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how to book gigs as an indie musician

Gigs – before a booking agent will work with you every musician has to start out booking their own gigs and concerts. But, as you’ve probably realized, this is a lot easier said than done.

Especially since there are SO many musicians and bands competing for very limited performance spots. It can feel like a hopeless game of cold calling promoters and venue owners only to get turned down (or ignored).

Venues want to book bands with experience. After all, for them it’s a game of risk management – they want to book bands they know will fill the room. And that means getting the spot as a new or unestablished band can be very tricky.

But NOT IMPOSSIBLE. In fact, today I’m going to go through a bunch of ways you can get on the radar of local venues, get on the stage, and how to get more gigs as an independent musician.

But first…

What is a Promoter?

A promoter or venue owner is someone who buys talent. Depending on the size of the venue, they work independently or with booking agents to book bands and musicians to perform.

So, how do they make money? The venue will usually get a percentage of ticket sales and also make money from food and drink sales.

As you can see, the business of venues is really all about numbers – if they don’t fill the room, they don’t make money. This is where you come in. If you want to get the gig, you need to be able to prove that you can bring an audience and make the night profitable for them as well as yourself.

Having some kind of track record or EPK (electronic press kit that details your gigging accomplishments and experience) will really help you pitch your case.

If you can show them that you can fill similarly sized local venues, that you have an email list of 500 locals that you can use to promote the show, and give them a live video to show how great your performance is, you’ll make a much more convincing pitch.

If you don’t have much experience gigging and performing yet, keep reading. We’ll cover a few strategies for breaking into the gigging scene in just a minute.

Want to know the best time to book your gigs?

The best time to book gigs

1. Finding the RIGHT Venues to Book Gigs

The first step of the booking process is always research. Most venues prefer to work with professional artists, and the best way to prove your professionalism is to show that you care enough to take the time to do some basic research.

Especially with venues, there are SO many variables. Some venues may cater to a certain genre, others tend to serve a target demographic like college students or working professionals, and many have age restrictions you need to consider.

You need to make sure your music and audience matches up with the venues you choose to contact. If your fans are mostly teens, don’t book clubs with age restrictions. In the same way, if you play upbeat country, contacting a venue that tends to book rock and roll gigs is a really good way to make a bad impression.

An easy way to get this information would be to check out the venue’s website. If they have live music, they’ll probably have a page listing some upcoming or past acts. Do you fit in?

With that in mind, the BEST way to get a feel for the venue is to actually go there. Go to some gigs. Get a feel for the vibe and the demographics. Get to know some of the staff. If you’re not involved in your local music scene as a fan, you’re going to have a hard time getting involved as a musician.

2. Make a Spreadsheet

Now, don’t get let your eyes glaze over at the mention of spreadsheets.

It will take a little extra effort up front, but in the long run you’ll be saving yourself time. You’ll be able to come back to this in the future when you’re looking to book gigs and have everything you need right in front of you.

Create a spreadsheet for yourself with information on local venues. Here are some things that would be useful to include:

  • Venue name
  • Website
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • The name of the booker
  • Venue size, address
  • A short description on the type of music and audience they cater to
  • Have you played there before

If you want a free action plan to help you achieve your goals in music, click here.

3. Make a Connection

Personal connections are everything in the music business. And I’m not just talking about your connections with booking agents and venues.

Your connections with other local bands could be your biggest asset when it comes to booking gigs or breaking into new music scenes or larger venues.

Think about all the musicians and bands you know in your area. Where do they play? If you’re interested in playing any of those venues, get in touch and suggest a collaboration. Pitch your band as the opening act or do a collaborative 50/50 set split.

When dealing with more local-level venues, the bands often have more liberty to organize their own opening act, so they can be your ticket to getting your foot in the door. Play there a few times as an opener. Make sure your live show makes a good impression on the bookers and venue staff. Get to know the decision makers. Use these gigs as a chance to grow your fanbase. And eventually you’ll be able to leverage all that to book yourself as the headliner.

