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In the mind of Nate

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

the Musical Artist's Survival Guide Part 2: Releasing your album

I trust that most of you read my last post, so I decided to keep going with this format so that those who brains didn't melt yet could read on. Believe me, I know there is a lot to know and go over beyond songwriting and performance and even if you are the guy in the band that says "they just tell me when to show up and I do" you should inform yourself about the business side. It is not easy even with the advances in technology allowing for the informed to be their own manager/booking agent/record label.

Obviously when you are releasing your own album you want to make that you make it sound and look as professional as possible. However this goes beyond the quality of the actual recording and artwork. I thought that this would be best in a Question and Answer format:

How do we get our cds made professionally? Your cds need to be replicated and not duplicated The difference is a duplicated cd is like a cdr burned on your computer. These work well and can be sold, however distributors and stores will only carry actual replicated discs that are made using a glass master copy. All cds that you have purchased from stores are replicated. They are only available for purchase in bulk with a minimum order of 1,000 copies. Usually at this price they cost you 1 dollar each.A place such as Discmakers can do this for you fast and correctly. Discmakers can provide a number of other services that are needed in order to have a cd released professionally such as spine labels, shrink wrapping and Bar codes,which you must have in order to sell your cds in stores (sales are tracked through Soundscan,look for information on how to register with Soundscan in the paragraph on tracking radio airplay below) . And NO this was not a paid advertisement. I simply recommend Discmakers based on prior good experiences and because they are also affiliated with CDbaby which you will also need to work with(more on that in a minute)

How can we make it so when our cd is played on a computer or digital sound system that it is recognized? You need to have ISRC codes aka International Standard Recording Codes. You will need to go to their webpage, apply for a login and they will explain how to assign a unique code to each song. It will be your responsibility to keep a record of these codes. These codes are necessary in order to sell your music digitally. To get started with getting you ISRC codes visit this webpage http://www.usisrc.org/

How do I make my music available for sale both online and in stores? The Same answer for both: Distribution. Basically there are two types of distribution that I will touch on, digital and physical. You can go through the same company for distribution of both, such as Cdbaby (however, I do suggest you shop around as well). Digital distribution is how you will get your music onto iTunes,Google Play,Zune,Spotify,Last.fm,Emusic and even Xbox(yes you can make money when someone plays your music while they are playing video games). It is Best to find the means of digital distribution that allows for your music to be on as many sites as possible with the largest pay out back to you. As far as Physical distribution, like I stated earlier you MUST have replicated cds in order to sell in stores. I suggested CdBaby for Physical distribution because they are affiliated with Alliance Entertainment Corporation, which is the largest distributor of cds in the United States. Most stores that carry music deal with AEC. Of course locally you can still look around for some stores that will carry your music on consignment or some other deal, but it is best to try to work on getting your music distributed nationally.

How do get listeners on a national level? You need to have a promotional campaign. The goal of course is to have as many people as possible listening to and buying your music. Yes, this can be done by posting all over the place, but think about how many other bands are dong this. You need to make your music stand out. So there are a few ways of doing this:

1.Send your album out to be reviewed This method is free(except if any shipping is required) but not always guaranteed. You probably already do (or should be) reading magazines and webpages that you would like to be reviewed by. Whether you do or not, search the net for magazines,ezines,blogs, and other webpages that will review music in your genre. Look at the page and see the Contact us link. Just inquiry whether they except physical press kits(which consists of 2-8x10 photos, a bio of the band,any previous press you may have received, your contact information and of course your cd) or if they will except information via the internet. Also keep in mind that it may take several months for them to get around to printing your review. But the good thing about that is that it keeps your release fresh in the eyes of the public. For Example you send out 100 press kits to different publications for reviews, You may get one or two reviews within a month or so and you may get a few more in six months and a few more in a year or more. So even after your album has been out for a year people are still reading about it as if it were just released. Just make sure in your initial contact with these publications to be polite, brief and to the point. After sending your release information follow up in about two weeks to see if they receive it and inquire if they have an idea as to when a review maybe printed. If and when it does, make sure to post it online and include a visibly clear copy of the review to your press kit. You may also look into hiring a publicist to do this for you as well, as they may already have a rapport with several publications to give you a better chance at more reviews.

