Music Marketing

Marketing Your Music for the Holidays

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Did you know that 20% of all music sales for the entire year happen in the last six weeks of the year?

Kicking things into high gear around the holidays can really benefit your music career. People are in the mood to buy cool stuff, to have fun, and to listen to awesome music. And if I’m guessing right, I imagine that your music can provide an answer to all three of those holiday impulses!

But where should you get started in your holiday crunch-time promotions? Here are 4 things you can do to reach out and engage with fans this holiday season:

1) Give Back to Your Community

This time of year people are extra focused on giving. So why not take a little of your time and talent and give back? There are lots of charities that have an increased need at this time of year.

Sure, you could donate canned goods and a coat. You probably should do those things. But I’m betting you can do more. Maybe you could coordinate with your fans to help support a specific event in a meaningful way.

And you know what makes a great addition to those events? Live music!

This is a great time of year to give back to those organizations making a difference in your community. Why not offer to play a free acoustic set for their canned food drive?

If it’s too late to jump onto a charity event in your area, why not host your own online charity event?

Choose your favorite charity, and host a live streaming concert to benefit the charity! This comes at no cost to you (except maybe an hour of your time for the concert) and can be a great way to connect with fans, and support a good cause.

2) Cover a Christmas Song!

You might not be releasing a full blown Christmas album this year, and that’s ok! But I’m betting you have some time to sit down in front of a camera and play an old Christmas favorite or two.

By putting a unique spin on a popular Christmas or holiday song, you have an opportunity to reach out to potential fans. People who’ve never heard of you probably aren’t searching for your name. But there’s a good chance they are looking for a new spin on their favorite holiday tune. Plus, covering a popular song can help you rank a little higher in a Youtube search than you might with an original song.

Another bonus is that fans who love your Christmas cover this year, will most likely love it next year, and the year after that! It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving!

3) Sales and Merch Bundles

Make it easy for the grandma who wants to buy a t-shirt for her grandson (or for herself!). Keep your online store simple, and get ready for holiday shoppers!

Offer a Christmas coupon code. How about a 24 hour sale? Better yet, try bundling different merch items together at a discount. These simple incentives to buy can help push your merch sales through the roof this holiday season.

4) Communicate with Your Fans (tweet, facebook, email etc)

Almost everyone likes to reconnect at the holidays-except maybe your crazy cat-collecting great-uncle Ralph. Weird great-uncles aside, this time of year is when friends and family get together to chat.

Your fans are an extension of that, and I’ll bet they want to hear from you!

Send out an communication or two reminding them of those awesome coupon codes and merch bundles you just set up! Ask them about their favorite holiday traditions, and tell them about yours. You could even poll your fans and ask what holiday tune they want you to cover.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, just keep in touch! (And don’t forget to call your mom!)

Bonus Tip: Everyone Likes Getting Presents

So give your fans a present! Maybe it’s a surprise free show, or a free sticker and CD to the first 15 people who respond to your email or retweet you. It could be as simple as a free download of a single, just show your fans you care about them!

Do you have any more last minute Christmas marketing tips we missed? Let us know in the comments below!


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YouTube – How To Make It Work For You

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Three Steps To Improve Performance

This feels like old news, but it’s possible you haven’t heard. If you’re not leveraging YouTube to your advantage, you have a gap in your approach to music sales. Maybe you don’t want to make a living from your music or you love your day job. That’s fine. You can probably stop reading this now. Or maybe you already have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Millions, even. You too may stop reading this. If neither of these exceptions apply to you, then settle in. Let’s talk The YouTube. *wink*

You live in a wondrous time! Just look at the Internet. It’s an amazing resource to the independent artist and band. The thing is you’re busy – out there pounding the pavement, rocking various houses night after night. But, ask any wildly successful artist. To make that dollar, you’re going to have to spend time, both on and off the stage to develop your fan base. (Unless you’re posting your performances. Then bully to you!) And in this day in which we live it’s now easier than ever to reach untapped fans via YouTube.

But first, the bad news: You won’t make any livable wage monetizing YouTube videos until you start raking in views in the hundreds of millions. Some sources report that YouTube pays $.0003 per play. This means that in order for you to pull in minimum wage you would have to have views in the tens of millions, depending on your state’s minimum wage. So that’s the bummer. But, the good news is that you don’t have to rely solely on monetization to make YouTube work for you. There are lots of examples of bands and artists (and puppeteers and style gurus and… you get the idea) who have used streaming video to get their names out there and launch their careers onto other more lucrative platforms. Remember, if you’re trying to make a living from you music, you’re not just a musician. You’re in music business. Time to get savvy. Here are a few ways to yield desirable results from YouTube.

Invite your viewers to take it to the next level and subscribe.

Make no mistake. Gathering subscribers is important. Create your channel, make delightful viewing material and call your viewers to action by encouraging them to subscribe. (Just don’t expect to make noticeable amounts of money directly from YouTube doing this.) You have to say the words too. Here’s why: In most cases, people hear about a great video. They go watch the video. They move on with their day. The end. Don’t let this be your viewers. At the end of your video, thank them for watching and then say, “subscribe!” It’s that simple. You could add a please for good measure. Or confetti. Do you, but say the words.

Invite them to your website so they can buy your stuff.

Every subscriber you procure is now your fan. They have taken time to subscribe and this means they like you. Congratulations! Now it’s time to tell them how they can listen to your awesome music wherever they go, by driving them to your website or digital storefront to buy tracks they can’t get on YouTube. You may want to incentify people to subscribe by giving them a coupon code to save a dollar off your album (which is sold only on your website or Amazon, right?). Or maybe YouTube subscribers get access to extra video content or mp3 tracks that your average schmo can’t get. Hock your interesting and hilarious t-shirts and bumper stickers by sending these captive fans to your shop. Your subscribers will not necessarily arrive at the brilliant decision to visit your website. You must invite them to do so.

Make lots of interesting content. Lots!

Here’s the deal. There are many reasons to have a prolific amount of content. One of the reasons is this: the more you’re out there, the more you increase your chances of getting subscribers. You’ll reach people you wouldn’t normally have access to through other outlets – especially younger music fans. YouTube is the most listened to music platform. The most! Gathering more fans from the juggernaut of all music conduits can help you completely bypass a music label – like so many other successful musicians have – and allow you to do music on your own terms. Or maybe you want a music contract. Perfect! Having a huge number of subscribers can only help your cause. Having a large subscriber following also means drawing the attention of potential sponsors. YouTubers who have been successful at accumulating lots of subscribers have definitely grabbed the attention of sponsors. These sponsors can pay thousands of dollars for one video that includes a mention or placement of their product. This is not a farfetched pipe-dream, either. Sponsors are well within reach. It’s hard work, of course. Nothing worth doing will ever come easy. (Sorry.) But, the rewards include garnering a larger fan base and getting to make a living from your music and videos.

