By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 4 minutes
If you’re a musician who has dabbled at all in the world of music licensing, you know that copyright law and royalty payments can be a confusing mess. It’s a daunting task to find out exactly who owns what piece of the pie, and who needs to be paid for the use of that pie. (Or song.)
Because of the complicated and highly specialized nature of copyright, sometimes I like to use my knowledge of the subject to impress people at parties.
One of the more widely known pieces of copyright trivia that I would pull out to impress my friends is the daunting story of “Happy Birthday,” that simple tune that has so long plagued mid-level chain restaurants.
For most of this century, people have been paying out big bucks for the right to use “Happy Birthday”. Whether in a restaurant, a TV show, or movie, “Happy Birthday” was earning about 2 million dollars every year for Warner-Chappell music.
But in a historic ruling earlier this week, a federal judge in LA ruled that “Happy Birthday” was never actually copyrighted properly and will now fall under public domain.
The melody of the song, originally titled “Good Morning to All,” has been in the public domain for years, but Warner-Chappell was standing on a copyright claim to the lyrics from 1935 that they bought from the original publisher.
Apparently, those lyrics were never actually copyrighted at all.
The plaintiffs who sued Warner-Chappell were actually making a documentary about the song when they found evidence that the song was not actually under copyright protection. They then sued Warner-Chappell music…and won. They are now seeking to turn the lawsuit into a class action suit that would require Warner-Chappell to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So Now What?
Since “Happy Birthday” is now in the public domain, you are free to use it without paying any royalties!
While this might not be the most exciting news you’ve ever heard, it does open up a few possibilities for independent musicians.
The Happiest Album Ever!
Did you know there is a whole underground genre of Happy Birthday songs floating around the internet? Just search for “Happy Birthday” in Spotify and you’ll come up with hundreds of customized birthday songs.
So why not release your own birthday album? Pick 12 of your favorite names (or the names of your closest friends) and record a few different versions of the song. Once you’re finished, upload the tracks to YouTube or Spotify (ONEprm will allow you to upload to Spotify for free!) and make a little passive (celebratory) income!
Say Thanks to Fans
Now that you won’t have to pay for a sync license, you can film yourself singing Happy Birthday to your superfans and put the shoutouts on YouTube! Your followers will be so excited.
Play It Live!
Technically, you were probably already allowed to do this, since venues are required to pay licensing fees for all the music you play onstage. (Didn’t know that? Click here to learn more!)
It’s always been a good idea to learn “Happy Birthday”, even before it was in the public domain. It gives you the freedom to interact with your audience on a more personal level–if someone is celebrating their birthday by watching you play music, they deserve a shoutout from stage for being so awesome!
You could probably wing “Happy Birthday” (after all, it’s not the most difficult song ever written), but why not take the opportunity to wow everyone in the room with your spectacular rendition of the world’s most famous song?
“Happy Birthday” being moved to the public domain may not seem like an earth shaking decision, but it does underscore the importance of copyrighting your music properly. After all, if the author of Happy Birthday’s lyrics had done that, Warner-Chappell would still be making 2 million dollars a year off of an eight-measure-long song.
Have any other creative uses for Happy Birthday? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet @nationwidedisc your ideas!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 6 minutes
I, like many other people, live in an apartment.
Unlike most other people in my apartment complex, I’m a musician.
This is unique challenge, because I am loud.
And not only am I loud, my band is loud.
Through more error than trial, I have learned that it is not a good idea for my band to rehearse in my apartment, even though this is the space most readily available to me. And I know I’m not alone. A major challenge for many bands is a lack of rehearsal space.
But the lack of rehearsal room doesn’t have to mean the end of an apartment dwelling band! With a little ingenuity, you will be making sweet tunes in no time!
Solution One: Professional Practice Space
Chances are, if you live in a big city, there are a few practice spaces that are available for rent. Typically rehearsal rooms are available to rent hourly, and some rehearsal spaces offer a monthly rental. These rooms often already have PA systems that you can use, and many offer 24 hour access.
If you are practicing a lot (which you should be) a professional rehearsal space might be a good investment for your band. The major downside is that these rooms can be expensive, and sometimes they are not the most well-kept facilities. However, if you can afford it, and there are professional rehearsal spaces in your city, I recommend renting one.
Solution Two: Demo Away!
If you’ve already got some home recording equipment, creating rehearsal demos might be the way to go for your band. Record simple versions of your songs, then give them to your band members to rehearse with.
These demos should be as close as possible to the live performance arrangement. You can even mute certain instruments so that the tracks are easier to rehearse to. For example, the vocalist might rehearse better with just an instrumental track, or the drummer might not want the distraction of pre-recorded drums in his mix.
Rehearsal demos have a few downsides. If this is your primary way of rehearsing, you have to have a lot of faith in your fellow band members to rehearse on their own time. It takes a lot of individual dedication.
You also have to find time for some full-band rehearsal as well. Though individual rehearsal with demos can drastically cut down on the time you need to spend in full rehearsal, getting the band totally locked in together is something that’s only going to happen when all the members of your band are actually together, fleshing out the music. This means that at some point, you will have to let your neighbors know you’re gonna be loud for a few hours, or you’ll need to rent a rehearsal space. Either way, using rehearsal demos can cut down on headaches, and on costs. Plus, you’ll already have good demos of all your songs!
Solution Three: Ask Your Place of Worship
Do you know what pretty much every place of worship has? A building that is mostly empty for a large part of the week, and a PA system. If you are a member of a church(or a mosque, or a temple, or a synagogue), and your music doesn’t offend any major doctrines or church staff, you might be able to practice in your church building for free, or for a small fee. This is especially true in smaller towns that might not have rehearsal spaces for rent. Even if it’s just an unused room with no PA system, a room to practice in is much better than no room to practice in.
Solution Four: Ask Your Drummer
I know it seems a little silly. And I will do my absolute best to avoid drummer stereotypes in this short paragraph. But…
In all the bands that I’ve been a part of, and out of all the bands I’ve worked with, the drummer is not usually the person who organizes and schedules band practice. However, if your drummer keeps his kit set up in his place of residence, he probably already has A) a room big enough for a drum kit, and B) a place where loud noises are at least semi-tolerated.