2.Advertising This of course costs money, so you need to be smart about when and where you advertise. You don't advertise a rock album in a Jazz magazine 3 months before the album has been released. You need to view this like regular shopping, because after all you are spending money. Also there are of two types: Print and Online. For print when you are shopping around before you talk to any magazine, you should known some terminology in order to ask the right questions. Like what their circulation is. Circulation means how many copies are printed and when such as weekly, monthly, quarterly bi-annually or annually. Also ask them to send you a Rate Card. A Rate card will be broken up by prices for different size ads, which in most cases will be discounted if you agree to have the same size ad printed in more then one issue and discounted further. It is wiser to get a few smaller ads printed throughout several issues as opposed to one big ad in one issue. As probably already know a magazine you paid to advertise in will be more likely to write a decent review on your album. It is kinda of cheating, but it is how it is. And ask the print magazines if they have an online version or webpage you can advertise on and save yourself time searching for another webpage to buy ads on. Online ads are usually for a one month interval for companies that use Google adsense, Google Ads and I would recommend looking into Facebook advertising too. You can have a sponsored post and spend as little as five dollars or have a regular ad set up. You can set up a daily budget for each ad and bid for how many people will view your ad. The advantage of a standard Facebook ad is that you can target people based on age,location and interests. So that way your rock band that is influenced by Stone Temple Pilots, Metallica and Tool will not be seen by a guy in his Eighties that listens to Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison whose interests include fishing and oil painting. Reverbnation also has promotional campaigns as well that I have been told have help bands gain more listeners. When purchasing your ad on facebook I would suggest looking at your audience demographic on both your band's Reverbnation and Facebook accounts in order to target those people. Also make sure you target people who are fans of more well known bands that are similar to yours and people whose interests include music and going to concerts.

3.Radio Many bands still gain new fans from getting played on the radio. There is an argument that with the changing times with people using ipods and cd players in their cars, and more recently SiriusXM radio that your regular over the air radio is almost non existent and not worth bothering with. But after listening to the radio recently and hearing how many people still call in and win concert tickets and the likes this argument seems to be null and void. Not to mention how many larger companies still advertise on the radio(oops I forgot to mention that,think of it this way I just save you tens of thousands of dollars yearly that you wont be spending on radio ads). Many radio stations will accept music from a band and may play it on a local spotlight show of some sort. However, the most effective way to have a chance for consistent airplay or to be put into "Rotation" (meaning your song gets played several times a day for a specific amount of time) is to hire a radio promoter. Years ago record companies would pay the radio Djs to play certain records(this is how the term Payola was invented)but this method of obtaining radio play was made illegal decades ago. But for some reason a record company or band can pay a radio promoter to help them get on the radio as sort of a middle man. The best radio promoters will have contacts at several stations nationwide or internationally and will be able to track radio play(more on that in a minute). You should find the best radio promoter for your genre and your budget, as radio promotions can cost up tens of thousands. Although some radio promotions are considerably less. If you happen to need a radio promoter for Rock, Metal, Goth or Industrial I suggest looking into hiring Skate Board Marketing. This company has been around for many years, has worked with several great bands and is very freindly and reputable.

Can I get paid for my music being played on the radio? YES of course you can. However, it may take several plays for this to happen and only if you are having your songs tracked for airplay. The way you do this is by acquiring a login to BDS and Mediabase respectively. Each company will give you a login for free so you can upload your music to their database so that when your music is played it is tracked and your performing rights organization(ASCAP,BMI,SESAC) can collect your earnings. I would suggest also including your ISRC code for each song you upload as well. BDS is also affiliated with Soundscan which tracks retail sales when your barcode is scanned during a sale. Information on how to register for each service can be found here on the A&R Power Summit

So how much is all of this going to cost and how can a band pay for all of this?Obviously the cds will run you about $1,000 but I believe the fine people at Discmakers have better pricing for you on replicated cd packages. The estimated cost of releasing an album would be between $3,000 and $5,000 for a modest campaign. Some bands can pool this money together from their earnings or call up a rich relative if they are lucky. But in all seriousness, a new method for obtaining funds is through fundraising campaigns such Kickstarter. This a general site where people will donate to several start up businesses in exchange for rewards including thank you letters, free merchandise and services. However there is a site for just funding musical projects called Rockethub which you should also look into. Bands have offered their donators free downloads, shirts and even free concerts for generous donations. Each site lets you create a video to show potential contributors why they should help fund your project. I recommend looking at some successful fundraising campaigns and their videos closely to learn how they got their much needed funding.

