Things Every Musician Should Do: Put experiation timers on your contracts/agreements

31 Mar

It’s easy to fall into the routine of scrolling past terms conditions agreements without thinking much about them. However, they can often affect the future of your music, where it can be released, who controls it, and how it can be distributed. For example, a licensing agreement can change how future revenues are received (or waive future royalties entirely); a contract with one distributor might limit future opportunities with another; some sponsorship agreements will bind you/your band members to one specific type of product. These are all instances when you are limited by the choices made without full consideration of long-term effects.

Many contracts have expiration dates and/or auto-renewals. While these kinds of terms make the flow of services consistent, they can also be tricky to get out of if you don’t contact the party within a certain window of time. Also, keep in mind that these clauses are designed to benefit the service provider so that they can continually receive business. For example, I once signed a digital distribution deal years ago that was a three year contract. In order to cancel the contract, I had to submit a written request 30 days before the expiration – otherwise, it would renew for another three years. That could easily be a six year agreement that would block me from changing distributors or accepting opportunities from a service with a better fit.

There are also a few other reasons to mind the expiration dates of contracts. For example, some contract providers (such as licensing agencies) have non-exclusive agreements. However, if you want to switch to an exclusive service, you’ll have to cancel those agreements first.

In general, you should make it a habit to save copies of each agreement so that you can be aware of these restrictions. You might even consider having a lawyer look over the agreement as well. The longer or more complex the agreement, the more likely you should have a lawyer involved.

Create a File for All Your Contracts and Review Their Dates

You should have written/printed copies of every agreement you make on behalf of your music: licensing deals, distribution, recording contracts, etc. However, you should also have the cancellation clause, auto-renewal terms, and expiration date highlighted in every agreement. If you don’t have the contracts in a readily accessible place, take a few minutes out to print out copies of your agreements. I also recommend scanning these and keeping pdf copies in your digital records as well. As you look up the expiration and renewal dates, set a reminder for each one in your calendaring system so you can review agreements and decide if you want to continue them or not.

There’s another reason for this as well: sometimes, you want something to be renewed every year but you need to reapply for it (such as a sponsorship or roster position). Setting an annual reminder to review and prepare for the application process will keep you ahead of the game so that you can submit things on a timely basis without being rushed last minute – or worse, miss a deadline entirely.

 

 

 

5 New Places to Promote Your Music

10 Mar

These days, it seems that there are opportunities to promote your music everywhere you look. Some band services sites like Sonicbids and ReverbNation are full of opportunities that you can submit your music to (though often, that submission requires you to pay a fee). However, it doesn’t always require a submission service, a paid EPK site, or contests where you try to prod friends and fans into voting for you. Sometimes, it just takes some creativity and a lot of drive.

I always look looking for opportunities on the road less traveled. Not only is there simply less competition for attention, but when you find the right opportunity, there’s generally a higher payoff as well. Here are some idea generators you can use to find more ways to get income and/or attention:

  1. Bottoms Up! Do you frequent a local watering hole or know someone who bartends? While the “provide them with free coasters” idea has been done to death, bands seldomly ask to be put on the bar jukebox. Even more rare: designing a custom drink for the bar and have it named after you, your single, etc. In return, you put that drink on all of your business cards and flyers, telling people to visit that bar or club. You could even provide free download cards to patrons who order that drink. You could even do the same thing with a restaurant. It’s a win-win. You can even talk o them about slipping some music into the jukebox as well.

  2. Contact the Chamber. I’ve been a part of various local chamber of commerces and business networking groups for 15 years now and I’ve never seen another artist as a member. Chamber members are often looking for live music for special events and often rely on their network. The fee to join is nominal; not only can you meet business owners of important resources (printers, screen printing, graphic designers, auto mechanics, etc.), but if you book a single gig from it, it more than covers the dues. The chamber itself often needs music for each gathering, so offer to come up with a playlist for meetings and include some of your music!

  3. At the Car Wash! When the weather is warm, you can almost always expect to see high school students and local charities washing cars to raise money. Why don’t you consider doing the same to raise money for an album or tour? With every car wash, you could even include free samples of your music or sell CD’s while there. Plus, it could be a bonding event for you and your hardcore fans.

