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Easiest Ways for Independent Artists to Stay One Step Ahead of Piracy

So your band pretty much rules. You have a killer recording that you’ve dumped your blood, sweat, and bank account into. You’ve got the look and the artwork to catch some attention. You have a Facebook and a Twitter that are pretty active, but what next … ?

Technology moves fast. Just look at how up-to-date your year old cell phone is(n’t) and it should come as no surprise. Once you check your email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Trello, Moodle, Pintrest and spend some time on Youtube you’re ready to go back to bed. And that’s just for the average Joe …

In a nutshell it’s easy to get lost in this digital world. And piracy doesn’t make it any easier for you, does it? How is there any hope of getting ahead! But what many don’t realize is that you can deal with it to your advantage! Piracy is going to happen, regardless – don’t fight it, innovate.

When you’re an independent band trying to get your music out there, it’s hard to know where to even start. What sites do what? Which ones are worth your time? Which ones are really not! At this point you should have a Facebook and Twitter presence. That goes without saying. But, we’ll give you a few quick pointers on how to utilize them effectively as a band, to not only get your music heard but to anticipate and deal with piracy.

Fear not! You can survive in this digital wilderness of online music!

FACEBOOK, TWITTER – Obviously! We all know it too well. But just make sure you are using it correctly as an artist and building a strong presence for even stronger fans. Make each post count. People like videos, songs, pictures – posting just text will be ignored and at best forgotten. Make some alliances with bands of a similar sound and post their content. It all comes back to help you in the end. Tag bands, people and events whenever possible. Post open-ended questions and engage in dialogues. Having a fan base that will go to bat for you is crucial in staying ahead!  But most of all, make it very, very clear where your audience can go to buy your music. The rest you already know about, so we won’t waste too much time here …

YOUTUBE – This should be another obvious one. BUT there are certain ways to use Youtube to your advantage. What most people don’t realize is that you need to get the jump on the pirates first. Offer all of your songs, or even a full album, before anyone else can. They will end up there anyway, even if you don’t do it. The key here is that enough plays can turn into revenue. You hear about people making money off of Youtube, but you actually can and it’s easy. The only catch is that it has to be YOUR content. So if someone else uploads your material then that is wasted revenue that could have been yours! If your songs get enough views, Youtube will offer you a revenue deal since you bring X number of users to the site. So make your videos look cool: album art, live shots, lyrics, etc. Those annoying ads before videos are actually someone making some cash, so next time don’t be so hard on them!

While you’re at it, see if you can come up with some fun ideas to speak to your audience directly. Check these guys out for a good example of how they do it …  (It even got them a big record contract J)

BANDCAMP – Remember when having a Myspace page was essential to a band? Well now has officially replaced them, and it is just as essential. You can run bandcamp like your own website, host your music for free, and cut out any middle men when getting your music out there. It’s on your terms. Sell your music or offer it for free. Put up a whole album or just a few songs. These days everyone wants to sample before buying, and this has been the best way to do so yet. Give people the option to buy and set their own price. This is actually the greatest part. Why would anyone pay for something if they didn’t have to? Believe or not, many people actually want to support a band, but shipping rates and the ease of downloading is making that increasingly difficult. Giving the audience control gives them accountability – and at worst it’s almost like guilting people into purchasing. You will be surprised how many people send you money, and every little bit helps!

SOUNDCLOUD – There isn’t anything too remarkable about SoundCloud, aside from another hub to upload high quality audio. What does set it apart is the fact that there is actually an active and supportive community. For the purpose of being everywhere it is worth establishing a presence there, but there really isn’t much else to do. The nicest thing that SoundCloud offers is the ability to share individual tracks. The more that people can share your music legitimately the better.

REVERB NATIONPUREVOLUMEBANDPAGE, etc. – Each of these sites (and many more) proclaim that their own services are the best. But it’s very hard to keep everything straight. Each one seems to require your full attention! The best practice for these sites is to at least populate them with all the necessary content – do what they ask of you. It can be sort of a “set and forget” kind of thing. You want all your bases covered and you want to be able to reach potential fans in any way possible. But the reality is that these sites are not the active communities they wish they were. The best part about these sites is their widgets. They allow you to take a “badge” from the site and embed it on your band’s blog or tumblr. Also these sites recognize how incredibly powerful Facebook is, and most often you can link their apps right to your Facebook profile. Make sure all of your information and contacts are up to date on these sites, and check them occasionally for activity. It’s a lot to ask of a DIY band to monitor 9+ different profiles, so the more you can conglomerate all this activity the better.


Take aways: Remember that piracy is just something that we have to accept and anticipate. Your music is going to be downloaded the second anyone can, so instead of trying to stop it just stay one step ahead. It may sound like you are giving music away in many of these examples, and essentially you are and you have to be okay with that. These days music is only a small part of the scheme – have great merchandise and go the extra mile with your artwork. Engage your audience! It should always be a dialogue relationship. Remember that downloading (legal or illegal) can also work in your favour when you’re a rising artist. There is no quicker way to gain an instant fan base, so be in control. The ones that love you will stick around and will advocate for you. Make sure you are everywhere so that fans don’t have to resort to piracy to get a hold of your music.

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