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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.

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

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

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

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

History-of-music-listening-infographic

 

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.

The health of the “music industry” has been in question since the rise of the internet and digital communication technologies, and finding a happy medium between all the parties involved has not been an easy task. Countless companies and artists have risen up with unique business models, but for the vast majority of musicians, their income from recorded music has diminished dramatically.

I have argued as have many others, including my friend Fred Goldring, that we need a plan for reform to create a healthy music industry in which all parties benefit. That means artists, songwriters, intermediaries and the tech companies that have seeming taken over the hen house. Reform in how the digital money gets split up, reform in how inexpensive these digital services can be for consumers and reform in our antiquated copyright law.

The debate continues and this piece below is well worth a careful read. I agree with most of what Fred proposes (not sure the album is dead yet.) Enjoy…

This article below is written by music industry veteran Fred Goldring of Music Aficionado. Fred is a media/tech entrepreneur, entertainment lawyer with Counsel LLP, an Emmy-winning Executive Producer and a Member of The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities appointed by President Barack Obama.  This post “Let’s Be Pigs Not Hogs: How to Thrive in the Age of Digital Music” originally ran on Hypebot:

In 2003 and 2005 after a wave of R.I.A.A. lawsuits, I wrote editorials in Billboard advocating an “eight-step recovery program” for a healthier music industry. Among other things, I proposed the “support [of] initiatives that will allow unlimited access to every piece of music in the MP3 format whenever and wherever someone wants it, with no conditions or restrictions in an easy-to-use interface [as] people will pay for this”.

As one of the first people in our industry to embrace the changes that became the digital music revolution, and in light of the public debate over streaming brought on by Taylor Swift’s decision to remove her catalog from Spotify, I thought it would be interesting to look back on my recommendations eleven years later to see how we’ve done – and offer some new suggestions about where we might go from here.

Let’s start with the obvious: streaming is our future. It will only grow and become more ubiquitous. The advent of on-demand streaming is making it clear to everyone that you don’t have to own something that you can get anywhere at anytime on demand on any device (how many of you have visited your CD collection lately?) How we deal with the financial ramifications of that adoption will determine the future health of our industry. In particular, we need to create a system in which all of the major stakeholders in the music business—artists, record labels, publishers, performing rights organizations, digital music services and consumers—are happy and thrive. And therein lies the problem.

Our industry is entangled in a Gordian knot. On the one hand, artists and songwriters complain they don’t make enough money from streaming. So they are demanding a bigger piece of the streaming pie before they will support it. On the other hand, streaming services protest that they already pay out too much of their revenues back to the labels and publishers (currently over 70%) and that if they had to pay out even more, they won’t be able to sustain their businesses long term (note: Spotify recently reported a 12% operating loss for 2013).

Next we have the record labels grumbling that artists have been overpaid by relying on the 50/50 split of “ancillary income” royalty provision in recording contracts for streaming income. The labels’ argue that since streaming is no longer “ancillary”, they should pay artists their regular contractual royalty rate for normal retail channel sales (translation: record companies would keep more of streaming income which they assert they need to sustain their business and continue to invest in developing and marketing artists as well as new required digital infrastructure).

To make matters even more knotty, Apple will soon to be entering the streaming business (along with YouTube which recently launched their Music Key service). This will inevitably result in more downward pressure on pricing for streaming subscriptions. Unlike the Spotify’s and Rdio’s of the world, companies like Apple (and Amazon and Google), don’t rely on streaming to pay their bills. For the tech giants, streaming is simply a consumer acquisition and marketing tool.

Finally, there’s our outdated copyright laws. They have not kept pace with the rapid change brought on by technology. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been in effect since 1998; and it’s pretty clear that, among other things, the Safe Harbor and Anti-Circumvention provisions of that Act need significant updating now that we have 16 years of actual experience to inform the discussion.

So as we approach 2015, here are a few concrete proposals for how we can make this business we all love work for everybody.

1. As my Dad always told me, “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” The 70% royalty paid out by streaming services to IP holders seems too high from the point of view of the payers and too low from the point of the recipients. In every negotiation I’ve ever been a part of, that’s a good sign it’s a fair deal. The streaming services should stop trying to lower that rate and the artists and labels should stop trying to raise it. Everyone seemed OK with that split on iTunes sales. Let’s just all shake hands and get on with making music.

2. The crux of the problem is not how much the streaming services pay to IP holders, but how that pool of money is divvied up and allocated. Currently, it is allocated like a parimutuel betting pool where all subscriptions are pooled and then allocated based on the number of streams listened to for each artist. This seems fair until you realize that it effectively means subscribers who don’t listen to a lot of music per month are subsidizing subscribers who do. For example, if a streaming service had two users, one who listened to 999 streams by Artist X and another user who listened to a single stream by Artist Y, 99.9% of that service’s royalty pool would go to Artist X even though both users paid the same $9.99. It doesn’t have to be this way. Streaming royalties could be accounted for on a “user-centric” basis: i.e., 70% of each subscriber’s revenue would be allocated amongst the artists that subscriber listened to in a given month. This small accounting change would make a substantial difference in the profitability of streaming for indie, up-and-coming and struggling artists: i.e., exactly those artists that we need to nurture if we are going to have a thriving music scene ten years from now.

1. Record labels need to earn their keep. The 70% payout to IP holders largely goes to labels who then pay each of their artists based on the intricacies and convoluted terms of their contracts with each artist. I should know. I negotiated many of those contracts for artists. It doesn’t really matter whether labels call it “ancillary income” or “development” or “digital gobbledygook.” What matters is that unless labels provide real and substantive value to musicians, musicians will take their business elsewhere. Every day there are more and more alternatives to the traditional big 3 labels for musicians to consider. And many of these alternatives are much more exciting and rewarding to deal with for musicians than a label’s lawyers. Labels need to return to their culture of being musicians’ champions and supporters. Or they shouldn’t be surprised if they get disintermediated, and nobody is crying at their funeral.

2. Digital copyright law is a mess. We need to craft and implement a comprehensive overhaul of the sound recording copyright law to include payment of performance royalties for sound recordings on par with musical compositions. And copyright protection for pre-1972 sound recordings should also become a federally mandated right, not just a state right. We also need to revamp the DMCA to bring it in line with the realties of a 2015 digital world, and make the restrictions, obligations and payments under the Act sensible for all sides.

3. It may be tough for the streaming services to acknowledge, but Taylor Swift was right: windowing works. The music business needs to adopt a windowed/tiered system for new releases similar to that implemented by the movie and television industries. CD’s and downloads should have the initial window, followed by the paid streaming subscription services and then ad-supported free streaming services. Each window should have a different pricing model so that the fans who are willing to pay a bit more can get access to new music they love first.

4. IP holders and streaming services need to agree on a higher per-stream minimum that applies across the board, both to subscription and ad-supported services. This per-stream minimum must be high enough to generate a fair income to IP holders while, at the same time, not being so high it kills off the ad-supported services (after all, this is provably the best channel for upselling consumers to paying for music).

5. The album is dead. Long live the song. Artists would be better served releasing a new recording monthly, weekly or in a batch rather than waiting until they have a complete album. (Remember: albums only became a format originally due to the physical limitations of vinyl). Consumers don’t have the attention span they once did to listen to an entire album. Web and mobile connectivity now allow for novel ways for musicians to connect directly with their fans and engage them in their creative process.