  4. Consignment. You can almost always place your record on consignment at your local record store, but have you considered making it available at other stores as well? For example, if many of your fans love comic books and you have songs about them, you could put your CD on consignment at a comic shop (same with skateboards, art stores, sports, coffee shops, or whatever the interest might be). In addition, you could ask the store to play the music, offer to do an in-store performance or signing to help promote it as well.

  5. Turn it Up in the Library! Did you know that many libraries allow members to check out music? In fact, many have a local music section, especially college libraries. Talk to your local library about putting your music in the lending catalog – but don’t stop there. Ask to perform at the library, especially if you have songs that are related to books, about reading, inspired by stories, etc. There is an entire genre of music called “wizard rock” of bands inspired by Harry Potter. The most popular act, Harry and the Potters, has been touring libraries for over ten years now.

This is a simple list to get ideas going. Think about all of the interests that you and your fans share, where you get inspiration from, where you spend your time, where you shop, and how other businesses promote themselves. Those are some of my favorite ways to find new opportunities to promote my music and make new fans.

I’ve done every one of the ideas listed above and they’ve all worked quite well (especially when you can work with a group of volunteers to help promote). It’s often just a matter of thinking creatively about your music and finding nontraditional methods of getting the word out. Another time, I contacted the small town of Astoria, OR because our band had a song about it. I simply contacted their local paper and called the tourism office, letting them know that we wrote a song about the city and would love to share it. Shortly after that, we got booked to headline the Astoria Crab, Wine, and Food Festival and played for thousands of people. Also, every time we made it into the news, the Astoria paper would write a story on the band!

Linking with Linkedin: 6 Ways to Gain Influence for Your Music

26 Feb

Linkedin is a social networking site that has a specific focus on careers, education, and industry networking. It also happens to be a site underutilized by musicians. Here are some of the key benefits for using Linkedin as a professional musician:

  • The opportunity to network with people directly involved in the music industry

  • Access to contact information for booking agents, labels, A&R reps, managers, and more

  • Opportunity to engage with other musicians

  • Access to potential sponsorships and endorsements

  • Access to networking groups to get questions about the industry answered

  • Get advice from others directly in the industry

  • Find opportunities to showcase your music

Like anything else, the content on there should be taken with a grain of salt. You can also gain followers and influence in Linkedin Groups, which will ultimately be of use to you. Here are six proven ways to gain influence on Linkedin:

1) By creating real value: Actually participate in group discussions and add something meaningful, don’t just use Linkedin Groups as a megaphone to promote yourself. This is the foundation of everything else here.

2) Building up your brand: Your Linkedin profile is part of your “brand” or how people view you. Look at the tip above: do you want to be associated as someone who only promotes their own products/services or do you want to be viewed as someone who contributes to others?

3) Make it two ways: You can’t expect others to blindly follow you if you aren’t taking the time to follow them first.

4) Create a niche: Stand out from the crowd by offering unique insights, especially on something that you specialize in

5) Don’t add to the noise: Simply posting your twitter handle and expecting something to come from it isn’t going to help you – if anything, it’ll actually be counter productive.

6) Get to know the mavens: Follow and interact with the top influencers of each Linkedin Group. That will help build your credibility. See what kinds of posts they are making, how they are enriching the rest of the group. Learn from that.

Also, do not create a user account for your band – save that for creating a company page. Instead, you should create a profile for you as an individual. That’s how the site is designed. Like Facebook pages, the Linkedin company page can post updates, services, have some branding, and contact information. Band members can all be tied to the account as employees.

Linkedin Groups can be a great resource for professional networking. But the key is networking, as in working with others. Use it well and it will help open up doors for your music career.

Create a Music Business Filing Cabinet

21 Feb

Are you collecting valuable articles and information about the music business? Do you keep a record of every press mention or post about your band? Maybe there are just interesting articles about art, marketing, social media, current events, books, or other content that can help fuel inspiration for a new song or teach you how to do something. When I see this kind of material, I put it in my “music filing cabinet.”

Too often, we see something of interest but then forget about it later. Sometimes, we create a bookmark but the content is no longer available. Don’t miss a moment – create an archive!