Open mic nights can also be a great way to make yourself known. There may not be a huge audience and you may only get to perform a few songs, but they give you the chance to make an impression on the venue booker.

4. Contacting Venues

If you’ve had the chance to play at the venue, the best way to connect with venue owners or promoters is in person. However, if you’re writing an email you want to be short and to the point. Here are some best-practices:

  • Make the subject line clear. If you’re inquiring about a certain date, include that as well as the lineup. As an example, your subject line could read “Nov 7 booking- My Band + Opening Band.”
  • Use actionable language. Seriously. If you’re vague and don’t ask for the gig, you’re not going to get it. Tell them what you want.
  • Address the booker by name.
  • Be brief and stay relevant. They don’t need a novel on your life to book a gig at a local 250 person venue. Only include information that will directly help your cause. Link to a gigging EPK with information like other local venues you’ve played, how many tickets you can sell, the size of your mailing list / social following, and a live recording or video so they can hear your live sound.

5. Make a Promotion Plan

Especially if you’re playing smaller, local venues, you’re going to be doing most of the promotion yourself, so tell them how you will promote the show.

At the most basic level, you can set up a Facebook event, put up some fliers, and share some social posts and emails promoting the gig.

But we can do better than that, right?

  • Come up with some incentive to get fans to buy tickets early (as opposed to at the door). Maybe you can give away a merch bundle to anyone who buys early. Or maybe they will get a coupon that they can use to buy cool stuff at your merch booth at a big discount.
  • Give the show a cool theme. Maybe all the bands in the set will cover one of each other’s songs. Maybe you’ll all cover a song from a particular band that inspires you. Get creative and see what you can come up with. Try to make the show seem special.
  • Let your fans vote on the set list/order. When fans feel involved in something they are much more likely to financially support it.

6. Follow Up and Be Professional

The process doesn’t end after you get the gig. If you want to really connect with the local audience, you need to play the venues regularly. So introduce yourself to the venue’s booker and staff and keep in touch.

On top of that, the best way to build a good relationship with local venues is to be professional. Always be on time for shows – in fact, be early! Make sure all your gear is working properly. Treat any sound or light technicians with respect and follow any venue rules. Above all, be prepared for your set and play well-rehearsed songs.

Sometimes the gigging grind can get tiring, but you need to remember that for the promoter and the fans, this one show is everything.

7. Think Outside the Box

As an end note, keep in mind that you don’t need to only book gigs at traditional venues. Live music is something so embedded in our culture. And that means there are A LOT of opportunities.

Often it can be easier to get gigs if you step out of the traditional venue scene. There are always plenty of community or charity events, store openings, and company parties that are looking for great live music. These markets tend to be much less saturated than traditional venues.

House concerts are also a great option if you want to skip the gatekeepers all together and take your performances straight to your fans.

Another option is college gigs. There’s a whole industry dedicated to booking college performers, and it can actually be an extremely lucrative venture.

While there are a lot of opportunities outside traditional venues, always keep your goals in mind. Doing corporate parties or college gigs ins’t going to be for everyone.

Always ask yourself, will this gig take me closer to my goals? Or is it just a paycheck? Of course, sometimes you have to take those just-a-paycheck gigs, you know, the ones where your heart’s not really in it. But doing too many will get you discouraged and running out of drive.

Conclusion: How to Book Gigs on Your Own as an Indie Musician

Hopefully you’ll be able to use these tips to book bigger and better gigs for yourself both in your local music scene and beyond.

Remember, the most important element to booking great gigs is planning. Click below to get a free ebook on how to achieve your goals today! This planning guide will help you organize yourself and focus in on goals in every aspect of your music career.

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There’s a few ways to approach your gig. Once you book the gig, you could lug your gear up on stage, play a few of your best songs, lug your gear off stage, and go home. This is the tried and true method for indie musicians playing smaller venues and trying to build up their audience. It works, but because it’s tried and true, everyone is doing it. From the audience’s perspective, it’s easy for your music to blend into the music of the band before you.

