By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 4 minutes
I am an artist, I am a performer, and I am a musician.
With that sentence comes a full range of stereotypes, preconceived notions, and some things that only other artists will understand.
I am proud to say I fit many of those stereotypes. I am a bit scattered, I sometimes stop what I’m doing to admire a fallen leaf, and I definitely cry more often than most people. I’m a little over dramatic, and I’m really loud.
Those are the things I don’t mind, the things that are most visible to other people. But when we venture into the territory that only other artists and performers understand, I get a bit more hesitant to admit to some of the negative stereotypes.
My least favorite stereotype is that all performers are competitive, that all artists compare their work to others. Unfortunately, this stereotype is often true. Sometimes I look at other musicians, and a variety of unpleasant things run through my head:
“Oh, they just got lucky and knew someone.”
“Their music is okay, but the lyrics were terrible.”
“They are only successful because their genre is more popular than mine.”
It’s human nature to compare yourself to others. But when artists live in that place of comparison and competition, we miss out on so much.”
This is a hashtag I see my photographer friends using quite often. They intentionally hang out with other photographers, talk about photography, and exchange advice and tips
Does it take guts to get lunch or coffee with a direct business competitor? Maybe.
Does it take guts to get lunch with a direct business competitor, and find out how you can help each others business? Definitely.
This kind of intentionality is especially important for musicians. Chances are, your local scene is much smaller than you think it is.
We’ve listed the top 10 reasons to kill your comparative/competitive instincts and learn to love the other members of your music community.
Top Ten Reasons to Be in Your Scene:
1-You have a lot to learn.
The keyboardist who has a composition degree might be able to give you some tips on improving your melodies. And that band that has 50 people coming out to each show instead of 10 can probably teach you a thing or two.
2-It’s healthy to get out of your genre box.
When you book shows, you probably look for bands that have a similar or complementary sound to your own. So support your music community and find out why everyone is excited about that brand new psychedelic-country band that sounds nothing like yours.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had gear stolen or an amp blow out before a show, but when those things happen—and they will happen— it helps to have a network of people who know and love you AND are musicians who can help you out in a pinch.
4-You might want violin on your next record.
When you get involved with your local music community, you will meet people with different skills than you. This network of highly skilled friends comes in handy when you are looking for studio musicians for your new album.
Did you know the guitarist of that hardcore band is actually a really great mixing engineer? Or that his uncle is a GRAMMY-winning producer and lives down the street from you? No? Me either–until I started intentionally getting to know the other bands in my city.
Sometime musicians have to turn down gigs. Maybe there’s a scheduling conflict or they just honestly feel like they aren’t a good fit for the show. Often when this happens, they have a friend in mind who could take the spot they couldn’t. Trust me; you want to be that friend.
7-The ability to vent to someone who understand you.
I’m not saying that your current friends are not up to the task, but sometimes it’s just nice to talk to someone who actually understands your month-long battle with writer’s block or the inability to get gigs.
We already talked about gig referrals, but many times the people in your music community will need to add another band to the bill next Friday. And they might want you to be that band! What’s better than getting to play a show with a bunch of your friends? Pretty much nothing; that’s what.
9-Growing your network.
Being a member of your local scene will help you get to know musicians, but it will also help you get to know promoters, graphic designers, talent bookers, venue owners, and all sorts of other interesting industry people.
10-Genuine, awesome friends.
Sure, you can gain a lot in your career from being an active member of the music scene, but you can also gain some pretty awesome friends along the way.
Whether you’re an emerging artist or a seasoned professional, it can feel daunting for musicians at any level to make music industry contacts that are worthwhile. It’s hard enough to know where to begin, let alone make any worthwhile connections. Trust me, I know! So how does one tackle this crazy beast we call music industry networking? Here are 5 Foolproof Ways To Make Music Industry Contacts that will totally blow your mind.
1. Figure out who you truly want to connect with
If you’re like most musicians, you’re networking efforts currently consist of either nothing at all or constantly trying to conquer the world. Neither approach is effective, and both lead to the same dead-end results… so start focusing in on a select few. Ask yourself the following questions:
Whom am I dying to work with?
