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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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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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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 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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The Return of Vinyl Records

How Vinyl Records Made Their Comeback.

vinyl records come back

 

Thanks to Liberty Games for this great graphic.

http://www.libertygames.co.uk/blog/how-vinyl-records-made-their-comeback/

Nashville’s Musical Middle Class

Photo credit: Kris Kesiak http://bit.ly/1oUdYvY

Photo credit: Kris Kesiak http://bit.ly/1oUdYvY

For the most part commentary on the music industry tends to be a lot of doom and gloom. We compare where we are now to business models of the past and we’re constantly looking for a saving model or holy grail for the new music industry. I believe we’re already there. Each and every independent band that is out there succeeding is the model for the future. And trust me, there are plenty of artists out there succeeding.

There’s been a lot of talk about the collapse of Nashville’s musical middle class, but I just don’t see it. A lot of New Artist Model students are based in Nashville and they are doing great. I want to thank Sara Zebley for bringing this article by Josh Collum to my attention. He really hits the nail on the head. This is how we need to be thinking about the music industry. I’ve reblogged the article here, but I highly recommend you check out Josh Collum’s blog.

Tell me what you think in the comments. Where does the musical middle class stand in your eyes?

Did I Miss the Collapse of Nashville’s Musical Middle Class?

First, some context… recently, there’s been some buzz building in Nashville (and beyond) around a month-long blog series that ran in December 2014 in our hometown newspaper, The Tennessean, and an accompanying documentary produced by the paper that’s set to premiere on January 27th here in town.  The blog series and doc, entitled “Band on The Brink: The New Dylans,” tell the story of a band that’s had varying degrees of success over the last few decades, and has decided to make their first record in 18 years.  But, the band isn’t really what the newspaper’s project is about.  The opening sentence clarifies what The New Dylans truly represent…

“There are countless similar bands in Nashville.”

And really, the band is just the vehicle for the true headline… 

“This is a story about the shrinking sector of the music industry – the middle class.”

So you see, the message is clear and precise right out of the box.  This isn’t about one band or even one genre (see: references to Jack White and The Black Keys).  This story is normal and common and represents all of us non-Taylor Swifts. 

And so It’s around this message that the conversation has begun to stir.  I think it’s a conversation that’s going to continue to grow as our city and music industry community move towards the release of the documentary and the events that surround the occasion, which include a panel discussion on the topic.  

And that’s why I needed to write this post.  Because the story that The Tennessean tells isn’t the whole story, and it’s important to get it right.  You see, this is not a story about “the collapse of Nashville’s musical middle class,” as the piece broadly frames it.  This is a story about the collapse of Music Row’s musical middle class.  Which is an incredibly important topic, and a topic that needs discussion. Those struggles are real. But Music Row is just one character in the story of Nashville’s musical middle class as a whole. There are thousands of artists, songwriters, musicians, and producers that consider themselves part of the musical middle class in our city that will read this blog series and watch this documentary, and have the same reaction I did… “That’s not my story.”  The project, simply, and quite amazingly, acts as if they don’t exist.  The result, whether intentional or not, is an incredibly misleading and hyperbolically depressing piece.

“Hyperbolically depressing” Exhibit A: It’s argued in the piece that the musical middle class has not only declined, but it actually doesn’t even exist anymore.  Huh?  On Music Row, I see some truth in that.  And if that’s how it was framed, all good.  I’m listening.  But that’s not how it was framed.  The intentional implication is that there has been an extinction of the musical middle class as a whole.  Remarkable, right?

I would argue the exact opposite.  I would argue there has never been more opportunity to make middle class levels of money, and there’s never been a lower barrier of entry into that middle class.  Ever.  Yes, the money is more spread out.  And yes, you have to think differently to get it.  Like an entrepreneur, even.  But it’s there.  It’s just moved.  The middle classers that are talented enough, forward thinking enough, and brave enough to adapt, are finding it.  Especially, in Nashville.

Just ask Holley Maher, an unsigned, completely independent singer/songwriter who grossed over a quarter of a million dollars last year in synch licensing.  She’s buying a house this year.