The other route you could take is to make your gig an experience. This means you need to go beyond just playing for your audience – you need to get them involved. There are plenty of musicians who have done this is the past and tons who are doing it today. Frank Zappa, KISS, Phish, EDM DJs, and the Orion Experience are just a few who have turned their live show into an experience. Zappa’s audience never knew what antics were coming next, Phish fans reacted in certain ways to certain songs, EDM DJ’s change up their set depending on the mood and energy of the room, and the Orion Experience turned their live show into a full-on production with dancers and lights.

You don’t need to be at the point in your career where you can afford to hire a team of 30 dancers to be able to turn your gig into an experience. Get your fans clapping during certain songs or singing during others. Bring out funny props or throw a beach ball into the crowd for your fans to throw around. Get creative with it!

This article is by Chris Robley from CD Baby. This is just a short excerpt from the interview, but you can check out the whole thing over on the CD Baby blog.

What led you to creating an off-Broadway show featuring your band and music? 

The Orion Experience as a band has been together since 2007, and we’ve played all over the country, mostly in indie rock venues. I think there comes a point when, as an artist and a performer, it becomes a bit routine. I’m not trying to disparage the live music experience at all, but in other forms of entertainment i.e. a Movie, or a Theatrical show, there is a suspension of disbelief that the audience participates in… And by that I mean, the lights go down, the orchestra plays the overture, there is the feeling that something magical is about to happen… A lot of times at an indie rock show, the sound guy says you have 5 minutes to set up as the audience watches you lug your amps onto the stage and tune your guitars… I think we just got tired of that kind of performing, and that was the impetus to start approaching our live show in a different way.

I’ve heard that when you were playing shorter sets in clubs you employed someone to simply dim the lights after every song. Can you talk more about some creative solutions your average indie band could use to liven up a typical club gig?

That was one of the first steps we took towards adding some theatricality to our shows. Even the simple act of having the lights go dark before we take the stage, or after a song ends can have a big effect on how the audience perceives the show. You know, look at your stage the way a painter looks at a canvas… What kind of picture are you trying to paint with your band? It’s important.

Can you tell us some of the details of taking your songs to an off-Broadway setting? What was the process like working with a director? How long did it all take? How large is the crew, and what are the different teams that play a role (dancers, lighting, sound engineers, etc.)? 

I went to school for Musical Theater, so the process wasn’t completely alien to me, but that being said, it was unlike anything we had ever done before. The whole show was up and running in a month, which is an insanely fast pace. Fortunately we had an amazing team of people. Travis Greisler the director is a crazy genius, he’s just non-stop ideas, and he just knows how to pace a show’s development. Ryan Bogner, the shows producer worked his ass off coordinating the venue, the PR, and raising money. All told we had a cast and crew of about 30 people. It was really exciting, i’m not gonna lie.

How do you encourage audience involvement? Why is interactivity important? 

When we we’re coming up with the concept of the show, we thought it was important to have the audience participate in the show the way they do at a “Rocky Horror Show” screening, or a KISS concert… I love the idea of getting dressed up, like REALLY dressed up for a show, so we came up with the idea of the STAR CHILD, it’s kind of like your inner most fantastic self. We strongly encourage people to come dressed as Star Children to our shows, and they do, and it’s the best thing ever! The interactivity is important, because the energy is shared with everyone in the room. It becomes more about the sum of the experience instead of just the band’s experience.

 How can you turn your gig into an experience?

The New Artist Model is an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers and songwriters. Our classes teach essential music business and marketing skills that will take you from creativity to commerce while maximizing your chances for success.

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Even with all this new technology floating around these days, the music industry is still completely driven by people. Obviously you have the musicians creating new music, but you also have the club owners, the promoters, the producers, the recording engineers, the session musicians, and even the guys running the sound board at your local club. If you really want to make it in the music industry, you need to make connections with all of these people. They are the ones who will help you move your career forward, not the fact that your music is on iTunes.

