Category: Music Marketing

Taylor Swift, Spotify, and the Musical Food Chain Myth

Taylor Swift, Spotify, and the Musical Food Chain Myth

By Doria Roberts - Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

by Doria Roberts
© 2014 Doria Roberts/Chatterbox Blues

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” –Alice Walker

I cannot tell you how happy I am that the conversation about Taylor Swift and Spotify is happening. Maybe people will start listening to what independent artists like me and my peers have been saying for years now.

A little background…

For those who don’t know me, I’ve been a indie musician by choice for 22 years. In 1999, I was chosen to perform at Lilith Fair and quit my day job the following Monday. I attracted several major labels, but ultimately, I walked away because I felt the industry was not going to be supportive of me, the business model was almost laughable for a new artist with little leverage and an insidious law called the Work For Hire Copyright Law had been passed that year, which prevented copyright ownership from reverting back to artists and remained with record labels in perpetuity. Like, that means forever. Luckily, Sheryl Crow and Don Henley went to Capitol Hill and had it repealed, but, by then, I was determined not to be become a cog and had committed to my full time life as an artist.

And, you know, I had good run of it…

Fast forward to 2008 when everything was crashing. I don’t think people think of artists being affected in a failing economy, but we were. Gas prices were sky high as were flights so expenses went up and venues started paying less because fewer were able to come out to the shows because they were broke, too. And, for the first time in all my touring history my American dollars lost value going into Canada. It was sobering to say the least.

In the years preceding this, I saw a slow but very deliberate decline in my music sales, which was more than just supplemental income, it was nearly half of my income. So, I stopped touring full time to assess the situation and come up with solutions.

The only solution I found that allowed me to stay true to who I am an artist was to stay put—which brings me to today.

Life As An Artist Now

Like clockwork, once or twice a week since I stopped touring full time in 2008, I get asked when I’m coming back to XYZ. And, like a broken record once or twice a week, I’ve had to say I can’t afford it. I’ve had to explain that not only have physical CD sales been down, but also the digital money I used to get from legal downloads all but disappeared. Instead of getting weekly payments ranging between $200-$750 from my distributor, I started getting an average $11.36, once a month from all streaming services combined. Yes, $11.36/month is what I get from all of them. That is not a sustainable business model for a truly independent artist.

While carefully building and maintaining a social media connection with my fan base and doing mostly one-offs in some of my bigger markets, I decided to do a full regional tour in 2012. And, while I am grateful to the people who came, I had miserable turnouts at most of the shows. In Buffalo, where the temp dropped to 30 degrees that night, I cleared $14 once the door was split with the venue. In Philadelphia, where I started my career, I lost upwards of $1,500-2,000 on one show because only 12 people showed up. It was the night of the Presidential debates, something I couldn’t have known when I booked the show months before. But, I still had to pay the venue, their door person and sound person, pay my band, pay for their hotel room and mine for three nights so we wouldn’t have to stay in NYC, paid for their flights (along with baggage handling fees for my cellist’s cello), my rental car, gas and food for myself and the band (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Same with DC where the venue wouldn’t even allow me to officially charge a door fee and where some people (my fans included) opted not to pay one even as a requested donation.

This is my reality and the reality of the many artists you care about.

I’m sorry if you think so, but music is not free. It costs money to make and it costs money to support via touring. It’s a “life cycle”. This “life cycle” is how I used to get my CDs out and how I used to see my fans two to three times a year in some places. It worked like this: Fans would come to my shows, they and their friends would buy my CDs, and then I made another CD and went on a another tour, and so forth and so on.

Simple.

All the money I made went to bills, touring, promotion and creating new music and so I had to keep my overhead low. No new cars (I had and still have my ’78 Volvo that I bought for $600 in 1996), no new shoes or clothes and I lived in a small 425 sq ft apartment for 12 years. 12 years. That’s how I did it. It’s not a sob story. It’s not a mystery or a marketing ploy. I am a working class artist. There is no rich-uncle-wizard-behind-the-curtain type situation here. This is how it goes when you make tough decisions to be true to your life and your life’s work. I have no regrets.

But, I’m seeing a lot of chatter about Taylor Swift and her supposed “greed”. If you’re saying it, you’re probably saying it because Taylor is already wealthy. But, what about artists who aren’t? If you or your friends are indeed one of those people, I challenge you and them to go to work for a year, bust your butt, do a good job (maybe even a great job) and then accept half of a year’s pay (or less) from your boss. I further challenge you to pay your bills and keep your other financial commitments from that pay all while keeping your enthusiasm for your job—which is kind of essential for you to even do your job.

Go on. I’ll wait…

As indie artists, for all intents and purposes, our fans control our careers, the ebb and flow, trajectory and course. For example, if I hadn’t raised enough via Kickstarter to do my last project, a tribute CD to folk legend Odetta, there wouldn’t have been a new CD to this day. Period. No new CD in eight years even though I was able to release six projects on my own before that and have enough music for about four or five full length CDs right now.

Another example: I haven’t been back on the road since 2012 because I assume my fans don’t want to see me or can’t afford to see me in NYC, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Buffalo, NY and Charlotte, NC. Because of that, I can’t take a financial chance on Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and the like. And, just forget Canada, France, Sweden, Japan or Australia altogether. I’ve remedied this by doing online shows on a platform called StageIt and this has allowed fans as far away as Vancouver, Taiwan, Germany and Boise, ID to see me play. It works, but it isn’t ideal.

The point is, we haven’t just “given up”. It’s not that we don’t “want to” do it anymore. It is, painfully and honestly, simple math that mostly prevents me and others like me from doing what we do.

Think About This For A Minute

Before the comments section gets flooded with snarky retorts, like “get a job”, I will say this:

First, I have a job, one that I’m fairly good at and one that I’ve had for 22 years (or over half my life).