Who do I think will really “get” me and my music?
Who’s already in my corner?
It doesn’t matter how “connected” a person already is or how “connected” you think they are. So long as every answer to these questions remains in alignment with your goals, dreams, and desires, you can’t go wrong. Sometimes, all it takes is one right connection that changes everything, and then the rest takes care of itself!
2. Reach out genuinely
In any initial correspondence, you want to make a good first impression. First impressions are everything. If you connect with people genuinely, you will never come across as being opportunistic, and that’s very important. After all, people prefer to work with others who they like and trust.
Conferences are great places to network, and after parties are where the real connections are made (a little liquid courage goes a long way)! But any action you take, and circumstance you find yourself in, is an opportunity waiting to foster if you’re open to it.
3. Offer to help
So many artists have only their best interests in mind when they are trying to make new connections. Now imagine how much further you can get by offering to help in ways that might be beneficial to each person you are trying to connect with instead of just begging them to help you? When you approach anyone with “tables turned” in mind, it’s much easier to understand how a person might be more open to correspondence than not. If you are able to contribute value to someone else, they will be far more likely to help you in return.
4. Follow up regularly
You’ve already planted the seed with your offer to help. Now stay on their radar—respectfully, but consistently! Give each connection time to foster. In fact, plan any connection you intentionally pursue as far in advance as you can without any expectation of immediate gratification. There is a time for everything, and even the most powerful connections can take their sweet time before they are ripe and ready to harvest.
5. Don’t burn bridges
I repeat: don’t ever burn bridges with anyone. You never know who really holds the power in ways that could catapult your career! Chances are, a grand opportunity will present itself from someone you least expect when you least expect it. If you let every connection foster through genuine and consistent correspondence with those you care about the most, you will be amazed at what will manifest in your career!
I hope that these tips at least offer a much-needed shift in perspective for the imminent success of your music career. And remember this: while big opportunities may be beyond your control, the lasting impression you leave is always within your means.
How do you—a new songwriter or musician, with talent and drive oozing out your pores but no open doors in sight—meet the decision makers, the movers and shakers, the powers that be? How do you get your work and your talent in front of the people who can make you successful?
That is, arguably, the greatest mystery of the music business.
What’s the second-greatest mystery? Why so many songwriters, once in contact with those elusive industry influencers, throw common sense out the window and behave in ways that can only hurt their reputation and their chances of succeeding in the industry.
In my years as a professional songwriter and producer, I’ve been on both sides of that equation. I’d like to use that experience to help you avoid some of those common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Losing Your Patience/Cool
If you plan to be in the music business for longer than this week, here’s my advice: take a deep breath, and learn to be patient. Patience, more than anything else, is essential for a long and healthy career as a songwriter.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that you might wait years before the networking seeds you plant bear any fruit. Instead of obsessing over each delayed or rejected submission and melodramatically anguishing over the state of your career, funnel that energy into honing your craft, and trust that your talent will prove itself and find a home in time. You’ll save yourself some heartache and better prepare yourself for success.
It’s also vital that you not be impatient. Becoming impatient with someone—whether a publisher who isn’t returning your call or a record label exec who misplaced your submission, again—can only end badly for you. No matter how many justifications you have for losing your cool, doing so brands you as unprofessional… not just to the particular person you had contact with, but with everyone in their network. Yes, that’s right: music industry people compare notes. The last thing you want is for your name—and your explosion of impatience—to be the topic of conversation at lunch or happy hour.
Again, my recommendation is to take a deep breath, and learn to be patient. Odds are, no one is purposely avoiding you and your songs. Instead, they’re likely flooded by submissions for a number of projects and will get to yours in time.
(Bonus tip: the best way I know to not become impatient is to have as many irons in the fire as you can at any given moment. This means you’re never waiting for “that one thing” to come through.)
Mistake #2: Submitting Too Many Songs
You’ve just had a really nice interaction with a publisher, and he expressed interest in hearing some of your songs. You drive home in a daze, with your head up in the clouds; when you get home, you open up your laptop to send him a couple songs. Wait a minute, you think. Why send him just one or two songs? I should send him everything! That way, I have better odds of him finding something he likes, and hitting a home run, and… YES! Send them ALL!
