10 Musician Mistakes: You Don’t React to Opportunity


In music, and in life for that matter, opportunities pop up when you least expect them, and it’s your job to be ready. These opportunities could be anything from a pick up gig, to a publishing deal to a chance to collaborate with a local musician. Either way, the artists that can react quickly are the ones who succeed.

It’s good to think about the possible outcomes of your actions before you do something. After all, you can’t fit everything in your busy schedule and no one wants to do something they will regret later. Learning how to pick your chances is very important.  But over thinking an opportunity can be just as bad as under thinking. There comes a point where you need to just decide to take the leap or not!

Let’s take a look at Amanda Palmer, a very famous indie artist and avid social media user, who made $11k in two hours by jumping on an opportunity. And this was well before her celebrated crowdfunding campaign.

Palmer was tweeting with her followers about how she was once again alone on her computer on a Friday night. Fans joined in the conversation and a group was quickly formed – “The Losers of Friday Night on their Computers.” Amanda Palmer created the hashtag #LOFNOTC and thousands joined the conversation. In fact, it became the #1 trending topic on Twitter.

When a fan suggested a t-shirt be made for the group Palmer ran with the idea, sketched out a quick shirt design and threw up a website that night. The shirts were available for $25 and two hours later Palmer had made $11,000! It would have been very easy to just disregard the fan’s comment and sit on the couch watching Netflix for the rest of the night. Nothing bad would have happened if she hadn’t designed the shirts in the spur of the moment and commited to the project, but nothing good would have happened either!


In the New Artist Model online course we will help you set goals for your career so you can better judge the value of an opportunity. You will learn about the power of your fanbase and collaboration and the opportunities that come with them.

What are you waiting for? Join the revolution and never miss out on another opportunity! Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list for free sample lessons.

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10 Musician Mistakes: You Overuse Free Music


Your music is valuable. I think a lot of musicians forget this or are afraid to admit it for some reason. You can ask people to pay for your music in a variety of ways! Lets take a look.

Today, many indie musicians find themselves stuck in a seemingly impassible rut. You are giving your music away for exposure and can’t seem to get to the point where people actually pay you.  You think if you don’t give your music out for free you’ll never be able to grow your fanbase.  But if you continue down the free music route bills won’t get paid and no one in the industry will take you seriously. It’s a paradox that plagues most indie musicians, and you’re not alone!

Free music is great. It is one of the most effective ways to grow your fanbase, which is why it’s probably a huge part of your marketing efforts right now. Even big-time musicians like Radiohead and Trent Reznor have used free music to their advantage. Now granted, they were already well known.  But for most artists, the key is to find the right balance between free and paid content.

Let’s start with your fans. Different fans are willing to pay for different things. Some fans will not pay for music and will not attend your shows. Others will only pay to come to your shows. Others will pay for music, buy merch, go to your shows, and still be willing to throw more money at you if you only asked. It’s important to differentiate between these fans so you can target your offers.

In this context you need to consider the purpose of “free” music. Think about your fanbase in terms of a pyramid. Potential fans are in bottom third, casual fans in the middle third, and superfans at the top. One purpose for free music could be to move fans up the pyramid. Fans at the bottom of the pyramid will probably not give you cash, so trade free music for an email address so you can stay in touch with that fan. For those in the middle, give them some free songs when they buy something from you – a ticket or merch or a bundle of other songs.  For fans at the top, make special limited run products for them and charge them, but give them something exclusive for free to seal the deal.

Matthew Ebel is a Boston-based “piano rocker” who has struck a balance between paid and free with his membership site. He offers an entire free album to anyone who signs up for his mailing list, paid albums and merch, and an exclusive subscription site for his super fans. Matthew isn’t a superstar artist – he has a humble 1,684 Facebook likes (2014) – but he works as a full-time musician and makes almost 30% of his net income from only a few hardcore fans.