6. Neil Young is right: the quality of MP3 song files sucks. If we want music to thrive, it needs to sound good. The entire industry—streaming services, artists and labels—should support rapid adoption of lossless FLAC as the new audio standard for paid interactive streaming. Most young people have never known anything but compressed MP3 audio. Introducing them to music in all its sonic glory might make them more passionate about music (note the resurgence of vinyl among young music fans). Higher quality audio would also attract older music fans who can finally get the sound quality they grew up with in streaming format – leading to more paid subscriptions and sales of high fidelity hardware.

7. Finally and most importantly, let’s make great music. We are all in a business built on a passion for great music. Music isn’t great simply because it is automatically installed on 500 million phones without the users wanting it. Music is great when it is brilliant and original and makes everyone with ears want to rush out and listen to it. If we stop making great music, it won’t matter how we divvy up the revenues because nobody will be listening.

What will the music industry look like eleven years from now? I’m optimistic – as long as ­all stakeholders accept that compromise will be necessary and inevitable to sustain long-term growth and innovation. More people are listening to a greater and a wider variety of music than ever before. The barriers to entry are dropping, and improved curation approaches and filters are being introduced regularly. We can get to a place where all participants can feel good about zealously supporting the rapid growth of streaming. But this can only be achieved if all parties recognize that “pigs get fat, but hogs get slaughtered.”

Follow Fred Goldring on Twitter @fredgoldring.

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Photo credit: http://on.fb.me/TJg761

The new music industry is really about finding your own path – one that is unique to your music and career. That’s exactly what Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn did with Pomplamoose and it is the foundation on which Jack’s new endeavour, Patreon, is built.

Recently, I talked to Jack Conte about some of the tips and strategies that have gotten him to where he is today – living comfortably as a musician and CEO. He gave me some really great advice that you could be incorporating into your music career right now. Here’s a few tips, but we’ve got a full hour of information for you that you can check out in this free webinar.

 

1. Know What You’re Good At

“For me, I figured out what I was good at. That was music and video. I found a platform that could help me do both of those things. Find out what you’re good at and what you like and enjoy and then find the platform to do that.” – Jack Conte (Get FREE access to the full interview here)

The first step to creating a truly great business is really knowing what you have to offer. Of course you have great music, but I want you to take some time to think beyond that. Today, there are so many ways to make a living off music, from music videos to gigs, and from traditional recordings to cover songs, remixes, and arrangements.

Do a little soul searching and ask yourself what you are really good at and what you love doing. Maybe you’re a performer at heart with a flare for organizing people and tasks. Maybe you, like Jack Conte, love making music and videos. The key is to know your skills and then focus on building a career around them. From here, you’ll be able to identify tools that will help you accomplish your goals. Jack loved making music and videos, so it was obvious to focus his efforts on YouTube instead of Facebook or Myspace.

In the end, you’ll have a career built around things you actually love doing. As you’ll see in the next section, loving what you do will make all the hard work fun and enjoyable.

 

2. Work Hard

To Jack Conte, this is the best time in history to be working as a musician, and he’s right! Musicians today have more opportunities at their fingertips every day than some past musicians had in years. You don’t need to wait for a label to throw money at you to start recording. You can connect with millions of people online to sell your products, collaborate, and perform. It is, however, a lot more work. Gone are the days of the partying rockstar. They are replaced with serious musical entrepreneurs who hardly have enough time to sleep let alone party.

That’s not to say that having a career in music isn’t fun! If you’re truly doing something you love doing you’ll enjoy the work no matter how long the hours. Most of the musicians like Jack and Nataly who have built their own careers from the ground up, love music so much that they are perfectly okay with the hard work. In fact, many of them wouldn’t give it up for the world!

“It’s a lot of hard work. We work 24/7. It’s just lots of toil and labor. It’s fun though! I mean we love making music, we love recording, but it’s not parties and drinking on a bus. It’s like cranking at one in the morning, being absolutely exhausted, looking at a 90-fame shot list, and having covered 45 of those shots and realizing we have 45 left to do, and we have to be done in an hour because the hotel is closing. And that’s like everyday of our lives. If you want to be a working musician, make a living from music, and be in control of your own career, then you have to run your own music business, label, and promotions. You’re the CEO of a company. It’s so hard, but so rewarding.” – Jack Conte (Get FREE access to the full interview here)

 

3. Start With What You Have

“You can start making music in your bedroom for next to nothing and hang some blankets on the walls and reach millions of people nowadays. And I find that particularly inspiring.” – Jack Conte (Get FREE access to the full interview here)

The barriers of entry that once prevented musicians from entering the music industry have been blown down. You can start with almost nothing – some cheap instruments, lower-end recording software, and the internet – and build a career. That’s exactly how Jack and Nataly started. The duo were both living with their parents and recording with gear that found on Craigslist for next to nothing.

The fact is, if you wait until you can afford time in a studio or a regional tour, you’re never going to start. Start with what you have, create the highest quality music you can with the tools available, find some fans, make some money, get better gear, and start the process over again. It’s a slow endeavour, but you’ll be a lot further along than if you never started.

 

4. Hire Where You Need

“Ask yourself what do you need, and then hire that person.” – Jack Conte (Get FREE access to the full interview here)

This really builds off the previous point. When you first start out, you won’t be able to afford a manager, booking agent, and publisher. More likely than not, you won’t even be able to attract their attention until you get your career moving forward and get some traction in the market.

Like everything else in your career, it’s really a building process. When some money starts flowing in you don’t need to jump in and hire a full team. Instead look at what you have going. What do you have under control and what’s working well? What do you need help understanding? What barriers are in your way? What tasks are becoming completely too large and overwhelming for you to handle? If you’re doing really great at keeping up with your finances but are having a hard time getting gigs in the bigger venues you know you can fill, just hire a booking agent. Of course, the people you hire and the order you hire them in really depends on you, and your skills, so it will be different for everyone.

 

5. Balance Music and Business

The musician today needs to play the creator and the business executive, and they need to do both of those full-time jobs in a short 24-hour day. It can be really overwhelming, but with a little time management, it’s totally possible!

The first task is really figuring out how you work best. Some people do their best work first thing in the morning while others prefer to work at night. Some people are pro multitaskers while other would rather focus all their energies on one task at a time and get it done.

“I need unobstructed creating time. That’s just how I work. Everybody works differently and everybody has a different balancing act. I take that time that I need, and I don’t really do much business in those times.” – Jack Conte (Get FREE access to the full interview here)

If you look at Jack’s calendar, he sets off a few days a week as just studio days. He doesn’t take meetings or calls on those days – it’s time for him to just focus in on creating. Try using whatever calendar tool you have available to block out your time – it doesn’t have to be fancy. Set a half hour each day to respond to email, 20 minutes to schedule out your social media with an additional hour to respond to your fans over your lunch break. You could set out a few hours one day of the week to brainstorm marketing strategies for your upcoming release, and a day to record and mix your cover song.

