By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 2 minutes
As a musician, you want to always be trying new ideas for ways to get more fans. Of course, music is subjective and at the end of the day you can begin to feel more like a salesperson and less like an artist. You want your music to be able to speak for itself. Unfortunately, we live in very fickle times, and it can be difficult for even the best musicians to gain any traction.
Here are three ways how to get more fans and boost your musical presence:
Interact with your existing fans
If you’re looking for how to get more fans, you have to engage your existing audience. This means not only setting up accounts on social media platforms, but monitoring and participating in those spheres. You do not want to set up a page and leave it. You are going to want to answer every single post or comment that is made on your social media page (or at least as many as you can) to get results. Do it honestly and quickly. Not only will this help retain existing fans, but the interactions will draw in their networks to increase your fan base.
Give It Away
It might sound totally backward if you’re looking to “sell” units, but another good tactic for how to get new more fans may be to give stuff away. This does not mean you should give away everything all the time. However, the occasional free CD, digital download, poster, or T-shirt with your name on it can help drive demand even faster. Plus, fans like a good contest to win something!
Having a fan page and replying to comments isn’t always enough. Let fans in behind the curtain and bring them along for the ride. Upload short videos—of rehearsal sessions, road trips, or even your performances. Post pictures—from the stage, of getting ready backstage, of fans who have come out to your shows. Create these regularly, and be sure to include them on your social media platforms. Fans will feel like they are sharing the experiences with you, building a deeper loyalty. More loyal fans are more vocal fans, right?
Getting new listeners can be tough. But if you remember these three tips you will be able to get more fans in no time.
Have you put the above tips to work? What were the results for you? What steps have you found that effectively increase your fan base?
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 4 minutes
Sometimes the hometown crowd is the toughest. It’s easy for fans to get burnt out, especially if you play frequently in your city. If you’ve been seeing your local show attendance and interest drop, how can you re-invigorate your home base and pull off a stellar show?
We’ve got five easy tips to make your next hometown show a home run!
1 – Stop Playing
Yes, you read that right. Have you ever spent a week eating nothing but pizza? The next week, if anyone even mentions pizza, you groan in disgust, and probably mutter something along the lines of, “I never want to eat pizza again!”
If you play too often in your home city, your local fans could be experiencing that same feeling. If you play 3 times a week in the same 50 mile radius, your fans are going to get burnt out. Try taking a break from shows for a couple weeks to write or record some new material. Try focusing some of that booking energy on getting a few gigs in the next city over, and building a fan base there.
We’re not saying you should never play your hometown. But by decreasing the frequency of your hometown shows, you will help to create demand for your shows. Then your fans can get excited about when you do play in your city.
2 – Create an Event
I’m not talking about a Facebook event, although you should probably create one of those too. I’m talking about making your concert special. Some obvious events are a CD release show, or a hometown show celebrating the end of a tour, but there are almost endless possibilities for creating events.
Depending on your band and brand, you could come up with some pretty crazy events to get people excited about your shows. Try a “Christmas in July” show, and grab a couple other bands to play some holiday tunes in the middle of summer (this is also a great time to start rehearsing and recording your new Christmas album!). You could do a birthday show for a band member, or a birthday show for your drummer’s 15 year old pug! The possibilities are endless.
If you want a less frivolous event, you could partner with a local charity and donate proceeds from the show. You could also use a concert to film a live music video. Invite all your fans to come out so they can be the stars of your video. In addition to creating buzz for the show itself, this is also a great way to get some free promo, because people are more likely to share the video if they are in it!
3 – Try an Out of the Box Venue
Everyone has seen artists play at the local downtown club. But there are lots of other places where you can perform that can drum up some additional interest. House concerts are the obvious choice for this, but there are many other places people don’t expect to see a live show. Why not contact the city to see if you could find a way to play an acoustic show while standing in a fountain? Why not be the first band to play a show in a small town museum or a fitness studio? Shows in odd places will have their own unique challenges, but the novelty of the show might be the kick in the pants your fans need to get out to a show!