As a performing musician it’s easy to get caught up in your live show. You have to plan and remember the set list, get your gear set up right, give a killer performance, engage with your audience, and so much more. However, it’s really important to remember that your sound is one of the most important parts of the show, and the sound guy is completely in charge of that. You also need to remember that the relationship you have with the sound guy goes beyond this one gig. You’ll probably have to work with him (or her) if you come back to that venue in the future. A good relationship could lead to other opportunities. Maybe she is a fiddle player that would be interested in recording a track on your newest song. Maybe he also mixes recordings and can help you out with your new album. The point is that you never know who could provide you with a great opportunity, so be nice, considerate, and respectful to everyone you meet in this industry.

These tips come from Ari Herstand and was originally published on Digital Music News. These are just a few tips, but you can see the full list over on Digital Music News.

Get His Name
The first thing you should do is introduce yourself to the sound guy when you arrive. Shake his hand, look him in the eye and exchange names. Remember his name – you’re most likely going to need to use it many many times that night and possibly a couple times through the mic during your set. If you begin treating him with respect from the get go he will most likely return this sentiment.

Respect His Ears
All sound guys take pride in their mixing. Regardless of the style of music they like listening to in their car, they believe they can mix any genre on the spot. However, most sound guys will appreciate hearing what you, the musician, like for a general house mix of your band’s sound. Don’t be afraid to tell him a vibe or general notes (“this should feel like a warm back massage” or “we like the vocals and acoustic very high in the mix” or “we like keeping all vocal mics at about the same level for blended harmonies” or “add lots of reverb on the lead vocals, but keep the fiddle dry”). He’ll appreciate knowing what you like and will cater to that. He is most likely a musician himself, so treat him as one – with respect. He knows music terms – don’t be afraid to use them.

Don’t Start Playing Until He’s Ready
Set up all of your gear but don’t start wailing on the guitar or the drums until all the mics are in place and he’s back by the board. Pounding away on the kit while he’s trying to set his mics will surely piss him off and ruin his ears. Get there early enough for sound check so you have plenty of time to feel the room out (and tune your drums).

Have An Input List
If you need more than 5 inputs, print out an accurate, up to date list of all inputs (channels). A stage plot can also be very helpful – especially for bigger shows. Email both the stage plot and input list over in advance. The good sound guys will have everything setup before you arrive (this typically only happens at BIG venues). If you’re at a line-check-only club, then just print it out and give it to the sound guy right before your set.

Have your connections in the music industry ever lead to opportunity?

If you’re ready to turn your music into a career, check out the New Artist Model online courses. Networking and connections are huge topics in the courses. If you’d like to learn more, you can sign up for the mailing list for access to 5 free lessons.

EDM is a unique genre in the music industry for many reasons, one being the social behavior of the fans. EDM artists and promoters are really great at using social media to share news about upcoming shows. If you were at SXSW you may have seen Eventbrite’s panel about the social behavior of EDM fans, but if not, here’s a great infographic to sum it up.

Eventbrite partnered with Mashwork, a social media research firm to create this infographic on the social tendencies of EDM fans.  They analyzed “more than 70 million conversations about Electronic Dance Music across the sociosphere in 2013.” Check out the infographic below. You can also check out this report to learn more.

edm fans

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

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

Step 1 – Greet Them At The Door

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 3 – Bundle Your Merchandise

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

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

 

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

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

1. Decide what to sell

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

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

2. Convenience

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

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

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

3. Get organized!

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

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

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

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

 

Photo by DrabikPany

Photo by DrabikPany

The live show is a very important part of your musical career. Today, you can find plenty of fans online, but if you really want to form a relationship you need to go offline and interact. You should put the same kind of dedication into your live show that you put into your music. Use your creativity to make each show better than the last!

These tips came for the Hypebot article, “5 Tips for Improving Your Live Show,” and the Music Think Tank article, “6 Ways to get More People to Your Shows.”

