Crowdfunding Your Music Project with Indiegogo

Crowdfunding Your Music Project with Indiegogo

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

You have the songs. You even have the gear. All your band is lacking is the financial backing to get your project off the ground. With a little help from your fans, though, you can get there. Using crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo*, you can crowdfund your music project.

How Much Does Indiegogo Cost?

There is no cost to create a profile or start a music crowdfunding campaign with Indiegogo. There are two campaign options to choose from: fixed funding or flexible funding.

Fixed funding is an all-or-nothing approach. If you do not reach your goal, your donors will get refunds, and you will not receive (or be charged) anything. If you do reach your fixed funding goal, Indiegogo charges a four percent fee.

Flexible funding allows you to take in funds whether or not you meet your goal. If you do not reach your goal, Indiegogo will take a nine percent cut. If you do reach your goal, Indiegogo takes their four percent fee.

With both options, there is an additional three percent fee for processing credit cards.

Creating an Indiegogo Campaign

Go to the Indiegogo homepage, select “Create” at the very top of the page. Then, create a new account by entering your name, email, and password. The next page will ask you to determine what category your project falls under and your funding goal. You will also classify who will be receiving the funds (individual, non-profit, business, or religious organization).

On the following page, summarize your project and goals. Add a photo to your campaign’s page. Upload a video or narrative to tell why you are raising funds and how you will use the funds after the campaign. Set the time frame for your campaign.

Lastly, set the rewards. Remember to offer an incentive to campaign donors who contribute between 10 and 20 dollars. Set higher price points, too, including one hundred, several hundred, and a thousand dollars. The rewards—which should fit the donation level and increase in value accordingly—can range from CDs, t-shirts, and stickers to a house party or private concert.

Promoting Your Campaign

Indiegogo allows visitors on your campaign page to like your campaign through Facebook or tweet the link to their followers. Don’t count on visitors to do all the promotion for you; be prepared to do a lot yourself. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you can link to your YouTube channel and your band’s website. Indiegogo has an excellent help center to guide you through the process, and they also encourage you to email with any questions.

Have you used Indiegogo to help fund a campaign or raise funds for your own creative project? Was the project successful?

* Indiegogo is not just for music crowdfunding; it can be used for other creative projects, including film, art, and theatrical productions.




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PledgeMusic: Crowdfunding Your Music

Crowdfunding Your Music Project with PledgeMusic

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Connecting directly with your fans is important. Without fan support, your band or musical venture simply is not going to make it. With fan support, though, your band has the chance to go places and achieve its goals. A clear example of this is crowdfunding, which funnels the support of your fans into raising the funds your band needs to make progress, whether it’s recording your next album or funding a tour. Services like PledgeMusic make the process of music crowdfunding even easier.

How it Works

On PledgeMusic’s website, you can create a profile for your band. Fans will use your profile to connect with you and fund your cause, so be sure to include information fans will love: your band bio, your artwork or photos, and some album tracks. Once your profile is complete, you’ll create a campaign, allowing fans to donate to your cause. Causes can include recording your music, creating a music video, or ordering albums.

There are two types of campaigns. In the first, when a fan pledges money, they receive an item in return. The larger the pledge, the better or more-inclusive their reward. Sample pledges and items include $5 for a poster, $10 for a CD, $20 for a band t-shirt, $100 for a backstage pass, and so on. In the second type of campaign, pledges are, essentially, pre-orders for your product.

Regardless of the type of campaign, you don’t receive any money until your fundraising goal is met.

Cost

PledgeMusic does not charge you to create an account or to start a pledge campaign. However, once your fundraising target is reached, the website does take a 15 percent flat fee.

Signing Up For PledgeMusic

PledgeMusic is rather straight forward. You navigate to the website, select the “Artist Sign Up” link on the left, and fill out the requested information. Include the type of campaign you want, your mailing list, and your Facebook and Twitter pages. Add any additional information to help set your product page apart; this could be photographs, album art, a video clip, etc. From here, you fill out information about your project, the pledge values and what you will give for every pledge.

Promoting Your Campaign, And Getting Help With Your Account

PledgeMusic auto integrates with your social media accounts to help you promote your campaign. Also, PledgeMusic offers a project health check to see if your campaign has room for improvement. The Frequently Asked Questions page is a great resource, and there is a realtime customer service assistance to make sure you receive the help you might require at any time.

Has your band used a crowdfunding site like PledgeMusic? What type of project were you funding? How did it go?




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Crowdfunding Your Music with Kickstarter

Crowdfunding Your Music Project with Kickstarter

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

If you’re wondering how to raise money for your next music project, and wondering if crowdfunding is an option, know this: using a Kickstarter campaign and trusting her fans to fund her project, musician Amanda Palmer raised over a million dollars. While these results are abnormal, they suggest that finding the funds for your project is feasible.

