Category: Tools for Musicians

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Amazon or CD Baby, Which is Better for CD Sales?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 20 minutes

Review of Amazon Advantage and CD Baby for Musicians

It’s true. Amazon is one of the largest online retailers in the world, with an ambitious goal to eventually sell everything that can be bought. So what does that mean for you, the independent musician? Does it make sense for you to sell your CDs on Amazon? How does CD Baby match up? Well, let’s take a look.

First we should point out that CD Baby clients can already sell their music on Amazon since CD Baby distributes through Amazon. But, you may want to list your CD with Amazon directly without a middleman. Amazon Advantage offers you the ability to sell physical CDs directly. We will explain why this is important.

Overview of Amazon

Amazon boasted 244 million users as of January 2016, of which approximately 54 million are prime members. (Prime members get free 2 day shipping on most items). Amazon has processed up to five hundred orders per second, and sales volume is about $290 million per day. Most of the sales volume has to do with a wide variety of physical and digital products, music being one of them.

Sales growth in the last 5 years has tripled with no end in sight. In terms of your music’s availability and exposure, this could be a big opportunity for you. Amazon features various ways for musicians to sell music – and we do mean various. In this review we are going to focus on Amazon Advantage – the service that Amazon offers directly to musicians and other creative types for the sale of their physical products like CDs and DVDs. The unique part of the Amazon offer is you do not have to submit your music through a third party to get listed on Amazon. In fact Amazon has a simple user friendly application process that you can complete on-line. Check out the link at the end of this article.

Amazon also offers digital download, but the real opportunity to generate meaningful income for independent musicians is selling full albums. Digital download platforms skew very heavily towards the purchase of singles, not albums. In effect, fans might like your music well enough to purchase it but when they are offered the opportunity to purchase one song rather than an album they most often choose to purchase one song. An artist makes 8-10 times as much money on the sale of an album rather than a single, and your fans get exposure to more of your music. In other words, album sales result in better marketing and better income.

Overview of CD Baby

CD Baby is focused on musicians without all of the other non-artist related products. This allows CD Baby to concentrate all of their efforts in this one arena and the result is a variety of tools specifically designed for artists such as digital distribution of your music through iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. If you are primarily interested in digital distribution then CD Baby is a good choice. They also do an acceptable job of selling CDs when musicians refer fans to their personal CD Baby page directly. They are one of a few companies that offer both digital and CD distribution along with competitive up front pricing and a relatively low 9% participation fee to sell your digital download products. Please be aware that the 9% fee is in addition to the fees charged by the partner reseller.

CD Baby does a good job with traffic on their site probably due to the 300,000+ albums that they have signed up. More albums means more traffic, but it is unlikely that the average music fan will visit the website searching for music by artists unless they are searching for an artist they already know. If you are uncertain about this point, ask the next 10 people you meet how they buy music. I suspect you will not hear anyone say CD Baby.

By the way, CD Baby could become a site where fans search for music, but the search and recommendation functions need to improve. Fans choosing an artist on their site do not get recommendations to view similarly styled artists offering music for sale. Instead CD Baby displays artists from the same geographic area as the artist fans are choosing. For example, if a fan is on the Shaun Murphy page they can click on a link for “More Artists from Tennessee”. Not a very effective recommendation tool for most fans.

Getting Started

Amazon Advantage is a consignment service that benefits self-published artists. In some ways it is similar to CD Baby’s retail store.

To use Amazon Advantage you must first have a physical product (i.e. CD or DVD) to sell, among other things, and your product is required to have a barcode – ISBN, UPC, or EAN. Amazon also requires that you have Internet access and an email address, which shouldn’t be a problem – unless of course you’re reading this article on a printed hard copy your great-grandson gave you and you don’t have an email address.

Amazon has an approval process for new accounts (not everyone gets approved). But if your content is good and you meet minimum guidelines you should have no trouble getting approved. Once you’ve created an Advantage account, paid your $99 annual membership fee, and established that you have the rights to sell the music on your album, Amazon will “order” from you. The $99 fee is charged once per year for an unlimited number of submissions, so you can submit as few as one song or 100 albums, either way the total fee is just $99.

This is significantly different from other services that charge you a fee based on the number of songs or albums you submit. If you intend to submit a single song or just one album the $99 charge is quite high, but if you have at least two albums for sale the expense is per album is much better. In the end it’s all about sales volume. The only way to make money on music is to sell it, without exposure and sales the upfront fees will always be too expensive, regardless of which platform you choose to distribute your music.

CD Baby also has an approval process for new accounts but virtually everyone gets approved. CD Baby makes a distinction between submission of albums and individual songs. CD Baby charges $9.95 per single or $49 per album as a one time up front charge per submission, you do not have to pay annually. This is great if you intend to submit one album or song, but multiple submissions in a year can become quite expensive. CD Baby does offer a discount structure if you are going to submit several different selections.

The difference in the way both companies charge for their service can be summed up like this:

CD Baby charges every time you submit a new CD, but you do not have to pay additional subscriptions fees on that CD every year. Each submission has a onetime charge only. (Does not apply to fees charged when a CD is sold – additional charges are imposed when CDs are sold)

Amazon Advantage charges a subscription fee of $99 every year you participate in the program, but you do not have to pay for submitting additional CDs. Whether you list 1 CD or 100 CDs, the price is still $99. (Does not apply to fees charged when a CD is sold – additional charges are imposed when CDs are sold)

Both Amazon and CD Baby will request CDs to keep in their inventory and sell/distribute them as fans order CDs. Both will reorder from you weekly, depending on sales volume, assuming fans are ordering your music and the inventory of CDs is becoming depleted.

What Happens Next

Once Amazon receives your CDs, fans can search for your music on Amazon and the CD will show up, just like the toilet paper and running shoes they search for now. When fans purchase your CD, Amazon ships the CD and records the sale on your account. Every month your sales are totaled and Amazon pays you for your portion of the sale. In other words, you can expect to get paid on a monthly basis.

CD Baby works much the same way, but they pay weekly in most cases. Your music is searchable on the CD Baby site just like Amazon.

