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Your talent doesn’t matter as much as you think!!

 

Why having “talent” doesn’t mean success will happen for you.

How many times have you looked at an artist that has what you want; a contract, tens of thousands of fans, Money and so on and asked yourself, Why them?
We’ve all had those moments. I remember watching bands on MTV back in the late 1980’s and early 1990s and thinking, “this is bullshit, I can play better than that.”
Well, get over it buttercup… Do you honestly believe that your talent is unique? Do you believe that your songs are better than anything else out there right now? Do you honestly believe that because you’ve been out there in “the business” playing out and busting your ass for years to make it that you should be handed the recognition you believe you deserve? 
Well… I’ve got some bad news for you, None of that matters!…  I am 100% in agreement with Justin Wang’s Commentary on Danielle Bregoli ( The “Cash me Outside” Girl ) Getting signed By Atlantic records. In the real world the music industry is, in fact, a popularity contest. And as Justin said, The record labels are a Businesses, NOT an arts endowment. Label reps and execs often get into the business because of their love of music but once they get into these positions they have to consider and protect their company’s Bottom line. That is the nature of business. The sooner you learn that the better chance you have to make the necessary choices to get your own music career moving in the right direction.

Some things you need to understand about the Music Business

The first and most important thing you need to understand is that this is a business and your artistic integrity doesn’t matter much to anyone but you. That being said, artists can still maintain integrity, But you need to maintain control in order to accomplish this. This is why as an Indie artist you HAVE to put certain things in place to protect your own Bottom line.
The second thing you need to understand, Your success and musical destiny is 100% up to you. and you need to have a way, a compass, so to speak, a method of determining if you are the correct path for you. when I work with artists and bands I begin by recommending that every artist establish a Minimum Viable Business Plan or MVBP. This plan does not have to be overly complex, it is primarily comprised of a “compelling vision” and a set of goals that relate back to that vision. Artists or bands can adjust the plan as they see fit.
The third thing you need to understand is, In this post file sharing version of the music business, What I call the Music Business Version 2.0, That the music consuming market has changed but the industry has struggled to learn from these changes and keep up. The Music industry 1.0 sentinels want to find a new way to control the Market they way they used to in 60’s, 70’s and the 80s. But The cat is out of the bag and I don’t see that version of the industry surviving, new players have stepped up to take advantage of the big labels weaknesses. Services like cdBaby, iTunes and other Indie distribution services have established themselves and many artists have accepted these services as the new standard in the music business But most artists don’t recognize these services for what they are,  just a remodeled version of old school industry middlemen. These services cut into artist profits by charging sign up fees and profit sharing on sales without actually having to take the risk that a label might take in signing an artist.
The Forth Thing you need to understand, all those things I mentioned above in the opening statement, your “unique Talent”, your “Great songs”, your hard work and your “Dues paid”.  all of those things put together wont get most of you one step closer to your dreams. Your “unique Talent” isn’t as unique as you think it is. There are literally thousand, Tens of thousands, of artists out there that can play your instrument or sing or make beats just as good if not better than you. Just browse through You tube sometime.  You’ll find some kid half your age that plays whatever instrument that you do as good if not better.  Maybe you do have some great songs But, that doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to get them heard by the right people (The Fans) And all your hard work and years in the business don’t mean you know what your doing when it comes to PROGRESSING your career. In fact if you have been in this business for more than five years and you can’t honestly say you make your living entirely from your music, Then you are doing something wrong.

A Final word

If you Take anything away from this post it should be this; The Music industry is NOT fair and talent and hard work wont take you all the way. What you need to succeed is a way to ENGAGE your fans that is unique to your own personality and to build a musical identity that your fans can identify with while at the same time building a solid business plan that doesn’t rely on anyone else but you to succeed, one that also suits your unique needs as well as those of your fans. I want you to watch the video and read my words and recognize that this is the way the industry does business, The “Cash me outside” girl will get her fifteen minutes of fame. So what… In a year or two she will be just another memory in the music industry hall of shame. And let this be a reminder that the music industry doesn’t care about the quality of what they endorse.  The industry is desperate to hold on to what little influence they have left. The real shame here is that some artist on the Atlantic label roster is going to be put on the JV team while they milk every penny out their new one trick pony.

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Music Marketing: Your doing it wrong!

There’s no money in music!??

If you aren’t meeting your financial goals with your current Music Marketing strategy it’s no mystery whyyou’re doing it wrong!

Artists all too often give their money away to the middlemen of the Music industry.

It’s no secret that I am a steadfast supporter of EVERY Independent artist having their own website. I advocate ignoring the DIY distribution services that have become the new norm in the music industry. And I’ll go one further and publicly state that today’s digital distribution services Like Reverb Nation, CD Baby, iTunes and so on… are actually doing today’s independent musicians a disservice….

Now, I know I will probably catch some shit for making this statement But the truth is, what’s wrong with the music industry is the middleman, it always has been and still continues to be.

What makes today’s music industry such a shit storm is that it’s simply a disorganized version of the old music industry. And no one is at the helm. No one seems to know how to streamline the process of; creating music, getting it in front of the right audience and returning a reasonable profit back to the artist. Everyone in the industry only wants to get their greedy little fingers into your slice of the pie. This is why you will hear artists continue to lament on why there’s no money in the music business these days.

Each time an Independent artist uploads a song and makes a sale using one of these services, a fee is taken right off the top of each sale cutting into the profits of the Independent Musician. iTunes, for example, takes 30 cents off the top of each individual MP3 sold and downloaded leaving the artist with 69 cent profit. Using a service Like CD Baby makes the whole accounting task even more convoluted with CD baby taking their registration fee and then a revenue split for each product sold, This is ON TOP of the fee that services like iTunes takes because, keep in mind, CD Baby distributes to each of these other services like iTunes…. The accounting starts to become a nightmare the deeper you dig in. This is why artists have been stating that there’s no more money in the music industry. Except, they are wrong! There is money to be found but the quicker entrepreneurs are taking it right out of your wallet while you are busy complaining on Facebook.