 

6. Build Your Own Model

“One thing that I can’t stress enough is whatever works for you is the right way to do it. Just do what you need to do. It’s funny, I think there’s a tendency to want to be the “real thing.” We wanted to be a “real band.” We felt like, “Oh, we’re just a YouTube band, it’s not real,” despite the fact that we had real fans, we were selling songs on iTunes, and we were making a living off of album sales. There is just this pressure to do it like everyone else is doing it. I think the truth is, if you’re an entrepreneur or an innovator, you do it your own way and make it work your own way.”  – Jack Conte (Get FREE access to the full interview here)

There is no one-size-fits-all model in the music industry anymore. More than ever before, innovative musicians like Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn are finding their own success on their terms. Today, your career path really depends on a thousand little factors like your music, your skills, and your fanbase. You can’t just copy a strategy like Pomplamoose’s and expect it to work seamlessly in your unique career. It’s really about know who you are and what you’re good at, trying new things, learning from your experiences, and adapting your strategy.

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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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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.”

Need some ideas to start emailing music bloggers? Download these 10 free email templates: 10 Attention-Getting Email Templates for Musicians

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

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

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

A recent article from Bob Lefsetz made a lot of good points about the music industry which I wanted to reiterate here. The fourth season of X Factor was cancelled here in America after Simon Cowell announced that he would be returning to the UK version of the show. On top of that, American Idol ratings and viewers have been going down.

The American Idol craze started in 2002, at the height of the music industry crisis. File sharing was on the rise and people weren’t buying as many CDs, but American Idol rekindled the public’s interest in music.

Looking back, what are these shows really? Lefsetz calls them “an endless parade of great singers.” There’s lots of great singers out there. In fact, some studies have shown that the vast majority of people can accurately carry a tune with only about 10% of the population being truly tone deaf.

Is a good voice really all it takes to make it in this industry? American Idol and X Factor would have us believe that. These shows are really about entertainment, not the music. After all, how many winners from these shows have actually gone on to a really successful career?

Above all, these shows have told millions of singers and musicians all over the world that success can be instant. That you can be catapulted into the public eye with just a good voice.

So what is success in music?

[Success] is a state of mind, not a sound. [Success] is for those who think, who want more than nougat at the center.

But some things never change.

You’ve got to have material.

With hooks.

You’ve got to be able to sing.

And you’ve got to have something to say. Not necessarily in words, but emotion.

Art is a journey. You never know where you’re going, never mind where you’ll end up. You take your chops and woodshed ideas and test them on the public. Sometimes you’re a few years ahead, sometimes you’re on the wrong track, but if enough artists pursue their dreams…

We end up with quality art.

So, if you’re an indie artist, keep on working. Your hard work and dedication is setting the right example for the music industry. As long and difficult as it may seem, you’re on the right road to success. And when you find your place, you’ll own it and you’ll last the test of time because you made the effort from the start. You found your sound and you found your fans.

Do you think true music success can be achieved over night?

Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list to get access to free lessons. 

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

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

“Why would anyone want to be a musician in this environment?”

I wake up every day fascinated by this question. There are plenty of articles written by people looking into the music industry from the outside proclaiming the end of an era and the doom of indie musicians. Many ask this question and simply cannot comprehend why anyone would want to spend so much time and creative energy on something that may never bring in any real money. And who can blame them given the industry’s overall decline.

Within the business however, some musicians have a completely different outlook. For them, music is just what they do. It’s not about making a ton of money, or trying to impress anyone – its just a way of life, a dream to live.  It’s like breathing.  These people believe that they have the privilege to create. Almost the obligation to do so.

The question these musicians ask  is “How could I not be a musician?”

As we talk about in the New Artist Model course, the love of music is a prerequisite to a life as a successful musician. If people went into the arts to with a sole purpose to make money – there would be no magic – and that creative spark and passion that drives so many people to create would not be present. Music goes beyond money and economics, and isn’t that why it’s so powerful?

Some people are musicians because they just have to be.  The truly great ones.  So there’s my answer.   Are you one of those people?

I’d love to know what you think.

I posted the question “Why Would Anyone Want to be a Musician in this Environment?” to Twitter and this is what I got in the first hour.

musicadium@davekusek I would want to be a musician no matter what environment we were in. The desire to create would override, methinks.

andreakremer@davekusek Isn’t that like asking why anyone would want to play tennis? Do people who play tennis give up because they can’t make a profit?

timothyeric@davekusek fascinated that people still want to be musicians or by the environment and its challenges?

kmsolorio@davekusek passion is the only reason I could come up with. btw, very interested in learning more about your tools for musicians.

marjae@davekusek I am a musician because I love music and, more importantly, sharing it with people. This sharing gives a high unlike any other.

marjae@davekusek Great question! It would be great if you could share some of your replies with us. . . the questions certainly made me think!

Lars_Christian@davekusek I think that if “he environment is a factor on whether you become a musician or not, you probably won’t “make it” either way.

tigerpop@davekusek it’s not always about want.

Pattyoboe@davekusek Being a musician is just who I am … no matter the environment. Maybe like I was still a mom when my kids acted up, I guess ..?

gah650@davekusek it’s an inexorable artistic need to create; thank God.

melbahead@davekusek If being a musician is anything like being a visual artist then it doesn’t matter what one wants. It’s a compulsion, a calling

_willthompson@davekusek it’s extremely hard and counterintuitive to hold back from doing something you have natural predisposition for.

kimpwitmanRT @davekusek: why would anyone want to be a musician in this environment? can someone tell me? i wake up every day fascinated by this.

manishamusic@davekusek Being a musician is not particularly easy in any market-based economy. Something deep inside steers the wheels. Is it insanity?

PtbTrees@davekusek perhaps the love of music is enough to make it worth it. at least thats how I feel

atomicdacia@davekusek because its like a drug. Once its in you you just can’t get enough

Kalajdame@davekusek it seems like an easy way to make money i guess..i do it cuz i love to make music and if i could get paid for it ..u kno the rest

You can love what you do and be successful.

Tell us what drives you.

 

Dave-Kusek-Studio-1-660x330

This interview is from CMJ. Check it out here.

Dave Kusek has spent a lifetime working in the music business as a marketer, hardware and software developer, teacher and author. The meat of his career was right in the middle of the transition from the old analog world to the digital blur we’re all still transitioning into. So he has the experience of an old school sage and the knowledge of a cutting edge electronics whiz. After imparting all that as a longtime teacher at Berklee, he’s developed a new online music school, Dave Kusek’s New Artist Model, that aims to clear up the often fuzzy world of the constantly morphing music biz for striving musicians everywhere.


Give us a little of your personal history, and what makes you uniquely qualified to be able to explain this brave new confusing digital music world to green musicians everywhere, via your New Artist Model course?
I have been working in the music business all of my life, as an entrepreneur, teacher, author and marketing guy. I’ve seen a lot of change over the years having lived through the rise of technology in music and in life, and seeing the transformation that has occurred in how music is produced, consumed, and marketed.

