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How to make it in the new age of music

There’s no question whether or not the music industry has changed. Some say it’s for the worse, but others see opportunity in the new age of music and are helping others do the same.I has a chance to talk with Nick Ruffini of Drummer’s Resource a few weeks ago about the realities of the new music business and strategies for success that I see working in the New Artist Model online music business school.”Dave has been in the music industry for over 30 years, starting in music technology, then founding Berklee Music Business School online and his most recent venture, New Artist Model. New Artist Model is an online school to teach independent artists how to navigate their way through the music industry.”

new age of music

In this Podcast Dave Kusek talks about:

  • Being an early trendsetter with MIDI
  • Founding Berklee Music Online
  • Mistakes people are making as independent artists
  • Advice for getting gigs as a sideman
  • Networking advice
  • The future of music
  • The new age of music
  • Much more

 

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What’s the best band website builder for musicians? Free Webinar.

Every musician today needs a great website. Each week someone asks me what platform is the best band website builder for musicians to create a killer website. There are many choices to be sure.

Bandzoogle has what appears to be the best balance of features and performance at an affordable price. Their monthly packages start at $8 per month and they do not charge any commission on sales of music or merch or tickets of any kind. As of the date of this post, Bandzoogle artists have generated over $21 million in sales of music, merch and tickets using its proven cloud based platform. Don’t you want to do that too?

best band website builder for musicians

Over 25,000 musicians have signed up for Bandzoogle, including many New Artist Model students. These guys have the best solution for presenting yourself online as a musician or band. And they have agreed to give you a 90 day free trial so you can check it out. This is a no brainer if you need a website or want to update the one you have.

Click here for a free webinar on building the ultimate musician website

Bandzoogle is easy to use with a step-by-step system that will get you up and running in minutes with a custom site that can grow along with you. With over 100 different mobile themes you can easily customize a site to really stand out.

Move your existing domain over or setup a new one.

Here’s what you get with your Bandzoogle website:

• Sell music, merch & tickets commission-free.
• Stream your music and setup downloads.
• Built in email list to send professional newsletters.
• Integrates with all online musician services.
• Reports and analytics to target your fans.
• Unbelievably great customer service.

Pull in content from all of your online services like Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Pledgemusic, CDBaby, Gig Salad, Bandsintown, ArtistData, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, iTunes, Amazon and more.

Add a store to your site in two clicks and start selling music, downloads, tickets and merchandise without having to pay any sales fee.

Create a blog and EPK. Post music, videos and photos. Setup your events calendar and a lot more. Everything you need is built-in and just a click away.

Try it for 3 months for free. After that, plans start at less than $10/month. Or you can simply walk away and pay nothing.

What’s the best band website builder for musicians to use to create a killer musician website? Check out Bandzoogle.

Just last week, Dave Cool of Bandzoogle and I did a webinar.

Build the Ultimate Musician Website

  • BUILD a high converting musician website.
  • LEARN exactly what features you need and why.
  • GROW your email list and expand your fanbase.

Click here to watch this recorded webinar – all free.

New Artist Model is an online music business school developed by Dave Kusek, founder of Berklee Online. The online school is a platform for learning practical strategies and techniques for making a living in music. Learn how to carve a unique path for your own career with strategies that are working for indie artists around the world. Learn to think like an entrepreneur, create your own plan and live the life in music you want to live. New Artist Model provides practical college-level music business training at a mere fraction of the cost of a college degree. Programs start at just $29/mo.

For more info on the New Artist Model visit http://newartistmodel.com

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Network your way to Success

Who will help you succeed in music? There is really nothing more important to your career than the RELATIONSHIPS you develop over time. It’s all about who you know and who knows you – and how big your network is.

Are people taking you seriously? Do you know how to approach them and get their attention? The next person you meet may be the one who will change your life forever. Are you prepared for that? You want to network your way to success.

In this final video of my Mini Series I reveal the secrets of Power Networking. I show you how to engage with people and get on their radar screen. Plain and simple, the reason that artists and writers get famous and develop huge fan followings is that they get out there and network effectively.

Watch this video to see how it is done

studio

I have helped hundreds of musicians cut through the noise and get themselves into positions where they can be successful. Now let me help you.

In the Mini Series I revealed the proven strategies I have been teaching my members and clients including:

  • How to create Communities of Fans and Super Fans
  • How to develop Experiences that your Fans will Crave and Pay You for
  • How to make Money in Music and Monetize your Audience Again and Again
  • How to uncover Opportunities via Power Networking
  • How to unlock Multiple Revenue Streams to support Your Career
  • How to get your audience to go from “Free” to “Paid”
  • Plus much, much more…

If you have not watched all 4 videos, I urge you to watch them soon – while they are still available.

PLEASE – If you know anyone else who might benefit from this Mini Series on the music business, please share this with them.

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Ring Your Cash Register Again and Again

As an independent artist, it’s frustrating to be stuck and broke. You find yourself wondering why others are successful and where all the money is hidden. Yeah I know, it’s really all about the music, but the reality is you need money to operate your business and invest in your future.