About Kickstarter Campaigns

Kickstarter campaigns are absolutely free, easy to start, and have only a few guidelines, including:

  • Projects must be related to the arts.
  • Projects must have a specific, obtainable goal with a measurable outcome. This means no fundraising to “launch my music career,” but you can fund an album production or release.
  • You can’t offer financial sharing to donors.
  • You can’t provide awards in bulk (defined as more than 10).
  • You can determine the rewards you give to your donors, but only within limits (no alcohol, GMOs, drugs, cigarettes, advice, beauty products, etc).
  • If funding goals are reached, you must complete the project or return the money to the donors.

Creating your Kickstarter Campaign

To create your project, go to Kickstarter.com and click on start new project. Create an account. Provide a project picture, description, location, and goal amount; set the number of days for pledging.

Next, determine your pledge tiers and rewards. Kickstarter suggests that you set a pledge tier that is under $20, giving people who have a little money the chance to support your project. Set a few other pledge tiers for fans that are interested in pledging more. For rewards, you can offer anything from a copy of your new album to an acoustic home concert. Set the values for the reward around the same price as they would go for in the retail marketplace.

Lastly, make it personal. Add a video to your page talking about your project or playing a song from the album you’re trying to fund.

Promote and Share

Kickstarter embeds the Facebook like button and the Twitter tweet buttons to your project’s page. While some people do browse Kickstarter looking for projects, you need to get the word out about your campaign. Send personal messages to friends, acquaintances, and interested parties. Don’t post or send too many messages, though, or you will come across as a spammy, money-hungry musician.

Additional details and answers can be found on Kickstarter’s site, especially on the Kickstarter FAQ, Kickstarter School, Guidelines, and Contact pages.

Have you used Kickstarter, either to raise money for a project or to help fund another artist’s project? How was your experience?

See also: Crowdfunding: 5 Websites for Funding Your Album Recording.




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Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding: 5 Websites For Funding Your Album Recording

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

So, your band is rockin’, your set list is solid, you’re performing regularly… and then you start thinking about recording. A little research shows that it’s not a cheap process. You could always tap into your trust fund to finance the project. Wait, you don’t have one? There are your lotto winnings to consider. Not that lucky? I suppose you don’t want to max out your credit lines, either?

What if there was another way to fund your project, one where those who like your music and want the end product help you get it? More and more artists are pursuing this path and crowdfunding their recording projects. Want to learn more or join in? Here are some of the top sites for doing just that:

PledgeMusic

You set your own goals determined on the needs of the project. The site doesn’t charge fans unless the funding goal is reached. Once the project is fully funded, PledgeMusic charges its 15% fee; however, there are no hidden fees for credit card processing. Pledge Music can also be used for pre-orders if you already have a completed album.

SellaBand

This site also charges a flat 15% fee upon reaching the funding goal. Sellaband does offer revenue sharing as an option. You can offer a revenue share to donors who buy a certain number of “parts,” to encourage larger donations. This revenue stream for an album is five years or the length of the tour (if the project you’re funding is a tour).

Kickstarter

Probably one of the better-known crowdfunding sites, Kickstarter works with musicians as well as artists, photographers, designers, and so on. The site charges a 5% fee along with a 3-5% fee for credit card processing. Kickstarter also has a legal contract that you must fulfill. They require that, if the funding goal is reached, you must complete the project; otherwise, the funds must be returned to the donors. This could be problematic if you spent the money on the project and are still unable to complete it, because you’ll need to re-raise the funds to refund your donors. However, this guarantee might comfort those investing in your project.

Indiegogo

This site offers you the option of a flexible funding or fixed music crowdfunding campaign. Musicians that choose flexible funding will be charged 9% by Indiegogo and 3% for credit card processing. If you reach your goal, Indiegogo gives 5% of their fee back to you. If you don’t reach the goal, they keep the whole 9%, but you also keep the rest of the money that was raised. With fixed funding, 4% of raised funds go to Indiegogo once the goal is met. If the goal is not met, everything is refunded to the contributors.

Feed the Muse

Like the other sites, this website lets you set up a project and share it with potential investors. Funds are generally sent out weekly (by electronic transfer) or monthly (by check), as long as the amount is over $100. If the amount is under $100, payments will be made quarterly. The amount taken by Feed the Muse is unclear, since one page states that it takes 10%  and another page lists 7.5%. However, it does state that the fees include those for processing credit cards. The site does not give an option for refunds to donors.

Have you used one of these sites? Or one like these? How was your experience?

See also: Recording vs. Performing: A Musician’s Focus, The Right Recording Studio For Your Music, Make Money Selling Your Music, Increase Your Exposure: Streaming Music, Musicians and Crowdsourcing.




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Ending the Year on a High Note

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The countdown to the giant mirror ball dropping in NYC has begun. People are buying gym memberships in droves, and Facebook is full of sappy year end posts. It’s a time for reflection, and a time for looking ahead.

So let’s take a short look back at your music career in 2015.

  • Did you hit a new high note, literally or figuratively?
  • Was this a year of creative incubation, or bold forward motion?
  • Did the needle move at all, or do you feel stuck in a rut?

