Category: Booking Gigs

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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6 Music Gigs You Haven't Thought Of

6 Money-Making Gigs
You Haven’t Yet Thought Of
Plus: We’re having a giveaway (enter below)

By Gregory Douglass - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

written by: Gregory Douglass

There are many ways musicians and bands can make money with their music. Perhaps the most obvious way is through performing and touring. Any given tour might rely on club, coffeehouse, and even college performances to generate income along the way – but there are other ways to generate additional revenue that may not already be on your radar. So here are 6 music money gigs you haven’t yet thought of:

1. College Keynote Concerts. College gigs are great, and are arguably the most lucrative gigs in the indie music biz. While college gigs can be a nice pay day, they are also the most competitive gigs to book. Most musicians and booking agents are going after college gigs in the same ways – through college booking conferences like NACA, or directly through Student Activities organizations. Try thinking outside the box and consider an educational tie-in with your performance pitch in the form of a keynote concert. Perhaps you or your bandmate could talk to the student body about the songwriting process and cap off your presentation with a performance. For keynote concert bookings, consider contacting various clubs & organizations outside of the Student Activities department.

2. House Concerts. House concerts are still an underground, growing trend – though they are still met with great resistance by many shy musicians who feel that they are just too close for comfort. As a touring singer/songwriter myself, I personally give house concerts my golden stamp of approval. They certainly are intimate, but you can’t ask for a more appreciative audience than a house concert audience! They are ideal for solo artists but great opportunities for bands to strip things down for a night as well. House concerts can be more lucrative than public venues with a $10-20 suggested donation jar and the higher level of interest in merch sales that they typically generate. If you’re lucky, your house concert host may even make you a home cooked meal or offer you their guest room for the night to help save you some dough on the leg of a tour.

3. Virtual Concerts. With platforms like LiveStream, Ustream, Justin.tv, Stageit, and even Google Hangouts now – virtual concerts have never been easier to administer behind the scenes. Consider setting the stage at home in front of your computers built-in camera, or step up your game if you have the right gear to do so. Stageit is specifically for concerts and has a virtual tip jar already incorporated, but you can also embed some basic HTML code on Justin.tv and sport a Paypal-powered virtual tip jar yourself. Make virtual concerts like these apart of a larger crowd-funding campaign for your next tour or album campaign.

4. Venue Rentals. If you’re really ambitious, you might consider doing what Ani Difranco did to build her legacy and rent venues. This will obviously cost you a chunk of change up front, but you might be able to fast-track your way into presenting your band in venues that are more suitable or more preferable than the usual direct-booking venue. If you are willing to hustle and ensure that enough people fill the house to make it worth the cost of the venue rental, than you can have your cake and eat it to.

5. Corporate Events. There are always Corporate companies looking to book entertainment for various internal events, and they usually have a decent size budget to work with. Corporate events gigs are not unlike the wedding gigs in that they are typically background music for attendees, so they may not be for everyone – but they are usually a nice pay day in the end.

6. Street Performances. For more seasoned/professional artists, street performances may seem too entry-level, but they don’t have to seem that way. Adapting to the new indie music biz model is adapting to fresh perspective on how to sustain a living as a working musician, so this might be the perfect exercise in checking one’s ego at the door. Street performances can be great opportunities for fast-generating tip money, as well as great new exposure opportunities. Especially on the pedestrian streets of tourist cities and towns, or any other areas with heavy foot traffic. Even KT Tunstall still plays street performance gigs now and then for nostalgia purposes.

You’re a rock star.

Here’s to your creative genius!

 


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We’re giving away prizes to 12 lucky readers!
 
10 readers will each win a $50 Amazon gift card
 
2 readers will win a one-on-one coaching session
with Gregory Douglass

 




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Are Tours the Right Choice for Your Band?

Are Tours the Right Choice for Your Band?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

There are people who argue that bands shouldn’t tour. They cite the wonderful internet, the high price of gas, and better uses of time; they argue that you can build a fan base on social media, distribute your music on any number of websites, spend your “free time” rehearsing, and be A-OK.

I get what they’re saying and where they’re coming from. I’ll even concede that these efforts—social media, distribution, rehearsing—benefit bands.