Setting the Price for Your Music

On Amazon, you set the retail price for your CD, and Amazon charges you 55% of that amount as a fee for selling your CD, so keep this in mind when creating the list price. If your retail price is too high your CD will not sell, and Amazon does reserve the right to sell your CD at the price of their choosing, but don’t worry, your profit remains the same. For example, if the retail price for your CD is $12 and it sells for $12 your income is $5.40. If Amazon chooses to lower the retail price to $10 in an effort to stimulate sales, you still receive $5.40. Ultimately if Amazon cannot sell your CDs at a price that allows them to make a reasonable margin they will return them to you and remove them from the site.

CD Baby charges a flat fee of $4 to sell your physical CD on the CD Baby site. This approach is different than Amazon since it is a flat fee and not tied to the sales price. CD Baby will not change the retail price you set for your CD. If you were to sell your CD for $12 on CD Baby you would take home $8, which is better than Amazon at first glance.

On CD Baby, since your fans will also have to pay for shipping, your overall share of the income can be much less than it is on Amazon. And your fans will not be as happy because they have to pay for shipping. Shipping can easily cost more than the CD itself, so this is no small consideration. One way your fan can avoid the shipping fee from CD Baby is by purchasing 3 CDs on one order. But fans may become frustrated with the free shipping offer if they cannot find 3 CDs they want to buy and abandon the purchase all together.

You can also choose to have CD Baby sell your CD through Amazon or one of their other distributors, but the numbers do not look as good for you when this happens, more on that later.

Returns of Unsold Product. Nobody Wants Them

If Amazon cannot sell some of your music they will return the title that is not moving to you at your expense (shipping and handling). If you have 8 titles that are selling well and one that is not selling at all, Amazon will still keep the 8 titles in stock and continue to sell them.

CD Baby does not generally return merchandise that does not sell because you paid CD Baby an up front fee of $49 for every CD you sent to them as an incentive to list your CD for sale (and provide other digital services). If CD Baby returned your CD for lack of sales they would also have to refund the $49 you paid them to sell that specific CD, which of course would impact their profitability. It’s the difference between offering to sell an unlimited number of items for a single higher fee (Amazon) or charging a fee every time an item submitted (CD Baby). Of course CD Baby is also listing your music on partner resellers, which is part of what you paid them for, so returning your money would mean that these services would also stop. This will not happen with CD Baby.

Marketing Your Music, Who does a Better Job?

Through the Advantage program, Amazon does a good job of marketing on your behalf. That means they will recommend your music to possible listeners – i.e. “People who bought this product also like …” and “frequently bought together…” While this by itself is not unique, (other vendors also offer to help market your music), Amazon is the only provider which sells physical CDs that has the attention of 244 million customers. No one else comes close. This is a significant advantage for artists who list with Amazon.

CD Baby also helps to market your CD on their site, but differently than Amazon. For example, CD Baby will allow a fan to select other musicians that live in the same area as the artist being viewed. A fan can also choose from a selection of sub genre’s by clicking on a link, but your CD will not be suggested to a fan even if your music is similarly styled to an artist the fan has already added to their shopping cart. The best way to find your music on CD Baby is to type in your name. The biggest Pro for CD Baby is all of the additional digital services and tools they offer to musicians, which you can still take advantage of without listing your CD for sale on their site. Trying to compare their marketing reach to Amazon’s is almost unfair.

Both Amazon and CD Baby will stock your CDs in their warehouse. This is nice because order processing and distribution can take a lot of time and effort. Amazon and CD Baby also deal with things like sales taxes. Again, these services can save you the headache of keeping up with taxes and shipping, especially if you don’t have an account with major shipping company.

Shipping is FREE with Amazon

Amazon Prime members get their purchases shipped for free. This is huge because Amazon has 54 million Prime members. Check out the math. If a fan purchases a CD from your account on CD Baby, they will be charged from $3.69 to $11.00 for shipping ($3.69 for ground, $11 for 2 day shipping). All Amazon Prime members get 2 day shipping for free as part of their Prime subscription. While no portion of the shipping charges are billed to you the artist, on CD Baby your fan will have to pay for all of the shipping charges. In effect, this increases the cost to purchase your CD and may deter fans from completing the sale. CD Baby does offer fans free ground shipping (it costs $0.01) if they order 3 CDs at a time.

What’s Your Take?

The nicest thing about the Advantage program is that Amazon only charges you 55% to handle the sale, which includes credit card charges, sales taxes, and the cost to ship and package the CD. That may sound steep, but when you consider that other companies offering a similar service to musicians charge about the same or more, but offer much less, this turns out to be a good deal. CD Baby charges $4.00 plus shipping and handling. (your fans pays for the shipping and handling)

As a point of comparison, iTunes typically charges artists 40% (including distributor fees) just for a digital download, and iTunes tends to sell more singles than it does albums, so you end up with just $0.60 for each single sold. Not much money, but arguably better than streaming services like YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora which pay almost nothing.

What, You Don’t Want It?

Amazon and CD Baby both handle returns, which would never happen to you. Who would return your music? But, if some rando didn’t like what they got, Amazon will eat the cost of the returned product and the return shipping. In other words your account will not be charged for the lost sale or the shipping. Amazon will resell the CD to your next fan and of course you will not get credit for that sale since it is then coming out of the Amazon inventory, not yours.

CD Baby will charge your account for returned product and require the fan pay for shipping to return the item. CD Baby then returns the CD to your available inventory for sale.

Other Things to Consider

Every program has a weakness. For example, if you deal solely with digital files, Amazon Advantage is not for you. And, if you want to sell both hard copy CDs and digital files you have to deal with two different programs. But selling the right product through the correct distributor can make a big difference in your take home pay.

Up front fees can be a problem. What if no one buys your stuff? You’re out $99 bucks with Amazon and $49 with CD Baby (for a full CD). But who are we kidding, that’s not you. Of course your stuff will sell….

Fees for sales through retail partners can also add up. Make sure you know what the real story is when agreeing to sell your product, you might be surprised by how little you make.