At Source, we want 2016 to be your best year yet. Take 5 minutes and choose one thing to focus on from each of the three topics below to help you move your music to the next level in 2016!

Major Milestones

Chances are, some important things happened this year. Maybe the highlight of the year was playing a sold out show at your favorite venue. Maybe your major milestone was your crowdfunding project totally tanking.

Analyzing major career milestones can help you repeat your successes, and avoid future failures.

If this was a year with a lot of forward motion, think about how you can translate that into the new year. If you felt like you were a little behind in 2015, don’t let that stop you! Start brainstorming one or two significant goals you would like to hit in the coming year.

Examples of Major Milestones:

  •     Album Release
  •     Single Release
  •     Music Video Release
  •     Media Attention
  •     High-traffic Press Features
  •     Touring
  •     Opening for a “bigger” band
  •     Playing in a certain venue
  •     Meeting a Crowdfunding goal

Micro Milestones

Usually major milestones are the product of lots of micro-milestones paying off. The bigger goals might more fun to reach, but they will remain unattainable until you commit to the smaller ones. Take stock of where you were with the small stuff in 2015.

How did your commitment to micro-achievements affect your major achievements over the past year? Did your consistent email newsletter drive up sales? Or did your organic reach on Facebook take a dive because you didn’t post enough?

If 2015 wasn’t the best year for your career, I would encourage you to commit to reaching a few of these “micro-milestones.” See where they take you! Often a focused effort in one “smaller” aspect of your career can help other pieces fall into place.

Examples of Micro Milestones:

  •     Consistently releasing video content
  •     Growing your email list
  •     Cold emailing/following up with industry contacts.
  •     Higher levels of social media engagement
  •     Maintaining your website
  •     Consistently playing live shows
  •     Increasing merch sales
  •     Gaining new Patrons
  •     Implementing a marketing plan
  •     Writing a song a week
  •     Learning a new music-related skill

The Highs and Lows

What was the best part about your music career in 2015? It could be a specific event, a great song you wrote, or an awesome moment with a fan.

What made you feel alive and excited about music last year?

If you are trudging along, not sure if music is the right choice for you, try locking onto those things that made you fall in love with performing music in the first place. Keep those specific things in mind as you move forward into 2016. Try to find ways to create more of those moments that inspire you, and remind you why you play music.

On the other hand, what frustrated or discouraged you this year? What made you want to smash your guitar against the wall?

Pinpointing the negative can help you prevent those things from happening in the future. They could be a red flag, letting you know where you might want to enlist help.

If you hate shipping out merch orders, why not check out a fulfillment service like Bandwear?  Bad at posting on twitter? Take 10 minutes to schedule a few posts in advance.  Often there are simple solutions to problems we feel overwhelmed by.

Knowing both the good and the bad of your music career can help you strike a good balance. Keeping that balance can help you have a more positive, successful career in 2016.

No matter what happened in 2015, you have the choice to take your career into your own hands.

How will you make 2016 your best year yet?


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Live Streaming Your Performance with Stageit, Periscope, and Google Hangouts for Musicians

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

We live in an era where new technologies pop up quickly, and disappear just as fast. Everyone is always looking for the next awesome app that’s going to make their life a little easier, and a little more fun.

Enter live streaming.

Although live streaming video has been around for a while, it is beginning to gain popularity and traction, and some new live streaming apps have appeared in the last few months. Here’s a quick run-down of our favorite apps and websites, and how you can use them to promote your music, connect with fans, and even earn some cash.

Live Streaming Concerts With Stageit:

There are lots of different services that will allow you to stream a show live. UStream, Livestream, and Stageit are platforms that can put your concert directly onto your fan’s laptops. But Livestream and UStream are expensive to use.

This is why we recommend Stageit. Stageit is a great platform that was obviously built with musicians in mind. Artists like Jason Mraz, Ingrid Michaelson, and Bon Jovi have all used the platform. Stageit is simple to setup and use, and is free for artists. It allows you to choose ticket prices(or let fans choose a price) and fans can tip you during your show. Shows are defaulted to last for 30 minutes, although you can have up to a 20 minute “encore.”

There is also live commenting enabled for fans and artists so that you can interact with viewers during the show. You will also have access to information about the fans who tip the most during your show, and Stageit encourages you to give fans that tip generously a reward, like a signed CD or poster, when the show is over.

Stageit is available on mobile platforms as well as desktops and laptops, so your fans can watch from anywhere. All you need to get started is a webcam, but you can upgrade to a more complicated set up with more cameras and different audio sources if you like.

There are two downsides to Stageit. When you use Stageit to live stream a show, nothing is recorded and archived. This is a great thing to promote the exclusivity of the Stageit show,  but it can become a problem if something great happens and you have no means to capture and keep the video.

Stageit also uses their own “currency” during shows called notes. Fans pay for show tickets and tip during the show with notes that they pre-pay for. One note is equal to 10 cents, and fans can purchase them when they sign up for the site. While this isn’t a bad system, it can be a little confusing for new users, so you may want to explain it to your fans before your show.