The Temperamental Artist

Now, after having gone on my rant above, let me qualify it by also stating that it’s not that I believe these services are scams run by greedy scumbags. Quite the opposite. They are business models based on the oldest business principle known to man, “See a need, fill a need”. 

when P2P sharing sites like Napster came along it heralded the beginning of the end of the old music industry. The stranglehold that the big labels had on the market was broken and no one seemed to be prepared for that.  The major labels have never recovered from the change in market behavior and instead of doing some critical analysis of their own business practices they put more of the burden of profitability on the market and on the artists. We began seeing Increasingly punitive contracts that took deeper cuts of the artist merchandise sales and touring revenue and even going so far as blaming the consumer for being too tight with their wallets. 

In the new music industry, the burden is now on the artist to prove that they are a viable investment for the labels leaving the artist to establish their own fan base and market share before even being considered as a prospect. This means one thing for all of today’s independent artists: entrepreneurship.  Artists were not prepared for the shift in the industry’s business model. No one told us we had to become business people, That was the label’s job! And as my wife once said to me, ” I just want to be the temperamental artist, you handle all of the technical stuff”.

But That’s OK, there’s nothing wrong with wanting someone to do the mundane work so you can focus on being fabulous. These distributors do provide a service, and for some artists, they work. There are many examples of artists doing well earning up to 4 or 5 figures a month selling through these services. But not because these services are the Gold standard of music marketing and sales, The burden still remains on the artist to build a fan base and drive traffic to sites like Reverb Nation or iTunes. you’re doing more marketing for them and not as much as you might think for you…

My position on music marketing and sales comes from observation and study of modern methods of eCommerce and the only thing that makes sense to me at this time in the industry is for Independent artists to take the bull by horns and establish their own businesses. This means owning your own website and selling directly to your fans/customers from that website. All of your music and merchandise can be sold direct to your fans from your own website and the best thing about this model is you keep 100% of the Profits and you know exactly what your bottom line looks like.

The basics of a Sales Funnel

So, what exactly is my problem with the way most independent artists are marketing and selling their music today?  Well, first of all, it is the exact opposite of what most online entrepreneurs would consider to be the “gold standard” in eCommerce, the sales funnel. Secondly, These distribution services do very little if anything to build or enhance your brand. They use you as worker bees to build their brands.

Most artists I have observed or spoken with are using services like CD Baby because they are trying to emulate the industry sales model from what I call the “Music industry version 1.0” which is to shotgun a new release into every store and sales outlet possible in the hopes that after hearing the song on the radio, watching the video on MTV (back in the days when they still were a music channel) or seeing the artist play at a concert, the fans could run right out to the local music store, Walmart or whatever and buy the CD regardless of whether that fan lived in Los Angeles or Podunk Iowa.

This is the old school sales model. It’s like carpet bombing, but with CD’s. This model worked great in its time because the major labels had all the distribution channels, all the marketing methods and all the media coverage and so could coordinate all these factors together turning artists into superstars. Artists lived and died at the whim of the label.

But this method worked because of scarcity. In order to get your favorite artist’s newest album, you actually had to go out and buy it at a store. The internet was not at the center of most peoples’ lives like it is today and in those days an independent artist was limited in just how many places they could sell their albums or singles in.  without the power and leverage of a large label, you had no hope of reaching a nationwide, let alone a worldwide audience. This is why there were so many underground artists that became popular in their own home town or state but did not get much farther. No major label support. 

So what is the major difference between the music industry Version 1.0 and Version 2.0?  let’s all say it together… THE INTERNET.  The Internet and in particular the direct sales business model changed the entire market forever. what came next is the evolution of the sales funnel which has been refined and tested for over 20 years.

The whole point of this article is to call your attention to the concept of the sales funnel. The online sales funnel is the model that pretty much every successful online seller uses to bring customers to their products. In a sales funnel the entrepreneur establishes a website, they then use various methods to drive traffic to their site. once at the site, the entrepreneur can structure the funnel in a variety of ways but the goal is to make a sale and capture the customer’s email address. 

Imagine if you will, a picture…  you as an independent artist with your album in hand, plastering that new album on every distribution channel possible. what then? where do you put your efforts toward driving traffic to? if you want to run a Facebook add do you send traffic to iTunes? what about SoundCloud? and what about Reverb Nation? if you can only afford one add sending traffic to one outlet which one should it be? Now, some ads allow you to direct your traffic to multiple sites, it just depends on how you design the ad. However, I have to ask the question, why? Why do we keep giving away more of our precious revenue just because we are afraid to dig in and create a business that you can call your own?

The fundamental nature of the sales funnel is that instead of sending your hard-won fans all over the internet looking for your music; you bring them home where you can control the experience they have and nurture the relationship between yourself and your fans in whatever way you choose. That’s why its’ called a funnel you do the opposite of sending fans over to another brand’s website. Instead you “funnel” them back to your own business site which is the home of your own personal brand. Once there, you make an offer and you ask for a sale and for an email address. The necessity of the email address is in that after over 20 years of development and research of the sales funnel The email list is still the best way to identify people who are willing take action toward supporting your cause. people who sign up for your email list are much more likely to purchase something from you, assuming you don’t screw up the relationship.

This is the future of the music business, Artists as entrepreneurs each owning their very own website and bringing their fans home.  Think about it 🙂

 

 

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Using fear to Kickstart your DIY Music Career

Fear and Doubt in The Music Business

fear, DIY Music career
Fear can kickstart your DIY Music career or it can send you on a long detour

I quit the music business 20 years ago…

I told myself I was quitting because I was tired of the nonsense, the backstabbing and the people that I had surrounded myself with who did not seem to understand what it was that I wanted to get out of my music career.

But I’ve recently come to realize that this is only partially true. The reality is, I’ve done a lot of hanging around behind the scenes, peeking in on the music business, keeping track of trends, learning about digital business techniques in the music industry and talking with other musicians. The truth of the matter is I still love music and I actually still love the music business despite all of the headaches that come with it.

After a recent discussion with my wife, which was very intense and emotionally revealing; I have discovered, 20 years later…  that the real reason Iquit the music business was simply that I was afraid that I couldn’t succeed by myself..