So now that you know why tons of content is a must, let’s talk about what you should post. Your video subject matter should be as diverse as you and you’re music, but you don’t have to over think everything you post. Sometimes these videos are just something fun – a day-in-the-life bit or a tutorial of some kind. I can hear some of your eyes rolling right now as you read this. This may feel beneath you or pandering, even. But, try to keep an open mind about this. It’s not selling out. You’re not giving into the man. You’re dominating various digital avenues so that they work for you. Think groceries and rent – and beyond! You’re not giving in. You’re making the Internet your bitch. So get creative. By all means, post your music and your shows and your time in the studio. But, also keep in mind that people will be endeared to you by getting to see behind the proverbial curtain a bit. Talk to your fans and let them see your fun side. Cover your favorite popular songs. Reveal to them your stupid human trick. Do skits. Get viewers to vote on which guitar strap or pair of skinny jeans you’ll wear at your next performance. Video your band’s trust exercises or day of water skiing. Whatever. You’re imaginative. Just give the fans what they want and make lots and lots of content.

There’s another perk of posting tons of videos. If you haven’t created a YouTube channel or your haven’t been posting very much, creating a lot of content will also help fast track the process of gathering subscribers and getting noticed by sponsors. And bonus, the more momentum you pick up, the more monetizing your content will pay. Again, not lucrative amounts, but it’s better than nothing.

It’s time – your time. Start using YouTube like the music business tool it is.




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Amazon or CD Baby, Which is Better for CD Sales?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 20 minutes

Review of Amazon Advantage and CD Baby for Musicians

It’s true. Amazon is one of the largest online retailers in the world, with an ambitious goal to eventually sell everything that can be bought. So what does that mean for you, the independent musician? Does it make sense for you to sell your CDs on Amazon? How does CD Baby match up? Well, let’s take a look.

First we should point out that CD Baby clients can already sell their music on Amazon since CD Baby distributes through Amazon. But, you may want to list your CD with Amazon directly without a middleman. Amazon Advantage offers you the ability to sell physical CDs directly. We will explain why this is important.

Overview of Amazon

Amazon boasted 244 million users as of January 2016, of which approximately 54 million are prime members. (Prime members get free 2 day shipping on most items). Amazon has processed up to five hundred orders per second, and sales volume is about $290 million per day. Most of the sales volume has to do with a wide variety of physical and digital products, music being one of them.

Sales growth in the last 5 years has tripled with no end in sight. In terms of your music’s availability and exposure, this could be a big opportunity for you. Amazon features various ways for musicians to sell music – and we do mean various. In this review we are going to focus on Amazon Advantage – the service that Amazon offers directly to musicians and other creative types for the sale of their physical products like CDs and DVDs. The unique part of the Amazon offer is you do not have to submit your music through a third party to get listed on Amazon. In fact Amazon has a simple user friendly application process that you can complete on-line. Check out the link at the end of this article.

Amazon also offers digital download, but the real opportunity to generate meaningful income for independent musicians is selling full albums. Digital download platforms skew very heavily towards the purchase of singles, not albums. In effect, fans might like your music well enough to purchase it but when they are offered the opportunity to purchase one song rather than an album they most often choose to purchase one song. An artist makes 8-10 times as much money on the sale of an album rather than a single, and your fans get exposure to more of your music. In other words, album sales result in better marketing and better income.

Overview of CD Baby

CD Baby is focused on musicians without all of the other non-artist related products. This allows CD Baby to concentrate all of their efforts in this one arena and the result is a variety of tools specifically designed for artists such as digital distribution of your music through iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. If you are primarily interested in digital distribution then CD Baby is a good choice. They also do an acceptable job of selling CDs when musicians refer fans to their personal CD Baby page directly. They are one of a few companies that offer both digital and CD distribution along with competitive up front pricing and a relatively low 9% participation fee to sell your digital download products. Please be aware that the 9% fee is in addition to the fees charged by the partner reseller.

CD Baby does a good job with traffic on their site probably due to the 300,000+ albums that they have signed up. More albums means more traffic, but it is unlikely that the average music fan will visit the website searching for music by artists unless they are searching for an artist they already know. If you are uncertain about this point, ask the next 10 people you meet how they buy music. I suspect you will not hear anyone say CD Baby.

By the way, CD Baby could become a site where fans search for music, but the search and recommendation functions need to improve. Fans choosing an artist on their site do not get recommendations to view similarly styled artists offering music for sale. Instead CD Baby displays artists from the same geographic area as the artist fans are choosing. For example, if a fan is on the Shaun Murphy page they can click on a link for “More Artists from Tennessee”. Not a very effective recommendation tool for most fans.

Getting Started

Amazon Advantage is a consignment service that benefits self-published artists. In some ways it is similar to CD Baby’s retail store.

To use Amazon Advantage you must first have a physical product (i.e. CD or DVD) to sell, among other things, and your product is required to have a barcode – ISBN, UPC, or EAN. Amazon also requires that you have Internet access and an email address, which shouldn’t be a problem – unless of course you’re reading this article on a printed hard copy your great-grandson gave you and you don’t have an email address.

Amazon has an approval process for new accounts (not everyone gets approved). But if your content is good and you meet minimum guidelines you should have no trouble getting approved. Once you’ve created an Advantage account, paid your $99 annual membership fee, and established that you have the rights to sell the music on your album, Amazon will “order” from you. The $99 fee is charged once per year for an unlimited number of submissions, so you can submit as few as one song or 100 albums, either way the total fee is just $99.

This is significantly different from other services that charge you a fee based on the number of songs or albums you submit. If you intend to submit a single song or just one album the $99 charge is quite high, but if you have at least two albums for sale the expense is per album is much better. In the end it’s all about sales volume. The only way to make money on music is to sell it, without exposure and sales the upfront fees will always be too expensive, regardless of which platform you choose to distribute your music.

CD Baby also has an approval process for new accounts but virtually everyone gets approved. CD Baby makes a distinction between submission of albums and individual songs. CD Baby charges $9.95 per single or $49 per album as a one time up front charge per submission, you do not have to pay annually. This is great if you intend to submit one album or song, but multiple submissions in a year can become quite expensive. CD Baby does offer a discount structure if you are going to submit several different selections.

The difference in the way both companies charge for their service can be summed up like this:

CD Baby charges every time you submit a new CD, but you do not have to pay additional subscriptions fees on that CD every year. Each submission has a onetime charge only. (Does not apply to fees charged when a CD is sold – additional charges are imposed when CDs are sold)

Amazon Advantage charges a subscription fee of $99 every year you participate in the program, but you do not have to pay for submitting additional CDs. Whether you list 1 CD or 100 CDs, the price is still $99. (Does not apply to fees charged when a CD is sold – additional charges are imposed when CDs are sold)

Both Amazon and CD Baby will request CDs to keep in their inventory and sell/distribute them as fans order CDs. Both will reorder from you weekly, depending on sales volume, assuming fans are ordering your music and the inventory of CDs is becoming depleted.

What Happens Next

Once Amazon receives your CDs, fans can search for your music on Amazon and the CD will show up, just like the toilet paper and running shoes they search for now. When fans purchase your CD, Amazon ships the CD and records the sale on your account. Every month your sales are totaled and Amazon pays you for your portion of the sale. In other words, you can expect to get paid on a monthly basis.

