What Authors Can Learn From the Music Business

what authors can learn from the music business

Recently, I was interviewed by Joanna Penn, self-published author and indie advocate and educator for writers, about the music business and the changes that have occurred in the music industry which preceded the shift in digital publishing: Physical to digital formats and now streaming and micro-payments; musicians choosing to go indie instead of joining big labels; and the need to establish multiple streams of income and building an audience online.

Even if you’re not into writing, there are a lot of parallels between the music world and the writing world. Both are facing similar challenges as creatives are forced to overcome dwindling revenue and the shift to digital.

But – I think we have a lot to learn from each other. Musicians can learn a lot from the strategies writers use to reach an audience and monetize their work, and a lot of the approaches can be directly translated into the music industry and visa versa. A lot of times looking to other creative industries can spark new, innovative ideas that are totally outside the box.

Here’s a short excerpt, but you can listen to the interview here, or read the full interview here.

What do you advise musicians? How do they build up a fan base, because it’s exactly the same for writers?

Dave:

You’ve got to focus on it. You’ve got to get yourself in a position where you’re able to collect emails. That’s the preferred way to do it, as you well know.

And you want to drive your social interactions to your website where you’re collecting email and you’re trading email for something of value, could be songs, could be lyrics, could be insights into your work or your life. People have a lot of different takes on it.

The holy grail of the moment is having a large following represented in an email list that you are then able to directly promote your shows to, your music to, your appearances to, your merchandise to, your friends to. It gives you just so much flexibility in terms of how you pursue your career.

An interesting thing, when you think of the heyday of the record business, which is what really people think about the music business…you know, you think of The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles, and Elton John, and, you know, massive stars, the labels really had no idea who their customers were. They had no mailing list. They thought their customers were Waterloo and Tower Records.

And so, when this digital shift occurred, and the labels found that people were basically just grabbing the music for free, they had no ability to communicate directly with a fan base. They didn’t have a fan base in a 2017 sense of being able to identify and directly reach your fan base, other than perhaps at a live show where you as…you’re Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and you’re on the stage, you can say whatever you want. But the label didn’t really have that power.

So in a sense, I think that we’re in a transition period in the music industry where it is difficult to monetize recordings, it’s difficult to monetize the most popular digital format, but it’s pretty easy to start building your audience.

And I think as we go forward in the next few years, the musicians that do spend energy building an audience and creating relationships with their audience are going to be in a better position to take advantage of the new formats and new performance opportunities that there may be online. The music business has always been driven by format changes, radio to vinyl, to cassette tapes, to eight-track tapes, to CDs.

Then there was this MP3 that they really just completely missed the boat on, and now you’ve got streaming which, the tech companies are doing quite well off of, you know, Amazon, Apple, Spotify, Pandora, they’re taking the lion’s share of the revenue there.

The labels are getting a small piece and the artists are getting a tiny, tiny piece. But I think there will be another format that we’ll see in the coming years that hopefully, artists with a fan base will be able to embrace those formats and really capitalize on them.

Not everyone is listening to the same thing. Not everyone is reading the same thing anymore or watching the same thing. We’re all in these sort of sub-niches. Do you see that parallel?

Dave:

Yes, I do. I think there’s a huge fragmentation of opportunity for people, and it is really important to define your niche and to create some activity around your art. I mean, an audience doesn’t really form around nothing. It forms around some form of energy and some form of creative expression.

And to the extent that you can focus your energy on a niche, define it, promote yourself in that niche, you can be very successful, as you well know, as long as the revenue model is there to support what you’re trying to do.

If you want more, you can listen to the interview here, or read the full interview here.

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Stop Guessing and Learn the Language of Music

When you pay attention to everything that’s going on around you, you’ll be surprised what you hear.

Stop guessing what the chords might be

Instead, learn about keys and harmonic function. This will take enormous amounts of guesswork out of the process. You don’t have to try twenty chords if you know that it can only be one of six chords you like in a key.

As we show you in Hit Music Theory, almost all music has a key. Keys are used to organize how we hear sounds and make it possible to quickly find harmonies and other musical ideas that fit with each other.

For instance, if I am playing in the key of A major, I know right off the bat that the chords A, B-, C#-, D, E and F#- will all work very well with each other. Since we usually hear musical ideas inside of particular keys, the more aware of which chords are in which keys, the more you can limit how many chords you need to try to find the sound you hear in your head.

Develop your ear and become a better musician

Believe it or not, you can learn to connect what you learn in theory to particular sounds you hear in music. You can train yourself to do this to such a degree that you can begin to identify EXACTLY what is going on without any instrument at all.

Notice what key you are in.

Training yourself to do this does not require perfect pitch. Instead, you can use things like solfege and other ear training approaches to hear how the music functions. The reason this is possible is that each note in a scale has its own kind of sound (this is why we like some riffs and not others, some chords and not others, etc – we already can hear it all, we just don’t know what to call each thing we hear). If you give a name or syllable to each pitch in a scale, you can start to identify the sound of a particular note in a scale with a particular syllable.

Be aware of the scale you are playing in and what riffs you have that fit in it.

The process of developing your ear never ends, so don’t worry about getting it right all the time. Learn the language of music and make it a priority to sing (singing these notes with syllables is really helpful) and analyse the music you listen to. The more you do it, the better you will become. Once you start being able to hear these notes and sing them, you can tie them into your understanding of keys and chords and identify the chords you are looking for even faster.

Make it your daily practice to identify everything you hear

Many of the best musicians seem to always be analysing everything they hear out of natural curiosity. So many things in our world have pitch, harmony and rhythm. You can practice grooves to your washing machine, for instance. My electric toothbrush hums a middle C when I turn it on. Most pop songs use the same four types of chords inside of a major key (I, V, vi and IV in case you were wondering). Just stay curious and listen actively to whatever is around you all the time.

My electric toothbrush hums a middle C when I turn it on.

Then, when you sit down to practice, take the same curiosity you are developing by listening to everything around you and apply it to everything you play. Notice what key you are in. Be aware of the scale you are playing and the riffs you like to play that fit in it. Name the chords you are using and be aware of how they function inside the key you are playing in. The more you do it, the more natural and second nature it will become to identify, play and write what you hear.

Put it on the page

As you start to get comfortable identifying what you hear, make it your daily practice to take a little time each day to write down something that you hear or are learning to play. It can be a chord progression, riff, rhythm or anything else.

Remember that music is a language. You learned to write by just doing it every day in school. Every language takes time to learn to speak and write fluently. Don’t be afraid of doing it wrong. The only way to do it wrong is to not try.

Enjoy the process and give yourself the time to enjoy and work on music every day. Before you know it, you will find yourself being able to write down your own musical ideas with ease.

 

Learn music theory at http://hitmusictheory.com

 

This is a guest post by Daniel Roberts and first appeared on:

http://hitmusictheory.com/electric-toothbrush-hums-middle-c-better-musician/

 

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The Quest to Become a Better Musician

Time, Tonality and Harmony

We all want to improve as musicians, but it can be hard to identify clear ways to improve. Just starting to practice on a regular basis can help you enormously, but it can also be a real challenge. Many times it’s hard to decide what to practice when you finally sit down with your instrument, right? We are all on the quest to become a better musician.

Part of the challenge is knowing what is most important to practice each time you sit down. How can you use your practice time to improve as a musician on a consistent basis. To address this, we each have to learn to reflect on our playing and knowledge and to turn that reflection into action. But regardless of whether you are a beginner or a really advanced player, there are some aspects of being a musician that always matter and can always be improved on. You can use these areas as a structure to start thinking about and analyzing what you can work on when you’re practicing. Here are some of the most important ones to me.

Your Sense of Time

At the very foundation of all music is time. You can think of time as the heartbeat (or groove) of the music, and rhythm as the dance that happens from that beat. Every rhythm you play is just a way to dress up the heartbeat underneath everything. How deeply and accurately you feel this underlying heartbeat determines how strongly everyone else will respond to the music. When you really know the heartbeat, your music becomes undeniable. You can often know when you have it, because the crowd will feel compelled to get up and dance.

Think of time as the heartbeat (or groove) of the music, and rhythm as the dance that happens from that beat.

The most important aspects of time to develop are your sense of the beat and its subdivision. We all can count the main beats of a song (think of the drummer counting off “One! Two! Three! Four!”) but do you know how those beats are subdivided? You can usually tell by listening to the drummer’s hi-hat part. Are they playing eighth notes? Sixteenth notes? Triplets? Is the subdivision straight, laid back or played on top of the beat? Is it swung?

Trick #1 – When you sit down to practice, try to think about the subdivisions happening in the music you love and create exercises that help you play them. Start simple. Play your scales or strumming patterns with quarter notes, then with eight notes. Do that for a week and then try sixteenth notes. Start with a slow tempo and ease into it. After a month or two of exploring subdivisions by twos, try exploring subdivisions by threes. Try some triplets. Take your time, have patience, be in the moment and try to think systematically as you create various exercises for yourself. You will probably find that you will stumble on musical ideas you like as you do this. Enjoy exploring them as soon as they come up. When they bore you, go back to your exercises.

Your Sense of Tonality

I cannot tell you how many times I have been in a rehearsal with someone who does not have a clue what key they are in. It’s critical that you know this, because everything you play comes from a key whether you know it or not – and if you don’t know, you may find yourself being that guy in the band who seems to have five heads.

Don’t be that guy in the band who seems to have five heads.

There are two things to know about the key you’re in. First is the tonal center. This is the note everything is organized around. When someone says “let’s play in A major” – they are telling you that everything they are about to play is organized around the pitch “A”.

Second, when they say “major” they are telling you the particular type of organization they are using around the pitch “A”. In this case, they are using the major scale (which is a series of whole and half steps) as a pattern for organizing pitches. The result is a tonality – a set of pitches organized around a central pitch (“A” in this example).

Incidentally, this is why scales are so important. It’s not enough to understand the idea of tonality – you need to be able to play it on your instrument. Scales are just specific instances of tonalities.

Trick #2 – When practicing, consider killing two birds with one stone by practicing your scales with specific subdivisions you want to improve on. For instance, you might choose one scale a day to practice with eighth notes for a week. If you practice every day of the week, you will be much more comfortable with seven new scales and your sense of eighth note rhythms will be much deeper.

Your Sense of Harmony

Once you know the tonality you are in, you can use the pitches and interval relationships inside it to create harmony. Harmony is created anytime you make the listener hear two or more pitches at the same time. You can combine pitches however you like, but we all tend to hear these pitches in similar ways (which we call harmonic function). The ways we hear groups of pitches and how we name them varies. I recommend starting with roman numerals or nashville numbers and the triads associated with them inside of the tonality you are working in.

Trick #3 – In any major key, there are seven basic types of chord function (since each basic type of chord in a key is built on a note in the scale). These chord functions are described with numbers that correspond to the pitch in the scale they are built on (if you build a chord on the first note in the scale, it’s called a 1 or I chord – but if you build it on the second pitch in a scale, it’s called a 2 or ii chord). If you are in nashville you write this function with arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), but they are called “Nashville Numbers”. In most other music contexts, we use the classical theory system that uses “Roman Numerals” (I, ii, iii, IV, etc.).

You can use these naming conventions to identify and make chord progressions. In C major, chords 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, respectively are C, D-, E-, F, G, A- and B diminished. Once you learn these chords in C major, see if you can find them in other major keys you know.

A Final Thought:

Once you have found a few things to work on in each of these categories, take the time to practice them each time you pick up your instrument. Organize your practice sessions into a routine so you don’t have to decide what to work on each time you sit down. If you can get into regular routine that address each of these three areas, I guarantee that you will find yourself improving and be well on your way on The Quest to Become a Better Musician.

Guest post by Daniel Roberts. This piece was originally published here http://hitmusictheory.com

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Séan McCann becomes a musical entrepreneur

After two decades and a turn to sobriety, Séan McCann took a good look at his life in the music industry. He wanted a change.

It had been a good living for a while. As a founding member of Great Big Sea, Mr. McCann spent nearly half his life playing and touring with friends. But the road’s familiar rhythm belied the shifting world around them. People weren’t buying records as much, and some years, making payroll for the band’s support staff – let alone the members themselves – could be a tenuous feat.

The Newfoundland-born singer-songwriter had gone sober, too, making tours soaked in the old black rum less enticing. He also wanted to play by his own rules, performing different styles of music and in smaller rooms. In 2013, he announced he’d leave the band at the end of that year’s tour.

Then he started over, alone.

Mr. McCann has retooled his music career for the 21st century. He has brought new meaning to going solo: He is his own manager, booking agent and sound technician. Stripped of the support system of a major-label band, but determined not to give up a career in music, Mr. McCann took a new tack. He became an entrepreneur.

“Right now, the cash flow allows for me and a guitar,” he says. “No tech, no roadies, no agents. That’s what I can sustain financially. And I love it.”

Even for artists who want to break into the major-label mainstream, an entrepreneurial mindset is the price of admission, says Dave Kusek, who founded the Berklee College of Music’s online program and now oversees New Artist Model, a digital music-business school.

“Labels and publishers are generally not making investments in anything that isn’t already proven,” he says.

“You need to be able to find your audience, you need to be able to communicate with that audience and build it.”

Mr. McCann grew up in Newfoundland’s Gull Island and later St. John’s, where he began playing music with Alan Doyle, Bob Hallett and Darrell Power.

In the shadow of the cod fishery collapse, “the economics were bleak,” Mr. McCann recalls. Even as university graduates, “we were functionally unemployable,” he says with a laugh. The quartet began performing as Great Big Sea in 1993.