And, second, what if Bob Marley or Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain or Joni Mitchell or Mozart, Frank Zappa, Joan Jett, Diana Ross, Prince, or Aretha Franklin had actually listened when someone (undoubtedly and repeatedly) said to them, “get a job”?

What would your life look like?

What happens to the first dance at your wedding to that special song, the one that made you realize you loved her? Or, the song you hum to your baby because it’s the only one that makes him less fussy? What would you be distracted by in an elevator ride with your creepy co-worker who wears the same shirt every day? Or, what would you focus on when a dentist is drilling a hole the size of the Grand Canyon in your head? And, how, pray tell, would you know when Jaws or Jason or Darth Vader is coming so you can yell your futile warnings at the screen?

Okay, granted, those last few examples sound frivolous but they’re serious considerations to make when you consider how music plays an integral and inseparable role in your life, from the mundane to the momentous. How it can be both ubiquitous and precious. That’s something to protect. That’s something to respect.

How To Make The Future Better

I want to tell you something: as a consumer and a fan, you are at the top of this food chain, not the bottom. You are not subject to the whims of popular culture; you are the arbiter of it. If you want to see less “fluff” in the music industry, if you want to see your artists remain authentic, creative and prolific beings and, if you want them to come back to your hometowns:

  1. Start buying our music again. Digital, hard copy, doesn’t matter, just pay for it. If you can pay $4 for the coffee you’re only going to drink once or $15 for a blockbuster movie you’ll see once, you can pay $9.99 for something meaningful that you’ll have forever.
  2. Stop using streaming services that only pay us $.0006 per listen if you don’t already own our music either via a legal download or a hard copy. Educate yourself. If you think the profits that oil companies make are obscene, I urge you to do some digging about what some of these streaming companies are really about.
  3. And, this is important: Set your DVRs on your favorite show nights and go to our concerts. If I had a dime for every time a person told me they weren’t able to make my show because it was the finals of DWTS/American Idol/The Voice, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I’d be sitting in a bungalow in Costa Rica sipping something fruity and delicious.

Simple solutions sometimes require difficult choices.

Oh, and this goes for independent movies, books, indie/feminist bookstores, small venues, and small businesses, too.

Just know this: You have the power to change the cultural landscape around you. Use that power wisely.




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Website for Musicians: A Vital Tool

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

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

Websites should have a purpose.

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

What I’m Talking About

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

The Case for Effective Websites: Example A

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

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

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

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

The Purpose of Your Website

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

Signature Elements of an Effective Website

Samples of Your Work

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

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

Product For Sale

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

There are a few reasons this makes sense:

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

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

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

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

The Chance to Support You Financially

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

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

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

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

A Thorough Band Biography

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

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

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

Your Schedule and Contact Information

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

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

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

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

Easiness

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

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

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

Need Some Help?

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

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


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




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Taking Note: Taylor Swift and Spotify

Taking Note: Taylor Swift and Spotify

By NationWide Source - Estimated 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.

What Happened?

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 their efforts 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The question now is what will you do?




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How To Get 20 Million Views: Taking Note of Meghan Trainor

How to Get 20 Million Views—Taking Note of Meghan Trainor

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Two months ago, Meghan Trainor was an unknown songwriter. Even today, she isn’t a big, established artist… at least, not yet. But, if her first single’s smashing success on YouTube is any indication of the future of her career, she will be.

Trainor, a 20-year-old singer-songwriter, is the artist behind the single “All About That Bass.” The catchy pop tune stands tall on its own merits, but the accompanying music video is pure brilliance. And audiences seem to agree. The video, which was released on June 11, already has over 21 million views. Not too shabby for an artist’s first single.

So, what’s the big deal?

You Could Learn a Thing or Two from Trainor

This performance stands out because it has hooks in the video as well as a social message that connects with a large number of fans, not to mention that it also creates a little controversy. The hooks have to do with the unusual way that Trainor portrays herself and the other performers in the video. Not just the fact that they are happy with their size and shape, but some of the unexpected things that happen in the video. They also turn the tables on “skinny” people by using humor, casting, and choreography to make their point.

Take a moment to view the video. I’ll wait.

Done? Good. I bet you noticed Sione, an example of casting brilliance. He is over the top with his dance moves, and he adds a dimension of depth and fun to the video that has helped to propel it into a huge number of views.

Still from "All About That Bass"

After viewing the video, are you compelled to share it with someone else? If so, then you begin to see how a video can go viral.

Note that it does not matter why you want to share it, just the fact that you do. This important point is quite often lost on musicians who make their career in music. Launching a video that is well done, but not compelling, is not enough. By compelling, I mean: what does the viewer feel compelled to do after seeing your video? If the overwhelming answer is to share it with friends, then you have a winner. Otherwise, as a good friend of mine would say, “You have a double handed death grip on a loser”. The world is full of music videos that go nowhere, and they cost just as much to produce as a compelling video. Learn to let go of the loser before you start… or do what it takes to turn it into a winner and then hang on tight.

The song “All About That Bass” by itself probably would not create the kind of buzz necessary to get 21 million listens. It is the entire package—the song combined with the video—that knocks it out of the park.

But let’s face it: video can be expensive. It would be fair to say that an inexpensive songwriting/performing/video-creation endeavor could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. On the other hand, indie musicians are a very creative group used to working with very few resources. So, why not figure out a way to write and shoot a compelling video without a huge budget? It takes a combination of talent, flexibility, planning, funding, and desire to make all the parts work together smoothly, even more so on a small budget. It is not for everybody.

Let’s take a closer look at Trainor and her video; then, we can explore what indie artists might do to leverage their music in this same way.

What Trainor Does

Trainor writes about a very of-the-moment issue (body image) and has a positive message.

Body image issues are nothing new, but they have become a much more public issue in recent years.