4 – Create Exclusivity
Scarcity inspires excitement. If your fans will spread the word, a secret show could be a great tool. Or a show in a venue half the size of what you usually play. You could try only offering tickets to people who subscribe to your email list, or who retweet your last music video. This concept also applies to tip number one! The less shows you play in your hometown, the more excited people are going to be about coming out to see you!
5 – Bring Your Fans In
Everyone likes to feel like they are a part of something. Bringing your fans into the process of planning and executing a show can help get them excited about attending and bringing their friends. You can get fans to give input on the set list, or the band’s wardrobe for the evening. You could conduct a poll to decide which never-before-heard-hilarious-tour-story you’re going to tell onstage. You could even go a step further and have a contest to invite a few fans out for a post-show dinner and announce the winner at the show.
Have you experienced hometown burnout? Have any great tips to get fans in your homebase excited again? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 8 minutes
So you think that Pinterest might be a good tool to keep in your proverbial marketing tool belt? Great!
Let’s get into the practical ways you can effectively use Pinterest to connect with fans and increase traffic on your website.
Creating Your Profile
The first step is to sign up for a Pinterest Account. There are now two types of Pinterest accounts: personal and business. The business accounts operate exactly like personal Pinterest accounts, except you get free access to analytics. This is a valuable tool once you learn how to use it, so I recommend signing up as a business account. If you already have a personal Pinterest account, you can convert it into a business account. However, unless everyone and everything connected to your personal account fits with your brand as an artist, I recommend that you keep your personal and business accounts separate.
After you sign up, you will confirm your account through email.
Once your account has been confirmed, you will need to edit your general profile information. To do so:
Click on your user name in the top right to get to your profile.
Click the “edit profile” button just below your name.
Upload a profile picture. The picture should be in focus and not pixelated, easily identifiable, and tied to your brand as an artist. This lets followers instantly recognize a pin as yours.
Add a link to your website. This is important, as you are on Pinterest for marketing purposes. Without this link, people who discover you through Pinterest have no easy way of finding out more about you.
Choose a custom domain for your Pinterest account. Consistency is key, so try to keep your custom domain as close to your name, website, or other social media custom domains as possible.
And that’s it! Your profile is created. Now, let’s make it a strong profile! How do you do that? You add content… the right content.
Building Your Boards
After you’ve edited your basic information, you should begin to create boards. To create a board, simply go to your profile page and click on the “Create Board” icon on the left.
Your boards are where you will pin your content. Topical boards are the best way to organize your content (this is helpful when people are browsing your pins to find content or learn more about you).
When creating your boards, it’s important to think ahead to the content you will pin on them. It’s also important to keep this mantra in mind: Get personal.
You’re here to genuinely connect with fans through shared interests and to give them a glimpse of who you truly are. If all you do is promote yourself, you have missed out on the most useful parts of Pinterest. Your pins, therefore, should reflect who you are as much as (if not more than) what you do.
The key is to strike the right balance.
For boards reflecting your personal interests, some good ideas (topics that consistently trend on Pinterest) are recipes, fashion, DIY projects, and art. If you’re personally interested in something, create a board around that topic.
In terms of boards for marketing your music, you can create boards for your music and videos, tour posters, promotional pictures, live shows, pictures with fans… pretty much anything that can be translated into a visual medium, you can create a board for.
You can (and should!) also have boards that tread the line between your music and personal tastes. Create a board that shows your fans the inspiration behind your music; it could include quotes, poetry, art, or photography. You can even create inspiration boards for specific release, whether a whole album, a single, or a music video.
You can also create shared boards that your fans can pin to. Want to know what your music inspires your fans to do or create? Create a board for fan art. Not sure what to wear for your next music video or photo shoot? Ask your followers! Not only will you get great ideas, but since they were engaged with planning, they will be more likely to share the finished product.