If you want to get into live streaming shows, Stageit can be a powerful tool to connect with fans, and put a little extra cash in your pocket.

Periscope for Musicians:

Twitter’s newest app launched in March 2015 and it’s beginning to pick up a lot of buzz. Periscope is a social app that lets your broadcast live wherever and whenever you want. You simply login with your Twitter account information, give Periscope access to your phone’s camera and photo roll, and you’re good to go. Then other users can tune in to what you’re broadcasting live.

There are a couple of features in Periscope that help it to stand a little above its main competitor Meerkat.

  • Privacy Settings: You can allow anyone to watch your Periscope broadcasts, or you can invite specific users in. This is a really cool feature if you are offering a live broadcast as a reward to fans for a crowdfunding campaign, or if you only want members of your fan club or patrons to see your broadcasts.
  • Video Archival: Periscope lets other users see your broadcasts for up to 24 hours after you post them, a feature that Meerkat doesn’t have. It also gives you the option to save all your broadcasts to your phone. This means that your Periscope broadcasts are doing double duty capturing video that you can use later for YouTube or Facebook.

Periscope can help you communicate directly to fans like never before. People who love your music can experience moments with you as they are happening, and they can interact with those moments. Periscope displays comments in real time during your broadcast so users can communicate with you directly and affect what’s happening in your broadcast by giving their suggestions or asking questions. This is a fantastic way for artists to deepen their communication with fans.

Google+ Hangouts On Air and YouTube Live:

Google+’s live streaming feature is a great choice if you want your live stream to be recorded and archived, and if you want a little more flexibility in where your users can watch from. Since Google+ and YouTube are best friends(i.e. owned by the game company!), your Google+ Hangout On Air can go directly to your YouTube channel, and will be archived there. Live streaming with Google+ is also embeddable, so you can place the video into your website. This is a great way to encourage your fans to visit your website. Google+ Hangouts On Air are simple to set up (you can find instructions here). If Google+ isn’t your cup of tea you can set up your live stream directly through YouTube  (click here for details). They function essentially the same, although on YouTube fans will only be commenting, not engaging through video. You can also earn money for ad revenue during live broadcasts through YouTube if your channel is set up for monetization.

Closing The Gap

Having a dedicated set of fans is the number one key to having a  successful career in music. Giving your fans custom experiences through live streaming can help you strengthen bonds with existing fans, and open doors to creating new ones. And when fans are engaged with you and your music, you are one step closer to a sustainable music career.
Have you used live streaming before? How did fans react? Will you use it again? Let us know in the comments below!


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Three Sources of Music Funding: The Story of Platinum Plaits

Three Sources of Music Funding: The Story of Platinum Plaits

By NationWide Source - Estimated 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.




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Website for Musicians: A Vital Tool

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

There’s something I’ve noticed lately, and it’s so frustrating that I can’t ignore it anymore. I have to say something, so I’m going to say it here.

Websites should have a purpose.

I know it seems obvious, but—judging from the abundance of ineffective, uninformative websites out there—people haven’t gotten that memo.

What I’m Talking About

Let’s say you go to a retailer’s website, and the website simply has their logo floating above a pretty background (or not) with a tagline below. In addition, they have several links that direct their customers to visit other sites to learn more.

The Case for Effective Websites: Example A

And… that’s it. No “About the Company”, no photographs, and no products to browse. No hours listed, no ability to search for a location near you, and no contact information. It’s just a landing page with almost no information on it, less a logo and tagline—a halfhearted confirmation of the retailer’s mere existence. How strange, and how frustrating, would that be for you, a potential customer? How crazy would a company have to be to present themselves like this? Could they really be that clueless?

If the above example looks extreme or comical, trust me, I know. But, the thing is, I see websites like this every day… from musicians. This annoying and nonsensical phenomenon is rampant in the independent musician market. Musicians are guilty of having ineffective and uninformative websites.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked up a band’s website only to see their logo, a piece of album art, and links to social media, third-party retailers, and everywhere else they can think of. No real content. No biography, no tour schedule, no discography, no samples to listen to or videos to watch, no mailing list sign-up, no merch for sale, and no chances for income.

As a potential fan, it’s frustrating and annoying. For the band, it’s a bunch of missed opportunities. It’s time to change things.

The Purpose of Your Website

As I said at the beginning, websites should have a purpose. Some websites have several purposes. Since you’re a musician, your website should tell visitors about you, your career, and your music. The site should be designed to capture the fans’ interest. You want to create a desire in the fan to connect with you and purchase your music.

Signature Elements of an Effective Website

Samples of Your Work

We’d like to hear your music. After all, it’s what you do, or aspire to do, for a living; it’s why we’re here. So, share your music with us!