Social media sites have turned into a battleground over women’s bodies. Memes proclaim that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, incredibly thin models are lifted up as ideals (after being photoshopped into even more idealized versions of themselves), and women with “extra” weight are publicly ridiculed for their weight and their choices (in clothing, in food, in living). On the other side, there is backlash against “thinspiration” and excessive photo editing, heightened awareness about the dangers of eating disorders, and encouragement to be healthy and to love yourself as you are.

And that’s where Trainor’s message lies. She sings:

“I see the magazine, workin’ that Photoshop. We know that shit ain’t real. C’mon now, make it stop. If you got beauty beauty, just raise ’em up, Cause every inch of you is perfect, from the bottom to the top. Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size… I know you think you’re fat. I’m here to tell you every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.”

Now, Trainor is, admittedly, not a size two. The girl has some curves. She also doesn’t appear to be unhealthy or overweight.

But her weight and shape aren’t the issue, nor are they the focus of her message. Her message lies in her acceptance of her body for what it is. It’s not a skinny beautiful body. It’s not a fat beautiful body. It’s simply her beautiful body. And that message is something that girls everywhere—maybe people everywhere—need to hear. And, as an artist, Trainor does a good job of leveraging this topic by producing a compelling song/video combination.

She stirs up a little bit of controversy.

If you read the public comments on Trainor’s video, you know what I’m talking about. There are a surprising number of hateful comments on a video that has such a positive message. (Well, maybe not surprising, if you’re used to the internet.)

But don’t assume that some negative comments mean Trainor and her message are unpopular. Less than one tenth of one percent (0.001%) of the people viewing the video have taken the time to comment on it publicly—some comments are good, some are not. And for every “thumbs down” on the video, there are almost 22 “thumbs ups”.

Most importantly, a huge number of people have been compelled enough by the video to share it with others. That is all that matters.

Every part of the video—the concept, the casting, the styling, the shooting, the editing—is extremely well done.

The video’s concept is simple: reinforce the song’s message by showing people comfortable in their own skin having fun and loving themselves—regardless of their size, shape, or age. There’s no complicated storyline to confuse the viewer, nor is it simply just another music video of a performer singing their latest release on a stage.

The casting is impeccable. Trainor’s message isn’t limited to one group; it’s for everyone. It’s appropriate, then, that the people in the video are different sizes, shapes, ages, and genders, and they all look like they’re having fun, dancing and shaking whatever they have (or don’t have).

Still from "All About That Bass"

What This Means For You

Trainor is 20, and she’s new. She seems to be pretty talented (especially considering she had a songwriting contract at 18 and an artist contract at 20). She has a label that is obviously willing to invest in her, and she has an extremely talented team working with her.

Your situation is probably different. You might be starting your career in music, or you might have been at it for a long time. You’re likely talented and creative and have music ready to release or that could be re-released with better promotion. You probably have a loyal local fan base, but you’d love for it to be bigger. You’re probably wondering how to branch out—how to get bigger and better gigs along with more visibility.

Given that you’re in a different situation than Trainor, what on earth could she and her video possibly teach you about your career? Plenty.

Songs that strike a chord with you will probably strike a chord with others.

In a behind-the-scenes video, Trainor says, “My producer and I wanted to write a fun song… Why not do a song about loving yourself and loving your body? Because I don’t think girls love themselves as much as they really should. I think girls will really relate to it.” In an interview with the Today show, Trainor says that this is an issue she has struggled with personally. That personal experience and conviction help Trainor come off as a credible source on the subject, which means it’s easier for her fans to relate and connect with her.

What does this mean for you? Well, first, you don’t need a team of professional, award-winning songwriters to write a good song. You can leverage your own life experiences, just like Trainor did, and create music that reflects who you are.

Second, you should try writing about something that resonates with you on a personal level. Pick a topic that moves you, or an experience you’re intimately familiar with, and tell the story in a way that takes listeners along for the ride. If you connect with the song, it increases the odds of your listeners connecting—both with the song and with you.

Most importantly, consider whether that connection will cause your viewers to share the video. Get creative with the process, and be sure to create a hook, something in the video that will make fans take action. Without a hook, it will not work.

If you want a second opinion, try playing the song for the rest of the band, an impartial friend, another musician, or a songwriting group. Be open to their feedback and criticism, and genuinely consider what they have to say. Even if you don’t make the changes they suggest, the advice might come in handy on future songs.

You don’t have to be a superstar to get lots of good attention.

Before this release, Trainor was relatively unknown. She might have had a small local following, but she certainly wasn’t a household name. So, how did she get so many views?

Simply put, Trainor thought outside the box—with her message, her styling, and her casting. Her positive message is on a topic that few artists address. The styling of Trainor’s video is surprising (in that it’s rather different from most other videos out there), but it’s wholly appropriate for the song. In Trainor’s video, Vine sensation Sione makes an unexpected appearance, which helps create a hook for fans of the video because of his unique style. Sione’s 440,000 fans (yes, you read that correctly) on Vine probably headed over to check out Trainor’s video, and I can guarantee that some of Trainor’s viewers headed over to Vine to find out more about the dancing man. Both artists benefited from the collaboration.

That type of collaboration doesn’t take a label or tons of money. More importantly, thinking outside the box doesn’t take a label or tons of money. To be a successful independent artist, you must be creative, flexible, and resourceful; a ton of money to fund your project is not required to make this work.

This might mean you tell your song’s story from an unexpected angle. In Five Seconds of Summer’s video for “She Looks So Perfect”, the characters in the video strip down to their underwear. This in itself is a little surprising (but fits with a line in the chorus). What is unexpected is the type of people who strip down: highschoolers, a store clerk, a middle-aged mom, a cop, a grandmother, a pair making eyes at each other in a diner. Basically, everyone but the young and fairly attractive band members. It’s not just young, fit, beautiful people stripping. It’s everyone. This is the hook for an otherwise unremarkable video that now has over 67 million views.


As I said at the very beginning of this article, Meghan Trainor isn’t a big, established artist… yet. I think she’s incredibly talented, and I think she has a talented team helping her. I’m extremely curious to see how she follows up on this first single. Only time will tell.