Katy Perry’s page is a good example of fan interaction. Many of her boards allow fans to pin their own content to them. This helps her fans to feel like they are involved with Katy on a personal level. However, Katy’s profile is mostly self-promotion, which is not the way we recommend independent artists use Pinterest. Personal and authentic content is the best way to add and keep followers.
Branding Your Boards
Your personal branding doesn’t have to stop at your website or your profile picture. Pinterest allows for a lot of flexibility and customization. You can create boards around any theme you want, you can name the boards whatever you want, and you can set the main image for each board. Play around with this to tie in your existing branding.
Actress/Pop Singer Vanessa Hudgens does a really good job of consistently branding her boards. Her board titles are simple, and she has uploaded a custom cover photo for each board using the same font and style.
Adding Pins to Your Boards
Your content on Pinterest is the point of connection between you and your fans, so make sure that it is well thought out. Remember that people follow you because they are interested in who you are. Show them that with your content.
You can do this with a good mix of original content and repins. If you blog regularly, pin the images from your blog posts. Repin recipes of what you want to eat for dinner alongside an original pin of your new music video. Pin tips for caring for a sore throat and maintaining health; after all, you as a singer should know how to care for your voice. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, re-pin recipes you want to try alongside photos of drinks from coffee shops you visited on the road.
One benefit to pinning original content is that it gives you greater opportunity to drive traffic back to your website. (Pinterest is well-known for its click-through rate.) This works best if you pin directly from your website or point people back your website, where they can buy your music or a T-shirt or get signed up for your mailing list. You can also pin from your other social media accounts. This isn’t as ideal as sending traffic directly to your site, but it could increase your opportunities to interact with your fans. We mentioned Vanessa Hudgens for her branding earlier, but she also does a great job of directing the traffic back to her.
You should also brand your original content. If you have a logo, place that logo somewhere unobtrusive in the picture you’re sharing. That way, even if the link to your original page gets lost, people still know where the content they liked came from.
If you are repinning content that others uploaded, be conscious of what you are pinning. Respect other people’s work. Just like you don’t want someone else to get credit for your songs, a food blogger doesn’t want someone else to get credit for the chocolate cake recipe they worked hard to create. Make sure the picture or recipe links back to the site where it originated. Also be sure that the creator is open to having their content pinned (i.e., look for a “Pin This” prompt on their website or for original pins they have uploaded directly). We’ll use Vanessa Hudgens as an example again. On her Music board, almost all the content is pinned directly from the artist’s website or social media accounts. This drives the traffic back to those artist, giving them credit for their original content. When used correctly, Pinterest is great way to cross promote, and other independent business will likely be grateful for your appreciation of their content.
Adding Quality Content
Pinterest is primarily a visual medium. Good images are key to increasing engagement. Text should be legible. Photographs shouldn’t be out of focus or pixelated, and they should be well-lit and visually interesting. What does this look like in practice? Instead of pinning a photo of your new merch shirt on a hanger or sitting in the box, ask a friend or fan to model it… but go to a pretty location with good lighting (often indirect lighting) instead of your garage or spare bedroom. Got a new album coming out? Take your favorite line or two and turn them into a gorgeous graphic. If you like it enough, it might be something you turn into an art print to sell as merch!
On a side note: make sure that when you are creating these graphics, that you are not using copyrighted material. You can gets lots of great stock photos at decent prices from sites like fotolia.com and Shutter Stock. Or, if you have a photographer or graphic designer friend, ask if they want to collaborate and make graphics that both of you can use.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 6 minutes
I have an idea of what you might be thinking: Pinterest? For my music? Isn’t Pinterest for girls planning their weddings?
As a musician, using Pinterest for your band may sound a little strange, but just give me a minute. There is a chance you are missing out on a great opportunity to market your music.
