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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.

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.

 

How Bands Can Break Into New Markets

12 Jan

This is a draft excerpt from my new, forthcoming book about turning your music into a full time career. Each the end of each chapter, I also offer up specific activities that can put these ideas into action. I’d love to hear any thoughts or feedback below!

One way to grow your music’s reach is to break into new markets. This could be taken a number of ways: new geographical areas (cities, states, countries, etc.) or simply new audiences in general (by demographic, interest, psychographic, etc). Before you try and expand your reach through new markets, it’s important to take a few things into consideration:

  • Return on Investment: What is the cost or effort required to break into this market? Is the return on investment worthwhile or would you be better off using those resources to grow an existing market?

  • Goals: What kind of role will this market play in your S.M.A.R.T.E.R Goals?

  • Barriers to Entry: What are the biggest challenges or costs that you need to overcome? Examine the economic conditions, competition, and openness to what you have to offer.

  • First Mover Advantage: If there’s no one else with a similar product/service, you’ll enjoy what is referred to as “first mover advantage,” or FMA. In the world of music, this usually is attention (from press and fans) for doing something new or different. For example, Elvis Presley gained FMA for his unusual style and gyrating hips, “Weird Al” Yankovic for his satiric songs in a time where few were making careers out of parodies, and DJ Kool Herc is often known as the father of hip hop. While you don’t always have to be first in a market, it certainly helps – nobody wants to known as the act that copied someone else.

  • Target Audience: Who is the target audience in this market? What are their interests, habits, dislikes? How will you reach this audience?

Musicians traditionally break into new markets through one or more of the following ways:

  • Touring: Most musicians try to break into new markets through touring, with the idea of playing in new cities and venues as a chance to build an audience. Often referred to as “paying dues,” the number of shows per year and number of cities played is still considered a standard in the industry by which most artists are measured. When you’re submitting to major festivals, record labels, booking agents, or other professional opportunities, most (if not all) will evaluate how often and effectively you are touring.

  • Media Play: When radio, TV, or internet media broadcast music, it’s usually an effective way to get exposure in other regional markets without even performing there. These days, it’s becoming more common for music media to expand the type of genre that they play or cover (radio, tv, and internet). Also, with the popularity of Internet radio or video sites such as YouTube, it’s easier than ever to get media play in front of new audiences.

    Years ago, it was popular for record companies and magazines to give out compilation CD’s to bring exposure to many different artists. Some magazines still offer this by charging bands to participate on a CD that is given out with the magazine, though it’s much less popular now.

    Finally, another way of getting media play outside of one’s audience is by having someone else cover or remix the song. Sometimes artists collaborate on projects together through co-writing songs and guest appearances as well.

  • Press: Getting unconventional press coverage (outside of your genre, region, etc.) is another way to expose your band to a new audience. This is usually achieved when something is particularly noteworthy. Note: this is different than growing an audience in your current market(s) that you are working for, which is why for the press to be interested, it needs to be something press-worthy in a manner that interests that audience. Sometimes it involves scandal.

  • Word of Mouth: Fans usually don’t fall neatly into categories or markets, but they often have contacts that may fall outside of a target audience. The most enthusiastic fans will often be the first to begin sharing outside of the market – telling friends in other cities or who have other interests.

  • Advertising: Those who have a marketing and advertising budget can reach new markets by buying ads (or sometimes media plays) in other markets.

Additionally, you can break into new markets using some of these less common methods:

  • Marketing in Unexpected Places: When you really understand the target audience of a new market, you can find ways to market to them in way that most musicians don’t. An easy way to do this is to focus on specific interests, habits, or other behaviors. For example, piano-rocker Matthew Ebel began playing at furry conventions (a subculture involving animal characters with human traits) and found an energetic, excited audience who immediately loved his quirky music. Playing just one of these events opened the door to many more across North America.

  • Responding to Controversy: If you’re able to write a quick, clever song about a hot topic, you can often get quite a bit of press from doing so (especially if you’re one of the first to do so). For example, there was a huge controversy over someone making racist comments in a YouTube video titled “Asians in the Library.” Rather than responding with anger like most people, singer-songwriter Jimmy Wong wrote a snarky song in response called Ching Chong. The video immediately went viral, getting millions of views and national TV interviews, and helping launch Wong’s career.