The fine print. Differences in Amazon and CD Baby. Important things you should know.

Range of Artists Represented

Amazon features a large number of headliner artists. For example, if you were to look at the top 10 selling artists on Billboard, Amazon usually has all 10 on their site ready for purchase. Amazon also features independent musicians.

CD Baby is a little different. Of the top ten, CD Baby would most likely will not have any of them. Most headliner artists are looking for a bigger platform to sell their music and Amazon fits the bill. This is one of the reasons that Amazon sells more music. (little known fact – Amazon is the second largest seller of MP3 downloads next to iTunes, and Amazon is still growing in this area – iTunes is not).

The significance of this difference is simple but important, fans searching for songs they have heard on the radio do not go to places like CD Baby, but they do go to Amazon. It is hard to be ‘discovered’ by a fan that might be interested in your music if that fan never visits the site where your music is offered.

As an artist you get more exposure from a site that has more music traffic with good marketing and search features.

Fees for Sales of Physical Products

You can choose to deal with Amazon Advantage directly, or you can pay someone else to deal with Amazon on your behalf, but be wary, the costs go way up unless you go direct.

CD Baby will sign your CDs up to sell on partner distributors like Super D, Amazon, and Alliance. All of these partners have their own fee structures so when a partner sells your CD the partner takes out their fees first (in the case of Amazon the fee is 55%*) and then CD Baby also charges a fee of $4 per sale on top of the partner fees.

If you choose to go direct with Amazon Advantage the charge is 55% of the sale as a fee. No additional charges, but you must sign up with Amazon directly, not through another distributor.

Example: Lets suppose you sell a physical CD for $10.00. The first column represents the retail price of the CD and income made by the artist if sold by Amazon thru CD Baby. The second column represents the retail price of the CD and income to the artist if sold by Amazon Advantage directly. The third column represents a sale made on the CD Baby site.

Amazon CD Baby Pay

The purchase of your CD through CD Baby/Amazon costs your fan $21 and the artist gets 50 cents (not good). The sale of your CD through Amazon Advantage without CD Baby costs your fan $10 and you get $4.50. The sale of your CD through CD Baby without Amazon costs your fan $21 and you get $6.00 (assuming 2 day shipping in all cases) The chart shows that the musician makes the most money going through CD Baby if the CD will be sold on the CD Baby site, but it also shows that the fan has to pay an additional $11 in shipping so that the artist can make $1.50.

These numbers change depending on the shipping option chosen by the fan, but we chose 2 day shipping because Amazon offers it for free and fans always want your music quickly. In fact, the speed of delivery might make a big difference in whether the fan makes a purchase or not. There is a pretty remarkable difference in pricing for both the fan and the artist depending on distributor used, so pick wisely.

Amazon has two options for free shipping to customers. As we mentioned before, 54 million Amazon customers are Prime customers, so they get free 2 day shipping. CD Baby charges between $3.69 and $19.14 for shipping depending on where the CD is going and how fast the customer wants their CD. 2 day shipping on my test order was $10.99.

This is significant because CD Baby customers who purchase your CD for say $10 would also have to pay an additional 37% to 120% to have it shipped to them. Amazon customers can make the same purchase for $10 and still have it delivered in 2 days for free.

Another thing to consider is returned merchandise shipping. Amazon prime is free if the product did not meet the customer’s expectations, CD Baby, on the other hand, requires the customer to pay return shipping.

Conclusion

Exposure is everything. Amazon exposes your CD to more fans than anyone else, and if your fan is already on Amazon, you’re making it easy for them to find your music. You could combine the sales exposure of the top 10 independent digital music stores and they would not add up to the exposure you achieve on Amazon Advantage. Plus, Amazon will look at your fans previous purchase’s and recommend music to their taste. And, with Amazon credits they can get your music on the cheap without you taking the hit.

In addition, Amazon is the best experience for your fans, free shipping is hard to compete with – and why not offer it to them? Free returns can also motivate fans to “give your music a try” because returns are painless. Sell through will improve considerably for these two reasons alone.

CD Baby is a great option if you want the other services they offer like distribution through partner resellers and sales widgets for your website. You could choose CD Baby for all of these services, but still use Amazon Advantage to sell your CD. Or you might decide that digital distribution is not all it’s crackup up to be and choose another route, like selling downloads yourself on your own website.

The questions you have to answer for yourself are:

> Which site benefits your fans the most?

> Which site is better at marketing your music?

> Which site has more exposure for your music?

> How many albums will you be listing?

> How are returns handled when a fan chooses not to keep your CD?

> What fees are you charged for each sale (including partners)?

> Have we mentioned FREE shipping?

* We tried to get a definitive answer from CD Baby about the charges on a CD sold by Amazon through CD Baby. We were told that Amazon charges what they charge and CD Baby then charges an additional $4 for every CD sold. CD Baby would not confirm the actual charges by Amazon. In our example we use 55% because this is what Amazon says it charges for the sale of a CD. It would be helpful if CD Baby were a little more transparent about these details. Some numbers are rounded for simplicity.

Link to Amazon Advantage for Musicians:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/seller-account/mm-product-page.html?topic=200329710

Link to CD Baby for Musicians:

http://members.cdbaby.com/?_ga=1.70752854.771028006.1462566939




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h

Making Money With Music

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The Business of Music

If you are booking paying gigs at all, you at least have a toe in the business side of music. That is, you are performing music in exchange for money. Now, depending on your goals, you may not be making as much money as you hoped. To move forward, there are a few things you need do to get where you want to go.

1. Make a realistic, big-picture goal

Do you know where you want to end up? If the answer is in a penthouse, rolling in piles of money, while your agent turns down gigs because your worldwide tour is sold out, you may need to take a hard look at what you’re doing to achieve that dream. Most of the successful bands and artists you’ve heard of today had a long, hard road to success. They worked grueling hours. They played every thankless gig they could get their hands on. They subjected themselves to rejection in an effort to get their name out to agents, labels, and fans. Most success stories are less a random discovery of untapped musical talent and are more stories of struggle, frustration, and just plain stubborn determination. However, each successful artist would probably tell you that the thing that kept him or her going was an unceasing desire to reach a particular milestone. So, determine where you want to go. This will help you create a roadmap to reach your desired destination.