If you’ve never used Pinterest before, its concept is simple. Users create topical pages called “boards” and add content to their boards by “pinning” pictures, videos, or audio files. Much like bulletin boards of the past, a user’s pins are a mishmash of images from their own life, items they want to purchase, things they want to try, places they want to go, and things that inspire them, spark their creativity, or simply make them happy.
Unlike a private bulletin board, Pinterest is a very social system. You can find and follow other users by searching by name or by linking to your other social media accounts. A user’s pins show up in the home feed of everyone who follows them; likewise, the user can see the pins on boards of users they follow. When following other users, you can follow one of their boards, all of their boards, or only their boards that interest you. Most boards are curated by only their creator, but boards can be shared among multiple users, allowing for easy collaboration on projects. Users can also create private boards, accessible only to their creator. Lastly, users can comment on pins, repin a pin on their own board, and send pins directly to other users.
Since its creation five years ago, Pinterest has gained millions of users. Its purely visual format is simple, the content is inherently shareable, and it allows users to collaborate easily. What’s not to like?
Pinterest has an interesting—almost niche—user base. About 75% of their users are female, and most users are between the ages of 24 and 34. The most popular topics on the social network are food-related (recipes) and DIY projects. Don’t be fooled, though, into thinking Pinterest can’t be relevant to you or your music. There is a vast array of content. Yes, you can find step-by-step instructions to frosting the perfect cupcake. It’s right there next to tips on turning wood pallets into coffee tables, makeup tutorials, and the fall line for Marc Jacobs, which in turn are mixed in with humorous memes, pretty pictures of handwritten song lyrics, celebrity snapshots, and photographs of classic cars.
Regardless of what they’re looking for, a large portion of Pinterest users choose the site as their go-to search engine. Which makes it a little less surprising that close to 90% of “Pinners” have purchased something that they pinned.
Pinterest for Musicians
For the musician, Pinterest has two main benefits:
What makes someone really truly love a song? Good melodies help. An interesting phrase can catch someone’s attention. But, chances are, someone loves a song because that song makes them feel understood. Listeners feel like they share an experience or emotion with the artist.
If used correctly, Pinterest can be as helpful in building connections with your fans as your best songs are.
Pinterest is a great way for your fans to get to know you and vice versa. Your customized, topical boards let your fans have a sneak peak into your life. Common interests and tastes may turn a casual listener into a real fan who is ready to support someone they feel close to. Chances are, if they already like the music that you make, they will have some other similar tastes that can be a jumping off point for a strong connection between you and your existing fans.
You can also see the things that your fans like. If a particular style is consistently repinned by your fans, you might think about adding a product with a similar style to your merch table. Tailoring your products to the tastes of the people who will potentially buy those products can mean more merch sold and more money in your pocket.
Pinterest is also a great way to reach new people who might enjoy your music. If you have thoughtful content on the site that interests your followers and prompts them to share it, their networks will see it. If the new viewers are interested and look into the pin (i.e., follow it back to the source), they might discover someone new to follow (you!) and something new to like (your music!).
Pinterest is an aspirational website. Its users pin content that reflects something they hope to be, or do, or buy.
Pinterest is also inherently viral. The vast majority of content on Pinterest is “re-pinned,” meaning that people are sharing existing content rather than generating original content. Because of this, pinned content stays around for much longer than a Facebook post or a tweet, and something that you uploaded months ago still has the potential of being repinned.
Lastly, Pinterest is effective at sales conversions. Pinterest beats out other social media platforms in terms of links leading to online purchases. It also has more users click through to the source site than any other social media platform.
What does this mean for bands using Pinterest? A few things:
Your content should resonate with fans, genuinely hitting on something they hope to be, do, or buy.
Sharing existing content isn’t bad, but uploading original content is better. With original content, you can link to content on your website, driving traffic back there. You can’t really do that with someone else’s images, video, or audio. Additionally, original content is something that your followers haven’t likely seen before… which means they haven’t already pinned it and can do exactly that.