CD Baby works much the same way, but they pay weekly in most cases. Your music is searchable on the CD Baby site just like Amazon.

Setting the Price for Your Music

On Amazon, you set the retail price for your CD, and Amazon charges you 55% of that amount as a fee for selling your CD, so keep this in mind when creating the list price. If your retail price is too high your CD will not sell, and Amazon does reserve the right to sell your CD at the price of their choosing, but don’t worry, your profit remains the same. For example, if the retail price for your CD is $12 and it sells for $12 your income is $5.40. If Amazon chooses to lower the retail price to $10 in an effort to stimulate sales, you still receive $5.40. Ultimately if Amazon cannot sell your CDs at a price that allows them to make a reasonable margin they will return them to you and remove them from the site.

CD Baby charges a flat fee of $4 to sell your physical CD on the CD Baby site. This approach is different than Amazon since it is a flat fee and not tied to the sales price. CD Baby will not change the retail price you set for your CD. If you were to sell your CD for $12 on CD Baby you would take home $8, which is better than Amazon at first glance.

On CD Baby, since your fans will also have to pay for shipping, your overall share of the income can be much less than it is on Amazon. And your fans will not be as happy because they have to pay for shipping. Shipping can easily cost more than the CD itself, so this is no small consideration. One way your fan can avoid the shipping fee from CD Baby is by purchasing 3 CDs on one order. But fans may become frustrated with the free shipping offer if they cannot find 3 CDs they want to buy and abandon the purchase all together.

You can also choose to have CD Baby sell your CD through Amazon or one of their other distributors, but the numbers do not look as good for you when this happens, more on that later.

Returns of Unsold Product. Nobody Wants Them

If Amazon cannot sell some of your music they will return the title that is not moving to you at your expense (shipping and handling). If you have 8 titles that are selling well and one that is not selling at all, Amazon will still keep the 8 titles in stock and continue to sell them.

CD Baby does not generally return merchandise that does not sell because you paid CD Baby an up front fee of $49 for every CD you sent to them as an incentive to list your CD for sale (and provide other digital services). If CD Baby returned your CD for lack of sales they would also have to refund the $49 you paid them to sell that specific CD, which of course would impact their profitability. It’s the difference between offering to sell an unlimited number of items for a single higher fee (Amazon) or charging a fee every time an item submitted (CD Baby). Of course CD Baby is also listing your music on partner resellers, which is part of what you paid them for, so returning your money would mean that these services would also stop. This will not happen with CD Baby.

Marketing Your Music, Who does a Better Job?

Through the Advantage program, Amazon does a good job of marketing on your behalf. That means they will recommend your music to possible listeners – i.e. “People who bought this product also like …” and “frequently bought together…” While this by itself is not unique, (other vendors also offer to help market your music), Amazon is the only provider which sells physical CDs that has the attention of 244 million customers. No one else comes close. This is a significant advantage for artists who list with Amazon.

CD Baby also helps to market your CD on their site, but differently than Amazon. For example, CD Baby will allow a fan to select other musicians that live in the same area as the artist being viewed. A fan can also choose from a selection of sub genre’s by clicking on a link, but your CD will not be suggested to a fan even if your music is similarly styled to an artist the fan has already added to their shopping cart. The best way to find your music on CD Baby is to type in your name. The biggest Pro for CD Baby is all of the additional digital services and tools they offer to musicians, which you can still take advantage of without listing your CD for sale on their site. Trying to compare their marketing reach to Amazon’s is almost unfair.

Both Amazon and CD Baby will stock your CDs in their warehouse. This is nice because order processing and distribution can take a lot of time and effort. Amazon and CD Baby also deal with things like sales taxes. Again, these services can save you the headache of keeping up with taxes and shipping, especially if you don’t have an account with major shipping company.

Shipping is FREE with Amazon

Amazon Prime members get their purchases shipped for free. This is huge because Amazon has 54 million Prime members. Check out the math. If a fan purchases a CD from your account on CD Baby, they will be charged from $3.69 to $11.00 for shipping ($3.69 for ground, $11 for 2 day shipping). All Amazon Prime members get 2 day shipping for free as part of their Prime subscription. While no portion of the shipping charges are billed to you the artist, on CD Baby your fan will have to pay for all of the shipping charges. In effect, this increases the cost to purchase your CD and may deter fans from completing the sale. CD Baby does offer fans free ground shipping (it costs $0.01) if they order 3 CDs at a time.

What’s Your Take?

The nicest thing about the Advantage program is that Amazon only charges you 55% to handle the sale, which includes credit card charges, sales taxes, and the cost to ship and package the CD. That may sound steep, but when you consider that other companies offering a similar service to musicians charge about the same or more, but offer much less, this turns out to be a good deal. CD Baby charges $4.00 plus shipping and handling. (your fans pays for the shipping and handling)

As a point of comparison, iTunes typically charges artists 40% (including distributor fees) just for a digital download, and iTunes tends to sell more singles than it does albums, so you end up with just $0.60 for each single sold. Not much money, but arguably better than streaming services like YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora which pay almost nothing.

What, You Don’t Want It?

Amazon and CD Baby both handle returns, which would never happen to you. Who would return your music? But, if some rando didn’t like what they got, Amazon will eat the cost of the returned product and the return shipping. In other words your account will not be charged for the lost sale or the shipping. Amazon will resell the CD to your next fan and of course you will not get credit for that sale since it is then coming out of the Amazon inventory, not yours.

CD Baby will charge your account for returned product and require the fan pay for shipping to return the item. CD Baby then returns the CD to your available inventory for sale.

Other Things to Consider

Every program has a weakness. For example, if you deal solely with digital files, Amazon Advantage is not for you. And, if you want to sell both hard copy CDs and digital files you have to deal with two different programs. But selling the right product through the correct distributor can make a big difference in your take home pay.

Up front fees can be a problem. What if no one buys your stuff? You’re out $99 bucks with Amazon and $49 with CD Baby (for a full CD). But who are we kidding, that’s not you. Of course your stuff will sell….

Fees for sales through retail partners can also add up. Make sure you know what the real story is when agreeing to sell your product, you might be surprised by how little you make.

The fine print. Differences in Amazon and CD Baby. Important things you should know.

Range of Artists Represented

Amazon features a large number of headliner artists. For example, if you were to look at the top 10 selling artists on Billboard, Amazon usually has all 10 on their site ready for purchase. Amazon also features independent musicians.

CD Baby is a little different. Of the top ten, CD Baby would most likely will not have any of them. Most headliner artists are looking for a bigger platform to sell their music and Amazon fits the bill. This is one of the reasons that Amazon sells more music. (little known fact – Amazon is the second largest seller of MP3 downloads next to iTunes, and Amazon is still growing in this area – iTunes is not).

The significance of this difference is simple but important, fans searching for songs they have heard on the radio do not go to places like CD Baby, but they do go to Amazon. It is hard to be ‘discovered’ by a fan that might be interested in your music if that fan never visits the site where your music is offered.

As an artist you get more exposure from a site that has more music traffic with good marketing and search features.