The subscription site has a few different levels ranging in price from $4.99 per month to $499 per year. Matthew’s offers include exclusive live show recordings and videos, discounts, early access to material, access to member-only parties and concert seating, and even a custom-written song. These are things that a lot of indie artists just give out for free. The trick it to trade your music for something else of value to you. There are many forms of tender.

When trying to navigate the realm of paid content don’t let yourself be restricted to the typical music products like the CD and tshirt. Services like BandPage Experiences allow you to sell unique products and experiences to your fans. The sky’s the limit, and the more personal the products and experiences, the better. Rock Camp used a BandPage Experience to host a contest, allowing guitarists to purchase entries to win a spot at the Ultimate Musician’s Camp. Anberlin used a BandPage Experience to sell all access passes to their tours.

Remember that money isn’t the only form of payment that has value. Information can be just as valuable or more than cash in many instances. As an example, Matthew Ebel offers an entire free album to anyone who signs up for his mailing list. The purpose here is to move potential or casual fans up the pyramid to more serious fans. To do this, he gives them a taste of his music – a try-before-you-buy if you will – and in return gets the ability to contact them through email. He can now send these casual fans information on his live shows, new material, and life.


Matthew’s strategy may not work for everyone exactly as it did for him. You need to take some time to look at your career, music, and goals to find the right balance between free and paid content. The important takeaway is that you need a solid plan. In the New Artist Model online course we will teach you strategies for marketing and promotion. You’ll create a personalized career plan for your music.

What are you waiting for? Learn how to actually grow your audience with free music! Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list to get free sample lessons.    

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10 Musician Mistakes: You Don’t Build a Brand


“Branding” and “artist image” aren’t new concepts at all. Since the beginning of music artists have been defined by genre and personality attributes. Beethoven’s music and personality can be described as moody, and Liszt was the showy star of the 1800’s. What makes you unique? Especially today, there are so many people out there trying to make it as a musician that you really need to consider why people would buy your album or go to your show instead of someone else’s.

There are two common approaches when it comes to defining a brand. Some musicians like to list every single genre they draw influence from. This just confuses the audience. You end up with something like “We are a psychedelic reggae metal band. We also look to funk, bluegrass, and classic rock for influence and you can really hear it in our sound.”

On the other end of the spectrum, some artists are afraid to even approach the task of labeling themselves. Either they feel their music cannot be defined in a sentence or they are uncomfortable waving their own flag and would rather just play music.  No brand is just as bad as a confusing one.

You don’t have to confine your brand to just musical style. In fact, the more personal you can make your brand the better! Weave in elements of your personality, your beliefs, and your attitudes. If you are passionate about something, chances are other people share in that passion. Use it as a connector!

Let’s look at a fairly well known band, Sum 41. Before they made it big, they had a hard time getting a record deal because many labels thought they were just another Blink 182 imitation band. The labels only heard one dimension of the band – their sound. It was their image, personality and attitude that really set them apart and got them the deal in the end. The band took camcorder footage of them goofing around and edited it into an audio-visual EPK. The resulting seven-minute hilarious video showed the labels that they were more than just punk music. They were characters and they were very good at projecting their character through media.


Everyone’s brand is unique, and every musician has a unique journey to discover their brand. In the New Artist Model  online course you’ll go through this process with founder and former CEO of Berkleemusic, Dave Kusek. You’ll take a look at more examples like Sum 41, define your own brand, and learn how to really harness that image to connect with fans.

What are you waiting for? Join the revolution and discover your own unique brand! Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list to get free sample lessons.

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10 Musician Mistakes: You Don’t Let Your Fans Market


As an indie artist today, you’re most likely in charge of your own marketing. You probably don’t have a record label planning your releases or scheduling your social media for the week, and you certainly don’t have any spare cash for a big marketing campaign. Marketing can seem like a completely daunting task if its just you and maybe a manager trying to get the word out, but you actually have a whole team of marketers just waiting to share your music – your fans!