Your profile should link to your website. That way, anyone curious about who exactly is pinning this amazing content has a way to find out more.
Keep the above in mind with pinning, and you will likely see your website’s traffic and your sales increase.
As With All Marketing
As with all forms of marketing, the first step is to know your audience. Pinterest isn’t for everyone. If your audience is mostly 55-year-old males, Pinterest probably isn’t the best social media platform to use to market yourself. However, if your target audience is 20 or 30-somethings or largely female, it may well be worth the time it takes for you to establish and run an account.
In the end, you have to be smart about the tools that you use to market yourself and make sure that the time you spend on any marketing endeavor is worth your efforts.
Want to learn more about how to use Pinterest as an effective tool to market your music? Check back later this week for practical tips to build an engaging, effective profile.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 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.
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.
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.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 5 minutes
We like to stay up-to-date on music industry news. It would be foolish not to. We get daily reports from a number of websites and news conglomerates, and there are certain terms that we track. This can mean that when something big happens, we hear a lot about it in a very short window of time.
Yesterday, we heard a lot.
Simply put, an artist chose to remove her back catalog from a streaming service.
It probably happens quite often, although not nearly as often as artists announce that their music is now available on streaming services. But, judging by the flood of news bulletins in our inbox and trending topics on social media and legit news sources, yesterday’s announcement was a little different and a big, BIG deal. So, what is the difference?
Well, the artist in question is Taylor Swift. And the streaming service? Spotify.
That’s right. Spotify has neither Taylor’s newest album, which debuted last week and was never offered on the streaming service, nor any of her previous albums available for its users.
Whether or not you personally are a fan of her music, it’s hard to deny the enormous success and even larger fan base that Taylor has. If those fans can’t get Taylor’s music on Spotify, they might start looking somewhere else for Taylor’s music… which could be cause for alarm for Spotify and could explain theirefforts to bring her back.
There’s abundant speculation about why Taylor Swift has removed her back catalog, including an alleged effort to boost her label’s sales figures before the label makes itself available for purchase. We don’t want to speak for the songstress, though, so we’ll allow her words from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal to speak on her behalf:
“Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically… Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”
Taylor, we couldn’t agree more.
Why You Should Care
We’ve said before how we feel about streaming music, but we’ll say it again. It’s great for fans, since they get often customizable and sometimes unlimited access to music for free or almost free. Based on the fact that Spotify and Pandora have struggled to turn a profit, and that Pandora attempted to have Congress enforce lower payments to artists, we’d be reasonably safe to argue that streaming services are an unprofitable, unsustainable business model. Yet, these services are still around. How are they surviving? Well, someone is picking up the financial shortfall. And that someone is every musician who gives his or her music away on these services.
Yes, those are the same musicians who spend hours writing the music and lyrics, weeks rehearsing and perfecting the songs, time and money recording, mixing, and mastering the album, and then pay more to market and promote their newest releases. Musicians—whose gifts and talent result in the product (music) that streaming services need—are paying to get their music on the service, only to wait on hundreds of thousands of streams (if not more) to recover their investment. While not free, the payments to musicians are so low that the music might as well be free. Additionally, since streaming also impacts their ability to sell music to fans, musicians struggle to recover financially.
Why do musicians give away their product for almost nothing? We hear a lot of reasons: In hopes of exposure. Because everyone else is. Because it’s what is expected by their fans. Because their labels make them. Because they don’t think there’s another way.
But there is.
What You Can Do
We think it’s insane that musicians let others profit off of their hard work while they struggle to make ends meet and debate continuing what they were born to do. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Like Taylor Swift said, we think that, “Music is art, and art is important and rare [and] valuable.” With that in mind, here are some changes you can make.
First and foremost: stop sending sales and profits to everyone but yourself! Sell your product on your own website, or on a platform that doesn’t rip you off and does share your own customers’ information with you.