  • Sharing Your Expertise: You probably have interests, skills, or experiences as a musician that could be shared with audiences outside of your own audience. For example, I often respond to calls for interviews looking for world travelers. When I interview as a professional musician on behalf of my band, they’re always happy to print our name (and usually a link). It’s even better when I can share an amusing story or interesting factoid. We’ve received press- and new fans- from exposure in Travel & Leisure Magazine, USA Today, Huffington Post, and more simply from this.

  • Strategic Philanthropy: Connecting with a cause that you are passionate about can help you reach an entire audience. For instance, the artist Jon Davidson often performs for many charities, including at the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life events throughout the Pacific Northwest. His dedication to the cause has made many new fans who participate in these events – fans who otherwise would have never heard his music.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure that it fits with your goals, will provide a return on your investment, that it is focused on the target audience, and that you use some creativity in the process.

How to Create SMARTER Goals for Your Music

5 Jan

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 Timely. In a band, I think goals should be SMARTER, because they need to include Everyone and be Revisited often.

There are many good articles 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 goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R.:

Specific

Ask yourself the big questions: Who, what, when, where, why, when? A specific goal lets you know what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it by, why you are doing it, who will be involved, and where it will happen.

Many artists have a generic goal of “make a living full-time from doing music.” But what does that mean to you? Most independent artists who are making a living from music also manage their own careers, book their own shows, solicit sponsors, etc. in addition to creating and performing music. For them, their goal was to be independent of another job or career. For others, they want to concentrate solely on music so a booking agent, a manager, a lawyer, and publicist would be involved as well.  How much money do you need to live on? Spell out the goal completely.

For example, a goal I’ve used before: Tour the continental U.S in August 2013 with at least 18 shows, playing a mixture of all-ages, 21+, and convention shows making an average of $500 per night. Also, see an increase on social media and web traffic by at least 10% and increase online sales by 20% for the month before, during, and after the tour. Those are all specific targets that I can definitely measure against.

Measurable

A goal should have specific metrics so you know if you’re making progress. If you have one larger goal, you should break it up into smaller parts over the course of time. That way, you and your team can always know where you stand against the overall goal. During this time you should be asking questions with how, when, and what: how much do you have left to go? When will you reach your goal? What do you have to do to stay on track?

Using the tour goal listed above, one could easily measure against the goal in a number of ways:

  • How many shows have been booked for August 2013? What kinds of shows have been booked?

  • How much income is being earned per night?

  • What is the average monthly online sales? Have they increased – and if so, by how much?

  • What do I need to do to help increase merch sales, at shows or online?

Attainable

The goals that you develop should be ambitious but realistic. For example, if you don’t have the right resources, abilities, finances, or followers, perhaps you should create a smaller goal and adjust it as the situation improves. If you focus on what you can do, it sometimes reveals new opportunities. For example, potential sponsors – many are probably in your own backyard but are often overlooked for the larger, sexier opportunities.

Goals should grow with you. As you gain more resources, abilities, finances, and followers, your goals should get respectively larger. Having them just out of reach helps you stretch. However, having them too far away will only cause frustration.

Relevant

The goals that you choose should matter. They should motivate you and drive your career forward. For example, I’ve talked to many artists who have a goal of playing a large festival like SXSW even though it doesn’t relate to their current state of their music career. Things shouldn’t be goals just because others are doing them. Ask yourself these questions: Is this the right time? Is this worthwhile? How will this directly help me?

Timely

Your goals should have a time-bound deadline. When would you like to reach your goal by? If your goal is shrouded in the idea of “someday,” you’ll have a much more difficult time of reaching it. If you want to achieve a goal by the end of the year, you’ll work more aggressively for it. For example, if your goal is to sell 5,000 records, you would treat it much differently if that was 5,000 someday as opposed to 5,000 by December.