If those two criteria are met, you might want to ask your drummer if you could practice at his place. It might be a little cramped, you might not be able to practice during prime-time hours, but a free rehearsal space is a free rehearsal space, no matter how you look at it.
Just make sure you ask your drummer to pick up his dirty socks before the whole band comes over.
Solution Five: Be A Good Neighbor
This solution might not apply if your apartment complex has a very strict noise policy. But it never hurts to simply reach out to your neighbors and let them know the situation you’re in. Try asking them if there is a specific evening when they won’t be home when you could schedule a rehearsal, or inquire about their work schedule, and try to fit in a daytime rehearsal with your band.
Ultimately, you need to respect your neighbors, so if there isn’t a time that works well for you to rehearse, you might need to bite the bullet and pay for a rehearsal space. After all, you don’t want to get kicked out of your home for too many noise complaints.
Solution Six: Acoustic Practice
An easy fix to a noisy practice? Practice more quietly. Ask your drummer to play with brushes or hot rods (or on a cajon/djembe) and rehearse with your other instruments unplugged, or turned down waaaaay low.
Electric guitarists, I know you need to turn your amp up to get a good tone. I know quieter practices might hurt your tone sensibilities. I get it. But rehearsal is for the good of the whole band, not just your ears. So keep that volume low!
Acoustic rehearsals can also help you hear your music in new ways, and might expose a problem area or two that you need to fix. I recommend having an acoustic rehearsal at least once a month to self-evaluate.
Acoustic rehearsals can also add to your versatility as a band. If you are ready to go—plugged or unplugged—you might have the opportunity to gig more often simply because you are adaptable.
For many bands, there is no perfect rehearsal solution. Space is limited, or expensive, and neighbors complain too much. But we hope that some of these solutions will help your band be able to rehearse more effectively, more often.
What rehearsal space problems have you solved? Are there any solutions we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 6 minutes
When it comes to digitally distributing your music, there are options galore. From the heavyweights like CD Baby and The Orchard, to smaller companies like Mondotunes, you have options, and can pick the distribution company that is exactly right for you.
In this article we are going to take a look at ONErpm. ONEprm is a digital distribution service based in Brooklyn, NY, with offices in Brazil, and a new office opening in Nashville. They are an iTunes preferred partner, as well as one of the largest multi-channel networks on YouTube. They have quite a few options for independent musicians and labels that distribute through them, and we’re going to give you the run down of their most notable features. Lets look at what your options are if you choose ONEprm as your digital distributor.
ONEprm has 2 main pricing options. But a great feature of ONErpm is their free distribution service.
Premium Package-a one time fee of $40 per album, or $15 per single. With the Premium Package, they also take a 15% cut of royalties.
Arena Package– an annual fee of $30 per album, or $15 per single. You get to keep 100% of your royalties (besides Youtube, but we’ll get into that later).
Free Option– ONErpm also has a free distribution tier. This option will distribute your music to Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and more. If you choose the free option, you can still opt-in to other stores, you just have to pay a small fee per store. Adding an album to iTunes is only $5, and since ONErpm is a preferred partner, your music could go live in less than 48 hours. This is a really cool option for a single that you only want to release in limited formats, or if you are using streaming services as a marketing tool instead of a distributor.
All major retailers are included in ONErpm’s digital distribution, although you will have to pay extra for ringtone stores and services like Shazam.
ONErpm’s services will cover all your basic digital distribution needs, but ONErpm stands out with a few features that aren’t offered on other digital distribution platforms.
One of the major advantages of digitally distributing with ONErpm is their relationship with YouTube. Right now, YouTube is the number one music streaming service in the world, and their music infrastructure is only set to grow. ONErpm is a YouTube certified company, and they have one of the largest multi-channel networks in the world. A multi-channel network, or MCN, is simply a company that works with channel owners to effectively monetize their channel, provide digital rights management, funding, and audience management.
When you distribute your music through ONErpm, you have the option to distribute to YouTube. This doesn’t mean that your music automatically get uploaded onto a YouTube channel, it simply means that ONErpm enters your music into YouTube’s ContentID. When your music is identified in YouTube’s system, you can manage how your music is being used. This means that when people use your songs in their videos, or even re-upload a video that you created, you can locate those videos, and either issue a take-down notice, or file a claim to receive revenue on that video.
ONErpm’s unique connection to YouTube can also help you get extra revenue from your own videos, since ONErpm works directly with advertisers to negotiate a higher ad rate for their channels. They will also help you optimize your YouTube channel for monetization.
Being a part of ONErpm’s MCN is free and open to any YouTube creator, even if you aren’t a musician, or don’t choose to distribute your music through ONErpm. A nice bonus if you live in the NYC area is that ONErpm has a video production studio that you have free access to as a member of their MCN.
A downside to ONErpm’s YouTube services is that ONErpm takes a 30% cut of all revenue generated from YouTube. However, it may be worth it to let ONErpm handle your YouTube revenue if the money you gain from their higher ad prices equals out the 30% you pay them for managing your account.
If YouTube is an important part of your music, and you’re interested in joining an MCN, ONErpm might be the best distributing option for you. Neither Tunecore or CD Baby offer YouTube ContentID tracking, and they don’t have an MCN.
ONErpm also has several marketing options for artists. Their basic package includes social media management, verified profiles on streaming services, and email marketing. You can also upgrade to their specialized marketing services.
Much like CD Baby, fans can also go directly to your profile on ONErpm’s website and download music there. ONErpm has several pricing tiers, and lets you choose which one best fits you. In addition to setting your own prices for your downloads, you have the option to give away a free download in exchange for an email address. You can then download those emails and export them into whatever program you use to send email newsletters.
ONErpm also provides a free Facebook app that lets fans download music directly from your Facebook page. You can use this app to sell singles, full albums, or give away a download in exchange for an email. You can make this app the landing page for your band’s Facebook profile, and use “fan-gating” to ask users to like your page before they have the option to download your music.