Stop giving it away! If you want new listeners to explore your music before they buy (how kind of you!), offer previews of songs (meaning, not the whole song) or music videos on your website. Or, exchange one valuable item for another: one of your songs for your fan’s contact information. If you feel that streaming is a necessary part of your music marketing plan, then try posting just a single song or a small sampling of your work. Hopefully, this limited sampling will whet the appetite of listeners, who will then come to you to purchase your music.
Believe that your music, and the time and energy you’ve put into it, is valuable. You can’t ask your fans to pay for something if you don’t see value in it. They aren’t just paying for a file, whether digital or on a piece of plastic. They’re paying for your creativity, your time, and your energy. If that means nothing to you, it will certainly mean nothing to them.
While Taylor’s motives for pulling her music from Spotify have yet to be seen (if they ever come to light), we can only hope that other artists will see some logic in her actions and decide to take their career and their livelihoods back into their own hands.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 1 minute
Last week, we were thrilled to host a webcast concert for one of our local clients, Luke Wade. We brought in a team to run the video and audio for him, opened our doors, and enjoyed the evening with Luke’s friends, family, and fellow musicians… as well as his fans watching live from around the world.
It was a great way for Luke to connect to existing and new fans who aren’t quite local enough to see him play in person. The Q&A session, eye contact with the main camera, and live audience contributed to the sense of a cozy, intimate performance. Which is good, because that’s exactly what it was.
Luke’s doing another webcast this coming Monday, and we know he’d be thrilled if you tuned in!
Videography by Cameron Smith. Audio Engineering by Damon Mapp.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 8 minutes
Often, communicating with fans is like walking a tightrope. If your balance tips ever so slightly to one side or the other—too frequent, too seldom, too polished, too sloppy—you lose them. They get annoyed, or forget you, or feel like they’re being spammed with smarmy marketing, or just don’t take you seriously. Finding that happy middle ground is a struggle.
So, when I saw an artist put out an amazing letter to his fans, I sat up and paid attention. Then, I decided to share it with you.
About the Artist
We’ll take a minute to introduce you to Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves. Understanding who he is as an artist makes it easier to understand where he’s coming from in his fan communication.
Shakey’s music is a fusion of folk, blues, and rock, at once familiar and distinct. His lyrics—packed with emotion and evocative imagery, and weaving fantastical stories—capture basic elements of humanity: love, lust, hope, despair, bitterness, folly, rage, regret. His voice is haunting and soft one moment, then rich and impassioned, then gravelly and road-weary.
The same shifts in his voice are reflected in his songs, which slip from one tempo and dynamic to another. He changes pace and volume, dropping off just when listeners think the song is about to peak, then building it all up again. What a way to keep listeners’ attention!
Most musicians sing or play an instrument, or do a little of both. But this guy? He takes it to a whole new level. Often playing as a one-man band—handling the guitar and vocals and a (likely homemade) kick drum/tambourine combo, conveniently packaged in an old-fashioned hard case suitcase—Shakey brings his music to life. He embodies it, far more than any other musician I’ve ever watched. As he carries out these four parts of his songs, his body sways, his hands slide, his fingers press, his head nods, his legs dance, and his feet tap. There’s not a single part of him that isn’t contributing to the performance. It’s mesmerizing to watch.
To recap: he’s young and talented, he’s pretty damn unique, he knows when to drive it home hard and when to gently caress with his music, and he can handle four parts at once. Impressive.
In July of this year (late July, appropriately), Shakey sent an email to his fans. Calling it a newsletter or press release doesn’t do it justice. “Love letter” might paint a better picture. EDIT: The letter is no longer present on his site, be we discuss the importance of it below.
Know Your Audience
There are two ways that Shakey does this.
First, the letter is intended for an audience already familiar with Shakey. He wasn’t trying to reach people who hadn’t heard of him, he wasn’t trying to impress the general public, and he wasn’t trying to make a pitch to a team of venture capitalists about the profit margins and sustainability of his career. He was simply reaching out to people who had supported him previously.