How you go about doing this is really up to you. I would recommend showcasing your best music videos, offering full-length samples of your music, and always giving the fan an opportunity to purchase what they like. Which leads us to the next point…

Product For Sale

Your website needs a product page that offers your music and your other merchandise for sale. Don’t send fans from your website to iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud, or other similar websites to purchase or hear your music! If they choose to purchase your music on iTunes, fine, just don’t send them there when you could have made the sale yourself.

There are a few reasons this makes sense:

1. You keep as much of the profits of your hard-earned work as possible. You might have to give a small cut to the credit card processor or pay a little extra per month on your website, but you’re not giving up 30% or more  of each sale! That difference adds up quickly, and the regained profits can be used as needed on future projects, new gear, touring costs, or as actual income.

2. Your store is just that: your store. It specializes in your product, which means your customers aren’t seeing ads for other musicians and bands or links to other artists’ merchandise. This means there’s almost no chance that they’ll buy less of your product because they’re now also interested in this other person’s product but don’t want to spend more. Why? Because there is no other person competing for their attention!

3. Operating your own store means you get to learn who your customers are. To get the product, customers will have to give you some of their information: name, email address, phone, and maybe mailing address. Compare this to third party retailers, who might tell you that someone with the zip code 02134 bought your song. By running your own store, you can see where interest in your music is growing, and you know who to contact and how when you decide to book a show there!

Running your own store means figuring a few things out: you need to decide if you want to offer only digital downloads, physical merch, or both. You’ll also need to find merchandise manufacturers (if you don’t already have them), keep track of inventory, fulfill orders in a timely manner, and find an affordable option for selling your merch.

The Chance to Support You Financially

Funding your music career is a complicated task. However, there are options available to you today, like crowdfunding, that weren’t available ten or twenty years ago.

In terms of raising funds, the question you should ask yourself is the same as it is for selling your product: do you want to have control over this crucial element of your career, or do you want to hand it off to a third party site that will market other musicians to your fans, take a cut of your profits, and potentially withhold your fans’ contact information from you?

Personally, I believe the best funding methods are tied to your productivity on an ongoing basis instead of a one-time fundraising goal. In this scenario, fans become patrons of your art by contributing a small amount every time you create a significant piece of content. Not only does this mean your fans get access to your new content and feel invested in your career, but this arrangement motivates you to continue creating your art and, with enough support, can provide a nice steady stream of income. If 500 of your fans contribute just $1 for every piece you create, and you create 2 pieces a month, that’s an extra $1000 a month just for doing your job as a musician and creating new material. Scale that up in the number of contributors, the size of their contributions, or both, and you can see how this can make a big impact.

If you’re interested in setting up this system on your own website, contact our staff for more information.

A Thorough Band Biography

The bio should give press, new industry contacts, and potential fans a good idea of who you are, where you’re from, what you and your music are like, and where you’re headed.

Now, keep balance in mind. You aren’t writing your autobiography or band memoirs, so keep it concise and on topic. Press and industry contacts can always ask for more details if they want more details. However, that doesn’t give you an excuse to skip a bio altogether or cut it down to the bare bones. While you don’t need to start with each band member at birth, you might want to name all the band members, talk about how your band formed, mention where you’re based, discuss how you developed your unique style, highlight notable concerts and tours, and include past releases.

I’d recommend sharing a collection of professional, high-quality band photos and snippets of past press praises here, too. Both compliment your biography nicely.

Your Schedule and Contact Information

First, list your schedule of shows. Tell visitors where you’ll be (venue, city, and state) and when (date and time) so they can come see you play live! Make it even easier for them to find you by linking* to the venue’s website or location on a map.

In addition to listing your schedule, you should have a contact form where fans and visitors can send you questions (such as “Do you think you’ll have a show in Austin anytime soon?” or “Do you know when this product will be back in stock?”).

Recognize that your visitors and fans aren’t going to stop by your website every day. To save them some trouble of having to dig up the dirt on you, it’s a fabulous idea to let visitors and fans sign up for a mailing list; this lets you send them updates directly. (Note that a mailing list is only good if it’s put to use; otherwise, it’s just one step above a phone book.)

Along the lines of a mailing list is social media. It’s a way to get your info and updates in front of your fans without them needing to constantly visit your website. So, by all means, list your social media accounts and encourage fans to follow you there to stay up to date, but don’t treat those accounts as more important than your official website or mailing list. Think of them as mini-websites intended to build interest and funnel visitors back to your site. You own your website, and you own your mailing list. You have no control over social media; it could change or disappear at any point, and there’s nothing you can do about that.

Easiness

Your website should be easy to find. This means no crazy spellings of your URL; it should match your or your band’s name, if possible. It might also mean brushing up on SEO and keywords. This means links to your website should be easily available in all emails and social media profiles. You might even consider advertising, but we can get into all of that in a future post.

Your website should be easy to browse, with clear navigation that is both easy to locate and effectively descriptive.

Your website should be easy to read; this means keeping graphics, colors, fonts, and sizes in mind. It means leaving some empty space so that your content can breathe and doesn’t overwhelm visitors. It also means keeping mobile and tablet views in mind, since web browsing on desktop and laptop computers continues to lose ground to more-mobile options.