With the constant presence of social media and the internet, most music fans today are bombarded with more information than they can possibly process. On top of that, new technology has enabled just about anyone to get online and call themselves a musician. As a result, most music fans look to recommendations from trusted sources for new music. These trusted sources could be a good music blog but more times than not it comes from a friend. Think about how you found some of your favorite artists. How many of them did you discover from a friend’s recommendation? Or someone you trust?

The key here is authenticity. Making it real and transparent and interesting. More people will check out your new album after a friend recommends it than would after a flashy TV commercial. This means you don’t need to dish out thousands for a big marketing campaign. The most effective form of marketing is completely within your reach financially!

Let’s take a look at The Wild Feathers, a rock band out of Nashville, TN. In the week leading up to the release of their self-titled debut album, The Wild Feathers made the album available early at their live shows exclusively for their superfans. This strategy gave superfans an incentive to go to their live shows and get excited about the release. On top of that, the band gave their concert-goers a little surprize. Every album sold included two CDs – one to keep and one to share with a friend.

This strategy is genius for a couple of reasons. By selling the album early they are specifically targeting their superfans – the ones who would travel hours just to get their hands on the album before everyone else. Because they are so passionate about the music, superfans are also most likely to tell their friends about The Wild Feathers. Giving them an extra CD to do just that really empowered their superfans to share. They turned their superfans into marketers!  And they also brought them into the club early, which made the promoter happy.

Paramore also harnessed their fans as marketers in June 2013 for their song “Still into You.” Paramore launched a contest – “Paraoke” – asking fans to submit their best cover of the song. The winner would receive the bike featured in the video, two concert tickets, and a merch pack. As a result, YouTube was flooded with new Paramore covers. They didn’t need to spend thousands on a big marketing campaign. Their fans spread the word for them.


Chances are your fans are already out there talking about your music, but with a great marketing plan you can really harness your fans’ marketing efforts. In the New Artist Model online course we look at all your fans and help you create a plan to grow and energize the power of your fan base.

What are you waiting for? Join the revolution and kickstart your marketing! Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list to get access to free sample lessons!

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10 Musician Mistakes: You Don’t Focus on a Niche


We all want everyone to like us, but in the music industry especially that’s not always possible. People have such specific and opinionated tastes in music that there’s always going to be someone out there who’s just not a fan of your sound. But don’t let that discourage you! On the flip side, because music is such a personal thing, there will also be people out there who think your music is amazing. The key is to focus your efforts on these people. It’s easier to turn a fan into a superfan than it is to turn a hater into a fan.

Start local and move up from there. Don’t try to tour the country, or even the “East Coast”. Just focus on your town or city and build up a strong following there. Stay after your gigs to get to know your fans. Give them something really valuable and unique. Something extra. Draw them into your scene.

Once you’ve conquered your local scene, move on to the next city. Its a long process, but in the end you’ll have a lot of people who are very excited about your music.  Think about this a concentric circles. You start in the middle and move out over time. You have your current circle, so you work within that and then move out one ring at a time.

Take for example the band Phish. They are a notorious touring band, but they weren’t always as well known as they are now. Phish is from the northeastern US, and they stayed in that area playing gigs and building up a fan base for years after they formed. They were able to sell out some of the biggest venues in their local area before they were even signed to a record label.

The vastness of the internet’s reach has a lot of musicians today convinced that they need to rush to larger tours. The logic is that if they tour more in an increasingly large area they will get more fans and make more money. However, it takes more than one show to make a true fan. If you repeatedly play your local music scene, music fans will really get to know you and feel a connection with you and your music. This is what you should be striving for – the deep connection, not just awareness.

In the same way, you should really focus in on a niche. This can be anything you want – a genre, a attitude, a belief – what your brand is all about. Aligning with a niche creates the opportunity for a connection – chances are there’s a lot of other people out there who are just as excited about that niche as you are. And your niche can transcend music and  connect you over time with other people.