Well, that should cover all the bases as to effectively release an album. I hope all of your questions were answered. And by the way can anyone tell why I posted this particular entry on a Tuesday? Because for reason this is usually the day of the week most new albums are released. Betcha you didn't know did you? Until next time best of luck in your musical journey, Nate

Monday, September 16, 2013

the Musical Artist's survival guide part 1: the music business and promoting yourself

Ok, I have been speaking about this for some time now. A few years back I put together a list of books and webpages I suggest for all independent artists. They will help you learn about the music business and make it easier for you further all your musical endeavors. I have read most of these books(really, I did. I'm not lying) and they can be found at the library and on sites like Ebay or Amazon. If anyone has any other books or webpages that you think are useful please let me know. I will start with the Books and include some webpages for the end.

REFERENCE BOOKS

The Indie Bible a book that is released yearly that has a list of contact information for record companies, radio stations, magazines, distributors and more that will work with independent bands. It is divided up Geographically and by Genre.

The Music Atlas Another Yearly reference book. Not specifically geared towards independent artists. But does have many resources such as record labels and other information broken up by Countries and States such as Clubs, music stores and newspapers and other great resources.

EDUCATIONAL BOOKS ON THE MUSIC BUSINESS AND MORE

"Your Band is a virus" by James Moore

"I don't need a Record Deal" by Daylle Deanna Schwartz A great guide for independent artists that was mentioned in my last blog entry. It will show you how to use all the resources available to today's artists to become a success while using unique strategies to building a fan base and more.

"Ruthless Self Promoting in the Music Industry" by Jeffrey P. Fisher This book is one of my favorites. You will learn industry protocol as well as smart promoting and being able to get more shows and publicity for your band with all the tips you will learn in this book.

"Get It in Writing: The Musician's Guide to the Music Business" by Brian McPherson A book to get you acquainted with copyrights, Mechanical and publishing royalties, Record deals and more. Also includes interviews from many music industry professional such as Rick Rubin

"the Billboard guide to Music Publicity" by Jim Pettigrew A good read to show you how to get your band and releases the much need publicity and reviews in order to gain a larger fan base and presence both locally and nationally.

"Making Money Making Music" by Eric Beall A good book to learn everything you need to know music publishing and licensing.

"This Business of Music" by M. William Krasilovsky, Sidney Shemel, John M Gross and Jonathan Feinstein A part of the Billboard music business series(which I suggest you read each one). This is a newly updated overview of each aspect of the music business including : copyrights, publishing, management and more. A must read for any musician, manager, publicist, agent or anyone else looking to have a career in music.

"This Business of Artist Management" by Xavier M. Frascongna This will show you what you should look for in a manager. It explains what a manager does and even has sample contracts for performances, artist management and more.

"This Business of Music Marketing and Promoting" by Todd Lathrop

"This Business of Concert Promotion and Touring" by Ray D. Waddell, Rich Barnet and Jake Berry

"Million Dollar Mistakes" by Moses Avalon A book that is packed with stories from many music industry pros that were brave enough to share what mistakes cost them dearly so can learn from them. A very good read.

"Guerrilla Marketing Excellence: 50 Golden rules for Small Business Success" by Jay Conrad Levinson Not a music oriented book. But it was a book recommended by one of the authors of the books above. It will show you how to effectively promote your product, which in this case is your band, your albums and merchandise.

