‘shameless self-promotion’ that unfortunately paints the walls of all too many artists’ Facebook and Twitter pages will become a thing of the past.

With a tribe of loyal fans at your side - just one announcement of any album, any show, even any new merch will be absorbed and spread like wildfire. Remember that a typical characteristic of a tribe member is to be overly dedicated, or obsessive, which can be used to your benefit! Think of these obsessive tribe members as your own instant viral marketing strategy- these are the types of fans who make sure that everyone in their social networks know about this new announcement.

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Conquer Your City - Conquer Your World

A downfall of indie bands that I have noticed is their lack of inspiration when playing their local area. Often times they are so longing for some grand international tour of stardom, they forget that they can create fan buzz and music sales on their own home front. The band or musician finds one bar/venue that will let them play and they set up 1, 2, or 3 gigs per month there. Each month. As for promoting the event – Facebook invites! And a myspace notice!

I am not saying that a regular venue is bad. And I do not deny the tepid power of a general Facebook invitation. Certainly artists need to take advantage of all that online social media can offer – although there are far better ways to do that than most bands utilize. That is a topic for another article though.

This article is more of a checklist on setting up and promoting a city tour. Musical success will not come waiting on an international tour. (Actually, there have been bands that have become well known globally and have financial success with music sales without leaving the comfort of their home area. Again, a tale for another day…)

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Selling Out Your Shows Every Time

A sold out show is a day that every artist looks forward to. Nothing’s better than a packed house where the energy emanates from the audience to the stage and back again.

Unfortunately, many artists don’t get to experience sold out shows that often, if at all. Perhaps, only at the occasional CD release show, or a coveted opening spot for a more established act.

Thankfully, there is an easy way for you to change this and begin playing sold out shows more often. It’s quite simple in fact.

The key is to play in venues you can sell out.

The typical artist wants to play the best venue in town, regardless of their draw. The club where you have to play Tuesday nights for months, until the booker notices you and maybe bumps you up to a Thursday. It doesn’t matter that the venue has a 500 person capacity and you can only bring out 50 people.

A show is a show, right?


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