2. Take an honest inventory of your strengths and weaknesses

With a road map in mind, you now need to look at places where you naturally shine, and the areas in which you could use some improvement. Maybe you kill at rhythm guitar, but could use some practice in lead parts. You might be an amazing songwriter, but need to look into some voice lessons or, at least, voice care. Maybe you need to leave the singing up to another member of the band or put in time on learning how to add loops to your sound. Now is the time to figure out the strengths on which you can capitalize and the weaknesses holding you back. Musicianship is not the only item to take into account. Is there someone on your team who is a natural spokesperson? Use that. Do you have someone with a penchant for entrepreneurship? There’s your business manager. Maybe there’s not a business bone in any of the members of your team. That’s ok, but recognize that as a deficit and work to figure out a way to find the help you need. Which brings me to our next step…

3. It’s okay to admit you need help (and you do)

Whether you are a solo artist or a band, chances are you don’t have your music career all figured out, or you wouldn’t be reading this article. Just a guess. No problem. There’s help out there for you, once you identify the areas where you need it. In step two, did you find that your songwriting needs help? Perfect! There are entire communities of songwriters just waiting for someone to use their songs. These people are often times willing to collaborate with others (you) to create something more tailored to your sound. Can’t find anybody in your town? Through the wonder of the Internet proximity is no longer an issue. If you feel you have untapped potential in the area that is currently (i.e. your songwriting is not quite where you want it) keep honing your skill. The really good songwriters got good by failing a lot first.

Are there bands in your area whose sound you like? Or maybe you appreciate their approach to stage presence. Or maybe you just wonder how to get gigs like the one they’re playing. It might not be a bad idea to find a mentor in the accessible local bands you like. Email them and invite them to have coffee or a drink. Find out if you can pick their brain. If you hit it off plan a jam session. Write together. Maybe you’ll develop a networking relationship with them and who knows where that could lead. More connections? At the end of the day you need people who have gone before you – people with more experience. Seek them out. One day you may be the one giving highly coveted advice to a newbie band.

4. Define your sound

You’re versatile. You’re a mystery. You can’t be pinned down, because you’re universal. Genre-less. Great. Here’s the potential issue. People like categories. Sorry. So, it’s ok if you’re creating a newish sound like Soul/Pop. But, if you’re so ethereal or all-over-the-map that only major hallucinogens enable to connect with your music, you may want to reconsider your approach. Establish the strength of your style’s sound and stick to it. When you have established a solid fan base and have met some of your milestones of success, you can experiment a little. When you’re nationally recognized, multimillionaire you can redefine yourself and take a completely new direction, if you dare.

5. Work hard (Sorry.)

You may have already guessed or even experienced that this is a necessary step. This is the step that can waylay or even remove many talented people from the pursuit of their musical goals. It’s hard out there for a band. The problem is there’s this idea out there that if you want it enough you’ll achieve success. The problem countless people want to achieve their musical dreams and, unfortunately, it won’t happen for everyone. It also takes a measure of humility, especially if you are a legend in your own mind, to play kids birthday or smoky bars or tour (and live) in a cramped van. You have to account for small beginnings – even if you’ve won some battle of the bands or had a cancelled record deal. Whether it’s practicing or networking or gigging (and it’s all of those things) there will be many hours of work. The bottom line is this: do you want it enough to work for it?

6. Create a workable business plan

Having said all that I’ve said about step five, keep this in mind… hard work can be coupled with efficiency. Here’s what I mean. You, the band or artist, have a responsibility to yourself and anyone who wants to keep hearing your music to define what success looks like for you. If music is your main source of income then eating, paying rent, and affording your lifestyle is the very basic measure of success. If you’re a grown person mooching off the people you know because music isn’t paying the bills, you need a new strategy. Are you spending more on gear then your gigs are paying? Did you order a thousand t-shirts when your fan mailing list consists of 87 people? Hoping for success and working toward success are two different things.

If music isn’t paying the bills you need to sit down and figure out why. If you have inroads in the local music scene, you probably have a good idea how much money each venue will pay. Instead of working on your band’s awesome logo, you need to play as much as possible. At those gigs, get people to sign-up for your newsletter. This will allow you to track who has an interest in your music. Communicate with these folks. Tell them when and where you’re playing and give them a reason to bring their friends (free bumper stickers or EPs or make a deal with the venue that your fans get ½ off their first drinks). Have your mailing list sign up at every gig and connect with the people in the audience, both on and off stage. To fund an album, do a PledgeMusic campaign and raise most of your capital before heading into the studio. If you do have an album, be aware that iTunes takes a good percentage of the song sale without allowing you a way to track who bought it. Consider instead having your own online storefront and selling your albums there. Or sell through Amazon. Sure, be on iTunes, but don’t allow that to be your only outlet. And, do everything you can to drive traffic to your storefront. It’s ok to be smart about your approach and think these things out before charging headlong into the musical abyss. Have a plan. You are a musician, but until you hire these people out you are also your own marketer, agent, salesperson, etc. If you don’t know how to fulfill those roles, see step three.

Now get out there and make some music!




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bandsintown

How To Find New Fans AND Make Social Media Updates Easy

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Everyone wants to make their life a little easier. Especially independent musicians. From being the artist to the tour manager to the PR specialist, indie artists have a lot on their plates. So when we find a tool that frees up a little of your time and does its job well, we get excited.

Enter Bandsintown.

Bandsintown is a website and app that lets music fans track their favorite artists. Then it lets those fans know when the artists they tracked comes to town. 65% of all touring artists in the United States use Bandsintown, and they have over 120 million fans subscribed to their service. For the artist, it’s an easy tool to use. Bandsintown adds a “Tour Dates” tab to your Facebook page, and you can manage everything from there. It’s a simple concept that has some great features. So let’s dive into why Bandsintown might be a good tool for your band.