The band signed to Warner Music in the industry’s cash-flush 1990s and released a bevy of bestsellers including the quadruple-platinum album Upand triple-platinum Play. Their pop-rock take on East Coast traditional music made them darlings on the Canadian scene, and they flooded radio and MuchMusic with songs such as When I’m Up (I Can’t Get Down), Ordinary Day and Consequence Free.

But recorded music has undergone a remarkable change since Napster sunk the business’s sales-centric model in the early days of this century. While streaming-music services have introduced year-over-year industry revenue growth for the first time in nearly two decades, the continuing decline in sales of CDs and downloads has radically reshaped income streams for musicians, in many cases forcing them to depend more heavily on concerts.

Touring helped sustain Great Big Sea through the early part of this decade, but complications arose, Mr. McCann says. After coming to terms with being an alcoholic, he went sober in 2011; following that, playing in one of Canada’s biggest party bands became difficult.

“Every night for us was Saturday night on tour. And going to work, our rider was extensive: a bottle of Scotch, four bottles of wine, 48 beers. That’s our daily allowance, with 10 dudes on a bus.”

Sobriety, too, made touring life seem stale and unsustainable. “Our setlist hadn’t changed in 15 years, and I couldn’t drink enough to continue doing it.” He decided to reel it in.

He’d been writing songs that didn’t quite fit Great Big Sea’s optimism, in some cases confronting his drinking and the reasons behind it – including sexual abuse by a priest as a teenager. As he wound down his time in the band, he took dozens of songs to his friend Joel Plaskett. The Halifax musician and producer sifted a solo album, 2014’s Help Your Self, from the pile.

“He’s got an edginess about him, where he wants to stir the pot,” says Mr. Plaskett, who also produced Mr. McCann’s follow-up, You Know I Love You. “He wanted to push into something more independent, and without rules.”

Walking away from the life and money of Great Big Sea was “brave,” says Mr. Plaskett, who himself runs his career like a small business, with a studio, record store and various touring band configurations. “He’s taken what was a large business and took a small, independent approach. … It becomes about being accessible to your audience, and doing unique things, so the people who care about you can connect with you.”

In 2015, Mr. McCann and his family made another crucial decision: They moved to Ottawa. Newfoundland might offer hundreds of kilometres of highway, he says, “but there’s only three gigs.” (His wife also likes the inland weather better.) In Ontario, Mr. McCann can travel alone by car, visiting two or three new cities or towns for concerts each weekend.

He books the gigs himself, eschewing the cost of an agent. For as much guff as he’s gotten for leaving the East Coast, it has allowed him to build a fresh, growing audience for his solo work.

This is the kind of entrepreneurial groundwork that all bands need to do to sustain themselves, says Mr. Kusek. While Mr. McCann has an existing reputation through Great Big Sea, younger bands need to hustle like this to sustain their work – and doubly so if they lack the financial backing of a record company.

“It’s like in the venture world,” Mr. Kusek says. “Labels are the Series B and C money. You’ve gotta find your angels and Series A.”

Mr. McCann doesn’t want to dip back into big business anytime soon. He’s seen it all, and, at least for now, he doesn’t mind the change. He’s seeing fans – and a whole new side of the country – close up.

“I realized that I’d been all over Ontario a million times, but in the middle of the night, asleep on a tour bus,” he says. “I don’t ever wanna get on a tour bus again.”

This article was written byJosh O’Kane and originally published in the Globe and Mail

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How to Book College Gigs as an Indie Musician

How to book college gigs - indie musician Mike Sullivan

How to Book College Gigs – Case Study from Indie Musician Mike Sullivan

Musician Mike Sullivan makes his living touring colleges.  The Los Angeles-based independent singer-songwriter knows exactly how to book college gigs, playing more than 250 over the past 10 years.

Some of the schools he has played include Hawaii Pacific University, Odessa College, Indiana University, Purdue University, Green Mountain College, Shenandoah University, Embry-Riddle University, Lipscomb University, Spokane Falls Community College and many more.

Mike Sullivan started doing college shows after a record deal fell through.  He had never played a college before. “I was so naive.  I didn’t even know that colleges paid bands,” he says, adding a Chicago Tribune newspaper article opened his eyes to the college market for music.  “When I was in school I went to lots of great concerts and figured that the bands made their money off merch.”

Contrary to what many musicians think, college gigs aren’t any less cool than traditional gigs. Not only are they a good source of revenue from the booking fee and merch sales, they’re also yet another way to get yourself out of the crowded and competitive gigging market while still getting in front of a very large and relevant audience. Plus, huge artists like John Mayer, Dave Matthews, Sting and Prince all got their start traveling the college road.

How to Book College Gigs Step-by-Step

So how do you book college gigs? Let’s go through a few steps to get you on the road.

1. Use the NACA, APCA, and SGA

There are a few organizations that specifically deal with getting acts booked in schools, and you’ll have a much easier time getting started if you use their showcases, resources, and connections.

When Mike was first getting started, he got in touch with the National Association for Campus Activities and the Association for Promotion of Campus Activities, two agencies that hold “showcases” around the country where college activities directors and students check out talent to book at their schools. To participate in the showcases, you’ll need to be a NACA member, which costs a few hundred dollars per year. But on the plus side, that is a small fee compared to the income potential of college gigs and once you have the connections you need you can ditch the membership.

Another one to look at is the Student Government Association. While the agencies showcase many different kinds of acts in addition to musicians, it’s still a good place to start to get the connections you need for schools across the country, not just your local area.

As with anything in music, if you want to get a showcase spot and book gigs, you need to have a professional EPK, active social accounts, and a professional look. After submitting a demo, Mike earned a 15 minute set at a national APCA showcase. He nailed that first appearance and got another 25 gigs right away.

2. Your Connections Are Everything

Just like in the gigging world, it’s possible to get college gigs on your own if you have the direct connections. So once you get some gigs from your NACA and APCA showcases, it’s really all about maintaining those connections.

You also want to keep in mind that students are usually in charge of booking acts for their college, so that means you need to make new connections every few years as they graduate. It will be a constant effort of managing your contacts.

At first, Mike Sullivan looked for a good agent to help him get more college gigs. “One agent told me she had 30 or 40 colleges interested and would set up a tour but didn’t follow up,” he said.  “Fortunately, schools started calling me directly and I booked the gigs myself. It was a huge lesson.”

Because most colleges seek out the act, if you take the initiative to make the first contact it can make a big impression. “I was fearless and would pick up the phone,” Mike says.  “It opened a lot of doors that would have otherwise have remained closed.  But today people think that they don’t need to talk with email and social media.”

3. Book Gigs in a Row

When an artist works with NACA or APCA, they can take advantage of their “block booking” system when booking or “routing” their tours.  This system allows individual schools to work together and get a discount when they book an artist around the same time — and it gives artists the chance to make good money.

“The more gigs you put together in a row, the less you charge and the more school saves.  Everybody wins,” Mike says.  “When it works it’s awesome.  Getting three or five gigs in a row is when you can really make a fantastic profit.”

4. Don’t Just Focus on the Big Schools

Just like with traditional gigs, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of “bigger is better.” But, especially with colleges, that’s not always the case.

“You can make a great living playing colleges. You know every year my price has gone up,” Mike says. When he started out in 2005, he charged $1300 for a gig. Today, he gets $2500. But one of his biggest tips is to avoid overlooking the smaller schools, which is a little counter-intuitive to how we think about traditional gigs.

“Smaller schools sometimes pay more than big ones because it is harder for them to attract acts. A lot of community colleges feel neglected and they have budgets to spend,” Mike says.

5. Be Flexible

Flexibility is key when it comes to getting asked back to play at schools.  “Colleges have good and bad budget years just like any other organization, so be open to being the act the school needs. If you usually bring a band but money is tight, offer to do a solo or duo performance instead. You’ll keep your connection to the school alive and generate lots of goodwill.”

Beyond just the price, the settings of college gigs can vary dramatically. Mike books 20 to 35 college gigs a year for audiences of 50 to 200 people.  His sets run from one to two hours.  He’s played intimate coffee house settings, in theaters and even in a hallway.  “It can be all over the place — a regular concert or a huge party.  One time there was a clown blowing up balloons right beside me while I played.” It’s all about being flexible.

6. Book Traditional Gigs Around College Gigs

College gigs aren’t something you need to dedicate 100% of your gigging efforts to. In fact, you can make even more of a profit if you book traditional gigs en-route to college gigs.

If you take advantage of the block booking method, you’ll have a mini tour route setup in a certain region. Instead of spending your off days just sitting around, get proactive and contact local clubs and venues to book a few gigs. After playing a few college gigs in the area you’ll have a local audience to draw on when you come through. If you don’t quite have the following to book a headliner show, try getting in touch with local bands and getting an opening slot.  

 

For more information on Mike Sullivan visit his website at mikesullivanmusic.com

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 information visit http://newartistmodel.com

 

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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

 

Musicians Guide – Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is all about setting up your website so that its pages are easily found and highly ranked by search engines like Google. This Musicians Guide Search Engine Optimization SEO will show you how. While traditional marketing avenues like radio airplay and social media promotion are great for getting new people interested in your music, an SEO strategy around your music can help you gain new fans from a marketing channel that is generally underused within the music industry.

So, how do you get started with SEO? First, it’s important to understand what Google’s ranking factors are. Here’s a list of 200 of them.

While the list of ranking factors is certainly helpful, here are the things I’ve noticed help improve rankings and search engine traffic the most, in order or importance:

• Backlinks (links pointing toward your website’s pages)
• Large number of pages.
• Website formatting and speed.
• Using searchable keywords.
• How much time visitors spend on a particular page.

Musicians Guide Search Engine Optimization SEO

Here are some things you can do to help improve the above metrics for your website to increase traffic from search engines.

Format Your Website Properly

If you want your website’s pages to be found by Google, you need to make it easy for Google to read through them. To accomplish this, be sure to implement the following on your website:

Use Searchable Titles

Many musicians use general, single word titles for their pages like merch, about, tour, etc. If people are looking for your merchandise or tour dates, they’re likely to include your artist name in the search (for example – “Bring me the Horizon tour dates.”)

Because of this, a better approach to titling your pages would be to include your artist name in the page title. This makes it really easy for Google to know that the information on the page should be attributed to you as a musician.

Use HTML Header Tags

If you have a blog on your website (and you should), often times, your articles will contain headers and sub-headers. Many new blog authors make the mistake of bolding and increasing the text size for these.

Don’t do this. Use HTML header tags. This will make it much easier for Google to understand the content hierarchy of your page.

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

More than 50% of searches are from mobile devices, and when it comes to mobile search, Google de-ranks sites that aren’t mobile-friendly.

It’s important to make sure your site works well and is easy to use on smartphones and tablets not just for search engine rankings, but because a majority of web traffic is from mobile devices anyway. People are more likely to purchase your merchandise and event tickets if it’s easy to do so.

Bandzoogle websites are optimized for SEO. They automatically add things like image alt tags, header tags, clean HTML and schema markup (to help you get Knowledge Graph results in Google). Bandzoogle websites are fast and mobile responsive.

Have Your Own Domain

When you work with a website provider like Bandzoogle, they usually default to hosting your domain as a subdomain to theirs (for example, yourbandname.bandzoogle.com).

You don’t want this. You want to have your own domain name. This way, when people link to your site, you get the benefits of that link when it comes to search engine rankings on your entire website rather than just the page being linked to.

If you choose to go with a website hosting provider like Bandzoogle, be sure to choose the option for a custom domain so you get all of the SEO benefits.

Have a Blog on Your Website

Starting a blog is a great way to increase the number of pages on your website, and the number of search queries your website will show up in. It’s also a great way to create valuable content that people will link to, which increases your website’s overall rankings.

As mentioned above, when you start a blog, you don’t want it to be set up as a sub-domain of someone else’s platform. Use a blogging platform, like WordPress since it makes it easier to get things going and publish content, but put the blog under your own domain.

It’s important that you choose blog topics that resonate with your audience. If people find your articles on Google, you want them to be likely to check out your music and convert into fans.

Here are some blog topic ideas to get you started:
• Travel stories.
• Music gear reviews.
• Review music from other artists in your niche.
• Making of your album.
• Songwriting stories.
• A passion outside of music.
• Something you care deeply about.

Whatever topic you decide to go with, pick something that excites you. It’s much easier to write about your passion than something that’s just for SEO purposes.

When you write blog posts, make sure they’re easy and fun to read. Each sentence you write should convince the reader to move to the next.

Here are some things to keep in mind when publishing a new article:
• Use lots of white space with small, 1-2 sentence paragraphs.
• Make use of bulleted and numbered lists.
• Write longer posts. These keep people on the page longer, and are more likely to rank well in Google.
• Put your target keyword at the beginning of the article.

Your blog can be a great tool for building your email list. Integrate apps like Sumome into your blog to collect emails, set up a newsletter for your blog, and include a link to your latest release at the bottom of every email you send out.

Bandzoogle websites have a built-in blog feature, and other promotional tools like mailing lists.

Get Links

In my experience, I’ve found that the single most important ranking factor Google looks at is the number of links pointing to your site. Each link is like a vote for a page on your site.

Very few links will come naturally, so it’s up to you to go out and get them. There are tons of link building strategies available online, but here are three I’ve found work best for musicians.

