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?
Did you know there’s a special six-week window of opportunity that comes once a year - every year? The sad thing is, most musicians aren’t aware of it or don’t give it much thought.
Will you be different? Will you be ready this year?
FACT: About 20 percent of all annual music sales take place in the last six weeks of the year – during the holiday season! And the demand is there consistently every year. Internet-based holiday sales, in particular, continue to grow … and there are more opportunities all the time to tap into these online consumer dollars.
Many independent artists profit simply because they put a little time and energy into creating annual holiday campaigns that gain momentum year after year.
THE PROBLEM: Most artists never tap into this holiday revenue potential.
Why? Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah come only once a year, and they are short-lived events. It’s easy to justify not putting much effort into them. Therefore, most musicians ignore this holiday music income stream.
That’s a BIG MISTAKE!
ACTION STEP: Now is the time to create a plan to share your music, do good in the world, and profit from the unique way you can help people celebrate during the holiday season.
Do what the smart bands and artists do: Think ahead and create a plan now that will serve you and your fans during the coming holiday season.
Source: Hypebot (by Bob Baker)
With over 7 million copies sold, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” is one of the highest selling singles of the past few years.
But WHY was the song such a huge success? And what can you learn from it if you want to score the NEXT big hit?
Here are 5 key insights:
1. It’s A Single
Did you know Thrift Shop was the 5th in a series of singles released from The Heist?
The first single was “My Oh My” (released December 2010). It completely failed to chart. About a month later came “Wing$” (released January 2011), but it didn’t really catch on either. Then, “Can’t Hold Us” (released August 2011) as the third, and a year later “Same Love” (released July 2012) as the 4th single…
…but it wasn’t until AFTER “Thrift Shop” (released August 2012) blew up in October of 2012, that the previous songs climbed the charts, too.
So what’s the lesson? Release and promote a series of individual songs. And: If it’s not a hit, switch. Don’t keep pushing a song that’s not getting any traction on its own. Keep releasing new songs until one catches on.
Over the years, I’ve sat at a lot of breakfast tables with local musicians recapping last night’s gig. Usually the conversation starts about the nuts and bolts of the evening itself, but many times, the theme of the conversation moves towards the difficulty to get people to pay attention to the music or attend the concert.
As a musician and someone working in social media & technology, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about traffic and engagement. In my research, I have found there to be a prevailing theme in the thought leadership.
It’s with this context that I humbly present to you 3 critical steps to building fan engagement:
#1. Make Good Stuff
So you’ve attended the latest conference, gathered a lot of business cards, downloaded the newest social media podcast, and bought the newest book on how to get fans.
Sweet! That’s great. But it’s just one piece of the pie.
Content is king, and putting out regular content is important. However, it’s not only about consistency. Amazing content (with a little social engineering) will spread like wildfire without as much need for all the “social media turd polishing” hype. If you’re spending more time on Facebook than playing your instrument, you’re doing it wrong. If you find yourself coloring your hair more often than meticulously working on your lyrics… you’re doing it wrong.
Don’t be like Narcissus, drunk off your own reflection, when there are thousands of people you could be learning from. It takes an awful lot longer to make good stuff without knowing, mimicking, and studying all of the good stuff that’s out there. Know the rules first before you go about breaking them. It’s like trying to learn a martial art without going to class. If you won’t dedicate yourself to being an expert, don’t be sad when people lose interest. Cultivate the dedication of the white belt while you strive for the black belt’s execution.
Make good stuff and they will come…