Social Media Updates

A few weeks ago we posted a blog about ReverbNation, and it warned against letting third parties automatically post concert updates to Facebook for you. We cautioned against using this feature on ReverbNation primarily because there was no way to control these posts, besides turning them on and off. They tended to fill up artist’s Facebook and Twitter with duplicate content that had the potential to drive fans away.

This is not the case with Bandsintown. Their automatic posting feature has tons of options that let you control exactly what is posted.

If you choose to turn these posts on in Facebook, you can also target them geographically. This a great feature. It makes sure you’re not bothering all your West Coast fans with your extensive touring in the Northeast.

Post to Reginal

It’s also notable that the “Tour Dates” tab allows you to upload a custom video header. This is great news, because it allows your fans to engage with visual content before they browse your tour schedule. It’s been shown that visual content (graphics and video) tend to create higher response rates with viewers, so having this built into the page where your shows are displayed is a great feature.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 11.55.56 AM

Fan Analytics

Fans are the lifeblood of any musician. And having data about those fans can mean the difference between a successful tour or playing to empty rooms every night. If you have over 100 trackers (fans) in Bandsintown, you can receive fan analytics.

Probably the best feature in these analytics is the fan heat map. This tool allows you to see where the fans that track you live, where fans who track similar artists live, and the locations of fans who have RSVP’d to your shows. This helps you to create a tour schedule that will have the most impact for you.

Heatmap

They also create a list of the top 100 markets for your live show based on the number of trackers in each city, and show you a graph of actual RSVPs for your shows vs. people who are interested in attending.

RSVP vs. Interested

Google Loves Bandsintown

Bandsintown has a nice looking widget that you can embed onto your official website to display your tour dates. This is handy because you only have to upload your show dates once and they will be live on your official website and social media.

Another bonus is that Bandsintown has partnered with Google to streamline the ways that events show up when you search for a band. Since Bandsintown and Google are buddies, all your show information is easy for Google to read, and shows up clearly.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.08.05 PM

Another benefit to Bandsintown’s relationship with Google is YouTube Cards. YouTube hopes to replace annotations in videos with small rectangular boxes called cards. These cards are small pictures with text, and will display on desktop as well as mobile browsers. You can link these cards to your official website if you’ve already affiliated your YouTube channel with your website. However, if you want to use YouTube cards to sell anything, you have to use a retailer that has already been approved by YouTube. The good news is that Bandsintown is on that list.

Hozier YouTube

But the best news about this feature?

When you use Bandsintown on your YouTube card, the card will link directly back to your website.

This is great news for artists, and is vastly different than many third party applications that will take your fans to their website instead of your own.

What Not to Do With Bandsintown

Just like any other online tool, there are some things you need to be careful of when using a third party app to help you out.

  • Don’t let Bandsintown social media posts take over your profile.  Just because the social media posting feature works well doesn’t mean it is a replacement for actual posts created by you. Even though Bandsintown gives you lots of posting customization options, if all your fans ever see are these posts, they will probably check out pretty quickly. You can read our blog for tips on managing your social media profiles here.
  • Don’t let Bandsintown gather all your fan data for you. Although they have some great analytical tools, you don’t ever want a third party to be the main way you gather information about fans. If third parties are the only way you’re collecting fan data, if they ever shut their doors, you will be left high and dry with no way to communicate with fans.
  • Don’t Let Bandsintown Emails Replace Your Regular Newsletters. It’s great that Bandsintown will automatically send your fans an update when you’re playing in their area, but a personal newsletter written by you is a better way to engage with fans. Many email newsletter services also allow you to geographically target your email audience. Using Bandsintown and your favorite e-newsletter platform in conjunction with each other can optimize your fan interaction, and help get those fans out to your shows.

Overall, Bandsintown is a well built, professional tool that can help artists manage the planning and promotion of their shows, and I would recommend it to almost any artist. But as always, do some experimenting and find out if this app is something that will work for you and your music. If you want more information, you can check out Bandsintown’s official website here.

Have you used Bandsintown? What are your favorite features? Has it helped you to plan more effective tours, and get fans out to shows? Let us know in the comments below!




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reverbnation

Should You Use ReverbNation?

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

ReverbNation is a music-specific social network that over 3.5 million artists use. From digital distribution and web hosting to gig opportunities, ReverbNation seems to have it all. But do you need a ReverbNation profile?

To decide if ReverbNation is a good fit for you, you have to ask yourself this question:

Is ReverbNation actually helping my career?

ReverbNation has some useful tools. But some of its features might do more harm than good to your music career.

What Not to Do On ReverbNation

We want you, the artist, to market your music effectively, engage with fans well, and have a successful career. Part of that is using the tools available to you wisely. So we’ve outlined some things to steer clear of when you use ReverbNation, and a few things that ReverbNation might be able to help you with.

Don’t let ReverbNation’s automated social media posts replace your personal interaction with fans.

ReverbNation easily syncs with major social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. ReverbNation can automatically post information about your shows to other social networks. It will continue to post show information as it gets closer to the show date. While this sounds like a great thing, ReverbNation won’t let you control when those things are shared, or how often.

This is a problem.

ReverbNation’s posts tend to fill up your profile with impersonal concert notifications.

While it’s great to let fans know when and where you’ll be playing, these impersonal post soon begin to look like spam. This can frustrate and annoy fans, which is the last thing you want to do.

If you let ReverbNation post to Facebook, it can also lower your position on your fans’ newsfeeds. Facebook has a very specific algorithm that dictates what gets placed into newsfeeds. Numerous duplicate posts could get flagged in Facebook’s program, and mean a lower fan reach.

Do have a regular social media posting schedule.

A status that you took the time to write is better content than a computer generated post about a show. When your social feed is full of automated links, it can make you look like you don’t care about interacting with your fans.

ReverbNation’s automatic posts won’t harm you if your newsfeed has lots of organic posts.  When the automated updates are interspersed with personal content, fans can get excited that you are announcing shows, instead of frustrated that their feed is full of unwanted notifications.

Don’t sacrifice a great website.

ReverbNation has the ability to create a good looking website, that is mobile and tablet friendly.  But I have a major problem with ReverbNation’s website builder.

