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.
If there is one thing that almost every musicians dreams of, it is of that first major tour. Its that feeling of playing night after night, in the best venues of all of the major cities around the world, and always to a sold out crowd. But before that will ever happen, you need to answer one major question: Do you have a plan? If not, you can be sure to kiss that dream goodbye. And if you do have a plan, is it good enough? Music is a business just as anything else, and as such it is your job to play entrepreneur and marketer. While it is your product or service you are trying to sell, it is also your job to expose your music to the public.
First we will take a look at forming a proper plan, followed by exploring different strategies for putting that plan into action. The following are very important steps to ensuring that you have a proper plan in place before you even attempt to get that first gig:
1) CHOOSE THE RIGHT VENUES
Every venue has its own style, and is known for showcasing music of specific genres. Some venues are known to hold rock concerts, other are known for hip-hop, so on and so forth. It all comes down to the location, and the surrounding music scene. Picking the right venue for your gigs is very important, as is the first step towards growing your core fan-base, which will ultimately increase the attendance at your gigs. If your not playing to a crowd who won’t absolutely love your music, then you haven’t targeted your audience correctly.
As with any well thought-out marketing strategy, the first important step in promoting yourself and building your brand is knowing who your audience is. If you are trying to build a core fan-base, you better be sure you know who that crowd will consist of. If you are playing acoustic folk/rock, don’t play in a club for people who are looking to dance to reggatone. The same thing goes for hip-hop artists- don’t play in a coffee shop filled with art students who listen to indie rock.
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.
Below is a question/answer conversation with EricTheReDD, the former general manager of WJSC-FM (Johnson State College, Vermont), about his experience with college radio and everything it takes to get your music played on a college radio station.
Would you mind introducing yourself? What station did you work for and how long were you there?
My radio handle is EricTheReDD; former General Manager of WJSC-FM. I started at WJSC in September 2003 as a volunteer DJ and slowly worked my way up the ranks. I became assistant to the Production Manager after a few weeks of kissing ass. There ended up being a mass exodus of upper-management and I rose quickly to the position of General Manager; a title I held (through an electoral process) for 4.5 consecutive years. I took the position once more when our then-GM was forced out for violating station rules involving drugs and alcohol in the studio and I held the position in-interim until elections when I chose not to run and resumed my duties of Program Director, Music Director and DJ until I finally stepped away in May 2012. In total, I worked at WJSC for just shy of 9 years; holding every management position at least once, overseeing two radical format changes, re-branding, building of a brand-new station and complete overhaul of our on-air booth in the process.
Since I left the station has reverted to a fully open radio format (very common for college radio) and plays everything from bluegrass to metal to show-tunes and plenty of everything else in-between.
How many packages did you receive from bands every day? How many of them actually ended up getting opened and listened to? If not 100% of them, why did some of them get tossed aside?
Very few packages came directly from the artist; they normally came from labels or promotional companies. But a package was a package and all we cared about was getting it to the proper recipient. A lot of labels rely heavily on the promotion and spins that college radio can provide and therefore stagger their releases to ensure a present student body. Hence, few lesser-known bands release albums over the summer but there’s an explosion of releases in the fall.
Every package gets opened. EVERY. SINGLE. PACKAGE. And every day is different. Some days we’d receive a postal container full of packages and sometimes we’d maybe get one or two. It depended heavily on the labels we were affiliated with, their release calendar, and other factors like that. Typically, we split up the mail by genre; each sub-director being responsible for their own share. Mine was Hard Rock / Metal / Punk. I’d open my packages, keep the PK (Press Kit insert) with its respective disc and recycle the packaging. I would then take the stack into my office (or the production studio if it wasn’t being used) and go through the music. I’d put a disc into the player and scan through the tracks while reading the PK notes. Songs needed to grab me. Long intro, I might skip in to the minute mark. If I wasn’t dazzled in about 5 seconds per track I’d keep going through the disc.
PERSONAL RULE: I always give the title track a chance to “wow” me. In my experience, if you’re going to name the album after that track then it’s got to be something special. If the title track sucks it’s going to be tough to get me to take the rest of the album seriously.