Everyone

This is one that I like to use for musicians. Goals in a band should have everyone involved. If some of your bandmates aren’t on board with the goals, then you might consider having someone else replace them – that’s how important this is. People should be on the same page, have the right expectations, and the proper work ethic for reaching the goal.

Also, when I saw everyone, I mean everyone. This includes spouses or other people whom we depend on for support. If your band members would like to tour 8-10 months out of the year but their significant others aren’t supportive of that goal, some serious issues could arise – especially when that opportunity presents itself. If you want to focus primarily on licensing for films but your manager wants you to focus on festivals, those incongruent goals would also cause issues. Make sure the key players, as well as the most important people in your life, are in alignment when it comes to your goals.

Revisited

Goals should be revisited often. Not only should you be checking on your progress toward your goal, but you should also see if those goals need to be adjusted. Ask: are these goals still relevant? Is this what I want/need still?

Years ago, most artists had a goal of signing on a major record label (a few still do). However, since the market has completely changed, most have realized that this isn’t always the most appropriate opportunity for them. Major things can alter our goals: relationships, the market, our fans, political instability, and so on. Revisit those goals and make sure they meet the criteria above.

 

Buy One Book, Get One Free

15 Dec

I’ve launched a new promotion with Amazon where if you buy a physical copy of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, you get a digital copy for free! It’s the time of giving so you could gift one and keep the other for yourself!

Also, I get many questions on sponsorship that have been answered by previous articles. To view all of my posts about sponsorship, just click here.

If the book/articles don’t answer your questions or you just want some personalized help (advice on your EPK, your proposal, contacts, etc.), you might want to just book a consultation with me.

How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements Book Offer

26 Sep

How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements

Amazon is now offering a free ebook version of my book, How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, with the purchase of a print version. To celebrate, I’m going to give away a few free digital copies of the book myself – no purchase necessary.

It’s simple, just tweet at me @SimonTheTam with the number one reason why you need the book. You get bonus points if you include the link to it ( http://t.co/aI4yxdNoGn ). I’ll DM a few users and everyone can be happy. How does that sound?

UPDATE: This offer has already ended. Keep following this blog for other opportunities!

10 Networking Tips for Musicians and Bands

23 Sep

Networking.

For most musicians, this is something that most know they should do but feel uncomfortable with or don’t know how to approach. However, it’s something that can open the doors to better shows, a record label, a new sponsor, or even more fans. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years about networking:

1. The Value You Bring to Others: Many networking events can feel like a shark tank, with people fighting to get business cards out and meeting the right people. It can often be inherently selfish, people seeing who can help them get what they want. However, networking is about building partnerships, so you can often stand out by finding ways to deliver value to other people, whether that is simply connecting other contacts to one another or helping someone solve their problem. That’s far more effective than finding ways to show off or impress others.

2. Ask Questions: Whether you are connecting in person or through email, the best thing you can do is open up communication by finding out what the other person needs. The better you understand them, the better you can build the relationship. That interaction matters more than the pitch you’ve carefully constructed about yourself.

3. The Pitch: That being said, find a way to accurately describe what you do in an interesting way in 15 seconds or less. This article on pitching your band might help.

4. Be Intentional: Whether it is at an industry event or online, you don’t want to spam everyone about what you do. Instead, identify the people who are most relevant to what you do, what you offer, or what you need. Focus on them. It’s better to have one solid connection than 100 meaningless ones.

5. Stay Alert: This is one of the reasons why I don’t drink; acting tipsy in front of others can be a sign of weakness and lack of self-control. It’s also important to proofread emails before they are sent, both for spelling and grammar as well as content and length. All of these things reflect you and your work.

6. Think Outside the Box: Don’t always focus on record executives or promoters. Sometimes, it’s good to go outside of your industry and just focus on the general needs of your music career as a business. You’ll always need printing (business cards, download cards, posters, etc.), so why not connect with a printer?

7. Make Connections: The best way to meet people is to be the person that connects others. Offer to introduce someone to one of your contacts who can help them. If you’re known as a connector, people will be more willing to connect with you as well as return the favor.

8. Accept Rejection: Sometimes, people are too busy or they are uninterested. Don’t take it personally and don’t fire back some kind of hurtful email. Be careful about leaving bad reviews on sites like Sonicbids, you might be viewed as petty.