In my continuing Mini Series, I reveal tools and specific strategies you can implement to create multiple revenue streams and cash flow for your music. Discover two crowdfunding platforms you can use to support your art and ring your cash register again and again. 2015 can be your best year ever!

Let’s get to it.

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You will learn about Patreon and Pledge Music and how to use those platforms to increase your cash flow through fan funding.

Jump into the video as I show you the money.

Thanks for all of your comments and encouragement. I absolutely love hearing what you’re thinking, so please be sure to leave a comment or question below today’s video. Someone will be very happy that they did.

PLEASE – If you know anyone else who might benefit from watching this Mini Series on the music business, please share this post with them. 

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Creating Amazing Fan Experiences

I hope you are enjoying my new Mini Series on the music business. It’s truly amazing how in the first video you saw New Artist Model students Steel Blossoms and Colin Huntley applying my strategies to turn their passions into a career.

These musicians are just like you. They started with a small following and have grown their audience and income by investing in strategies and success one step at a time.

In this second video of the free Mini Series, I reveal ways of creating amazing fan experiences they will crave and actually PAY you for. Discover unforgettable connections you can offer to your fans RIGHT NOW to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Watch this video and get your fans to fall in love and remember you forever:

creating rewarding musical fan experiences

You will meet Shannon Curtis, a recent New Artist Model member who has perfected the art of the house concert and put $25,000 in her bank account in just two months time. See first hand how she did it and exactly how you can do it too.

To get one step closer to your dream, click here.

 

AND PLEASE – If you know anyone else who might benefit from this Mini Series on the music business, please share this post with them.

How to Sell More Merchandise at Your Show

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Selling merchandise at a show is probably one of the biggest sources of revenue that an artist has left today. It’s clear to anyone in the music industry that selling music has taken such a dramatic dive in sales that it’s almost a necessity to search and reach out for other sources of income as an artist first, with record sales second. For larger artists, their brand seems to take over everything. They become this image/icon with corporate sponsorships making large portions of their income. For the rest of the world (not top 40 radio), playing shows and selling merchandise is probably their biggest asset. So, how can you increase your revenue by selling your merchandise at your shows?

1. Make it Personal

Your merchandise is a direct representation of you as an artist and your music. If you aren’t involved with picking out what pieces of merch you sell or what designs you put on them, you’ve already missed the first step. Like social media or any other hands-on interactive experience, your fans want to support you and they want to know every aspect of you as a person and an artist. So if you aren’t involved in, at very least, approval of what designs you’re selling to them and giving your personal input on, why would they want to purchase it and wear it? Your merchandise should be the best combination of what you as an artist enjoy stylistically and what your fan base tends to prefer. It’s a line that a lot of artists have trouble walking. You can’t control what demographic embraces your music, so without (and I hate this term) “selling out” or completely conforming to what sells to them, you have to find that happy medium. At the same time, you can’t be always have an “art over everything” attitude and expect to sell the maximum amount of merchandise you can. It’s the line of business vs. art and every musician has to walk it at some point.

2. Managing Inventory

Once you have put the time in and reflected on the designs you enjoy and believe your fan base will equally enjoy and support, it’s time to sell it to them. So you’ve got a big show coming up and you just refilled on your merch supply and you want to, obviously, sell the maximum amount possible. Well, another obvious step is sizing. Do you have all sizes available? Are you keeping tabs on past sales and seeing what sells the most? I can, without a doubt, guarantee that a band like Tool is going to sell way more M-XL shirts to their fan base, as opposed to Justin Bieber who sells a majority of XS-M-sized shirts. It seems obvious, but a lot of artists just order the same amount of every size because they don’t know (or don’t pay attention) and think that makes the most sense at the time, leaving them short on certain sizes and having a surplus on sizes they aren’t going to sell.

Another tactic you should be implying is seasonal wear. While you may be able to get away with selling tank tops in a hot sweaty club in the middle of January in Boston, there’s a lot less of a chance a fan is going to be into buying a hoodie in the middle of July in Miami. “Sweet! Now I have this hoodie I can’t wear for six months!” You’re also more likely to sell those hoodies in the previous Boston scenario and make more money than you would on tank tops.

3. Pricing

This leads me to my next point: Pricing. Are you keeping your eyes open to what other artist are selling their merch for? If you’re selling your new T-shirt for $25 and all the other bands are selling their T-shirts for $10 at the same show, who do you think is going to make the most money in the long run? People want the most bang for their buck. Not only will you sell less but some fans might be offended by your higher-than-average prices. Sure, you spent $500 for the design on your high-quality American Apparel shirt with five colors and designs on the front, back and sleeves, but that won’t matter in the moment when fans only have $25 left and like every artist that’s playing.

It’s smart to pay for merch that you can make a profit on while keeping it affordable at the same time. You aren’t playing arenas and people won’t pay $25-$50 for a T-shirt yet, no matter how nice it is. There are creative ways to design a piece of merch and keep it affordable with regards to the artist level you’re currently at.