As for you, the indie musician with your own style and talent and career, I want to know what you think of Trainor’s video and what you’ve learned from it to use in your own career. What’s your next move?




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Download Cards That Work

Download Cards That Work – They Are Not All The Same

By Anna F - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

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
    Order Your Download Cards or Download Codes from NationWide Disc




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Band Websites: Are They Necessary?

Band Websites: Are They Necessary?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

With so many social media platforms to choose from, it can be hard to keep track of all the websites, blogs, and profiles to create for your band. Some might argue that a profile on XYZ’s site is enough. We disagree.

While it’s true that social media sites are useful and important tools for connecting with fans, they shouldn’t be your main focus. Why?

Well, first, the popularity of these sites is constantly shifting, and new sites seem to pop up daily. (Maybe not daily, but still.) How many profiles can you manage—five? thirty? seventy?—before becoming overwhelmed and losing track of them all? And when the sites your profiles are on fade from popularity or shut down altogether, how will you communicate with your fans? In the battle for social media platform dominance, having your own independent website gives you stability and your fans a consistent place to find you.

Second, relying on third party social media sites means you have no control over who sees your messages and when. It’s becoming increasingly harder, and more expensive, to make your voice heard over the noise, even by those who actively sought out your profile or page and want to hear your message.

Third, a profile or page isn’t the most professional way you could present your band or yourself as an artist, since just about anyone can create an account. On the other hand, a dedicated website shows professionalism and a level of commitment that profiles just don’t. When a label, promoter, or booking agent wants to look up your band, they want to look at your website. When the press refers to you, they will want to direct people to your website.

So, what’s a musician with no web design experience to do? Read on for more information.

Determine Your (And Your Fans’) Needs

Remember when the internet looked like an online phone directory, where one-page websites simply showed a brief company description, list of services, their contact information, and—if you were lucky—a photo or two? That kind of web site doesn’t cut it anymore.

Your band’s website should build a relationship between you and your fans. This means it must be informative, interactive, and up to date. Yes, your website should tell them about your band and display your discography. It should also give fans a place to listen to your new releases, watch your videos, and buy your music, and it should share your stories from the road and announce upcoming concerts or tours. Ideally, your website will also let you gather your fans’ information so you can continue communicating with them.

What type of experience do you want to offer your fans? What features does your website need to keep your fans engaged and coming back? Take some time to think about the sites you like to visit and what it is about them that keeps you coming back. Write out a list of those features, and cross out any that can’t apply to your band. If you need some ideas, here’s a list of features that we recommend:

  • band bio and press coverage
  • multimedia (music players, videos, photo galleries)
  • your discography
  • tour schedule
  • retail system (physical merch, digital downloads, or both?)
  • a blog
  • mailing list sign-up
  • contact form/social media links

There are other features you could add, but that’s a pretty good starting point. Of course, simply having these features isn’t enough; a tour schedule with nothing filled in won’t fill seats at your shows, and not adding new videos, music, or blog entries means there’s nothing new for your fans to see. Effective websites need a steady stream of content flowing into them.

Find a System That Works For You

Now that you know what you want to offer, you need to find a way to offer it. If you’re an independent musician struggling to make ends meet, you probably don’t have a huge budget for web design. It’s equally likely that you aren’t an experienced web designer or fluent in CSS or HTML5. Even if you do happen to be the rare independent musician/code-writing web designer, you probably don’t have enough free time to be designing your website from scratch.

The good news is, that’s okay. There are hundreds of platforms available that can help you build your website, without requiring prior knowledge of code. We’re highlighting a few platforms here, to give you a starting point:

One place to start is Bandzoogle, which is geared toward helping musicians sell their music and merch. Sign up for the free trial and see if their options—like download codes, shopping cart,  site-wide music player—and interface meet your skill level and your needs. There are hundreds of layouts to choose from, with additional customization and design available without coding or software. As far as perks go, the site gives you the option of letting your fans set the price of downloads (which some studies suggests can increase your income), and Bandzoogle doesn’t take a cut of your sales. However, the plans max out at 10,000 mailing list contacts, so this might not be a good long-term solution (or short term, if your band already has a large following).

Another great option is Squarespace. There are dozens of templates to choose from, each of which can be customized in appearance and layout. With galleries for photos and videos, music collections, and blogs, showcasing your content is easy. Squarespace has a built in eCommerce option, allowing you to sell physical goods (and it tracks inventory) or digital goods (and it auto-emails the file to the customer). Sign up forms integrate with MailChimp (if you use that to email fans) or into a Google doc spreadsheet (which you can export and upload to your email system), and the contact form forwards to a designated email address. Their help system (both searchable forum, live chat, and ticket system) is impressive. Squarespace currently lacks a site-wide music player (although you can add a player to your footer, if your template has one). You should also noted that Squarespace uses Stripe instead of PayPal; the services are relatively comparable, except when it comes to digital downloads. PayPal offers a lower rate on these, and Stripe (currently) does not. On a $1 download, you either lose $.10 with PayPal or $.329 with Stripe. Like Bandzoogle, Squarespace offers a free trial period; it’s worth testing out and seeing if the features and interface are a good fit for your band.

Yola is another option. While it isn’t marketed solely toward bands, it can easily be customized to create a great band website. Wix is yet another option and is similar to Bandzoogle, although it’s not marketed toward bands. Both provide templates and design customization; with Wix, you can completely customize each page using a drag and drop editor. If you’re wanting to keep things super simple (like, just a followable blog to share images and brief updates) Tumblr—one of those previously-mentioned social media sites—allows you to use a purchased domain and your custom URL.

When looking for a platform, it’s important to keep in mind your future growth. If a platform doesn’t offer a service you will need, or caps your traffic or storage at or near your current levels, it’s probably not wise to choose it only to change again in the near future.

