Category: Independent Music

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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Protect Your Band: Insure Your Gear

Protect Your Band: Insure Your Gear

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

With everything on your plate as a musician—and there’s a lot: songwriting, recording, booking gigs, connecting with fans, managing social media, building your website, finding music distributors, looking at record labels, selling your music—you’re more than busy and a little distracted. That’s all the more reason to make sure you’re covered in case the worst happens.

The Worst That Could Happen

“What’s the worst that could happen?” you ask. Well, since you asked, let’s go there…

Your band is doing well: playing regularly, recording a few tracks for your newest album, booking a small tour. After a gig, you decide to go celebrate with friends before the band leaves town. All the instruments and equipment are loaded into your van—the guitars, bass, drums, keyboard, mics, amps, the iPad and audio interface you used to record that night’s gig, the band leader’s laptop and notebook of song lyrics, all the cables and pedals and boards, and your band merch. You head over to the all-night diner along the highway, and when you emerge two (or four) hours later, the back window is shattered and everything is gone.

Now what?

The items were in a car, so auto-insurance would cover them, right? Wrong. Most auto policies won’t cover personal belongings stolen from a vehicle (although they might cover your broken back window). If you’re lucky, your homeowners or renters insurance might cover the missing property. However, there are often limitations on electronics and high-ticket items; additionally, if the insurance company believes the items were used for business purposes (which your band might qualify as), you might be out of luck there as well. (FYI: this might also be true if the items were stored at your home but in a room/building dedicated to the band/business.)

Again, now what?

There are steps you can take to decrease your chances of facing a similar situation, but, to be bluntly honest, it could still happen. Your best bet is to be prepared for the worst situation so that it’s only a headache and not a game-changer. The best way to be prepared is to properly insure your band’s gear. Here are several companies for musical instrument insurance:

Heritage Insurance Services

Heritage Insurance Services is one of the best in the music industry. They are very knowledgeable about instruments and the needs of musicians. They offer worldwide coverage from the typical threats for the instrument itself as well as the related gear (cases, recording equipment, accessories, amps, etc). Heritage even provides insurance for shipment or travel. However, they do not insure laptops or iPods.

Clarion Musical Instrument Insurance

With over 40 years of experience, another leader in the musical instrument insurance business is Clarion Musical Instrument Insurance. They offer insurance for professionally-used instruments against standard threats (breakage, earthquake, flood, etc) regardless of where in the world the instrument is. One nice feature is their Business Interruption Endorsement, which will help cover lost wages from gigs  cancelled because of instrument damage or theft.

Music Pro Insurance

Again, this company offers worldwide insurance against unintentional damage, disaster, and theft for your instruments and equipment.  Coverage starts as low as $150, which is a great deal for the peace of mind provided.

Choosing an Insurance Company and Policy

Contact several musical instrument insurers to be sure you’re getting the right coverage for you and your band. It also can’t hurt to call your homeowners insurance company to see if they offer an insurance policy for musical instruments. Regardless of the company, be sure to clarify that the instruments are used for performances and the type of music you perform. Also, ask whether it’s possible (or advisable) for your band to insure your instruments and equipment collectively.

The loss or damage of your band’s instruments and equipment can be a nightmare. Without the proper insurance, your band would have to rebuild from scratch, requiring a heavy investment of funds without your main method of making money. This could force even a successful band to fold. Instead, the right insurance policy could let your band get back on track quickly and easily.

Does your band have insurance? Is it collective or spread across the individual members? How did you pick your insurance company and policy? If you don’t have insurance, what’s your emergency plan?

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Five Great Indie Labels You Should Know

Five Great Indie Labels You Should Know

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

In the music world, there are as many opinions on record labels, their importance, and their benefits as there are artists. Some people see them as money-sucking heartless money-takers, but that opinion can be a little biased. Just a bit.

Regardless of your opinion on labels, the truth is that changes in the music industry have not left record labels unaffected. Factors like media distribution and artist recruitment and payment have resulted in major labels merging or closing. The same factors have also made room for the emergence of a multitude of independent, or indie, labels.

If you’re curious about this newer breed of record label, here are five indie labels that you should know about:

Rhymesayers Entertainment

A hip-hop based indie label, Rhymesayers Entertainment began in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1995. It was founded by four members with background and experience in the music industry, including the two members of Atmosphere (which is, of course, one of the acts signed to the label). Other artists on this label include Brother Ali and Aesop Rock. Since 2008, the label has put on a huge annual music festival in Minnesota.

Glassnote Records

Established in 2007, Glassnote focuses on Indie, Folk, Alt-Rock, and Hip Hop artists. They released the debut album for Phoenix, as well as albums for Mumford & Sons, Childish Gambino, and Two Door Cinema Club. The company has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, and London.

Rough Trade Records

Rough Trade Records was founded all the way back in 1978 by Geoff Travis. You may be surprised by some of the artists this indie label has worked with:  The Smiths, The Strokes, Belle and Sebastian, Alabama Shakes, Arcade Fire, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and My Morning Jacket, to name a few. Rough Trade Records is based in London.