1. Videotape your show and study that tape

These days it’s an incredibly mundane thing to get some footage of your live show so, if nothing else, get a look at yourself from an objective perspective just like you might check out a mirror on your way out the door.

But to really benefit from video, plan to get decent footage that includes your stage entry, stuff that happens between songs and your exit. Those are all part of your show and some acts undermine themselves by only taking the songs seriously.

Check it out with nobody around and check it out with a sharp eye at your side. It doesn’t have to be a complicated process in order to reap high returns for taking this process seriously.

2. Take every show seriously

It’s so offensive to the audience members present when a performer focuses on their disappointment at the size or responsiveness of the crowd. Do the best job you can everytime. Maybe afterwards it will still feel disappointing but, by building with those who are present and by reaffirming your commitment to your art every time you perform, you will still come out ahead.

3. Make the Event Interactive

Think of some new ways to make fans a part of the live show. Maybe you can have a “frequent fan” card where they collect stamps for each show and redeem it for a free t-shirt or unreleased material. Maybe you can invite some other artists who are fans to guest perform during your set. Or maybe you can shoot a fan-made “live video” for YouTube shot entirely with Vine videos on cell phones. Whatever it is, get creative and make fans feel like they’re an important part of the experience so they won’t want to miss out.

4. Find a Different Angle for The Show

It’s easier to get more people to show up if it’s your band’s first show, when you’re releasing a new album, it’s a tour kick off, or when it’s your final gig. Obviously, it’s because your fans realize those as special occasions and want to be there.

So rather than making every local show the same, find creative ways to make them more enticing: film a live music video, let fans write the set list, do special covers, play acoustic if you normally don’t (or vice-versa), record a free download of a live track, etc. In other words, give your fans a compelling reason to show up. Answer: Why will this show be different than any other? What makes this exact show special?

What do you do to make your live show awesome? Share in the comment section below.

The music subscription service, Rdio, has recently partnered with concert promoter Live Nation. As a result, Rdio will provide audio streaming on LiveNation.com and act as a sponsor for Live Nation-promoted festivals including the Sasquatch! Festival and the Watershed Music Festival. The partnership started last weekend and is part of Rdio’s efforts to gain more subscribing customers.

Resulting from Rdio’s recent partnership efforts with terrestrial radios, other services like Shazam and SoundHound, and Live Nation, Rdio has managed to increase its subscriber base. This article from Billboard describes some recent subscriber trends and numbers for the music subscription service:

Embracing live music requires being both online and on-site, CEO Drew Larner tells Billboard. Live Nation’s presence in country music gives Rdio an opportunity to gain visibility in front of country music fans. “It’s a demographic we want to approach and we felt this was a great way to hit that demographic.”

The company doesn’t share specific figures on number of registered users and subscribers, but Larner gives a couple examples of its recent growth. In Brazil, registered users were up nine-fold from June 2012 through June 2013, and up six-fold from January through June. Registered users were up six-fold from June to June.

Larner also points to the ranking of Rdio’s iOS app at iTunes as an indication of the service’s upward trajectory. Rdio rose to #1 among free music apps in June in the United States after steadily ranking between #10 and #20 for much of the year. It has also hit #1 in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico. “We’re killing it in Mexico,” says Larner.

What’s driving this growth? Larner says four factors are behind Rdio’s growth: partnerships, social media, marketing and the product.

Partnerships have been a growing trend for some online radio and music subscription services as they search for ways to add value to the listener experience. Most services already have the capabilities to allow users to buy music they listen to, but this connection with live music may act as a more effective link between the online and the offline experience. Many would argue that downloading music and streaming music are comparable, and many consumers do not find the need to own music if they can easily stream it online from any device in any location. The live experience, on the other hand, is irreplaceable. It cannot be duplicated online or through any music service.