While I understand the temptation to send this individual every song you’ve ever written, including a few that aren’t finished yet, restraint should be your default setting. Let me say it another way: it is NOT a good idea to send more than requested, even if you’re confident that all of your songs are great songs.
Why is that, you ask? Let me tell you.
Imagine the desk in that publisher’s office… maybe a nice, big, wooden one, with a picture of his family in one corner and his computer monitor in another. Wait, you said wooden… you’re picturing a clean desk, one where you can see the top? Wrong. Try again. Add stacks of CDs, covering every last inch of the desk, spilling over onto the bookcase behind and the floor next to it. That’s a little better. Now, that computer you imagined? It has his email accounts on it, each of which has an inbox filled with submissions. Dozens or hundreds of emails with song files attached or links to websites, emails waiting to be read and music waiting to be listened to.
The publisher arrives at work in the morning, and looks at his stacks of CDs and his overflowing, ever-replenishing inboxes. He picks up two CDs; one has two songs on it, and one CD has nineteen songs. Which one do you think he plays first? If you guessed the CD with two songs, you guessed correctly. He can listen to the submission quickly (because there is less to listen to), decide whether or not he likes the music, and move on to the next submission. Pick, listen, decide, repeat. Believe me: if a publisher likes what he hears, he’ll ask you for more. But, if you overwhelm him from the start, you might never get listened to at all.
It’s always better to start small and build up rather than the other way around.
Your best bet is two or three songs on a CD (or in separate emails, if you’re certain he accepts submissions by email). Unless they are requested, there’s no need to include lyric sheets, your biography, or photos. If he likes what he hears, he’ll ask you for more.
Mistake #3: Telling Someone You Have a Hit/You Are A Great Songwriter
The hallmark of a novice is informing the industry person you’re talking to that you’re a great songwriter and you’ve written a hit song… or, it would be a hit if only it got a chance. You’ll do more harm than good by coming on so strong, even or maybe especially if what you’re saying is true.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe in your work or be confident about what you’re doing. Instead, it means that you should approach someone, who you want to listen to your music, with humility and an understanding that your music isn’t the only music in their world. I’m a big believer in the “talk softly and carry a big stick” approach when meeting with anyone in the industry. Let your work do the talking.
So, what do you say? Two great options are, “I think I’ve got a song that’s appropriate for your artist,” or, “If you’re looking for songs, I’d like permission to send you a song or two.” These statements suggest that you’re a songwriter, that you have done your research (you know who their clients are), and that you respect their work and their boundaries (by asking for permission and not flooding them with submissions). Similar statements will go a long way towards establishing your professional bona fides.
Mistake #4: Forgetting to Use Common Courtesy
What am I talking about here? Don’t just talk about yourself. Don’t interrupt. Put others’ needs first. Basic common courtesies that we were (or should have been) taught as children… but that often fly out the window, even at music conferences.
The temptation to launch into a ten-minute bio seems to be too great to resist in many cases… but it’s seldom the right time for unsolicited personal information. Given that networking relationships—the healthy ones, that is—take time to develop, your best bet would be to get to know a little bit about the person you’re talking to. In time, they will want to know a little about you as well.
If you find yourself with a private moment to chat with a publisher, A&R rep, or music supervisor, start by asking them a few questions about themselves. You might learn something important, and you’ll probably stand out as one of the few people they met who didn’t shamelessly plug themselves.
Mistake #5: Not Following Up, or Following Up Too Much
You’ve got the beginnings of a nice relationship with a publisher, and he asked you to send him some music. You happily complied and sent a couple of songs—either by mail or email, whichever he preferred. And then you waited, patiently… so patiently that you didn’t follow up. You might as well have not sent anything at all.
Without a brief, to-the-point follow-up email or even-briefer voicemail, your music is likely to get lost at the bottom of a pile of submissions in that publisher’s office. (Remember those piles on the desk? Your music is buried in one of them.)
It’s perfectly acceptable, if not the norm, to follow up on your submission a couple of times. Doing so lets you confirm that it has been received and listened to, and it can act as a gentle reminder to the publisher that requested it in the first place (since he genuinely does have a lot on his plate).