Or, Belmont senior, and electro pop artist in her spare time, EZA, who’s already making thousands of dollars in streaming revenue from one of her songs on Spotify.  I don’t know about you, but when I was in college and trying to start my musical career, I had to work at Papa John’s.

Speaking of Spotify, what about veteran Nashville singer/songwriter Perrin Lamb, who had two songs featured on popular playlists last year. His streaming revenues added up to over $30,000.  He’s been at it for a decade, and 2014 was the best year he’s ever had financially in Nashville.  And most of that money was made while he slept.

Trent Dabbs didn’t wait for a publisher to deem him worthy to sign.  He and his wife created their own, well branded, well executed publishing company (and label) and he signed himself.  He bet on himself, did the work, and got into some pretty great writing rooms.  Last year, he co-wrote one of the biggest songs of the year, Ingrid Michaelson’s “Girls Chase Boys.”

Jessica Frech has built a tribe of over 80,000 subscribers to her Youtube channel, collecting over 18 million video views.  She makes money on every single view, and she’s built an engaged fan base that buys her music, merch, and tickets to her shows.

My band, Secrets in Stereo, hasn’t made a record in 4 years.  But this year alone, the band brought in over $80,000 in revenue just from our songs being used in other people’s Youtube videos.

Or, how about Phil Madeira’s Mercyland projects.  Talk about evolving and adapting to the new music business.  He didn’t wait to win the songwriter lottery and find a slot on some artist’s record.  He built his own slot machine.  And used Kickstarter, to boot.

Or what about the hundred or so Nashville artists that each make thousands of dollars a month through licensing their songs to indie documentary film makers and wedding videographers through Music Bed?  The company had their first Nashville mixer last year, and they had to change venues at the last minute to accommodate the over 250 artists, songwriters, musicians, and producers that filled the room.  The folks at Music Bed told me Nashville artists make up 60% of their total revenue.  I promise you, they see a Nashville musical middle class that’s alive and well.  They’ve built a business on its shoulders.

Why aren’t these Nashville middle classers included in the Tennessean piece?  Shouldn’t we be highlighting, and hopefully learning from, success stories?  And these are just the ones that came off the top of my head.  There are plenty more stories out there in our city limits like these.  They’re actually incredibly easy to find.

The reality is we’re in the most interesting, evolving, challenging, difficult, and historic time in our industry’s history.  Hands down.  Undeniable.  And yes, as The Tennessean piece highlights, we’ve got some fights to wage as we evolve into the digital age.  I’m not denying that.  What I am denying is the notion that the sky is falling.  For some reason that I can’t figure out, that’s the story The Tennessean decided to tell.  It’s disappointing, discouraging to prospective artists, music biz professionals, and investors, horribly un-helpful to those of us trying to tell the complete story of Nashville beyond its city limits, and most of all, simply false.  The truth is, making a living in the music business has always been “a gritty chore” and hardly unique to 2014.  The New Dylans were broke in 1996 too!  

So, I have two hopes as the conversation builds around The Tennessean project.  One, is that we tell the true story of Nashville’s musical middle class, acknowledging the artists, songwriters, producers, and musicians that are currently thriving, as much as we eagerly spotlight the ones that are struggling.  And two, we elevate the conversation beyond the bitter old music business vs. the naive new music business.  That’s tired, played out, and frankly, embarrassing at this point.  There’s only one music business now.  And it’s different than the one you grew up in, whether you’re 75 or 25.  So, let’s have an educated conversation about who’s having success now and how they are doing it.  That’s the real headline.

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Interview With The Jazz Spotlight

Jazz Spotlight Podcast

I recently had the honor of being interviewed for The Jazz Spotlight’s Podcast. The podcast is a great resource for indie musicians, so I recommend you check it out.

In the interview we discuss my new book, Hack the Music Business, New Artist Model, and some great strategies for indie musicians including:

  • Today’s music business model
  • Why you should stop thinking exclusively like a musician and start thinking like a musician-entrepreneur
  • The online music business school New Artist Model and what he can do for you
  • Mistakes that are hurting musicians
  • Why you should think in terms of DIWO (Do It With Other) rather than DIY (Do It Yourself)
  • Gigs as an opportunity to create a community, promote and drive sales
  • How having an email list can get you your next gig
  • Marketing tip for musicians

You can also check out the entire podcast series in iTunes.