After testing out a few platforms (using the free trial periods that many offer), you probably have a clear frontrunner. If that’s not the case, try narrowing it down to a top two or three platforms, and then ask for feedback from people you trust. Once you’ve selected a platform, congratulations! It’s time to start setting up your site.

Setting Up Your Site

If you decided to create a band website to own your fan relationships and give your band a committed, professional online presence, you probably want to use your own custom domain. There’s a difference between johnhenryandthecrooners.com (a custom domain) and johnhenryandthecrooners.webuildwebsites.com (a custom sub-domain). With the first, all the focus is on your band, John Henry and the Crooners; people won’t question that the site is official and tied to your band. In the second version, though, the phrase “webuildwebsites” takes some of the attention away from your band, and it might cause people to question how official your site is. Many of the platforms provide default sub-domains for you (as shown in the above sample). Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to register a custom domain. Some platforms, like Squarespace, will even walk you through this process. If you have a existing site, you’ll want to redirect traffic from that site to the new one (once it’s ready).

It’s important to set your site structure (page names and URLs) and basic design elements (color scheme, layout, logos) up before officially launching your site. You can set these up during the trial period, or you can set the pages under development as private and create a “coming soon” landing page. This lets visitors know they’re in the right place and that your site is in progress, and it’s far better than making an unfinished site public.

If you’re planning on long-term growth and aren’t quite there yet—for example, you haven’t recorded an album yet and are waiting on your t-shirt orders to arrive, so there’s nothing to put in a store—it’s okay to launch your site without that element and then add it when you’re ready.

Once your site structure and appearance is down, go ahead and launch it. Redirect your old site, and announce the heck out of it on social media. Be sure you have a way to track visitors and gather their information; a sign-up form is a must. (But be sure to do something with their information, like send them a follow-up email!)

Making the Leap

A professional-level band website is a big step to take, but it can make a big difference—both in how the public perceives your band, and in who owns your relationships with fans.

Take a look at where you are as a band and decide if you’re ready to invest in a website. Like many things (free stickers, opening for larger bands for free, ect.), the return won’t be immediate or direct… but a band website could get you closer to where you want to be.

Do you think band websites are essential? Or are you satisfied with social media profiles? If you’ve created a site, do you have tips for other artists setting out to do the same, or are there services you can recommend?

See also: Music and Social Media: Twitter, Music and Social Media: Facebook




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

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

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

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

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

The Battle For Your Fans’ Attention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Content Creates Loyal Fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Most Effective Communication Tools

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

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

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

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

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

Using An SMS Service

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

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

Click here for downloadable guides!

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

Other SMS Options

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

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

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

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

Responsible Mobile Marketing

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

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

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

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




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Not Gathering Fan Data? Are you Crazy?

Not Gathering Fan Contact Data? You are Missing Out on a Great Opportunity.

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Fans are the lifeblood of your music. Learn how to keep them happy, and you will profit from the relationship. Ignore them, or trust your fan relationship to someone else, and you will suffer. Simple, but true.

We have a few suggestions to help you work through how to do this, including a free iPad app that helps to make it easy—read on.

The Right Stuff For A Career in Music

Remember when you were a kid, daydreaming of being a rock star? If you were anything like us, you were singing your heart out while picking out your clothes for the day, or vacuuming the house with the stereo blasting your idol’s tunes, or going all Risky Business while jamming on your air guitar. As a kid, it was so easy to become what you wanted. You just pictured your dream and—BAM—you were livin’ it.

As an adult, you might have realized it’s not as easy as just imagining. You now know that, to be a rock star, you need to have some talent as a singer, songwriter, musician, or performer. Ideally, you’ll be talented in each of these fields, but being extremely talented in just one field might be enough to gain some traction. You may also have realized that not everyone with talent has a successful music career, which means it takes a bit more than talent to make things really happen. That “bit more” includes some pretty mundane—but important—things, like collecting and reviewing data.

When we were growing up, we didn’t know anyone who wanted to collect data or review statistics for a living. It wasn’t exciting or thrilling. It still might not be… but it’s important, even to rock stars. Actually, especially to rock stars. Boring things like collecting data can make the difference between success and failure in your music career. Just remember, in this case, boring equals profitable.

Data Collection and Your Music Career

Let’s explore just one of those boring things today: what are you doing to develop your fan base? You know, your fan base. The people who like your music, attend your performances, visit your webpage, purchase your CDs, download your music on iTunes, and hopefully do more than stream your music online for free. Those people. Do you know who your fans are? What are you doing to develop your connection with them? We hope your answer is more than “ummm…” or “nothing”, because fans are the lifeblood of your music.

We know that musicians can be funny about fans. Everyone seems to have his or her own take on the musician/fan relationship. Some performers prefer to operate in a higher circle than their fans, creating a sense of mystique about their persona; others are quite friendly and enjoy personally interacting with fans. Whichever method works for you is fine… as long as you establish and maintain connections with fans. Don’t be the performer that ignores fans and then wonders why their career is suffering.

Why Knowing Your Fan Base Matters

We had the opportunity to visit with a musician client recently. He noted that he was struggling to sell merch to fans at performances, and he had decided that the fans attending his gigs already owned most of what he had to sell. Since a significant part of his income was coming from merch sales, this presented a problem for him. He told us that he had not released any new music in over 20 months. When we asked him why, he confided that he had material ready, but the expenses associated with releasing a new album were high. He also wondered, given recent low sales, if he would recoup the investment in a new release, yet alone profit from it. Lastly, our client said that he wasn’t doing much beyond social media and the merch table to connect with fans that attended his shows.

His story, especially that last statement, really resonated with us. He noticed that sales were down, he assumed it was because of product saturation, and he struggled with investing in new material. All of that is understandable. But, without solid connections with fans, he couldn’t confirm product saturation, couldn’t reach out to those not attending shows or who didn’t have his existing merch, couldn’t advertise shows effectively, couldn’t test the waters on interest in a new project, and couldn’t use his existing fan base to help fund a new project. He was up to bat, but blindfolded, deaf, and dizzy.