With that said, you need to be judicious in the timing of your follow-up inquiries. There’s a fine line between professionally following up on your submission and becoming a nuisance. Following up too often, such as every day for two weeks, will be more damaging to your reputation and career than not following up at all.
The key is a quick, polite inquiry every couple of weeks and not getting discouraged if it takes several attempts. (Remember Mistake #1!)
It’s also worth noting that, sometimes, you don’t get a response, ever. If you’ve done your job by submitting properly and following up after reasonable time frames, it’s okay to write off a submission. There are plenty of other opportunities out there, and there’s no point in getting discouraged by one that doesn’t come through.
Hopefully, by listing common issues and recommending viable alternatives, this article helps you successfully network in the music industry. By understanding some of the elements of the business side, you can greatly increase your chances of getting your music out there.
And, if you’ve made these mistakes before, don’t despair. Having personally made almost every one of these mistakes early in my career, I can safely say that there is hope and a chance at recovery, even if you’ve slipped up a time or two (or three).
There are easier career paths than that of the independent musician. In most cases, you—the artist or band—are the songwriter, manager, social media director, roadie, and, oh yeah, you play music. But, where do you play? And how do you break into those venues? We’re here to tell you.
First, know that the advice you find below won’t mean a thing if you’re not ready for the stage. To the serious performer, this means your songs are memorized, your instrumentation and vocals are tight, you have your transitions down, and—lest I forget the obvious—you’re comfortable in front of a crowd.
Having gotten those pre-requisites out of the way, let’s talk about getting gigs.
It’s all about who you know, so get out there and meet your fellow music makers. You might have thought I was going to say ‘get to know the venues’; that is also important, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. It may seem counter-intuitive, but getting to know and befriend other bands can pay big dividends. Besides the fact that collaborating with other artists will help you grow and make you a better musician, knowing people in the local scene is a great way to hear about gig leads. These people can help; they are not your competition (unless you actually are doing a competition, like Battle of the Bands).
The independent music community is a place where you can find rich resources. If you make a connection with other groups and artists, they may be willing to put in a good word for you with promoters or bookers. Or, if you’re a fit, you could become an opening act for them. If you want to know the best places to play or get an introduction, play nice with other local musicians. And, when you get a break, remember to pay it forward for other up-and-comers. You never know who will be the next big thing.
Do Your Homework
The contact information for local booking agents is generally just a Google search away. But before you reach out to these people, find out all you can: their name, their preferred genre, the information and materials required for an audition, etc. If you have a buddy who knows the person you’re contacting, at the very least make sure to mention your friend’s name in your correspondence. Even better? See if your friend will introduce you in person—another situation where networking comes in handy.
If you’re trying to play an event or festival, first make sure your genre fits the audience. Your death metal sound may not jive with the bluegrass festival-goers. Second, know that there may be several stages, each with their own booker. Find out who you need to talk to about the stage that best fits your sound.
If it’s a bar or a club you’re looking to play, go check out some shows there. Get to know the bartenders. Watch the crowds; find out what they respond to and what seems to bore them. Make a connection with bands that are already playing at the club; a good word from a currently-performing band will go a long way in securing your gig.
You’ve found the person you need to contact. You’ve done your research. Now, make sure your email or letter to them is thoughtfully written. If this is not your strong suit, enlist a friend to help you. (I mentioned a letter intentionally. Lots of emails get lost in spam filters, are deleted without being read, or just don’t make it to the intended recipient; personal letters will at least get opened.)
I should also mention that persistence is a virtue when contacting a new venue. Don’t make the mistake of sending one letter and thinking all your work is done. It may take several attempts to get the attention of the person who makes booking decisions.
Whichever way you send it, make sure you have reviewed and edited your communication thoroughly. This includes spelling your contact’s name correctly. I had an opportunity to interview three different PR firms last month to help promote my band. I was surprised by the offer from one of the firms; they spelled my name three different ways in one letter! Needless to say, I did not use them.