In 1999, Syd Butler (bassist of Les Savy Fav) began Frenchkiss to release his band’s second record. Besides working with his own band, the label has discovered several other great New York bands. These include indie giants Local Natives, The Hold Steady, The Antlers, and Passion Pit. The label keeps a small roster to ensure quality records. It has also expanded to offer distribution (for other indie labels) and publishing options.

Neon Gold

Neon Gold has a solid understanding of what good music is as well as foresight into which acts will take off. The indie label, based in both New York and London, signs acts that get major attention. This includes Gotye, Ellie Goulding, and Marina and the Diamonds; they also released Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead” single. Oh, and one of the label heads fronts MS MR. Definitely keep an eye on these guys!

The music industry is still changing, and the future of record labels is unclear. For now, it looks as though indie labels will continue to gain power and influence, opening the industry up even more. This might mean that independent bands have a better chance now than ever before.

Have you worked with these labels before? How did it go? What other indie labels should musicians know more about?

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Indie Music: Musicians and the Radio

Independent Musicians and the Radio

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

It is extremely important for up and coming or local musicians to be actively involved in their own music distribution. One way to get your music to a wider audience is to pursue airtime on public and local radio stations. Below are some tips for making that happen.

Go Public

If you’re a relatively undiscovered artist, a great way to break onto the airways is through public radio. National Public Radio (NPR) is a nation-wide syndicated radio format that is carried by many local public radio stations. There are a number of music-related programs associated with NPR, the most notable of which is All Songs Considered. A feature on an NPR program could mean national recognition.

College radio stations are another option. While college radio stations are often public radio, some do not carry the NPR programming. The formats for each station will vary. For a list of stations in your area, visit this website. Airtime on these college stations would be more localized than on one with NPR programming, but any airtime is good.

Think Local

Because commercial stations are paid for by ads, listenership matters. These stations might not be as willing to play an unknown artist and risk losing listeners (and ad dollars with them). However, just because it may be a bit more difficult to get your unsigned, new music onto a commercial radio station, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you have good ties with a local venue, try getting them to support you with the station. Better yet, go in together on an ad mentioning an upcoming gig and have the station play one of your songs after the ad runs.

General Pointers

It is vital to establish relationships with the people you’re trying to get to play your music. No matter the station, know your recipient. Don’t submit your music to the DJ if it should go to the station manager or programming director.

Also, it’s important to listen to your music and pick the target stations and their programs wisely. Know the station, their different programs, and the type of music they play. Be sure that yours fits their niche. If you write AOR top 40 style pop, sending your music to a hip hop station doesn’t make much sense.

Music distribution is tough. You’re going to face a lot of rejection and you might think that you’re sending your work off to a vortex that you never hear back from again. But there is nothing more rewarding than getting that break and having your own music be played for everyone to hear.

Has your music been played on the radio? What type of station was it, and what steps did you take to make that happen? How did it help your music career?

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The Price of Hits: Competing with Big Labels

The Price of Hits: How Can Independent Artists Compete with Big Labels?

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

For independent artists attempting to make it big in the music scene, there is an obvious and daunting obstacle to overcome: the music machine. In the hands of major record labels, this machine is focused on a formulaic production of art. Generally, the machine favors proven winners over cultivating new talent and focuses on safe returns on investment instead of risk-laden creativity. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Music Machine’s Formula

The time, financing, and resources put up by the machine can discourage musicians just getting their footing. Some reports put total financial investments at upwards of a million dollars for just one potential hit song. That massive figure includes sourcing a team of producers, songwriters, and lyricists who collaborate on creating the songs; then, the actual recording process takes place. Once the songs are recorded, they must be distributed and marketed, which includes creating collateral material (music videos, ringtones, etc) and sending the artist on the road to promote the song and perform. Sometimes the formula works, and the song is a hit. Sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s a costly failure.

Independent Artists

As an independent artist, you may look at the machine and think there is no way to succeed against the machine. Relax. As daunting as the machine is, the music industry has never been so accessible to the average musician.

First, you don’t have to invest a million dollars to make a hit track. You do need talent, timing, and hard work; you need to think like a business. If you’re writing your own music, you don’t need to hire teams of songwriters. You might want a producer or manager for guidance. You can find good (even great) studios at a fraction of the machine’s cost, or use the many software programs and hi-def audio equipment available to record, mix, and master your own music. You can promote your band’s gigs and upcoming releases at a relatively low cost using your band’s website and the many social media platforms available. For the best impact, get your music in front of the right people as often as possible. You can also find and set up the distribution channels that best suit your band’s needs.

Second, define success for your music career. Is success making millions on each single, or is it simply sharing your passion for your music with a dedicated fan base through performances and sales of your songs? For the best results, keep making your art the priority.

How do you, as an independent artist, compete against the music industry machine? Do you think it’s possible to compete? Do you focus on putting out a record-breaking hit song, or have you defined success differently?

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