In terms of airplay or “getting tossed aside” it comes down to democracy. The free spirit of college radio is in the DJs and we gave them free reign (within the law) over their weekly chunk of airtime. We DID have a few requirements; playing a PSA once per hour, reading something from our underwriters (businesses that donate money in exchange for mention; it’s a non-profit thing), and the coveted “PUSH” pile. Labels foamed at the mouth to get their albums into the “PUSH” pile. We would require that twice an hour the DJ pick any disc from “PUSH” and play something from it. This ensured new music was getting played and labels were getting the necessary spins to keep their executives happy. Directors would leave little post-it notes on each disc with a brief description and one or two recommended tracks to make it easier on the DJ. But at the end of the day there are still piles of albums that, for whatever reason, don’t garner much attention. They’re archived alphabetically and by genre and tucked away on the shelves. And about once every 5 years we’d go through the “vault” and clean house; selling albums that people are willing to buy and giving away the rest (typically a FREE bin outside the station was sufficient).
There’s a popular business acronym that says goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Your music career is no different. Unless you have a target that you are reaching for, you’ll just continue down random pathways hoping to get somewhere.
Oftentimes, artists tend to limit their music sales to iTunes only, which is a crucial mistake considering the surge in popularity of streaming music services. It’s extremely important to get your music onto various platforms to accommodate fans that prefer to stream rather than download, as well as the fact that some services are more popular or non-existent in some countries.
EPs are a fan favorite these days! There is more music being released than ever before, and EPs sustain the listeners attention span by offering a taste of what a band is all about. In addition, creating EPs is a much cheaper route to take and allows for you to put out something new and fresh more than once a year.
One of the best ways to acquire email addresses from potential fans is to offer them something for free. Probably the most easiest solution is to offer a free download of one of your tracks. You can accomplish this using widgets and other tools that are available on ONErpm.
It takes quite a bit of time to handle the day-to-day social media aspects of a band. Ideally, you should find 2 or 3 prominent sites and build out your audience on those platforms. This will ensure that you put in the quality work that is needed to be successful on each one.
Furthermore, take advantage of apps and plugins, such as ONErpm’s Facebook store. If your fans are constantly on Facebook, why not give them the opportunity to purchase your music without leaving the site?
If you haven’t got a website yet, spend the majority of your time on getting one. This is basically your online business card, and a tool that will make you look more professional to people considering hiring you for gigs, media coverage, etc. It’s also a great way to engage with your fans, encourage music / merch sales, and keep fans informed.
This is actually one of the most important tips. If you’re making good songs that can compete with other popular musicians in your genre, then it’s time to really start marketing your music…CONSISTENTLY. Otherwise, not many people will hear or purchase your music, thus making it harder to build traction in terms of getting your name out there.
You may feel the need to up that number to increase your chances of getting your music heard; that is if you’re already been spending a good amount of time on marketing efforts and aren’t seeing the results you had hoped for.
It takes very little time to set up, but once you do you can set all your videos to be monetized. YouTube selects ads to be shown around your videos, and you are paid a portion of the revenue.
Don’t create only official music videos. Make any type of quick video (at least a minute long) talking about anything, recording in the studio, on the road, etc. Sure, some of them may make you very little, yet over time the volume could start collecting into something meaningful.
Make a playlist of your videos and direct people into watching a playlist instead of an individual video. This makes it easier for fans to view more of your videos, which is a plus in that every view counts toward more revenue!
Once you have monetized your channel, you can enable your annotations to have live links to iTunes, Google Play and other retailers. This creates instant traffic to sell your music and merchandise.
Do you already have a large audience to work with? If so, you can join ONErpm’s YouTube network and we’ll leverage your audience for higher ad rates. In addition, we also bring other monetizing opportunities for your videos, as well as cross promote with other network channels to drive up views.
Make sure your music is put into a database that allows YouTube to match your song anytime it is used. What this means is, every time your music is added to a random video with or without your permission, you’ll get a piece of the revenue. If your distributor doesn’t offer this, use a multi-channel network like ONErpm!
Don’t simply include the basic information on your video in the description. Take advantage of the opportunity to sell to prospective fans by adding outbound links to everything that you’d like to sell. Be sure to include merch stores, iTunes, Spotify, etc., to send your fans to for further revenue.
Try at all costs not to use one of the thumbnails YouTube generates from your video. What’s better than a custom, eye-catching image with your band logo to encourage users to click on your video? NOTHING!