While I do keep physical files – I print out the most important items because it’s easier to read on paper and it’s nice to have a collection – I also like to create digital folders that are labeled, organized, and easy to access. It’s kind of like my own private Pinterest or bookmark list, except I create a copy and store it into an online folder.

With sites like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Evernote, it’s easier than ever. Every time I see something of interest, a press mention, etc. I save it as a .pdf, name the file, and place it into an appropriate folder. Then, it serves as my own music industry library, record of all the press I’ve received, or idea generator when I’m songwriting. I’ve also found this to be helpful with legal issues as well – it’s always good to have a good track record of organized files.

You might have your own way of organizing content or prefer different labels, but these are the folders that I currently save things to:

  • Music industry articles

  • Social media tips

  • Marketing ideas

  • Inspiration

    • Quotes

    • Song Ideas

    • Album artwork

    • Marketing Ideas

    • Good stories

  • Press

    • Interviews

    • Music Reviews

    • Tour press

    • Features

    • Other

  • Booking Agreements and Contracts

  • Music Studio Tips

    • Gear

    • Recording Techniques

  • Important Emails

  • Stuff the Fans Like

  • Contacts

While it’s good to save things are you come across them (or when someone sends you something interesting), it’s also a good idea to carve out regular sessions where you look for specific things to add to the cabinet.

If you don’t have one, create a series of folders on your computer that you can use to capture information. You can use a cloud-based storage system (online), create something on your computer’s hard drive, or use a program that syncs the two together. I recommend using either Google Drive, Dropbox, or Evernote. All of them offer free, limited space profiles or a professional account with expanded capacity for a small monthly fee.

Once you have that setup, I would also recommend setting up tags or folders in your email system that use the same labels. That way, it makes things much easier to find. You might also consider backing up your entire email account if there’s a lot of important information there.

It’s important to spend some time setting things up right the first time around. It’s always easier if you begin well-organized than if you have to sort through hundreds of files.

Is It Worth It? Measuring The Return on Investment for Musicians

3 Feb

scales

Last week, I was talking to an artist about potential shows for their first national tour. As a relatively new band, they didn’t know what kind of turnout would be there in several of the markets, even though they’ve had some prominent national press. Naturally, without a solid tour history, many of the promoters were unwilling to provide a guarantee – they only offered door deals to the band. The band told me that the shows needed to have a good turnout or money to make it worthwhile. Of each show, they asked me, is it worth it?

The week before that, I was talking to an aspiring author who was finishing up his first novel. I recommended talking to an editor to help with grammatical structure, word choice, and pacing, which is especially important for works of fiction. However, when he saw the price range of professional editors, he asked me, is it worth it?

Whether you are looking to expand your career with new equipment, investing into a tour, hiring a publicist, or deciding whether or not to play a show, no one can answer the question of worth for you. However, if you don’t have your own metrics, how can you even answer that for yourself?

In any business, this is referred to as your return on investment (ROI). While businesses usually only measure financial information (how much money is made on a particular decision), it’s much more complicated for artists.

Some of the ways musicians can measure their ROI include:

  • The Money: This is the easiest way to get a direct figure – how much money comes in versus how much goes out? For merchandise, this can often be measured as profit – spending $1,000 on CD’s that will bring you $10,000 can be a type of return on investment. For a show, this could be the final payout minus expenses of doing the show (gas money, food, lodging, promotion, etc.).

  • Exposure/Publicity: This has to deal with how many people will be exposed to your art, music, or message as a result of an action. For example, an ad campaign for your band might be viewed by 500,000 people, solid radio play, or the headcount at a show care all ways of determining exposure.

  • Satisfaction: While the notion of “art for art’s sake” isn’t as popular of a notion these days, measuring the amount of fun or personal satisfaction from an effort is important. Many people want to give up the jobs they hate, even if the money is good. If you only played soul-crushing shows, you would get tired of that eventually as well.

  • The Relationships: Sometimes, you do things specifically to build up a strategic relationship. Whether this is a super-fan, a sponsor, or potential music business contact, sometimes the biggest payoff can be establishing or developing a key relationship.