BUT, I disagree with their argument. There are times that touring is the best move your band can make. It’s simply a matter of understanding what type of tour is right for your band, and why touring is important to begin with. The internet cannot replace a live event, and live events do a great job of creating fans who will actually purchase your music.

Different Types of Tours, and When to Choose Each

Now, choosing the right type of tour for your band can make the difference between a successful tour and a frustrating, expensive headache. Consider tackling the following types of tours in the order they are presented.

The Local Tour

The first type of tour you should tackle is the local tour. This means:

  • reaching out and playing every relevant venue in your area (say, within an hour or so of your home base),
  • booking steady gigs (ideally, several nights a week),
  • packing the house,
  • selling your merch until everyone has it,
  • mastering your set list and performance skills, and
  • gaining the attention of local media (bloggers, papers, radio stations).

If your band is starting out, you should focus on this type of tour.

Once you’ve mastered the local tour, you might feel like your local market has had its fill of you, and staying with those same venues and same crowds becomes less exciting and less profitable (since no one’s buying merch anymore) and feels more like you’re treading water. At this point, you have two options. The first option is to refresh your act: focus on creating and releasing new material to reenergize your fan base. This can do wonders for your fan base and for your own frame of mind.

The Regional Tour

If that isn’t enough, your second option is to plan a regional tour. This has a couple different formats.

You can use your local momentum to branch out to surrounding areas, maybe expanding your reach to venues within five hours of your home base. This needs to be done strategically, to keep from wasting your hard-earned money by driving back and forth. Ideally, you’d do a set of shows in one local area, then move on to the next area and do another set of shows there, and so on. Be sure you maximize each area you stop in.

The other format for a regional tour is picking a large market further away from your home base and playing the heck out of it. For example, if you’re an indie folk artist based in Philadelphia, you might look at booking a month-long tour of Texas. Since you’re traveling all that way, it makes sense to schedule sets of shows, perhaps playing several nights in Houston one week, then Austin and San Antonio for a week and a half, then Dallas/Fort Worth for a week and a half. It’s worth noting that this format of regional tour becomes more difficult with larger groups of people group. It’s a lot easier (and less expensive) to make arrangements for one or two people than it is for six or ten.

Regional tours are great for pulling your band out of its “local band” status and pushing it to the next level. They can also help you catch the eye of bigger media—influential music bloggers, or bigger radio networks, or music magazines.

The Cross-Country Tour

The next type of tour is the cross-country tour, and it’s probably the type that comes to everyone’s mind when they think of a band hitting the road. It’s also likely the type of tour that people say bands shouldn’t take. To be honest, it can be expensive, especially with larger groups, and the risk of losing money is greater. If your band isn’t at the right stage of its career, or if the tour is poorly planned or poorly marketed, it could be a mistake.

So, how do you know if you’re ready? If your band:

  • has mastered the local and regional tour and performing live,
  • is gaining attention on a national level after regional tours,
  • has connections with artists, venues, and media across the country,
  • regularly performs multiple shows a week to sold-out (or nearly sold-out) venues,
  • has merch stockpiled and ready to sell,
  • has new music ready to release and perform, and
  • has a ready resource of booking agents working for you,

then it might be a good time to plan a cross-country tour.

Cross-country tours do require some intense planning and networking. You’ll either need to utilize the tour-planning skills you developed from your local and regional tours plus all of your industry connections and your fan base, or you’ll need to bring someone on board to help plan it, or both.

We’ll get more in-depth on how to plan a tour in a future article. Now that you know the types of tours available and when they apply, we’ll address why touring, on any level, is important.

Why Touring Matters To Your Fans

It might be tempting to throw a swanky music video up on your website, retweet a fan or two, and sit back to strum your guitar, but, if that’s the extent of your willingness to connect with fans and get your music out there, you probably won’t go far. Retweeting your fans might give them a momentary thrill, but that thrill pales in comparison to what a good live performance can give them.

If you’ve been to a great concert before, you know what I’m talking about here. Great concerts are experiences. They leave fans with the permanent memory of standing in a room with dozens (or hundreds, or thousands) of other fans watching a band perform, feeling the music vibrate through their body and the crowd, singing along to the chorus as the lead singer thrusts the mic out toward the audience, shaking hands with the band at the merch table, taking home a memento at the end of the night. A great concert is something you tell your friends and family about in the following days and weeks, something you relive with fellow attendees when you get together, something you tell your children about years down the line, something you close your eyes and relive anytime that band’s music comes on. Great live performances are something attendees carry with them for the rest of their lives.