ONErpm also gives you analytics, and monthly sales reports. You get paid through Paypal, and can withdraw funds whenever you like.
ONErpm’s digital distribution has some great benefits, and they offer a great deal of flexibility to artists in terms of services and price points. This personalization helps makes them a good choice for indie artists.
ONErpm might be the right distributor for you if:
You are interested in flexible pricing options, or free distribution to streaming services
You would like to sell your music directly on Facebook
You are interested in joining a YouTube MCN, and want someone to help you monetize your YouTube account.
You want your distributor to give you marketing support.
As you are looking for a digital distributor, keep your individual needs in mind. With so many companies offering similar services, make sure you find the company that best fits your needs as an artist.
Have you used ONErpm? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 7 minutes
This is the second article in the “Spend Less Money” series. To read part one, click here.
If you asked a professional sound engineer or studio manager what the number one way to save money in the studio is, they will probably tell you to come prepared. When time is wasted, the dollars begin to add up quickly. So how do you prepare well? We will be addressing this issue in our next few blogs, and today we start out with something you might have overlooked as you began studio prep.
I know you’ve heard it before. Demos—from a simple recording on your smartphone, to a fully produced track—are an important step in the songwriting process. If you are hoping to pitch your song to another artist, a professional demo could help you get those placements.
But the demos we are talking about function a little differently. These are your pre-production demos. They are for you (and your band) to get to know your music better before you hit the studio. They are for tweaking the songs until you get them just right, and they give studio musicians or your band something to rehearse to. If done well, they can even function as a scratch track in the studio, saving you time and money as you begin the tracking process.
Creating Your Demo
In many situations, a simple recording on a smartphone will suffice for a demo. But to use pre-production demos to their full potential, you are going to have to go one step further.
Your demos don’t have to be so fantastic that you don’t actually need to go into the studio after they’re finished. But there are a few key elements that you will need to be able to control as you create your pre-production demos.
You will need a Digital Audio Workstation that will allow you to have control over tempo, and allow you to use a MIDI keyboard or controller. There are many different kinds of DAWs at all different price points. You just need to find one that you are comfortable using. If you already have a more advanced DAW like Protools, use that. Audacity is a free DAW, and Garageband comes pre-loaded on most Macs.
If you are able, I also recommend purchasing a simple USB interface, like this one. This will allow you to hook up a MIDI Keyboard, as well as plug in your guitar and favorite microphone. However, you don’t have to. Most Macs and PCs have built in audio recording devices, and Garageband will allow you to input MIDI using your computer’s keyboard. Although it may be easier in the long run to purchase a USB interface, you can still create a useful pre-production demo for free.
The exact tempo of the music can drastically alter the feel of a song. Even just a few beats per minute (BPM) up or down can have a huge impact. Before you record your demo, rehearse the songs with a click track. If you’ve never used a click track before, this can be a big adjustment. However, playing to a click track is vital for studio work. The better you are at staying locked into the click, the smoother your recording process will be.
As you are rehearsing, try changing the BPM of the click, and playing the song at new tempos. You may find your song works really well as a ballad instead of the mid-tempo rock song you thought it was.
When you find a tempo you think works, create a click track in your DAW and record a simple track, guitar or keyboard and probably vocals. Have other people listen to the song. Have your guitar player or drummer play along with it. If they think it’s too fast or too slow, play around with it. If you record MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keys as your basic track, it will be easy to adjust them to a new tempo without re-recording. If you recorded acoustic guitar, you may need to re-record. That’s okay. Better to spend a little time up front on these demos than to discover halfway through tracking in an expensive studio that the song is too slow.
As you are playing through a song, you may discover that the key you wrote the song in is not the best key to record the song in. The ability and range of the primary vocalist is the biggest determining factor when choosing a key. You need to make sure your vocalist is comfortable, and can achieve the sound you want in the key the song is written in.
It’s also important to remember that different instruments work best in certain keys. If you know you want to feature brass heavily on a song, it’s best not to record that song in a key with 7 sharps. Brass players usually feel more comfortable in flatted keys, string players feel better in sharped keys. Keeping your instrumentation in mind while you’re choosing a key can help you get a great finished song.
Pre-production demos are also a great place to work out auxiliary parts for your songs. Once you determine the tempo and key, you can use your MIDI keyboard to do some experimentation. If you think that a song needs strings, try adding a string part with a virtual instrument. Doing some of your production this way will allow you to communicate better with session players, a producer, or a sound engineer.
This is also a good time to get your lead guitarist to nail down his solo. While you should allow for creativity to happen when you’re actually tracking, having a plan and knowing exactly what parts you want for each song will make your life easier when it comes time to actually record.
Save Time, Save Money
The biggest reason that pre-production demos are important is their role in saving you time and money as you prepare to lay down tracks. This is true whether you use a home studio, or a professional studio. Pre-production demos allow you to tweak your songs easily, let you play around with sounds, tempos, and meters, and let you know exactly how the songs is going to be structured. That way when it’s time to record, you have a clear picture of what you want. This can be especially helpful if you are in a band and want multiple band members to have input on the overall direction of a song, but don’t want to spend time discussing it in the studio. Regardless of where you are recording, saving time means saving money and pre-production demos allow you to be prepared.
Listen, Listen, and Listen Some More
In addition to allowing you to experiment with your songs, pre-production demos can help with the song selection process, and deciding the order of songs in your project. Although you might already have a good idea of what you want, these demos can help you iron out the rough patches. Listening to the pre-production demos—and allowing other people to hear them—can give you a good idea of what songs are actually good enough to make it on the album. After you have a good idea of what your best songs are, you can begin to listen to them in the order you think they belong in. This allows you to listen for any odd transitions between songs. Pay special attention to what keys your songs are in at this phase. Transitions between keys can greatly affect the mood of your album.