Fees for Sales of Physical Products

You can choose to deal with Amazon Advantage directly, or you can pay someone else to deal with Amazon on your behalf, but be wary, the costs go way up unless you go direct.

CD Baby will sign your CDs up to sell on partner distributors like Super D, Amazon, and Alliance. All of these partners have their own fee structures so when a partner sells your CD the partner takes out their fees first (in the case of Amazon the fee is 55%*) and then CD Baby also charges a fee of $4 per sale on top of the partner fees.

If you choose to go direct with Amazon Advantage the charge is 55% of the sale as a fee. No additional charges, but you must sign up with Amazon directly, not through another distributor.

Example: Lets suppose you sell a physical CD for $10.00. The first column represents the retail price of the CD and income made by the artist if sold by Amazon thru CD Baby. The second column represents the retail price of the CD and income to the artist if sold by Amazon Advantage directly. The third column represents a sale made on the CD Baby site.

Amazon CD Baby Pay

The purchase of your CD through CD Baby/Amazon costs your fan $21 and the artist gets 50 cents (not good). The sale of your CD through Amazon Advantage without CD Baby costs your fan $10 and you get $4.50. The sale of your CD through CD Baby without Amazon costs your fan $21 and you get $6.00 (assuming 2 day shipping in all cases) The chart shows that the musician makes the most money going through CD Baby if the CD will be sold on the CD Baby site, but it also shows that the fan has to pay an additional $11 in shipping so that the artist can make $1.50.

These numbers change depending on the shipping option chosen by the fan, but we chose 2 day shipping because Amazon offers it for free and fans always want your music quickly. In fact, the speed of delivery might make a big difference in whether the fan makes a purchase or not. There is a pretty remarkable difference in pricing for both the fan and the artist depending on distributor used, so pick wisely.

Amazon has two options for free shipping to customers. As we mentioned before, 54 million Amazon customers are Prime customers, so they get free 2 day shipping. CD Baby charges between $3.69 and $19.14 for shipping depending on where the CD is going and how fast the customer wants their CD. 2 day shipping on my test order was $10.99.

This is significant because CD Baby customers who purchase your CD for say $10 would also have to pay an additional 37% to 120% to have it shipped to them. Amazon customers can make the same purchase for $10 and still have it delivered in 2 days for free.

Another thing to consider is returned merchandise shipping. Amazon prime is free if the product did not meet the customer’s expectations, CD Baby, on the other hand, requires the customer to pay return shipping.

Conclusion

Exposure is everything. Amazon exposes your CD to more fans than anyone else, and if your fan is already on Amazon, you’re making it easy for them to find your music. You could combine the sales exposure of the top 10 independent digital music stores and they would not add up to the exposure you achieve on Amazon Advantage. Plus, Amazon will look at your fans previous purchase’s and recommend music to their taste. And, with Amazon credits they can get your music on the cheap without you taking the hit.

In addition, Amazon is the best experience for your fans, free shipping is hard to compete with – and why not offer it to them? Free returns can also motivate fans to “give your music a try” because returns are painless. Sell through will improve considerably for these two reasons alone.

CD Baby is a great option if you want the other services they offer like distribution through partner resellers and sales widgets for your website. You could choose CD Baby for all of these services, but still use Amazon Advantage to sell your CD. Or you might decide that digital distribution is not all it’s crackup up to be and choose another route, like selling downloads yourself on your own website.

The questions you have to answer for yourself are:

> Which site benefits your fans the most?

> Which site is better at marketing your music?

> Which site has more exposure for your music?

> How many albums will you be listing?

> How are returns handled when a fan chooses not to keep your CD?

> What fees are you charged for each sale (including partners)?

> Have we mentioned FREE shipping?

* We tried to get a definitive answer from CD Baby about the charges on a CD sold by Amazon through CD Baby. We were told that Amazon charges what they charge and CD Baby then charges an additional $4 for every CD sold. CD Baby would not confirm the actual charges by Amazon. In our example we use 55% because this is what Amazon says it charges for the sale of a CD. It would be helpful if CD Baby were a little more transparent about these details. Some numbers are rounded for simplicity.

Link to Amazon Advantage for Musicians:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/seller-account/mm-product-page.html?topic=200329710

Link to CD Baby for Musicians:

http://members.cdbaby.com/?_ga=1.70752854.771028006.1462566939




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Making Money With Music

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The Business of Music

If you are booking paying gigs at all, you at least have a toe in the business side of music. That is, you are performing music in exchange for money. Now, depending on your goals, you may not be making as much money as you hoped. To move forward, there are a few things you need do to get where you want to go.

1. Make a realistic, big-picture goal

Do you know where you want to end up? If the answer is in a penthouse, rolling in piles of money, while your agent turns down gigs because your worldwide tour is sold out, you may need to take a hard look at what you’re doing to achieve that dream. Most of the successful bands and artists you’ve heard of today had a long, hard road to success. They worked grueling hours. They played every thankless gig they could get their hands on. They subjected themselves to rejection in an effort to get their name out to agents, labels, and fans. Most success stories are less a random discovery of untapped musical talent and are more stories of struggle, frustration, and just plain stubborn determination. However, each successful artist would probably tell you that the thing that kept him or her going was an unceasing desire to reach a particular milestone. So, determine where you want to go. This will help you create a roadmap to reach your desired destination.

2. Take an honest inventory of your strengths and weaknesses

With a road map in mind, you now need to look at places where you naturally shine, and the areas in which you could use some improvement. Maybe you kill at rhythm guitar, but could use some practice in lead parts. You might be an amazing songwriter, but need to look into some voice lessons or, at least, voice care. Maybe you need to leave the singing up to another member of the band or put in time on learning how to add loops to your sound. Now is the time to figure out the strengths on which you can capitalize and the weaknesses holding you back. Musicianship is not the only item to take into account. Is there someone on your team who is a natural spokesperson? Use that. Do you have someone with a penchant for entrepreneurship? There’s your business manager. Maybe there’s not a business bone in any of the members of your team. That’s ok, but recognize that as a deficit and work to figure out a way to find the help you need. Which brings me to our next step…

3. It’s okay to admit you need help (and you do)

Whether you are a solo artist or a band, chances are you don’t have your music career all figured out, or you wouldn’t be reading this article. Just a guess. No problem. There’s help out there for you, once you identify the areas where you need it. In step two, did you find that your songwriting needs help? Perfect! There are entire communities of songwriters just waiting for someone to use their songs. These people are often times willing to collaborate with others (you) to create something more tailored to your sound. Can’t find anybody in your town? Through the wonder of the Internet proximity is no longer an issue. If you feel you have untapped potential in the area that is currently (i.e. your songwriting is not quite where you want it) keep honing your skill. The really good songwriters got good by failing a lot first.

Are there bands in your area whose sound you like? Or maybe you appreciate their approach to stage presence. Or maybe you just wonder how to get gigs like the one they’re playing. It might not be a bad idea to find a mentor in the accessible local bands you like. Email them and invite them to have coffee or a drink. Find out if you can pick their brain. If you hit it off plan a jam session. Write together. Maybe you’ll develop a networking relationship with them and who knows where that could lead. More connections? At the end of the day you need people who have gone before you – people with more experience. Seek them out. One day you may be the one giving highly coveted advice to a newbie band.