No, not like that. I mean, make it easy for your potential promoter to listen to your audition. After going through all the trouble of researching your contacts, do everything in your power to ensure they listen to your awesomeness. For example, check (and double-check) that links to tracks and videos are working. Also, be sure to send a link or recording of a live performance—not a shiny studio recording. Your potential booking agent wants to know you’re capable of performing live.
In your communications, keep it brief (no life stories, please), but be informative. Include your contact information, genre, influences, and experience. If you have a considerable fan base and think you can pack the house, by all means, tell your contact that. (If not, don’t lie about it. You may get your foot in the door, but you will not be asked back.)
As in reflexes. Be ready to respond quickly if a promoter contacts you back—the same day if at all possible. They could have a dozen other hungry musicians waiting to take your spot. If, for some reason, you can no longer take the gig, let them know, and communicate your disappointment in the schedule conflict. They may remember you for the future.
Allow for Small Beginnings
When you’re just starting out, you have to build a fan base. To do that, you have to get your music into the ears of potential fans. Unless you’re getting booked every night, take the gigs that come your way—no matter how “insignificant” you think they may be. You can be proactive in these matters, too. Find a cause to support and do a benefit concert. Or, play your neighborhood’s next block party. Just get your music out there. You never know who will show up and catch your amazing set. Then, capture your fans’ info and invite them to future shows. As mentioned earlier, a following will help you land future gigs.
If your material is up to snuff and you are stage-ready, these steps will be instrumental in helping you get your next gig.
There are two ways you can take this—the way your wife says it when she thinks you’ve lost your mind, or the way a well-intentioned friend offers you some career or relationship advice. The truth is, neither way is particularly favorable.
Most people in the music world would assume that this headline (and the subsequent article) is related to using the professional services of a record label or booking agent. It’s not. A record label might be a necessary part of furthering your music career, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
So what are we saying? Maybe re-phrasing it would help:
You need help from professional friends
Let’s back up a little here.
Early last year, a talented young musician came by our office. She told us what she was doing to make it as a performing musician; she was full of creative ideas (so much so that we had some trouble keeping up), and it was an informative discussion. She plays gigs often, and she’s recorded quite a bit. She has a website, a product manager, music videos, CDs, and merchandise. She has a street team of dedicated fans that help out. She has profiles and content on all the right social networks: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+. She has her music for sale on iTunes, and it is also available on Pandora, Spotify, and Last.fm. And then there’s…well you get the idea.
It didn’t take long to figure out that she has a lot going on. Maybe a little too much.
Part of our discussion covered how she gets gigs. Now, she stays busy, performing three to five times per week (on average), and her music is her only source of income. She knows gigs are important, she makes most of her income from gigging and selling CDs and other products from her merch table. Her challenge was finding venues that worked—meaning, the money was good, she connected with the audience, the venue fit her style and skill level, and the venue was happy with the night. When these gigs turned into regular repeat dates she was able fill out her schedule with rewarding performances. When all these stars aligned, she felt like she’d hit a home run.
Earlier in her career, she had worked with promoters and managers who had booked gigs for her. However, she hated that they monopolized the relationship with the venue, so she made an effort to start networking directly with the venue owners. As she dropped the managers and promoters, she worked her existing venue relationships to keep booking her regular gigs. To this day she still believes this was a good move for her career. She is in complete control of the booking process and it has paid good dividends.
The drawback to this method is that, when her go-to venues were booked up and she needed to connect with new ones, the new venues didn’t know her, and they didn’t know if booking her would work out for them. Remember, she no longer had access to a promoter or agent to introduce her to new venues. These professionals spent many years building a reputation for providing the talented artists that a venue needed to survive. If the manager or promoter vouched for the musician they were putting their reputation on the line. A trust relationship with the venue is very important.
Since she no longer had someone to vouch for her, our artist would quite often spend hours making cold calls trying to book a gig, and nine times out of ten the answer she heard was “no”. This soured our artist with this method of finding gigs. (We can’t really blame her; we have past experience with cold-calls in the business world, and it’s absolutely no fun to hear a dozen or more rejections before someone finally says yes.)