Had he connected better with his fans and owned that relationship, his story could be quite different.

Social Media Does Not Cut It

Don’t get the wrong idea. Our musician does have fans. People come to his shows and buy his music—just not as much as he’d like or as they used to do. And he has followers all over social media. In fact, Facebook was his main source of communication with his fans. He’d post about a gig, and they’d like the status, or share, or comment. He even recognized a few of them at gigs from their profile pictures.

Despite that, he didn’t have a good connection with them. The fans were largely anonymous, his posts didn’t get the reach he hoped, and—most importantly—he did not have direct contact information for them.

Here’s the downfall to counting on social media (or any third party) for your fan connection: it will always let you down.

With social media, you cannot control the conversation or its reach. Sure, you write a post, but you can’t really control who sees it or how they respond. You become just another voice in a long list of voices trying to communicate with your fan. After a short while, your post drifts off to the bottom of the fan’s feed. Even on your own page, it is very hard to control the conversation.

Also, what happens if your fans do not get on Facebook very often or are no longer active at all on Facebook? Anybody remember MySpace? We know of another musician that had over 90,000 people following her on MySpace in the site’s early years; when MySpace fell out of favor, the fans stopped signing on, and she lost the ability to communicate with them. It is a bad idea to base your entire fan experience on a site that may not even be popular in 2 years.

So… what can artists do?

Start Capturing Contact Information From Your Fans

Remember our other articles, where we pointed out that iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and other services wouldn’t tell you who downloaded or streamed your music? They know how valuable that information is, and they keep it for themselves. Social media is the same: no direct contact information, just an interface that is shared with everyone else trying to communicate with your fan.

Instead, you have to actively work at gathering information from fans. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that make the gathering part easier.

Chimpadeedoo for iPads

At gigs, you should have a sign-up sheet for fan names and email addresses. Better yet, save yourself a step and have fans sign up electronically. If you have an iPad and a MailChimp* account (which we recommend), we suggest using their free app, Chimpadeedoo, for in-person mailing list signup. We tested this software, and it performs well. We’ve even written a guide to walk you through the setup process, including a link to stands that prevent iPads from being loss or damage.

Having a signup list sitting on the merch table probably isn’t enough, though. You need to make its presence and importance known; point out the merch table and your must-have items, and ask people to sign up. Be witty and humorous. Play around with it to see what works.

If this still isn’t enough, you might offer an incentive. You’d be surprised how many people will give you their email address if you give away a t-shirt, CD, or signed mug at every gig. Our musician friend tried this the other night and got 106 people to give him their contact information. Not bad for one night.

Outside of gigs, you should add a signup form to your band’s website and social media profiles. While social media sites are not good for direct, consistent communication, they can be a great place to let fans know about your mailing list. Again, MailChimp makes this easy. If you need help with this, let us know and we will send instructions.

Of course, you don’t want a stack of sign-up sheets sitting in a corner. You’ll need to find a system to keep track of the data on them, and then you can put that data to use. Use your emailing service to help set this up.

Start Communicating

As you collect names and email addresses from fans, you should begin communicating with them on a regular basis… but only when you have something to say. You don’t want to spam them by filling their inbox with repetitive information or meaningless ramblings. Don’t be like so many people on Facebook who have nothing to say but say it quite often.

Instead, you want your fans to feel special, like they are part of an exclusive club. The communication can and should share your current schedule, especially if you make it feel like a personal invitation to those shows, but it can also offer more. Share something revealing about your career, pictures from behind the scenes, or funny stories from performances. Post a “teaser video”; it doesn’t have to be anything complicated, either. One artist we know posts a 20 second video weekly; all he does is play his guitar off-camera for 15 seconds, then ask the fans to guess which guitar it is. The response to these videos is pretty impressive. Be creative and get your readers to respond.

In short, you should focus on communicating with fans regularly and with quality content. If this means you email once a week instead of daily, that’s fine. Just be consistent and be active. Your ability to communicate with your fans on a regular basis develops the relationship. You have to reach out to them.

Also, if you have the cell phone number of your fans, then texting can be a great way to communicate as well. (Hint One: get their permission first. Hint Two: this method might work best for specific messages, such as reminders about a show, instead of every message.) Although not as flexible in format as email, it puts your message right in front of your fan. They don’t have to sign in to an email account or social network to see what you have to say.

Does It Really Work?

Let us share our business experience with you. If fans have a relationship with you and have purchased your music in the past, they are over 30 times more likely to purchase your music in the future. This means existing fans are the biggest supporters of your music career, which in turn means you want to connect with them.

As with any form of marketing, not all recipients will read your material. However, email is one of the more personal and flexible forms of communication you can have. Some email programs allow you to thank fans for signing up or sharing your email by offering a free download, or you could tailor emails to each recipient by including their name in the subject line or message. You could (should) separate your list into groups, emailing grouped fans only about shows in their area (instead of shows elsewhere that aren’t relevant to them) or about product they don’t have yet (if you’ve tracked that). Short of receiving a hand-written letter, emails tailored to each fan is about as personal as marketing gets.

You should also be tracking fan data. When fans sign up for your email list, be certain to include details like the date and event information. Over time, as you interact with your fans, you can develop more detailed fan profiles. Don’t pass up an opportunity to capture more information about your individual fans. In addition to an email address, sign up forms can request or require a fan’s address (or at least a zip code), phone number, age, gender, how they found out about you, and more.

Ideally, some of your fans will become “super fans”. These are the people that absolutely love what you do. When organized effectively, super fans can form a network or street team that drives your success. They bring people to your events, help you promote your merch products, even volunteer to do some of the boring things that you might otherwise have to let slide by. Do not miss the opportunity to engage them.

Back To Our Musician

His past lack of data collection is hurting him, but it’s not too late for his story to change.