4. Define your sound

You’re versatile. You’re a mystery. You can’t be pinned down, because you’re universal. Genre-less. Great. Here’s the potential issue. People like categories. Sorry. So, it’s ok if you’re creating a newish sound like Soul/Pop. But, if you’re so ethereal or all-over-the-map that only major hallucinogens enable to connect with your music, you may want to reconsider your approach. Establish the strength of your style’s sound and stick to it. When you have established a solid fan base and have met some of your milestones of success, you can experiment a little. When you’re nationally recognized, multimillionaire you can redefine yourself and take a completely new direction, if you dare.

5. Work hard (Sorry.)

You may have already guessed or even experienced that this is a necessary step. This is the step that can waylay or even remove many talented people from the pursuit of their musical goals. It’s hard out there for a band. The problem is there’s this idea out there that if you want it enough you’ll achieve success. The problem countless people want to achieve their musical dreams and, unfortunately, it won’t happen for everyone. It also takes a measure of humility, especially if you are a legend in your own mind, to play kids birthday or smoky bars or tour (and live) in a cramped van. You have to account for small beginnings – even if you’ve won some battle of the bands or had a cancelled record deal. Whether it’s practicing or networking or gigging (and it’s all of those things) there will be many hours of work. The bottom line is this: do you want it enough to work for it?

6. Create a workable business plan

Having said all that I’ve said about step five, keep this in mind… hard work can be coupled with efficiency. Here’s what I mean. You, the band or artist, have a responsibility to yourself and anyone who wants to keep hearing your music to define what success looks like for you. If music is your main source of income then eating, paying rent, and affording your lifestyle is the very basic measure of success. If you’re a grown person mooching off the people you know because music isn’t paying the bills, you need a new strategy. Are you spending more on gear then your gigs are paying? Did you order a thousand t-shirts when your fan mailing list consists of 87 people? Hoping for success and working toward success are two different things.

If music isn’t paying the bills you need to sit down and figure out why. If you have inroads in the local music scene, you probably have a good idea how much money each venue will pay. Instead of working on your band’s awesome logo, you need to play as much as possible. At those gigs, get people to sign-up for your newsletter. This will allow you to track who has an interest in your music. Communicate with these folks. Tell them when and where you’re playing and give them a reason to bring their friends (free bumper stickers or EPs or make a deal with the venue that your fans get ½ off their first drinks). Have your mailing list sign up at every gig and connect with the people in the audience, both on and off stage. To fund an album, do a PledgeMusic campaign and raise most of your capital before heading into the studio. If you do have an album, be aware that iTunes takes a good percentage of the song sale without allowing you a way to track who bought it. Consider instead having your own online storefront and selling your albums there. Or sell through Amazon. Sure, be on iTunes, but don’t allow that to be your only outlet. And, do everything you can to drive traffic to your storefront. It’s ok to be smart about your approach and think these things out before charging headlong into the musical abyss. Have a plan. You are a musician, but until you hire these people out you are also your own marketer, agent, salesperson, etc. If you don’t know how to fulfill those roles, see step three.

Now get out there and make some music!




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EPK Essentials: What You Need to Create a Buzz-Worthy Press Kit

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

In Ye Olde Days of Yore (about 10 years ago), there was an almost magical contraption. A place where musicians would put actual printed photos, physical copies of press written about them, print-outs of their biography, tour schedule, and contact information, and an actual CD. All these pieces would be placed inside a folder (usually printed with the band’s information on it) and actually mailed to important people.

This contraption was called a press kit, and until recently, this was the standard way that bands reached out to booking agents, venues, and people in the press.

But then the internet came along, and changed all that. Bands began to compile all this information into a single webpage called an Electronic Press Kit–or EPK–that could easily be given to the same important people they used to mail everything to.

If you are a musician that is trying to get booked, or get featured in a publication or blog, chances are you will need an EPK.

We’ve outlined the things you must have in your EPK, as well as some common hosting options to consider.

The Basics

There are a few things that will be included in your EPK no matter what format or hosting option you choose.

Music

Your music should be featured prominently in your EPK. Venues and talent buyers will need to hear your music to make sure it will fit with the sound they are looking for, and writers won’t be able to write about your music unless they can hear it!

It’s standard to have your music available to stream first, and then an option to download. Most people in the music industry don’t have time to wait for your file to download, and might be wary to download an attachment from a person they don’t know. So make it easy for them to stream your music, and then give them the option to download it if they really want to.

Soundcloud is a great platform for this. It’s easy (and free) to upload your tracks, and you can even make them available for download. They also have a player that is embeddable in most websites, so you can place your music on whatever hosting option you choose.

Video

A great way to show off what  you’ve got as a musician is through video. Featuring a great live performance video or a really well done music video can make the difference between an EPK that gets passed over and one that stands out to promoters and press.

Biography

You probably already have a bio for your band. But your EPK should have at least 2 versions of that bio. A shorter version(a paragraph) that is featured prominently in your EPK, and an expanded version(4+ paragraphs) that is available by clicking through to expand the bio (or to a different page) and/or available for download.

Photos

Every EPK needs to feature some high quality, professional band photos. You should have them displayed on the site, as well as easily available for download. If you need some help on how to get really great band photos, check out THIS ARTICLE.

Press

What would an electronic press kit be without some actual press? Pick a few quotes from any write-ups you’ve gotten. Choose quotes that have lots of descriptive language, or that come from a reputable source. If you don’t have press yet, don’t sweat it. That’s what this EPK is for!

Contact Information

You need to make sure that your EPK makes it very easy to get in touch with you. Make it very clear exactly who should be contacted for booking, press, or more general inquiries.

Hosting Options

You have several options for hosting your EPK, and it’s not a bad idea (if you have time) to have multiple versions. There are three main hosting options when creating your EPK: Your own website, a third party service, or a downloadable version.

Your Website

Hosting your EPK on your website is probably the best option. You get to control exactly what content is available, and the way that it’s presented. You can click HERE for a good example of what a website hosted EPK, that includes all the important elements, can look like.

Hosting your EPK on your website gives you flexibility with some key options, like password protecting the page or files and freedom to design and customize. It also drives traffic to your website, where you can put your best foot forward for the VIPs who will be viewing your EPK.

Third Party Service

Many promoters only accept EPK submissions from sites like SonicBids and Reverbnation, especially if you’re submitting for an opportunity they’ve made available on one of those sites. These site will want the same information that you would put in an EPK hosted on your website, but the design elements most likely will not be up to you.

While we definitely recommend creating your own custom EPK on your website, using a third party service as your primary EPK has some advantages. For example, Reverbnation will show your social media stats and demographic in their EPK.

Downloadable

Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is send all your information over in one fell swoop. This is where a downloadable EPK is a good idea. You can place all your information into a Dropbox or Google Drive folder, and simply send the link to the folder instead of a web link.