For all their glory and convenience, the internet, distribution options (digital or physical), and social media can’t compete with great live performances. Since your fans can’t always travel to see you, it’s up to you to take the opportunity to them… whether that’s on a local tour at a venue 45 minutes away, or on a national tour to a city that’s a seven-hour flight away. Thus, the need for tours.

Why Touring Should Matter To You

Just like the internet, distribution options, and social media can’t live up to live performances for your fans, they can’t give you what live performances can. Yes, you might get a little rush from recording a song, releasing it to iTunes or SoundCloud, and watching the download or play count slowly tick up. Yes, it might be a source of income for you. Yes, you can interact with fans online. No, you shouldn’t abandon the internet, distribution, or social media altogether.

You also shouldn’t use these tools—that’s all they are, really—to replace actual interaction and performances.

First, rehearsing or recording in a studio—with multiple takes and all the mixing and mastering and scrubbing and perfecting—doesn’t give you the skills and experience that live performing does. There are no retakes in a live gig. You get it right or as close to perfect as you can on the first take. The crutch of being able to do something over again is gone; you either stand or fall. If your band is going to make it, this is one place where you prove that.

Live performances are also an ideal opportunity for your fans—the people on an adrenaline rush after a once-in-a-lifetime show—to buy your merch. If you wow them with your act, they’ll want something to remember it by, and they’ll be more than willing to support you (especially if you’re at the booth selling and signing merch). If you’re touring with new music (which you should be), there’s at least one product that they won’t already have. If they are new fans, odds are they won’t have much of your stuff at all. If you’re setting out on tour, regardless of the tour type, you should have merch with you; if you send people to your site, you lose that opportunity to make a sale. If you send them to third-party sites, you lose out on both opportunity and profits. In what universe does it make sense to tell eager supporters to wait or shop elsewhere?

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, touring gives you a connection to your fans. Live performances bring you face-to-face with fans. You meet the people who love and enjoy your music. You meet the people whose purchases put food on your table. You watch them from the stage, dozens (or hundreds, or thousands) of fans standing in a room, swaying to your music, singing along. You watch them from the merch table, as they come up to shake your hand and buy a little piece of you to take home and cherish. That’s something that the internet and social media can’t replicate.

That’s why it’s important that your band gets up and gets out there—across town, across your region, across the country. That’s why you should care about touring.




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Are-Gigs-Worth-Doing

Are Gigs Worth Doing?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

After hundreds of hours of hard work and practice, your band has landed its first public performance. You couldn’t be more excited. As soon as it’s confirmed, your head starts spinning with visions of screaming fans, lines down the block, crowds swaying to your music under the bar lights, and sold-out venues.

Your band kicks the rehearsal schedule into high gear. After all, you want your first gig to be stellar. You blast all your social media accounts—both personal and those your band just created—with information about the show, and you put up posters around town.

The big day comes, and you all take off early from your day jobs. The shorted paycheck stings, but the sacrifice will be worth it since this is your big break. After sending one last tweet about the performance, you finish loading the gear into your van and head out to the venue.

On a good day, it’s an hour away; today is not a good day. There are three wrecks on the highway, and with rush hour traffic it takes you nearly two hours to get there. Good thing you left really early… but now dinner will have to wait until after the show. When you finally arrive, you can’t help but notice that the bar’s a little more run down than you’d remembered. But that won’t matter when the crowds fill it in and the lights go down… right? Shrugging it off, you set up, run your sound check, and head backstage—to a tiny room with a couch and a table—to hydrate, shake your stage fright, and focus.

And then? The doors open. It’s time.

When you walk back out onto the stage, you notice a group of friends and family at the tables in the corner. Twelve or so familiar faces have made it. You tell yourself that the rest are stuck in traffic and will be there soon, and you start playing.