At the time that I made this decision I had just seen the break up of two promising bands. I spent three years founding and building a band that was beginning to see signs of success. We called ourselves “7th Generation” after a line from a prophecy By the great Lakota spiritual leader and holy man, Black Elk. We had been offered recording contracts with three different labels but the band members themselves were not ready. There was far too much internal strife and I could see we were on the verge of a break up due to conflicts amongst the band members themselves. So I initiated the breakup because I could only see disaster ahead if we kept going the way we were. But I wanted so bad for lighting to strike twice So…  I went out and formed a new band and brought my bass player and drummer along. We also brought in a new singer. Once again,things didn’t work out and the band quickly dissolved. There was no cohesion, no chemistry with in this new group and I was lied to by either the new singer, or the guys who had been with me in my old band and who I had called brothers. So I told myself that I had no one in my life that could understand what I wanted out of my career and that there was no one to help me achieve what I wanted in my career. Faced with the reality of having to move forward on my own, I let myself give in to the fear and gave up.

Over the 20 years since I made that decision there have been numerous times when I have kicked myself for giving up, for completely changing the course of my life, and whenever I would pick up my guitar It would feel like an old forgotten friend calling out to me, asking me, “why did you give up on me?” I didn’t have a good answer at the time…

Now at the tender age of 50 I finally have come to terms with what was at the root of my decision; to put it simply it was fear and doubt. I had already shown that a person can find successful in the music business regardless of where they live as long as they believe in what they do and they have good music to back up that belief and to share with the world. But I thought I needed to surround myself with people, any people, in order to make me comfortable and there was always that little voice in the back of my mind that told me that I wasn’t good enough even though I knew how to write, record and play the music that I believed in all along.

There was always some part of me however that knew what was really behind my decision to walk away all those years ago, but it took this one revealing conversation with my wife to really crystallize it, to create Clarity in my own mind as to why I chose the path that I chose on that night almost 20 years ago. A decision that took me out of the game and placed me firmly on the sidelines to become an observer for nearly half of my life.

The greatest lesson I got from all of this was that sometimes you simply have to move forward toward despite the fear and doubt.

 

Conquering the fear

 

conquer fear, DIY Music career
defeat fear and take control of your own destiny.

One of the lessons my wife taught me was that you simply have to let the possibility of failure exist. You can’t dwell on it, you can’t let it overpower the vision you are working towards. Simply recognize it and move on or better yet, use it as a motivational fuel. The possibility of failure exists in almost everything that we do in life but in so many of our endeavors we refuse to let it stop us from progressing in our lives because the reward is greater than the risk. But for some of us when we try to follow our passion, the dream may feel impossible to reach and so we let fear and doubt grind us to a halt. We might make excuses like, we’re not good enough, or I don’t have the money to do this,or I don’t have the time, I don’t have the talent, my bass player quit the band and so the band has to break up or any number of excuses.  but in the end it’s only each one of us that are responsible for our own success or failure.

In order to defeat fear you must first identify it understand what it is that is the root cause of that fear. Call it out by name and take a good long look at it. Once you do this you may recognize that the fear that has been holding you back may not have any basis in your current reality. For me my fear manifested as a twisted sense of perfectionism where I hold  myself to such high standards that I could never possibly achieve and the end result. This paradox creates a very visceral feeling in me that I am somehow in mortal danger because I could not accomplish the things that I wanted so badly in my heart. This fear, this… Gut feeling.. of mortal danger is rooted  in my abusive childhood. My mother would demand things of me and then Physically or verbally punish me for not doing them correctly. There is one memory That has stuck with me throughout my entire life, that is the memory of her chasing me through the house with a butcher knife because I had made a simple mistake at the age of six years old. She had told me to order a pizza for the family dinner at the local drive inn and I ended up ordered the wrong one. This memory has stuck with me throughout my entire life. And it is manifested as a very visceral feeling of dread and Mortal danger whatever face with a decision or task in my life.

Taking your power back

Despite having a background in personal development and  things like metaphysics, psychology and spirituality; learning to face my own fear is a relatively new process for me. But I will say this, I believe that the answer lies in the conversation that I had with my wife when she told me that I have to take the knife out of my mother’s hand and to stand up to that image of the crazed woman standing over me and then Simply walk away from it.

You are probably wondering, “How the hell does any of this Psych-crap have anything to do with walking away from my music career?”

I would have asked myself the exact same question just a few short weeks ago, and then I had one of those amazing moments of clarity, the kind that make you feel that your eyes are open for the first time. I realized that all of my life decisions for a very long time had been based on fear and doubt.  I was weighing everything against, “well, What if I fail?”  and under those terms it seemed better to just avoid taking the chance. Hence… quitting on a career path before even giving it a chance to have a life. I came to realize The only way I am going to be able to make any significant decision in my life without it being twisted by the specter of a crazed mother chasing me through the house with that knife is to recognize it, take ownership of it and disarm it.

So how does this all relate to you? Most of you reading this blog are saying to yourself, “I don’t have that problem, I am not afraid to succeed in my career.” But consider this… If you are not reaching your goals, your career goals including: Building your fan base, increasing your revenue, and really reaching your potential as an artist… what is holding you back?

We all know by now that The Music Industry version 2.0 depends on new artists working as DIY artist/entrepreneurs and building up a base of success before any decent size label will take a look at you. And especially if you live in the middle of the boondocks like I do you have to get your business hat on. So why aren’t you taking courses in marketing, creating sales funnels, and defining your Niche market? and why aren’t you connecting with your audience on a deeper level creating fanatical followers and not just “fans”? In the end its’ all about letting go of the fear that we might fail, that we might not be good enough, and just really connect with other human beings.

 

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10 New Ways Musicians can make money

10 innovative ways to make Money as a musician

Multiple sources of Income is the best way to stay on top financially
Multiple sources of Income is the best way to stay on top financially

Let’s face it no matter what you do in life you’re going to need Money. Whether it be to pay the bills where to put gas or tires on your car or if you have family. Unless you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth trying to follow the path of being a working musician and keeping all the bills paid can be a challenging lifestyle.