You should also listen to how tempos are grouped. If too many slow songs are together, the album may drag. If too many high energy songs are paired with each other, the audience may get bored. A good way to combat this problem is to have a non-musical friend give you their opinion. Though they might not know exactly what is going on musically, they will be able to listen objectively and point out some issues you may have missed. Listening through your pre-production demos can help you solve these potential problems before you ever get into the studio.
The great thing about pre-production demos is that they are unfinished. Their point is to be a continual work in progress. Let yourself have the freedom to experiment and tweak them. If you use your demos well, you can have better communication between band members, producers, engineers, and session players. They can also help you to achieve a better finished product for less money.
Have any questions or tips on creating demos? Any advice on saving money when you record an album? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 8 minutes
So you’ve decided it’s time to make an album. You’ve been playing these songs live, you’ve recorded the demos, and people keep asking, “When is your album coming out?” You can’t wait to get these songs tracked and you’re ready to see all the music inside your head coming to life.
And then you figure out how much it’s going to cost.
Recording an album can get expensive. But it doesn’t have to break the bank. You don’t have have to drop $10,000 to get a great record, if you go into the process prepared. Knowing up front what is important to you can help you decide what you want to spend money on, and what you can skip to make the process cheaper.
So lets look at some things that will drastically affect the cost of your record, and how to drive those costs down.
Length of the Project
The length of the project will drastically affect your cost. 12 songs are more expensive to record than 3 songs.
You have to be honest with yourself—and your other band members—about what songs are good enough to go on an album. Make sure that your investment of time and money is funding great songs. You want to make an album that you are going to be proud of for years to come.
Do People Actually Want a Full-Length Album?
As you make decisions about your upcoming project, you need to look at the music industry as a whole. For the past 15 years, we have seen album sales drop, and sales of singles rise. When you create an album of any size, you invest time, money, and a lot of emotions. You need to be able to get a return on your investment. Sometimes, recording a full length album is a great idea. Creatively, getting to spread your wings and work on 12 songs can be a wonderful thing that fulfills you as an artist. If you have the time and money to record a full album and that’s what you want to do, then go for it. But for many artists, recording a smaller body of work now can result in a better return on your investment later.
If you have four really great songs that people absolutely love, and seven songs that are just okay. Just record those four songs. You’ll cut your cost drastically, and you’ll be giving fans the music they truly love.
You also have to decide whether or not to work with a producer. Producers have been a part of recorded music since its inception, and they are an important part of the recording process. If you have a particular sound in mind, finding a producer who specializes in your genre can be a great way to make sure your music is comparable to what is currently available. Working with a great producer can also bring a valuable outside opinion on the music you will be recording.
A producer can be one of the most expensive parts of your album. But a great producer who understands you and your music can take your album to new heights. Some artists love working with a producer, while other musicians prefer to do it all themselves. You have to decide what’s right for your music. If you have found a producer you trust, and can afford them, I recommend you hire one.
Often producers and sound engineers are the same person, especially for smaller projects. This can help you cut costs while still reaping the benefits of having a producer.
Studio or At Home
At home recordings and DIY studios have come leaps and bounds in the past few years. It’s now possible to make a great sounding record at home. However, there are still costs associated with this. The equipment needed to build a professional sounding at-home studio is still quite expensive. If you don’t already have the tools you need at home, you may find your initial budget gets eaten up quickly on equipment alone.
If you are a beginner in home recording, even though your initial investment in equipment may be higher, you could save money in the future if you already have all the tools needed to make great music in your living room.
There are lots of great resources to learn how to record well at home. You can check out these helpful articles if you are looking for a place to start:
Even though it can be cheaper in the long run to record at home, studios are still an important part of making great records. Studios have high quality equipment, rooms that are acoustically engineered for great sound, and either an in-house engineer, or a recommendation for an engineer they trust. If you don’t have the patience or time to invest learning how to make a great sounding recording at home, a studio may be the best place for you.
Many musicians work out a hybrid of the two. You may find your living room isn’t the best place to record a full drum kit (and your neighbors might hate you!) but it is the great place for tracking acoustic guitar and aux percussion. Working out a deal to combine the best of both worlds may cut your cost significantly.
Many producers/engineers have a great home studio setup. They may charge you a reduced rate to record there, or just bundle it in with the fee they charge you initially. This can save you loads of money on studio hourly fees and per day rates.
Ultimately tracking at home is the cheapest option. But you have to decide if that’s the best option for your music and your career.
Remember: Although it’s definitely possible to make great music at your house, there is still a standard of quality that you will have to meet. Even a casual music listener can tell when something doesn’t sound the way that they are used too. When you are deciding between recording at home or in a studio, think ahead to how you want the album released, and what kind of opportunities, like licensing and radio airplay, you will want to pursue with these songs. Then make sure the quality of your recording matches up with other songs that are being released on those platforms.
Another costly item is studio musicians. If you are in a band, this is less of an issue, although you still may want to hire session players for strings or other auxiliary instruments. If you are a solo artist who wants an album with a full band sound, this is a much bigger concern.
Every musician charges different rates, but there is probably a “normal” dollar amount that musicians are charging in your area. Remember, the quality of the musicians you choose will drastically affect the quality of the music you are recording. Shop around a little, and find the best musicians for your project.
To cut costs, ask a friend who is great at their instrument if they would be willing to help you out. If you are involved in your local music scene, collaborating with other artists can also be a cheaper alternative to hiring studio musicians.
Remember that though the tracking may be finished, the project isn’t. You will have to pay for mixing, mastering, and your disc packaging/digital distribution. All of these things are vital steps in the recording process that you shouldn’t skip.
Mixing might be the most important part of recording a song. No matter if you recorded at home, in a studio, or with a producer, mixing can make or break your record. Do some research, and find the best engineer you can afford.
Many digital distributors and disc manufacturers like Nationwide Disc offer mastering services at great rates. Again, this is a step that shouldn’t be skipped if you want your recording to be the same quality as the songs that major labels are releasing.