  • Get Your Music Reviewed on Music Blogs
    If you’re able to get your music is reviewed by music bloggers, the review often contains a link to your music or website. If your music is reviewed on a valuable blog, this can vastly improve rankings across your websites pages, and even send a good amount of referral traffic.
  • Help A Reporter Out (HARO)
    HARO is a simple and effective way to get press coverage for your band, and links to your website. Just create an account, and they’ll send you multiple emails every day from reporters looking for help with a story. Just scroll through the options and respond to the ones you can add the most value to.
  • Guest Blogging
    Guest blogging is still one of the best ways to get backlinks. The reason is because you have complete control over where the links are and what anchor text (the words used in a hyperlink) is used, which Google also factors in when ranking different pages.

To get started with guest posting, you want to find blogs that write about topics similar to what you write about on your blog so that links pointing to your blog provide real value to readers of your guest post.

To find blogs in your niche to reach out to, just head over to Google and use one of the following search strings:

“keyword” + “write for us”
“keyword” + “guest post”
“keyword” + “post was written by”

Once you find a website that you think is a good fit for your writing style, brainstorm 3 ideas and send them an email similar to this one:

My name is [Your Name], and I’m a member of [Band Name].

I’m reaching out because I’d like to contribute a guest post to your blog.

I’ve been brainstorming some ideas that I think your readers would like:

Idea 1
Idea 2
Idea 3

To get an idea of my writing quality, here are some of my recent articles:

Article 1
Article 2

Please let me know if any of these interest you.

Best Regards,
[Signature]

Using the email above to pitch guest post ideas to blogs, I was able to get about a 1 in 5 response rate, almost all of which converted into my guest posts being published. Not only is guest posting a great way to build links to your website, but it’s a great way to generate awareness for your music in an engaging way.

This “Musicians Guide Search Engine Optimization SEO” is a guest post from Nick Rubright.

Nick is the founder and CEO of Dozmia, a music streaming service currently available on iOS.  He has a passion for helping musicians understand various marketing concepts, and creating the perfect playlist.  Sign up for Dozmia’s mailing list to get music marketing hacks straight to your inbox.

To learn more about setting up your musician website and creating a plan for success in music, check out the New Artist Model online music business school.

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Dave Kusek Podcast

Dave Kusek Podcast

I had a chat a couple of weeks ago with my friend Bobby Owsinski that he recorded for his Inner Circle Podcast. I I hope you enjoy it.

We talked about a lot of things in the Dave Kusek podcast including the early days of electronic and digital music, the creation of MIDI, the digital music revolution and the release of ProTools and the rise of online music education.

“Dave has been a pioneer in the digital space in many ways. Dave is the creator of Berklee Online, one of the first online education programs in the world, and now teaches music business at New Artist Model.”

You can listen to the full podcast at bobbyoinnercircle.com,  There is also some news about Spotify creating its own music label in an attempt to dominate certain playlists.

or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

Read more here:
http://bobbyowsinskiblog.com/2016/09/06/dave-kusek-inner-circle-podcast/#ixzz4JamVjcPw

Learn more about the New Artist Model online music business school here.

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What’s Working in Indie Music Today: Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Matt Powell

New Artist Model member Matt Powell

New Artist Model member Matt Powell

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist ModelTurn your passion for music into a rewarding career.

On His Own — And Loving It

Canadian Singer songwriter Matt Powell isn’t a big believer in conventional wisdom.  Especially the old saying that there is safety in numbers.  After spending most of his musical career as a member of two different bands, Matt recently stepped out on his own as a solo artist — and is loving it.

The Ottawa-based musician will drop his newest album “Year One” this fall — the title chosen to celebrate his first anniversary as a solo artist.  The songs on the CD represent a journey back to his musical roots inspired by the likes of John Mayer, The Strokes and The Black Keys.

Matt is using a strategy that combines a strong social media presence and lots of gigs to generate buzz for his upcoming release.  He put together his plan with help from the New Artist Model, an online business school for indie musicians.

Currently, Matt has 10,000 followers.  He communicates with them using email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and other social media channels.  His videos on Youtube have captured more than 20,000 views and 80,000 on Facebook.

“If you want to be successful online, it is important to respond to every person who contacts you,” Matt says.  “It is also good to “turn the tables” on your fans and give them star treatment.”

“What you want to do is treat everyone as if your favorite artist just responded to you on social media,” Matt says, adding that enthusiasm helps create superfans.  “When I consistently started responding to every single fan, I went from 200 followers to 1000 followers in three weeks.  My fan base grew from 300 to 5700 in 6 months.”

“If they (fans) feel you are their friend and treat them with kindness consistently, they will stick with you and be really, really loyal.  So I am going to continue to be engaging and follow them back even as the numbers go up, up, up.”

Matt communicates often with the people who follow him often.  He also reaches out to the super fans of other artists in his genre.  Matt posts weekly clips and asks his audience what they want to hear.  If enough followers urge him to cover a certain song, he will.  Once the cover is up, Matt engages with the original artist’s following.  He never asks them directly to follow him — rather he simply engages.  It is a strategy that works, he says.

Matt says his success on social media has taught him never to underestimate how significant your reach will be.  You never know you will connect with.  One thing Matt is passionate about — in addition to music — is fashion.  Recently, he had the chance to connect with Anthony Bogdan, a style blogger he’s admired for years “My jaw hit the floor when I got the request,” he says.

“I have people who are happy and eager to share my content,” Matt says.  “The networking and the decency I have been inspired to use have taken my first year as an independent artist and propelled me forward.  I wouldn’t have believed myself at this time last year if I knew where I would be today.”

When Matt is not sharing his music on the internet, he can be found playing at local clubs and bars.  In addition, he hosts a popular open mic event held once a month in the city that is broadcast on Rogers TV Network.  Matt also performs as part of this showcase.

“Doing the open mic is great for networking,” he says, adding that many of the artists he meets during the show ask him to join them at upcoming gigs.

When he plays out, Matt regularly distributes up to 2000 business cards emblazoned with personal email and social media information and asks people to send him a personal message to start a dialogue.

Matt says being an independent artist in Canada requires balancing a unique set of challenges and opportunities.  For instance, radio airplay can be hard to come by.  Most stations are owned by major labels like Warner Brothers, Sony and Universal and play only their signed artists.  

At the same time, Matt says, significant support for indie artists exists in the form of grants offered by the Canadian government.  This is particularly important to Matt who is committed to touring but will keep his home in Ottawa.

“There are lots of government grants available for musicians who stay in the country,” Matt says.  “They can range from $5000 or $10,000 to even as much as $20,000.  Artists can use this money to help record their albums.  This is something I am looking into.”

A typical day for Matt includes communicating with with fans and working on music.  He also takes time, when he can, to review the latest offerings at New Artist Model.

When he wakes up, Matt immediately checks his Twitter Instagram, Youtube and other social media feeds.  He then spends about an hour communicating with fans from around the world including the States, Europe and Brazil.

“I call it upkeep.  I poke and market.  I talk to them in the moment,” Matt says.  After working on his music and spending time with family, Matt finishes his day by checking in with fans again.  “I love interacting with people.”

Matt says that also making time on a regular basis to review material on the NAM site helps keep him inspired and effective.

“I’ve gone back and watched some of the same workshops 4 or 5 different times.  I do that especially when I’ve hit a funk or need some guidance,” Matt says, adding that he has watched some of the video from NAM’s 2015 Nashville gathering 10 times. The Indie Artist Summit was a live mini conference that attracted hundreds of attendees. Top industry pros like Benji Rogers, Patrick Clifford, Barry Coffing, Jay Frank, and more covered topics like building a community of superfans, licensing your music for film and TV, making Spotify work for indie artists, getting your music in front of publishers, and much more. The entire recorded event now lives in the Music Business Guide to Success course.

Matt’s is hoping to reach 25,000 followers soon.  His other goals include playing more big venues, creating merchandise, touring and doing house concerts.  He also wants to open for other artists he admires.

Through it all he plans to continue to stay close to the people who support him — in person and online.

“I will never stop communicating with his original true fans that have helped me from the start.  I have an appreciation and love for them that will never expire,” Matt says.  “The time invested in being personable, kind, and humble, and being appreciative. It comes back to you. ‘The love you take is equal to the love you make.’”

 

To see more about Matt Powell look here

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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What’s Working in Indie Music Today: Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Declan O’Shea / Mako

New Artist Model member Declan O'Shea

New Artist Model member Declan O’Shea

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist Model Essential Power PackTurn your passion for music into a rewarding career.

Keep moving or die

If you’ve ever been near the ocean, chances are you’ve heard that sharks need to keep moving or else they die.

In his own unique way, singer-songwriter Declan O’Shea is taking that knowledge to heart.  

A member of the edgy alt-rock band, Declan is on the move as he puts together a social media campaign for the band’s upcoming album “The Runner.”

A single from the album entitled “World Set Alight” dropped early this year just in time to be nominated for a Grammy for best rock song and best music video. “The Runner” will be released in its entirety by the end of 2016.  It will feature songs mixed by Tim Palmer (U2 and Pearl Jam) and Bill Appleberry (Stone Temple Pilots, The Voice).

“I am using the New Artist Model to learn how to market the new album properly,” says Declan, who is very active in the Indie Artist Network group.  “I neglected all of this stuff before but am figuring it out.  I am putting a lot of time into Facebook and getting very good at Twitter.  Email marketing starts next month.”

The band, which includes Declan and Christian Montagne, is hoping to build on the buzz generated by its first album “Living on Air” released in 2011.   The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences recognized the band that year, placing MAKO on its Official Ballot.  Nominations included Best Rock Album, Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Group with Vocals for the song “Unstoppable,” ;  Best Rock Song for “Miss Alison” and Best Short Form Music Video for “Unstoppable.”

Before launching MAKO in 2010, Declan and Christian were part of Cyclefly.  The iconic Irish/French rock group toured Ireland, the United Kingdom, Europe and the U.S. sharing the stage with artists including Iggy Pop, Bush, Live, Linkin Park and others.

Cyclefly released two full length albums.  “Generation Sap” was produced by Sylvia Massy and released in 1999 by Radioactive Records, a division of MCA.  Its second album “Crave,” released by Proper Records in 2002, features a guest vocal spot on “Karma Killer” from Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington.

“We played the main stage at Oz Fest and also toured with Bush.  We did the Redding and Leeds festivals.  We did the Woodstock 50th anniversary.  It was all about live then,” Declan says.  “Social media only started kicking in 2000.  Now it’s about downloads, not sales.  Everything’s become ‘game-ified.’  People want to visually see stuff and listen at the same time.”

Declan is using a variety of social media tools to spread news about MAKO and its music.  Email, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and other channels are all part of his marketing mix.  Currently, Twitter is his most powerful tool.

“We get a lot of airplay through Twitter,” he says, adding that he identifies bands with a sound similar to MAKO and connects with their fans and the radio stations that play their music.

Using auto responders on Twitter is a great way to attract more followers, he adds.  People who follow MAKO automatically receive a message offering a free download of their first album in exchange for an email address.  The message includes a link the MAKO’s website.      

In addition to finding new fans, Declan uses Twitter to collaborate with other musicians, get feedback on singles and find help with marketing.

“I read Dave Kusek’s e-book on Twitter marketing and started sending out tweets and emails to ask for feedback on the new single.  I got lots of positive replies and one fan is helping me with marketing in the States with Spotify,” he says.  “Another is doing photos for the new album and a guy from Germany wants to help find opportunities in Berlin for the band.”

Emailing is an essential part of the band’s marketing strategy, Declan says.  He reaches out to fans on a regular basis with offers of free music and other incentives.  MAKO also gives away its first album for free on NoiseTrade.  

Declan’s day typically begins with meditation and a run.  Then he gets down to work, spending most of each day writing and recording music in his home studio.  He usually turns his attention to marketing in the evening.

He makes it a point to read books that inspire and motivate him.  “Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” by Greg McKeown — a book recommended by New Artist Model — is one of his favorites.  The bestseller shows readers how to simplify their lives, identify goals and achieve them.

“Every night, I’m reading 10 pages of something. I am going through one after the other.  Lifestyle and business.  Through New Artist Model I’ve gotten many recommendations and blogs to read.  Right now, I’m reading “The 7 habits of Highly Effective People,” Declan says.  

Additional titles he’s found useful include “The Richest Man in Babylon,” by George Samuel Clason,  “The Lean Start Up,” by Eric Ries “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Rich as well as spiritually oriented volumes like “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle.

MAKO is playing the occasional acoustic gig these days.  Once “The Runner” is released, the group will tour in support of the record.  MAKO has played throughout Ireland and toured Brazil twice where they recorded a song and music video with the popular band Medulla.   

Declan has lots of plans that will keep MAKO moving forward — a tour to support the album, continued outreach through social media and a foray into the world of licensing.  If he works hard, Declan figures, things ought to go swimmingly.

“I am working to focus my energy towards my goal and know who I am as an artist,” Declan says.  “Treat your music like a start up business.”

 

To see more about Declan O’Shea and Mako look here http://www.makotunes.com/                    

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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What’s Working in Indie Music Today Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Rishi Deva

New Artist Model member Rishi Deva and Parvati

New Artist Model member Rishi Deva and Parvati

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist Model Essential Power PackTurn your passion for music into a rewarding career.

Rishi Deva manages the chart topping, award winning Canadian artist Parvati.  With his help, she has risen to twice to #1 on the Canadian electronica charts with her rich pop songs, dance anthems, and electronic soundscapes.  

