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build a team for music success

Today, I’d like to talk about what it takes to build a team for music.

As a musician, you’ve probably got more things to do than you have time in the day, right? You need to write, practice, play, rehearse, perform, and record.

But you ALSO need to manage your social media pages, manage your email list and email your fans, plan your music releases, pitch your songs to bloggers, music supervisors, venue owners and bookers, and music libraries, and that’s only scratching the surface. And more times than not, these essential business tasks push your music aside.

The simple fact is it’s hard to get everything done on your own.

And this is one of the biggest dilemma of the indie artist.

Isn’t the music why you set out for a career in music in the first place? Is it really necessary to push aside the music to be successful in today’s music industry? I don’t think so.

DIY vs. DIWO

DIY has been the catch phase of the last era in music. But the truth is, no one has all the skills – or time for that matter – to be successful completely on their own in music.

Let’s say you’re trying to do everything yourself… Will you realistically be able to dedicate enough time to do each thing really well? Will you be able to put in the time to come up with interesting and engaging posts for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat while also developing a strategy to get gigs in bigger venues, recording and planning an album release, pitching your new single to music bloggers, and keeping up with your email list? You need to work smarter.

We all start out as DIY artists when the to-do list is shorter, but it’s not usually something that can be sustainable as we begin to grow and we take on more (and bigger) responsibilities – at least not without completely burning out or skipping sleep entirely.

So I’d like to propose a new phrase: DIWO, or Do It With Others. Instead of trying to do everything yourself, try approaching your career like an entrepreneur approaches a new startup. Build an efficient team gradually over time. Start lean with the people you have around you already, divide tasks according to skills, and hire in new team members as you grow.

Here’s some of the key steps in building an efficient team around your music.

1. Figure out what kind of team you need.

There’s no single formula for a team that will work for every musician. Your career path, your goals, your personal skillset, your time commitment, and your career level all factor into who you will bring onto your team and when.

If you need a little help figuring out your goals, I suggest you download this free guidebook: Your Music Plan for Success. It will walk you through easy questions to help you determine what you want out of your music career, which will also help you figure out which team members you should target. Click here to download it for free.

So for example, as a songwriter you may begin working with other songwriters and co-writers in the early stages of your career to grow your catalog and increase your skill set quickly. Depending on your skills, you may work with a producer or engineer to get TV-quality recordings, or you may be able to do this yourself in your home studio. At first, you may start submitting your own songs to music libraries and other licensing opportunities, but you may begin making direct connections with music supervisors, ad agencies, and filmmakers to license your music. As your career begins to grow, you may start working with a publisher to help you get bigger placements and connections. You may not be interested in releasing albums so you won’t even need a record label.

Let’s look at another example. If you’re a traditional band that tours and releases albums, your team will look very different. At first, you might either self-record your songs or work with a producer or engineer you know, and distribute your songs through a service like Tunecore or CD Baby. You’ll probably do a lot of the booking yourself at first, but eventually you’ll employ the help of an agent when your gigs start bringing in enough money. As social media, email, and planning gets too difficult to handle on your own you might seek the help of a manager. And eventually you may begin working with a record label or some bigger distribution partner.

2. Bring on team members when the need arises.

In both examples above, the teams grew slowly over time as the needs manifested. Early on, your team may very well consist of friends and family, and that’s okay!

It’s also important to remember as you build a team for music, that many team members come on board when there is a financial incentive to do so – they need to make a living too! Agents make a percentage of your live performance income, so if you’re only making a few bucks, they’re not going to find the gig too appealing.

3. Assign roles and responsibilities.

A really important thing many musicians miss is that your band members can function as a team in the early stages of your career. Each member has different skills and proficiencies they can bring to the table, and you’ll get a whole lot more done if you divide up tasks.