4. Display Counts

“Hey guys, we have merchandise in the back. Please check it!” I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that at shows. The simplest way to sell more merch at shows is to make people aware that it’s available. It’s so obvious, but some bands forget to mention it or think it’s too tacky to say on stage. It doesn’t come as needy, it’s part of the experience of going to a show and every artist should say it while they’re on stage, and every fan should expect to hear it. When they go back there—most likely between sets—make sure it is clean, organized and professional looking. Having something to hang certain items up, tape things neatly to the table so you don’t have to worry about a cluster-f*ck table while trying to sell. Make things simple and legible for fans like the names and prices of items. If there is a back-side design to an item, have it displayed and labeled so you don’t get asked 100 times to keep showing people.

Efficiency always increases sales. Another great selling tactic is the use of limited edition items or limited quantity. It may push a certain fan over the fence they are on about buying that item.

5. Sales Team

Lastly, and one of the most important aspects of selling merch whether it’s you, a friend, or someone you are paying, is to make sure they are outgoing, friendly and organized. Not everyone is suitable to deal with people. Add to the fact a lot of people may be drunk, sweaty and rude coming in mass numbers, and you have a pretty solid recipe for disaster if you’re not the type of person that can handle it. If you are paying someone, take the time to go back to the merch table and check on him or her, or get feedback from a random third party. They are representing YOU! If they come off as an ass, it will be associated with you. Also make them count in and count out items. I’ve seen more than a few merch people in my day steal from their artist or jack up prices on their items and pocket the extra because the artist wasn’t involved with the merch situation to know any better.

Hopefully these tips will help you out in maximizing your profitability at your shows. There’s no secret recipe for success in the merchandise world, but the more you are organized and involved in it as an artist, the more you will sell.

 

By: Grant Brandell
Service & Product Sales Manager for Symphonic Distribution
grant@symphonicdistribution.com

Symphonic Distribution is a distribution company located in Florida. They distribute music digitally to over 300 retail and streaming platforms, for thousands of record labels and artists worldwide and continue to develop new technologies in the form of in-house systems including mastering, marketing, licensing, publishing administration, web & graphic services, label/artist development and more. Their goal is to become the One Stop Shop for the Music Industry while maintaining a personalized approach with clients.

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Alternative Revenue Streams for Musicians

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There’s more revenue streams out there for musicians than just album sales.

Article by Mackenzie Carlin via Music Think Tank. Check out the full article here.

Offer VIP Packages for Concerts

Critics of social media may complain of young people wasting their lives behind computer screens, but the truth is, music fans still love attending live shows. You still can profit handsomely off of traditional concerts, but if you’re looking to amp up returns on your tour, consider throwing in VIP concert options. These could include special meet-and-greets before or after shows, or even private performances for your most dedicated fans. Many will gladly pay two, three, even four times the going rate for your concert if it means getting up close and personal.

Sell Merchandise at Live Shows

Music fans love showing off their favorites, be it through social media or old-fashioned band tees. The great thing about old school merchandise sales is that they can be incredibly profitable, particularly if you take on a multi-faceted approach including both online and in-person sales. Selling band merch is easier than ever, thanks to useful services such asIntuit QuickBooks, and the various on-the-fly payment systems that are available in the form of an app. Be sure to offer a wide array of products, so as to entice as many fans as possible to invest in the cause. These could include posters, clothing or vinyl records, which still retain a surprising level of popularity among music aficionados. A Music Think Tank post from last year suggests asking fans on Twitter and Facebook for merchandise suggestions, and then holding a poll to determine which options would garner the most interest.

Build a Dedicated Following With Social Media

The greater your social media following, the better chance you stand of benefiting from merch sales and VIP packages. Examples of musicians building dedicated fan bases through social media include Justin Bieber and Lily Allen serving as two of the most successful MySpace musicians. Today, the focus is on Facebook and Twitter, with several musicians also benefiting from the use of Soundcloud, a social network aimed directly at ‘sound creators.’ According to “Tech Crunch,” Soundcloud currently boasts over 250 million users, many of whom share their favorite bands and singers with their friends through the site’s popular social networking setup.

If you’re looking to make more money as a musician, check out the New Artist Model online courses. You can get access to free lessons by signing up for our mailing list.

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Top 10 Strategies for Indie Musicians (Part 1)

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1dCOr9T

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1dCOr9T

One of the best ways to grow is to look at what’s worked for other indie musicians and adapt it to your own career. I’ve compiled 10 great strategies with 10 real examples to get you going. A lot of musicians I’ve talked to think they can’t start making strategies to move their career forward until they’re making money, until they take some business classes, or until they get a manager. The coolest thing about these strategies is that you can start using them TODAY.

Here’s strategies 1-5. We’ll be publishing the second half later this week.

1. Make a Plan from the Start

Making a great plan is one of the best ways to get to that music success you deserve. Not only do concrete goals give you something to aim for, they also help you decide what your first step should be.