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Music Business Strategies

There are a lot of musicians out there struggling to pay the rent, grow their fan base, and make a profit on tour. It’s a tough road, but if you’re dedicated you can make music your career. In today’s music business, it’s not about forcing yourself into a one-size-fits-all box, or throwing a dice and hoping for the best. It’s about building the right career for YOU and YOUR music, experimenting, learning, and adapting to change. Today, you are an entrepreneur, not a product, and great success is waiting for musicians with this mindset.

The New Artist Model is all about thinking of your music career like a business and using creative strategies to start growing now with the tools and resources you have available. In the New Artist Model FREE E-book, you’ll get a glimpse at some of the proven strategies we discuss in the full online course. Click the image to download your copy and check out the 10 key points of the New Artist Model below.

MusicBizStrategies_ebook_Ad-2

1. Change is an open door.

Don’t view new technology or a new model as a dead end. Look at it like a new opportunity. It’s a chance to try new things, innovate, and maybe find something that really works for YOU.

2. You are an entrepreneur.

More times than not, its the small, agile entrepreneurs, not the big established companies, that innovate and move an industry forward into the future. You can be that entrepreneur.

3. Go lean!

Release small and release often. Don’t wait to record your first album until you can afford a time in a big time studio. Don’t wait to start your publishing career until you have a publisher. Start with what you have and go from there.

4. LEARN!

Take every single opportunity you can to learn. What went great at your live show? What didn’t go as planned? How can you use that knowledge to improve next time? What social media posts get your fans excited? What song do people seem to like the most? You can learn from every single thing you do.

5. DIWO instead of DIY.

You can’t be an expert in everything so find people who are. Your team doesn’t have to be seasoned pros. More times than not, passion trumps experience. For now, recruit friends, classmates, and family to help you out and give your pointers. There are a ton of really successful artists that still work with someone who started out as just a classmate.

6. Each element of your career is a separate moving part to a bigger machine.

Don’t think of recording, publishing, and touring in a vacuum. Think about how you can connect them together into one unified plan.

7. This is a relationship business.

Get out and meet people. Talk to as many people as you can in the studio and at your live shows—promoters, producers, club owners, sound and light folks, other bands and musicians. MAKE that connection that could really start your career as a successful indie artist. Remember that face-to-face conversations will always get you further than emails. And above all, treat people like people. Give and you will receive.

8. Use the process.

Recordings and songs are not just finished products. There are a ton of opportunities to engage and connect with your fans and even make money along the entire process.

9. There is no one-size-fits-all model anymore.

You need to build a career around YOUR music that works best for YOU. Just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will go the same way in your career.

10. MAKE your big break.

These days no one is going to hand you your big break. You need to be out there working hard, pushing yourself to new limits, trying new things, and connecting with people if you want to make this your career. With a lot of hard work, music CAN become your career.

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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. Get 5 free lessons from the New Artist Model online courses when you sign up for our free video training series.

 

 

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7 Career Tips for Musicians from Dave Kusek

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Check out these great tips from Dave Kusek. This article is from DeliRadio. Be sure to check out the full article over on the DeliRadio Blog.

1. Run Your Band Like A Business
“That’s a big challenge for a lot of people. Creative people tend to be creative, and want to write music and play, but they often ignore the business side of things. And you do that at your own peril. That’s a challenge for people.

“It’s hard to have a career in music. It’s very challenging and complicated. It’s way more than writing a great song and putting out a great record. You’ve got to get yourself organized, you’ve got to have goals. You’ve got to figure out how you’re going to finance things. You’ve got to figure out how you’re going to promote. And figure out what’s effective in your marketing and promotion.

“So there’s all those things on the business side that I’m trying to help people with through the (New Artist Model). Whether you do that on your own, or with management or a team member, somebody has to be paying attention to business.”

2. Careful Working With Friends
“Working with your friends is always problematic. If you’re in that position, have open communication with your bandmates and team, regular band meetings, about: ‘What are we all about? What are we trying to accomplish? How can we split up the work so that we can get more things done? Who’s good at what, and can you combine what you need to do with that interest or skill?’…

“It’s all about regular communication, being open about what you’re trying to accomplish, and calling people out when they say they’re going to do something and they don’t.”