The first step is to take a look at the jobs that need to get done. You may need to consistently be posting on social media and engaging with your fans. You may need to write weekly newsletters to your email list. Maybe you need to be reaching out to venues and booking gigs (and of course, promoting those gigs). Or perhaps you need to design a basic t-shirt to sell at your gigs, or get a few key photos to use on your website. Get together with your band and make a list.

Once you have a list, brainstorm together who might be best-suited to take each task. Do any of you know photographers, artists, or website designers you could work with? Is one person more comfortable with talking to people and pitching your music to venues? Are any of you a social media buff who spends hours online? Look at each member’s skills and divide up the to-do list accordingly.

Once you start splitting up the tasks, you’re able to get things done a lot faster and move on to new ideas and new goals.

Build a Team for Music Success – Where to Go From Here?

Wherever you are in your music career, planning and building your team accordingly should always be a number one priority. Like we talked about earlier, who you bring on to your team will depend entirely on your goals, so it’s worth getting your goals and expectations straight.

If you need a little help figuring out exactly what you want in your music career, check out this free planning guide: Your Music Plan for Success. This guidebook will walk you through easy questions and exercises to identify your goals and begin building a plan to achieve them. Click here to download the guidebook for free.

In the New Artist Model Music Business Accelerator course, we have an entire module dedicated to team building and time management.

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.

Check out the Music Business Accelerator (MBA) a new program that will help you plan your music projects, promote your music and create a sustainable career.

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/NI6FMK

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/NI6FMK

It’s the success every musician dreams about – making it big on your own. But you know what? It’s no fairy tale. The career of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis has been a long, hard road – one that a lot of people would have turned away from a long time ago.

The duo brought home four Grammy’s in January and, although Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA) is helping them with distribution, they’re still not signed to a major record label. So how did they get here?

Here are some key lessons to learn that helped Macklemore and Ryan Lewis find their success.

1. Say something with your music. Embrace your brand.  Be different.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Same Love,” a song with a more than an obvious nod towards the gay community,  is not commonplace in hip hop. By pushing this issue and standing behind a controversial topic, the duo probably got a lot of haters. But you know what, they also got a lot of people behind them. They stood out.  They were different.  Know who you are, know what you believe in, and say something meaningful with your art. Of course, timing is important too.

“I wrote the song in April [2012]. Shortly after Obama came out in support of gay marriage. Then Frank Ocean came out. It seemed like time was of the essence. It was never about being the first rapper to publicly support the issue, but at the same time you don’t want the song’s power to become diluted because all of the sudden it’s a bandwagon issue. 

The fact that there [was] an election coming up in Washington [was] huge. I know that a large portion of my fan base is 18-25, many of whom have never voted. If the song can get people out to the polls to pass same-sex marriage in Washington, that is a very beautiful and exciting thing.” (Source)

In the same way, the smash hit “Thrift Shop” (500 million views and counting on YouTube) is definitely not what you’d expect from hip hop. There’s no gold teeth, big brand names, or flashy bling pointing towards an extravagant lifestyle. Macklemore isn’t trying to fit into the typical hip hop mold. The duo has stayed true to their own ideas and because of that, have stood out. So what do you have to say?

2. It will take time.

There’s no such thing as overnight success. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis met in 2006, released The VS  EP in December 2009, and didn’t get crazy success until The Heist in 2012. Before there was a duo, Ben Haggerty released Open Your Eyes in 2000, The Language of My World in 2005, and The Unplanned Mixtape in September 2009. It was a long road. Do you think you would have continued to press onward?  8 years and still rolling.

Aside from albums, Macklemore and Lewis took years to build a local audience before expanding into a nationwide movement. The first national headlining tour was in 2011. Before that, Macklemore and Lewis focused locally playing at a Colorado College house party in 2010 and Seattle’s Paramount Theatre in 2010. The Agency Group’s Zach Quillen became the booking agent and began testing the duo’s reach by booking small gigs along the West Coast. The duo continued to grow, playing the Seattle Mariners opening day in 2011, and then moving on to festivals like Outside Lands, Sasquatch, and Lollapalooza later that year.