Parvati has performed live at venues including New York City’s Madison Square Garden and Earl’s Court in London and reached millions of listeners in Asia on Asia Pop 40 radio and YAN TV.  She has three singles coming to top 40 pop radio in 2016:  “I Am Light,” “Yoga in the Nightclub” and Shanti Om.”

Rishi not only works with Parvati on her music career but helps manage her other business interests as well.  Parvati is founder of YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine, a company dedicated to teaching a gentle form of the art  that combines chi-energy work with yoga poses.  She is also the author of self-help book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie” and publisher of the online “Parvati Magazine.”

“The lines between management and artists have blurred a lot,”  Rishi says. Says.  “Parvati is a producer and does some things on the business side.  Parvati and I, we are doing 90 percent business and 10 percent music. The music is a component in the whole piece of getting it out there.”

“I’m really happy to have discovered The New Artist Model. I’ve had over 20 years experience at labels and in management. I also have a Masters degree in Business”  he says. “I consider the New Artist Model a little ‘mini-masters’ in business. There’s a lot of value in the program if you work it.”

Working the New Artist Model program has not only brought him more ideas about how to be a great manager it’s also helped him describe Parvati’s musical style more effectively, Rishi says.

“Her song ‘I am Light’ cradles two worlds.  We couldn’t figure out if it’s pop or New Age,” he  explains.  “So I posed the question to the Indie Artist Network that we got as part of the New Artist Model and Dave (Kusek) said ‘It’s celestial pop.’  Sure enough, we used that genre and that’s what’s working. That’s what we’ve been calling it. I just heard the song played on the radio after Coldplay and before Ed Sheeran.”

Being a successful manager has a lot to do with being organized while also trusting your intuition, Rishi says. It is essential to balance strong strategic planning with the ability to jump on unexpected opportunities. He urges independent artists to constantly be on the lookout for collaborations that will be a “win-win” for everyone involved.

Don’t have a plan B, have a really good plan A. It’s really important to plan, and don’t give up. The power used to be in the hands of the big tastemakers: labels. That’s crumbled now.,” Rishi says, adding that many independent musicians don’t own their own power. “They don’t know everything. It’s you and your fans, which you can now build up with powerful platforms on the internet.”  

“Labels can connect you with big names, networks. But you can still do that on your own and retain all the rights to your music,” he adds. “The role of the artist and label is merging into one. Artists need to be more business-minded and artistic, which can be a challenge. Good managers will be able to work both sides of that and work hand in hand with the artist to help develop the marketplace.”

“That’s why I feel what Dave is doing with the New Artist Model is essential. He is empowering so many artists to go for it. Giving them the tools to have more confidence in these situations.”

Rishi says he goes to a lot of trade shows and always make a list of people he wants to network with ahead of time. Preparation is key. However, one of his biggest successes came one day when he decided to do something he hadn’t planned on.

“All of the success that Parvati has had on Asian radio lately is due to the intuition I had at a conference. I sat in on an Australian panel. Thought why not?” Rishi says. “ I met a big wig guy who owns radio stations and had the intuition to link up with him. He’s helped us get all over Asian radio. This was not a part of the original plan. As a result, we are having success in a lot of areas we hadn’t expected like Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.”

Rishi rises most days at 5 a.m. and begins his morning with meditation. Afterward, he reviews finances, looks at the outline for the day and gets started on work. His day is filled with meetings and ongoing discussions around strategy to keep things working smoothly. There is “a lot of putting out fires” and dealing with social media, he says.

“I go to bed early and get up early,” Rishi says. “The biggest skill I’ve learned over the years is to always have the attitude of of the absolute beginner, with the self-confidence to know yourself.”
 
Rishi says that Parvati’s fanbase has grown significantly this year especially in Asia. He credits her song “I Am Light” with opening the door to that market.

“I didn’t expect Asian radio to be so promising,” he says. “The song itself has a sanskrit component, a Buddhist chant. So that’s why Asia is probably picking up on it. We are in the process of doing an English version.”

Parvati spends a lot of time interacting with followers on social media, Rishi says. Fans who sign up receive valuable content on an ongoing basis from free yoga classes, uplifting affirmations and guided meditations to tips on living with a positive attitude and more.

Rishi says that one of the biggest challenges he faces as a manager is figuring out how to generate more income from Parvati’s music. Streaming services currently do not bring in much money so he is putting much of his work into creating dynamic live performances.

“The general notion I’m seeing is that people believe music is free. The streaming companies are not providing the revenue system that they should to artists,” Rishi says, adding.  “I am a fan of streaming — but not without the correct royalties.  I believe it will iron itself out. I am still a big believer in radio. Radio is an important platform.”

“We’re on the top 40 charts in 12 countries right now. It’s not equating to a lot of sales. What can we generate that people can’t download for free? Live shows. We need to put on the best live shows possible.”

They lost money on their first couple of live tours, Rishi says, but built up a fanbase and developed a style. Then Parvati went back to her hometown of Toronto to perform. People from Cirque du Soleil caught the show, loved it, and have been talking with Rishi and Parvati about future collaborations.

Currently, Rishi is working on ideas for funding Parvati’s upcoming Asian tour.

“Right now, We have support with radio and fans, but not the funds. We’ll look for a sponsor rather than a loan from a label that we will have to pay back later, Rishi says.  “We’re looking for sponsors that fit Parvati’s brand. They must be environmentally and health conscious.”

Rishi is looking forward to continuing to collaborate with Parvati as they grow her fanbase, increase her revenue streams and create iconic live performances. “Parvati has an incredible business head on her shoulders, that is a testament to where we are going. She is very active in music and business.”

 

For more about Parvati and Rishi visit https://parvati.tv/

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

Learn more about the Essential Power Pack special offer here.

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How to License Your Music for TV Film and Video Games – FREE WEBINAR

Want to learn how to license your music? Need connections with Music Publishers?

If so, join Aaron Davison of How to License Your Music and I in a free webinar Thursday, June 23 at 1PM EST – Or Signup to Get the recorded Replay.

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE FREE WEBINAR

how to license your music for tv, film and video games

We’ll be showing you how to get connections with key music publishers and how to prepare your music to DRAMATICALLY INCREASE your chances of getting licensed.

  • LEARN how to license your music.
  • DISCOVER what music publishers look for in songs they license.
  • Learn how to get licensing OPPORTUNITIES sent straight to your inbox.
  • Get easy TRICKS to make your songs more licensable.
  • Find out about the 90 Day Music Licensing Challenge.
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What’s Working in Indie Music Today: Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Luis Hernandez

New Artist Model member Luis Hernandez of Pentagram Records

New Artist Model member Luis Hernandez of Pentagram Records

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist ModelTurn your passion for music into a rewarding career.

Luis Hernandez is building a new music company in Mexico

Luis Hernandez, founder of Pentagram Records is on a musical mission.  He is building a label for Mexican artists who are eager to showcase their country’s language and unique musical heritage, instead of trying to imitate music from the U.S.

Luis is off to a good start with a healthy roster of artists, lots of local concerts and the chance to put his home of Hermosillo, Mexico (pop. 600,000) in the state of Sonora, on the map as one of the Mexico’s most important musical cities.

Luis came up with the idea for Pentagram in 2015 with help from the New Artist Model online course with Dave Kusek.  Early in his studies, Luis says, he was confronted with a simple question.  One that made him re-evaluate everything.

“Dave asked me a question that left me awake all night. A little tiny question that said: “What are your goals or what do you want to do?” Luis says.  “You have to answer as specifically as you can. How much music, what kind of music, how many sales will you have.”

“What is it specifically you want to do? That sort of started this puzzle for me. I remember it was a night when I got no sleep because I was thinking so much about it. The result is Pentagram Records.”

Luis says working through the online music business course helped him understand the unique challenges he would face in the Mexican music industry.  

“Things are a little bit different in Mexico. It is a socio-cultural thing. Most of what we consume musically comes from the US. It’s very weird. Many people don’t speak English though they listen to music in English,” he adds.  “They prefer music they can relate to but it’s not common here for someone to think they can make a decent living as a musician.  For our culture we need to make new music. We need to stand for what we are.”

Pentagram Records current artists include:  Mhelyssa, Maicq de la Rome, Sosel and Akaryu.  All of the artists sing in Spanish.  The label releases a new single every two to three months and shares music for free on its website.  Pentagram music is also sold on other platforms including iTunes.  According to Luis, the majority of the company’s revenue comes from music, merchandise sales and live concerts.

“Music brings us income,” Luis says.  “We give it away but people come to the website and say ‘I want to pay for it.  I don’t feel like it should be free, and I want to pay 10 times the price I would have paid iTunes.  They want to give us that directly.  All we ask for is an email address to send someone new releases but they can also pay us with a tip jar.”

“Live fees are also very important to us,” he adds.  “We are making our own shows. We rely on tickets. A recent event in Mexico CIty got us some attention.  We’ve been meeting with promoters interested in making a tour in the southern and central parts of the country, but right now we are focusing on the local market.”

Pentagram’s team of five employees provide artists with a comprehensive array of services including music production, graphic design, website and social media development, and public relations.  In addition, they create Pentagram sponsored concerts.  The company has a video studio and an independent merchandise manufacturing business.  While serving Pentagram artists is a priority, Luis says, the team is also available to work with independent artists on a consulting basis.

Pentagram sponsors at least one performance a month in Hermosillo that includes several artists from the label.  The musicians are free to book other gigs as well, Luis says.

“Live music is the most effective weapon in our arsenal,” he adds.  “We try to present each artist one to two times per month. We have to work to come up with a healthy balance of getting them to play constantly but not to oversaturate the market.”

Luis spends his days recording and mixing music and taking care of Pentagram’s social media presence, paying particular attention to analytics.  He also works on event planning, networking and coming up with new merchandise product ideas.

“Social media is a powerful tool especially because it costs almost nothing and it can give you amazing reach. That combined with amazing live experiences — that is what we are investing in,” Luis explains.  “We follow many of the strategies Dave has taught in his courses as well as many other things we have figured out.”

Pentagram artist Mhelyssa is just one of the Pentagram artists benefitting from a strong social media presence.  Before releasing her first single this spring, the singer reached fans by covering songs and posting her performances on Youtube.  One of her covers included a song done originally by the popular Mexican band Moenia.  

In 2015, band members saw the video and were so impressed they asked her to perform at a concert held at one of the country’s best known theaters, Teatro Metropolitan in Mexico City.

Luis says he learns something new and exciting about the music industry every day, adding his biggest surprise has been discovering you can run a successful label that doesn’t actually sell all that much music.

“We are a record label that doesn’t make albums and doesn’t sell music,” Luis says, adding Pentagram will continue to focus on singles.  “Our music is free. I believe it will always be this way in a digital format. Realizing that was a great surprise for me.”

“We don’t see music as something that can be monetized.  Our artists are new and unknown. It’s better for them to download for free or listen on YouTube or Spotify and share with their friends. It increases the chances of people attending my shows, buying t-shirts and booking my artists. Sponsoring is a big thing as well.”

Reinvesting profits is key to helping Pentagram grow, Luis says.  A typical contract includes these conditions:  once expenses are paid off, remaining monies are split 50/50 between Pentagram and the artist.  This arrangement ensures the company has enough capital to grow on as it develops new talent.

“We haven’t had hits in our catalog yet. All the artists in our catalog are new. We are aiming for the long term,” Luis says.  “Each month we are seeing that our analytics in social networks, the amount of people at shows, the amount of downloads, and plays of music, are constantly growing. We are aiming for steady growth.”

Pentagram will continue to grow by signing additional acts and performing in new places.  Artists from the label should be playing in venues outside Sonora by the end of the summer, according to Luis.   The company will also continue working with artists who need help and guidance on a consulting basis and is encouraging “makers and creators” to use its merchandise manufacturing facility.

While all areas of his business are important, Luis says, he strives to make sure music stays front and center.  And to do that he always remembers to ask artists the question that inspired him to start Pentagram:  “What do you want to do?”

“I believe it is only the music honestly, I know it’s a cliche. It’s all in the music,” Luis says.  “We worry about the words, the arrangement, the style, about originality. It may take us way longer than if we go straight for recording, but we want to make something that has the emotional connection. Evaluating songs for our artist we ask: if this was the last song you could play in your life, is this the song? If not, you should go back and write something else.”

 

Check out Pentagram Records here http://www.pentagramrecords.com/musica

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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Is “Marketing” Killing Your Music? FREE WEBINAR: SEE how to avoid the TRAPS that waste your time.

Do you feel like you are trapped in social media HELL ? Are you spending all your time promoting your music without seeing tangible results?

FREE WEBINAR: “Is Marketing” Killing Your Music? Thursday June 16th at 8pm EST

Join CD Baby’s Kevin Breuner and I as we tear down the barriers that kill effective music marketing, and show you better ways to do it in a free Webinar Thursday June 16th at 8pm EST.

social media hell
We’ll explore the traps that many artists fall into in the social media age that they think are “marketing” but are really just a waste of time, and help you understand what actions will get you moving (and marketing) in the right direction.

  • SEE how to avoid the TRAPS that waste your time on Social Media.
  • LEARN how to craft a compelling STORY and how to tell it.
  • GET your promotion and MARKETING moving in the right direction.
  • GET the latest TRICKS for building and connecting with your AUDIENCE.
  • HOW TO make STREAMING and playlisting work for you.

CLICK HERE and signup for the FREE Live Webinar

Thursday June 16th at 8pm EST
Signup live or watch the recorded Replay anytime

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What’s Working in Indie Music Today: Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Angèlia Grace

New Artist Model member Angèlia Grace

New Artist Model member Angèlia Grace

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist ModelTurn your passion for music into a rewarding career

Breaking into the world of independent music can be tough. But it looks like vocalist Angelia Grace might just have it covered.