3. Streaming Music Is Marketing
“Listening to recorded music is very hard to monetize in the way we used to. Yes, you do want to try and sell CDs or get money from downloads or streaming, but I don’t know you can rely on that as your number one source of income, or even your top five, given the environment. So (streaming) is a form of marketing. There is some potential to sell music to people, sell recordings to people, but it’s not going to be your number one source of income. Certainly not in the early stages of your career.”

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. We’re offering access to free lessons from the New Artist Model online courses to anyone who signs up for our mailing list.

Connect with Music Bloggers and Writers

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Connecting with music bloggers and writers is one of the best ways to get word out about your music. These people are tastemakers and influencers – their readers have grown to trust their opinions and thoughts. It’s important to remember, though, that these writers aren’t just another marketing tool. They are real people with whom you should be forming a real two-way relationship built on communication and courtesy.

Some excerpts in this post came from Hypebot‘s Clyde Smith. His original article mainly discusses business writers, but I think a lot of the points ring true for any kind of writer, blogger, or tastemaker. You can also check out a similar post here.

Know Who You’re Talking To

“Know who you’re talking to, what they usually write about and what they’ve said about what they want to see. I know everybody’s really busy but sometimes you’ve got to bite the bullet and put in the time for proper research. It will pay off in the long run even if it’s painful at the moment.”

Be sure to check the writer’s sig at the end of their post. This will give you a general idea of the kinds of topics they cover. Clyde’s says: “music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing.” A lot of times, the writer’s contact information is also in the sig, so it’s pretty difficult to miss information on their interests. Some bloggers and writers may have a short bio available. You should also read the articles or posts they have written in the past to get a better idea of their interests and writing style. The main point here is that you should do your research.

Remember That Writers Are Humans With Limits and Work With That

“Though I have a list of interests in my sig… it’s more a general guideline. But like most music industry writers and pro journalists in general, I cover way more things than I can truly understand with much depth. That means that sometimes I’ll miss something I really should cover or cover something that doesn’t really deserve it.

To be honest most outlets don’t support true expertise. That’s because media business models are based on what readers show interest in and tend to be pageview driven. Since reader response mostly has little correlation with expertise in terms of pageviews, except for very specialized publications, there is no reason for ad-supported, pageview driven media outlets to invest in true expertise.

So getting worked up when I or another writer covers one thing and not another is not a good move.”

Don’t Get Argumentative In A Writer’s Inbox

“Sometimes our choices lead to people becoming argumentative. I understand that tendency. I’m an argumentative kind of guy. But arguing with me in my inbox cause you want coverage is not a good look. At this point, for every 10 items that I bookmark or receive via email, 5 of them are plausible, 2 I really should cover, 1 gets covered. Strictly speaking, that math may be overly optimistic in terms of your odds of coverage.”

Arguing with writers or music bloggers is really like slamming a door in your own face. If you’ve done your research, asking for clarification about their decision can be okay – it will help you provide them with better content next time. But if you get aggressive or argue, there won’t be a next time.

Don’t Talk Trash In The Comments

“Another issue similar to arguing in writers’ inboxes is making catty or angry comments on blog posts. There are multiple musicians and music business owners who probably deserve some coverage but killed their brand with me. I can think of a couple offhand who I would have covered or turned to for insight by now but I’ll never write about them until they establish a positive relationship with me that counteracts the damage they’ve done in the comments.”

Remove Roadblocks to Coverage by Helping the Writer

“When you send intro or update emails include links to other media coverage, especially newsier items, and to online resources for quick reference. Make it easy to find pics and related content for use as needed by bloggers.”

Have you ever had your music or business featured on a blog or music news site?

To learn more techniques for growing your music career, sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list and get access to free lessons!

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Creativity in Business

"Músic" by Joan Sorolla

“Músic” by Joan Sorolla

Musicians are creative. They can turn words and notes into sonic emotion. Everyday, musicians find new ways to express themselves creatively, be it through a new guitar tone, a visual idea for a music video, or that perfect vocal melody.