This format is not going to work for every place you submit your EPK to, but even if you don’t use this format very often, it’s still a great idea to have all the elements of your EPK stored in a place that you can get to from your phone or a remote computer, in case you need to send something to someone in a hurry.
EPKs are an important tool in the indie musician’s belt. An informative and simple EPK has the potential to help your music rise above the rest, and can help you get more gig and press opportunities.

Do you have any tips on creating an awesome EPK? Have you created one your really proud of? Share with us in the comments below or tweet @nationwidedisc




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Flipagram: The Music Focused Social Network

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

At Source, we want bands to build sustainable careers. The path to a long career in the music industry is a difficult one, but we’ve found two things that are key for independent musicians: great content (music, video, graphics, website, art) and great fan engagement.

We know that in the modern music industry, the intersection of these two keys elements is often social media

We get that posting to social media can be tedious and keeping up with all the new trends and sites can be like drinking water out of a fire hydrant.

That’s where Source comes in. We want to review these services, try them out for ourselves, and then let you know when we think a new social media site is on to something. And that brings us to…

You might not have heard of Flipagram yet, as it is still a growing social network. However, it’s gained traction in recent months, especially with musicians and music fans.

Flipagram’s main use is to make montages of pictures and video, and set them to music. You can also create a montage and record a voiceover. Or choose music, and film a funny video of you lip syncing.

It was designed specifically to integrate with music, so it has some benefits for musicians that other social networks don’t. If your music is available for download in iTunes, a 30 second preview of your song will probably be available for Flipagram users to sync with their “flips.” If your song is used in someone’s flip, a link is posted in the caption to purchase that song on iTunes or listen on Spotify.

Even if your music isn’t on iTunes, if it’s downloaded to your phone, you will still be able to use it in your Flipagram.

Flipagram as a Social Network

Flipagram’s first purpose is as a social network. They have millions of users and all of those users have one thing in common: they love music.

Or at least, they like adding music to their videos and pictures.

Which makes Flipagram a great social network for musicians!

Flipagram also makes it easy to share content. You can follow other users, like their content, and “reflip” their videos.

Flipagram’s demographic is very young, so if your target age group is over 30, this might not be the social network you want to invest your time in. But if teens are listening to your music, it might be worth it to see if your fans are on Flipagram.

Even if Flipagram isn’t your social media bread and butter, it can be used to create good content for your other social sites!

Flipagram as a Content Creation Tool

Flipagram’s visually appealing videos can be shared across almost all social platforms. They are a great way to show off pictures from your last photo shoot, or recap each night of your tour. You can create a flip of all your awesome studio selfies, and use it to preview your unreleased single.

You can even get silly and record an embarrassing lip sync video to make your fans laugh. Try promoting a show by adding text to a picture, and playing one of your songs in the background.

Since visual and video content gets higher engagement rates on Twitter and Facebook, feel free to share your flips to both those networks.

Flipagram will even time your videos specifically to Vine and Instagram’s limits, if that’s where you want to share your flip.

So if you’re ready to experiment with a new content creation tool/social platform, Flipagram is probably the right place for you!

Do you use Flipagram? Has it helped to promote your music? Let us know in the comments below!


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Musicians on Instagram: 5 Things You Shouldn’t Do

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Artsy photos, shameless selfies, and filters galore! Instagram has become a top social network with over 300 million users, and over 70 million photos posted per day. The scope of Instagram’s reach, especially within the younger crowd, means it’s important for your music to be represented on the social network.

But what happens when Instagram goes wrong? We’ve found five profiles that are prime examples of what never to do on Instagram.

Private Page Pete

Pete’s a really great guy. He’s a singer-songwriter who almost always performs solo. He decided that he would just combine his personal Instagram account and his music account to save time! But Pete posts a lot of pictures of his family, and he decided he didn’t want just anyone seeing those pictures, so he set his profile to private.

peteprofile

Having a private Instagram account is perfectly fine, but only if you have another–separate–music account that can be viewed by anyone. When you decide to get up on stage and make music your career, you give up a little privacy. It comes with the territory. So if you are using your Instagram account to promote your music, make sure everyone can see it.

Super Spammy Sam

Oh, Sam. Such a sweet, excitable girl. It’s hard for her to find something she doesn’t think should be posted. So, every day, she posts over 10 pictures! And sometimes, if something really exciting is happening, she will rapid-fire post tons of pictures only seconds apart.

samspam

Sam does a great job of consistently posting, but her constant flood of pictures will probably annoy most Instagram users, especially when she goes on a posting spree. A good rule of thumb for Instagram is 1-5 pictures a day, but the most important thing is to post consistently. If you always post 2 photos a day, try to keep up that schedule.

Hashtag Hoarder Henry

Henry knows that hashtags on Instagram are a great way to get a random person to click on your post. Instagram is full of awesome, searchable things! But Henry gets a little crazy sometimes, especially if he is posting about a show. Sometimes, he’ll add 20 hashtags to the caption of his picture!

henrypic

You can definitely use more hashtags on Instagram than you do on Twitter, but filling up the entire caption of your photo with tons of hashtags could make you appear desperate for likes and followers. Try keeping your hashtag count under 10, and make sure that the hashtags that you use are relevant to your music and what you are posting about. Or funny. Hashtags can be funny.

Always Absent Annie

Annie created an Instagram for her music and posted her first photo more than a year ago. Since then, she’s only posted four photos. She still mentions at all her shows that fans should follow her on Instagram, but when they get to her page, there’s nothing there to make them want to follow her.

annieprofile

If you’re going to have a social media account for your music, you need to use it. Don’t have empty (or not recently updated) accounts floating around the internet. If fans are searching for you, they need to be able to find good information and social media profiles that make it clear your band didn’t actually break up six months ago.

Mucho Mysterious Michael

Michael loves to take really awesome artsy photos. He has a knack for photography, so naturally, Instagram is his favorite social network. He posts consistently, doesn’t spam, and uses the perfect amount of hashtags.

But he’s never in any of his photos.

Michael isn’t the worst offender. You might even choose this approach as a marketing strategy if you are in an avant-garde jazz fusion collective.

mikepic

But for most musicians, never being in any of your photos is a bad idea. People want to connect with you, and that’s harder to do if all you do is post artistic pictures of leaves. So occasionally, have someone take a picture with you in it! Post a selfie or two. Post pictures of you performing, or with a landmark in the city you’re playing that night. You don’t have to be in every photo, but you should be in most of them.

So What Should You Do on Instagram?

There are three things you must do on Instagram:

  • Be Yourself
  • Be Consistent
  • Be Engaged

If you need some in-depth tips on how to utilize Instagram for your music, you can check out this article that we wrote a few months ago.

Do you have any horror stories about Instagram users, or using Instagram yourself? Do you have any tips to help musicians engage with fans on Instagram? Let us know in the comments below!


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Secrets to a Great Single Part Three: Promotional Strategies

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

You’ve chosen your most single-worthy song. You’ve invested time, energy—and probably money—into getting the perfect recording.

You are super pleased with yourself, and for good reason! You worked hard!  Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and congratulate yourself on being such a fantastic musician, right?

Not quite yet.

You can celebrate as much as you want at this stage, as long as you know you still have a lot of work in front of you. You have to make sure that your single gets into the hands (and ears) of your fans.