There are many factors that will affect the amount of money you spend on your new project. But with some research you can decide what you really need to make your project exactly what you want it to be. Once you know what you need, you can find ways to significantly cut your budget. This applies to a record you made by yourself at home, or a fully produced album made in the most expensive studio in town.
How have you cut costs on albums you’ve recorded? What part of an album do you think artists should invest the most money into? Let us know in the comments below!
One note: Just as you want to be compensated fairly for your work as an artist, your friends, other musicians, producers, and sound engineers do to. If people are willing to work with you for free or a reduced rate, that’s great. But don’t short change your fellow musicians who are working just as hard as you are to have a sustainable career in the music industry.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 6 minutes
I have an idea of what you might be thinking: Pinterest? For my music? Isn’t Pinterest for girls planning their weddings?
As a musician, using Pinterest for your band may sound a little strange, but just give me a minute. There is a chance you are missing out on a great opportunity to market your music.
If you’ve never used Pinterest before, its concept is simple. Users create topical pages called “boards” and add content to their boards by “pinning” pictures, videos, or audio files. Much like bulletin boards of the past, a user’s pins are a mishmash of images from their own life, items they want to purchase, things they want to try, places they want to go, and things that inspire them, spark their creativity, or simply make them happy.
Unlike a private bulletin board, Pinterest is a very social system. You can find and follow other users by searching by name or by linking to your other social media accounts. A user’s pins show up in the home feed of everyone who follows them; likewise, the user can see the pins on boards of users they follow. When following other users, you can follow one of their boards, all of their boards, or only their boards that interest you. Most boards are curated by only their creator, but boards can be shared among multiple users, allowing for easy collaboration on projects. Users can also create private boards, accessible only to their creator. Lastly, users can comment on pins, repin a pin on their own board, and send pins directly to other users.
Since its creation five years ago, Pinterest has gained millions of users. Its purely visual format is simple, the content is inherently shareable, and it allows users to collaborate easily. What’s not to like?
Pinterest has an interesting—almost niche—user base. About 75% of their users are female, and most users are between the ages of 24 and 34. The most popular topics on the social network are food-related (recipes) and DIY projects. Don’t be fooled, though, into thinking Pinterest can’t be relevant to you or your music. There is a vast array of content. Yes, you can find step-by-step instructions to frosting the perfect cupcake. It’s right there next to tips on turning wood pallets into coffee tables, makeup tutorials, and the fall line for Marc Jacobs, which in turn are mixed in with humorous memes, pretty pictures of handwritten song lyrics, celebrity snapshots, and photographs of classic cars.
Regardless of what they’re looking for, a large portion of Pinterest users choose the site as their go-to search engine. Which makes it a little less surprising that close to 90% of “Pinners” have purchased something that they pinned.
Pinterest for Musicians
For the musician, Pinterest has two main benefits:
What makes someone really truly love a song? Good melodies help. An interesting phrase can catch someone’s attention. But, chances are, someone loves a song because that song makes them feel understood. Listeners feel like they share an experience or emotion with the artist.
If used correctly, Pinterest can be as helpful in building connections with your fans as your best songs are.
Pinterest is a great way for your fans to get to know you and vice versa. Your customized, topical boards let your fans have a sneak peak into your life. Common interests and tastes may turn a casual listener into a real fan who is ready to support someone they feel close to. Chances are, if they already like the music that you make, they will have some other similar tastes that can be a jumping off point for a strong connection between you and your existing fans.
You can also see the things that your fans like. If a particular style is consistently repinned by your fans, you might think about adding a product with a similar style to your merch table. Tailoring your products to the tastes of the people who will potentially buy those products can mean more merch sold and more money in your pocket.
Pinterest is also a great way to reach new people who might enjoy your music. If you have thoughtful content on the site that interests your followers and prompts them to share it, their networks will see it. If the new viewers are interested and look into the pin (i.e., follow it back to the source), they might discover someone new to follow (you!) and something new to like (your music!).
Pinterest is an aspirational website. Its users pin content that reflects something they hope to be, or do, or buy.
Pinterest is also inherently viral. The vast majority of content on Pinterest is “re-pinned,” meaning that people are sharing existing content rather than generating original content. Because of this, pinned content stays around for much longer than a Facebook post or a tweet, and something that you uploaded months ago still has the potential of being repinned.
Lastly, Pinterest is effective at sales conversions. Pinterest beats out other social media platforms in terms of links leading to online purchases. It also has more users click through to the source site than any other social media platform.
What does this mean for bands using Pinterest? A few things:
Your content should resonate with fans, genuinely hitting on something they hope to be, do, or buy.
Sharing existing content isn’t bad, but uploading original content is better. With original content, you can link to content on your website, driving traffic back there. You can’t really do that with someone else’s images, video, or audio. Additionally, original content is something that your followers haven’t likely seen before… which means they haven’t already pinned it and can do exactly that.
Your profile should link to your website. That way, anyone curious about who exactly is pinning this amazing content has a way to find out more.
Keep the above in mind with pinning, and you will likely see your website’s traffic and your sales increase.
As With All Marketing
As with all forms of marketing, the first step is to know your audience. Pinterest isn’t for everyone. If your audience is mostly 55-year-old males, Pinterest probably isn’t the best social media platform to use to market yourself. However, if your target audience is 20 or 30-somethings or largely female, it may well be worth the time it takes for you to establish and run an account.
In the end, you have to be smart about the tools that you use to market yourself and make sure that the time you spend on any marketing endeavor is worth your efforts.
Want to learn more about how to use Pinterest as an effective tool to market your music? Check back later this week for practical tips to build an engaging, effective profile.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 6 minutes
Pretty much everyone knows the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, but, in case you don’t, here’s a recap: A curious (trespassing) little girl ventures into an “empty” house, where the three bears live. There she discovers three servings of food, dished out and ready to be eaten. With no one around, she takes that task upon herself. The first bowl is too hot. The second is too cold. The third? Just right. After sampling the food, a tired Goldilocks searches for a place to rest. She tries the chairs, finally settling into one… until it breaks. This leads her to look for another place of rest, and she tries each of the beds in the house until she finds one that suits her tastes. She falls fast asleep in that bed and is found there when the bears return home.