The gifted soprano is “covering” music from some of the most famous movies in the world. Her YouTube videos have earned her hundreds of thousands of fans since she began posting in 2012.

Her performances include selections from the soundtracks for Superman, Inception and Interstellar composed by Hans Zimmer. She also covers music from The Revenant created by Ryuici Sakamoto, Jurassic Park by John Williams and other films.  Angelia Grace’s videos have been viewed more than 394,000 times.

While most musicians perform music and sing lyrics when “covering” a song, this artist brings a unique style to the task. Angelia Grace’s soundtrack covers include the original recording of the music, and she sings along to these instrumental selections using beautiful tones and sounds — not lyrics. She calls it “singing without words.”

“I had never heard about a ‘cover strategy’ before. I found out about it from Dave Kusek at the New Artist Model,” she says.  “This is where my combination of abstract music and soundtracks came from.”

“On YouTube, people are just really honest and tell you their reactions. I always want to take this as really valuable feedback,” Angelia Grace says, adding that she is working to create a new music video each week. “I ask fans which soundtrack they want me to do next. I want them to feel like they are co-creators. That relationship is so incredible.”

Born in Moscow and raised in the Netherlands, Angelia Grace is now living in Ireland.  She is hard at work on Crystal Voices, an album of original songs with lyrics, due to be released later this year. “Soundtrack covers are a great way to exercise my vocal potential,” says the artist who plays piano and flute.  “But people want a story,”

Angelia Grace also plans to release another album called Shine which will feature “soundtrack-like” music. Previous releases include Angelic Healing Sleep (2013), Angelic Tones (2014) and Asatoma (2015).

In addition to performing, working on her Youtube videos and writing her albums, Angelia Grace maintains her own artist website at http://angeliamusic.com/

She also studies voice with Frank Merriman and Edwin Williamson at Dublin’s Bel Canto School of Music, a place that has helped launch the careers of many musicians including Sinead O’Connor.  

While most of Angelia Grace’s performances appear online, she is beginning to weave more live appearances into her schedule including dates at festivals in Holland.

In 2015, she performed at the Marowa Leadership Conference, a spiritual retreat for business managers held in Nagoya, Japan. Angelia got the gig through connections on Facebook.  

“If Facebook didn’t exist I wouldn’t have gotten to Japan,” according to the musician, adding that she “friended” people from Japan who were connected to an artist friend of hers. “One of them contacted me asking if I could show them around because they were coming to the Netherlands. We skyped to get to know one another better. She learned I am a singer and asked me to be part of this three day spiritual event. All of my travel expenses were covered and I was paid to perform.”

Angelia Grace has a manager in the Netherlands but is extremely involved in the business side of her career. She uses Youtube, Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about her music and stay in touch with fans.  

She has more than 4000 Youtube subscribers, over 1100 likes on Facebook and 900 people on her mailing list.  Right now, she says, Youtube is her most effective tool.

“The most important skill I’ve learned is the ability to use YouTube as a business tool and training stage,” she says. “It gives you the ability to practice performing without a live audience and get perspective that you can learn from. YouTube is an incredibly important part of my strategy. It is my portfolio.”

Instagram is also becoming an increasingly valuable tool, Angelia says. She likes the fact that her posts automatically go to Facebook and Twitter. And she especially loves what happens when she adds a hashtag to her pictures.   

“They explode online,”  she says, adding that reaching many social media platforms at once is essential.  “As an independent artist, you have to work smart because you have limited time.”

Every day Angelia Grace answers all of the messages she receives from fans, Youtube viewers and producers. She says that New Artist Model has helped her understand the value of constancy and discipline when creating a community. Maintaining relationships is essential, the artist says, so she makes it a point to communicate at least once a week with her followers.

“You have to be out there,” she says, adding that publishing valuable content is key. “If you don’t engage, what’s the point? I am building a relationship with people who will stick with me for years to come. That’s one of the most valuable lessons I learned from Dave.”

Her biggest challenge right now, says Angelia Grace, is learning to create professional working relationships with people who contact her. Often producers and musicians will reach out to discuss the possibility of working together. Ironing out the details can be a challenge, she says.

“It is great to have people praise you for what you do. It is even better to have people pay you for what you do,” she says.

Angelia Grace’s goal is to continue to grow her audience as she moves closer to realizing three of her biggest dreams — working with Hans Zimmer;  being hired in Hollywood to help create iconic soundtracks;  and filling large arenas with fans eager to share in her musical experience.

She expects the strategies she is learning from New Artist Model to continue to be central to her growth as an artist, she says.

New Artist Model is helping me think like an entrepreneur and is helping me with marketing. You don’t have to do what Dave is suggesting, you should want to do it. It’s fun, helps you get closer with your team and fans — the people who believe in you — creating a foundation of support,” she says.

“The New Artist Model is going to change your music career forever. I’m not getting paid to say this! You have to know that this is the best investment you can make for your career. You need to build your career brick by brick. Learn what you need to know so you can be successful. It’s a leap of faith you have to take. The knowledge has given me so much confidence. How much is your dream worth? Priceless.”

Check out Angelia Grace here http://angeliamusic.com/
and here https://www.youtube.com/user/AngeliaCrystalVoice

 

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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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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Managing Your Own Music Career – Music Connection Interview with Dave Kusek

I had the good fortune of being part of a great article on managing your own music career that the fine folks at Music Connection Magazine just published written by Bernard Baur.

Managing Your Own Music Career

MC: You are a big proponent of artists managing themselves. Why is that?

Dave: Because artists should take control of their lives and careers. Although talent is important, the more artists know about the business the more successful they will be. If you’re serious about a career in music, there is no one who will take care of you like you would.

So, do artists need a manager?
I’m not saying artists should never have a manager or sign with a label. Both can be incredibly helpful. But, in order to attract either one you have to prove yourself and get results. And, most artists today have no choice but to manage themselves.

What approach should artists take when managing themselves?
They should realize that business and art are two sides of the same coin. If they apply the same creativity to the business side (as they do to their art), it can be exciting and productive. And once they start to see progress, motivation really kicks in.

You advise artists to form a plan. Can you explain the process?
They should ask themselves what they want to accomplish, what they like to do and what their definition of success is. The answers to those questions will help formulate a plan to reach their goals.

That’s a very business-like approach. Why should artists go down that road?
Today, artists need to be musical entrepreneurs. They need to develop their image and brand and know how to raise money and market their art. Often, if they don’t do it––it won’t get done. Artists have to realize that times have changed and they are responsible for their own success.

What common mistakes do you see artists making?
Not knowing about the business, and thinking that someone is going to discover them and make them a star is the most common mistake I see. Additionally, not asking for help when they need it can hurt their progress. Lastly, not connecting with the right people. You know, DIY (Do It Yourself) isn’t realistic anymore––there’s too much to do. Today, you need a team…I call it “doing it with others.”

How successful can self-managed artists be?
Well, we have artists in our program who are making between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. It’s not millions like a superstar, but it is possible to make a living with your music, as long as you work at it and keep moving ahead.

Managing Your Own Music Career - Music Connection Interviews Dave Kusek

Read the complete article here including interviews with Ben Mclane, Dead Rock West, Eesean Bolden, Epic Records, Gilli Moon, Mclane & Wong, Mitch Schneider, MSO RP, The Creative Warrior Academy.

Managing Your Own Music Career

Dave Kusek is the founder of New Artist Model, an online music business school. 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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What’s Working in Indie Music Today: Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Margaret Dombowski

The Magnifiers and New Artist Model member Margaret Dombowski

The Magnifiers and New Artist Model member Margaret Dombowski

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist ModelTurn your passion for music into a rewarding career.

Music is a family affair for manager Margaret Dombowski.

The band she represents — “pop punk” phenom The Magnifiers — is made up of four of her five children. Elliott,16, and Eden, 15, play guitar and sing, Eliza, 12 plays the bass and Everett, 10, handles drums. Together these siblings write and perform edgy alternative music that is winning fans at concerts and online.

The Magnifiers’  EP “Report Card” sells on their website http://themagnifiers.com for $5 and is filled with original songs like “Zombie Raid on America.”  In addition, the group offers individual songs on iTunes and Bandcamp.  he band performs regularly at festivals and clubs in Chicago and beyond. In June 2015, they won the Illinois Teen Battle of the Bands.

This May, The Magnifiers will appear for the second consecutive year at the Hong Kong Pizza Party Music Festival in Piano, Illinois. Then in June they will grace the stage at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago.

Not bad for a band born in 2012 after Elliott’s musical horizons were blown open when he received a guitar as a present. “All of the kids already played the violin and piano,” Margaret says of her homeschooled brood, so the idea of playing together was realistic.

Margaret made the decision to manage The Magnifiers right away even though she had no prior experience as a manager, booking agent or publicist.

“Initially I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Google Drive was my best friend.,” she says, adding that identifying herself as a manager and not a mother helps her succeed.  “I’ve gone out of the way to be really professional.  If I tell them I am the Mom there is a stigma — that I’m the ‘Mom-ager.’”  

New Artist Model is great,” Margaret says.  “I came across it when I was looking for a degree program in all of this. This is exactly what I was looking for. I’ve learned so much.””

Margaret says she decided to have the band do a cover of a Weezer song for its YouTube channel after watching the DJ video on New Artist Model. She also found important information about how to protect The Magnifiers name with a trademark. Recently, Elliott has jumped on board, reviewing New Artist Model lessons and videos as well.    

“You get a lot of information in these hour long videos,” Margaret says, adding that being able to pay for the program in installments is really helpful for artists on a budget.

While The Magnifiers is a band made up of young people, it is not a group in search of a children’s audience, Margaret says. They want to play for everyone — everywhere. That is one of the hardest things to communicate to promoters, producers and others. “The Disney Channel isn’t us,” Margaret says.

“This is the biggest challenge in managing a kid’s band,” she says. Sometimes they are not old enough to play a certain club. That makes it harder for them to develop a fanbase. A major label could give them a bump up but I don’t want them to lose creative control.”

Margaret uses Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reverb Nation and Bandcamp among other social media tools to spread the word about The Magnifiers.  She has even used Periscope to share performances with people out of state.  Recently, Elliott took over much of the social media work, communicating with other bands online and responding to posts on all of the group’s channels.  Margaret handles all booking matters.

Instagram and Reverb Nation are two of the most effective tools she has used to promote the band, Margaret says. Not long after the band was born, Margaret used Instagram to connect with the originators of The Aquabats, her kids’ favorite band.  Margaret struck up a friendship with show co-creators, Christian Jacobs and Jason Devilliers, and The Magnifiers were invited to Salt Lake City to appear as extras on “The Aquabats Super Show” television program.  

Margaret says there have been discussions about the possibility of the band opening for the Aquabats during a future tour. “Their audience is our audience. In our mind, we should tour with them.”

Margaret also used Instagram to establish a relationship with Threadless, a t-shirt company in Chicago. As a result of this connection, The Magnifiers were invited to play at their warehouse and then at the company’s holiday party.  “That is where I was introduced to Brian Keller (aka Brian Killer) who recorded our video for Zombie Raid on the USA,  Margaret says.

Reverb Nation is great for “messages out of the blue,” Margaret says, adding  “Last year, a big time producer contacted us and now we are talking about working together.”

“My mother always told me ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’  Who you know makes a huge different in this business, so I’d tell any parents helping their kids pursue their dreams, make connections, lots of connections,” Margaret says.  “Do lots of online research. Attend lots of local seminars and build relationships with people in the industry.”

Booking gigs takes extensive work Margaret says, and the way to succeed is stay in constant contact with local venues and festivals.

“There are days when I am doing email blasts on my lunch hour at work,” Margaret says, adding that being flexible is good for a young band with a relatively small fanbase.  “We’ve done a lot of shows for free. We’ve done a lot where we have to sell tickets ourselves.”

When they play out Elliott, Eden, Eliza and Everett like to employ the personal touch with their fans. They usually hang out with the audience after they perform and share promotional cards and stickers.  

Margaret and The Magnifiers are focusing on their goals for the future. They are actively seeking a booking agent and a record deal that will allow them creative control. They hope to to fulfill their dreams of opening for the Aquabats and playing Lollapalooza. They are working on their next EP which will include a track called “Trump.” And they may have a new member of the band before long. Little sister Evie, 6, is already talking about playing keyboards.

 

Check out the Magnifiers here http://themagnifiers.com

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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What’s Working in Indie Music Today: Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Justin Ratowsky

New Artist Model member Justin Ratowsky of Cali Conscious

New Artist Model member Justin Ratowsky of Cali Conscious

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist Model: Turn your passion for music into a rewarding career.

Cali Conscious is all about good vibrations. The reggae band that got its start playing under the pier in Huntington Beach, California combines a talent for creating great music with a commitment to organizing beach cleanups and helping the homeless.

The group recently launched a new social media campaign to attract fans to its message of peace, love and environmental preservation. And so far, it’s working.

“We’ve gotten over 1200 email subscribers and more than 10,000 Instagram followers in the past 12 months,“ according to Justin Ratowsky, the band’s guitarist.  “We are implementing the strategy of giving away our music in exchange for email addresses that we learned in Dave Kusek’s New Artist Model to successfully create our own fan base.”

“Our goals are to support our families by doing what we love while performing and touring on a national and global level.  We also want to continue to grow our subscriber base to over 100,000 and get our music licensed for TV and film,” he says.