 

I started one of the first synthesizer companies, Star Instruments, where we developed Synare electronic drums. That was around the birth of the disco era and during the time when electronic musical instruments started making their way into the vocabulary of musicians and producers. From there I founded Passport Music Software where we helped to develop the MIDI standard, MIDI Interfaces, sequencing software like Master Tracks Pro, and music notation software like Encore and MusicTime. We sold hundreds of thousands of units and worked with musicians all over the world to create software and help them with their careers.
From there I went on to start Berkleemusic at Berklee College of Music where I taught and worked for over 14 years. Berkleemusic became the world’s largest music school. And we taught online and worked with tens of thousands of musicians, songwriters, producers, managers and business people.

I co-wrote the book The Future Of Music with my friend Gerd Leonhard which predicted a lot of the change that happened in the music business. That became a best seller. That work led me to collaborate with lots of musicians, labels, publishers and artist managers coping with the changes in the marketplace that started with Napster and continued through the iPod emerging, iTunes, file sharing and all that has transpired since. At Berklee I set up a partner network of hundreds of companies like CMJ, Topspin, ProTools and many others to collaborate on digital marketing tools, online courses and strategies for independent musicians trying to navigate the changing marketplace.

I’ve worked with big artists and small artists in almost every genre and have coached many people who have been dropped from labels or just wanted to pursue an indie career from the start. I’ve had to learn what is working today and what is not, what tools you can employ to drive your career and what to avoid. It’s been a really fun ride so far, and this next chapter with the New Artist Model is going to be even more fun as we help a new wave of musicians deal with the realities of the market today.

What is the basic difference between the “Essential Class” and the “Master Class” that you offer?
Both classes teach the same material, with the same videos, presentations, interactions, animations, reading and case studies. The Essential Class is a self-paced course, so you drop into the course and go through the eight weeks of lessons on your own or with your band at your own pace. You move through the material and develop your strategy, you develop a brand strategy, publishing plan, touring and booking plan, a recording strategy and a marketing plan by going through a step-by-step process. We take a look at your finances and explore crowdfunding and various ways for you to get organized, set goals and create plans to reach those goals. That’s the essential course.

The Master Class is the exact same material but you’re working with me as a teacher and getting feedback directly from me. You are also working with a group of students from around the world. There are homework assignments, projects and class discussions that I lead. There is also a live chat once a week that you participate in where you can ask me any questions you want. You also receive feedback from the other students in the class which is a huge value. By working with people from different parts of the world you get a very unique perspective on the music business and get to share ideas and learn strategies that are working in different environments.

So basically, with the Essential Class you work at your own pace, and with the Master Class you get me as your teacher and a group of other students to learn from.

Can you give us a quick list of the basic areas of the music business that you hope to illuminate for your students?
The New Artist Model is an online music business course for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers and songwriters. The course teaches essential business and marketing skills that will take you from creativity to commerce while maximizing your chances for success. The course is designed to give musicians a strong understanding of the current music industry and to provide the tools and techniques necessary to make a meaningful impact in today’s music market. Students will:

• Understand the dynamic music business ecosystem and your place in it.
• Build a team to support your goals and create opportunities for you in the marketplace.
• Leverage multiple revenue streams: publishing, touring and merchandise and recording.
• Develop an online presence and strategy to grow and monetize your relationship with fans.
• Understand the impact of copyright law and protect yourself and your music.
• Figure out how to budget, crowdfund and finance your projects.
• Get access to resources and people that can help you grow your network.
• Develop a custom and personalized Career Map and Budget for you.

Would you say that the New Artist Model online course is an extension of the guidelines you set down in your book, The Future Of Music: Manifesto For The Digital Revolution? Or do things move so fast in this world that you’ve got yet newer information to impart?
Well, in the book we did talk about a new artist model, and there has even been at least one song written about that approach, called Download This Song by MC Lars. But honestly, things have changed so much and are changing so fast that an online resource is really the only way to keep current. There are tools and technologies available today that were not around when The Future Of Music was written, most notably the iPhone and streaming services like Spotify—both of which we predicted in the book. So yeah, the New Artist Model course is a fresh and dynamic take on the current state of the music business and where things are headed today.

The general consensus is that touring is increasingly the most reliable way for bands to make money. Do you agree with that consensus? Or can touring be one more thing that gets in the way of an act developing their songwriting and marketing skills? 
This question gets at the central themes of the course, which are what kind of musician are you, what does success look like for you, what are you good at and where do you focus your efforts? I agree that touring can be a money maker for many artists if that is what you are good at and want to do. Performing live takes real skill to entertain an audience and build a fan base on the road, and if that is what gets you going, then yes, you should focus on that. But publishing and licensing are also great revenue drivers if you can write well and can plug into the music supervisors and agencies that pick songs for the media.

Another growing consensus is that musicians today cannot be “just” a musician, that they must be very proactive and entrepreneurial. But we all know musicians—is it realistic to expect musicians to run every business aspect of their career?
No, I don’t think that it is realistic that a single person can run every business aspect of their career. The whole idea of DIY is, in my opinion, a real disservice to the independent musician community. You can’t do it yourself, it’s impossible. You need a team and you need a strategy and focus so that you can move your career forward. It is more like DIWO, or “do it with others.” And to be effective doing so, you need a clear plan that you can communicate to your team members and that you can use to make decisions and figure out where to spend your time and where to invest your energy and resources.

Every artist needs a good manager and business partner to really get ahead. Someone to help with marketing and booking or plugging songs and providing a balance so that the artist can spend time being creative. But, I know and believe that in order for a musician to be successful in today’s environment, they need to have a very solid understanding of the business, even if they don’t do everything themselves. As a musician today, you are an entrepreneur and you better be fluent in the dynamics of the music business so that you can see where you are going and know how to get there.

Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list to get access to free lessons!

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

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

“The Buyer and the Beats,” a study unveiled by Nielsen at SXSW 2013, cites between $450 million and $2.6 billion incremental revenue in the music industry.  While the industry has already begun the shift towards models such as crowdfunding and direct to fan, this study suggests a demand for additional experiences, content, and engagement not yet available.  This study presents much-needed optimism for indie musicians trying to make a living off their art.

Nielsen surveyed 4,000 music consumers of different degrees of dedication.  “Aficionado fans” are the big-spending music connoisseurs, dedicated to many genres of music ranging from popular to obscure, with an understanding of the music industry. They are your superfans.  “Digital fans” are fanatic social media users with a tendency to use the free versions of internet radios and other similar services.  “Big box fans” generally associate themselves with pop and country and are strongly influenced by discounts and deals.  Together these groups account for 40% of music consumers, but are responsible for 75% of all music spending!

Despite the groups’ purchasing differences, across the board fans expressed a willingness to pay for content given the opportunity. Nielsen concluded that if music fans were to buy additional exclusive content from one band the music industry stands to make $564 million, but if these fans buy content from all their favorite bands, there is a possibility for $2.6 billion.  The true number probably lies somewhere in the middle, but either way, you can and harness this unmet demand.

According to Chief Analytics Officer at Nielsen Entertainment Measurement, Barara Zack, “Fans want more… There is a desire to engage at a different level than what they have.”  So where are you going to find this untapped revenue?  Crowdfunding and direct-to-fan platforms have shown that “fans really want are 55-dollar signed CD’s, hand-written lyric sheets, and access to the making of the album.”