This train is still going. The duo is still operating independently with a relatively small team and being strategic about their plans. As we know so well, a huge hit doesn’t guarantee your future in the music industry.

“We are a small business that’s becoming a medium-sized business. With that, there is a learning curve and there are times when you feel like you don’t quite have the manpower to operate the business to the best of your ability. But we’re growing and we’re adapting to the best of our abilities.” (Source)

3. Keep moving forward.

Even if you feel like you’re further away from your dream than you’ve ever been, keep moving. After some local success with the 2006 EP The Language of my World Macklemore hit a low point, struggling with addiction.

“I was close to giving up. I was broke, unemployed, freshly out of rehab, and living in my parents’ basement. It was a “If this doesn’t work, I gotta get a real job” time in my life.” (Source)

You’re low point may look different. Maybe you feel like you’ll never break out of your home city or state. Maybe you just can’t seem to get to the point where you can quit your day job. The key is to keep moving. Take a small step forward, or even a few steps back. Keep yourself moving instead of lingering in that low point. Everything we perceive or appreciate in the world is based on motion. Stay in motion.

4. Find people who believe in you and build a team.

Having a team behind you is one of the best things you can do for your music. A “team” doesn’t have to be top industry veterans. More times than not, when we’re talking about indie artists, a team of top execs isn’t the best option. You want people who believe in you and your music, not someone looking to make big bucks fast.

Macklemore has shown us time and time again how valuable a team of “amateurs” can be. Ben Haggerty met Ryan Lewis, then 17 and a dedicated producer, guitarist, and photographer, in 2006. He wasn’t an industry veteran. He was another passionate creative out there with the same cause.

“Ryan is one of my best friends in this world. He’s my producer. He’s my business partner. And he’s probably one of my toughest critics, which is an imperative trait of a teammate… Ryan doesn’t make beats, he makes records. I needed that in a producer… I trust Ryan. I trust his ear and his eye. His creative aesthetic. I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for him. I spend more time with Ryan than anyone else in my life. We’re a team, and I’m extremely blessed because of it.” (Source)

There weren’t any household names on The Heist. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis drew on local talent. Ray Dalton, a Seattle singer-songwriter is featured on “Can’t Hold Us,” Wanz, another Seattle singer was featured on “Thrift Shop,” and Seattle singer-songwriter Mary Lambert is featured on “Same Love.” In addition to that, Macklemore’s finance, Tricia Davis, is their tour and merch manager.

5. Create an authentic connection.

When Macklemore stepped on the stage at the Grammy’s the first thing they talked about was “Wow, we’re on this stage… And we could never have been on this stage without our fans.” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis connect with their fans in a very humble and authentic way. You just have to take a quick trip over to their Twitter and Facebook pages to see just what I mean. The tone isn’t pitchy. It’s kind of funny how we almost have to relearn how to be human when it comes to social media in the music industry.

“For me, being transparent about every aspect of my life is what makes my music relatable and how I’m able to be an individual amongst the mass amounts of other artists.” (Source)

The slogan to remember is that things don’t make things happen – people do. If you want to find your own success in music you need to get people behind you – this means both fans and a team. Create a relationship – and that means two-ways. Give and receive.

Being a musician is a tough gig. You have to be incredibly gifted and ridiculously dedicated all at once.  But that dedication can pay off! It’s been proven time and time again that independent musicians can be successful their own way, and you can continue that trend. The music business was built on that ethos.

Check out the New Artist Model online music business school for more ideas and analysis like this. You can also sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list and get access to free lessons.