I believe that too many musicians are putting all of their eggs and the one basket and this is leading then to struggle with their finances as a musician/entrepreneur in the music business 2.0 you have to be willing to consider a diverse set of monetization strategies.

Here are some innovative ways that musicians can increase their income while still working and doing what they love.

 

  1. Build and grow your YouTube channel and monetize it with ads
  2. Give lessons:  consider creating an online course for music lessons on your primary instrument
  3. Be an affiliate for a company that you endorse
  4. Crowdfunding:  if you’ve got a decent following of fans allow them to support you through services like Kickstarter or patreon
  5. Create Fiverr gigs that allow you to write jingles, mix other people’s music or play as a session musician on another artist’s track
  6. Write music for videographers and video game makers; in the same way that the internet has created new opportunities for musicians there are also now a ton of independent video makers and video game makers that are out there looking for new music for their projects
  7. Create a VIP fan portal on your website that allows fans to join for a small fee where they will receive extra hidden content
  8. Create an informational product. If you’ve already mastered some aspect of marketing and or sales for your own career create a short informational lesson and sell it to other musicians
  9. Record and sell backing tracks
  10. Become a producer. If you’re good at recording mixing and mastering your own music consider producing other people’s music and renting out your studio

 

These are just ten ways for you to increase your income potential there are others and if you have other ideas or ways that you are making money now in the music business 2.0 please feel free to add them to the comments below.

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The Purple Cow Principle: How to stand out

On Becoming a purple Cow:

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin…

Purple cows stand Out
The Purple cow concept is key to great marketing and Branding

Seth is an entrepreneur extraordinaire, public speaker and an Innovative thinker who has written several cutting-edge books on entrepreneurship, marketing and business in the 21st century digital world. You can find numerous interviews, workshops and videos by Seth Godin all over the Internet and he always has something new and interesting to say about innovative marketing and Business. The Seth Godin concept I want to talk about today is the Purple Cow. The book “Purple Cow” lays out the concept in the following manner. (Paraphrased) If you drive down pretty much any rural highway in the United States of America a common sight are herds of cows standing in the fields. In certain parts of the country (Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, NorthDakota)  cows are so common that your brain begins to just ignore them as you would the blades of grass that line the ditches along the roadway. However… imagine driving down the road and seeing, standing among the masses of normal cows, a single Purple Cow! Now this is something that would catch your eye Because it immediately stands out from the other cows around it. It catches your attention forcing you to look at it and think about it wondering how it got there, how it came to be and why it’s there. Your brain instantly is forced to focus on this if only trying to figure out what it is.   This is the nature of how human minds work…

Why The Purple Cow?

Stand out amongst The masses
The Purple cow is the master of standing Out In a crowd

The human mind processes literally millions of bits of information every moment. this information is gathered through the five senses; your sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch all work together with the brain to form a complete picture of the world around you. Because it would take too much time and energy to think about each bit of information that is presented to you the mind has developed a very clever scheme for managing this incredible amount of information.  Because the work of processing information is so energy-consuming the brain has come up with a strategy designed to simplify the work of collecting processing, prioritizing and responding to it. This allows us to function and respond to new information in a timely manner. The brain does this by taking any new information brought in and categorizing and associating it with memories, experiences or concepts that we are already familiar with and then it groups them into categories to allow us to organize information in a more efficient way which requires much less time and effort to process. This is important because, by taking large chunks of information and associating categorizing and Judging it with something we are familiar with we can quickly formulate a response and behaviors that would seem to be appropriate. All of this becomes automatic over time; It’s the reason we laugh at certain things without Knowing what is specifically funny about it or become sad or angry in response to things That we may have never experienced before. However….When something new happens that your brain has NO basis for comparison… Watch out!!  everything goes off the rails!

You see, when your Brain encounters something unique that it is completely unfamiliar with, It has to go into emergency assessment mode. Your brain was happily chugging along on auto pilot and then suddenly it is forced to sit up and pay full attention; it’s something new that does Not fit into a predetermined category.  So the Paleo – cortex (Lizard Brain) is suddenly Alerted… The Lizard Brain makes an assessment and tells us whether we should, “Fuck It, Fight it, eat it or run away from it.” In short, There is a whole new assessment process that takes place and your Brain forces you to Focus and pay attention.

Are you The Purple Cow?

So, what does all of this stuff have to do with you and your Music? In short…. Everything!!

I am reminded of a Forum Post I read once on a major music website, It went something Like This:

Young Musician: “hey guys How do I become successful as a musician?”

Gnarly, old,Jaded manager guy:  well Kid you have to work on your professionalism; Master your craft and then get out there and Play shows whenever and where ever you can, play out for 10 years or more to develop your sound and  oh yeah, stand out and be unique.”

Wow, what amazing insight from someone who claimed to have been in artist management for over 30 years… and that whole “stand out and be unique” closer… Wooooo damn, Now why didn’t I think of that!?? Of course I am paraphrasing again But that was the gist of the conversation and the “stand Out and be unique” part… That is verbatim.

You see, Most people in the music business know that Being genuine and Unique  and standing out are key ingredients in the “Get fame and success in the Music Business” game. But no one seems to know how. For a 30 year veteran to tell a young musician, ” Oh yeah, stand out and be unique”  is comparable to a high school football coach getting his team ready for a game and saying, ” Ok guys, I don’t have a game plan or any plays ready for this team,  but here’s what we’ll do… Go out and make MORE touchdowns than the other team… Now get out there and Win This Game!!!”  you see, for some of us old crotchety veterans of the music industry who make a bunch of noise about how Long we’ve been in the Business…it doesn’t always mean that much.  many old vets are still  trying to succeed and haven’t changed their strategies or their plans in 30 years and are afraid to admit that a Big part of their game plan is basically to hang in there Long enough to get lucky.

Master the art of Being Unique

Here’s The Thing I want to share with you guys… The Music Business is wide open now, and It’s up to you what niche you want to fill and if there isn’t already a niche ready to be filled… Make one. The Key is being Unique and Genuinely you. Remember, Hedwig had his angry inch. That is the Lesson in this post. Find Out what it is That makes you unique and genuinely you and ride that horse till it drops. You have to determine what it is about you, if you are a solo act or if you have a band, that makes you stand out. once you do that… Run with it, take it to the nth degree, have fun, experiment and figure out how to tell that story in your music, your marketing and your Branding.

