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Ice Bucket Challenge and Fundraiser

23 Aug

Unless you yourself have been living under a bucket, you have noticed the Ice Bucket Challenge fervor spreading around the world. This is my take on it – not only to help support efforts in finding a cure for ALS, but to raise money/awareness for issues related to clean water, which is currently affecting almost 1 billion people.

I want to help step it up even more.

So the until September 30, 100% of the money from my book sales will go towards ALS and Charity Water. 

Feel free to check out my books on being successful in the music business and finding a sponsor Simon Tam’s Amazon Author Page. And please, continue to support these great organizations!

Two Things That You Can Do to Start Making Music Industry Contacts Today

4 Jun

Below is a short excerpt from my new book, Music Business Hacks. The book was written with the idea that “music industry” books should be filled with actionable items for artists to directly apply in their careers so that they spend more time doing something with purpose. Think of it as the music career cookbook – you find a topic, you get the “recipe.” Please enjoy – and check out the book (a free loan of the digital version of Amazon Prime members is available).

It’s no secret that often in the world music, it’s more about “who you know” than what you know. The industry generally favors pre-existing relationships, whether you are looking for a venue, a sponsor, a review on your new album, or a slot at SXSW. Like it or not, networking can often make or break an act.

Today, focus on taking a few steps closer to your goal by working on your contacts. Here are some of my favorite tips on networking:

  • Start With a Goal in Mind: Before you haphazardly contact just anyone in the music industry, think about what you want to achieve and who some of the people are that might be able to help you. You might also think about how you can help them in return. Most of the time, you’ll make new contacts in social situations but you can also be strategic about who you want to meet and why.

  • Use “Pull” Marketing Strategies: “Push” marketing is exactly what it sounds like: taking a proactive approach to reach out. However, “pull” marketing is far more effective. That’s when you draw people in.

  • Make Networking a Lifestyle, Not an Activity: While some people will be more inclined to be the social butterfly, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make networking a normal part of your career. Don’t be the one who is shoving their business cards in everybody’s face. Instead, be the one that listens to others’ needs and the one who takes the initiative in helping meet those needs.

  • It’s Not Who You Know, it’s Who You Know: Your name is a brand and the more excitement and buzz about you, the more likely you’ll attract others. Learn how to market yourself (social media, especially Linkedin, is a great place to start).

  • Give Them a Reason to Call You: With each exchange (whether online or in person), show the person that you respect their time by giving them something of value. This can be a tip, an interesting story, an incentive, or answer to a lingering question.

You can find more tips with a quick Google search or at the library. I highly recommend books on sales, especially by Jeffrey Gitomer, Jeffrey Fox, and Dale Carnegie.

Activity 1: Create Your Strategy

Create a networking strategy. You can use a spreadsheet, a notebook, email/contact management system, or whatever system you are most comfortable with. Start with:

  1. Your Goals: Who are the people you want to get in touch with and why. What industries are they in? What do you hope to gain out of a relationship with them? Organize these contacts in categories (Managers, record labels, promoters, media, sponsors, etc.).

  2. Degrees of Separation: Who do you know who might have get you one degree closer to the contact? This is where sites like Linkedin are exceptionally useful. Don’t worry if you don’t have a line of contact for each person, just start with who you know.

  3. Add Contact Information: Include their basic contact information as well as any public social media accounts that they might use, such as Twitter.

  4. Value Proposition: List what they are interested in, what you can do to bring value to them. Can you help market their product/service? Create a partnership? Expand their roster?

  5. Contact Plan: Keep a track record of when/how you contact them. Treat this like a sales call sheet. There are many templates available online for this.

  6. Timeline: Group together contacts and create a regular schedule on when you’ll reach out to new contacts and build up existing relationships. It doesn’t take much, consistency goes a long way!

 

Activity 2: Generate Some Buzz

Build “pull” marketing strategies. Sometimes the best way to make new contacts is to give them a reason to contact you. In other words, find ways to make them take the initiative. There are a couple of ways to do this online:

  • Become a Resource for Them: Create some “online capital” by writing a regular blog or contributing to content on sites like Quara, HARO, or Linkedin. If you create meaningful content for things that your target contacts are interested in, they’ll be more inclined to contact you.

  • Generate Some Buzz: Hire a publicist, find ways to create some momentum through social media, create some industry buzz. Remember, focus on their industry. It doesn’t help you to reach #1 on ReverbNation for bands in your area if they have never heard of the website before. The best publicity gained is in areas where they will “stumble” across you and your work.

  • Draw Them In: Think of other ways that your target contacts will discover you. What interests them? What kind of websites or trade journals do they visit and read? Who do they know that could make that introduction? Some research can save you a lot of time and make your efforts much more effective.

 

By spending just a few minutes a day working on these two activities, you’ll begin to cultivate new relationships that can help take your career further than ever before.

 

Music Business Hacks Now Available!

31 May Music Business Hacks cover

Music Business Hacks cover

My new book, Music Business Hacks, is now available on the Kindle store here. The print version is available here.

Do you have 15 minutes to spare?

If you want to spend more time doing and less time reading, this is going to be your kind of book. This isn’t the kind of cover-to-cover manual on the music business where you have to figure out how to apply vague concepts to your career. No, this is your recipe book for music business success.

Every section is broken down into short bites with specific actions that you can take to begin taking control of your music career right away. You’ll learn things like:

How to book your own tours
How to get sponsors
Who you should hire
Using social media in a way that actually works
How to become a better musician
How to be more strategic with your art

Crammed with over 2,000 tips and idea-generators, this book will let you hack your way through the music business. Also, it features advice from A&R reps, label owners, publicists, attorneys, artists, and more!

Check out the book now! 

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.

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