  • The Cause: If you have a strategic philanthropy element in your band’s business plan, sometimes your ROI could be measured by the amount of good an effort can create for others. For example, a fundraiser to help someone in need could be worth it to you even if it doesn’t land you a record deal from it.

  • Inspiration/Growth: Some efforts lead to personal growth or inspiration that can deepen your experience as an artist, which allow you to create better music.

  • Skills/Lessons Learned: Another way of measuring ROI could be knowledge that is gained. For example, learning more about your target audience, the markets that you want to focus on, or how to fix your tour vehicle could provide invaluable ROI for the future.

There’s no universal formula or set of standards for all musicians. You’ll need to figure that out for yourself. However, if you are playing in a band, I would recommend that you at least have a discussion on how you plan to measure ROI for your group’s decisions. Expectations might be different from each person, so clarifying individual goals is important. It can impact many areas, including: when/where to tour, how much merchandise to order, whether or not you should submit to a record label, and if you should accept that SXSW invitation or not.

 Consider these examples:

  • Your band loses $1,500 on two week tour from playing shows with low payouts. Even worse, the tour van came back with issues and needs $1,000 of work. However, during that time, you got to play for a few hundred people, saw cities that you’ve always wanted to visit, and had some incredible memories with your bandmates. Was it worth it?

  • You spend $200 on Facebook ads. 10,000 people saw the ads but only 1,200 clicked through – of those, 100 ended up following your page and joined your email list. Was it worth it?

  • You accept an offer of $3,000 to play a large show even though your lead singer can’t make it. The show is awful and you’re embarrassed at the performance even though you now have a few thousand dollars. Was it worth it?

  • You agree to pay $15,000 to buy onto a 30 day tour opening for an up and coming artist. You don’t get paid for any shows, you only get a 20 minute set per night, and you lose an extra $5,000 in expenses. However, you now have 500 new fans on your email list who indicate some interest and can now brag that you toured with this group. Was it worth it?

  • You hire a publicity for a campaign to promote your tour. It costs $3,000 and lasts for a few months. You don’t get many features or reviews, but it does help you get shows confirmed for the tour and you’ve never received press for your music previously. Was it worth it?
  • You buy a new guitar amp for $2,000. It doesn’t lead to any new fans but you get a much better tone on stage. Was it worth it?

In each instance, different artists will have different responses. What would each member of your band say?

Sometimes, your return on investment might not be fully realized until later on so it can be even more difficult to measure ROI unless there is some kind of baseline. Until you develop an idea of what you want to measure and how those metrics play into your long-term goals, you won’t be able to answer that for yourself.

Post-Show Procedures: 8 Things Every Band Should Do After the Performance

27 Jan

Post-Show Plan

Do you have a post-show plan? Is there a set of procedures that you work on after each performance? Or, does your band simply work on the next upcoming event – the next show, the next rehearsal, time in the studio, etc.?

In almost every professional endeavor, there is some kind of routine or review period to measure performance or follow-up with customers:

  • In sports, the coach diligently sits down with the entire team to review footage of the previous game. Team member celebrate successes and most importantly, look for areas of improvement.

  • In corporate business, the board of directors and executive staff look over stock performance and make decisions to keep their shareholders satisfied.

  • In the arts, performers carefully review each element of the show to see what delighted audiences and what could use work.

  • In retail, after Black Friday, stores do a quick inventory and review of the schedule to make sure that they are prepared for the rest of the season.

Of course, in any situation involving customers, there should also be some kind of follow-up as well. Customers should be thanked and shown deep appreciation. They need to be properly thanked! Coupons and surveys are sent out, appreciative messages are broadcasted across social media, some even take ads out just to show their gratitude towards supporters.

With your music career, you should thoughtfully be thinking about how you can make the most of each show, which includes a post-show plan that you follow. It should have some routine elements that have details of what will happen, when it will happen, and also why it should happen.

Here are 8 suggestions on what you could do after each show:

  • Share Gratitude: Thank the promoter, venue, sound engineer, fans who attended, other bands – basically, anyone who was involved with your show. This can be through social media, email, or even physical thank you notes. Whatever the method, it should be sent within 24 hours of the show.