These are people who had attended his shows, people who had bought his music, people who likely listened to his songs until they knew every dip, crescendo, tambourine crash, guitar lick, and hushed lyric. Some are intimately familiar with his work; some are likely just casual listeners. But none are strangers, and all are supporters.
He addresses that audience with an appropriate degree of familiarity. By no means is it a formal letter or a lifeless sales pitch. Like a letter you’d get from an old friend (if people still sent letters, that is), it exudes personality, a sense of shared history, and camaraderie. Not only is his tone casual and friendly, but he directly acknowledges the role that the reader has played in supporting him.
Second, he actually knows his audience. He knows their names and email addresses, knows that they’ve purchased his music before, knows that they are likely more interested in updates from him than some random person on the street. They aren’t random likes or followers on some social media network (although many probably do like or follow him); they are actual contacts. At some point (likely the point of sale) he gained each fan’s contact information. That is extremely valuable data, and requesting it was an incredibly wise move for him to make. Putting that data to use (by sending this letter) was an even wiser move.
Tell Your Story
Shakey’s songs tell stories. His lyrics paint pictures, and there’s a natural ebb and flow that his lyrics, dynamics, and tempo build. Those same characteristics are present in the first half of his letter.
The beginning of his letter focuses on expressing gratitude and fortifying the previous connection that the reader had with Shakey’s music. He thanks the reader, reminds them of their previous help, and then says exactly why he’s thankful for their support: “[it] has allowed me to survive,” “[it] has been essential in my understanding of what is most important as I navigate this terrible and glorious industry,” “[it is] enabling artists like me to help lead that charge.”
The next paragraph tells readers what Shakey has been up to. He launches into his story with words suggestive of bar stool retellings of epic legends: “Since the days of recording Roll the Bones in various living rooms on questionable equipment…” It’s a fanciful way of saying “I know my first album wasn’t necessarily recorded or produced as well as it could have been,” and it segues nicely into his next thought: “I turned my Austin home into a studio.” So, that’s what he’s done with the money from supporters! Good! Not that questionable living room recordings don’t have a charm of their own, but converting your home into a proper studio shows a good amount of dedication to your craft. That implied dedication is confirmed by the final thought of the paragraph: he has new material.
Take Care of Business—Without Being a Gold-digger
This letter isn’t just to thank supporters and wax poetic about their shared history. (Although, personally, I don’t have a problem receiving those letters from him.) Nope. Shakey has a purpose for writing, and he is sure to include it.
Shifting to the present tense (and out of storytelling mode), Shakey announces that he has a new album in the works. He discusses the album’s anticipated release date, its merits (full platform, bigger sound, more collaboration), where it can be ordered (with a link), and why it should be pre-ordered (there’s a digital download as an incentive). He also lists new tour dates (again, with a link), hoping that fans interested enough in his music would be willing to come see him perform.
It’s a lot of information to present to fans in two short paragraphs, but the way the words pour out and rush each other along suggests that the writer was brimming with excitement over finally being able to share this huge news with others. Like someone who’s ridden a new rollercoaster and gushes to his friends about how awesome it was and how much fun they’ll have when they ride it together, he’s thrilled about this and wants to share that feeling with readers. That excitement keeps this announcement from reading like a smarmy, greed-driven, lifeless, and boring sales pitch.
If you’ve seen him perform, watched video of his concerts, or read his updates on his website or social media profiles, it’s hard to get the feeling that Shakey’s an elitist musician. He seems pretty casual, down to earth, and genuine, full of admiration for fellow musicians and with a healthy mix of humility and confidence in his craft. His letter reads the same way.