Musicians are smart. It’s often overlooked how complicated playing and creating music really is. Reading, comprehension, listening, motor, memory, and creativity all play a part in playing even the simplest songs. People don’t decide to become a musician because they’re not good at anything else. If it was that easy everyone would play music. That’s one of the reasons why we’re all so fascinated by musicians – because not everyone can be a musician. They can take an idea, turn it into a song, and touch thousands of people in a unique way.

There’s this notion in the music industry that music and business are two completely separate entities – two separate parts of a whole. One without another would not survive, but they rarely cross. It doesn’t need to be that way.

A musician’s creativity need not be limited to music. Many musicians who are going at it alone or are just starting their career are overwhelmed by the business side of the industry. They are told that they need to understand law, marketing, accounting, and more if they want to make it today. To a musician who is used to solving things creatively, looking at their career from this other perspective seems daunting.

It’s important to know some things about the music business, like general copyright law and basic accounting to keep track of your money, so you should have some business mind you can consult with. However, many aspects of the business can be approached with a creative mindset. Instead of thinking, “Well this is how everyone else releases their albums, so I guess I’ll do that too,” try using the same creativity you put into your music to try something new, something that fits with your message and image. Don’t think of it as a completely separate, logical process. Think of it as an extension of the song or album you just created. How can you extend your song or album’s message through the release process?

Today, challenge yourself to think about the business side of your career with the same creativity as your music.

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Remembering Music Producer Phil Ramone

Here is an interview with the great Phil Ramone, recorded at his home in Connecticut. Phil discusses making hits, songwriting, music production, the music industry, the listening experience, working with artists, the studio, spare parts, preparation, working style and gives his advice for artists and writers. A true master, he gives us a glimpse into his thought process and how he works to get the most out of the creative process. Notice how his mind easily shifts from the artistic to the technical and back without missing a beat. We will miss you Phil.

Phil Ramone is one of the most respected and prolific music producers of all time in the recording industry. Ramone’s musical acumen, creativity and use of audio technology are unmatched among his peers. Phil played a huge role in shaping the careers and songs of both Billy Joel and Paul Simon and is going to be missed so much. Such a gentle and graceful man who filled the world with optimism and carved such a wide swath across the music business.

He won 14 Grammy Awards, including producer of the year, nonclassical, in 1981, and three for album of the year, for Mr. Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” in 1976, Mr. Joel’s “52nd Street” in 1980, and Mr. Charles’s duets album, “Genius Loves Company,” in 2005. He also produced music for television and film, winning an Emmy Award as the sound mixer for a 1973 special on CBS, “Duke Ellington … We Love You Madly.”

Mr. Ramone was born in South Africa and grew up in Brooklyn. His father died when he was young, and his mother worked in a department store. A classical violin prodigy, he studied at the Juilliard School but soon drifted toward jazz and pop, and apprenticed at a recording studio, J.A.C. Recording.

In 1958, he co-founded A & R Recording, a studio on West 48th Street in Manhattan, and built a reputation as a versatile engineer, working on pop fare like Lesley Gore as well as jazz by John Coltrane and Quincy Jones. He ran the sound when Marilyn Monroe cooed “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962, and three years later won his first Grammy as the engineer on Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s landmark album “Getz/Gilberto.”

As a producer, he had a particularly close association with Billy Joel and Paul Simon; the back cover of Joel’s 1977 album “The Stranger” features a photograph of Mr. Ramone posing with Mr. Joel and his band at a New York restaurant.

“I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band,” Mr. Joel said in a statement on Saturday. “He was the guy that no one ever, ever saw onstage. He was with me as long as any of the musicians I ever played with — longer than most. So much of my music was shaped by him and brought to fruition by him.”

Acknowledged as one of the top creative music producers, Ramone has also played an integral role in pioneering many of the technological developments in the music industry over the years. He ardently supported the use of the compact disc, digital video disc, hi-definition recording and surround sound.

Ramone’s impeccable list of credits includes collaborations with artists such as: Burt Bacharach, Bono, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Ray Charles, Chicago, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Quincy Jones, BB King, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Liza Minnelli, Sinead O’Connor, Pavarotti, Peter/Paul and Mary, Andre Previn, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra, Phoebe Snow, Rod Stewart, and Stevie Wonder.

An interview with Dave Kusek by DeliRadio

Check out an interview I recently did with DeliRadio about the current and future landscape of the music industry.