To consider an extreme example, let’s look at the “Gluten-free rock star,Darius Lux. After going through a diet change, Darius Lux began targeting gluten-free and health blogs for coverage of his music. Health and food has little to do with music, but the key here is that he was in a space with little to no competition from other musicians. Rather than having to differentiate himself from the thousands of other pop-rock musicians out there, Lux went to a different market – one where he was the star.

Another musician, Eileen Quinn, is a songwriter and sailing enthusiast who combines her two passions into one by writing sailing songs. Like Darius Lux, she targeted a market that isn’t already saturated with music – the sailing market – and was able to really be the star. It may seem like these two musicians may have severely limited themselves in terms of audience, and in the mainstream music industry they would have been just another artist. In their specific niche, however they were able to really stand out.


Everyone has their own specific niche, be it a geographic area, a lifestyle, or a belief. It will take a little thought to discover your niche, but once you do you can create a really targeted plan to conquer that niche! In the New Artist Model online course, you’ll go through this soul-searching process and build a plan from there with the help and guidance of founder and former CEO of Berkleemusic, Dave Kusek.

What are you waiting for? Join the revolution and build your own success! Subscribe to the New Artist Model mailing list to get access to free sample lessons!

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10 Musician Mistakes: You’re Not Out Networking


I’m sure you’ve heard someone emphasizing the importance of networking in the music industry. Well, it’s true – most opportunities come from personal connections that you cultivate. So before you bulk email the A&R reps at every major label, try to put the importance of networking into perspective. The big labels and publishing companies may have the resources to promote you, but they probably won’t even see your email among the thousands of others they receive. Instead, start local and personal and work up from there.

As an indie musician, networking is your ladder to success. At the top of the ladder are the big-shot sponsors and music business professionals that work at major labels, large management firms, and publishing companies. At the bottom of the ladder is you and your local club owner, a small business in your city looking to run a TV or radio ad with music, and the producer who works in the local studio. You cannot reach the big connections up top unless you first develop your local connections. And many time these seemingly small connections can end up being far more valuable than you would think!

No matter how many times the word networking is driven into our heads, we sometimes get overwhelmed with internal tasks like posting to social media or playing a great gig that we forget to take the time and introduce ourselves. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. You don’t need a big speech or a prepared pitch. Just get into the habit of introducing yourself to one person at every show you play or at every studio you record in. Talk to the guy in charge of the soundboard, maybe he loved your show and wants to produce your next album. You can introduce yourself to a filmmaker or photographer at a local film festival or convention. In the future you might go to them for help with a music video or a band photo shoot or even work with them on a film score.

Your networking also shouldn’t be reserved for industry professionals like managers and agents. Take every opportunity to introduce yourself to other bands and other people and begin what could become a long-term connection. Remember, networking is a two-way relationship, and collaboration is usually the best way to promote this win-win situation. If you collaborate on a show, a song, or a recording, both of you will be exposed to the other’s fanbase!

Always remember to give before you ask. Do something for someone and they will remember you. If you want people to care about you, start by helping them in some way to get a relationship started.

To see some real networking in action, let’s look at Nashville-based indie rock group, Vinyl Thief. The band released their first EP, Control, in 2010 but were disappointed in the results. They called on a former high school classmate, now music marketing graduate, Wes Davenport, who reconnected with the band and offered his assistance. Davenport was brought on to the team and started working on improving their marketing efforts. Davenport helped the band set trackable goals and helped them grow their fanbase through the digital releases of single, White Light, and second EP, Rebel Hill.

Valuable connections in the music industry can come from places you least expect. More times than not, the connections that will really progress your career are the ones you don’t even notice at first – the friend from high school who majored in business, the local club owner, or the soundboard guy at your local venue. These people are the people who may be passionate about you and your music – and you never know how their careers are going to progress.


Don’t disregard the seemingly little connections! People you meet may work their way up the ladder and you may run into them in the future without expecting it. In the New Artist Model online course we show you the power of networking and teach you ways to get yourself out there. You will learn how to use collaboration in gigging, songwriting, and recording to grow your fanbase and your career.