Need Some Help?

Most everyone needs help from time to time. Designing or redesigning a website can be a difficult task if you don’t know how to proceed. Understanding and making the right choices is hard. Some of the choices you will be faced with might seem easy, but be careful; it is easy to step in the wrong direction. Our staff can help; just leave us a comment or email us. We’d be glad to offer additional insight or answer specific questions.

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I think I’ve got a little website updating to do.


* Note: All outbound links should be set to open in new windows. You want to make things easy, but you don’t want people to accidentally leave your site and never find their way back. It’s often an easy change to make, but doing so varies from one website-building platform to the next.




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Fans Not Seeing Your Posts? Two Things You Should Be Doing

My Fans Never See My Posts On Social Media – What Should I Do?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

It really is a problem. Between social media, email, texting, and phone calls (let alone snail mail) there are numerous conversations going on with your fans all the time. If you want to be heard, your communication needs to fly above the fray. The key to doing that, thereby cementing your fan relationships, is quality content and an effective delivery tool. Otherwise, even though you’re talking, no one can hear you.

If you want better solutions for reaching your fans, keep reading.

The Battle For Your Fans’ Attention

We remember when industry pundits predicted that digital communication would make us all much more productive. It turns out that the opposite is true. The constant bombardment of information is distracting, and not at all productive.

In terms of information overload, social media platforms like Facebook are often the worst offenders. You may think that, since you are a performer and these are your fans, your voice somehow filters to the top.  Not true.  Performers get the same priority as everyone else who has something to say. The reality is most of what you say scrolls off the page before anyone has a chance to see it, which means you remain unheard, even if you have a large number of people following you. Why is that? Too much competition for your fans attention.

It may come as a surprise, but the average person on Facebook has over 335 “friends”. That’s like being in a room with 335 people simultaneously talking to you and trying to show you something.

Stepping slightly off topic for a second: Who really has 335 close friends? And even with your actual close friends, would you want to hear every single thing they think or see, every mundane thing they do?  No.  Sure, you want to know the big, even the medium, things: life milestones, how their relationship and careers are going,  what their interests and hobbies are, what they’ve been up to. But the little things?  Not so much.

It is like being a slave to a crazy person’s impulse to over-share all the things that stumble into their brain at any moment. This is what you face as an artist if you intend to communicate with fans on social media. Just more noise.

Let’s look at an actual, typical fan. This fan has 453 friends on Facebook (not counting pages liked or groups joined), has 68 connections on LinkedIn, and follows 259 users on Instagram, 129 users on Twitter, and 152 users on Pinterest. That makes five networks used regularly by this fan, and accounts on two other platforms that rarely get used. Plus a personal email account. And that doesn’t even factor in work-related accounts.

When faced with accounts on multiple social media platforms and hundreds of interactions to wade through daily, the thought of seeing everything becomes a bit daunting. The result is that, despite creating accounts to stay in touch, their connections actually weaken.

It’s easy to see how users can be inundated with information, and it’s clear that you’re fighting an uphill battle. Yes, some of your fans are seeing your information. And yes, there are ways to better your odds, such as paying to boost your posts, or strategically timing your posts. But, in the grand scheme of things, you’re still competing with all that other noise.

Good Content Creates Loyal Fans

While we are on the topic of noise and over-sharing, let us make one point that is critical for your career: do not over-share. When you speak to fans, make sure you have something important and relevant to say, something they want to hear. Otherwise, your fans will classify you as someone who wastes their time. It is like a good relationship that has gone bad; fans can close the door on your relationship as quickly as they opened it.

You may have a better chance of creating a connection with your audience if your communication focuses outward more often than inward. For example, if you are constantly talking about yourself, it might sound too much like self promotion or bragging. Quite often, when I get an artist communication it seems that they are “shouting” at me with their announcement – “Hey, come buy my new album!” Remember that you are talking ‘with’ people, not ‘at’ them. Have something interesting to say that gives insight into who you are, and try to engage fans in a conversation. That’s hard to do if the entire conversation is one-liners from you about your accomplishments, so stay away from “sales speak”. Inspiring fans with real conversation will get them engaged and talking, to you and to their friends about you. Other people talking about you is much more powerful than you talking about yourself.

Now that we have covered over-sharing, we want to emphasize the importance of good consistent communication. It is not our purpose to convince you that less is more. While you do not want to over-share, it is very important to share good quality content on a regular basis. Do not ignore your fans.

There are plenty of topics that are good for sharing, here are a few examples:

  • Announcements. This could be a new album release, concert date, tour, products, promotions, crowdfunding opportunity, last minute texts, etc.
  • Insights. These reveal what it’s like to be a musician or offer a behind-the-scenes look at the industry and your career,  etc.
  • Personal comments about your music, how you write music, what inspires you, your passion for music, how you started as a musician, which musicians are your role models, etc.
  • Fun, short features. Shoot a simple video, tell a funny story, post a picture from a live performance with relevant comments, etc.