Try to make your goals as specific as possible. Instead of saying “I want to be rich and famous,” try something specific like “I want to be able to be a full time musician with a yearly salary of at least $75,000 and be able to tour outside my home state.” Break down your lofty goal into smaller tasks like “gather contact information for local venues,” “contact 5 venues this week,” and “connect with another band to share a gig.” Suddenly finding a way to reach that goal becomes more manageable.

From the start Karmin knew they wanted to be a pop duo targeting a young teen audience. Manager Nils Gums suggested the duo cover current popular songs to get in front of their target audience. They followed the charts and consistently covered the most popular songs every week. The important takeaway here is that Karmin knew their goal, they made a plan to get there, and they stuck with it. If they had given up on the cover strategy after only a few weeks, they would never have gotten to where they are today.

2. Leverage Your Copyrights
Your copyrights are your business. They are your assets and your products, so it makes sense to take some time to understand them. You don’t need to be on the same level as a big-shot entertainment attorney, but it helps to have a general understanding of copyright law.

There are two kinds of copyright: composition and sound recording. Copyright is created when a musical idea is put into tangible form. So when you write that song down (composition) or record it (sound recording) you own the rights!  All those rights are exclusive, meaning you, and only you can leverage your song. Remember that copyrights are power! You own the copyrights, so you have the power. Think about it, without your copyrights would labels or publishers have anything to sell? Lots of musicians have been realizing this and have figured out cool ways to leverage their copyrights.

The Happen Ins are an Austin-based rock band that were featured in a catalog from the clothing company Free People, a corresponding video, many blog posts, and played at the catalog release party. In order to grow their fan base, the Happen Ins offered a free download to Free People’s customers. In many cases this exposure can be far more valuable than money.

3. Focus on Time Management

Today’s indie musician plays the part of the artist, and the business professional, and as a result, many find themselves juggling entirely too many tasks. It’s great that artists today can be 100% in control of their career, the problem comes when you can no longer find enough time for what matters most – your music!

If there’s anything you are doing that’s not bringing you closer to your goals, stop or take a closer look.  If you’re spending hours each day on tasks that don’t have much benefit, eliminate, simplify, postpone, or delegate to your team members. Try to prioritize the list. More urgent matters and tasks that you keep putting off and putting off should have a high priority. AND REMEMBER, make time for your music!

Michael Shoup is a musician and entrepreneur who turned his career around and started making profit with time management. After graduating college with a Bachelors degree in music, Shoup started his career as a musician and effectively gigged himself into $6,000 of high interest credit card debt. Time management has helped Michael Shoup become debt free. On top of that, he’s managed to self-fund an album, started a music marketing agency, 12SouthMusic, and created a social media app, Visualive.

4. Build a Team that Grows with You

DIY may not be the best option for indie artists. There are a lot of artists out there with excellent business chops, but they’re still not experts. And that’s okay, because you have more important things to do like creating music! The key is to find a team who is motivated and passionate. Instead of DIY, move towards a do-it-with-others (DIWO) strategy.

Your team doesn’t even have to be seasoned pros. If you have a band you’re already way ahead of the game. Everyone has their own unique skills, so take advantage of that!

Pop singer/songwriter Betty Who was able to be really successful with a team made of college classmates. Producer Peter Thomas and manager Ethan Schiff attended Berklee College of Music with Betty Who. With Peter Thomas she was able to find and really latch onto her signature pop sound, and Schiff helped set her up on the business side of things. Betty Who’s “Somebody Loves You” began drawing the attention of the pop music world after the release of her first EP The Movement in spring of 2013. In September 2013 the song was featured in a viral gay marriage proposal video and just a few days later she was signed to RCA Records.

5. Get out There and Network!

Networking is really important to success in music, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with internal tasks and forget to take the time and introduce yourself. You don’t need a big speech or a prepared pitch. Just get into the habit of introducing yourself to one person at every show you play or at every studio you record in. Talk to the guy in charge of the soundboard, maybe he loved your show and wants to produce your next album.

Remember, networking is a two-way relationship, and collaboration is usually the best way to promote this win-win situation. If you collaborate on a show, a song, or a recording, both of you will be exposed to the other’s fanbase!  Always remember to give before you ask. Do something for someone and they will remember you.

Vinyl Thief used their extended network to find success. The band released their first EP, Control, in 2010 but were disappointed in the results. They called on a former high school classmate, now music marketing graduate, Wes Davenport who started working on improving their marketing efforts. Davenport helped them grow their fanbase through the digital releases of single, White Light, and second EP, Rebel Hill. (Source)

 To learn more strategies that you can be applying to your career RIGHT NOW, sign up for the New Artist mailing list and get access to free lessons.

 

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Supercharge Your Merch in 5 Steps

You’ve no doubt heard that the live show is where the money lies in the music industry, especially for indie musicians. However, it’s not a magic cash funnel, and sometimes just playing won’t drive your fans to your merch table. Today indie musicians need to play the marketer, as uncomfortable as it may be. It will be difficult at first to ask your fans to buy, but it will come more naturally with practice.

This article was written by music business coach and social media strategist, Madalyn SklarHere’s 3 of the steps, to see all 5 check out the full article over at Cyber PR.