The recent overwhelming success of artists like Amanda Palmer has solidified crowdfunding as a viable fund raising platform, however, it’s related functions as a direct-to-fan platform, presale tool, and exclusive content provider are often overlooked.  Currently, many artists view crowdfunding as a tool to fund the creation of an album, and any presales are just an added bonus.  This is methodology backwards and not sustainable.

CEO of Pledge Music, Benji Rogers believes fans will begin to suffer from “donor fatigue” if donations are constantly requested of them and time sensitive goals are pushed in consumers faces like big flashy advertisements.  If this path is pursued, crowdfunding has the potential to follow advertisements down the road of consumer indifference.  For this reason, Pledge Music does not display any financial target.

Nielsen reported that 53% of aficionado fans and 34% of digital fans are willing to pay for content and access, meaning many indie musicians miss out on potential income when content is given out free.  Additionally, 59% of aficionados and 55% of digital fans want to know more about their favorite musicians.  “What really kills me is that I watch these big artists tell the story, and give it away through Facebook posts and on Twitter, but I can’t buy in and be a part of it,” says Benji Rogers.  While many “aficionado fans” may find this pay-for-content model is perfectly viable, it has the potential to alienate the average music consumer – a balance must be met between free and paid content in order to target and monetize both casual and dedicated fans. Every one of your fans are different, so different products will appeal to each.

Crowdfunding’s true calling lies in its ability to sell many different products at many different price points at an earlier stage than a typical release.  You can target more casual fans and begin bringing in presale money earlier on, while simultaneously offering hardcore fans exclusive access to the making of the album.  Effectively executed crowdfunding not only brings in money earlier, it keeps you at the front of fan’s minds through constant updates and interactions.

Direct-to-fan bundling is also emerging as a viable model for tapping into additional revenue.  Fans have expressed a want for additional content, and in many cases that content exists but fans are unaware.  For example, 35% of aficionado fans and 25% of digital fans were interested in crowdfunding, but unaware of its existence. How can indie artists tie in direct-to-fan notifications for new products and live shows into the platforms their fans spend their time on like Spotify and YouTube?

Since 1999, the music industry has lost billions in revenue, falling from $27.8 billion to $16.5 billion in 2012.  While many blame the internet, it has perhaps added more value than it has taken in the form of exclusive content and more personal relationships between fans and artists.  Today fans have the opportunity to see what goes on behind the album, and fans are proving time and time again that they are willing to pay for this content and information on their favorite bands.  Crowdfunding and direct-to-fan platforms are certainly steps in the right direction, but fans are indicating that they still want more, and that is an encouraging thought for the music industry.

(Check out an article from Nielson here.)

How will you harness this untapped revenue potential? What can you sell to your superfans?

 

To learn more about the revenue streams available to you, subscribe to the New Artist Model mailing list and get access to free lessons.

Gaming platforms are not just for gaming anymore. More and more people are using platforms like Xbox and Playstation to access music. Increased competition for the top-selling game has pushed game developers to really focus on creating a great sound track. Game developers are licensing more music than ever before and now fans can even purchase the tracks from the game without ever leaving the console. In addition, game consoles are incorporating online streaming and other music services, allowing fans to listen to their music from the central point of most homes – the TV.

This article was originally published on Billboard by Alex Pham. Here’s a short excerpt explaining how gaming consoles stand to benefit the music industry and musicians.

This [surge in game console popularity and competition] matters to the music industry for three reasons, and all of them are good. The first is that these new devices represent absolute growth in the number of paths for digital music services to enter the living room.

“For content owners, this can be an opportunity,” Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst Colin Sebastian says. “These are exciting new platforms for music and other digitally delivered content.”

Companies like Vevo, Rhapsody, BandPage, Slacker and TuneIn have actively pursued distribution deals with over-the-top distribution services with the belief that to succeed, they need to go where the audience is.

Accessing music through a TV is no longer considered odd, especially since many living room TVs are often hooked up to the best audio system in the house. About 30% of Americans have listened this year to music through TVs that were connected to the Internet, either by game consoles or other means, according to a report by Edison Research.

Music services say consoles represent an opportunity to expand their footprint in the living room.

SoundCloud chief executive Alex Ljung points out that consoles have become one of the main routes to “smart” TVs, building a bridge for Internet services to the living room. “In some ways, game consoles were the first and still by far the largest user base for smart TVs. It’s a way to take a screen and connect it to the Web,” he says. “In that sense, the console enables us to get to the TV.”

The second reason why consoles matter lies in the calculation of royalties. Music delivered through ­Internet-based services has historically generated higher absolute royalties in aggregate than music delivered by cable and satellite TV companies. While per-stream rates established by the Copyright Royalty Board for cable, satellite and Internet conduits aren’t directly comparable to one another, it’s well-known that Pandora, an Internet-based service, is the largest single contributor to SoundExchange, which collects music royalties under statutory licensing. Should listening to Internet music on TVs in a home environment become as popular as mobile, rights holders stand to gain.

The third opportunity for music, albeit a smaller one than during the heyday of “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero,” games themselves represent a vehicle for licensing and distribution. This year and next, a handful of titles will incorporate music as a central feature in their experiences, including Ubisoft Entertainment’s “Just Dance 2014” and “Rocksmith 2” and Harmonix’s “Fantasia.” As with movies, games require increasingly sophisticated scores and soundtracks, particularly for console titles that heavily emphasize cinematic environments and character development.

Perhaps the best source of licensing revenue this year will come from “Grand Theft Auto V,” which licensed 240 tracks and commissioned original songs from A$AP Rocky, Flying Lotus, Twin Shadow, Neon Indian, Yeasayer, OFF! and Tyler, the Creator, among others. The game, which has so far generated more than $1.3 billion in retail revenue since its release on Sept. 17, also features 15 in-game radio stations hosted by well-known DJs, including Bootsy Collins.

Inspired by the “GTA” radio feature, some streaming music providers including Rhapsody have explored the possibility of integrating their services into gaming worlds. Gamers spend about four hours per week on average playing, according to a 2012 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Some even turn off the game’s sound to pipe in their own musical selections.

To read the full article, visit Billboard.com.

Do you think gaming platforms are a good path forward for the music industry? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Photo by smaedli

Photo by smaedli

The bigger the industry, the more powerful it’s smallest players. That saying is derived from John Naisbitt’s book, “Global Paradox,” and while it was meant to describe the global economy, it holds true for most industries as well – especially the music industry.

The music business is a huge multi-million dollar industry with hundreds of thousands of players. Big record companies can throw around huge amounts of money to make things happen for their artists, and as a result, super star acts seem to snowball out of control while smaller artists struggle to just get by. As an independent artist, its easy to feel trapped by your small size. You can feel like you can’t possibly get the same kind of success without the big marketing dollars and top-of-the-line production quality. That’s one way to look at it.

There is another way to see your situation. Instead of that depressing outlook, keep Naisbitt’s thoughts in mind. The bigger the industry, the more powerful it’s smallest players. This means that the most powerful player in the music industry is YOU – the indie musicians, indie labels, and music entrepreneurs. Power doesn’t have to mean money, influence, or even fame. Power can be the driving force behind the industry – the force that brings about new ideas, the force that paves the way for the future of the industry.

