We’re gonna tell you a lot of things that you might not want to hear (especially if you’re doing or NOT doing some of these items). A lot of mags and industry professionals (mostly those who want your money) don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they patronize you and talk to you like children when it comes to these things. I’ve seen some God-awful, condescending nonsense in print when it comes to career advice for musicians.
We respect you more than that. We think you’re adults (for the most part) who can handle a dose of reality every now and again if it means making some positive changes in how you conduct your business. And if your band isn’t a business, maybe you should re-think seeking out press in the first place.
A healthy majority of these list items come from discussions we’ve had with editors and journalists from around the country, and some of them are our own pet peeves. Take everything with a grain of salt, if you must. We’re just telling it like it is, giving you a peek behind the curtain.
OK, no more preamble, no sugarcoating, no bullshit. Here (in no particular order) are about two-dozen plus reasons why your band isn’t getting anywhere with press. So, if you’re ready for some harsh truths, read on. We start with…
1. You look, sound or act like the ass-clowns in Brokencyde. See Exhibit A below.
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.
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)
Not surprisingly, artists and music brands have lately come to view YouTube network as one of the most critical pieces of their digital marketing strategies. Not only is video content one of the most valuable tools available for increasing engagement and building an artist’s brand, but it has also proven capable of breaking new acts (just look at Psy and Justin Bieiber) in the rare event that a video goes viral.
YouTube is absolutely dominated by music. Of the top 20 Most Viewed YouTube Videos of all time, 19 are music videos. Obviously YouTube users love music content—so how can you best position your videos to reach a higher proportion of that massive (over 127 million unique visitors in May 2012 alone) audience?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to that question. YouTube is undeniably one of the hardest social networks to crack for any artist trying to build an audience. Eight years’ worth of video content is uploaded to the platform every single day, which means your latest music video or behind-the-scenes clip is competing against a nearly endless pool of other pieces of content. What most YouTube users don’t realize, however, is that there are several simple tricks any content creator can use to easily increase their visibility on the platform, simply by understanding how YouTube ranks its content.
Oftentimes, musicians tend to overlook the fact that their fans can be just as creative. Use this creativity to your advantage! For example, check out the fan-made video for Systemshock’s “You’re Fake, I’m Real”
It’s hard being a musician these days. In addition to writing/performing music, we’re often bombarded with the need to maintain an online presence, deal with licensing contracts, book tours, work with promoters, find sponsors, record/mix/master/distribute CD’s, and more. Because the work can be overwhelming, it’s easy to fall into bad habits and do things that hurt, not help our careers. Here are some of the bad habits that musicians are guilty of:
We focus on the wrong things. It’s easy to get obsessed with filling the booking calendar and end up over-playing instead of being strategic about shows. On social media, we look at the wrong numbers, focusing on the number of followers rather than building up engagement. We need to take a step back and look at our long term goals, instead of focusing on immediate urges.
We want a shortcut to everything. I get more emails asking about an easy way to get a sponsorship or booking a show than anything else. The easiest way to get anything in the music industry is to do the hard work of building up a local fan base and create a unique niche for yourself. That’s when you can make the pitch. As Beverly Sills states, “there are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.”
We copy other acts. It’s good to learn from others’ examples, but you need to create something totally unique for yourself. Look for untapped markets where you can make fans in unexpected places. Have a unique voice or approach to social media, come up with unique pieces of merch, try new ways to promote. Don’t copy another act’s image. Imitation might be a form of flattery, but it does nothing to flatter the person doing the imitating.
The “magic solution.” This goes along with the shortcut: we often look for the next golden egg that can help launch the career. At first, everyone thought it was acquiring thousands of “friends” on Myspace, then it was licensing. Sometimes it is a national tour, others, the “solution” is getting a song on the radio. Reality check: there is no single solution that works for everyone. This is why I say that the best social media site for bands is the one your fans is on, not any site created by artists or made for bands. You have to find what works for your target audience, then do those things well.
We try and appeal to everyone. Instead of thinking of your target audience in terms of a demographic collection (i.e, 14-38 year olds), try to narrow it down to a single person. Who is your most enthusiastic fan? What sets them apart? What are they interested in? What is it about you that resonates with them? Once you determine the one person (rather than a generic group), forget about everyone else and just focus on other people like them. You’ll make better decisions and you’ll see better ROI on your efforts.
Not practicing for performance. Many acts might rehearse and get their songs down tight in the garage, but they don’t seem to be practicing for performance. In other words, even if the songs are tight, there the live show has issues: they don’t know how to set-up and clear the stage quickly, transitions between songs are long or loose, band members necessarily are messing around on their instruments during sound check or between songs (or “live” tuning), they don’t know how to address the audience. Try taking video of rehearsals and shows, compare the two. Time them. Fine tune it. If you want to be a professional, don’t act like an amateur band.
Do you find yourself slipping into one of these mindsets?
We have more resources for musicians than ever before, opportunities abound. However, bands also have to work harder than ever before as well. So before you just dive in, take a moment and think about your long term goals, develop a business strategy, and think about how you can give value to your most enthusiastic fans.
What’re some habits you find yourself falling into?
Source: Last Stop Booking (by Simon T.)
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.
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)