There’s a good dose of Texas slang: “Howdy, y’all”. To keep things casual, he uses informal, even improper, language: “I really really really couldn’t have done this without your support.” By sharing his personal feelings, the letter has a sense of intimacy and sincerity: “from the bottom of my heart”, “allowed me to survive”, “I am thrilled”, “I hope you are as excited as I am”, “You keep me flexible, motivated, and sane (ish)”, “for that I am forever happily in your debt.” There’s a bit of self-deprecating humor in his jabs at his previous recording process and, at the end of the letter, his sanity. However, the acknowledgement of changes in the industry and his efforts to “lead that charge” erase any doubt of him being another industry lemming; there’s fire and passion in his blood, and a good head on his shoulders.
Argue with the style or errors all you want. The letter comes across with life in it… specifically, the life of this Shakey Graves persona. That’s hard to do, yet so important.
Please don’t mistake my admiration of his style and music for idolization. I know Shakey isn’t perfect. For example, although I’ve been a fan since the beginning of the year, that July letter was the first contact he’s made since my initial purchase. That’s not ideal. (Although since that letter, I’ve received another, so he’s improving in that aspect!) Nor do I expect his music to be everyone’s cup of tea.
But this letter? Flaws and all, it’s a shining example of striking that balance between commercial and genuine, formal and fun, sincere and stylized. For those reasons, I thought it worth sharing.
P.S. – Shakey, if you happen to read this, our door is open. Fort Worth isn’t too far away from Austin. We’d love to have you stop by!
Download cards can be a great way to get your music out to people. But, when your band is choosing cards, you need to choose wisely. Not all download cards are the same.
NationWide Disc recognized that musicians need better download cards, cards with options and cards that help musicians. That’s why they created cards that:
Collect Your Fans’ Email Addresses
How does this work? By logging in to your account, you can instantly access your download stats, including the email addresses of anyone who has used one of your download codes! It’s a simple and effective way to grow your fan list.
The best part? It’s free! There are no setup costs, no annual fees, and no hosting costs. Really…It’s FREE.
Let You Get Creative With What You Offer
You’re not restricted to an MP3; we also accept MP4s, JPGs, PDFs, and zipped files.
This means that, if you want to think outside the box and offer your fans ringtones, artwork, wallpapers, band photos, or full albums, you can.
Need some ideas here? If you’re a boy band with a fan base of enthusiastic teenage girls, take a few official band photos and offer them as phone wallpapers. If you’re a singer/songwriter, try offering a pretty photograph with your poetic lyrics on top as a desktop background, or turn your lyrics into a unique printable piece of art. If you have an iconic logo or kick-ass album art, consider offering that as wallpaper for phones or tablets. Or, take a page out of Coldplay’s playbook and offer downloadable copies of hand-written lyric sheets.
Use Them To Market and Sell Your Music In-Person and Online
We give you options. Get your codes printed on physical cards, or have the codes delivered to you digitally.
Physical download cards can be sold (which we’d recommend for a full album and, perhaps, for singles) or given away (for example, included with a purchase or handed out to fans after a show). Download codes can be shared with your fans online (think “To access this fan-exclusive single, visit NWdownload.com and enter the following code…”).
You can also choose between Static Codes and Dynamic Codes:
Static Codes: This means you purchase one code that has unlimited downloads. This option is great for offering free downloads. You still collect the email addresses, and fans can share your code via social channels or by word of mouth.
Dynamic Codes: You can purchase an unlimited number of unique codes. However, each code is only good for one download. This option is ideal for sold codes, where you don’t want the code shared with anyone besides the buyer.
Are Easy And Free
We made it super easy for you to set things up. There’s no hosting, no coding, and no software required. You simply purchase the codes or cards online, log in on the NWDownload site, and upload your file. You can send fans to the site with your download code, you can hand out or sell the cards in person, or you can do both.
NWDownload will do all the hosting for you, and they’ll do it for free.
What can be better than that?
Order Your Download Cards or Download Codes from NationWide Disc
Visti NWDownload, then click Artist Login at the bottom of the page
Enter your Username and Password, or Register as a new user
Register on NWDownload as an Artist
Once you're logged in, you can access your email addresses or upload a file
By NationWide SourceEstimated 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.