Big companies can’t be as creative with their business.  When there’s that much money being thrown around, safety is key. They stick to the tried and true for the most part. If they try something new for the release of their top artist’s album and it flops, they will miss out on the millions of dollars in sales that keep their business running.

The small players, on the other hand, don’t have as much to lose. A musician just starting out can experiment with a new album release strategy or promotion campaign. A music entrepreneur can start a business around a completely new concept that the big players are afraid to experiment with.

More often than not, its the smaller players that come up with the new ideas that drive the music industry forward. After they have been proven, these ideas are adopted by the big companies and artists.

Don’t look at your size in comparison to this massive industry as an inhibitor. Instead, view it as a freedom. You don’t need to be afraid to experiment and try new things. YOU are the driving force behind the music industry.

Photo by tradingacademy.com

Photo by tradingacademy.com

In today’s music industry, success isn’t just handed to you. Increasingly, the musician must view their career in the same way an entrepreneur views their startup company. You need to know what you want, how dedicated you are, and then make a plan not unlike a traditional business plan that will lead you to YOUR success.

With so many options in today’s music industry, success can mean different things to different people. Some people will be happy gigging their home town a few days a week and keep their day job. Others won’t be happy until they are playing stadiums in front of thousands of screaming fans. Some musicians may be happy living in the background composing music for films, while other’s want their single featured on the top 100 chart. Knowing what you want is the key first step in planning how to get there.

Shaun Letang wrote this great article for Music Think Tank that really sums up what you should be doing right now to plan your career. Here’s an excerpt of the article, but you can read the full article on Music Think Tank.

Define What Success In The Music Industry Is To You

Before anything else, you need to decide what your personal definition of success is. The reason for this is simple; if your idea of success is becoming well known in your country for being a talented musicians, you’ll need different steps to achieving that than you would if your aim was to earn a full time living from music.

So what is your final end game? What do you want to achieve? If you’re not yet sure, here are some common outcomes which a lot of musicians aim for. I’ve also included a (extremely generally) look at what’s needed to reach these goals:

  • Aim to play good music you and your friends will enjoy.
  • Aim to become well known at a local level. (Requires a lot of work).
  • Aim to become well known at a national scale. (Requires a lot of work and luck).
  • Aim to become well known at a international scale. (Requires a lot of work and a lot of luck).
  • Aim to earn a part time living from music. (Requires a lot of work).
  • Aim to earn a full time living from music (Requires a lot of work).
  • Aim to become wealthy from music (Requires a lot of work and a lot of luck).

Feel free to mix and match your goals as you need. For example, it may be your aim to be well known in your local area and earn a full time living from your music. This is an achievable goal if you know what you’re doing.

While it’s easy to assume that most people would want to become internationally well known and wealthy from their music, that’s not always the case. As someone who regularly talks to musicians all around the world, I’ve seen that different people want to achieve different things, and everyone has their reasons for their end goal. So no matter what your end goal is, be sure it’s clear in your mind and we can move forward.

Determine What You’re Willing To Do To Succeed In The Music Industry

This is where the whole ‘on your terms’ bit fits in.

So now you know what you want to achieve from your music career, the next steps is deciding what you’re willing to do to achieve these goals. No, I’m not talking about who you’ll sleep with to get to the top (I do not recommend this). Instead, you need to decide if you want to achieve your goals strictly through your personal brand as a musician, or if you’re willing to use your musical skill in other ways to pad out your income and get you better known.

Let’s say the goals in your music career are mainly driven by money. Making a part time living is something I feel most musicians with talent and good marketing knowledge can achieve. That said, only a % of those people will go on to make a full time comfortable living from their music alone. It is achievable, but it’s a lot harder than if you were to also use the talents you’ve acquired from the music industry for other forms of earning.

For example, if you were to start teaching up and coming musicians how to sing, rap or produce, you could earn more than you would from just playing gigs and selling songs alone. Teaching wouldn’t get in the way of you playing gigs; gigs are generally performed later at night, while your teaching lessons would likely be in the day. Furthermore, if you was to teach via a online video course for example, after you’ve created your product you wouldn’t have to actively be there to teach each new person that came along.

There are plenty of income streams you could tap in which are music related, but which don’t involve your personal brand as a musician. Other examples include songwriting for others, doing backing vocals for other musicians, doing skits for people in need of them (isn’t restricted to other musicians) and the like. Think about who you can help with the talents you have, and provide a service to them.

To read the full article, go to Music Think Tank.

What does YOUR success look like? Share in the comment section below.

Everyone wants to make it in the music industry. However, life as a musician is not an easy path. It can be extremely fulfilling to be able to make money by doing something you love, so here are some great tips to help you achieve your goals. Keep in mind that there is no easy solution. It will take hard work and dedication!

1: You Need To Have Undeniable Talent

The first thing you need in place, is a good level of talent. Without this, your music career most likely won’t be very long lived. Sure if you have a strong marketing team in place and they spin a good angle on why people should like you, you don’t have to be the most talented musician in the world to see some level of success. That said, do you really want to be that person who has more people disliking them then supporting them? My guess is you don’t, even if you are financially successful.

Talent comes before all else. Until you’ve got a good level of talent, you shouldn’t do anything to promote your music. You want people’s first impression of you to be a good one, as it’s not a easy job relaunching yourself to a group of people who have heard you but weren’t very impressed. Chances are they won’t try and listen to you the second time around, even if you tell them that you’ve improved.

As you may notice, I didn’t just put “you should be talented”. I mentioned you needundeniable talent. There are lots of levels of talent, and while you can be quite successful with a ‘good’ level of talent, if you’ve undeniable talent (combined with the other factors in this list), it’ll be hard for you not to have some sort of financial success in the music industry. In all honesty, there are a ton of talented musicians out there who make really good music that will make their target audience very happy. That said, there are a lot fewer musicians whose talent is generally undeniable. If you can get your talent to this level, you’re going to be a lot closer to your music career goals.

2: Drive And Motivation Should Be Flowing Through Your Veins

Next up, you need drive and motivation to push your music career forward. This is just as important as the above step, as without drive, your talent isn’t going to count for much.

You could be the world’s best singer, rapper, or bass player. If however you haven’t got the motivation to get your music recorded, to promote it in any way, or to generally do the things needed for a successful music career, then you might as well be talentless. Because you won’t make a success of yourself in the public eye. If you’re only interest in making good music for yourself, that’s fair enough. But I’m guessing as you read Music Think Tank, you want more then just that.

Making it in the music business takes a lot of hard work and effort on your behalf, so if you aren’t willing to invest the time needed, don’t expect to get very far at all.

Now I know someone in the comments is going to say that not everyone has a lot of time to dedicate to their music career, and I understand that. That said, do what you can. If you’ve the other factors in place and you dedicate as much time to your music as humanly possible, you can still have some level if success. It may take longer to achieve then it would for someone who has 7 hours a day to dedicate to their music and who has more disposable income. Furthermore, you might not even reach the same heights they achieve. But if you dedicate a few nights a week after you’ve finished work and put the kids to bed, as well as half a day on the weekend to what you need to do, there’s no reason you can’t make at least an additional income from your music. It is possible, but you need to put the work in. Now the question remains; Do you want it enough?

To read the full article, visit Music Think Tank.