Sorry,  But there is No simple answer for this one, like so many aspects of the music business, the solution depends on you I can only guide you down an avenue of thought.  But consider This… Sometimes The answer to The Purple cow question is not who you are But in who you want to become… Think, Marilyn Manson, Alice cooper, David Bowie as Ziggie Stardust, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, ; each of these artists succeeded By becoming who they wanted to be and through creating an alter ego Like Clark kent and Superman became greater than they could ever have been before.

** Below is a Link to Seth Godin’s Book “Purple Cow” This link is an affiliate Link and if you choose to purchase this book through The Link I will receive a commission on it’s sale… Thank you in advance 🙂 **

 

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Staying Indie Vs. Getting Signed

Hello once again and welcome back. It’s been far too long since I’ve posted here But sometimes life can demand attention and cause huge distraction from the things you want to do with your time. But I’m back and am looking forward to continuing to provide content to help you, The independent artist create your dream career in the music business.

Should I Sign with a Label?

Let’s face it. trying to make a living and have a career as a musical artist has always been a tough, challenging road to travel. There are no guarantees and plenty of pitfalls along the way. Having a career as a recording artist wasn’t even something that really existed Before the mid – late 1950’s when Elvis came along and poisoned Americas youth with his “Sinful” brand of rock and roll. There were the rare exceptions of course as there always were and always will be But as an industry, The idea of being a “recording artist” Didn’t really exist before Elvis and then the “British invasion” of the 1960’s. 

The Music industry has been through many changes for such a young industry and as most of you are aware, it is once again in the middle of yet another transitional phase; One the ‘industry players”, the labels and big time artists, did not seem to be prepared for…  Independent labels and artists are now a Viable share of the market but market behavior has changed. People aren’t buying CD’s and Going to concerts en masse’ like they used to thanks to internet based technology like streaming.  Industry Players have been screaming from the rooftops, “The music Business is dead!” for years now. but despite all that, The music industry managed to generate 40 Billion dollars in sales in 2015. 

Ok enough backstory…

So as a new artist or even a veteran artist hoping to make it in the Music Industry 2.0 you have to make a choice and the sooner you make that choice the clearer your career path will become.  “Do I stay Indie or take a label deal”.  I’ll be the first to admit, I am a hardcore advocate for staying independent. I am not in any way promoting the idea that being an Indie artists is “easier” than being signed but I do believe the rewards for building your own Business far outweigh any advantages that signing with a label will afford you early on in your career and there’s always the question of whether or not you can completely trust the label to have your back and protect your Business and Brand Interests as your career grows. That being said however…. There are Pros and Cons to each possible path and It is my hope to do my best to provide a fair and balanced Look at  choosing a career path for your Music.

Indie Vs. Signed: The pros and Cons of each

Indie Musician, Labels, Music Business
Stay Indie or Get signed, it’s a big decision in the life of a Musical artist.

For the sake of this Blog I am not going to Put a Lot of energy into talking about signing with a major label. For the vast majority of us, a more likely scenario is that your band/act will be approached by an Indie label owner Long before you ever get any kind of attention from a major label. The decision to Sign with a major label is not a different process than choosing to sign with an Indie label, The stakes might however, be significantly higher.

Whenever I speak with a young artist or any artist really, I always advocate for development of a plan AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.  It simply makes no sense to me to just hang around on the fringes of the Industry dabbling for years if you don’t have to. Part of that plan should include the decision to be indie to to Solicit Labels. You can always change your mind later. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each Path and which one you choose will depend completely on you, your career goals and your personality. It is my hope however, to provide information so that you can make a well informed decision and ultimately get on the path to achieving your career goals.

Signing with a label

Getting signed to a label has always been thought of by artists as the “brass Ring” of the Music Business.  Getting Signed by a label meant that you are accepted into the industry and have an advocate to help you advance your career. The Role of the label is to become the Business management aspect of your team. They oversee creation of the products (CD’s and Merchandise), Handle marketing and distribution of those products. and promote you the artist. 

Pros:

  1.  Funding: depending on how big your Label is they will have Financial resources at their disposal to get you started on producing your album and getting it distributed and marketed.
  2. Connections: Many  indie and mid level labels already have connections into the Local and regional music scene and may also have connections with larger music agents and promoters.
  3. Manpower/Womanpower: If you are struggling to keep a handle on all the moving parts of becoming a Successful musical artist, Being signed can help with some of the heavy lifting by getting you a producer and someplace to record your album, They can assist with promotion and Marketing (although not as much as you might think) They can help with networking and they can help with booking tours. 
  4. Keeping you on task. A good and dedicated label rep can be an important part of your overall success strategy team, Part of the team; They can assist with branding decisions and keep you to deadlines which become important when you are trying to succeed on a Business/financial level.

Cons:

  1. Short end of the Stick: if you know your Music History you know that there are Numerous examples of artists who have been screwed By their labels. The list is too long to go into but a little bit of research will quickly reveal a long list of artist who have been signed and then found themselves on the bad end of a poor business deal and the relationship between artist and their labels has suffered significantly. Some Famous artists who have made headlines due to battles between themselves and their labels include: Prince, Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd and Tom Petty.
  2. “Riding the Pine”  Every artist that signs to a label believes that they are going to make it to the top and become the MVP  in their labels stable of artists. However, most artists find that many decent sized labels will sign multiple artists in order to ensure that one that will succeed. Artists often find themselves In the role of JV player on a team they thought would be their greatest advocate in the Music business.
  3. Losing rights and creative control: many artists come to the table to sign a contract with stars in their eyes and sign deals that they do not, at the time, know just how much they are conceding to the labels. Some artist deals give up control and ownership of the master recordings, The graphics and even the brand and merchandising to the labels. My own experience with negotiating with Labels Left me believing that the best path for any artist is to remain independent. from one contract requiring my band to pay for all of it’s own promotional materials to our offer from the Now Defunct “Scotty Bros records” which required that half of our first two albums be made up of Cover songs that the label would pick for us…
  4. Passion and commitment: When it comes to Indie labels artists often find that the label owner is as passionate about music as they are However, when it comes to bigger labels… Many Labels are passionate and committed to THEIR OWN success and Not necessarily yours. Artists who have been signed by major labels find that Turn over in the staff can be high and they may be assigned reps that do not have anything in common with the artist.  Major labels are committed to the success of the label first and foremost and even if you are the “Next Big Thing” at the time you get signed things can quickly change and the excitement over your band or act can fade with artists finding themselves in musical limbo with No legal way out because you are under contract and don’t have the financial resources to fight the Corporate machine.
  5. Debt: many artists do not realize that everything the label does for you is a service that is billed to you. recording and producing your albums, Marketing, promotion, Branding all of these things come off the top of every dollar you make. and you the artist may not see much money, if any, from your album or single sales, streaming rights or performance royalties. Your best bet for getting paid is negotiating to keep all of your publishing rights.