Aside from your group, there are maybe another ten people in the bar when you start. By the time you finish your set, the bar’s crowd has quadrupled. Problem is, half the bar is watching the big game on ten screens, and another group is waiting for a fight to erupt between two drunk, angry patrons. Besides your friends and family, only two tables have looked your way.

The rush of booking a show and performing on stage in front of strangers is strongly countered by the feeling that none of those strangers really noticed. With mixed emotions and a growling stomach, you pack up your gear and head out into the night.

Welcome to gigging.

Gigs versus Concerts

“Gigging” and “gig” are terms casually thrown around in the music world. You might have heard or even said, “I can’t make it to your party… my band has a gig that night,” or, “We’ve got five gigs in the next two weeks.” Generally speaking, a gig is a chance for you or your band to do your thing; hopefully you’re getting paid for it, but that’s not always the case. A gig could be an event, a festival, or at a bar, restaurant, or party; it could be for ten people or four hundred people.

While these opportunities to play are great, gigs most certainly are not concerts, so don’t be disappointed when some people in the crowd seem distracted. In fact, you should count on it.

At a gig, the focus isn’t on you or your band. It’s on the happy couple, the game on the bar’s TV, the food or drinks, and the other people at the table. With gigs, you’re simply a part of the ambiance, an enjoyable element of the event or venue… but you and your music aren’t necessarily the draw.

Now, your fans can show up to gigs. And, with the right touch, you can win over a gig crowd that didn’t come to see you. (With some events, like weddings, this requires a delicate balance—don’t steal the happy couple’s thunder!) But the fact remains that you and your music are not the reason most people are there.

With a concert, though, music is the focus. People aren’t at the venue to watch some game or visit with friends or drown their sorrows—they’re there for the music. (If there happen to be drinks, great!) Whether they bought tickets to your concert in advance and traveled just to see you or they dropped in to see who is playing at their favorite venue on a night you happen to be playing, with a concert, people are there for the music.

Should You Even Book Gigs?

I’m sure that it’s frustrating to practice for hours, travel to a venue, unload your gear, run a sound check, play your heart out… and be ignored in favor of some televised event or dinner conversations. Even if you do win over the crowd at a gig—maybe even sell some merchandise or collect some email addresses—there’s the nagging thought in the back of your head that those people weren’t there to see you.

But that doesn’t mean gigs don’t have value.

Early on in your music career, gigs might be your only opportunities and chances to perform. Take them! Gigs will help you hone your craft and performance skills in a way that rehearsing in your garage never can. You’ll develop your set list; you’ll also learn to read the crowd, throw the set list out, and wing it if needed. Playing to rooms of people ignoring you helps you build up a thick skin; you’ll need that later on, when you gain traction, reviews, and fans (because no artist is exempt from negative reviews and haters). Even later in your career, gigging can provide reasonable income and exposure. If the gig pays well and you like the venue, do it.

And those fans we just mentioned? You know, the people who genuinely like your music, and not just because they’re your friends and family? You get those through playing gigs. Sure, people might not have come to see you, but, if you’re good, they’ll notice you. If you’re really good, they’ll buy something or sign up for your mailing list. They might even come see you again, bringing a few friends along. That’s the best way to organically grow your fan base.

Gigs also let you interact with your fans on an individual, personal level—something that gets harder to do as you begin booking big concerts. Lastly, gigs keep you humble, pulling you out of your “music-is-my-whole-existence-why-haven’t-you-heard-of-me?” bubble and giving you a fresh perspective.

While gigs have value, I’m willing to bet that you’d rather book a concert over a gig. I can’t really blame you. Performing for people who appreciate your music, connecting with hundreds or thousands of fans, packing out a venue—these are the thoughts that keep you going. Concerts are the dream for most musicians. That dream is needed to get you through the bumps you’ll hit along the road; it’s what helps you persevere. When you start booking concerts instead of gigs, even at a small scale, the fact that people come and pay specifically to see you boosts both your ego and your wallet. If you have the chance to book a concert, take it!

As tempting as it is to ignore gigs and chase concerts, you need to spend a significant portion of your music career playing gigs. Gigs provide the steady base—your performance skills, your core fan base, your tough skin and humility—that you need for a successful, long-term music career.

The truth is, you will not be able to book many (if any) concerts until you have some experience gigging and have created a following of fans that will pay to see you perform. So gigging is really a path to bigger and better things over time.