“If you look at the history of the music business, there have been many radical periods where technology has come in and shaken things up and everyone was very concerned about that. And they had to endure the change and music kept evolving. I believe that’s just continuing to happen, and that the decline of the record business is part of that process.”

Read the full interview at blog.DeliRadio.com

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The Sad Truth about the Music Business

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Music is a much smaller and less significant part of many people’s lives than 10-20 years ago.  There is more competition for our attention and the value of music has declined precipitously. This graphic shows the rise of digital against physical music, and the overall impact of piracy, widespread distribution and digital media on the music industry. The sad story is that overall the music business is shrinking. That is a fact that we all have to face.  The silver lining in all of this may be on the horizon, but it cannot come soon enough for me. We have to do something to reverse the trend.

Courtesy Daily Infographic.

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Networking Musician Interviews Dave Kusek

Last week host of Networking Musician Radio, David Vignola interviewed me about Music Power Network and the Future of Music.  Here is the audio interview along with a link to David’s site.  Great resource for indie artists.

Music Power Network provides a wide variety of music business education, tools, interviews and lots of resources for the D.I.Y. musician. The site also offers an equal wealth of information / education for producers, managers or publishers.

http://www.podbean.com/podcast-audio-video-blog-player/mp3playerlightsmallv3.swf?audioPath=http://networkingmusician.podbean.com/mf/play/nsumyj/MusicPowerNetwork.mp3&autoStart=no

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Terry McBride at Berklee

Terry McBride gave a lecture at Berklee College of Music earlier this month. Here is a synopsis from Ariel Publicity.

A song is an emotion

They stopped releasing music they thought would sell and began releasing music they loved and felt emotionally connected to. The old school music business views a song as a copyright. McBride coaches that the music business is simply “the monetization of emotions” and that copyright as we know it will soon become irrelevant. Emotions move and are transferred freely. Nettwerk practices something called “collapsed copyright”. Nettwerk encourages its artists to record under their own label. Nettwerk will represent these artists, but the bands retain ownership of all intellectual property. The bands can expect to earn considerably more money and in turn can give away more free downloads. McBride calls this “cosmic karma” as studies show that albums containing songs that were offered free sell more than those with no free downloads. The free downloads allow fans to connect with a song as well as the artist as an emotional brand and are more likely to purchase the album.

Fans connect to a particular song because it evokes a certain emotion. That emotion grows an importance and eventually becomes a bookmark in their lives. We’ve all experienced a time when we heard a song from our past that we once played over and over and over again. We built an emotional connection with that song that instantly takes us back to the summer before junior year, or whenever. It’s that emotional connection that makes you feel the need to rave to a friend about a song or drag them to a concert. The emotional connection makes Nettwerk truly believe in their artists as an emotional brand and that millions of others will love their music as much as they do. Like it or not, love is contagious.

Music is social

Gatherings used to be centered around food and music but for a while music became somewhat elitist. You had to be some musical genius that was too cool and cared about nothing but the music or a wealthy socialite who could afford all the luxuries. Video games like Guitar Hero and the growing affordability of recoding programs and equipment have made music for everyone again. Remember that friend you dragged with you to a concert to show them how amazing that band was? As it turns out they loved them too and raved to their 20 friends who raved to their 20 friends and so on. Well now with the evolution of social media thanks to sites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc., the circle of friends has grown to 200 plus and by the end of the day with just the ease of a status update thousands of people have been reached.

Digital 2.0

As music returns to its emotional and social roots, McBride predicts a rapid change as we move from what he calls the “Digital 1.0” era into the “Digital 2.0” era where the accessibility of music and social media has grown legs and is now traveling with us on the train and down the street in the form of smartphones such as the iPhone. But the iPhone is just a dieter’s slice of the pie. Different models of RIM Blackberry smartphones ranked #1, #3 and #5 in best selling phones in North America. Plus the Palm Pre and the anticipation of Dell launching a new smartphone means that mobile social networking in America will soon catch up to the estimated 12.1 million users in Western Europe.

In this “Digital 2.0” era McBride points to the success of Apple “Apps” store, which has over 15,000 original applications and over 500 million downloads.