There are only three templates, and almost no customization.

While Reverbnation’s website design and hosting is easy to set up, the lack of personalization cuts down on the usefulness of this service. You want your website to be an accurate representation of who you are as an artist, and you want it to be a place where you can interact with fans. In my opinion, ReverbNation’s sites don’t allow you to do that.

As a quick example, let’s check out one of the bands that ReverbNation uses to showcase it’s website building feature: Skyward.

reverbnation website builder

Skyward is an independent alternative rock band from Harrisonburg, VA, and I reached out to talk to them about how their band utilizes ReverbNation. The first thing I asked them about was web hosting. They told me that even though ReverbNation features the Skyward website on their information page about site building, Skyward does not actually use the ReverbNation website tool, instead they use a design/hosting platform from Wix for their homepage.  If a band that is featured on ReverbNation—specifically on their information page for site building—doesn’t use the service, that tells me that something about their web design platform did not meet the expectations of Skyward.  ReverbNation may want to update their information page with a band that is actually using them to design/host their site.

Do have a website.

If you don’t currently have a website, ReverbNation’s website builder might be a good place for you to start. Having a website with almost no customization is better than having no website at all, and if this fits your need, then ReverbNation offers a good solution for beginners.

Social media profiles, including your ReverbNation profile, are not a substitute for good website.

So if you don’t have a website, and aren’t sure how to go about creating one, ReverbNation might be a good place to start.

However, if you are willing to spend a little extra time, you can have a much more custom website with the same tools at about the same price. There are lots of web hosting and design services that have comparable prices to ReverbNation, and allow you to fully build the best website for you. I recommend WordPress, Square Space, or Wix.

Don’t expect hundreds of new fans.

While ReverbNations boasts that they have 3.5 million bands signed up on their site, they never let us know how many fans have profiles. There’s no doubt that some music fans are on ReverbNation, but is it a site that hoards of fans visit to find new artists? Probably not.

The majority of users on ReverbNation are other artists. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a ReverbNation website will generate fan traffic and get you noticed. Try this simple test – ask the next 20-30 people you meet how they listen to music. Track how many tell you they log onto ReverbNation to find new music, I think you will find the number is small or possibly zero.  When I tried it not one of my people said ReverbNation.

If you want genuine interaction with fans, new and old, ReverbNation is probably not the place to do that.

I asked Skyward if they’ve had success connecting with new fans on ReverbNation, and their guitarist Jordan Breeding said:

I’m pretty sure no casual music fan ever hops on there, creates a profile, and then looks for new bands. It seems that most of the members are just other musicians. That limits its usefulness in my opinion.”

Do spend time creating relationships with fans

ReverbNation probably isn’t the best place to connect with fans. Finding out where your target audience communicates will help you build meaningful relationships with fans. Try Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Patronage.

Don’t spend all your time randomly submitting to gig opportunities

There are thousands of live show and press opportunities on ReverbNation. In theory, having thousands of potential gigs at your fingertips is wonderful. But there are problems. One issue is simply sorting through them all. You have to find the opportunities that are relevant to your band that you actually have a chance of booking.

Remember, there are literally millions of bands on ReverbNation trying to compete for the same opportunities as you.

You also have to pay to submit to many of the opportunities on ReverbNation. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, if you don’t get the gig, that money is gone. So if you choose to submit to these gigs, make sure you are paying attention to the cost.

Do submit to opportunities that can genuinely enhance  your career.

When looking for opportunities on ReverbNation use your time—and your hard earned cash—well. Spend it on things that are actually going to enhance your career. Some people successfully find gigs on ReverbNation. Other artists don’t.

The guys in Skyward have had some moderate success with ReverbNation opportunities. They recommend looking for opportunities based on geography. You’re much more likely to have the chance to play at a local festival that uses ReverbNation than at a festival thousands of miles away. You always have to keep in mind that you are competing with thousands (or millions!) of other musicians. But if you’re smart about where you spend your time and money, and it might pay off!

Useful Tools

There are things you probably shouldn’t be using ReverbNation for. But it can be a great tool when you use it wisely.

ReverbNation offers digital distribution at good prices, and their services are comparable to many other aggregators.  And if you are already paying for the premium tier of ReverbNation, digital distribution is included.

They also offer a great rate when you sell downloads from their online store. Selling downloads is even available with a free membership! Musicians keep 87% of the revenue they generate from selling their music on ReverbNation. That’s quite a bit more than the 70% you’ll make from iTunes.

Reverbnation also offers a great looking Electronic Press Kit. If you need something simple, effective, and streamlined to send to promoters, ReverbNation’s press kits are good looking, easy to set up, and offer great tools like integrated fan stats. You can even see who opened your press kit, and exactly what they clicked on.

Another advantage of ReverbNation is that it keeps everything in one central location. This is Skyward’s favorite feature. Guitarist Jordan Breeding says:

“It’s definitely very helpful as far as being able to hold all of our music/videos/photos/schedule in one convenient place and then incorporate that stuff onto our Facebook and personal website. It can also be a helpful way to contact certain venues or other bands in the places where we travel.”

Thanks to Skyward for their input in this article. You can checkout their music here, and their ReverbNation press kit here.




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howtodefinesuccess

Making It In Music: How to Define Success

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Have you ever gone to the grocery store and bought a whole trunk full of food, and realized when you got home that you have nothing to actually eat? You bought good food, but you can’t make a complete meal out of any of it.

Being an independent musician can feel like that sometimes. There are lots of choices, lots of decisions to be made, but in the end, what makes up a successful career?

Some people want Ramen noodles for dinner. Some people want steak and potatoes. Others may want lasagna. People have different tastes, and musicians are going to have different ideas about what being a truly “successful” artist looks like.

You have to decide what defines success for you.

Who Are You?

To determine where you want to go with your music, you need to find out who you are. Take a step back from yourself for a moment. As an artist, it can be difficult to separate yourself from your music, but in order to make some decisions, we need to take a bird’s eye view and create an objective analysis. Ask yourself these three questions:

What is my genre?