To make things even more challenging—when she got a “yes” it was really a “maybe,” and that was just the beginning. She had to send over a press kit that included a complete workup showcasing her talent. Once she passed this initial review (sometimes it would take weeks to get a response), she might be invited to audition in person—another hurdle. Sometimes she got no response at all. Now her success changed from one-in-ten to one-in-twenty. It wears us out just to think about the process.
With everything this girl had going on—all her talent, all her drive, all her gigs, all her outlets and channels and efforts—she still had trouble with getting by. She knew she needed to find a better way to get gigs, and that she needed better gigs.
Can you relate to her situation? Are you, despite your talent and hard work and creative ideas, still struggling to get by as a musician? Do you need a more-effective long term method for finding gigs? We see artists like you every day. We hear your struggles. We want to help.
Now, back to the story.
We shared a story about another musician with her.
When he was starting out, he was full of promise and talent but had little money or name-recognition. He had not played professionally as often as he would have liked, and he was not making enough money. He was contemplating giving up on his dream. His part time job had became more than a distraction – it was not fulfilling, it paid very little, and got in the way of focusing on his music. Part time work was supposed to help bridge the income gap while he pursued his music career in the off hours. It was not working.
Going out on a limb, he bid for a job at a music festival several states away from where he lived. Time was running out, he had to make something work quickly or give up. As luck would have it, he got the gig. Well, not so much luck as his willingness to work for nothing, plus the fact that the festival was short on his musical style or genre and needed him to play. With only $50 in his pocket, he drove 630 miles to the festival, hoping for the best.
He went, and he played. After the performance, he had the opportunity to visit with some other musicians backstage. They liked his sound. A professional friendship was formed, and the other musicians invited him to sit in on one of their performances. He agreed (again, playing for no money). The relationship flourished. After the festival, they introduced him to several of the local venues where they would be performing in the near future and again asked him to sit in. They also took an interest in his career and gave him the input and support he needed to improve his game. Even though they were not much older than he was the results were significant.
Because his new professional friends vouched for him, he was able to book gigs at those venues as well. He ended up staying in the area for several weeks, padding his pockets with good gig money and helping further his confidence and music career. Over time he was able to expand his circle and meet even more musicians. He continued to work with these relationships and created a good reputation of his own with the venues and other artists in the area. Almost overnight his career began to turn around. What had happened?
Now, his success didn’t come from luck. It didn’t come from hiring a booking agent, making cold calls, or signing with a label. His success came from being open to opportunity and from his focus on relationships. That professional friendship with the other musicians is what got him the good gigs, which made him the money he needed. He leveraged up—perhaps unintentionally and without knowing it, but still.
This is what we mean when we say “professional help”: creating genuine relationships with other musicians as often as you can. We offer you the same advice we gave that talented, hard-working, struggling artist: work hard to create as many professional fans backstage as you do in the audience. Look around you for musicians who are more experienced and try to learn from them. Ask for advice and help. Use these relationships to leverage your career, and be willing to offer the same help to others.
There is no reason go it alone.
This is one of the things that we truly love about the independent music business. Unlike the business world, where companies constantly compete directly against other companies selling similar products, one musician does not compete with another musician. Music is not an “or” commodity, which can only be consumed in exclusion to the alternatives. Instead, it’s an “and” commodity.* A fan’s affinity for one band doesn’t mean he can’t also like your band. Fans don’t go to concerts hoping one act is great and the other two suck. The better each act is, the happier the fan is. The better the music available, the happier the fan.
The next step for you is to look into opportunities to perform where your exposure to other musicians will be the greatest, like the music festival our artist went to or an open mic night in your area. Visit a venue where you want to perform and see if you can connect with musicians that are already performing there. Don’t be overly concerned if you have to play for free or less money than you’d prefer,** since building these relationships is a long-term investment in your career. Remain open-minded and reach out to other musicians to create connections. Leverage up.
* We know this is a generalization, and that there are instances where you compete against other bands for a fan’s time and money. We still feel it’s a different type of competition.
** To keep the bills paid, try working these low-paying, opportunity-laden gigs into your schedule among the paying gigs.
By NationWide SourceEstimated 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?