In the end, if you have a legitimate opportunity to play and you have an opening on your schedule—whether it’s a gig or a concert—take it!




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Don't Let Your Fans Get Burned Out--Two Ways to Keep Them Engaged

Don’t Let Your Fans Get Burned Out—Two Ways To Keep Them Engaged

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Are you worried about fan burnout due to often-repeated gigs in the same venue? Are your fans tiring of you? While they seem like nice problems to have, they are legitimate concerns we’ve heard artists bring up. Read on for our take on this topic.

Dinner With Bob

I remember being out on a couples’ dinner date recently and watching with amusement as my friend Bob began to tell a funny story about his past. Bob is a great storyteller, truly gifted at communication. He has a knack for including just the right amount of detail in the story, and his timing with the punch line is excellent. Bob seems to have a million stories, and he enjoys sharing them.

Everyone was having a good time listening to Bob. Well, almost everyone. Teri, his wife, was not quite as enthusiastic as the rest of us, and she rolled her eyes back as Bob began the story. Now, Bob and Teri have been together for years; they get along really well, are a very compatible couple, share common interests, and love being together.

So, why was Teri less enthusiastic than the rest of us? Well, Teri has heard all of Bob’s stories many times, and she considers them counterproductive for the group discussion. She thinks Bob is funny—it was one of the reasons she was attracted to him so many years ago—but his material needs updating. Bob does tend to repeat himself, and not just to Teri; the other couples with us had also heard many of his stories. Nonetheless, Bob enjoys performing, so the show goes on.

Like Teri, I can only hear the same thing so many times before it begins to wear on me. It might have been engaging, interesting, or funny when I first heard it, but after a while I yearn for something new. The excitement is gone. When we go to dinner with Bob and Teri now, we have to prepare ourselves to endure some of Bob’s repeat performances. I hate to admit it, but I’m starting to feel just like Teri.

Overexposure to music can have the same effect. A hit single is incredible the first time I hear it. It’s fun to listen to or share for a few weeks. But then, when I hear it on every radio station, on the evening news, and as I do my grocery shopping, it becomes downright annoying. After a while, I just want it to stop.

As an independent musician, you face the same challenge Bob faces. Great material helps win loyal fans, but performing that same material over and over, without adding new material, can help you lose those fans. Fans want more new music. Otherwise, repeating your limited library of hits will wear on them. Your success as an artist can be impacted negatively if you do not produce new music consistently.

New music creates new sales and keeps things exciting and fresh, for you and for your fans. When I get a notification from a favorite musician that they’re releasing a new single or album, the anticipation of hearing their new music for the first time gets me excited. Depending on the artist, I’m ready to purchase the album from the first mention of it, without waiting for reviews and previews. Your fans are the same way. Don’t frustrate them with outdated, stale material.

A Story About Ashley, One Of Our Musician Clients

Ashley and I were having a discussion recently about her career. She had been performing in our area for some time and had some concerns about fan enthusiasm at shows… mainly that it seemed to be waning.  She also felt that her connection with the audience was less than what it used to be.

Ashley had a revelation. “You cannot be a prophet in your home town,” she told me. Ashley felt that the local fans were too familiar with her and her music. They no longer recognized her talent the way they used to. They were not engaging with her. In addition to her revelation, Ashley had a plan. The plan was to move into new markets where people did not know her, book new venues, start a new promotional campaign… you know, change things up a bit. She would be fresh and new; the old buzz would be back.

Sounds great!

Well, maybe not just yet. Let’s back up just a little.

Ashley is a good songwriter and quite a talented performer. But the new digital age of music, with all of its opportunities and overhead, was overwhelming her. She was doing everything. Shooting high-quality music videos, expanding her merch line, updating her websites, tweeting regularly, signing up for social media accounts left and right, and posting her music on every possible digital download store and streaming service. She even traveled to SXSW to hear what the ‘next big thing’ would be. Ashley spent 30 to 35 hours per week on the ‘business side’ of her music and the rest of her time traveling to and performing at her gigs. In short, she was doing everything she could think of to feel and look like a successful performer, hoping that it would make her one and bring hordes of fans in to purchase her music.