For most artists, promotion is where the grunt work starts. Promotion is extremely important. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are four steps to effectively promote your single:

1 – Start the Hype

As soon as you know that you are going to be recording, you should start mentioning it on your social media channels, your website, and your newsletter. Singles have a shorter turn time than albums— after all, you’re only recording one song instead of 12! Starting the marketing push early could mean the difference between a successful release and one that falls flat.

Some easy ways to do this are:

  • Hype the announcement with a countdown or video.
  • Post a short video of your band previewing the single on Instagram and share it on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Create lyric graphics that show off small portions of your new song.
  • Live tweet or Periscope the recording process.

2 – Choose a Release Date

I know it’s tempting to set a release date as soon as you finish recording (or even before!). I’ve been there, I’ve walked that road, and trust me, you don’t want to. That road leads to panic. You can save yourself a lot of heartache if you wait just a little longer to set a release date.

Choose your release date after you have a finished product in your hands.

If you are only releasing digitally, then set a date after you’ve downloaded the finished masters onto your computer, and you’ve got your artwork ready to go.

If you are ordering a physical product, wait to set a release date until you sign the delivery notice, and your shiny new CDs are sitting on your kitchen table. This rule is especially true if you are ordering vinyl, since turn times can be around six months from the day you order!

When setting a release date, take these factors into consideration:

  • How long will it take to get the music to your preferred release channel? Sometimes getting a song live on iTunes takes a day; sometimes it takes 6 weeks. You need to make sure that your music has enough time to get delivered to the right channels.
  • Are you looking for an exclusive feature? If you want to debut your single on a specific blog, you need to make sure that your date works with the blog that’s premiering it. If they always do new music features on a Friday, you want to make sure your release date follows their pattern. On top of that, you will have to wait for that blog to agree to feature you. Even if you don’t have a specific blog in mind, it’s a good idea to take into consideration how long it might take for a blog to get back to you with a “yes.”
  • When can you engage the most fans? The answer to this question could be as simple as “What days are my fans most active on social media?” Or it could be as nuanced as a specific cross promotional opportunity. If your song is about dumping your girlfriend because she hates baseball, why not time your release to coincide with opening day for your favorite team? There are lots of opportunities to look for cross promotion if your single fits into a niche.

3 – The Two V’s

Promotion for a single looks different than promotion for an album, although they overlap in many ways. As you gear up for the week before your release, you should start preparing your promotional material. As you do this, remember the two V’s.

Video

One thing that is especially important for a single is video. Since you are only releasing one song, videos will help keep your audience engaged for a longer amount of time if you stagger their release. There are five different videos you should create to accompany your release:

  • A behind the scenes video of the recording process
  • A lyric video
  • A music video(if funding permits)
  • A behind the scenes of your music video( if funding permits)
  • A live performance video

 If you have five really good videos to accompany your single, you can stretch out the excitement for your single over a few weeks (or even months).

Visuals

Visuals to go along with your release are also important. Countdown graphics, lyric graphics, and a few well placed band selfies can go a long way in promoting your release!

Posts that include a photo or graphic are more likely to get genuine engagement from fans, so make sure that you are spending some time getting great visuals!

4 – Serious Promotion Time

Now that you have a release date, it’s time to really hit the ground running with specific, targeted promotion. It’s a good idea to have a social media plan for all your releases and major events, and releasing a single is no different. You can read our tips to create a simple social media plan here.

You should also reach out to local media outlets. Often the local news will feature an artist on their morning show, or you may be able to arrange an interview and performance with local radio stations.

Another great place to seek out some press coverage are colleges and universities. College radio stations are usually receptive to new, independent music, so you could get some local airplay if the DJs like your music.

It’s also worth noting that colleges, and the organizations inside them, often need live entertainment. Getting radio play on a college station could lead to a good gigging opportunity.

5 – The Follow Up

The week before your release and the two weeks after will be the most promotion heavy weeks as you get the word out about your single, but that doesn’t mean the work should stop there! Create a “call to action” button on Facebook with the link to buy your single, and include the link in your Twitter/Instagram bios. Keep sharing about your single, especially if it’s gaining traction with fans and media.

Although you may not mention your single everyday like you did during the hard-hitting promotional weeks, you should still keep interest alive by mentioning it once or twice a week.

Coming up with creative ways to post are essential in this phase. You don’t want to bore your fans by giving them the exact same updates you gave them during release week!

Re-tweeting when someone mentions you or your new song are great ways to keep the hype alive without being too pushy.

You can also ask your fans to post videos of them lip-syncing or covering the song, and remind them of all the different ways they can listen to your song (unless you released it on an exclusive platform. If that’s the case, then remind your fans that it’s an exclusive and may only be up for a limited time!)

Now is also the time to focus in on your next big project. That might be the music video for the single you just released, a brand new single or EP, or your upcoming tour. Keeping the hype up is vital at this phase! Consistently releasing new content is a proven strategy to get new fans and keep them.

What is your favorite promotional strategy for singles? Are more frequent single releases the way of the future for musicians? Let us know in the comments below!


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How to Take Great Band Photos in 5 Steps

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

It was a freezing cold day. Sometimes Texas in November is kind, and you’ll get a beautiful 65 degrees with not a cloud in the sky! But this was not one of those days. It was overcast, drizzling off and on, and was easily in the low-30s.

But this was the day that we had booked the photographer, so out into the cold I ventured to take the promotional shots for my next album.

Getting in front of a photographer is a part of being a musician that I don’t really enjoy. I’m definitely not a model. I get self conscious, start to clam up, I worry the entire time how the pictures are going to turn out, and I spend half the shoot wondering if my hair looks super weird.

This time though, I promised myself I wasn’t going to worry. I was going to be prepared, and do some concrete things to make sure the photos turned out great. And they did!

I know that many musicians also struggle with taking great photos, so I’ve put together the tips that got me through my last photo shoot so that you can also take some amazing band photos.

Step 1 – Be Prepared

The best thing you can do to get great photos is know what you want. Do some digging, and find photos you really like. These might be photos of other bands, landscapes, album covers, or portraits.

Try to find about 10 pictures that you really love. Then try and pick out one or two things about each photo that you like. Colors, the “vibe” of the picture, the location, how people are posed in the photo, and the lighting are all things that you should look for. When you’ve defined why you like your 10 photos, you’re ready to start looking for a photographer. The photos you picked out will help you find a photographer with a style that works for your music and your brand, and will also help you to communicate what you want when you hire a photographer.

Step 2 – Choose Wisely

Photographers are artists. If you wanted to listen to thrash metal live, you probably wouldn’t go to a coffeehouse open mic. If you want photos that are a particular style, you need to find a photographer that works within that style.

I’m not saying that a photographer shouldn’t be flexible and try to get the shots that you want. But you should do your research, and find a photographer in your area whose current portfolio is similar to the look you’re going for. If all of their photos look a certain way, and you want something completely different, you should probably choose a different photographer.

When you’re communicating with a potential photographer, try sending them a link to your music. Listening to your music can help them to get a feel for what kinds of photos they will need to take, and if their style will mesh well with your band.