Whatever you offer, make sure it is thoughtful and well-presented. It does not necessarily have to be polished and professional looking; sometimes informal and impromptu create a better connection with your fan base because it feels more personal.

As long as we are discussing social media, we encourage musicians to maintain separate social media accounts: one for personal friends and family, and one for their music career. Friends and family can choose to follow both accounts, but fans should not have access to all of your personal comments and shares. Do you really want everyone to have access to the details of your personal life: a list of your family, photos of your kids, embarrassing posts from aunt Nicole and your sister Anna?

The Most Effective Communication Tools

What if there was a way to cut through that noise and truly stand out, to have your message pop up where your fan notices it (in other words, outside those social media platforms)? In our book, there are two methods that help you do just that. 

Method One: EmailsEmail allows you to personalize the communication, control the conversation, and convey a complete message without length limitations. Try to automate this process as much as possible. For example, a fan signing up for your mailing list should auto-generate a welcome email. This is also a great time to offer them a free download for signing up. (If you’re wondering how to capture their email, manage your contacts, and run campaigns, we’ll cover this topic in an upcoming article.)

Method Two: Text MessagesCommunicating via text message with your fans (using an SMS service) is a great way to convey important information. This is the only communication (other than printed material or a phone call) that does not require your fan to log-on to their account to view it. This is completely different from Facebook, Twitter, and most other forms of social media. Text also carries a sense of high priority. When you get a message alert, don’t you check your phone and that message as soon as possible? Most people do.

(See the end of this article for tips on responsible mobile marketing practices.)

If you’re interested in mobile marketing, keep reading as we discuss several text marketing options.

Using An SMS Service

We scoured the internet looking for SMS service providers that offer good features and flexibility at a fair price. Of the services we found, we narrowed it down to two options that we would use.

Mozeo is our frontrunner. You can use keywords or a website widget to allow your fans to opt-in to your SMS contact list, or you can enter contacts manually or by uploading a spreadsheet. Mozeo allows you to enter a lot of fan information besides their name and phone number: address, email, gender, date of birth, and a half dozen optional fields. This is probably because it offers services, like email solutions. For accurate feedback on sent messages, Mozeo provides real-time reports. There is not a monthly fee for Mozeo’s SMS services; it’s simply 3 cents per outgoing message, and incoming messages are free. Keywords are sold separately as one-time fees ($25 for 1, $70 for 3, or $111 for 5). Mozeo also offers email solutions (half a cent per message—you can manage your contacts, design your emails, and send your marketing messages out to subscribers) and mobile web design (at $10 per month, with no limit on pages or sites). Web design includes the option of adding a mobile merchant/shopping cart to your page. Click on this link for a free downloadable guide.

Click here for downloadable guides!

We chose our runner up, Ez Texting, because it operates on its own or as a plugin to other popular platforms (such as MailChimp), and it’s one of the most popular SMS service providers available. Ez Texting allows you to import contacts or add them manually and then sort those contacts into as many groups as you need to. If you need help gathering contact data, you can use the keyword, widget, or QR code features that Ez Texting offers. You can incorporate merge tags to personalize your messages, and you can send text or voice messages to your contacts either when they are written or at a future scheduled time. The site provides you with analysis of sent messages so you can see which messages and acquisition methods are effective. Ez Texting does not charge for incoming messages, which are stored in your account’s Inbox or forwarded to your email address; messages forwarded to your mobile phone do require a credit. Plans range from $29 to $2000 a month, depending on how many messages and keywords you need. There is also a pay-as-you-go option, where messages cost 5 cents each (unless purchased in quantities of 20,000 or more, when a discount begins to apply). Click on this link for a free downloadable guide.

Other SMS Options

While our downloadable tutorials focus on Ez Texting and Mozeo, they are by no means the only options. Here are some details on other SMS service providers:

For MailChimp Users Planning Events: Gather is an event-focused SMS tool available to MailChimp users. MailChimp recognizes that email is ideal for sending event invitations and information ahead of time and for following up afterward, but less ideal for communicating with attendees—sending reminders and updates or receiving live feedback—right before or during the event, when they might not have email access. Gather also provides texting security (by keeping phone numbers private) and ensures that attendees won’t be spammed with text message marketing down the road. As a musician, you could use Gather to communicate with your core fans about exclusive after-parties. What fan doesn’t like that idea?

For SMS Campaigns with MailChimp: Call Loop is another SMS option that operates independently or as a plugin for MailChimp. Your contacts—which are unlimited—can be uploaded in a spreadsheet, synced from MailChimp, or inserted individually. Call Loop offers many of the same features that Ez Texting offers, including Merge Tags, scheduled messages, and auto-respond triggers. There is a pay-as-you go plan at 5 cents per message, or plans range from $30 to $150 dollars a month (depending on the number of messages and keywords you want).