Photo by buddawiggi

Photo by buddawiggi

Collaboration is a key factor for success in today’s music industry. It is very difficult to “make it” on your own without the help of band members, team members, and other musicians and bands. When it comes to growing your fan base, collaborating with other bands or musicians is a great method. You can promote each other on Facebook, you can play live shows together, and you can share each other’s music with your followers. Get creative with your collaboration ideas! In the end, collaboration between two or more bands creates a mutually beneficial relationship.

Here’s one example of musician collaboration from Hypebot:

Let’s say you put together a playlist with tracks from 10 artists you feel close to in your scene, with a couple of simple assumptions: each of you has 2,000 fans (or followers), and there is no cross-over in your fanbase. If each of those 10 artists shares your playlist, you’ll be reaching a potential of 11*2,000 = 22,000 fans. Assuming 20% actually listen to the content, and a quarter of those become fans or followers of you and the artists in your playlist, that’s 1,100 new fans for everyone. Some of the assumptions are simplistic, but you get the picture.

This idea of curation as a means of putting a musical scene you feel a part of in the spotlight has yet to overpower the hype of discovery algorithms, but already some artists have been headed in that direction for some time, notably in the electronic music and hip-hop scenes. Take a look at French artist Brodinski: hisFacebook and Twitter feeds are filled with musical content from artists he’s close to. Or Boston duo Soul Clap, who regularly create DJ charts on Beatport; and, because, there’s a “buy” link on the tracks, these guys are actually providing their fans with an incentive to financially support the acts they’ve curated. If you believe in the power of connecting with other musicians, of creating a movement, your job as an artist becomes to get connected with your scene, finding the artists you see as part of your movement, help them be discovered and identified as part of the movement, and help them reciprocate. As long as there’s an unmistakable unity, the bigger the movement, the bigger everyone’s personal gains, ultimately.

To read the full article, visit Hypebot.

There has been a lot of hype this past week about Pandora and their unfair payments to artists. Both sides in this argument are  skewing the facts in their favor, and therefore creating mass misunderstanding, leaving consumers and other musicians with music on Pandora utterly confused.

I cannot help but make the connection to the Pandora’s Box myth. Pandora used innovation and creativity to lead the way to a redefined music industry, one where consumers had access to millions of songs anywhere, but unleashed conflict. This finger-pointing environment is not healthy for innovation and progression in the music industry. We need to try to learn all the facts, look at the situation from both sides, and find a way to move forward together. As we move forward, musicians cannot deny the value in online radio – it enables music to reach millions of consumers and potential fans – and streaming companies would not exist without the music. Along with all the bad things, Pandora’s Box also held the spirit of hope.

Here’s a quick recap of a few of the major finger-pointing events that occurred this past week:

* On Monday 6/24, David Lowery posted a piece where he showed he made $16.89 on over 1 million Pandora plays. Never mind that the song actually grossed over $1300, David wished to make his point by highlighting his songwriting revenue only. The issue gets muddled when you realize he only pointed out his songwriting share, not his publishing share as well, and that his take is only 40% of the writing, which he can’t blame Pandora for. David didn’t hide this skewing of the data, but his headline-generating writing style got respected blogs like Gizmodo and AV Club to write articles making it sound like that’s all the money he made. This forced a round of retraction articles later in the week. I can get behind the reasoning David made in the article (to stop Pandora from suing PROs to lower rates) but by obscuring the issue, he weakened the overall position.

* On Wednesday 6/26, Tim Westergren had to acknowledge the growing blogstorm and post a response about how much they do indeed pay and how they are not trying to reduce rates. Tim also chooses words carefully to make Pandora appear more altruistic than they’ve been. By saying that Pandora has not advocated an 85% rate decrease, it makes it seem that they’ve not positioned for lower royalties. But what (former) Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy did do was advocate in front of Congress for the Internet Radio Fairness Act. In a summary by bill sponsor Senator Ron Wyden, the bill “would treat Internet Radio, for purposes of establishing royalty rates, in the same way that satellite and cable radio are treated.” Currently, satellite radio is paying 7.5% of revenue to royalties. Pandora has claimed they currently pay over 50% of revenue. Cutting 50% of their revenue down to 7.5% is an…85% rate decrease. While this bill may be dead, that doesn’t mean the 85% reduction is the result of an RIAA misinformation campaign.

* On Thursday 6/27, David Israelite, the President and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), entered his opinion about the misinformation campaign by Pandora. He cited figures from both the Lowery argument and an event the NMPA held the previous year highlighting the paltry royalties the songwriters are getting. As he puts it: “By any standard, this is unacceptable.” That’s not entirely true because all this suggests is that Pandora is not paying a fair rate instead of a fair market rate, which is a different beast. By not comparing Pandora’s royalties to anything, these rates will naturally appear low. But you need an apples-to-apples comparison to know if anything is truly fair or not.

OK, so what is the truth of this argument? We need to have this so we can move forward with actual intellectual discussions that are as fair as possible to all sides.

To read the full post, visit Hypebot.

Your band name is one of the most important assets you have. It’s how fans identify you, it represents you and your music, and for some bands, like the Rolling Stones or Black Flag, it can become an iconic symbol representing a genre, attitude, or era. With the market saturated with small amateur bands, the likelihood that another shares your same name is increasing.

This interview with James Trigg and Ashford Tucker, lawyers specializing in copyright and trademark law, explains the importance of a unique trademark, the steps necessary to secure ownership of a trademark, and domain names.

A trademark serves to identify the source of goods or services. When we see marks like COCA-COLA, MICROSOFT, BUDWEISER and BMW, we instantly associate them with the products sold in conjunction with them, and we rely on these names to assist us in distinguishing one product or service from another. Thus, generally, trademark law seeks to prevent consumer confusion by allowing trademark owners to control the use of their marks so that consumers can rely on a trademark as an indication of a product or service’s unique characteristics.

The law of trademarks applies to the fields of music, film, literature and art just as readily as it does to soda, software, beer and cars. Of course, most of us do not like to think of the arts as a “commodity,” something that merely is bought and sold. Similarly,artists themselves at times may be reluctant to view their names or their creations as commercial trademarks that identify them to the public in exactly the same way that BUDWEISER identifies Anheuser-Busch.   Nonetheless, by taking steps to protect their names, entertainers and artists can assume greater control of their identities and the way that those identities are perceived by the public.

To read the full interview, and learn more about trademark law and how it applies to your band and career, visit Digital Music News.

 

Today, indie and DIY artists have the potential to bring in more money than ever before, but sometimes all the potential revenue sources can be overwhelming and difficult to manage.  This article describes the three most profitable revenue sources for indie musicians.

1) YouTube

Complain all you want about musicians making YouTube covers and goofy videos instead of being “serious”. The reality is many of them make a good living from this. Costs are minimal compared to professional studio time. Distribution costs are near zero. The casualness of the content also allows for more rapid creation than one might find for “official” recorded work.

Companies such as Maker Studios and Big Fra.me have grown to help these artists monetize their music with better-leveraged ad rates, production assistance, and channel cross-promotion. Once ramped up with a lot of content, successful artists in this area can clear mid-to-high five figures in revenue. Since they are often solo artists, they also don’t have to split it up much.