Sources:

http://www.interviewmagazine.com/music/macklemore-ryan-lewis-the-heist/#_

http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2014/01/7-lessons-anyone-you-can-learn-from-macklemore-ryan-lewis/

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/474720/macklemore-reps-talk-the-heist-debut-diy-marketing-plan

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/1562815/macklemore-ryan-lewis-billboard-cover-story

music_team_building

We’ve all heard the term DIY – it’s been in practically every single indie music business article since the dawn of the 21st century. There are more tools available today than most artists know what to do with. You can be your own publisher, distributor, label, engineer, producer and marketer, and you can do it all from your room.

While it’s great that artists no longer have to do-it-with-a-big-record-label, perhaps DIY isn’t the best option either. There are a lot of artists out there with excellent business chops, but they’re still not experts. And they have more important things to do like creating music. You can’t be an expert in everything – there’s just not enough time in the day.  The key is to find and motivate people who are! Instead of DIY, move towards a do-it-with-others (DIWO) strategy.

Your team doesn’t even have to be seasoned pros. If you have a band you’re already way ahead of the game. Everyone has their own unique skills, so take advantage of that! One band member may be a math wiz. Put them in charge of the budget. They will keep track of the band’s income and expenses in a spreadsheet and be the voice of financial reason when it comes to spending money.

Another band member may be a people-person – they’re outgoing, confident, and not afraid to pitch your music passionately and enthusiastically. This person could be the face of the band when it comes to business and networking. It’s their job to call up the promoter, pitch your music for a publishing placement of sponsorship, and talk to the soundboard guy after the show.


Download my most popular ebook, Hack the Music Business, for free and get more indie musician strategies and case studies.


Let’s take a look at recent pop sensation, Betty Who.  Betty Who’s “Somebody Loves You” began drawing the attention of the pop music world after the release of her first EP The Movement in spring of 2013. In September 2013 the song was featured in a viral gay marriage proposal video and just a few days later she was signed to RCA Records.

Betty Who didn’t get where she is today on her own – she had a great team behind her the whole way. Producer Peter Thomas and manager Ethan Schiff attended Berklee College of Music with Betty Who. With Peter Thomas she was able to find and really latch onto her signature pop sound, and Schiff helped set her up on the business side of things.

Want to know the other 9 musician mistakes?

  1. You Don’t Have a Plan
  2. You Aren’t Leveraging Copyright
  3. You Skip Time Management
  4. You’re Not Out There Networking
  5. You Don’t Focus on a Niche
  6. You Don’t Let Your Fans Market
  7. You Don’t Have a Brand Strategy
  8. You Overuse Free Music
  9. You Don’t React to Opportunity

New-Artist-Model

The key take away here is that your team doesn’t have to be made up of top-of-the-line professionals that charge thousands of dollars for their time. Your team can start out as friends, classmates, and band members. These are the people who are really passionate about you and your music, and often passion is more important than money or connections. In the New Artist Model online course we teach you techniques to build a strong team to efficiently run your business and much more.

 

Do you want to create a successful career in music?  How you think about your future is critically important. Always be as positive as you possibly can be. Think about what success means to you and how you can get there.  Define your goals and be realistic in what you are trying to achieve.  Get others to join in your vision and support your efforts.

Be honest and dependable in your pursuits. The music business is a very small world, and it is likely that you will form a network of people that will help you at various times along your path. Treat them with respect and take responsibility for your actions, and you will find a lot of support when you need it.  Often times things you setup at one point in your career, will come around again and be available to cross your path.  Be sure you that the encounter will be something you expect and not an unpleasant surprise.

Make a 360 degree deal with yourself and find ways to generate revenue from your writing, performing, brand, name, activities, and interests that suit you and what you stand for.  You do not want to sell your soul to another entity that will control your career options and minimize the revenue opportunities that you will have down the road.

Build a team around yourself.  It is impossible for one person to do everything that needs to get done. In the case of an artist or writer, you need to write, create, record, and produce art.  You need someone else to promote your work and manage the business side of things. You are forming a musician business around yourself, and eventually you will need help. The team you need will depend on what stage of your career you are at.