 

Staying Independent

Pros

  1. Complete Creative control: Who knows your Vision better than you? Staying independent lets you be the capt. of your ship and guide your career in the direction that YOU want.
  2. Control of your Finances: There are enough People in this world trying to get their greedy little fingers into your wallet. Staying independent means you get to keep all of your royalties, yep; performance royalties, mechanical royalties, Publishing, Merchandising so on…
  3. Direct relationship building: Being independent means that you are in charge of developing whatever kind of relationship you want to build with fans, peers, business partners and so on.
  4. Learning the business from the Inside out: While it may require time, effort and work, Learning every aspect of your bands business makes you a Much more valuable commodity in the Music business world and less likely to get screwed by a middle man agent of some Label.

Cons

  1. It is WORK: It’s a lot of work to run a business and make no mistake your music career is a business. if you don’t like to work or thought that becoming a musician meant that you would not have to work hard then you are in for a big surprise.
  2. Personal Responsibility: While Many of today’s gurus talk about personal responsibility as a positive thing, which it is, The reality remains that if your music career doesn’t go where you want it to go the only one you have to blame is your self. 
  3. For the Love of Money: Ah yes, that dreaded concept that mind fucks so many promising artists… Whether you like it or not you have to keep your eye on the Bottom line. managing money is one of the most important aspects of growing your career. Recording and releasing an album, Marketing and promoting, Touring all of these things take money and at the end of the day the ledger has to balance or you will fail. if you are any good at money management however you may soon see your bank account beginning to grow.

It’s your decision

The final decision is up too you regarding the question of, “to sign or not to sign?” But regardless of your decision if you are a new or unsigned artist in today’s version of the music business you will have to build your Music empire on your own until you can get the attention of a label, indie or otherwise. It is important to increase your Value as an artist and an entrepreneur. So…. learn your craft get good, learn Social media marketing, learn how to build a website with a good sales funnel, and get yourself out there and play your ass off and talk to everyone you can and build your tribe!! 

 

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How To Add Value to your artist/client relationship.

how to add value to your work

I’ve been studying online digital marketing for about 6 or 7 years now and one of the things that keeps coming up over and over regardless of which Guru you follow is the idea of adding value to your customers and clients.  As musicians I know we don’t like to use these terms we prefer to use terms like fans when speaking about the people that we create our music for.  however as you begin the Journey of becoming the CEO of your very own music Empire it is important to consider these terms and what they really mean.

the first thing you have to understand is that a fan is not necessarily a customer a fan only becomes a customer after they purchase something from you and is important to understand that the relationship between you as the product Creator and the fan is ever more valuable.  in fact converting a fan to a customer should only serve to only deepen the relationship between you and that individual purchasing your products or services.  so how do we do that how do we create a much deeper more intimate more valuable relationship between yourself and your customer.  we do this by adding value.

 

so let’s examine what that really means…

adding value builds relationships
You improve your Fan/artist relatinship and create trust and credibility by adding value

 

 

 

 

 

 


let’s begin by taking a look at your product; your music.

 

first of all when it comes to your recordings you absolutely want the best production value that you can afford for each and every one of your releases.  I believe that it’s every artist to desire to release the best quality recordings that they can but since this blog is specifically aimed at addressing the needs and the questions of the DIY artist and entrepreneur we often find that we’re faced with one of two possible scenarios which can interfere with the music recording, production and release process.  the first scenario is one that would tend to plague more beginning artists music business virgins so to speak.  I call it Rockstar fever.  this scenario occurs when a young inexperienced artist is recording their first release and because they don’t understand the process of recording and production and because they just want to get that first song out there they end up rushing the process and cutting corners ending up with a product that does not sound professional.  Even if this is your first release you have to keep in mind that you are putting a song out there and competing with millions of other artists who may be putting a lot more time effort and money into their final product. you want your product to be competitive and to demonstrate that your product is as valuable to you as it is to your customer.

the second scenario is one that tends to afflict more veteran artists and and people with a very high level of perfectionism  I call it the perfectionist nightmare.  this scenario usually occurs when one or more individuals within the band will not let themselves be satisfied with even minor details of any song being recorded and the whole project ends up taking weeks or even months longer than it should have.

as an artist seeking success in the music industry you don’t want to find yourself stuck in either of these scenarios.  Seek the balancing point between these two scenarios.  strive to create the best sounding single or album that you possibly can with your current resources but give yourself a deadline at which time it is important to move on to the next phase of the project.

 

product presentation

 

I grew up in the Midwest and was raised in the country for the most part.  I’m no farm boy mind you but I do enjoy some of the Simple Pleasures that country living can  provide.  fishing is one of those pleasures and if you ever fished or had the opportunity to be around any hardcore fisherman you’ll undoubtedly have heard the phrase “presentation is everything.”

it’s true presentation is everything we hear about it in when we go for a job interview and I’m sure we’ve all heard that first impressions make all the difference.   Many younger artists today will probably focus primarily on MP3’s and digital  releases for their music . Which means  Cover art may become an after thought  While many artists realize that cover art for their releases is important because we are living in the era of instant digital uploads, it may become one of the aspects of the business that gets bumped aside.  Please remember that your fans are waiting to be swept up by the experience that is your music and graphics are part of that experience.