He needs to engage his fans in the markets where he is well known. While he thought that those fans were his least valuable audience (because they already have his merchandise), in fact the exact opposite is true. Because they already know him well, they represent a great opportunity for him. If he releases new music, these are the fans that will buy it. They might even fund the project. They just have to know about it first.

Taking action now can turn things around for him. It can work for you, too.

* This post is in no way sponsored by MailChimp. We simply think that it’s a valuable tool for musicians to consider when managing their fan databases and communicating with fans. And in some cases it is free, so it fits almost any budget.




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Why YouTube Is Important, Even If It Won't Make You Famous

Why YouTube Is Important, Even If It Won’t Make You Famous

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

First thing’s first: YouTube will not make you famous.

(Don’t misunderstand us. It also doesn’t mean that you can ignore YouTube. It’s an important tool and platform that musicians should be aware of and using. We’ll explain.)

There are exceptions, those few performers who gain international fame because the right person saw their YouTube video, or those individuals who—as a result of their extreme and innate wit, talent, and ingenuity—have gained millions of subscribers and even more video views. We don’t deny that YouTube can make you famous… we just argue that, odds are, it won’t. Here’s why:

YouTube Is Not For Being Discovered

After signing in to your YouTube account, the home page shows videos of other users. The list of popular videos on YouTube are videos that already have millions of views. The list of recommended videos are based on videos you have watched previously. Unless your video has hundreds of thousands of views or is similar to something users have watched previously, it probably won’t show up on other users’ home pages.

Let’s assume that the user wants to find something new, so they click on “Browse channels”. The page shows 14 featured channels, 111 paid channels, and hundreds of channels that fall into categories like Music, Comedy, Film & Entertainment, Gaming, and so on. These categorized listings of channels, while extensive, only scratch the surface of what is available on YouTube. Users can enter a search term, but that will pull up thousands/hundreds/dozens of videos that fit that criteria. Even a specific search term (such as “fort worth folk blues”) brings up thousands (11,319) of channels in the search results.

Looking at the statistics provided by YouTube doesn’t paint a more-encouraging picture. Yes, the market of potential viewers is huge, with more than one billion unique users and more than six billion hours of video watched each month. However, 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. That’s a lot of other videos for users to wade through to stumble upon yours.

When taken all together, this means it’s pretty unlikely that YouTube will help you be discovered.

You Should Be On YouTube Anyway

YouTube may not be good for gaining random fans, but it does have its uses. When used properly, YouTube is a great way to:

  • strengthen connections with your target audiences
  • learn more about your audiences
  • make a little more money off your craft

These might sound like small things, but they can have a huge impact on your career as a musician. We’ll elaborate on each below.

Using Video to Connect with Your Target Audiences

As a musician, you might think audio should be your focus. In terms of marketing your music, though, it’s widely acknowledged that video is increasingly becoming an essential element of successful marketing strategies. Video allows you to send a message and connect with viewers in a way that text, graphics, or audio alone can’t.

If you’re going to add video, you need to know what your options are. You don’t need to spend millions on a national television ad campaign, but you probably should add a video player to your band’s website or share videos on your various social media accounts. Instagram and Facebook have added built-in video-sharing functions (15-seconds/unlimited time, respectively), and applications like Vine focus on creating video and sharing it (either with your followers on Vine itself or on other social media accounts like Twitter or Facebook). Websites like Vimeo seem to compete directly with YouTube, although their user count is much smaller. Obviously, YouTube isn’t the only method of mixing video into your marketing strategy. However, its size and market dominance make it worth seriously considering. Additionally, it’s simple for you to share your YouTube videos on your other social media platforms.

If you’re marketing your band, you need to know who your audience is. As an independent musician, your main audiences are your existing fans (your first audience) and their connections (your second audience). With your existing fans, you want to use video to connect deeper and strengthen their loyalty to your band. Behind-the-scenes videos can make fans feel like they’re on tour or in the studio with you. Music videos let you visually tell the story behind your song’s lyrics. Announcing band news via video is the next best option to announcing it in person. All of these video uses help strengthen your fan’s connection to your band. The more committed that your fans are to you, the more likely they are to share you with those around them. In terms of your second audience, they are likely unfamiliar with your work and who you are, but they trust the opinion and recommendations of your first audience. You want to hook them, so your videos need to grab their attention and leave them wanting more of you.

Why is YouTube important in reaching your audiences? Well, remember those one billion unique monthly users? Some of them are your fans. They are already on YouTube, watching other videos. Putting your videos where they already are just makes sense. Additionally, YouTube makes it extremely easy for your fans to share your videos, either with their connections on YouTube or with their friends on other social media sites. Below every video is a “Share” tab, with links to the top ten social media platforms as well as the option to embed the video or email it to someone.

Using YouTube to Analyze Your Work and Audience

YouTube provides you with loads of information (perhaps more than any other social media platform) about your content and fans. You can see how your channels are doing by looking at the number of subscribers, the number of views, and the total time spent watching videos from that channel. You can also monitor an individual video’s number of views, amount of time watched, likes, dislikes, shares, comments, and favorites. For shared videos, you can see how often it has been shared as well as where.

In terms of fan data, YouTube provides information on the age range, gender, and general location of viewers. It also allows you to track your subscribers, helping you understand what gains fans and what loses them. You can break this down further and compare overall viewers to your subscribers. YouTube tells you where your videos are played (on the video’s page, on your channel, on other websites, etc). It also lets you see where your traffic comes from and compare organic traffic versus paid traffic.

This data about who your audience is, how they’re getting to your videos, what they’re doing with your content, and which content is most successful is extremely valuable for marketing purposes. To access this information, simply log in, click the down arrow (at the top of the page next to “Upload”), then select “Analytics”.

Getting More Out of Your YouTube Videos

YouTube gives you a way to learn more about your audience and share content with them; both features are great. With the YouTube Partners program, though, it also gives you ways to make money from that content (as long as your account is in good standing and has not been previously disabled for monetization).