Step 1 – Greet Them At The Door

I have rarely seen artists do this but the few that do make quite an impression with fans. The best way to get ahead in this business is networking. There is no better place to network than at the door of your show. For many years I ran a monthly GoGirls showcase event in Houston, TX. I had the coolest job, not just booking and promoting it but running the door and merch table too. I met amazing people. But I wasn’t the talent on stage. I was just the girl charging cover or selling merchandise. The ticket holder is there to see you. It would be so unexpected for them to witness you greeting people at the door. It shows you are approachable and way cool. And in return you will see more sales. Cha-ching!

“Most fans have you on a pedestal. If you didn’t know this, better start believing it.”click to tweet

For those who already know it, don’t be a dick about it. Treat your fans with respect and love. Always.

Step 2 – Mention You Have Merch For Sale From The Stage

“The best way to make money at your show is by simply asking people to buy.” click to tweet

I know this one sounds like a no brainer but I hardly see bands telling their audience they have merch for sale. They always tell me they forget to announce it from the stage. Keep in mind that the majority of people at your show are not mind readers so it’s helpful to let them know that not only do you have merch for sale but you’ll be happy to sign a CD or poster for them. The next time you’re on stage, mention you have a merch table with lots of fabulous stuff. The best way to ensure you don’t forget this is to incorporate it right into your set list. It’s super easy to do. When making your set list, pick two spots and mark it as “Merch Reminder” that way you will not forget once you hit the stage.

Step 3 – Bundle Your Merchandise

Fans like things simple. So why not make it easy for them to give you a $20 bill or swipe on your Square (for credit/debit cards) by bundling two things together. I’ve seen bands put together simple bundles that make the deal look too good to pass up. You can offer 2 CDs and a sticker for one low price or maybe a CD and a t-shirt combo. You can easily increase your earnings just by playing it smart with bundling. Get creative and have fun with it.

Try these steps out at your next live show and let us know how it went!

 

Join the revolution and supercharge your merch! Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list and get access to free sample lessons.

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3 Steps to a More Efficient Merch Table

The live show and merchandise are becoming more important in the music industry. On top of that, there has been a surge in small indie musicians trying to make it on their own. Many think that merch is out of their budget, but with the right planning and strategy merch can become a profitable revenue stream for anyone.

This article, written by Robal Johnson of PUMP Merch, was originally posted on Hypebot. To read the full article, click here. 

1. Decide what to sell

Where to begin? Start small, be patient, and analyze your early merchandise investments. Have an artist friend design your logo: pay them in drinks and guestlist spots. Be conscious of your audience: determine what apparel and accessories are trendy. Understand the demographic: ask how they consume and share music, which can easily be done via social networking. Acknowledge your environment: if its hot, tank tops and ballcaps are essential; if it’s cold, hoodies and beanies are a must. At first, focus on selling more for less: keep designs to 1-3 colors, buy the inexpensive option, and charge fans as little as possible. Remember, you can always upgrade later.

Don’t be afraid to be aggressive. You’re not bothering anybody at the show. I guarantee most of the people there will be excited to meet you and honored you came up to talk to them. They know you’re just doing your job and they actually want to talk to you. I have approached the bar in a small town in Mississippi and sold $10 T-Shirts. I have wandered a club in Nashville asking folks if they’d like to buy $5 CDs. Merch is a souvenir purchased to commemorate a notable experience. Every music fan enjoys the pride that comes with seeing an act “back in the day” and you need to offer them something to take home that night.

2. Convenience

Once you have decided on the right products to sell on tour, your next focus should be on convenience. If you do not accept credit cards while on the road, you are leaving countless dollars on the table. Just ask Laura Keating, Melissa Garcia, and Emily White of Whitesmith Entertainment and Readymade Records: “We have been taking credit card payments in some form or another since 2005 and it always doubles our sales at the merch table.” Now THAT should motivate the hell out of all of you.

Companies like Square and PayPal Here have made it extremely simple for you to accept all major credit cards as long as you have a smartphone or tablet. If you have not already, stop reading this right now and order one of the FREE card readers from either of those companies immediately. It will take you a few short minutes and the results are literally priceless. I can not stress the importance of this enough. In this day and age, you MUST accept credit cards. You will not only sell your merch to more people, you will sell even more items.

At this time Square is only offered in the United States, Canada, and Japan. PayPal Here is available in the US, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia. For acts touring the United Kingdom and Europe, Team Whitesmith/Readymade suggests using iZettle for your credit card processing needs. iZettle is now live in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the UK, Germany, Spain, and Mexico.

3. Get organized!

Third on your to-do list while gearing up for tour should be organization and accounting for your merchandise while on the road. For decades this was done by either the merch guy or the tour manager in a looseleaf notebook with pencils and a whole lot of mistakes. Then came Microsoft Excel, which we ALL love to hate. But I have seen the future of tour merchandising and it comes to us via Orange County, California in an app called atVenu. These guys are changing the game and every single touring artist needs to take note.