Cali Conscious plays 25 shows a month in the summer and 15 in the off season.  The group is currently hard at work on its second album which will be released in 2016 and supported by a tour.  In addition to Justin, the group includes Anthony Haas on bass, Jason Sandoval on trumpet, Chad Stanner on keyboards, Chuy Vidales on drums, Dig Gbye on percussion, and Stephen Wood on sax.

Cali Conscious puts almost as much work into activism as it does into music.  The band has organized monthly community beach clean ups in Huntington Beach and funded construction of a clean water well in Ethiopia by donating live performance tips to charity:water.org.  Cali Conscious doesn’t sell plastic CDs at its shows and created a plantable paper download card embedded with carrot, lettuce, and tomato seeds to celebrate the release of its first album “High Times.”

The group is making the website Noise Trade a centerpiece of its current social media campaign, Justin says.  The music distribution platform lets the group trade their music to anyone who shares their email and zipcode on the Cali Conscious website.  http://caliconscious.com/  Currently, the group gives followers a download of “High Times” as well as an EP featuring acoustic versions of four songs from the new album.  

“You should use your social media platforms and the real estate on your website, to give away songs and build that relationship with your fans to gain trust and turn them into superfans,” says Justin, adding that “superfans” to him, are people who share news about the band with their followers.

Justin believes that developing 1000 superfans will enable Cali Conscious to have a sustainable music career — one that includes adequate support for crowdfunding, merchandise sales, touring and live shows.

“With Noise Trade, we get email and zip codes and fans get to download and share on Twitter and Facebook.  It lets you encourage your fan base to become part of your marketing team,” he says, adding that the service also allows fans to “tip” musicians.  “Noise Trade charges 20 percent of the money that comes in but we are still getting revenue from that every month.”

Raising awareness about the group and its music will help the band complete its newest album.  The offering will be paid for, at least in part, with a crowdfunding campaign, Justin says.

“This next album will put us out there as an Orange County band starting to break through.  We believe in our producer and the message,” Justin says.  “We already have 30-40,000 listens on Pandora or Spotify.  I think when our next album comes out and we step up our SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and get more organized and put up our video, I’m hoping we can reach 100,000 subscribers. “

Gigging is the main source of revenue for Cali Conscious. On May 21, the group will play the Concert for the Coast in Santa Barbara where they will feature “One Love For You,” a song about homelessness written by percussionist  Dig Gbye and the first single from the new album. The band will make a music video for the song that includes an informal “jam session” with local homeless men and women.  

During their visit to the city, the band will also provide blankets, clothing, food, water and socks to people in need with the help of online sock retailer Bombas http://www.bombas.com

“Water,” the second single from the new album, will also get its own video. All proceeds will benefit Gravity Water, a nonprofit dedicated to providing filtration and storage systems to poor communities around the globe.  http://www.gravitywater.org/  Both of the videos for the singles will be included in a pre-purchase crowdfunding campaign, Justin says.

While using social media can be exciting and productive, it is essential for musicians to stay up to date on each service’s policies and guidelines, Justin says.  Early in his career, he gave away music from his own CD “Enjoy the Sunshine” to users on Facebook and got blocked by the company for a time. “They thought it was spam,” he says.  

“Be aware of limits on how many people you can contact each day and how different social media systems work. Their policies are always evolving,” Justin says.  “At this point, the main reason we are using social media, besides putting out photos, is to try to get people to go to our website. I want to get as much exposure for our website as possible. This is also something we learned from the New Artist Model.”

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media tools can really help musicians advance their careers — but players should never forgot about the importance of personal connection. Justin knows from firsthand experience that it is impossible to predict when opportunities will appear.

A local entertainment lawyer introduced the band to renowned recording engineer and producer Sjoerd Koppert who has worked with Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Doobie Brothers and other bands. Out of nowhere, this chance meeting from a mutual connection turned into an incredible opportunity to record in a top studio.   

“I went from busking to a million dollar studio,” Justin says. The result?  His first EP “Enjoy the Sunshine.”

That recording is at the heart of another story about the power of networking. Music from “Enjoy the Sunshine” can be heard in the new documentary film “Return to Cape St. Francis” created by Robert August. August starred in the iconic surf documentary “The Endless Summer” which was released in 1966. Justin performed at the Newport Film Festival this April when the documentary premiered.

Justin has played the Huntington Beach High School Surf Team’s annual banquet for the the past six years, and the coach of that club just happened to be the director or “Return to Cape Francis.” That connection ended up getting his music in the hands of Robert August.

Justin and his bandmates are excited about what lies ahead for Cali Conscious. A bigger fanbase, new album and tour all point to great things for the band. While Justin is looking to the future, he emphasizes the importance of never losing sight of the values that define the group.

“The most important part of our music is the message we have in our lyrics, that’s how we want to connect with our fans. We strongly feel we have this musical ability and we are purposefully using a positive message to help bring the world together through our lyrics,” Justin says. “We want to be a catalyst for our fans to inspire change. If we can create an easy avenue for them to be able to support our music but also support causes we believe in — like getting water to the world and making sure that people on the streets have warm feet — that’s where we want to be.”

Embracing these values have encouraged the group to do benefit shows for The Walk for Arthritis which drew an audience of 4000 to Anaheim’s Angel Stadium, Surf’s Up for Down Syndrome and Walk On Water, a nonprofit that offers sports therapy for children with disabilities including autism, among others.

“It is important to use our gifts as musicians to make the world a better place and encourage others,” Justin says.  “I am glad to use my talent as a vessel to do good in the world.”

To learn more about Cali Conscious visit http://caliconscious.com/

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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What’s Working in Indie Music Today: Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Shannon Curtis

New Artist Model member Shannon Curtis

New Artist Model member Shannon Curtis

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist Model
Turn your passion for music into a rewarding career.

Ask singer songwriter Shannon Curtis about the key to her success as an independent musician, and she’ll tell you — literally — to hit the road.  She’ll encourage you to start touring with the help of your audience.

Shannon knows from experience that touring is the best way to interact with your audience and build your fanbase.  She also knows that performing live can bring in more money than recordings, publishing and merchandise combined.

Each summer, Shannon spends more than four months on the road performing house concerts.  In 2014, the Los Angeles-based artist performed at more than 70 homes around the country for audiences averaging 35 people.  

The idea for an annual house concert tour was born in 2011 when Shannon was struggling to attract new fans.  Her career growth had been “incremental” since she hit the scene in 2006, she says.  So to break through to new audiences, Shannon began working on booking a series of solo club dates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Portland and Seattle.

Then something unexpected happened.  A fan called and asked if she would come and perform in her living room.  The gig would pay whatever audience members wanted to donate and her fan lived right in the middle of the circuit she was planning on covering.

Shannon said yes.  She had played the occasional house concert through the years, always booking them as “filler dates” between what she considered more important club engagements.  But this concert convinced her that she might have gotten things turned around.

“I had no idea what kind of success it would be,” Shannon says, adding that she didn’t use a microphone or amplifier.  “In a club you are always competing with noise from the bar or a latte machine or something.  But this show was 100 percent connection.  Someone started crying.  People’s reactions were palpable.”

Palpable and profitable.  By the end of the night, Shannon made more money and sold more merchandise than she would have at a Los Angeles club show. “It was way more than gas money. That was the lightbulb that went off for me.”

Shannon and her husband, music producer Jamie Hill who travels with her when she tours, worked up a financial analysis and realized she could win over more fans and make more money playing houses rather than clubs. Today, they use a simple system to create their annual summer tour.

Shannon typically announces the house tour on her website in March.  She encourages people who want to host a concert to apply on her site and in her emails.  “This year, 85 people signed up within 48 hours of the announcement” says Curtis.  

Requirements for hosting a concert are simple but specific.  Hosts must be able to guarantee an audience of at least 30 people and need to have a backyard, garage, living room or some other space big enough for a “focused listening event.”  “This isn’t a party where there is also some music,” Shannon says.

Once a request for a house concert is accepted, things can fall into place easily if you are organized, according to the artist.  People who host concerts don’t have to worry about having special insurance because their concerts are not open to the public.  Instead, they are gatherings of friends.  Hosts don’t receive any kind of financial compensation for providing the venue or bringing in the audience, Shannon says.  Most often, they simply enjoy the chance to have a fun event and get to know to know the artist better.

“We really leave the structure of things up to the hosts,” Shannon says.  “Lots of times they turn into potlucks.  Our shows become these really connective community events.”

Shannon brings all of her own equipment and only needs “one power source and an extension cord” to put on a show.  She is paid with donations from the audience and merchandise sales.  There are no tickets, no cover charge and no opening act.  Shannon and Jamie often take hosts up on their offer of overnight accommodations.  

“Every house we go to is a brand new market.  It is the living room Tupperware model of music marketing,”  Shannon says, adding that she is continually amazed by the support audiences offer.  “Most musicians feel self doubt sometimes.  But if you show up and give people a vulnerable performance – they are going to support you.  The moment you put down your shield is the moment you find victory.”

Growing her audience using house tours is helping Shannon break through in ways she never imagined possible.  

In 2015, Shannon released a music video for her song entitled “I Know, I Know” that went viral with more than 5 million hits.  Also in October of last year after being contacted by a promoter, she played two opening sets for Shawn Colvin — one at the Raven Theater in Healdsburg, California and the other in Folsom, California.  They were her first large scale public performances in 4 years.

“I definitely want to do more shows like that, Shannon says.  “But I am not ever interested in playing in a traditional club again.”

Shannon Curtis has launched 6 albums in 4 years and was a featured speaker at a TEDx event in Arlington, Va.   She has reached out to her community to successfully crowdfund albums and videos and produced a handbook on how to do house concerts.  Most important of all, Shannon says, she now supports herself one hundred percent with her music.

“I had a talk with myself years ago about what it would take for me to feel like a success as a musician.  It’s never been on my radar to be famous or on top 40 radio  I wanted to make a living making my music — and I’ve made it,” she says.

Shannon uses social media to stay in close touch with her community, noting that Facebook is her most active channel.  She also uses her email list and newsletters to let people know about her new music, crowdfunding projects, tours and more.  During her busy tour season, she contacts fans twice a week.  During quieter times of the year, twice a month.

“The most important skill I’ve learned in my career is to be able to spin a lot of plates all at the same,” Shannon says.  “I juggle a lot of things that require different skills — talking online, planning albums sales, doing business, writing songs.”

“The New Artist Model is such a valuable tool for me.  Before I spent years researching things like ASCAP and BMI on my own.  NAM explains all that we need to know about how to traverse these waters.  That alone is worth the price of admission,” Shannon says.

“When I first met Dave Kusek I expected that the program would be a lot of stuff that I had already learned, you know, the in and outs of building a career.  But I have been pleasantly surprised many times where something I read or a video I watched sparked a new idea for me.”

“One of the things I am starting to learn about in the New Artist Model is sponsorships.  That inspired me to put together a sponsorship application.  I think there may be some companies that would be really interested.  Nothing has happened yet but it will in time — and I want to make sure I am the one who makes the rules.”

As Shannon gets ready for another summer on the road, she says she feels grateful for all the people who love her music enough to come along for the ride.

“I don’t call my supporters fans anymore.  I have a community.  It is a two way street and we support one another.”

 

Learn more about Shannon Curtis here:  http://shannoncurtis.net/

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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What’s Working in Indie Music Today: Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Eric John Kaiser

New Artist Model member Eric John Kaiser

New Artist Model member Eric John Kaiser

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist Model
Turn your passion for music into a career

Eric John Kaiser is the “French Troubadour.”  A native of Paris who lives in Portland, Oregon, this independent artist sings in French and plays guitar music steeped in  American jazz and blues.  He calls his style Parisian Americana.

“I am a songwriter and storyteller. That is what I like to do – to connect with people,” Eric says, adding that he supports himself entirely with his music. “I admire the storytelling tradition of American music, the way it combines with everything from the Delta blues to jazz. Being here in the U.S., I get the chance to live it every day rather than see it at a distance.”

Eric moved to the States in 2006.  He has released four albums and played at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco, the Blue Nile in New Orleans, the Solidays Festival in Paris and shared the stage with the Welsh super stars the “Stereophonics.”  

Eric has also toured with French star Tété, “The Lost Bayou Ramblers” in Lafayette, Louisiana, and the French band “Revolver.”

Exploring North America on multiple lengthy tours, Eric has gigged his way up through Canada and down through the South, as far as New Orleans and Washington D.C.

“If you want to go the indie route, learning about marketing is really important.  What I like about the New Artist Model (http://newartistmodel.com) is that it teaches you clearly how to get different sources of income from gigging, recording and publishing,” Eric says.  “There is no excuse not to educate yourself and the New Artist Model is the way to go.”

Before emigrating to the U.S., Eric played out part-time in Paris and did other work in the music industry. He was a programmer for the Fun Radio Network, did public relations at Source Records (a division of Virgin) and co-hosted the live music show “Melting Pop” on French television network Direct 8.

“By the time I moved to Portland, I felt like I had enough knowledge to starting playing out full-time,” Eric says, adding that local gigging at French restaurants and coffee shops helped get his career off the ground and build his confidence.

Eric still plays out a lot in Portland but says dates are getting harder to find.

“The local gigging scene is changing. Portland is saturated with musicians and it is getting harder and harder to find gigs to make a living,” Eric says, adding that many small venues are closing as more condominium and office developments spring up.