What are you waiting for? Join the revolution and create connection that will propel your career to the next level. Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list for free sample lessons.

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10 Musician Mistakes: You Skip Time Management


Today’s indie musician plays the part of the artist, the business professional, and sometimes way more, and as a result, many find themselves juggling entirely too many tasks. Now it’s all well and good that artists today can be 100% in control of their career. The problem comes when you can no longer find enough time for what matters most – your music! Think of it this way: if you don’t quality music to build your business around, how can you build a musician business?

How do you find time to practice, create, and refine your craft while also running the business side of things, staying on social media, strategizing launches, and making important industry connections? The first step is to streamline. This really ties back to goal setting. If there’s anything you are doing that’s not bringing you closer to your goals, stop or take a close look.  If you’re spending hours each day on tasks that don’t have much benefit, eliminate, simplify, or postpone.

The next step? Delegate! Many artists are defensive and controlling when it comes to their art. And with good reason – it is a very personal statement. However, you can delegate tasks to team members to get things done and really clear up a lot of your personal time. Your team doesn’t have to consist of big-shot business people – your band will do just fine. Just get in the habit of dividing up tasks instead of taking the whole load on yourself.

Each person should have a list of tasks that they need to complete. Try to prioritize the list. More urgent matters and tasks that you keep putting off and putting off should have a high priority. For those high-priority jobs, break them down into smaller tasks. Accomplishing these small stepping stones will help you feel like you’re accomplishing things and keep you in a state of forward momentum.

AND REMEMBER, make time for your music!  It’s easy to get sucked into answering emails or managing social media, or making a website – but without your music, you don’t have anything to build a business on.

Michael Shoup is a musician and entrepreneur who turned his career around and started making profit with time management. After graduating college with a Bachelors degree in music, Shoup started his career as a musician, funding his tours with money made in freelance web design. After three years he had effectively gigged hiself into $6,000 of high interest credit card debt with little to show for his efforts. He gave up his professional music career and went into web design full time.

It wasn’t until he organized his time that he was able to succeed in music. He prioritized his tasks to free up more time, and delegated other tasks. He automated and scheduled anything that could be automated like email and social media, and he made sure he left time for the most important thing – his art!


Time management has helped Michael Shoup become debt free. On top of that, he’s managed to self-fund an album, started a music marketing agency, 12SouthMusic, and created a social media app, Visualive.  In the New Artist Model online course we teach you how to effectively manage the many aspects of your career from playing to marketing. By the end of the course you will have a detailed plan that will get you on track to your goals!

So what are you waiting for? Join the revolution and take control of your time. Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list for free sample lessons.

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10 Musician Mistakes: You Aren’t Leveraging Copyright


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

There are two kinds of copyright: composition and sound recording. Copyright is created when a musical idea is put into tangible form. So when you write that song down (composition) or record it (sound recording) you own the rights!  All those rights are exclusive, meaning you, and only you can leverage your song.

So how does all this translate into actually making money? Other people and companies have to get your permission and usually pay you to perform any of the actions protected by copyright. Think of copyright like property – intellectual property. If you owned a large apartment building other people would have to get your permission to live in one of the apartments. They would sign a contract and money would most likely change hands. It’s the same principle for music. A record label or distributor pays you to be able to make copies of your song and distribute it to online and retail stores. A radio station pays you (through a PRO) to perform your song over the radio. A company pays you to sync your music to their promotional videos or advertisements.

One thing a lot of musicians miss is the fact that copyrights are power. You own the copyrights, so you have the power. Think about it, without your copyrights would labels or publishers have anything to sell? Many more musicians have been realizing this and figuring out how to leverage their copyrights.