“Apple has allowed us, [the consumers] to be the world’s largest developer and create apps based on our needs,” McBride explains, “And the explosion of imaginative apps like Shazham and Slacker has just started.”

McBride throws the idea out of a digital maid application that would clean and organize your digital library, saving you the time of having to dig through files. He also requests a digital valet that drives new music to you based on your preferences or a friend’s library and parks it in a suggested music garage. He anticipates that in the next 18 months there will be “apps to help create apps for those of us who are not programmers but have a great idea.” RIM plans to open up their app store this March to reach 150 countries and over 450 providers. Add the Google Android store, Google “Hero”, Microsoft “Skymarket” and Nokia “Opera” and you’ve got yourself a full-blown application revolution.

Context is King

McBride points us in a new direction from what was previously a “content is king” mindset to “context is king”. Meaning that our emotional connection to music is all based on the value of how we perceive something versus the actual content. The smartphone replacing the PC (or Mac if you will) is a foreseeable prophesy of McBride’s and could possibly leading to the demise of even, yes… your precious mp3 player. He explains how new apps will shift behavioral patterns of consumers in the same way CDs and online media ushered in the on-demand generation. Smartphones have already begun creating models that temporarily store the music files in the “cache” instead of the hard drive. McBride describes this process as “a gradual download, it’s not permanent because your Valet/Maid app is changing the selection based on your needs, thus helping solve issues such as memory, choppy streaming and draining of batteries.”

This means that the music business must create rich meta data behind our music files to work with apps in order to keep up with this new form of consumption. McBride highlights the opportunity to raise the value of music then, he says, “Context will be king.”

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The “spin” on Music

I recently interviewed Ian Rogers of Topspin Media for a new project I am working on the – “Future of Music Toolkit”. More to come on that later…

Ian brought me up to speed on the development of the Topspin platform for music promotion. They are creating very cool marketing software and services to help artists and their partners build businesses and brands. This is clearly part of the future. Here are some comments from Ian and a link to his presentation to The Recording Academy at the GRAMMY Northwest MusicTech Summit 2008.

“The lamenting we read in the press is not the story of the new music business. Continuing to talk about the health of the music industry on these terms is as if we’d all been crying about the dying cassette business in 1995. The difference is that when we moved from cassette to CD the winners were the same (big companies who owned access to cash, distribution, and marketing) and the definition of winning was the same (more units sold for these big companies).

Music consumption isn’t declining: iPod sales up 59% Y/Y (source: Apple), P2P filesharing volume up 35% Y/Y(source: NPD), audio streaming up 25% Y/Y (source: Accustream). And despite the endless discussions about the “pirates,” there isn’t an unwillingness to pay for music, either: 1.6B decisions to buy music in 2007, up from 1.3B in 2006 (source: Neilsen Soundscan), 40% Y/Y increase in worldwide digital music sales (source: IFPI), 8% Y/Y increase in North American concert revenue — an all-time high (source: Forbes.com), 40% paid an average of $5 in Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want model, Nine Inch Nails self-release generates $1.6M in first week sales, includes sell out of $300 box set in first 48 hours (source: NIN.com).

IMHO the only perspectives that matter, that of the artist and the fan. I see news about the health of the music industry as defined by the stock price of WMG or quarterly earnings of UMG, Sony, and EMI every day. What I don’t see, apart from a few articles on Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, is an update on how the world is changing from the artist point of view. But I tell you, when I talk to managers and artists they feel it, they feel an ability to take their careers into their own hands, to redefine what success means for them, and that is the emergence of the new music business.

I say this with all respect to our friends in the existing music business. We all know smart people who are busting their asses trying to solve the Innovator’s Dilemma those companies are facing.

Again, there are only two players in the music business that matter at the end of the day: the artists and the fans. The rest of us either add value or get in the way. Don’t get me wrong, over the years labels have added a tremendous amount of value through financing, A&R, marketing, promotion, etc. I’m just saying that every player needs to either understand how it truly adds value or it needs to get out of the way, Topspin included. Our business does not operate on lock-in, ownership of copywritten work, or long-term contracts. We either add value today with a compelling service or we die. And I’m perfectly happy with that.”

See Ian Roger’s complete presentation here.