As users browse the Live Nation site for concert tickets, they will also be able to listen to tracks via Rdio if they are subscribers, or listen to 30 second clips if they are not.  This direct connection between music discovery and the live music industry may act as a funnel, driving new, and current fans to purchase tickets to a band’s live show. If this driver proves effective, artists stand to benefit more than they would from a download as touring generally brings in more money. In an article by Bloomberg, Rdio Chief Executive Officer Drew Larner describes this beneficial cycle: “Marrying what we do with streaming and discovery, and promoting artists with live music, is a natural fit. A streaming service like Rdio and live concerts can be a virtuous circle.”

No official date has been set as of yet for the integration of Rdio’s services into the Live Nation site.

What do you think about this partnership? Do you think Rdio could effectively drive listeners through its service to a live show?

musicbizrecapHere’s a recap of some of the key trends and topics that marked the music business in 2012.  As we move forward, it’s good to look back, especially amidst the music industry’s chaotic, shifting paradigms.

As the music industry’s traditional structures continue to fall away, new models are building upon unsteady foundations.  Some of the new companies that stepped onto the playing field in previous years fought in 2012 to stay in the game.  Major music companies merged and reorganized while digital startups gained more and more attention.  Digital Music News reported that 1 in every 43 venture capital dollars was spent on music related businesses last year.1  One example, The Echonest, a music data and analysis company, popped up from under the radar and secured over $17 million in funding.  With success stories from Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter pushed funding into uncharted territory, creating viable new streams of capital for musicians.  Here are ten examples of trends and events that marked the music industry in 2012 and that will continue to have an impact on the months and years to come.

Check out the full story at The Berklee Music Business Journal

Casandra Govor of the music and tech think tank, Sidewinder.fm, shares her reactions to the 2011 UK PRS report “Adding Up the Music Industry”.  In a time when the live music sector represents an increasingly important revenue stream for musicians, it is important to examine the causes and contexts behind the statistics.

florenceThe downward trend is blamed on the decrease in stadium tours, arguably caused by the lack of ‘giant’ acts (like the Rolling Stones, Take That, or Coldplay) touring and downsizing of medium-major artists and bands gigs. Although statistically it might be correct, I believe this approach is slightly simplistic. The way PRS is formulating the issue, it almost sounds like it was “bad luck” that it happened that no major artist toured intensively in 2010. Had this been the only issue, it’s hard to believe there was no such similar year in recent history.

Gover offers her own analysis of the PRS report as well as the current state of the live touring industry.  The full story is also available on Hypebot.

Here is a presentation developed for clothing manufacturer Carhartt as they try and capitalize on the popularity of their products with the youth market. Interesting trends and stats posted by students from Parsons The New School for Design.  “By identifying the forces at play in the world of music and the behaviors that are driving those forces, one can identify particular patterns that support current trends. By looking forward to what the future of music may encompass, this presentation aims to provide Carhartt, with valuable insight that will help the brand as a whole, cater to the future of urban millenials.”

EDM is really just short for “Event Driven Marketing”.

At last week’s Billboard  Futuresound conference in San Francisco, Deadmau5 aka “Joel Zimmerman” gave a candid interview which you can listen to here.  He talked freely about his career, the current EDM scene and where things are heading.

My buddy Bruce Houghton at Hypebot, caught me last week for a quick interview before Rethink Music.  Here is an except from our discussion:

HYPEBOT: Your new focus is on consulting and investing. Are there any sectors, particularly within music and music tech, that particularly interest you or where you see the most room for growth?

DAVE KUSEK: Online education is one of them. This is an area that is already transforming how people learn and gain job skills and it is only going to grow as time goes on. There are big opportunities here that will effect tens of millions of people around the world. Online training is going to be huge. Job requirements are shifting and people need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances that can benefit them. The traditional model of higher education is already under pressure and there are many people and companies exploring alternative models that are very interesting.

The other area I am bullish on is live music and live events. The live concert experience cannot be digitized, yet can benefit enormously from technology. There really has not been much innovation in live music or in music merchandising beyond ticketing. I think there is a lot more that can be done with mobile technology and am actively working in this area. My investment in Tastemate is one way of digging into this potential in a meaningful way. We will be bringing our service to a venue near you, very soon.