I spoke with co-founder of atVenu, Ben Brannen, and he shared his story of what drove him and his partners to create the service. “While on the road, I experienced first hand the inefficiencies of existing methods by which we track and settle our touring merch. Too much money is lost due to inventory issues, poor nightly settlements, limited analysis, or one broken cell in an Excel sheet. atVenu solves these problems by empowering merch reps with a mobile app designed for their needs which syncs to the artist’s web-based account where merch company and management can login and easily access a robust suite of real time analytics and reports.”

This is a game-changer for many reasons, but most importantly it is something that will save artists time and money on the road. As a merch rep myself, I can attest to the great many headaches that go along with inventory, accounting, and restocking of products while a band is touring. It is all about organization and communication. With a system in place that knows when you’re getting low on the green v-necks in small and medium and your merch guy gets a notification, imagine how much money you’ll save on those rushed deliveries from halfway across the country that will hopefully make it to the venue on time. Envision how much easier it will be to do reorders for the next tour because you know exactly what you sold, when, and where.

My buddy Randy Nichols of Force Media Management, who represents The Almost and Bayside, among others, also works as Strategic Music Industry & Product Advisor with atVenu. He sums up the app perfectly, “A tool like atVenu shows me real time forecasting data for my tour so I can both improve my profit margins and be sure to maintain a healthy stock of my in demand items. This can easily mean the difference between 10 boxes of merch in the drummers garage at the end of the tour vs an extra $10,000 in profit.”

 

Guide to Music Merchandise

Merchandise can potentially be a huge revenue stream for independent bands and musicians. However, knowing what to make, how many to make, what company to use, what to sell for, and how to let your fans know you have merch without sounding like an advertisement can be difficult.

Check out this extremely detailed guide to merchandise from Music Think Tank to get a better idea of how to create a viable merchandise revenue stream for your band.

What you should order and who you should order from

  • Music – CD’s are generally the best option for most artists because fans like having something tangible that they can take home (as opposed to a digital download) and take up less room than vinyl. They also have higher profit margins. Companies that I recommend for replication: Cravedog and Discmakers.

  • T-Shirts – The basic tee usually is a solid product to go with. You can usually get a better price and a more comfy product if you choose a lighter shirt, such as a Gildan 5.3 or 5.6 oz. More on how to get better prices below. These are some decent companies.

  • Stickers – Stickers are cheap, easy to produce, and can be used for promotion or selling. I order all of mine through Stickerguy.

  • Buttons – These are another easy, cheap product that you can sell for $1 each. I recommend the quality, pricing, and service from Busy Beaver Buttons. Or, if you have some upfront money, invest in a button maker. Badge-a-Mint makes a good one.

  • Posters – These are a staple. Most companies should give you a 12×18 poster for the same price as 11×17. I recommend Printing Conexions (let them know that Simon Tam sent you).

How to get better pricing for band merchandise

  • Begin a Partnership – I worked with a local vendor to get exceptional pricing and price terms by committing to a long-term partnership. I agreed to always consider them first when pricing options out and to order a certain amount of business. In return, I get the best pricing around and also 45 day net terms – In other words, payment for the products aren’t due until 45 days after I pick them up. It’s perfect when I need start up cash and merch for a tour because I can pay when we get back. You can also pitch a potential sponsorship deal.
  • Order in bulk – Most of the time, you really start saving money on shirts when you order at least 48 of them at a time.With stickers, it’s 250. With buttons, it’s 100. If you want to balance price per item and minimum quantities, talk to a representative about what optimal quantities are.

  • Order less designs – If you reduce the number of different designs, you can order higher quantities of each product. This in turn drives down the price per unit. Variety is good but often gives you a much higher start up cost.

To read the full guide, visit Music Think Tank.

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Beyond the Playlist with Viinyl 2.0

Why do most music players look like spreadsheets?

Discovering music on your own requires that you listen to a song for a period of time to see if you like it. Sure, if one of your friends tells you about a track you may “discover” it through them, but you will also spend some time listening to the song before you decide if it’s for you. This is the nature of the beast. Music is a time-based phenomenon.

Unlike with videos where you can “time compress” a video into a single frame image that you can easily visually scan, with music there is no alternative format that represents the song that can be easily scanned, except for the song name. This explains why most music interfaces display playlists, with song names as text not unlike in a spreadsheet, or list of song names. These can be easily scanned, but have no direct correlation to the sound or feeling of the song itself. I have always found it odd that in this era of digital music and highly designed interfaces, that most players default to a spreadsheet of song names to present music – true of iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Rdio and many others.  Spreadsheet music players.

Sure you can have a thumbnail of the album cover, but rarely do you see this on a song-by-song basis. Maybe in parts of Beatport or other DJ sites that are focused on tracks, but not generally on the web for the mass consumers of songs. And yes we have also seen many different visual interfaces like Sonorflow that let you visually traverse music genres or the linkage between bands, but these do not convey information about the songs themselves or the emotions that they convey.

What if we had a way to make a song come alive visually? This was the whole idea behind the original MTV and it was wildly successful for decades. What is the online equivalent, or even better, what can we do to push the whole boundary of music discovery and showcasing to new levels by embracing the time-based nature of music and coupling it with visual expression and a modern interface that lets you experience and interact with music in new and interesting ways. And no, I’m not talking about the waveform displays on Soundcloud.