If you’re a fairly new act, ask your friends and fans what upcoming local gigs they’re looking forward to; if those acts fit your niche, see if those shows or venues need opening acts. Being able to tell a booking agent or promoter that your fans already love coming to their venue is a plus.
If you’re looking for recommendations on great places to play or venues to avoid, use your peer network and ask other bands in the area (those you can trust).
Planning A Tour
If your band is thinking about hitting the road, ask your online fan base where your band should stop on its tour. Map out a route with the locations that will give you a good crowd. Once you have a tentative route planned, start asking fans about their favorite venues and local bands in those cities. The local bands might have shows you could get in on, drawing crowds from both of your fan bases.
Since not all venues provide lodging, ask the fans and local bands around about lodging, too. They might recommend places that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about, provide tips on getting a good deal at a place, or—if you’re lucky—offer to let you crash at their house. Not much beats a few welcoming faces and a home-cooked meal, and it gives you an incredible opportunity to connect with your fans. Plus, it beats sleeping in the van.
If your crowdsourcing brings up another band’s tour, look into the group and their plan. Should your sounds and vibes be complimentary to each other, touring together could benefit you both. Your differences might draw separate crowds, resulting in increased profits from gigs and possibly helping you win over fans that you wouldn’t have reached on your own. The key is finding balance; bands too similar or too different can cause more hassle than benefits.
If you can’t tour with another band, and if you won’t be competing for their fans’ attention, try learning from what they’re doing. Ask what gigs they have planned and how they spaced out their tour dates. Ask which venues worked well for them and which flopped. If the bands on tour won’t share information, talk to your existing peer network to see what tips and advice they have.
Crowdsourcing has a number of other uses that could work for a band. If you’re trying to determine which songs make it onto the next album, play samples and have them vote their favorites onto the album. If you need album artwork, you could turn to your fan base for recommendations of designer or for the design work itself. Or, you could ask them to vote on the design concepts, use the winning design for your album. The same idea (voting on design concepts) applies to t-shirt or merchandise design. Speaking of merch, you can also ask your fans what merch they want you to offer. Lastly (for the examples), you can crowdsource your promotions by creating a team of dedicated super-fans. Ideally, this team would be geographically spread out. While they can help moderate forums and assist with promotions online, you also want to work with them to promote your events in their area before you get to town.
Crowdsourcing is simply using those around you (as a band, mainly your peers and your fans) as a resource. Whether you’re playing locally or hitting the road, don’t forget to incorporate this technique into your band’s strategy.
Has your brand used crowdsourcing to make a decision, reach a goal, or build your fan base? How did you use it, and what was the result?
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 2 minutes
Unlike other social media platforms, LinkedIn is not aimed at helping fans find you or you communicate with the masses. Instead, its purpose is to facilitate networking within industries. On a personal account, this means adding business connections instead of friends and family. For your band, it means focusing on your peers and others in the music industry, not your fans. Here are a few tips for maximizing what LinkedIn has to offer:
Connect With The Right People
Again, LinkedIn is not like other social sites. Focus on the quality (not quantity) of your connections; connect with those that can actually benefit you, either by example, advice, or working together. Music managers, media personnel, marketers, and other musicians are contacts that will help you advance your career.
It’s accepted (if not expected) that you have fun with your band’s Instagram or MySpace page; however, your LinkedIn profile should be polished and professional. Keep your page free of clutter and ill-conceived ramblings; focus on making the best impression possible. Make sure any links you share will send users to relevant, attractive, information-packed sites.
Optimize Your Page For Searches
Aside from direct connections, keywords are the best way to generate new traffic to your profile. Think of words that promoters and record labels are likely to search for; this includes your band’s genre, location, and your music’s subject matter.
Use Your Resources
You are not alone. Hundreds of bands and promoters use LinkedIn every day, discussing various aspects of the industry. If you have questions, use your connections as resources. Start by joining groups related to your band or interest (Independent Artists and Musicians, or Music Promoters of America). If you have something to contribute, comment on existing discussions; or, if you don’t see an existing thread with your topic, start a new discussion.
We’ve said it before, but it’s even more important on LinkedIn. Spamming on other sites might cost you a few fans; on LinkedIn, spamming equals banning. Keep comments and updates professional and relevant, and save the spam for the grocery store.