9. Get Your Hands Dirty: Remember, the payoff for networking comes when you help others. Offer to donate time or resources, volunteer, offer advice. Some of my strongest connections have come from volunteering for non-profit organizations and meeting contacts who believe in similar causes.

10. Follow Up: Following up is one of the most important parts of building relationships. Emails, text messages, and phone calls are often forgotten about. Everyone can get busy and need a reminder. Other times, it’s just good to check in. Make it a habit to follow up with an important contact every few weeks.

Whether you are heading to a music conference like CMJ or SXSW, or you are trying to connect with others via Linkedin, keep the above 10 tips in mind to help you stand out as a vital member of the community rather than someone who is only pursuing their own interests. Keep your communication short, to the point, and valuable to others!

 If you’d like more advice on how to find, develop and win over contacts, check out How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements.

12 Ways to Get Your Band More Press

21 Aug

Getting more press is one of the most important parts of your music career. It helps your industry buzz, gets you better gigs, lands bigger sponsorship relationships, expands your audiences, and builds your music’s credibility. So how do you get more reviews or your work highlighted?

You might have a list of accomplishments that you are proud of but you’ve struggled with getting the word out about those things.

Sometimes, you have the wrong story (it isn’t that interesting). Other times, you have the wrong audience (you just need to find the right media source). This is where having a publicist will be great asset to you: they have existing relationships with journalists and have a feeler over what “sells” and what doesn’t. Besides, it’s always nice having an objective opinion from someone outside of your band helping you create a story that journalists will be interested in writing about.

If you don’t have a publicist, you can still send out a press release or create a guerrilla marketing campaign about the story. Some topics that could be considered “press worthy” could be large changes, such as:

  1. Releasing a new album: Don’t just sell the music, sell the story behind the music.

  2. Releasing a new music video: You might contact music magazines or blogs, asking for an “exclusive” (you premiere your music video on their website before releasing it to the general public).

  3. Embarking on a tour: If you have sponsors/partners, ask for their help in promoting this.

  4. A change in your band’s line up: Who could resist a good break-up story or introduction of a musician with a following?

  5. A controversial situation or battle: Always a press favorite.

  6. Invited to a prestigious show or music festival: You want to leverage any momentum you can, especially when the press is hungry for stories related to a hot event.

  7. A fundraiser or major charitable effort: Get the organization to and their donors/volunteers to help with this. Chances are, they have some great contacts.

  8. Winning an award: A story in of itself. If you’re creative, you could get something about losing the award too.

  9. A new partnership or sponsorship: Not all press has to be strictly music. Local chambers of commerce and business journals might be interested too!

  10. Signing a new agreement with a booking agency or record label: If anything, PRWeb might be a good way to promote this event.

  11. Receiving press coverage in a major media source:  Press begets more press. You’d be surprised how incestuous media content is.

  12. Anything that could be seen as “major” news: Look at your favorite media sources and detect a pattern for the kinds of stories that they feature/deport on. If you have something that would fit in, you can contact editors/reporters and pitch your story.

There are many more situations that could spark an interest. To get an idea of what kinds of stories are interesting, look at newspaper and magazine headlines. More than anything else, the headlines or topics deal with some kind underlying story. The press loves controversy and conflict because it makes stories more interesting (which in turn, makes them more likely to be shared). What sounds more interesting: A band releasing a new album and going on tour or a band releasing a new album and going on tour after a 20 year hiatus? They could very well be the same story but require a different perspective to help sell the story.

News should also be current. However, you should keep a log of notable accomplishments or moments on your music career because they can often resurface or be used as fodder for a press release. You might also consider building an online pressroom for your band (more useful than an online press kit for the media). Just remember: keep it press-worthy!

 

3 Things Musicians Should Avoid When Asking for a Sponsorship

31 Jul

I wrote a guest blog for CD Baby today, you can read all about it here: 3 Things Musicians Should Avoid When Asking for a Sponsorship. It has some tips from my book, How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, with some additional information.

Enjoy.

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