I’m willing to bet, though, that you haven’t heard the story of Platinum Plaits. Or, if you have, you don’t know it. So, grab some popcorn, get all cozy, and listen to this tale.
Who Is Platinum Plaits?
Not so long ago, in a land not so far away, there lived an indie artist named Platinum Plaits. At the wizened age of 28, she considered herself an experienced musician. After all, she’d been singing since the age of four, playing piano since seven, playing guitar since eleven, and officially gigging since she was sixteen. She was in three different bands before she decided to set out on her own five years ago. Since then, she’s played more shows than she can count, opened for some national acts, been invited to a few festivals, and even had a few TV appearances.
Yet, life was not all rose-colored glasses, custom tour buses, and quaint restored cottages. Far from it! Platinum Plaits had a serious dilemma: funding. It was always running, well, just a little short. So she did what any indie artist would do: pulled herself up by her bootstraps, put on her thinking cap, and started solving her problem.
Her brainstorming and research were fairly successful, as she came up with three possible solutions to her problem.
Solution 1: Crowdfunding The Old Way
Platinum Plaits had heard of this option from other indie artists. As she discovered, it wasn’t limited to musicians; there are crowdfunding platforms for dozens of fields!
Here’s how it works: an artist has a project in mind but not enough funds to complete it. They do a little research, set a budget, define participation levels and rewards, create a crowdfunding campaign, and send all of their existing fans to the campaign. Hopefully, those fans are invested in the artist enough to contribute; better yet, the fans contribute and tell their friends to contribute. The artist has a certain time frame to complete the campaign, which builds a sense of urgency with supporters. Depending on the platform, the artist gets what was raised (or not), minus a cut. They then have to use that money for their project, and they have to fulfill all of the rewards (which often costs more money).
To Platinum Plaits, crowdfunding seemed like a Thanksgiving feast: it’s more than enough for the occasion, and it sometimes results in leftovers for a few (much more sensibly-sized) meals… but it won’t feed you for a year. Or even a month. In other words, it could work for occasional surges of funding, but not ongoing, steady support.
Tabling crowdfunding for now but keeping it in mind as a possibility for an upcoming project, Platinum Plaits continued her search for a solution.
Solution 2: Sales and Shows
Like every active musician, Platinum Plaits could count sales of her music and cuts from shows as income. Unfortunately, it was getting harder and harder to make a living off of sales and shows alone.
Platinum Plaits’ fans often approached her merch table at shows, only to ask if her music was available to stream online or to tell her they’d bought one of her songs and really loved it. While she appreciated the sentiment and vocal support, the financial statements coming in from online retailers and streaming services paled in comparison to those lost sales of whole albums. She did offer her music for sale on her website—both physical albums and digital downloads of her albums; while those sales had higher profit margins than the sales from third party retailers, they still weren’t impressive.
And the profits from shows? Some performances paid well. Others… not so much, especially when she added up her travel expenses, marketing costs, fees for her backup musicians, insurance on her gear, and so on.
In short, the income from sales and shows was present, but much smaller than she needed for a sustainable career and not nearly steady enough to be reliable.
And so her search continued.
Solution 3: Patronage, or Crowdfunding the New Way
Somewhere on the fringes of the indie music realm, Platinum Plaits heard whispers of another solution: patronage. The idea wasn’t new, as the concept of “patron of the arts” dated back for centuries. But it was slowly rising from obscurity and becoming a possible source of funding for artists, including musicians.
The concept intrigued Platinum Plaits. Like other forms of crowdfunding, it spread the burden of funding out among the fans of the artist. Unlike crowdfunding, it wasn’t geared toward a specific one-time project. Instead, fans—or, rather, patrons—pledged a small amount—maybe $1, maybe $5—for every time the artist created something of substance. This meant that the more the artist created, the more income they had. Artists were being rewarded, monetarily, for doing what they wanted to do anyway: create something.
Of course, there were settings that fans could control, such as monthly spending caps or the ability to change their pledge (or withdraw it entirely) at any point. But patrons seemed to love the concept and the level of exclusivity and intimate involvement with the artist’s career that they felt it brought.
Unlike traditional crowdfunding, patronage didn’t leave artists sated then starving for funds. It also didn’t lure them along with a false hope of income or increasingly smaller payouts from sales and shows. It could, in theory, provide a steady stream of income to supplement sales and shows. Better yet, it did just that for many artists implementing this solution.
With her mind made up, Platinum Plaits adopted this solution for herself. Her truest fans were happy to support her and receive early access to her content, and she could focus on creating new material without wondering how on earth her bills would be paid. While she started out with only 40 supporters at $1 each, she quickly rose to a couple hundred supporters pledging anywhere from $1 to $10 per creation. This is only about 10% of her fanbase, but their support provides an extra $2000 a month… and the counts are still growing.
In the end, Platinum Plaits and her fans lived happily ever after.
So many bands and musicians have had success through viral music video outlets like Youtube. The demand for video is only increasing so it’s time for you to get in on the action. Youtube is still the second largest search engine in the world, and in case you forgot, that’s how Justin Bieber was discovered (how could you forget?) You could easily spend thousands of dollars on a sharp looking, professionally-produced music video – but if you’re just getting started, you probably can’t afford that. That’s no excuse for bypassing music videos altogether though. As a musician, you can’t afford not to have them these days, so here are six steps on how to make a music video on your own for free for those of you who are brand new to the world video:
1. Choose your strongest song. Assuming that you’re a recording artist, you probably have a least a handful of brilliant songs already recorded that you can choose from. Be sure to pick your strongest song, but don’t just take your own word for it – get some second opinions! Chances are, your favorite song isn’t necessarily your strongest song – at least not according to everyone else. Ask your fans, friends, and family what they think is your strongest – then do yourself a favor and take their word for it. This should set the stage for more consistent results from the music video you’re about to make. Understand that your music video will be an incredibly powerful promotional vehicle for whatever song you choose, so make it a strong one!
