One of the first things I learned when I began my career as a publicist was what the typical timeline for an album campaign is – in other words, the specific order of events from the moment an album is ready to be announced until its release.
Not all publicists adhere to a campaign of identical length. Some prefer to work more compressed, fast-paced timelines, whereas others like to space things out to gradually build anticipation and momentum. Whether you’re self-releasing a record, working with a freelance publicist, or working with an in-house label publicist, it’s important to have a grasp on the approximate timeline of events and know when new assets (songs, videos, album streams) should be shared with the world. Here’s a breakdown of the essential steps in this process, based on my own experience (though these may vary if you’re releasing a digital album instead of an LP, CD or cassette, or if you’re merely releasing an EP or 7” single).
You might be surprised to learn that the chart-topping duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are not signed to a major label. Neither are veterans like Peter Gabriel and Wilco. They’re all self-releasing albums.
But if you self-release, you still need someone to get your name out there, get your product into the marketplace, and get it sold. In other words, you need someone to do all of the stuff record labels used to do. You could do it yourself — or you could hire someone like Kevin Wortis of Girlie Action, a leading music marketing agency based in New York.
"Here we offer sourcing, distribution, sales. We also handle marketing, digital marketing, social media, press and radio promotion," Wortis says. "We have clients that come in who have chosen not to be with a record company; they want to control all the revenue and they want to do things in their own way."
Girlie Action’s clients include Pretty Lights, Amanda Palmer, and The Crystal Method. The French recording label Naïve hired the agency to provide label services for Marianne Faithful’s last record. Girlie Action is now working on its third album for Meshell Ndegeocello.
There are many articles out there telling indie musicians about all the cool ways they can make money in today’s music industry. However, all that money that you could potentially make probably won’t equate to very much if you don’t have an understanding of personal finance and budgeting. Without a sense of finance you could see your hard-earned cash going down the drain as a result of impulse buys, unstructured saving, and over-spending for your projects and tours.
If you’re far enough along in your career, your manager or accountant may take care of budgeting and finance, but, especially in today’s industry, most musicians starting out may only have a friend or classmate acting as their manager. With all the stuff you need to get done, something as mind numbing as finance tends to get pushed under the rug in favor of more glamorous activities like recording, writing, and talking with fans on social media. But the fact of the matter is, it’s not glamorous to throw money away. And that’s exactly what you could be doing with poor budgeting and finance.
So how can you get a better handle on your finances and get the most money out of your music? It’s actually a lot easier than you would think - no boring accounting lecture necessary! With just 5 quick fixes, you can be more organized and make more money.
It’s almost spring and you know what that means…TAX PREPARATION TIME! This can be a very daunting time of year for most indie musicians; however, our good friends at SonicBids has written a great article to give you a helping hand
If April 15th isn’t already circled on your calendar, then the constant barrage of TurboTax and H&R Block advertisements will soon have you sweating about filing your taxes. Until software programmers come out with a package especially for us musicians, there are some basic things you’ll want to know – even if you hire a professional to help – to save yourself time and stress with tax prep.
As a self-employed musician, you need to know more about taxes than the average worker bee. You may be earning money from several different sources (solo gigs, session work, teaching, recording, songwriting, merchandise, etc.), so it’s important to know how to keep track of everything and which tax forms you’re required to file.
So gather your receipts and check stubs, and let’s talk about need-to-know tax info for you and your band.
One of the best ways to grow is to look at what’s worked for other indie musicians and adapt it to your own career. Here are 5 great strategies with real examples to get you going. A lot of musicians think they can’t start making strategies to move their career forward until they’re making money, until they take some business classes, or until they get a manager. The coolest thing about these strategies is that you can start using them TODAY.
1. Make a Plan from the Start
Making a great plan is one of the best ways to get to that music success you deserve. Not only do concrete goals give you something to aim for, they also help you decide what your first step should be.
Try to make your goals as specific as possible. Instead of saying “I want to be rich and famous,” try something specific like “I want to be able to be a full time musician with a yearly salary of at least $75,000 and be able to tour outside my home state.” Break down your lofty goal into smaller tasks like “gather contact information for local venues,” “contact 5 venues this week,” and “connect with another band to share a gig.” Suddenly finding a way to reach that goal becomes more manageable.