I am working with a new company called Viinyl which is in the final testing stage for a whole new video-based version of their Music Showcasing platform that is very hot. I haven’t seen anything like Viinyl 2.0 and I think it represents a whole new way of presenting music. Viinyl amplifies the emotional content of songs visually, in a way that is enjoyable and super easy to use. This is a whole new way of showcasing music.

Viinyl is re-defining the way music and videos are experienced. In fact their video player is a new way to attract attention, engage an audience with the emotion of a song, and make money on singles and tracks. From a simple URL you can run a full screen video with interactive overlays and gather email, sell tracks and tickets, connect to your social networks and literally showcase music thru video. You can sell any digital file including music and movies, and provide relavent information directly in the context of the song including bios, links, credits, contacts, concert dates, lyrics, etc.

Here are some examples of the new Viinyl 2.0 in action:

http://hiphopdraft-ghost-in-the-machine.new.viinyl.com/
http://synthetica-mini-documentary.new.viinyl.com/
http://destination-brazil.new.viinyl.com/
http://idareyoubeta.new.viinyl.com/

The new platform supports audio file sales with fixed or flexible album pricing (minimum price and Pay What You Want) along with various free distribution options. The software is lightning fast, with just a few clicks, musicians and labels will be able to share their work independently – and hold onto all revenue generated.

The new Viinyl 2.0 LP format delivers a visual playlist, giving listeners and fans a far richer, more immersive and inviting music experience compared with the current spreadsheet format.  This new software will be available in the coming weeks.

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The Evolution of the Live Touring Business

While the recorded music business continues to suffer, the live music business is holding up rather well, propelled in the short term by legacy acts, but moving forward with smaller bands and festivals well poised to fill the shoes of the legendary bands as they retire. Here are some excerpts from a great piece by Dean Budnick with the Hollywood Reporter.

We’re at a fascinating crossroads. The modern touring rock industry emerged in the late ’60s, during the heyday of such venues as Bill Graham’s Fillmore East and West in New York and San Francisco, respectively, Jack Boyle’s The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., and Don Law’s Tea Party in Boston. Rock music didn’t move into arenas until the early ’70s, a development that prompted Graham to close his clubs, announcing his decision via a letter to the Village Voice that decried “the unreasonable and totally destructive inflation of the live concert scene.”

So how are the smartest people in the industry preparing for the next big shift?

“We need fresh acts to appeal to new generations,” says Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation, the world’s dominant tour promoter. “The Rolling Stones was an epic tour, but it’s not a long-term business.” Rapino suggests that this process already is in motion, as six of the top 10 Live Nation tours of 2012 were by artists whose first hit was in the 2000s, including Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Jason Aldean, Drake, Rascal Flatts and Nickelback. “The beauty of this industry is there are always new acts to win our hearts.”

Chip Hooper, worldwide head of music at Paradigm, echoes this sentiment: “Today you’re talking about one group of bands, but what is contemporary and what is heritage just keeps changing as time goes marching on. If you took a snapshot of today, yeah, there’ll be some older artists who won’t be touring in a couple years, but then there’ll be new older artists because younger artists are getting older.”

Still, it remains an open question as to whether today’s concertgoers will continue to follow a singles artist like Rihanna into her dotage and whether they will pony up for the ever-escalating price for a live-concert experience. “As concertgoers age and inflation increases the price of nearly everything, ticket prices will rise in conjunction,” says industry analyst Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG. “When Coldplay play Madison Square Garden with a crowd averaging 50 years old rather than 30 years old, the higher-income-earning crowd will part with more money. The transition from The Eagles and CSN to Bon Jovi and U2 to Coldplay and Foo Fighters might be difficult for some interested parties — but the transition will occur.”

The answer might be to think smaller, says Tom Windish of The Windish Agency, which reps more than 500 acts including Foster the People, Gotye and 20 of the performers at the 2012 Coachella festival. “If I was a promoter, I would be analyzing which markets could use a 2,000- to 5,000-capacity venue and what obstacles are in the way to creating one,” Windish says. “As an agent, there are many cities where there is just not a suitable venue for a band who can sell this number of tickets. It takes time to open a venue of this size for many cities, and it can’t happen soon enough.”

So will all this work? Perhaps a more pointed question is: Can the live music industry survive the coming generational shift? Will young people show the same passion for live music as their elders — and do they have the income to support their habit? Tentative signs point to yes, based on festival attendance as well as the rising popularity of such performers as Mumford and Sons, Zac Brown Band, Bassnectar, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Vampire Weekend. At its core, the live entertainment industry is built on a certain ineffable, unquantifiable connection between fan and band, which is also why those legacy acts might not be leaving the stage anytime soon.

Read more from the Hollywood Reporter.