Don’t wait for someone to randomly find your song to put behind their video on YouTube. Use companies like Audiosocket and CueSongs. They allow artists to have YouTubers legally license songs for their videos for low rates, which in turn leads to more exposure and revenues for you.
Author Zig Ziglar was often as saying, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”
Your music career is no different. Unless you have a target that you are reaching for, you’ll just continue down random pathways hoping to get somewhere. How will you know what successful looks like if you haven’t defined success for yourself? You need to begin by creating (or revisiting) your goals.
There’s a popular business acronym that says goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
Many good articles exist on how to be more effective at writing and reaching goals. In fact, there have been many great books about them. It’s one of the most important aspects of your career, so it’s good to spend time on goals.
Here’s a quick rundown on how you can make S.M.A.R.T. goals:
A ticket stub does so much more than just admitting you into an event. A ticket stub is a filled with memories, emotions and, if you’re lucky, your favorite singer’s autograph. Just one glance at that flimsy piece of paper, and the flood gates are opened. You are submerged in a pool of memories, like which song the band opened with, the moment you made eye contact with the guitarist, the hoarseness of your throat from screaming along with the lyrics, and how, for a couple hours, nothing else mattered in the world. That flimsy piece of paper can become a prized possession.
A memento is a keepsake or a souvenir of remembrance, and almost anything can be turned into a memento. It is so important for bands and artists to give fans a chance to take home with them something that will remind them of why your performance was the best ever, and why they should go see you perform next time you’re in town.
So what can you offer your fan as a memento? Merch is always a great option as long as you have something available for every budget. Then there’s always the setlist. Write out a couple tracks and make sure the person vibing out the most gets it. Throw out your picks and drumsticks. Hand out digital download cards of your single. Take along some of your tour posters and have them available for your fans to grab. Get creative! And of course, always make yourself available to autograph these mementos and get a few photos snapped.
Source: MusicThinkTank (by Katie Woods)
The growth of streaming music services and shared playlists, and the continued strength of YouTube, unleashed new forces on the music business last year — catapulting independent artists onto the charts with growing regularity, music industry statistics show.
As the grip of the major music labels continued to loosen in the era of Pandora, Rdio and Spotify, one of the biggest indie stars, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, saw its hit song “Thrift Shop” hit No. 1 in 2013, the first time since 1994 that a song without the backing of a major label reached the top of the charts.
The song, released in August 2012, was also the No. 2 streamed video in the first half of 2013, with 187 million streams.
The rise of streaming music services, where the major labels’ control is weaker, and the decline of FM radio, where the labels’ control is powerful, has had a clear effect on the power of indie.
In 2007, indies controlled 25.8 percent of the music business, No. 2 behind Universal Music Group’s 28.8 percent share. By June 30, 2013, indie — a universe that includes Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons — leapfrogged Universal by growing its market share to 34.5 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Universal was at 28.3 percent.
Rich Bengloff, who runs the American Association of Independent Music, believes the availability and popularity of music streaming — which grew by 24 percent in the first half of 2013, while digital sales slipped 4.6 percent in the period, its first-ever decline — is exactly why artists are opting for indie status and why their power is growing.
Not surprisingly, Pandora founder Tim Westergren has been wooing the independents. Songs from outside the major labels make up 50 percent of the content streamed on the 14-year-old service. On broadcast radio, it’s 13 percent.
“There are artists who were invisible in the music business who now get exposed to an audience that is big enough to support them,” Westergren told The Post this week. “There’s an opportunity for a really well-run band to take control of their careers.”
Pandora (which in a regulatory filing said it had 70.9 million active users as of Oct. 31, up 8 percent this year) has been working with indie artists to develop tools like letting them know where their richest concentration of fans are so they can better plan tour locations, Westergren, speaking while on vacation in Australia, said.
“Independents are supportive of Pandora because it’s a level playing field, not a walled garden,” says Westergren.
While indie artists and their labels are enjoying and cashing in during the early stages of the Pandora era, no one believes the big guys are going away.
Indies are still tied to the big labels for distribution. Macklemore & Lewis is aided by Warner Music’s Alternate Distribution Alliance.
And the majors, seeing the rise of indie labels, have been gobbling up some of the more successful ones.
Source: NY Post (by Claire Atkinson)