You also need to make sure you have permission from your photographer to use the images for commercial purposes. Remember, they own the copyright to the photos they take. Most professional photographers will have a protocol already in place for granting a commercial licenses for their photos.

When choosing a photographer, style is key. But you also have to look at price. Different Photographer price things differently, so chances are you’ll be able to find something in your price range. If you absolutely love a particular photographer’s style, but they are a little too expensive, it never hurts to shoot them an email to explain your needs and your budget. They may be able to work out a reduced rate or a shorter shoot time to accommodate you. Some photographers will also give discounts for a type of photo they don’t usually shoot. If a family photographer really wants to start shooting bands and live shows, they may offer a lower rate for the experience.

If you have practically no budget for photography, a good place to look is local art schools, colleges, and universities. If they have a graphic design or photography program, chances are their students are looking for models. A lower level student might shoot you for free, and an upper level student may have rates far below an established photographer because they need to build their portfolio.

Step 3 – Be Prepared…Again

Now that you know the style you’re after, and who you’ll be working with, begin to plan the actual photo shoot. Talk to your photographer about scouting locations for your photos. They might have some locations where  they love to shoot, or you may discover the perfect location yourself. Be open to ideas from your photographer, and from your bandmates.

Once you’ve decided on a location (or two!) you need to decide what you’re going to wear, and if you need hair and makeup help. Remember, you are paying someone good money to record what you look like at a specific moment in time. Don’t waste that money by not taking a few minutes to focus on how you look. A good idea for your appearance is to take cues from what you would normally wear on stage. If you are a grunge band that only wears cut-offs and tank tops to perform in, don’t go to your photo shoot wearing a formal tuxedo (unless perhaps the name of the album you’re taking promo pictures for is “Irony”).

If you didn’t have a face to face meeting when you hired your photographer, make sure to have one before the day of the shoot. If you’re shooting with your full band, maybe invite the photographer to your next practice. That way they can meet everyone who will be in the pictures. Your pictures will come out better if everyone is comfortable around each other, and meeting face to face can help eliminate some of the initial awkwardness.

Step 4 – Create a Shot List

Musicians have very specific needs for photos, and if your photographer isn’t used to shooting bands, they may not be familiar with them. Do you feature individual bios of your band members on your website? Then you should probably take close up individual shots of everyone in your band.

You may also need several shots that are pulled very far back from the band. You can use these for posters, or online graphics that you’ll need to put text over. This way, the text is more readable, and you’re not covering up the faces of your members with the time of your next show. You may even need a few shots of only the background, especially if you’re shooting outdoors. These can be used for the inside of your album packaging, an album cover, or for promos and graphics. These are the types of shots that a photographer unaccustomed to shooting bands may not realize they need to get, but are vital for musicians.

Step 5-Relax

You look great I promise. The more relaxed you are, the better the photos will turn out. And let’s be real. Most photographers will take somewhere around 500-1000 pictures in one shoot. And you are probably only going to use 10 of those pictures. There’s no pressure to make every shot look fantastic. Be yourself, and don’t freak out.

This doesn’t mean don’t be aware. You need to make sure the shots on your must-take list are getting done, and you probably don’t want your drummer goofing off in every shot.  But being aware doesn’t mean you have to be stressed. Relax, have fun, and good pictures will follow.

What do you do to prepare for a photoshoot? Have any great tips on taking the best promo picture ever? Let us know in the comments!


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Submitting Your Music to Blogs: The Five Blogs You Forgot

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

If you’ve been on Facebook in the last six months, you’ve seen the epidemic. All your friends are sharing blog post after blog post, and your newsfeed has become so blog oriented that you literally jump for joy when you see an actual status update.

While all these blogs may be a little obnoxious, I bet you’ve clicked on one. Or three. Or 16.

No shame! Blogs are a huge part of what makes the internet great, and they are an excellent tool for musicians. Getting your music featured in a blog can put your music in front of a whole new set of fans. There are tons of music blogs out there that are specifically dedicated to helping their readers find great new music. Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, and The Wild Honey Pie are just a few examples of some well-known music blogs.

And though working to get your music featured on a music blog is definitely something you should be doing, if you are only submitting your music to blogs that are just about music you’re missing out.

There are millions of other kinds of blogs out there that you could be submitting to. And these blogs don’t get hundreds(or thousands!) of music submissions thrown at them everyday. By pursuing blog coverage at a popular non-musical blog, you have a better chance of actually getting heard, and getting featured.

Just remember, if you are submitting to a non-music blog:

  • Look for a blog about something that you already have an interest in.  It will be easier for the blogger to feature you (and interview you!) if you are excited about what they normally blog about.
  • Look for a blog that’s related to your music. Chances are that many blog “niches” are missing a theme song. So if you’ve written a very specific song or concept album, look for blogs that write about what you wrote about!
  • Look for a regional blog. If you live in a major city, there are probably blogs that are geo-specific to you. If the blogger likes your stuff, you may even be able to sit down with them face to face about being featured on their blog.

So if you’re ready to start looking for some alternative press features, here are the top five non-musical blogs you should consider submitting to!

The Food Blog

If you love food almost as much as you love music, you can probably find a blog that appeals to your taste buds.  If you love to cook, or are passionate about vegan living, a food blog might be a great place for you to seek out a feature. There are also quite a few regional food blogs, so try finding one in your city. You could even offer to write a column for a them about the best places in your city to get great food and live music!

The Fashion Blog

Chances are that you have a specific sense of style. Whether you’re a country artist who wears a different pair of boots to every show, or a rock-a-billy songstress with a penchant for pin-up clothing, there is a good chance there is some kind of fashion blog geared toward your own clothing preferences.  Submitting your music to a fashion blog could also work if you have some kind of “trademark” piece of clothing that you wear at every show that the blogger could talk about.

The Travel Blog

If you are a touring musician, a travel blog might be a great place for you to look for press. You have the travel experience, and you might even have a song or two about your life on the road they could feature. If you enjoy writing, you might even talk to the owner of the blog about having a guest post series detailing your next tour. Then your fans would get updates about your tour, and your music would get a regular appearance on a website besides your own.

The Frugal Living Blog

It’s no secret that independent musicians don’t make truckloads of money. A frugal living blog might be a great place for you to talk about how you tour (aka travel) on a small budget, or how you keep your grocery budget low so you can save up for gear. A frugal living blog might even be a great place to release that new single you were planning on giving away, since their readers will probably be excited about getting something for free!

The Extremely-Specific Blog

I know. This technically isn’t a category of blogs. But you know yourself and your music better than anyone else. Look at your hobbies outside music and see if you can find a blog about your random obsession with Hello Kitty, or micro-gardening. Chances are there are other people who love the same things you do, and would be willing to listen to your music! Here are a few more really specific blogs to get you started brainstorming:

  • Gaming
  • Craft Beer
  • Coffee
  • Sports
  • Marketing
  • Religion
  • Lifestyle
  • Sushi
  • Crafting/DIY
  • Tiny Houses

Have you had any success submitting your music to non-music related blogs? Do you have any other ideas about what kind of blogs to submit to? Let us know in the comments below!


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