I know, this is a terrible question. You hate pigeonholing yourself. I understand. But practically, you need to have some idea of the genre of music you play, and the sub-genre you fit into.

Some genre decisions are easy. You may know without a doubt that you are a country artist. But where exactly do you fit in country? Are you Texas country? Nashville pop? Bro-country? If you’re a rock artist, are you punk?  Neo-grunge? You play folk? Does it lean more bluegrass or folk/rock?

There are hundreds of choices. You don’t have to stuff yourself into a tiny box. But having a good, descriptive genre can help you communicate with listeners, distributors, labels, venues….the list goes on and on. When you know yourself well, you can help other people get to know you. And you can make wise decisions about where you are headed.

Who is Successful in my genre?

There’s a good chance you’re already listening to artists whose music is similar to yours. Do some research on someone who you would consider successful in your genre. This might be someone like Carrie Underwood, Sufjan Stevens, Kendrick Lamar, Joywave, or Sara Bareilles. Knowing who is doing well in your genre can give you a good starting place as you try to determine your idea of success.

It will also help you be realistic about your aspirations. If there is a large audience for your genre of music, your definition of success might be broader than someone who has a more niche market. Country, pop and hip-hop artists at the top of their game regularly play arenas. A artist who makes meditation music probably won’t be playing in an arena, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t successful.

Having your dreams of a music career firmly planted in the solid ground of what’s actually possible will help you avoid major disappointments, and will give your career a foundation to stand on.

What do I want?

So you know who you are, you know what is possible, now what do you want?

This is going to look different for every person. We all have different dreams, goals, locations, resources, skills, and talents. Maybe your idea of success is as grand as playing sold out stadiums. Maybe it’s creating music full time and sharing your music regionally. Maybe it’s playing once a week at an open mic or being signed to a record label. All of these ideas of success are good goals to work towards.

Take a second to jot down what success looks like for you. It doesn’t have to be a long description, maybe it’s just a few key words. But go ahead, put it in writing.

Then put it somewhere you’re going to look at it. You might tape it to your mirror, or put it on the dashboard of your car. Remind yourself daily of what you want your career to look like.

Success in the music industry (or any industry) takes hard work, dedication, and action. When you know the direction you want to go in, you can begin to take the steps to get there.

Success in Stages

No success is overnight. If you look at the careers of many top level artists, you will see years of hard work behind current successes. If success is achieved too easily, it will disappear just as fast as it’s gained. You have to put in blood, sweat, and tears to reach career goals.

But what if your goal is miles ahead of where you are now? It might seem like an impossible task to get to where you want to be. To get to any level of success, it’s a good idea to have smaller goals leading up to the big one. This allows you to track your progress, and can keep you from getting discouraged.

Want to play in huge arenas? Start with shows in a coffee shop, or play some open mic nights. Once you feel comfortable there, and people are responding well, start trying to get shows at venues with a bigger capacity. Do you want to be a hit producer? Start analyzing songs and find out what makes them great, and ask a friend if you can arrange a song or two for them.

Small steps and manageable goals add up to create success.

Don’t Be Afraid to Evaluate

You also need to be able to look objectively at your idea of success and your goals. You need to know when they aren’t going to work. This is extremely difficult, but knowing when to back out of something that’s not working is just as important as moving forward when something goes well.

Sometimes, life just doesn’t work the way you want it to. You need to be able to step back—even when that’s the last thing we want to do—and objectively look at what’s going on. You may need to reevaluate your overarching career goals. You might just need to alter the way you are trying to achieve those goals.

I’m not saying you should give up.

What I am saying is that we live in the real world, not fantasy music land. Things aren’t always going to go exactly the way you want them to. Sometimes we are limited by circumstances beyond our control. That doesn’t mean you throw in the towel, it just means that you look for an alternate route. Detours are hardly ever pleasant, but a road is a road, and can still take you to your destination.

Being a successful musician is going to look different for everyone. Knowing your own personal idea of success is the first step in achieving your music industry goals.




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Talent Isn’t Enough To Make It In The Music Business

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

I’d like to begin this article by saying that I’m not a cynic. On the contrary, I’m a big believer that if your dream is to have success with your music, then, in time, you will find that success.

However, I am a realist.  There are rarely shortcuts in our line of work, and being a gifted songwriter or performer simply isn’t enough, in my experience, to guarantee success. It takes a combination of factors—including patience, perseverance, and, most importantly, an undeniable work ethic—to rise above the masses of musicians hoping to get their songs out in the world.

Here are four reasons that talent isn’t enough to make it:

1. There are lots of talented people

If I’ve learned anything after living in Nashville and New York City over the past almost twenty years, it’s that, at a certain point, talent is the least common denominator. In the big music cities, the pool of gifted songwriters and performers is deeper and wider than we can possibly imagine. This is a good thing; it gives us ample opportunities to learn from each other and improve. But the flip side of this is that talent is only a starting point; it’s all of the other things you do that will separate you from the pack.

2. Talent is Something that you’re given, but it’s up to you to develop it

There’s a reason talent is also referred to as a “gift.” The spark that makes us creative and intuitively wired is something that we don’t choose; we just get it. But just because you’ve got a gift doesn’t mean that you don’t need to develop it or spend time understanding it. That part is actually work, but what happens when you do this work is that you will develop the ability to turn something that was unpredictable into something you can do consistently in order to make a living.

3. You’re running a business

Being a talented songwriter or performer without taking the time to understand the music business is the equivalent of a company that makes a great product that no one will ever hear about because they have no marketing department. In other words, writing the songs is just the tip of the iceberg. You need to remember that, like any business, you’ve got to learn the landscape, know who the major players, are and set specific goals along the way in order to get to the next level. I’m not saying this is easy, but I am saying it’s essential.

4. work ethic is everything

The dangerous myth about the music business is that it’s an exciting, creative world where people make beautiful music, go to parties, and wake up one day to their song playing on the radio. The gritty, unglamorous truth is that just like any business. There are mundane, yet necessary, things you have to do day in and day out in order to get your music out in the world.