 

Social media

social meia is best used to engage fans
Social media is a gateway to fan involvement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social media is huge part of the whole music marketing strategy. But too many artists are using Social media to simply Spam fans, friends and family with meaningless crap from every corner of the internet and to beg people to “check my latest song release.”  Add value to your social media interactions by telling a story. involve people in the experience that is your band. get them involved in events and milestones. Keep them Up to date on your personal journey in the music business and don’t be afraid to ask fans to help out with key elements of your bands development such as Logo creation Branding and even song ideas. In short, get them involved in the experience of being in a band.  That’s what social media is for. 

Host special events such as hangout sessions, Live feeds of impromptu living room concerts and such, These kinds of events have proven successful for other artists But also don’t be afraid to create special offers to things like upcoming release parties

Make use of your Website!!

Too many artists I see put up a website and then don’t make enough effort to drive traffic to that website. many artists feel like “why should i send them to my website I have my music on:  iTunes, bandcamp, reverb nation and so on…

Sending traffic to your website is a key part of your marketing and your sales strategy which is why I wrote a post on why your band needs a website.

http://7thgenmusic.org/band-need-website/

Without going in to a long diatribe about how and why a website is the central element of your Online music business, lets just say this… sending traffic to your website is the most effective way to capture email addresses and guide your fans through the complete online experience of what your band is all about. Take the time to consult with someone regarding the look feel and functionality of your website. make sure that you have your online brand nailed down and displayed in all of its glory on your site and don’t be afraid to make the experience of visiting your webiste as big as you can make it.  have Music Videos, a gallery of fan photos, Song lyrics,  blog posts (yes it is helpful to keep a band blog) and all the cool thangs that make you unique and important to your fans on your website and always remember to thank your fans for visiting.  make sure you also have a”call to action” on your home page wich offers the fans a chance to buy music and merchandise directly from you and also collects their emails. This is the beginning of your online Music business empire.

in closing, remember to always think of things that will enhance the fans experience of visiting your online content and sites. dont do the cookie cutter things that millions of other bands and artists are doing, be creative and look for new ways to engage your fans. your Fans and your bank account will thank you. Till next time, Rock on!!

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Does your Band need a website?

Does you need a Band Website?

 

You need a Band Website in 2016!! This is a topic that I’m Particularly passionate about and I’m often surprised at how things that seem obvious to me can be real head-scratchers for some folks  especially someone just starting out in the music industry Version 2.0.

Let’s begin by looking at some of the beliefs and miss conceptions that many musicians have about this particular topic.

Band Website, Music Business
Your band website is the foundation of your business model

 At this point in 2016 I think we all get that the internet is an incredibly powerful engine for distribution and promotion of your art and your work and if you do just a little bit of Googling you’ll see that many music industry blogs and gurus will tell you that you still want to have your work distributed throughout every possible nook and cranny of the internet and it goes without saying at this point that most musicians are uploading their recordings to one of the many distribution and sales services that are available such as: Tunecore, CD Baby, iTunes,  SoundCloud, Bandcamp and a long list of others. It’s also common knowledge that social media such as Facebook, Instagram,  Tumblr,  Google Plus, Snapchat and others can be powerful tools for broadcasting the word about your band and your most recent musical release to the three F’s “Fans, Friends and Family” .

I believe that this mentality is a leftover from the music industry version 1.0 where it was absolutely essential to have your albums and CDs in every possible store and retail outlet that they could be in order to create a mass effect and for your music to be everywhere so that people could not possibly miss it. It was the role of the music labels to advertise and Market your music by putting ads in magazines and on TV and on the music video channels and it was your role as the artist to play gigs and go on tour in order to promote the songs and the music itself. The idea being that music buying fans would run out to their local music store and easily be able to pick up your album or CD after seeing your music video on television or going to a concert and seeing your band.

However as an Entrepreneur/Artist working in the music industry 2.0 you have to ask yourself, ” is this strategy good enough?”  Is it working for you to Simply upload your music to one of these distribution services and then spam the social media pages of your friends family and fans about this release?  You have to ask yourself,  “am I getting the results That I WANT from this strategy.”

A Glitch in the Matrix…

The matrix of the Music industry is losing control of the market
The matrix of the Music industry is losing control of the market

There’s a little problem with that system today however, a glitch in the Matrix so to speak…. the very same internet that has led to this era of  Unlimited Opportunity that has never before existed for independent musicians has also led to the propagation of a significant change in behavior of the music buying Market….

The Industry leaders, corporations and big wigs in general are telling us that CD sales are dying. CD sales are down by Double digits. The BBC reports that CD sales are down by 31% In the US. They also tell us that MP3 sales and downloads are on the decline…

Digital Music News tells us that  MP3 sales and downloads are down by 13%

But, if you do a Little research you will see that there was 40 Billion dollars in worldwide sales for CD’s and downloads in 2015. That’s not chicken feed!

So what does this all mean?

The Truth about the Music industry version 2.0

The truth of the Matter is that The Music industry Version 1.0 (meaning the major labels and corporations) have outgrown the ability of the market to support them.  It may be true that CD and Digital download sales are declining but does that matter to you as an independent DIY artist?  No! not really. 40 billion dollars is plenty of money for every DIY artist out there. It’s only the giant corporations That have to support all the corporate drones that are failing. For a DIY Entrepreneur/artist you can have a successful career By selling thousands of copies of your most recent release instead of Millions.  Why? because your overhead cost is minimal.

So, how do you get a piece of the Pie?

You need a business Model that will work for you! That Music Business model includes a Personal and/or Band website.

Why You need a Band website…

There are a Number of reasons to create a website: maybe you like to blog, maybe you have a product you’d like to promote or sell, maybe you want to have total creative control, over the content you post to the internet, These are all great reasons to get yourself a website But as an entrepreneur/artist it is absolutely essential that you build Not just a website But a Business Model! your website should be the central strategy for generating revenue. Why? Because it works!