First, you can monetize your videos by allowing ads on your content. When you upload the video, you’ll be able to select the ad format you want on your video. You can also go back and monetize already-uploaded videos. The video will then be reviewed (especially looking at the content and copyrights) before any ads are approved. Note: you must either own all the content yourself (you created it and have retained the rights to it) or have expressed, written permission by the rights holder to use the content; this applies to the video itself as well as the music you’re performing in the video. (Visit here for more information.) Also note that you are currently unable to add ads to private videos. To get paid, you will have to link your YouTube account to an AdSense account and then reach the set payment threshold (in the US, that’s $100).  Your profit will depend on the type of ad, the  price paid by the advertiser, and the number of views the ad gets.

Another method of making money is by profiting off of others’ use of your content. YouTube allows users to protect their copyright claims on their material (the video itself, the audio of the video, and the lyrics/melody are all addressed separately) through its Content ID program. When you join this program, you verify that you hold all the exclusive rights to your submitted content. YouTube then scans all videos (past, present, and any going forward) to see if your copyrighted material is used. If results are found, you have the option to block the video (either entirely or just the audio, and with different geographic options), track the video’s statistics, or monetize the video. If you monetize another user’s video because it has your content, the profit from the ads will go to you instead of that user.  Not every user will qualify for YouTube’s Content ID program, and it won’t work on instances of allowed use (i.e., you can’t monetize a video of a cover of your song if you authorized the cover). However, it’s worth looking into, especially if you know other users have been using your content or want to prevent others from doing so.

So, What Should You Do?

It’s hard to deny or ignore the impact YouTube has had on the internet and on the music scene, and it’s unlikely that YouTube will be going anywhere (but up) anytime soon. While YouTube won’t likely lead to your big break or help you gain a million random followers, it is still a useful tool for marketing your music, connecting with your fans, and adding to your income as a musician. Your best bet is to learn how to use it effectively… and then do so.

Do you use YouTube, and are you a consumer of content or a creator of content? How have you incorporated YouTube in your band’s marketing and social media strategies? Have you monetized your account?




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Creating and Using Your Band’s Facebook Page

Creating and Using Your Band’s Facebook Page

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

While the social media landscape is constantly shifting, Facebook has consistently dominated the scene in recent history. Using this social media platform correctly can significantly impact your band’s marketing strategy and the size of your fan base. Part of that correct usage is creating a distinct, branded Facebook page for your band.

Why Does My Band Need a Page?

Creating a distinct, branded Facebook page has several benefits. First, it gives your fans (many of whom are already on Facebook) easy access to band details, your website, uploaded videos and songs, upcoming events, your pictures, and up-to-date information. It’s also a great way to reach new fans, as interactions with existing ones often shows up in other fans’ news feeds.

Second, Facebook lets you track the usefulness of your page, which you can’t do with a standard profile.

Third, it keeps your personal profile just that: personal. As your band grows, your fans will consist of more than your family and close friends. As much as you love your fans, you might not want them to have access to every detail of your personal profile. Having an existing page gives these fans a way to keep in touch with the band while maintaining your personal privacy.

Creating Your Band’s Facebook Page

Go to Facebook’s “Create Pages” screen. Select the “Artist, Band or Public Figure” option. In the drop down menu, scroll down to “Musician/Band,” then enter the name of your group. Read and agree to the Terms and click “Get Started.”

At this point, if you were logged out of Facebook, you’ll be asked to enter your email address and password. Sign in to your account; this will set your personal profile as an admin of the group page (you can add other admin later). Note: if you don’t want to sign in to your account, you can create a profile for the band, set the entire profile to the most private settings, then fill in the public page’s info. Once you’ve signed in, fill in the blank fields. You’ll have the chance to enter a description for the band, the band’s website, verify the admin rights, upload pictures, and advertise (optional).

Now that the basic page details are set, go ahead and fill in more information. Add additional pictures and set a cover photo. “Update Page Info” will allow you to add more information about the band (genre, members, hometown, record label, influences, etc), control the security settings of the page, and set the admins (maybe each of the band members and your band’s manager, if you have one) of the page. The “More” option at the top lets you link to your music catalog. When your page is branded and ready for public viewing, write a welcome post and start sending invitations to friends.

Using Your Band’s Facebook Page

Of course, you’ll use your band’s Facebook page to keep fans informed of upcoming gigs, tours, and releases and to share press reviews, photographs, and videos of the band. But you’ll also want to track the page’s effectiveness.

When you are logged in and viewing your page, the Admin Panel at the top of the page will provide insight into your page’s activity. It shows notifications (such as likes of, comments on, or shares of your posts), recent likes of your page (by people or other pages, as well as subscribers), messages to your page, a list of friends to invite to like the page, and tips for building your audience.

The Page Insights tool (accessible through the “Insights” button at the very top of the page) is like Google Analytics but just for your Facebook page. You can see the history of your page’s likes (as well as the source of your likes), the reach of your posts, the engagement levels on your page, the number of visits to your page, external referrers (as well as the source), the traffic levels on your page throughout the day, and the demographic breakdown of your fans.

If you find yourself needing to reach more people, you can pay Facebook to increase your exposure. You can do this either by boosting a post, which promotes that individual post’s visibility, or by promoting the page itself with an ad campaign. The campaign allows you to target Facebook users by geographic area, interests, and demographic details; you can also set the budget and time frame of the campaign. If you choose to do paid advertising, you can break down your reach results on the Page Insights, comparing organic traffic to the paid (ad) traffic.

Obviously, using Facebook to promote your band is a little more complicated than simply writing a post. However, with a little practice, you can turn it into a powerful marketing tool for your band.

Does your band have a Facebook page? Has it helped increase your fan base and market your band? What advice do you have for those creating their band’s page? What have you done to maximize your page’s effectiveness? What is your favorite (or least favorite) feature?




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