I also think that there is potential to expand the reach of live performance using remote technologies. I am interested in ways to cut the costs out of touring to make it more profitable and to reach broader audiences. It is amazing to me that there has not been more activity in this area either, so I am looking for companies and people to work with that are thinking differently about what live music is all about and how to make it even more lucrative.

HYPEBOT: What are some of the things that Digital Cowboys has done in the past or is looking to do now?

DAVE KUSEK: We are focused on business development, marketing and product development, particularly in online and mobile services. We also do strategy consulting for businesses wanting to expand or enter new markets or make acquisitions. I say we, because while I am the managing partner, I also leverage a network of people around the world and with different specialties that I bring together to form a team to address the issues. For example, with a lot of the product work that we have done I brought together a team of visual designers and user experience people to execute on the product vision and do the testing. With business development projects I sometimes work with friends that have particular contacts or relationships that are beneficial to my clients. Sometimes I put together a couple different investors or strategic partners to provide capital or distribution or some other need. The main thing is to get the work done and show results, while trying to have some fun and work on interesting projects that are pushing the envelope.

HYPEBOT: There’s some talk of another tech bubble. Do you see think we’re approaching one in music and media technology?

DAVE KUSEK: I do think that some of the deals we have seen recently are off the charts, like Instagram – but who knows? That has all the earmarks of “bubble” written all over it. But Facebook is also about to go public and at their level, what’s another billion dollars?

But really I don’t think overall that we are at the point of frivolousness and excess that we witnessed in the earlier dot-com bubble, at least not yet. I believe that people are just beginning to figure out better ways to communicate and interact and learn via technology. That is having massive implications on the future of society around the world. Take a look at the stock market trend over the past 100 years and you will see that things tend to move up and people get smarter and more prosperous. I am an optimist.

There are a lot of music startups getting funded these days and certainly they are not all going to make it. I think we will see some consolidation in the DIY space as there are probably more companies addressing that market than the market really needs. The same is true for music streaming and distribution and music discovery. I think the real breakthrough companies will be formed by trying to do something completely different, rather than mimicking the past with technology. We’ll see.

HYPEBOT: Any plans to write a follow-up to the “Future Of Music” book?

DAVE KUSEK: I plan to spend a lot more time posting things to my blog and on digitalcowboys.com. This is a much better way to continue to update original thinking and way more efficient than writing another book. The music industry has gone digital and online outlets like Hypebot really do work as conduits in this business. That is a real bright spot in the transformation of the music industry. So, look for more at futureofmusicbook.com.

You can get the entire interview here.

More coverage from Hypebot here and from Billboard here.


Hypebot reports: Technology has changed a lot about how concerts are marketed, ticketed and produced since Woodstock.  Recently, the greatest driver of change – particularly from the fan perspective – has been the smartphone.  From taking photos to texting friends and song requests, smartphones are changing how concerts are  consumed and remembered.  But early glimpses of projects from Live Nation Labs and startups like  Tastemate show that we’re on at the start of a smartphone driven live music revolution. This infographic above chronicles the journey so far.
Lots more to come…

Sunday night at Coachella Festival Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre brought Tupac Shakur back from the dead to perform live with them onstage as a hologram.  Holy Smokes.  He appears on stage and greats the audience with “Yeah, you know what the fuck this is … What up Dre? … What up Snoop? … What the fuck is up Coachella.”  The Tupac illusion aka “Holopac” was brought to life by James Cameron’s visual production house Digital Domain, and two hologram-imaging companies, AV Concepts and the U.K.-based Musion Systems at a price estimated at more than $200,000.

The holographic performance is spectacular and very eerie, and there are more shows planned.  This is not the first time that holograms have been used in concerts, and these effects are in a way, natural extensions of the laser displays and light shows that have been part of live shows for decades.  Madonna, the Black Eyed Peas and (notably) Gorillaz have all been projected as holograms on stage during the show.  There is a laser light touring show of Pink Floyd featuring “none” of the band members.  If this can be done with Tupac, it brings up very interesting questions about the future of live shows and exactly who or what we will be seeing.