To find out the other two revenue streams, visit Music Think Tank.

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

Believe it or not, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Recording Industry Association of America have announced that they want new digital  devices like cellphones, iPods and music players to be legally required to incorporate FM radio receivers.  This appears to be a twisted bargain to get the radio broadcasters to agree to pay performance royalties for radio airplay to the record companies, in exchange for propping up their business models via legislation.  How bizarre.

As reported in Arstechnica, “Congress should mandate that FM radio receivers be built into cell phones, PDAs, and other portable electronics.

Radio broadcasters and music labels are at each other’s throats over the question of whether radio ought to pay performance rights to labels or artists when it plays their music on the air (currently, only songwriters get paid, not artists or labels). A bill percolating in Congress, the Performance Rights Act, would rationalize performance rights in the US; satellite radio and webcasters currently pay full performance fees to labels or artists, but radio does not, thanks to a longstanding exemption in copyright law.The bill has already passed out of committee in both the House and Senate, but it is vigorously opposed by the broadcasters; they argue that radio provides valuable promotion to artists and shouldn’t have to pay. Congress tried to force two of the main lobbying groups, the National Association of Broadcasters and musicFIRST (RIAA is a member), to hash out a solution last November. None was forthcoming, but talks have continued since then and are now close to completion.The two sides hope to strike a grand bargain: radio would agree to pay around $100 million a year (less than it feared), but in return it would get access to a larger market through the mandated FM radio chips in portable devices.”As regards the chip, this is a key issue for the radio industry,” musicFIRST told Ars today. “musicFIRST, too, likes FM chips in cell phones, PDAs, etc. It gives consumers access to more music choices.”

As the contours of this deal came into sight last week, the consumer electronics companies saw the prospect of a new government mandate, and one that was transparently about propping up a particular (and aging) business model.

“The performance royalty legislation voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee does not include this onerous and backward-looking radio requirement,” said the CEA’s Shapiro, and he wants to keep it that way.

The deal has not been finalized, we’re told. When it is, the two sides still need to convince Congress to go along, but they’re hopeful something can be wrapped up late this year or early in 2011.

The Consumer Electronics Association, whose members build the devices that would be affected by such a directive, is incandescent with rage. “The backroom scheme of the [National Association of Broadcasters] and RIAA to have Congress mandate broadcast radios in portable devices, including mobile phones, is the height of absurdity,” thundered CEA president Gary Shapiro. Such a move is “not in our national interest.”

“Rather than adapt to the digital marketplace, NAB and RIAA act like buggy-whip industries that refuse to innovate and seek to impose penalties on those that do.”

But the music and radio industries say it’s a consumer-focused proposition, one that would provide “more music choices.”

Please.

Hypebot has lampooned this absurdity with it’s own list of “Top 10 Government Mandates Needed to Save Us.”

  1. All Videogames Come Bundled With Top 40 Albums: The RIAA would like you to believe the number one threat to the profitability of the record and music industries is file-sharing, but I think there’s another industry that deserves a little attention. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 sold ten million copies in the US alone. That money could’ve been spent on albums. Let’s lobby and make it so every videogame sold is bundled with Rihanna & Lady Gaga’s latest album. Hey gamers, it’s only fair.
  2. iTunes & Amazon Can Only Sell Physical Albums: Think about it, digital singles are cannibalizing the sales of full and physical albums. If we could only get a bill passed that forces iTunes to sell only physical albums. Fans should be forced to enjoy music the way that artists intended it to be consumed and this whole idea of them having their personalized music experience needs to go away. I’m sick of fans thinking they can just cherry-pick the songs they want and never hear the other ten songs on the album. This bill needs to get passed now.
  3. MTV Must Play Music Videos During Mandated Hours: I am sick of all this reality TV junk and I bet you are too. Ever since they stopped playing our videos sales have fallen through the floor. Once we get The Hills off the air and Ke$ha’s new video back in solid rotation, fans will have no choice but to get back to watching our expensive productions. I bet we can even get Carson Daly back. Without him, no one wants to buy music anymore. To make sure our music is playing during prime hours the record industry must have jurisdiction over their programming.
  4. Music Downloaders Must Be Downgraded To Dial-Up: Screw this three strikes business, let’s just throw those evil pirates back to the stone-age and throttle every suspected pirate, as determined by our monitoring systems that we got installed on all 5 billion of net enabled devices, back to dial-up internet speeds. If they think they can steal our content then they can also wait 10 minutes for the email and Facebook to load. Who’s file-sharing my music now Mr. 28k connection? BAM!
  5. Big Towns Must Have Record Stores: Wide-spread file-sharing has decimated the profits of our record stores and forced them to close their doors. All those pirates on dial-up are going to need to buy music somewhere. I say we make it so there’s a government mandate that forces record stores to be placed across the street from Starbucks Coffee Shops in every town that has a population of over 250,000.  In the event that there is already another Starbucks across the street from the other Starbucks, our record store will be placed to the left of the shop in question.
  6. Guitar Hero, One Real Guitar For Each Fake Controller: Seriously, who do these punk college students and videogame developers think they are? Interacting with music using plastic pieces of junk; these kids need to get a life and learn how to play real music, with real instruments. I’m convinced that the only way we can ensure profitability of GuitarCenter and make sure that these varmints don’t destroy our cultural history with their little white flippers and colored buttons is if we make it so every fake Guitar Hero controller comes with a real guitar too.
  7. The Music Blog Network & Pay Wall:  All music blogs must be forced to join a subscriber network and be put behind a pay wall. If users want to read to their amateur content and get DRM encrypted, virus laden MP3 files, then, they must pay money to have access to that content. It’s only fair. They work hard to write about music and they are entitled to money if you want to read their blog.  Also, with every single subscription to the music blog network users must also opt into a year’s worth of either Rolling Stone or Spin; it’s time they learn what real music journalism is and stop getting advice from talentless strangers, failed musicians, and their college dorm buddy who thinks he’s a hipster, but really isn’t.
  8. Resale Is Prohibited, No More Used CDs: Fans should not, I repeat, fans should not be able to buy music for half price at some local store run by a hippie. We need to put a stop to this and make it so the resale of albums is prohibited. To ensure that fans are receiving the optimum experience that we intended them to have we need mandate them to buy new CDs every time. For years, fans have been buying music from these places that smell like pot and incense sticks. They buy an album and they go home and all it does is skip because of how scratched it is.  No more used CDs. Period. New music sounds better anyways.
  9. Ticket Sales Combined With Albums Sales: Fans already pay 20 different fees when they purchase a ticket to see live music so why not add a surcharge on their that they understand. The album fee. For every single show that a fan attends they will now be mandated to buy the album too. The artists work really hard on their records and live music should not be considered a substitute for professionally produced music.
  10. Home Recording & Music Production Is Outlawed: Those amateurs and indie musicians thought they were clever when they started producing music in their homes and not getting it mastered at a recording studio. With all those fly-by-night music schools that graduate sound engineers by the hundred we need to guarantee that those students, who paid good money, have jobs when they get out of college. This will also have the effect of making artists dependant of the major label system to fund the recording of their music and drastically increase the quality of all music in general. All that stuff on YouTube sounds terrible, let’s fix that.