Music publishing can be a tricky area to navigate when it comes to payment, especially when you’re just starting out. Many companies don’t have a budget for music and rely on small indie bands to license their songs for free. In these cases, don’t cave in or restrict yourself to just monetary payment. Think about what non-monetary things they can offer you in exchange for your music. Does the company run a blog? If so they could write up a quick feature or interview with links back to your site and social media channels. When done correctly, the publicity could be just as valuable as a check!

The Happen Ins are an Austin-based rock band that were featured in a catalog from the clothing company Free People and a corresponding video in July 2011. In this case, Free People had to get permission to sync the Happen Ins music to their video. Free People is a fairly well known clothing line, so the band most likely got some monetary payment, but we’ll focus on the non-monetary publicity, as it is something most companies can offer even the smallest bands. Members of The Happen Ins were in the catalog, were the feature of many blog posts surrounding the catalog release, and played at the catalog release party. In order to grow their fan base, the Happen Ins offered a free download to Free People’s customers.

If you want to make the most of your copyrights, the key is to find business partners that have a similar image or audience to yours or one you want to reach. In this case, Free People, their customers, and the Happen Ins have a vintage rock and roll vibe. Think about your image, personality, and music when you go out looking for publishing deals. If they cannot offer you enough money, think about what else they could offer you that could help grow your fan base. In many cases this can be far more valuable than any money you can get. This is especially true when you are early in your career.


The New Artist Model online course teaches you specifics of copyright law and creative publishing in detail. By the end of the 8-week course you will fully understand what copyrights you have and can create, what you can do with them, how you get paid, and how to effectively pursue music publishing and licensing.

Make money licensing your music. Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list for more free lessons.

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10 Musician Mistakes: You Don’t have a Plan


Running blind never got anyone anywhere, especially not in the music industry. Not only do concrete goals give you something to aim for, they also help you decide what your first step should be. I know, everyone wants to be a rich and famous musician, but as you’ve probably realized, a vague goal like that leaves you discouraged and confused on how to move forward.

Before you set any goals, you’ll need to do a little soul-searching. Figure out what you really want and how much time and dedication you are realistically going to put in. If you have a team, like co-writers, band members, or a manager, make sure everyone is on the same page. The key here is to be as specific as possible. Instead of saying “I want to be rich and famous,” try something specific like “I want to be able to be a full time musician with a yearly salary of at least $75,000 and be able to tour outside my home state.”  Or whatever your number is.

On top of that, you’ll want to start mapping out some milestones or tasks within each goal. Breaking your goals down into small, achievable steps helps keep you motivated and positive. Think about the goal we just set above. Break down a lofty goal into smaller tasks like “gather contact information for local venues,” “contact 5 venues this week,” and “connect with another band to share a gig.” Suddenly finding a way to reach that goal becomes more manageable.

With so many apps and services available today, many indie musicians suffer from choice paralysis. What tool should you use to build your website? What company is best for digital distribution? What social media sites deserve your attention? The choice is especially daunting when money is involved. No one wants to fork over cash for a service that may not work out as planned. So how do you get past these decisions? While research is your best friend in these situations, keeping your goals in mind will also help. Every single time you’re faced with a choice, ask yourself: “What option brings me closer to my goals?”

One band that used goals and planning to their advantage is Karmin. From the start they knew they wanted to be a pop duo targeting a young teen audience. Originally, they were releasing original music but weren’t getting much traction or interest. Manager Nils Gums suggested the duo cover current popular songs to get in front of their target audience – these were the songs that young teens were searching in YouTube. They followed the charts and consistently covered the most popular songs every week.

It took time, and a lot of covers before one of Karmin’s covers went viral. The important takeaway here is that Karmin knew their goal, they made a plan to get there, and they stuck with it. If they had given up on the cover strategy after only a few weeks, they would never have gotten to where they are today.


In the New Artist Model online course we take you through the process of creating your own goals and building a plan to achieve them.  Amy Heidemann from Karmin studied and worked with Dave Kusek at Berklee and this course will bring YOU the fresh and practical steps and advice that you need for making it in the music business today.

Create your own plan for success! Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list for more free lessons.