As the city has evolved, so has Eric’s business strategy.  While the bulk of his income still comes from gigging, Eric also receives money from fan funding to pay for video and recording costs.  Album pre-orders are also a good source of funds. Eric offers French cultural presentations in area schools and workshops on French songwriting.  He also performs at weddings and plays the occasional house concert.

New Artist Model has shown me the value of getting a bunch of different income streams happening.”

Crowdfunding helped Eric complete two 2014 albums.  A Kickstarter campaign for “Idaho” raised just over $7000 while a RocketHub drive for “Outside It’s America” brought in $5000.  “Idaho” enjoyed pre-sales of 400 and its Portland CD release party sold out.

Eric is about to start a new Kickstarter campaign for an album he will complete in Quebec this June. He does one crowdfunding drive every two years.

“One of the most important things to do when crowdfunding is to keep expectations realistic”, Eric says.  “After all, it is a process based on trust, and trust takes time.”

“It only works if people already know you. Success with this didn’t happen in two weeks.  It is trust that was built over the years.” says Eric. “Build a fanbase first. You can’t just post a crowdfunding project and expect people to support you.”

Understanding the kind of crowdfunding your fans will support is important too, Eric adds.  His Patreon page encourages people to donate monthly or for each new creation. So far, it hasn’t brought in much money.

“My audience is a bit older,” he says.  “It scares many people to do it month by month.  They associate it with paying bills.”

Social media is Eric’s primary tool for staying in touch with fans — and he uses it in a way that embraces his unique musical niche.  Copy on his site http://www.ericjohnkaiser.com  appears in both English and French.  

People who give Eric their full name and email address get three free songs when they sign up.  “It is a worthwhile investment”, he says.

“Lots of people don’t believe in email lists but I do,” he says.  “Don’t just depend on Facebook, don’t let it control your contacts.”

Email is the most important channel Eric uses to keep in touch with fans — with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram close behind.  He reaches out to his fans once a day using his social media channels and sends our an email to his list once a month.  There are more than 4000 people on his email list and roughly the same number of friends on his Facebook page. He does not put much work into creating new fans online, opting instead to let it happen organically in person. “The connection with people at my shows is much stronger,” he says.

While Eric uses social media, he also spreads the word about his work in ways that are decidedly low-tech. He uses flyers and posters to announce his shows and asks French bakeries, restaurants and cultural organizations to help him spread the word. He also contacts local media outlets for coverage. “I’ve learned to make things easy for people who want to talk about you,” Eric says, adding that providing well written bios and promotional materials increase your chances of getting covered. “Be concise, precise and provide links that work.”

Eric spends each day on a combination of creativity and commerce. He rises early, checks his email and then reads marketing articles from the New Artist Model and other sources. He works on songwriting for a couple of hours. In the afternoon he works on booking gigs. Evenings are often spent playing out.

Some of his current projects include beefing up his YouTube channel with more cover songs and booking more house tours — both efforts inspired by the New Artist Model.

“People don’t realize how much work it is.  A labor of love that is almost 7 days a week.  If I don’t work, there is nothing that is going to be handed to me”, he says.  “Art and business have to cohabitate together. Like a brother you kind of get along with but not really — hey it’s your brother!”

Eric finds time to give back to the community in spite of his heavy workload. In the wake of the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, Eric organized a benefit concert in Portland to raise funds to aid victims.  Eric and his musician friends raised more than $1800 for the French nonprofit organization IMAD which battles racism.

Eric says he will continue his musical journey through America this year with more dates in Vancouver, San Francisco, Portland, Idaho, Utah and Montana.

Learn more about Eric here: http://www.ericjohnkaiser.com/

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 information visit http://newartistmodel.com

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Startups Not Students – Boston Globe Article

Part of my thinking behind the New Artist Model online music business school was that I knew that a music degree or college certificate program was financially out of reach for far too many people looking to develop a healthy future in music for themselves.

A reporter interviewed me a couple weeks back and here is the story from the Boston Globe.

Boston Globe Header

“So there was a need, a very clear need, that folks around the world wanted to acquire a high-quality music education,” said Kusek, a former vice president at the Berklee College of Music.

By the time the Cohasset resident left Berklee in 2012, he knew he wanted to create an alternative to costly music degrees that would embody the new landscape of self-marketing through social media.

Kusek invested his own money in 2014 to launch an online music school, New Artist Model, that serves as a one-stop platform aimed at teaching independent artists to think of themselves as startups, not students. He runs the company from Cohasset and has a staff of three people.

“You no longer get picked by a record company to have a career; you have to create your career yourself, develop your audience, create a business around yourself in order to move forward with your art and your music,” Kusek, said. “I wanted to focus on how can I help people create a business around themselves that would allow them to pursue their dream of being a successful musician, however they define that.”

New Artist Model does not award degrees. Instead, it offers students the option of completing two education tiers, Essential and Master, that teaches artists to be better entrepreneurs, develop a fan base through social media, and ultimately turn those fans into their marketers, Kusek said.

“I think it’s very true today that you don’t need a degree to have a career in music,” he said. “What you need is talent — that’s number one — and the business savvy to be able to pull it off in this environment. . . . If you do have the talent and you understand the business side, you have a chance of creating a meaningful career for yourself.”

In the two years since New Artist Model was launched, enrollment is approaching 1,100 members from 60 countries, with another 1,000 or so expected to enroll this year, he said. The two programs cost $500 and $2,000, respectively, and offer a year’s worth of material, including webinars, live workshops, and downloadable guides that students may consume at their own pace.

The one-time fees also give students lifetime access to teaching content on the site and a forum where they can share ideas with other artists on anything from music licensing to creating merchandise, Kusek said.

“The worst thing you can do as a musician is pay $100,000 for education and then have no money left in the tank to invest in your career,” he said. “It’s not our goal to get you a degree you can hang on your wall; it’s to get you the skills and the connection with people in the business that can help you move forward.”

See the original story here.

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8 Tips for Making a Good Impression at Gigs

Guest post by Jonathan Sexton | CEO Bandposters

Before I ran a company, I played hundreds if not thousands of gigs all over the US. I’ve played to 10,000 people (2 or 3 times) and I’ve played to 10 people (more than 2 or 3 times). As important as learning “how to make it”, I’ve learned 8 things NOT to do when showing up for gigs, especially to a new venue in a new town. Everyone of these tips come from cringe worthy personal experience. Here are some great ways to make a good impression on your next show or tour.

1. Don’t Be Late for Your Gigs

Everybody is late, be different. This is the baseline of professionalism, if you show up on time, are professional and easy to work with and don’t have a huge crowd your first time out, it is more than likely you’ll get a few more shots at it. Venues and sound teams have a million better things to do than come and find you. If something happens that you can’t help (van breaks down etc.), then call as soon as you can. Then be on time next show.

2. Don’t Hangout in the Green Room All Night­

Your show and your career completely hinges on how many fans you can earn. Fans love your music and they want to know you. If you are new to the market, you need to get to know the sound guy, the bartenders, the regulars; you’re playing gigs to earn fans and build a business.
Don’t hide, get out and talk to everyone, be friendly. Relationships are the key to the music industry and this where those relationships are made. Don’t hide. Get out there with the people

3. Master Stage Volume­

If you play a show, and the crowd can’t hear the vocals, you’ve lost (this includes punk and metal). There are a million scientific reasons that the human vocal cords cannot compete with drums and amps. Some big clubs have the power to get the vocals up over anything, but most small clubs do not. In my opinion, it starts with the drums, you can play great without playing as hard as you can. Then guitars have to get over the drums, and the vocalist is generally screwed, let the PA do the work, so you don’t have too.

4. Talk to the Crowd

­​You may have played your songs 1000 times, but that new person in the crowd or in a new city has no idea who you are, what your songs are called, and what your twitter handle is. Tell them, thank them for being there, introduce the band, say something funny. You have to engage the audience. It’s a show and you are earning their interest. The best bands plan when they are going to say something in the set, and what they are going to say. Not scripted, but at least a general idea.

5. But Don’t Talk too Much­​

Don’t ramble on before every single song, also, my pet peeve is when people say “this is a new one” it’s like a reverse apology. 9 times outta 10­­ they are all new ones, even the old ones, because most people haven’t heard you before. I prefer to play 3 songs, then say a little something, then play 3 more. It seems to be the right mix. Find what works for you and your audience. In the end it’s a music show, engage your audience, but don’t monologue.

6. Don’t Get Wasted­​

This screams amateur hour. It’s not even about acting like a fool, you also lose awareness of how you are performing. No one in the industry wants to babysit you. Have fun, but don’t fall off the stage.

7. Thank the Crowd (even if it’s just the sound guy)

T​he first 15 minutes after your gigs are your best opportunity to collect new emails, thank fans and sell merch, especially if you are the opening band. Once the next band starts, it’s harder to talk because it’s loud and people’s attention is elsewhere. In my band, we had a deal that we’d
divide and conquer. 3 bandmates would get the gear taken care of and 2 of us would immediately hit the crowd or get to the merch booth. That way we could maximize the small window of opportunity and have contact info for the people that we would reach out to when we return.

8. Thank the Venue­​

Taking 5 minutes to find the manager or head bartender after your gigs, look them in the eye, and thank them for having you can do wonders for your career. You are building relationships and it’s something that most people do not do. It’s a great way to stand out from the hundreds of other bands that play at the venue around the year. Same with being on time and professional, venues will remember it the next time that you want to play at their spot.

Bandposters lets you design, print, and ship customized posters everywhere in seconds. We make it easy, in just three simple steps. First, use our powerful design tools to create a custom poster. Next, choose your tour dates or other destinations, and we’ll print that data directly on the poster (no more magic markers!). Then we take care of the rest – we print every poster with care and ship directly to the venues or wherever else you’d like. 

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How to Self Release An Album

One of the biggest questions I get all the time is “How do I self release an album?” The truth is, today it’s easier than ever to release your own music without the help of a big record label. But, there’s a difference between just releasing your album and releasing your album successfully. Anyone can post their new music to Facebook, YouTube, or SoundCloud, or sell it on CD Baby. But how do you make your release really successful? How do you get people talking, downloading, and buying, and make an impact in the crowded world of indie musicians?

I recently interviewed New Artist Model member Alex Cowles. Alex is a producer and DJ going by the name Stillhead, currently located in Riga, Latvia. He creates deep and dub-influenced electronic music and runs the Brightest Dark Place record label and Cut, a subscription-based label that grew out of giving music away for free. On top of that, he’s a blogger and a podcaster, and recently he started sharing everything he’s learned as a self-releasing artist through a collection of courses called How to Self Release. I hope his experiences and insights will help inspire you to self release an album.

Free Download: The Musician’s Guide to Getting More Done

1. As a musician, what are you currently working on?

Right now I have a couple of things happening musically.

Firstly, I decided to set myself a challenge for November. I wanted to try and create a short loop every day, which was no more than 8-16 bars, and didn’t take me longer than 30-60 minutes.

The challenge is to get me into the habit of producing music every day, not feeling like I need to spend forever tweaking sounds before they’re ready, and get into the habit of just finishing things, no matter how small.

So far, it’s been going well – I’ve had a few people join in here and there, although ultimately it’s more of a personal thing for me, than for anybody else.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I’m starting to get things together for promotion of my forthcoming album. I don’t think I can divulge too much at this point, but it’s going to be coming out on CD and 12″ in late January 2016, all going to plan.

Aside from those two things, I’m open for things like remixes, and putting together new tracks, but it’s more of a “when I have time” type thing.

2. You’ve done a bit of everything in the industry. But what drove you to be so involved and get away from the whole “I just want to play music” mentality?

Well, with everything I do that isn’t related to the music industry (design, blogging etc), I’ve always tried to do as much as possible – I never settle with just one project, since I love to have lots of different things happening and keeping me busy.

That combined with the fact that if I see something that needs done and I feel that I can do it myself, I’ll give it a go and try to make something of it. I’m very much of the opinion that if you want something done, do it yourself. That way you can’t complain about it being done badly, and you can generally get exactly what you want from it all.

I think most people also realise fairly quickly that unless you strike it lucky with a big single, or an acclaimed album – as a musician, you have to look at working on multiple income streams and projects. There’s no use just being a musician and expecting everyone else to do things for you. You need to get your hands dirty with lots of avenues.

From something as apparent as releasing your own music, through to sample creation or session musician work – there are always other ways to expand on what you’re doing, and I’d say most f the successful musicians I know do more than just play or produce. They have radio shows, run nights, run labels, own stores, host podcasts, or some combination of any of those things.

3. Do you think artists can still be successful just playing music in today’s industry? How important do you think it is to understand the business and label side of things?

I think if you want to be successful exclusively as a musician, or electronic music producer, you should be prepared to put an insane amount of work in before you get anywhere, and bear in mind that there are no guarantees regardless of your level of talent.

There’s nothing to say you won’t end up successful, but I think more and more these days with popularity being influenced by so much more than musical merit, you’re far better of doing yourself a favour and trying to learn as much as possible about everything affiliated with what you do.

The collateral of your music career is something you should try as much as possible to retain control of, and if you’re not aware of what it all is, or how it all works, you’re at a serious disadvantage, and ripe to be taken advantage of.

4. I’d love to hear more about your subscription-based label, Cut. Can you tell us a bit more about how it works? How did that idea come about and evolve into what it is today?

Cut stemmed from a logo design. A bit of a backwards way of doing things, but I had a label already (Echodub – which no longer operates really). So I was releasing digital EPs, but I wanted to put music out for free.