2. Choose your video equipment. Assuming that you already have a laptop, computer, smartphone, tablet, or camera with video capabilities – you’ll have plenty of equipment options to choose from. If you don’t have access to any of these devices, you probably have a friend who would be kind enough to let you borrow something. All of these devices come with some sort of internal camera and video recording capability, so choose whatever works for you. Since you’re making a music video, the audio component of whatever device you choose won’t matter because you’re eventually going to replace the audio with the pre-recorded audio of your strongest song. I use a Canon Vixia consumer camcorder myself – which is HD quality for a reasonable price – but you can use your shiny new iPhone 5, MacBook Pro, or something as affordable and easy to use as a Flip MinoHD Camera.
3. Create your concept. What kind of imagery comes to mind from the song you’ve selected? What kind of music video do you want to create? For example, you can choose to create a more traditional, story-driven music video, or a live performance-style music video. With a story-driven music video, you might consider doing some acting or filming various places, people, things, or circumstances that support your storyline or imagery. Get creative here and make the most out of what you have to work with already. Is there anything just lying around the house that you can incorporate? Include footage of you lip-syncing a performance, lip-syncing a studio recording session, or capture footage your band performing the song. This will also work exclusively for a live performance-style music video, and you’ll be better off lip-syncing to your pre-recorded song verses singing it live for sake of better audio quality.
4. Choose your locations. Keep it simple and stick to 1-3 locations for your music video. They can be anywhere that supports your storyline or imagery – even three different rooms in the same house works. Is your song dark and brooding? Consider darker locations with softer lighting. Is your song happy and inspiring? Consider brighter locations with wide, open spaces. Shooting outside during the day always offers ample lighting, and cloudy days are particularly helpful in regulating the light because clouds act as natural light diffusers – so long as it’s not raining on your video equipment! If you want more indoor lighting regulation, be sure to have some good lighting options on hand – such as strong overhead lights with dimmers or spotlight lamps – and experiment with each lighting source.
5. Shoot your video. Experiment with various camera angles and positions before you start recording full takes. You might discover you have a more visually striking side or angle, and you might discover the same about your location. Once you’re ready to press record, plan to perform or lip-sync to your song 2-4 times, and aim for 2-4 takes for everything you decide to film as a general rule of thumb. This will give you more than one option for every point in the song, just in case you had something between your teeth during the first take. Nothing is more discouraging than putting the time and effort into filming just to realize you have to do it all over again, so always create options! This rule of thumb is particularly helpful when you’re filming yourself because no one will be behind the camera to keep an eye on things while the camera is rolling. Consider various different angles for each take so your options are diverse when it comes time to edit. Different angles might include a wide shot, a waist shot, a close-up shot, and a handheld shot.
6. Edit your video. Editing your own music video can be as much fun as creating a concept and shooting your music video, so don’t be afraid to learn. It’s exciting to bring your footage to life, and it requires more of your own creativity. There are some powerful video editing software options available for premium prices – such as Final Cut and Adobe Premiere – but since we’re talking about making a music video for free, lets take a loot at the freemium alternatives. If you have a computer, you should already have access to free video editing software that is easy to use and simple to figure out on your own. If you’re on a mac for example, you should already have iMovie, and Windows Movie Maker for PC. Youtube even has its own built-in video editing application, though I can’t say I’ve tried it yet. Whatever software you use should have the option to eventually mute or disable the audio from your video footage once you import/upload it into a new project. You might want to keep it enabled until you’re finished editing though, as it will be a necessary point of reference for the song as you extract each clip you want to use to lay over the recording of your song. Once a clip is added to your video timeline and matched up correctly to the appropriate section of your recorded song, you can then disable the video clip’s audio channel. Get creative and play around with all the different takes and angles you’ve captured until you have built a completed music video that you’re happy with, free of charge!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 10 minutes
How charitable are you feeling?
You see, neither Spotify nor Pandora is making any money, and they could really use a little bit of yours. So, if you are feeling charitable and believe in their cause, sign right up, and let the giving begin!
If you heard the real numbers, though, you might change your mind about that donation. They’re quite staggering. Pandora’s stock price has tripled in the last 12 months, and they have a stock market valuation of over $7 billion dollars. At the same time, they have yet to create a profit. Spotify has not yet gone public, but it is anticipated to do so in the near future. Initial estimates put Spotify’s valuation at close to $10 billion dollars.
Don’t feel sorry for them, though. This is the new model for becoming a Wall Street darling. In effect, both of these companies have created a business model that offers a great product to music fans but fails to charge those fans a reasonable amount for the experience. Therefore, the companies lose money. Then, they use their losses as an excuse to pay musicians virtually nothing for their music. By the way, the best music streaming interface in the world is useless if it has no music to play.
These companies might feel that they cannot get fans to pay a fair amount for streaming music—probably a correct assumption, by the way—so instead they offer it for free and let the musician pay for it, not the listener. Sound crazy? Some people would argue that the listener pays by listening to commercials, or by paying a fee to hear commercial-free music. But, if you examine the pitiful payout that musicians receive, it will become clear who is footing the bill.
Somewhere along the way, the indie music community bought into the idea that streaming music is a good thing. After all, can’t a person listen to traditional (terrestrial) radio for free? How could streaming be any different? The answers are both subtle and significant.
Traditional Radio vs. Streaming
In the past, when we heard music on traditional radio and really liked it, off to the music store we would go. Why? We wanted control over our listening. A listener has no control whatsoever of what plays on traditional radio. The most they can do is change the station. Purchasing the music allowed us to control how often we were able to listen to it.
Streaming changed this. With streaming, there is no reason to purchase the music. On Pandora, users have substantial control because they can use the tools that Pandora provides to tailor the station to fit their taste. With Spotify, the listener has complete control. Play what you want, how you want it, when you want it, and as often or little as you like. This is nothing like traditional radio.