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Modern Merch: Beyond the Tour T-Shirt – CMJ Panel

Ale Delgado wrote this great recap of our CMJ panel on merchandise last week.  Thanks Ale!  Here is most of it.  Visit her site for more:

Considering that I’m always looking for the next big thing, I knew I had to go to CMJ’s “Modern Merch: Beyond the Tour T-Shirt” panel. See, merch is a $2.2 billion business and one of the biggest ways an artist can make money. But while most merch is sold at shows, most people at shows don’t buy merch. Tricky, huh?

The basic premise of the panel was that opportunity comes when you marry a point of passion (e.g., a song stream or live show) with a call to action (e.g., a merch sale)– and yes, they had some tips to help you take advantage of any opportunities that come your way.

Moderator: Dave Kusek, co-founder of MerchLuv and co-author of The Future of Music.

Panelists: Zach Bair, founder of RockHouse Live Media Productions and the original CEO of DiscLive Network, which records, masters, and burns concert CDs to be made available to fans right after the show;  Mary Sparr of screen-printed gig poster pros Print Mafia and culture blog Young Mary’s Record; and Alexandra Starlight, funky and spunky indie starlette whose Kickstarter campaign resulted in 205% funding and a rainbow glitter 7″ EP.

 

1.Think of merch as an extension of your brand

As always, the first thing to do is consider your brand as an artist. Once you develop a consistent aesthetic, you can open the door to more innovative merch because fans will recognize it as one of your pieces. For example, Starlight created a one-of-a-kind rainbow glitter vinyl record for her self-titled EP. A record like that had never been pressed before and each one was hand-glittered, so each fan received a unique copy. If you’ve ever peeked at Starlight’s website (or rainbow-dyed hair), you know that a rainbow glitter album fits perfectly with her brand– and it’s damn memorable.

Furthermore, if you think of merch as your brand being integrated into someone’s lifestyle, it opens up even more creative possibilities. For instance, The Hold Steady created branded foam fingers. Y’know, the ones you wave around like crazy when you’re cheering on your favorite team. What do foam fingers have to do with music? Not much, but they’re fun, different, and priced for the college-aged fan. And judging by the fact that they’re sold out, they’re a big hit with fans.

2. Cater to your spectrum of fans

Take another look at The Hold Steady’s foam finger. It’s $10 reduced to $5. Easy sale for a teenager or college student who might have a lot of spending money but is willing to pay for something cool to show off to their friends. Making sure that you have different tiers of merch for different fans is key to building sales. You should have something at your merch table for the fan who just wants to snatch a free download card and for the fan who wants to buy everything. That also means bundling items together (CD, t-shirt, button combo) for a quick sale.

3. Be show-specific

If possible, create show-specific merch. It can be as simple as individual gig posters for each city in which you tour or something a little more involved. Sparr brought up the tickets that Mumford & Sons created for their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Tour. Each ticket was a commemorative passport that contained a download code for a compilation of songs recorded at each Stopover. Then it got better. Fans could get their passports stamped at the merch tables at each Stopover, personalizing their passports to their experience. Then it got even better. People were wandering around each Stopover with unique stamps, essentially turning the passports into a Pokemon game. (Gotta stamp ‘em all!) Talk about fan engagement.

Next, update your Facebook and Twitter on the day of the show and let your fans know what merch you’re going to be offering, especially if you have something that will only be available at that show. The more people can prepare (or at least consider the possibility of picking up your record), the more likely they’re going to buy something.

 

4. Work your merch like a pop-up shop

Think about every grumpy salesperson you’ve had to deal with. They don’t greet you, they don’t look you in the eye, they don’t care if their store is a mess, they don’t want to help you find anything, or (even worse) they’re way too pushy… Okay, now be exactly the opposite.

Your merch table is your pop-up shop. Have your items propped up nicely so that fans who are moving past your table can see what you have to offer. Greet them as they walk up to your table; don’t badger them, but put on a friendly face like you would if they were customers coming into your brick-and-mortar store. Also make sure that you’re being as meticulous as you would be if you were running a store: keep track of your inventory and double-check any email addresses written down on your mailing list. Remember that the experience doesn’t end when your show does; fans will remember what you were like behind the table.

5. Extend the experience

Well, actually, the experience doesn’t have to stop when your fans walk out of your venue either. There are a lot of ways you can extend your show experience, from the simple to the elaborate. Here are a few ideas from the Panelists:

  • Make sure there’s someone taking pictures of your show, including grabbing a few shots of the crowd. Then post it on Facebook and encourage your fans to tag themselves.
  • Have your fans post pictures of your show to Instagram with a hashtag of your choosing, and then sending them aPostagram thanking them for coming to the show or giving them a discount for your store.
  • Use DiscLive to record, mix, and master a live recording of your show. By the time you’re ready to sell some merch, they’ll have CDs ready to go. DiscLive also allows for preorders, meaning that a) you can bundle tickets and CDs and b) you’ll have an estimate of what you’ll sell at your show.
  • Use MerchLuv to bundle streaming songs with merch items to cater to those new fans who hadn’t heard of you before your show, but want to check you out afterwards. Remember, opportunity lies where passion meets action.

Read more here including a Happy Halloween Bonus Tip!