Eventually, as you begin to take off, you will need some combination of a manager, booking agent, producer, publisher, lawyer, publicist, agent, marketing person, online specialists, technologist, and others to help you. What does your mix look like? Imagine an organizational chart in your head, with you as the CEO. Who do you need on your team?

When trying to recruit people to your team, sell your vision and art, and get them to join in with you. It is a good reality check to try recruiting people to your dream to see if it resonates with them. Learn to understand, listen to, and ultimately motivate others by communicating clearly. Build a team around you.

Get Busy Committee

Get Busy Committee

My friend Ian Rogers, CEO of Topspin has started to co-manage the band “Get Busy Committee“.  He has begun to blog about ALL the activities that an artist manager needs to drive their band to success.  It is a fascinating read and a real world education on how to take a band to market in the new music business.  This is going to be really fun to watch as Ian lays out step by step what he is doing to break this band and “get busy” in the marketplace.

To bring a band to market in today’s indie music market is a hell of a lot of work.  You need to be an entrepreneur and you need to build a team of people to help you market, package, promote, distribute, brainstorm, license, and develop a successful artist.  Ian is taking the indie artist management route described at Music Power Network.

Here are some excerpts from his blog.  Required reading for the indie artist and manager today:

The first thing we did was define success: as I mentioned earlier, the goal is to get this music to as many people as possible, connect directly with the ones who like it, build products those people want to own, and turn a profit. Sure it would be great to make enough money that Get Busy Committee could be their primary income, but we definitely aren’t starting with the “if we don’t get a song on a radio this is a failure” mentality. We are starting at zero. The goal is to grow every single week and not lose money.

We started by putting together a release plan. I opened a Google Doc and started dropping ideas and info into it, and encouraged others to do the same. We needed a team, so we started assembling the roster of people, services, and tools which would help us get this record out the door:

Building a Team

Press Relations and Marketing
Creative Direction
Web site design and development
Digital distribution
Physical Distribution
Non-traditional physical manufacturing
Performing rights organizations
Legal

While getting the album to iTunes is the main thrust for a lot of artists, it’s only part of the story (and a very small part so far) for us. We’ve been preparing for this release for months, started selling the album in six different package two weeks ago, are selling the album for $1 on MySpace all weekend, and much more.

Web Site

The object was to make the site:

Home base. The top SEO result for “Get Busy Committee” and anything else related to the band.

Vibrant. It should update with the latest information about Get Busy Committee with very little effort, from a variety of sources. Furthermore, we weren’t going to spend time or money building any of these tools from scratch. We integrated WordPress and Twitter to make sure it was easy to update with long or short-form updates (respectively) easily.

A fan acquisition tool. The site should be sticky like fly-paper. If you visit the site you should have an incentive to leave behind your email address, follow GBC on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, a friend on MySpace, friend on Flickr, subscriber on YouTube, or subscribe via RSS. We may only get one chance to make a connection with you. We don’t want you to bounce in and bounce out without granting us permission to reach out to you later with an update.

A tool for fans to create other fans. Every page of the site is instrumented with simple ways to share on Facebook and Twitter, and feedback for having done so either in the form of a counter or free music for having done so. We want it to not only be easy to spread the word but for you to be recognized for having done so.

A place to convert at whatever level of fan you happen to be. Never heard of Get Busy Committee? No problem, you can stream the record or download a few songs for free. Super fan? How about the T-Shirt/USB Flash Drive combo for $55? Somewhere in between? No worries. We have something for you.

Useful. If you’re a college radio DJ who needs a clean version to play on your show or a beatmeister who wants an acapella to remix that should be easy to find. If you’re a blogger writing about the band there should be, even if it’s not linked from the front page. Anything you email to people regularly should be on the site and easily linked to.

Read much, much more about marketing, pricing, making connections, creating awareness and all the things a smart artist manager needs to know.  Brilliant!

Thanks Ian.