There is some glamor and excitement in the music world, but there’s a lot of uninspired work that needs to happen as well. Make sure you’re prepared to do that stuff, too. Having a solid work ethic and a willingness to get up every day and work towards your goal will eventually get you there. It’s not always clear along the way how these little things help, but believe me when I tell you that they do add up and, in the end, make all the difference.

Talent is a wonderful thing and should never be taken for granted. I’m here to remind you to enjoy your gift for the amazing thing that it is. However, I’m also suggesting that this talent is only one part of a bigger set of conditions that need to be met in order for you to successfully get your songs out in the world and make a living doing it.





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Protect Your Band: Insure Your Gear

Protect Your Band: Insure Your Gear

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

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

The Worst That Could Happen

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

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

Now what?

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

Again, now what?

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

Heritage Insurance Services

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

Clarion Musical Instrument Insurance

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

Music Pro Insurance

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

Choosing an Insurance Company and Policy

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

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

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




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Musicians and Crowdsourcing: Use Your Fan Base

Musicians and Crowdsourcing

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

If your band has built a solid and extensive fan base and network of peers, congratulations, you’re a few steps ahead of the game! Now, what do you do with those connections?

There’s a concept, albeit not that new, called crowdsourcing. It is “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people,” and it has a number of applications that could apply to bands and musicians. One variation of crowdsourcing is crowdfunding, in which a large targeted group of people choose to invest in a cause. For musicians, this concept can be used to raise money for a recording session, music video, or new album release. However, this is not the only way that musicians can use the crowdsourcing concept.

Finding Local Gigs

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.

Other Uses

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?




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Protecting Your Music from Illegal Use or Distribution

Protecting Your Music from Illegal Use or Distribution

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Musicians need to worry about a lot of things: protecting their gear, booking more gigs, connecting with fans, writing music, recording music, whether or not to pursue deals with record labels, and so on. Sadly, one of the biggest issues that affects all musicians at some point is illegal music distribution.

When To Worry About Illegal Distribution

If you are an up-and-coming artist, you might not be worried about illegal music distribution. You might reason that people playing your songs, even if they’re doing it illegally, is a good thing. This attitude, while somewhat understandable, can hurt you in the long run. If you’re a more-established artist who has recorded music and is making money, you’re likely going to be worried about illegal distribution.

Regardless of the stage you’re at, if you find your music being misused or unlawfully distributed, you should be concerned and act on it. Acting swiftly is key to preventing further illegal distribution, so knowing your options ahead of time is a good idea.

How Do You Track Illegal Distribution?

Well, you could spend your free time scouring the internet for illegal uses. Or, you could use a service that alerts you when your band/songs/albums appear. Google Alerts will send you emails anytime your designated keywords appear online, but this still requires sifting through legitimate versus illegal activity.

Another method for tracking illegal use is Topple Track. This service offers perpetual protection for illegal use anywhere online. It provides musicians with detailed reports, and verified problems are handled in as little as 24 hours. Pricing for this service ranges based on how many songs you want covered. For only one or two songs, coverage is $7 per song. For more than ten songs, it costs as little as $3 per song. Either way, you have ongoing protection for a very reasonable fee.

Your Options

If you use ToppleTrack, the company will work to remove the offensive uses for you. If you’ve gone another route, you have a few options:

  • You can shut your eyes, put your fingers in your ears, sing at the top of your lungs, and ignore it. (We don’t recommend this option.)
  • You can contact the offenders directly and ask that they remove and cease the illegal usage. (It might work, it might not.)
  • If you’re a member of a PRO, they might be able to step in, either advising you with courses of action or acting on your behalf.
  • You could have a lawyer step in and contact the offenders.

When contacting offenders, you can simply ask that they remove the illegal content, or you could ask for reimbursement (following standard licensing fees for use or using retail prices if the music was shared or downloaded). Lawsuits might not win you popularity, but they could help you recover the money you lost and prevent future losses.

Keeping guard over illegal music distribution is something that all musicians in this day and age need to be aware of. A service like Topple Track helps keep an ever-vigilant eye open for you and your work.

Has your music been illegally distributed? How did you discover the illegal use, and how did you address the issue?

See also: Copyright Your Music: The Why and How, Music and Royalties: What You Should KnowThe Why and How of Music Licensing




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Essential Podcasts for Musicians

Essential Podcasts for Musicians

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

As a musician, you probably spend a large part of your time listening to music: in rehearsal, at your gigs, attending other concerts, relaxing, looking for inspiration, and so on. At some point, though, you might need a little break. A great alternative is to download some podcasts. Not only do these provide a break from music, but they might help you grow as a musician. Here are a few to check out:

Music Biz Weekly

Hosts Micheal Brandvold and Brian Thompson have a good bit of industry experience. Micheal is a freelance music industry consultant who has worked with KISS, Motley Crüe, Britney Spears, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, Madonna, and many more. Brian is a managing partner for Thorny Bleeder Records and formerly was the corporate head of music buying and marketing for a national music retail chain. The two put out this weekly podcast covering the latest news in the music business, music marketing events, and music marketing techniques.

Upward Spiral

This podcast is mostly about what is happening in the music industry, so you won’t hear as much about marketing. It will give you a good sense of rising trends or upcoming changes, which should help you stay ahead of the curve.

Music Business Radio

Music Business Radio offers a lot of information straight from the mouths of some of the biggest names in the industry. They certainly know what is going on, and the best way to learn in this industry is to talk to people that have experience in it. Like the other aspects of this businesses, experience trumps book smarts.

Music Gear Junkies

If you aren’t a top level professional, this is a great podcast. The show is geared towards the “Joe Songwriter/Musician” learning how to record their own songs on a budget.

NPR’s All Songs Considered

Hosted by Bob Boilen, this show plays music from emerging bands and musical icons, as well as interview musicians, DJs, songwriters, and so on. Concepts and the general state of music are considered and discussed in true NPR fashion.

You don’t have to limit yourself to music industry podcasts, either. General marketing podcasts may be really helpful and translate well to the music industry. Find what you like and get learning!

When you need a break from your music, what do you listen to? Are there other podcasts you could recommend?




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