The reality was different. Most of her fans didn’t visit her website, since there was no new music, and her social media posts vanished into fans’ feeds as soon as they were typed. Her video, which looked great but cost thousands produce, only had 220 views on YouTube. And, instead of buying her music, most of her fans were streaming it online for free. Ashley was dedicating way too much time and energy to things that didn’t really matter—or, worse yet, hurt her. Ashley looked great and was busy doing stuff, but nobody noticed.

Does this sound like you? Doing everything you know how to do and implementing a strong plan but coming up short? Have you figured out why? We have. Ashley was so busy doing the ‘business of music’ that she forgot about the music itself.

When Ashley was first starting her music career, she spent 90% of her time working on her music and developing material. Now the tables have turned. Ashley has not released a new album in over three years. She wasn’t developing new material with any regularity because her schedule was too busy. I remember a recent four-day period where she performed seven times in five different cities and spent 16 hours on the road for travel between gigs. I don’t know how she had any energy left to perform! The point is, she now spends 90% of her time either performing or engaged in the ‘business of music’… and she hasn’t even noticed the change.

This happens quite often with talented, creative people who also have to run their own business. They get into music because they have talent and love writing, playing, and performing. But before long, their focus has shifted to building their career, and they end up doing everything but creating new music.

The result? Your music and your career suffer.

Two Changes Ashley (And You) Must Make

Number One: Ashley is full of creative ideas but has allowed her schedule to rob her of time to work on them. This MUST change.

Think of the fan response to Ashley if she had released 3 new albums over the last three years along with several singles, EPs, release parties, and some promotional products. She would have done much better with her fans! Fan excitement and engagement would have been much higher, let alone the income generated.

Ashley needs to spend more time on the creative development of her music. We’d recommend at least 1/3 of her time to developing new material, which means her schedule should look something like this:

Ashley’s Schedule (45 – 60 hours per week)

  • 1/3 of time spent on business/marketing matters
  • 1/3 of time spent on developing new material
  • 1/3 of time spent on performance and travel

Of course, we know that life is not that clean-cut. If one week or day demands more time for gigs, she should balance things out when she can. Maintaining a balance is key.

It would also be helpful for Ashley to set a minimum goal for creating new music. One new single to release every 6-8 weeks and one new album each year would be a good place to start.

Number Two: Ashley needs to look at her current venues and determine what is or isn’t working.

Let’s look at that four-day tour. Her income on one of those gigs was just $250, and she had to travel two hours each way to make it. As it stands, it’s really not worth the trip. Her other out-of-town gigs were further away but paid significantly more, making them worth her time. And her gigs in town paid well.

Once Ashley has determined which venues aren’t working, she can decide if they need to be cut altogether, or if they just need to be booked differently. The low-paying out-of-town venue on her four-day tour needs to go, or she needs to book additional venues in the same area to make the trip worth her time.

If Ashley cuts venues from her list, she can think about replacing them with new venues, as long as they pay well and expose her to a receptive audience. Touring is another option, but she’ll need to be strategic and selective about where she plays.

This might be a good time for her to hire a professional booking agent. If they can open doors to the right venues and help her organize her performance schedule, a good agent is well worth the money. She should try to negotiate an agreement that keeps her involved in the relationship with the venues, allowing her to personally handle the relationship after an agreed-upon period of time.

In the end, Ashley was partially right. She did need to change things up by expanding her venue options and purging those that don’t work for her. However, she was also missing something that was even more important: the need to make creating new material a priority. Ashley needs to dedicate a significant portion of her time to creative development.

Going on tour with old material will not solve her problem, at least not long term. Getting back to her creative roots will.




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Pay to Play: Good or Bad for Musicians?

Pay to Play: Good or Bad for Musicians?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

When they actually stop and think about it, most people realize that, aside from the big-name artists, musicians don’t get paid much. What they might not realize is just how often artists pay to play gigs.

The concept might sound counter-intuitive and like a bad business plan, but it’s nothing new, and it’s not limited to music. In the business world, the concepts of investing to make a return or spending money to make money are fairly familiar. But is paying to play something artists should do?