Having a lot of fans is an important part of any band’s success, but it’s certainly not the only part. If you want to take your band to the next level—a professional level—then you need to treat it like the business that it is. Use LinkedIn to connect your band to right resources to make that happen.
Is your band on LinkedIn? How have you used it to help advance your music career?
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 2 minutes
Experienced songwriters will tell you that one of the most potentially rewarding yet potentially perilous ways to write a song is to collaborate. Unless you’re a solo singer/songwriter who plays the piano, guitar, or some other instrument, you will have to work with others at some point in the songwriting process. Being prepared can help smooth that process out.
The Pros And Cons Of Collaborative Songwriting
The benefits of writing a song with another musician are countless. For starters, you can learn how other artists write their music. Having these methods as options can help you get out of a writer’s block rut down the road. If the musicians are from other bands or genres, you can experiment with different styles and sounds, and the collaboration extends your music to the audience and fan base of your co-writer. The alliances forged during these songwriting sessions can prove invaluable down the road.
Of course, there are risks when trying to write a song with another artist. Going into a collaboration, you have no guarantee that your songwriting skills will gel well, even if you both appreciate the others work. Since it can be tough to hear critiques, you need to have a thick skin and speak thoughtfully. The lack of guarantees, presence of criticism, and a host of other factors means those potential alliances can easily turn into hurt feelings, damaged reputations, and bitter enemies.
Pick A Good Partner For Collaboration
Honestly, making this decision requires a combination of careful deliberation and blind faith. Some prefer to only write with musicians they don’t know, thereby not risking ruined friendships. For others, the opposite is true, as they already trust artists they know. The opportunity to write a song with someone who you know quite well can be just as valuable an experience as the opportunity to write with someone you have recently met. The same is true for known and unknown artists. Each opportunity is what you make of it.
A Matter of Money
If you’re under a contract, you should probably speak to your manager or A&R rep about how to split profits from collaborated projects before you get going on the process. If you’re both independent musicians, agree ahead of time on how the profits will break down. You might split it evenly, or you might base it on the percentage of work done. Some up-and-coming musicians might take less money simply to share the songwriting credits and have the experience under their belt.
Have you collaborated on projects with other musicians before? How did the process go? What advice do you have for those considering their first collaboration?
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 2 minutes
As a band, music marketing and the right supplies are something you need to think about. If you meet someone at a bar, show, or around town, do you have an eye-catching, informative business card with you? If not, you just missed an opportunity. Having the right marketing materials can make or break you.
In the past, press kits have been an essential marketing material for musicians. However, in a changing music industry, you might wonder if they still necessary. The answer: absolutely!
The Role of Press Kits
Press kits were sent to record labels, music reviewers, clubs, and managers as a way of familiarizing the recipient with the band. They included a press release with current news about your band (new releases, tour, studio) as well as a band bio. A single, full album, or demo and band photo(s) are also often part of the package. Because a press kit may be your band’s first and only chance to make an impression, have a polished, professional, and interesting press kit ready to go.
Digital Press Kits
As technology has advanced, an electronic or digital press kit has emerged as a greener, more state-of-the-art alternative to the traditional physical version, containing the same or more content but in digital format. They allow the recipient to quickly click a few links, preview your music, read your bio, and make a decision. If you want to create an electronic press kit for your band, websites like SonicBids and ReverbNation can help. If creating your own, be sure to include links to your band’s music, website, and social media accounts and text with your band’s latest press release.
Physical vs. Digital
Some artist reps, media outlets, blogs, magazines, record companies, and booking agencies will only take a physical press kit, while others will only take a digital press kit. For now, your best bet as a band is to have both types ready and available.
Submitting Your Press Kit
There is a good chance that most places you would submit to have their submission guidelines available online. If you can’t find their submission policies online, give them a call or send a friendly email. The point is, be sure to follow their guidelines and send them exactly what they want in the format(s) they want. There is no faster way to earn a negative review or annoy someone you want to impress than to ignore their submission requirements.
Have you created a press kit for you band or act? Did you go with a physical press kit, an electronic press kit, or both? How do you use it the most?