For SMS Campaigns and a Little Extra: ProTexting also offers a variety of SMS features. Subscribers can sign up through mobile keywords or web signup forms, which you can create and add to your website or social media profiles. The site then stores their contact information in your subscriber database. Messages—which can include audio, video, and/or text—can be sent to individual subscribers or to groups, and they can be scheduled or sent immediately. ProTexting encourages paying personalized attention to your fans, such as targeting recipients by location or sending birthday wishes. It also provides analytics on your messages’ performance, so you can see which messages are effective and which aren’t. ProTexting also offers a mobile website builder, letting you create a simple and functional interface for your fans, as well as an app for you to access your account on the go. For self-managed accounts, pricing starts at $70 a month and reaches up to $899 a month; as with the other SMS service providers, the packages vary in terms of how many messages and keywords they include.

Responsible Mobile Marketing

Now, before you go rushing off and start texting all your fans, you should know that there are some rules that apply to text marketing:

  • You must get recipient consent first (i.e., they have signed up to receive communications from you in this manner, and you’ve provided them with information on messaging rates, frequency, and purpose). Note that, if they’re under 13, they’ll also need parental consent.
  • You should not overwhelm fans with irrelevant or redundant information—don’t spam them!
  • You should make it clear who is sending the messages.
  • You should provide opt-out information with your messages and/or on your site.

For more information, we recommend reading this Best Practices guide assembled by the Mobile Marketing Association. You’ll also want to check state laws, both where you live and where your recipients live, to make sure there aren’t further restrictions.

If you’ve decided that SMS marketing is the right step that will give you an advantage in reaching your customers, and you’ve done the research to understand the best practices and laws regulating text marketing, it’s time to start looking for a way to get your messages out where they belong: in front of your fans.




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Musicians and Crowdsourcing: Use Your Fan Base

Musicians and Crowdsourcing

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

If your band has built a solid and extensive fan base and network of peers, congratulations, you’re a few steps ahead of the game! Now, what do you do with those connections?

There’s a concept, albeit not that new, called crowdsourcing. It is “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people,” and it has a number of applications that could apply to bands and musicians. One variation of crowdsourcing is crowdfunding, in which a large targeted group of people choose to invest in a cause. For musicians, this concept can be used to raise money for a recording session, music video, or new album release. However, this is not the only way that musicians can use the crowdsourcing concept.

Finding Local Gigs

If you’re a fairly new act, ask your friends and fans what upcoming local gigs they’re looking forward to; if those acts fit your niche, see if those shows or venues need opening acts. Being able to tell a booking agent or promoter that your fans already love coming to their venue is a plus.

If you’re looking for recommendations on great places to play or venues to avoid, use your peer network and ask other bands in the area (those you can trust).

Planning A Tour

If your band is thinking about hitting the road, ask your online fan base where your band should stop on its tour. Map out a route with the locations that will give you a good crowd. Once you have a tentative route planned, start asking fans about their favorite venues and local bands in those cities. The local bands might have shows you could get in on, drawing crowds from both of your fan bases.

Since not all venues provide lodging, ask the fans and local bands around about lodging, too. They might recommend places that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about, provide tips on getting a good deal at a place, or—if you’re lucky—offer to let you crash at their house. Not much beats a few welcoming faces and a home-cooked meal, and it gives you an incredible opportunity to connect with your fans. Plus, it beats sleeping in the van.

If your crowdsourcing brings up another band’s tour, look into the group and their plan. Should your sounds and vibes be complimentary to each other, touring together could benefit you both. Your differences might draw separate crowds, resulting in increased profits from gigs and possibly helping you win over fans that you wouldn’t have reached on your own. The key is finding balance; bands too similar or too different can cause more hassle than benefits.

If you can’t tour with another band, and if you won’t be competing for their fans’ attention, try learning from what they’re doing. Ask what gigs they have planned and how they spaced out their tour dates. Ask which venues worked well for them and which flopped. If the bands on tour won’t share information, talk to your existing peer network to see what tips and advice they have.

Other Uses

Crowdsourcing has a number of other uses that could work for a band. If you’re trying to determine which songs make it onto the next album, play samples and have them vote their favorites onto the album. If you need album artwork, you could turn to your fan base for recommendations of designer or for the design work itself. Or, you could ask them to vote on the design concepts, use the winning design for your album. The same idea (voting on design concepts) applies to t-shirt or merchandise design. Speaking of merch, you can also ask your fans what merch they want you to offer. Lastly (for the examples), you can crowdsource your promotions by creating a team of dedicated super-fans. Ideally, this team would be geographically spread out. While they can help moderate forums and assist with promotions online, you also want to work with them to promote your events in their area before you get to town.

Crowdsourcing is simply using those around you (as a band, mainly your peers and your fans) as a resource. Whether you’re playing locally or hitting the road, don’t forget to incorporate this technique into your band’s strategy.

Has your brand used crowdsourcing to make a decision, reach a goal, or build your fan base? How did you use it, and what was the result?




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