Getting a record deal is the musician equivalent of a high school ball player making it pro, only with fewer head injuries and lower odds of an overdose. Two albums into my career as a rapper, I had a hit song, and the recording industry whisked me off to Hollywood. My fairy tale lasted 11 months before they abruptly dropped me from my recording contract without ever releasing my album, despite my first single going gold (selling over 600,000 copies in just a few months).
In that short time, I got a crash course in the recording industry: how it works, how they exploit and manipulate young talent, and how to go from having nothing to everything to nothing again in a very short period of time. My name is Spose, and this is an inside look at how the sausage is made.
Chances are, if you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, you’re doing too much. You have a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr account, and maybe more. You may not even realize it, but you find yourself wishing you’d start that business, try for that dream job, or make that record… and you don’t because of “obligations” or “responsibilities”, or worse yet, simple “lack of time.” I’m with you. I’ve been there. Unfortunately for us as humans, this doesn’t get easier as we grow older and add families or children to the mix, so it’s best that we learn how to handle it now. No more excuses. It’s time to trim the fat.
This rule applies to people as well as activities. You know those friends I’m talking about; the ones who seem to disappear until they have a favor to ask of you. Though removing yourself from unbalanced friendships may have its difficulties now, the rewards in time and creative energy down the road are exponential.
While the term “independent” in the music industry generally refers to running your own career, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it alone. This is one part of the puzzle that I find many creatives miss. I know I certainly did. The beauty of being an “independent” artist is that you’re suddenly the boss of your own career; the CEO and founder of your music, and it’s your job to build a team under you.
So how do we do this? If you’ve followed rule #1, you should have already eliminated anything that isn’t necessary to do. With what’s left, ask yourself if it’s necessary that You specifically do the task, or if someone else could do it for you, possibly even better than you. [side-note: I don’t generally suggest delegation of creative work. That’s what you enjoy, remember!?] If it’s work that you personally need to do, [for example, communicating with your fans] I move it onto the next rule. Otherwise, I find a way to delegate it.
OK, so the first thing you can do to promote your music better isn’t actually something many musicians associate with actually being a form of promotion. Collaborating with other musicians can actually be a great way to get out there. Making songs with a well known act can actually mean you can get in front of their fans. It may also mean that you gain a higher perceived value for working with that act, and it can be a good note on your CV when looking for other music related work and opportunities.
The thing is though, it’s very unlikely you’ll get collaborations with big names in your genre (unless you already know them). You see, their time is precious, and they’re not just going to collaborate with every up and coming act out there. The solution? Using the ‘ladder’ method.
What you want to do is categorize any talented musicians in your genre into different levels based on how big they are. Usually, while the biggest acts won’t be willing to work with you at this stage, some of the lower level acts will be - with enough incentive. So what you do is approach those acts which are slightly bigger then you, and do collaborations with a few of them. Not only does this get you in front of their audiences, but it also gets you associated with being at their level.
Once this is done, start looking to the next step of musicians who are that bit more popular then the last group you approached (and are now in yourself). Do the same; collaborate with them, get in front of their audience, and become thought of as being on their level.
Rinse and repeat, each time working with bigger acts and getting a bigger reputation yourself. The good thing is, once people start seeing you’re working with lots of people in your genre, they will want to start working with you too. You’ll be the hip new people on the block that everyone wants to be associated with.
Payola, in one form or another, is as old as the music business:
Labels pay radio stations to broadcast their music, producers pay DJs to spin their records in the club, and promoters ask live bands to pay-to-play at their event.
And it’s always been a hot topic amongst musicians.
So if you’re an artist, should you ever have to pay-to-play?
Here are two ways to look at it:
Do you sometimes feel that your band’s draw is languishing? Are you tired of seeing the same people at your shows and want to play to a new crowd, even in your hometown?
If you’re like most musicians, you know that you absolutely can do better, that you have more fans out there than who actually show up at at the venue, and despite always receiving positive feedback, you don’t know why more people aren’t showing up. Here are some tips on building some momentum back into your tour dates so you can increase your band’s draw:
1. Find a Different Angle for The Show: It’s easier to get more people to show up if it’s your band’s first show, when you’re releasing a new album, it’s a tour kick off, or when it’s your final gig. Obviously, it’s because your fans realize those as special occasions and want to be there.
So rather than making every local show the same, find creative ways to make them more enticing: film a live music video, let fans write the set list, do special covers, play acoustic if you normally don’t (or vice-versa), record a free download of a live track, etc. In other words, give your fans a compelling reason to show up. Answer: Why will this show be different than any other? What makes this exact show special?