I saw artists just sticking zip files up online with badly tagged mp3s, wavs, varying levels of quality, some things mastered, some not, sometimes artwork and so on – and it made me consider a situation where that free music was packaged properly, tagged, encoded, mastered and done in a way that meant it was more than just an afterthought.

So with that, Cut was born – initially for free releases, and we grew pretty fast, all things considered. The core of it was run through Bandcamp and via an ever-growing email subscription list.

But a couple of years ago, I was getting to around 15,000 subscribers, and so it got expensive to run the label. Mastering an EP, sorting the artwork, and then emailing that many people, as well as any promotion was starting to cost more than I was able to get from the kind people who donated for each release (they were “pay what you want, including 0” on Bandcamp).

So a friend suggested that I try switching to a subscription model – and since seeing Soma Records do it to some degree of success back in the mid 2000s, (I don’t know if they still do) I thought it would be worth a shot.

I was able to set the site and system up myself, with my day-job skills (which have been super-handy when it comes to launching new projects!).

So currently we offer subscription at $2 per month. That gives you instant access to all of our entire catalogue, and a new release every month.

The setup allows me to pay artists for their music up front, plus gives them a guaranteed audience (which is growing over time), plus I cover the cost of mastering and promotion for each monthly release.

We’re also approaching our 40th release, which we’re going to be celebrating by releasing our first physical product – a limited-edition miniature-vinyl-style 4 CD box-set, which I’m currently crowd-funding at the moment. I’m confident we can make our goal in the next couple of weeks.

I’m currently also thinking about ways to expand our user base and grow the label, so there may be a free membership level introduced with limited access, or perhaps access to lower quality bit-rate files. I’ve yet to figure that one out!

5. So you’ve released 4 albums and 20 EPs. From everything you’ve learned, what’s the most important piece of advice you could give indie musicians who are wondering how to self release an album?

For a long time I’ve been telling people not to rush into releases. Make sure you’re 100% happy with your tracks before you farm them out to labels, or decide what to do with them.

The thing is, recently I’ve been hearing more and more about how it’s more beneficial to just get your stuff done, get into the habit of finishing and getting your work out there, since some people are of the opinion that releasing as much music as possible is the key to building your career.

I guess my issue is that I felt I was doing that with DFRNT, and it led to lots of regretful releases, which I don’t feel like I can support any more. WIth Stillhead I’m taking my time and being far more careful about it all – which means I’m still super-happy to support, play and discuss my first EP which came out a year ago now. It feels much better.

So I think I’d probably still stick with telling people to make sure they’re 100% happy with their tracks before they send them out – there’s no harm in waiting another month, listening to the tracks again and making sure you’re still excited about them!

6. Tell us a bit about How to Self Release. What is it, and what made you decide to create this resource for indie musicians?

Well… I knew I wanted to impart some advice to people, and to really help them learn from the mistakes I’ve made. After 9 or so years dealing with the music industry, you realise that it helps if you have somebody giving you solid advice, and it’s nice not to have to learn exclusively through making mistakes!

A few years ago, I put together howtosendmemusic.com which was a one-page site, which stemmed from an article I wrote called “Dub Etiquette” which was an interview with a selection of people who were getting sent loads of music. It covered how they like to consume it, what they prefer to get in their inbox, and all of the ways in which they feed back, deal with tagging, file naming and so on.

I wrote the article, published it online, and also published it in a short-run magazine I did for a single issue called “Modus” (yes, I even published a magazine once) – but after that had come and gone, I felt people were still really just not getting it, so I put the site together with some far more straight-forward advice.

More recently, I figured I wanted to help people further, and self-releasing was something I had done a fair bit of before. Usefully though I’ve been on both sides of the table with releasing music, as a label owner and curator doing A&R, management and promotion, but also as an artist on my own labels, and on other people’s labels too.

So with that wealth of knowledge and experience – I wanted to put that into a format where people could learn from it all, and a blog, combined with courses seemed like the best idea.

So the site is basically the hub for my writing on the subject of self-releasing and running your own record label.

At the same time, I’ve put out a free course which has an overview and process for self-releasing or starting a small label.

I’m currently also working on a giant, far more in-depth premium course, which I hope to have done before Christmas, which will be much more of a comprehensive guide to successfully self-releasing or starting a label and releasing music effectively.

In the distance I’m also looking at a course which will help musicians build their audience, but that’s probably a good 6 months away yet. I need to do more of that for my own productions first, and run a few different strategies to see what’s effective and what’s not.

But the best thing you can do is jump over to the blog and stick yourself on the mailing list – it’ll keep you up to date on all the courses and advice I’m giving away.

7. As you know, a big thing we focus on in the New Artist Model is goal-setting. Now obviously you’ve done a lot already, but what do you see yourself doing in the next few years? Do you have an end-goal where you’d really like to see your career end up?

This is a tough one, since I feel my goals tend to morph and change all the time.

I used to think it would be amazing to be a big DJ and to tour and play all over the world, but nowadays I’d be content with a few gigs a year if they were good ones, and people turned up – maybe sit-down gigs. It would be great to be known well enough that people were up for coming to a sit-down gig of my deep, or even ambient stuff.

I’d love to be successful as an artist. Successful enough to have an audience who are dedicated and keen to buy my releases – but I don’t need to be ultra-famous or huge – just a level of respect and admiration that meant if I got 500-1000 units of a release pressed, I’d be able to shift them all comfortably, and make enough to continue to do that in future.

I’d like to build How To Self Release into a resource that people love, and a system that allows me to add new content, while having a recurring income from course sales that affords me time to produce more courses and continue to help people.

I’d like my podcast to be successful enough that some of the bigger labels ask me to premier tracks for them.

And it would be good to get Cut Records to around 1000 subscribers, so that I can feed a decent chunk of money back to artists for their releases, and still have enough to master and effectively promote the releases every month.

I think this list could just go on and on, to be honest – with a multitude of projects and outlets, comes a multitude of goals and ideals – I can’t see all of them working out, but perhaps if one or two do, I can focus on the rest further down the line.

Get more tips on getting more done as an indie musician here

Sync Licensing for Indie Musicians

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There are a lot of musicians who dream of scoring a sync license. I mean, who wouldn’t want their music on the big screen in front of tons of people? But once you start seriously looking into it, you discover just how much there is to learn, especially if you’re going at it as an independent artist.

If you’re ready to start pursuing sync placements for your music, you want to make sure you understand the copyright behind the sync license first, and that is what this article is all about.

After you master the copyright side of it, you can take the next step towards getting a sync license for your music by joining this free DIY Music Licensing Workshop. Kevin Breuner from CD Baby and I will be going through tips for getting your music in front of music supervisors, micro sync opportunities for indie musicians, and a whole lot more, so be sure to sign up!

What is a Sync License?

When you write or record music you automatically get copyright protection and are granted exclusive rights. No one else can use that music unless you give them permission. If you do choose to allow someone to use your music, you’re giving them a license.

Why would you want to give someone a license? By allowing someone else to use your music, you’re reaching a new audience that you probably wouldn’t have been able to reach on your own. Simply getting your music in front of new people can be enough to grow your fanbase. On top of that, licensing your music is a great way to make some extra revenue.

A sync license gives someone permission to synchronize your music with some kind of visual medium like TV shows, advertisements, movies, or video games.

It’s important to remember that when you grant someone a sync license, you are not giving your rights to that song away. You are basically renting the rights to them for that specific use. Ultimately, you own the copyright and you can use that song elsewhere or even license it for a different movie or advertisement if you should choose.

Negotiating Your Sync License

To understand how sync licenses are negotiated, we have to go a little deeper. There are actually two different kinds of copyright. The “composition” copyright protects the song, or the melody and lyrics, and is usually owned by the songwriter. The “sound recording” copyright protects the recording of the song, or the master, and is usually owned by the performing artist. As an indie artist, if you write and record your songs, you end up with two different copyrights for each song.

If someone wants to use your song in a movie, they need permission to use both copyrights.

With that in mind, indie artists actually have a distinct advantage in the world of sync licensing. If you own both copyrights – without any label or publisher involvement – sync deals can be pretty straightforward to negotiate. And for that reason, music supervisors will often specifically seek out indie artists.

On the other hand, if there is a songwriter, their publisher, a recording artist and their label, a lot more people are involved in the negotiation. If just one of those parties decide they don’t want to grant the license, the entire license falls through.

On top of that, there is no standard payment for a sync license. The rates are negotiated on a case by case basis and it will depend on the production’s budget, your influence as an artist and negotiator, and how important it is to have that particular song.

Some artists will license their music for free just to get the exposure (but we wouldn’t recommend that), while other artists get tens of thousands of dollars for a single sync license. There is a lot of art to the negotiation of a sync deal, which we will explore more in the free DIY Music Licensing Workshop.


Alright, now that you have a basic understanding of what a sync is all about, it’s time to learn more about actually finding placements for your music in movies, TV, games, and YouTube. Join CD Baby’s Kevin Breuner and I in a free DIY Music Licensing Workshop to learn how to break into licensing as an indie artist.

The History of Listening: Infographic

Since the beginning, the way we consume and experience music has changed time and time again. In fact, a lot of us have seen at least a few major shifts in musical medium in our lifetime.

From vinyl to radio to digital and streaming, one thing we know for sure about music is that the method of consumption won’t stay the same for long.

But I want to take this opportunity to talk about an important issue in the music industry. Shifts in the way music is consumed doesn’t spell doom for the entire industry. Some companies who can’t adapt may suffer, but the underlying need for music will ALWAYS  be there.

If you want to learn how to adapt to the changes in the music industry, you need to learn how to think like an entrepreneur, and I take you through the process of starting to think like a musical entrepreneur in this free ebook. But in the mean time, check out this infographic from YDT on the history of music listening.

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The New Artist Model YouTube Channel

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When we think of YouTube, we think of covers, viral videos, and music videos. But, while a lot of the content on YouTube is primarily entertaining, you can also find and learn almost anything from YouTube videos. There’s a wealth of information for musicians from Pro Tools tutorials, song playthroughs, and gear reviews, to presentations, marketing strategy breakdowns, and interviews.

As musicians today, we live in one of the most incredible music environments. You can literally pick up a new instrument or program, watch a few videos, and be well on your way to becoming proficient. If you want to try out Twitter ads to promote your music you can probably find a video tutorial on YouTube. You can watch interviews with your favorite songwriters to learn some of the secrets behind their incredible songs. And you can watch your favorite band go through their gear and learn how they get their signature sound.

“I don’t know how,” isn’t much of an excuse anymore, and that’s a good thing. I’ve said it before, but as a musician, you should never stop learning, and today, free resources like articles, music blogs, and YouTube are really enabling you to reach your dreams.

A lot of you have found the free lessons that I have been releasing really helpful, so I wanted to let you know that you can get even more free content over on the New Artist Model YouTube channel. Learn quick marketing strategies that you can apply to your music career immediately, learn more about copyright, publishing, or gigging, and get tips from some of the most successful musicians and music industry folks out there.

I’ve posted a lot of the webinars I’ve hosted over the past year or so on the New Artist Model YouTube channel as well including my interviews with Benji Rogers of Pledge Music, Alex Mitchell of Audiokite, Shamal Ranasinghe of Fluence, Kevin Breuner of CD Baby, Jack Conte of Pomplamoose and Patreon, DJ Hapa, and house concert master Shannon Curtis.

Music Strategies: Following Through

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Image via Paul Katcher on Flickr

There are a ton of music strategies out there that will help you grow your fanbase, get more gigs, sell more music, sell more merch, and grow your social media following. I’ve even shared a lot of them on this blog. However, I know a lot of people get frustrated when these music strategies don’t result in the amount of growth and progress as they expect.

The truth is, most of these music strategies just cover the first few steps. Using great hashtags, posting regularly, releasing great content, and following relevant people on Twitter and Instagram will definitely grow your following. But if you’re not converting those followers to email subscribers or driving them to your website you may have a hard time making more money.

Adding a clickable cover photo to your Facebook page that links to your email collection page will certainly grow your email list. But it’s only the first step. An email list is just a number unless you follow through, send relevant emails, and drive those subscribers to take action and purchase your music, merch, or tickets.

In the same way, collaborating with other musicians and bands to get gigs in new venues and cities will certainly get you in front of a new audience, but if you don’t find some way to connect with those people online via email or social media, they may never hear from you again.

Releasing awesome YouTube covers and drawing in a huge audience from organic search is great. But even if your video goes viral and gets millions and millions of views, it’s not worth much unless you use the video to funnel those viewers to connect with you on social media, via email, or buy your music. After all, they could just click off and never find you or your music again.

As you can see, it’s all connected. Your live performances, your social media growth, your email list, your music sales – it all funnels into and loops back to one another.

I want you to start thinking of all the different aspects in your music career as a seamless flow rather than a bunch of unconnected music strategies.

Avoid thinking, “If I get more followers on social media I’ll be successful,” or “If I work on writing better emails I’ll be successful.”

If you want to be successful, you need to think about the flow between all these different strategies. “How can I get more gigs,” funnels into “how can I grow my following on social media,” which funnels into “how can I drive more traffic to my website,” which funnels into “how can I grow my email list,” which funnels into “what can I send my email list to drive sales,” which funnels into “what products can I offer my fans.”

It’s not a strategy, it’s a process. I recently created a social media guide that covers this same concept, but focuses on promoting your music in the online world. In the guide, we go through the flow from fanbase growth to making sales. If you’re interested, I’m giving this How to Promote Your Music guide away for free. You can download it here.

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