Can you imaging the Rolling Stones 2050 “Skeletons in the Closet” Tour?  The Beatles finally play Shea Stadium in high fidelity?  “Elvis Comes Alive”?  Will nothing be sacred?

I am not sure if this is science fiction or our worst nightmare, or both.  Will live performers really even be needed in the future?  If the wizards at visual production companies can create virtual artists in 3D that can strut on stage, engage the audience, and belt out their latest hits – who exactly will be entertaining us?  If the music industry can strip out the artists and replace them with computer generated formulaic constructs that are programmed to entertain and mesmerize, what will live music become?  Its already happend with the “Chipmunks” and “Gorillaz” and “Hatsume Miku” and “Dethklok”.  “This is just the beginning,” Ed Ulbrich, chief creative officer at Digital Domain told the LA Times,  “Dr. Dre has a massive vision for this.”    Virtual artists are becoming a thing of the present.

Think about it.  Is this really the Future of Music?

From the Economist

“The music business is surprisingly healthy, and becoming more so. Will Page of PRS for Music, which collects royalties on behalf of writers and publishers, has added up the entire British music business. He reckons it turned over £3.9 billion ($6.1 billion) in 2009, 5% more than in 2008. It was the second consecutive year of growth. Much of the money bypassed the record companies. But even they managed to pull in £1.1 billion last year, up 2% from 2008. A surprising number of things are making money for artists and music firms, and others show great promise. The music business is not dying. But it is changing profoundly.

live sales chart

The loudest boom is in live music. Between 1999 and 2009 concert-ticket sales in America tripled in value, from $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion. Ticket sales wobbled in America during the summer of 2010, but that was partly because some big-selling acts took a break. One of the most reliable earners, Bono, U2’s singer, was put out of action when he injured his back in May. Next year many of the big acts will be on the road again, and a bumper year is expected.

Music’s cachet and emotional pull also make it a potent weapon for businesses that want to build their own brands. The Rolling Stones (again) led the way in recruiting tour sponsors, from Sprint, a phone company, to Ameriquest, which sold mortgages. Sponsorship can lead to musicians wearing a company’s clothes and naming songs after it: Rascall Flatts, a country music band, has done both for American Living, a label carried by JCPenney. IEG, a firm that tracks the market, estimates that the value of tour sponsorships in North America will reach $1.74 billion this year, up from $1.38 billion in 2006.

Because it derives revenues from business as well as consumers, publishing is much more stable than recording. Record companies’ publishing departments, which once seemed rather dowdy next to sexy, talent-spotting A&R, have become vital cash machines. Publishing supplied 29% of EMI’s revenues and 45% of its profits in the year to March 2010. The outfit’s new boss, Roger Faxon, comes from that side of the business—a reflection of how the economics of music have shifted.

Many of the acts that now draw huge crowds emerged in an era of multi-album record contracts, lavish marketing and radio airplay. They built their brands gradually, overcoming the occasional lousy album. They “invaded” other countries when they felt the time was right. As a result, they have legions of fans who are prepared to stump up for concert tickets. Because their songs appeal to several generations of listeners, they are attractive to advertisers and TV programme-makers. The young dreamers in shows like “The X-Factor” commonly perform songs that are more than a quarter of a century old.

Some music executives fret that the stadium-filling acts will not be replaced. It is true that the starmaking machines run by the record companies are creaking. But this does not mean there will be no more popular acts. Musicians will build fan bases in other ways—through social networks, by recording music for TV or simply by trekking from gig to gig (which is how bands became famous for much of the 20th century). Some will rise with a speed that would have shocked their predecessors—witness Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, a 16-year-old singer who was almost unknown a year ago. Those who doubt their staying power may wish to consider that adults have long believed the music their teenage children listen to will not endure as long as the tunes they grew up with.”

Read more from The Economist.