Owning your own website gives you the foundation of a business on which you can ultimately build your brand and your career.  Through your website you can do pretty much anything you can imagine, (that is within your technical reach) But more importantly it allows you to market and sell your songs and merchandise and have complete control of your financial future without anyone else siphoning profits off the top of your work.yes we are talking about these online services such as CD Baby…

You see, The way the Music Industry/market version 2.0 works is simple… But it’s not easy.

you need to focus on creating Value for your fans and potential customers. you need to create a tribe of loyal fans/customers who can’t want to engage with you and hear about your next event, the next concert and the next release.

How does a website help with all of this? Can’t we do that with Facebook or Instagram or whatever social media we prefer. No not anymore. 5 years ago an artist could make a reasonable amount of sales from their FB fan page. But now… social media is jam packed full of artists trying their best to use social media to “get their music out there.” There are literally Millions of artists with FB fan pages, Reverb nation Profiles, CD baby Profiles, Soundcloud and band Camp, Instagram and whatever  social media platform you prefer.  but most musicians have no idea how to leverage the social media to keep generating new sales. The best way to Leverage Social media today is to use it to create relationships between yourself and your fans, have conversations, engage people let then know what you are all about. by peaking their interest this will make you more attractive and they will want to know more about you or your band. Then they will check out your fan pages or your profiles and that is the first step to guiding them to your website where you will be able to lead them through a sales funnel and turn an interested fan into a valued customer.

Your website will allow you to do the following things:

  • Create a professional sales funnel that converts fans into customers. 
  • Collect email addresses
  •  Stand out and be Unique in a market that demands more unique value
  • have complete control over your personal brand
  • Maintain complete Intellectual control over all content posted to the internet
  • Develop special programs and up-sells that increase the value of your brand.
  • Funnel all of your social media and other traffic to one place where you can control the experience the fan has when engaging with your brand
  • Create a professional image
  • Use SEO to generate more organic internet traffic
  • Generate other streams of income through affiliate programs or other sources (adds)
  • Last and most importantly: Keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket!!

 

I am sure there are more good reasons why your band should have a private website but, I think you get the point. Even if you don’t have a band and are a solo artist you need to begin creating and building your online music business empire as soon as you can. The only thing you can accomplish by waiting  is leaving money on the table.

 

 

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Three myths about the music business

Three music myths and fallacies that most people believe.

The legendary Ozzy ozzbourn
Music Myths and Legends are the Building blocks of Music culture.
If you’ve been around the music scene for a minute, or like me, a little longer. You will undoubtedly hear stories. some stories even reach epic/legendary status such as Keith Richards preternatural ability to consume alcohol, cigarettes and drugs and remain alive, possibly forever… Or the story of how Steven Tyler and Joe Perry got the nickname, ” The Toxic Twins” from,of all people,  Jerry Garcia.  There are literally thousands of legends out there about various folks of whom some are celebrities some of whom are local musicians or groupies much less well-known. 
The topic of this article is Music myths and legends but because the overall theme of this site is DIY/indie music business success tips. I want to focus on myths or beliefs about being in the music business that continue to persist and may have a direct impact on your DIY music career. 

The impact/influence of myths. 

Why even pay attention to myths in the music business? For the most part  these stories are nothing more than just that, stories…  Some stories however persist, year after year, generation after generation. They become a part of the cultural fabric and resultantly  accepted as part of the lore of the culture.  
Don't let Music Business myths affect your career
Music cal myths and Legends. How they affect your career

 Three myths that most musicians believe that aren’t true!

Myth # 1:  “You need to grind away, paying your dues for 5 years, 10 years or more in order to be successful”.
This certainly is one way to go about your music career…. However, with digital direct marketing and sales technique aimed at your specific Niche Market you can cut a lot of wasted time and energy out of the equation.
Myth # 2:  “Once you get signed to a label you’ve made it!”

Getting signed to a label “can be” a  step towards having a successful music career and not that long ago it was a necessary step along that path. The old school music industry was very tightly regulated and controlled by Middle men gate Keepers in the form of Indie Labels and A&R reps for Labels at all levels.

However…., Getting signed IS NOT and has never been any kind of Guarantee of success in your music career and many artists have been dropped from labels with no rights to the distribution of  their albums and Merch or recordings of their own music. I myself played in the backup band of a signed artist, he had a three album contract with a small to medium sized indie label.  when I Played in his band he was still living on food stamps and still had to do all of his own booking and managing of his gigs and of his marketing and sales of his CDs.

 

Myth # 3:  “I don’t need a Website/online Marketing and sales campaign, It’s too soon and people will just steal/Pirate my stuff anyway…”

Ok Guys, wake up, sniff the coffee, It’s 2016. All Business is being conducted online. Believing this myth pretty much guarantees that you will be a Living example of Myth # 1.  Now, I know most if not all Musicians these days are using Social media. But 95-98% of musicians are using it ineffectively.  That being said,  I have heard with my own two ears and seen postings online that some musicians still believe That They don’t need a website or an online marketing strategy or an online sales funnel.  The Only thing I can say to that is… You may be right. But only if your Musical goals include just remaining stuck in a local market and playing local bar gigs and other local events. If you want to remain stuck in the “hobbyist” stage of your Career for years to come. Then yes you are right you don’t need a website or an online campaign.

As far as the Stealing/Pirating goes, You not getting your media up online quickly is Not going prevent someone from pirating your music. In fact I watched a Video a week ago where a Music Business consultant talked about how one of their clients is involved In a legal battle with a “FAN” who went to their shows and recorded all their songs with an iPhone and Then put up a “fan channel” on you Tube and started Monetizing all of the you tube views and making money off of the bands songs. 

You won’t ever stop people from stealing/Pirating your stuff But if your smart and Savvy maybe you can use it to your advantage. But either way, Not having a website and you tube channel or other social media outlets claimed as your own is only making it easier for someone to beat you to it and make money off of your music.

 

Succeeding in the New Music Business means changing with the times, understanding the market we are reaching out to and being willing to change our role as Musician/artist to Musicians/artist/entrepreneur.  You don’t have to stop listening to the rhetoric of the old school music Business But, you need to recognize that what worked for musicians in 1976 or even 1986 may not be the only or even the best way to plan and execute your career in 2016

 

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