What’s worse is that traditional radio stations are jumping on the streaming bandwagon, just like everyone else. Platforms like iHeartRadio have the potential to be just as damaging to musicians as any other music streaming services. Don’t get us wrong; we are in favor of listening to traditional radio stations online; however, we are not in favor of traditional radio stations streaming music self-crafted to anyone’s personal listening preferences.
Worse still is this: Pandora is making the case with Congress to lower payments to musicians. Pandora says they cannot compete with terrestrial radio because radio pays a lower royalty. In fact, Pandora is asking for legislation that lowers their payments by 50% or more. This is ridiculous! Traditional radio and music streaming are two entirely different things.
Let’s call streaming music what it really is: a financial failure. Generally, when a business model fails because it is not financially viable, the business closes and declares bankruptcy. The only way that streaming music survives is if someone picks up the financial shortfall; right now, that someone is the musician.
What Does This Mean To You As A Musician?
A streaming music company’s success is realized at the expense of the musicians who unwittingly contribute to the corporate craziness with their music and receive very little in return. As a musician, the best move you can make is to put money in the stock market and invest in Pandora stock (Spotify, too, when it’s available). You should not contribute your unique sound to their portfolio of music.
Let us tell you why: if companies like Pandora and Spotify continue to make it big, you will not receive any of the benefits, and they will ruin the music business. Sure, they offer to expose you to large numbers of people who will listen to your music. But at what cost?
Some musicians believe using these companies results in additional sales of their music along with increased exposure, which is ultimately good for their careers. We believe this to be far from the truth. Our own experiences seem to demonstrate the complete opposite of these claims.
Confessions Of A Streaming Junkie
When we play music on Pandora, we enjoy the experience. Their technology does a nice job of playing music that we like, and it comes up with new artists that we have never heard of before. We have no control over who plays next, but we can select an artist or song that we want Pandora to consider when choosing what music to play. It also allows us to skip a song, hit thumbs up, hit thumbs down, etc. The software learns more about what we like and makes adjustments to better fit our listening style. All good, so far. (Good for users, that is).
This is what makes Pandora so compelling. Free music that is tailored to our listening tastes is much better than a traditional radio station! In fact, if we are willing to invest just $0.10 per day (that’s 10 cents), we can get the music without any commercials. Wow, what a deal!
Spotify is a little different. It offers more overall functionality through its apps, artist radio, library function, messaging, etc. The biggest difference for users is that they can create playlists and choose exactly what they want to listen to. Spotify will also make artist recommendations, but not in the same way as Pandora. Spotify offers a free service for a limited time but you can pay just $0.334 per day (that’s 33.4 cents) to get full access without commercials. Some people we know, in an effort to avoid paying anything, keep signing up for the 30-day free trial after the initial trial period expires by using a new email address. Spotify also lets paying users download playlists to listen to offline.
Truthfully, both services are great for the listener, and that is what makes them so popular. Several other streaming services are also available that offer similar features. Every one of them is focused on the listener experience, and most do an acceptable job. This is where the problems begin for musicians. Fans love these products for what they offer: your music the way they want it. Most importantly, it’s free (or almost free) and it enhances the listener experience.
Since we began using streaming services, our purchases of music have dropped considerably. In fact, we no longer open iTunes to listen to our library of music. There is no need. Why would we do that when we can access everything we want on a streaming player? Plus, the players offer features that iTunes does not. (While we might be unique, our conversations with others suggest that we aren’t the exception.)
The Tale Of The Tape
An artist friend of ours recently showed us her statement of income from digital streaming services. Over the past 12 months, she had a total of 14,932 streaming downloads and was paid $71.02. This is an average of $0.004756 per stream.
During the same period, she sold 2,200 CDs at her gigs. The income from the CD sales was $20,300.00. It is only fair to note that she had to pay something for the CDs to be manufactured, but that cost was only $2,046.00, making her net income from the CD sales $18,254.00.
In addition to the sales of physical CDs at gigs, our friend did have some sales from digital downloads of music on iTunes. iTunes is her only way to sell digital downloads; because she mentions it frequently at her shows, she believes that most of her sales on iTunes come from people who attend her shows. For the same period that we mentioned above, her album sales on iTunes were 113 albums for a total of $668.57.
Let’s run those numbers. She made 257 times more money selling CDs at her gigs than she did with streaming her music. That’s impressive… or, it might be more appropriate to say that the streaming income was dismal. Either way, she would not have survived without the physical CD sales at gigs. (She also made money on other merchandise sales and a fee from doing the gig, but we are not including that income in our example.) She could have gone to the gigs and not sold any product, but who would choose to do that?
You might make the argument that she had to gig to sell physical CDs, whereas with streaming services you don’t have to do anything other than sign up, and you would be mostly correct, but…
We want you to consider one thing: the expense to create quality music is significant. Even if you do not place a value on the time it takes to write music, write lyrics, practice, etc., the production costs are still high. (Just for the record: we think you should consider all time and effort necessary to produce your music. Even if you don’t write yourself a check for your time, it doesn’t mean it’s free.)
It would be fair to say that a solo indie artist could easily spend $3,000 to $5,000—excluding the cost of CDs or paying other artists—to produce one album, if they stayed on a tight, tight budget. How do the numbers work? Let’s suppose you spend $3,000 to produce your album and then posted it with several music streaming companies. If you used our artist friend as a test case, it would take 40+ years just to recoup your initial investment. Even if you are an incredible success and experience 10 times as much play as she did, it would still take more than 4 years to get your investment back. That’s 630,782 streaming plays just to break even. Of course, you haven’t made any money yet.
So, What Can Artists Do?
Clearly, streaming music complicates things, and it’s not the best business plan for an independent musician to adopt. If you feel that streaming is a necessary part of your music marketing plan, then try posting just a single song or a small sampling of your work. Hopefully, this will help you gain exposure with a larger audience, who will then purchase your music.
Is the future of the indie music business bleak? Absolutely not. There is a great deal more to it than streaming downloads. The future holds great promise, and as an artist you have to be prepared to grab it. For indie artists, the biggest challenge remains the same: how do you, as an independent artist, build a sustainable career?
We’ll continue addressing that question in future articles.