Types of Pay to Play

First, you should understand the different types of pay to play. Venues are concerned with their overhead, which they can’t do if your unknown band doesn’t draw many fans. To remedy this, they make opening bands purchase tickets (often at a discounted price) in advance; the bands then sell these tickets at whatever price they want. If they band doesn’t sell enough tickets, the band is the one short the money, meaning they’re paying to play.

Another way smaller bands might pay to play is to “buy on” as an opening act for well-known bands on tours or at festivals. Larger acts require bigger venues, and festivals spread out over several days can be a big investment to put on. To offset the cost of large shows, the venue or festival might ask small or local bands to pay for a slot; the closer to the end of the night (and to the main act), the more that slot costs.

Unlike their standard Friday night bar gig, the band might have to pay to play these large shows or festivals, but the exposure to thousands of new fans and the potential merchandise sales make these pay to play gigs pretty tempting.

Even playing gigs for free isn’t truly free when you consider the time that could’ve been spent at other (paying) gigs and the gas to get there.

The pay to play concept goes further than live shows. Artists might pay to be listed on streaming services, to bid on gigs (especially with online gig-finding sites), to have their music considered by a label, or to enter a contest. As a marketing effort, musicians might also agree to give away product (such as a free download) on their website or through third parties (like the download cards in most Starbucks stores) in hopes of increased exposure and converting those free takers into long-term fans and buyers of other merchandise.

What Should Artists Do?

As nice as it getting paid to make music is, there are times when paying to get gigs might be the right choice. If a gig will truly help you break into a new market or significantly expand your fan base, but requires forking over $50, it might be worth it.

In the end, you should treat your music career like a business. Yes, it will require some investment (in equipment, travel, time, and marketing) and a lot of hard work. Yes, it might take some time to receive a return on that investment. But, if you’re always working for free or paying to play, something needs to change.

We know many artists who argue that they’re musicians because they love it, not because it’s the highest paying job. That’s fine, even admirable, but it doesn’t mean they (or you) have to go broke. There should be a happy medium between starving artist and money-hungry mogul. Part of reaching that happy medium is knowing when to pay to play, and knowing when to say no.

Have you paid to play a gig? What type of gig was it? Did it help or hurt you? Would you do it again or recommend it to other artists?




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Battle of the Bands: What You Should Know About Contests

Battle of Bands: What You Should Know About Contests

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

In a time when grabbing a fan’s attention gets harder each day, when people’s attachment to their smart phones, tablets and computers makes it simultaneously easier and harder to connect with them, when you’re competing against a flood of content and noise from other artists, how is a band supposed to stand out and get actual attention? One way to gain increased exposure and recognition is by entering band contests, which are becoming increasingly common.

Battle of the Bands—Contest Formats

There are a few different ways a contest can be held. The most common are web-based or live. In a web-based contest, you’ll be asked to upload a song (or more commonly, a video) and promote yourself, in effect promoting the contest. In a live contest setting, the setup is very similar to a live show. You’ll be asked to perform a shorter set, and there will be judges that will be watching for the best performance, crowd interaction, song quality, and so on.

Benefits of Band Contests

In addition to reaching new fans, contests can have other benefits. Winning or placing in a contest looks good on your band’s bio. Quite often, the judges are people from the industry with proven track records and lots of pull. Sometimes, contests award recording sessions, the chance to play a big show or on a big tour, or just a substantial amount of cash. All of these things are helpful and useful and good… so why wouldn’t someone want to participate in a contest?

Drawbacks to Band Contests

Contests can have their downfalls as well. If you spent a lot of money on the contest and don’t win, you may feel like you have wasted money that could have been spent on recording a new song, buying newer equipment, or getting better gigs. Additionally, not all contests are as legitimate as they seem; triple check the contest to be sure you’re not walking into a scam.

Where To Find Contests

The Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands is one of the most popular ways to get involved in contests. Their current opportunities including playing at Warped Tour, Epiccenter, Aftershock, Uproar Festival, Crossroads, and Showdown at Cedar Street. The Hard Rock Cafe also hosts a battle of the bands. On a smaller scale, look for local battle of the bands at cities and venues near you. Even if you lose, these can help you gain a  local following.

The ball is in your court; keep an open mind about contests when moving forward.

Have you entered a Battle of the Bands or other contest before? How did it affect your fan base? How did  you do?




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