  • Review the Performance: You should record each performance (especially with something that has decent audio) so that you can highlight good and bad moments from the show. Review the show as a band and look for areas of improvement: stage banter, certain moves, flow of the set, audience involvement, lighting, set design, etc. Even if you have nothing to improve, you’ll still have some good footage that you can share online.

  • Update Your Contacts: If you have new contacts to add to the mailing list, try adding them within 48 hours of the show. Thank the people for coming to the show.

  • Social Media/Blog: Share any highlights from the show – photos, videos, quotes, funny moments, etc. across your social media channels and/or band blog. You could send out quick updates or a full write-up/video review.

  • Contact the Press: Did something newsworthy happen at the show? It could be positive (your band got signed) or negative (your band got banned), but either way, you might have more opportunities to get some press coverage.

  • Order Merchandise: If you noticed that certain items were running low or high in demand, it’s best to place orders in as soon as possible so that you’ll be completely restocked before the next show.

  • Equipment Maintenance: Frequent playing can really wear down your gear. From old strings to action resetting, missing bolts to dying batteries…it’s better to take care of issues offstage rathern to deal with problems on stage. Doing a spot check can make sure everything is ready to go for the next performance or rehearsal.

  • Proof of Performance: If you have sponsors or investors, consider delivering a “proof of performance.” In other words, provide a recap specific to their interests: where their logo was displayed, what the attendance was like, how your brands were connected or marketed to the audience. You can also show web visits, social media engagement, or any other statistics related to the show that would continue to show value for their investment.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it’s done with consistency and purpose. You might spread the responsibilities around and charge certain members or road crew with certain tasks. By building these regular habits into your routine, your band will have greater professionalism, be working towards tangible goals, and you’ll be able to leverage the benefits of performing live to a much greater degree than just playing show after show with no post-show procedures at all.

How Artists Should Deal with Auto-Renewing Contracts

22 Jan

Record Label Contract

It’s easy to fall into the routine of scrolling past terms conditions agreements without thinking much about them. However, they can often affect the future of your music, where it can be released, who controls it, and how it can be distributed. For example, a licensing agreement can change how future revenues are received (or waive future royalties entirely); a contract with one distributor might limit future opportunities with another; some sponsorship agreements will bind you/your band members to one specific type of product. These are all instances when you are limited by the choices made without full consideration of long-term effects.

Many contracts have expiration dates and/or auto-renewals. While these kinds of terms make the flow of services consistent, they can also be tricky to get out of if you don’t contact the party within a certain window of time. Also, keep in mind that these clauses are designed to benefit the service provider so that they can continually receive business. For example, I once signed a digital distribution deal years ago that was a three year contract. In order to cancel the contract, I had to submit a written request 30 days before the expiration – otherwise, it would renew for another three years. That could easily be a six year agreement that would block me from changing distributors or accepting opportunities from a service with a better fit.

There are also a few other reasons to mind the expiration dates of contracts. For example, some contract providers (such as licensing agencies) have non-exclusive agreements. However, if you want to switch to an exclusive service, you’ll have to cancel those agreements first.

In general, you should make it a habit to save copies of each agreement so that you can be aware of these restrictions. You might even consider having a lawyer look over the agreement as well. The longer or more complex the agreement, the more likely you should have a lawyer involved.

Create a File for All Your Contracts and Review Their Dates

You should have written/printed copies of every agreement you make on behalf of your music: licensing deals, distribution, recording contracts, etc. However, you should also have the cancellation clause, auto-renewal terms, and expiration date highlighted in every agreement. If you don’t have the contracts in a readily accessible place, take a few minutes out to print out copies of your agreements. I also recommend scanning these and keeping pdf copies in your digital records as well. As you look up the expiration and renewal dates, set a reminder for each one in your calendaring system so you can review agreements and decide if you want to continue them or not.

There’s another reason for this as well: sometimes, you want something to be renewed every year but you need to reapply for it (such as a sponsorship or roster position). Setting an annual reminder to review and prepare for the application process will keep you ahead of the game so that you can submit things on a timely basis without being rushed last minute – or worse, miss a deadline entirely.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,856 other followers