Webpages you can use to promote your music

Of course your web presence is important as well. Im sure every band is on Facebook. The best thing is to link your band's facebook page to other music sites(some of which I will mention). I would recommend finding genre specific groups to post to as well as groups in your area. However, I suggest that you "don't live in a bubble". Like and share other artists posts, listen to other bands. We are all in the same boat, so if you just post and don't reciprocate when someone else does than don't complain when you get poor results. This Group is great for anyone who agrees with this method and wants more fans and likes: The Artist DIY marketing Co-op founded by Jim Rose And all of course are welcome to join this group that I helped co found as well Artists in your Neighborhood

Twitter Another great way to gain fans(if you know how to use it) You will notice that you will get a group of loyal "reposters", I suggest including them in any important tweets and include: "RT" which is short for Retweet or asking someone to retweet. Also, you will learn that hastags: # are important, I learned that you should keep it simple like #music, #rock or #video don't expect to gain interest by putting #checkoutthissongwewerestayedupallnightrecording. More tips on twitter and getting more followers from this blog by Music clout on Twitter promotion

Reverbnation A good all around music site that offers distribution, ways to reach new fans, music charts and even pays artists. It has become the norm that most bands use Reverbnation

Bandcamp A great page for you to post and sell your music. You keep a bigger percentage of your sales then if you sold downloads through a distributor (a topic that I will discuss in further detail in another entry) and you can allow fans to name their own price are among the many features on bandcamp. A highly recommended site to be on.

Ourstage This page has features that include their own EPK(Electronic press kit) and monthly contests, some of which are divided by genre where bands can win cash and other prizes. Plus contest winners have another thing to add to their press kits.

Headliner A somewhat Co-op based site where bands help other bands with their promo campaigns and acquire "Band Bucks" for doing so that can be used during their own promo campaigns to promote a show, or release or what not.

Last.FM An internet radio site that has one of the largest music catalogs on the net. Artists can also make money from listeners downloading and streaming their songs.

Webpages for making your own merchandise

Cheap Buttons The names says it all! You can get friendly, fast and reliable service with button package prices starting at 20 dollars

Sticker Guy A great page to get stickers done fast and cheap.

Jak Prints A good page with good customer service for printing mostly anything including clothes, stickers, banners, and more

Cafe Press A page that allows you to set up your own online store for all types of merchandise. You can have your band's logo on shirts, hats, Coffee mugs, mouse pads, clocks and much more

Spreadshirt A great page for having your band's shirts printed. You can set up an online store to have shirts and other products printed with digital direct technology and fast shipping straight to your fans

Well, I hope this helps you get some more perspective into how the music business works and will help make it a bit easier for you to get your name out there. In closing I suggest that you be patient and friendly in all your dealings while climbing the ladder. As they say: you will meet the same people on the way up as you do on the way down. Best of luck to you all,Nate

And remember this when something doesn't work out, oh well after all:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Times they are a changing

Earlier on in the week, I found myself commenting on a Facebook post by a slightly discouraged musician from a new younger band out of NYC called Candy Brain that feels that the music industry is ruining music for him. I think he was speaking more about the local "seen" which is basically just a staging area and not the be all end of all the music business(Thank God). Luckily, there were a few people like myself to shed some light on this. Years ago, the Record companies decided your fate and very few bands could control their own destinies. Simply because the resources available to us now where not there 20, 25 or even 30 years ago.Remember there was no Itunes or Cdbaby, so no record deal meant no distribution. Yes you could go into a studio on your own and record(if you were lucky enough to even afford that let alone getting your finished product duplicated), hoping a record label would take notice of your valiant effort and offer you some sort of deal which would included redoing whatever songs you did in some state of the art "real" studio with an actual producer. Even if you gave them a usable recording they wanted you to re-record, such was the case of the band Boston (but even the engineer at the studio ignored the labels request and kindly gave the studio time away to another band). However, Those days are long gone. The record companies want you to have a perfectly recorded and mixed demo for them before hand. And with the technology availible to us today, that is not hard to accomplish. In most cases, you can even do that at home which years ago was only a luxury that the big names in the music industry could afford. This is mainly because of the transition from old analog "Reel to Reel" tapes, to Digital hard disk. Analog gives you a nice and warm sound, but the maintenance involved combine with all the components needed to eliminate "Tape Hiss" (that’s a term most of you haven’t heard in awhile huh?) was very expensive. Digital is much easier to acquire and edit with. But along the ease of use, may have come less effort. The "cut and paste" ease of technology may have made it too easy for musicians. That’s just one school of thought, shared by myself and one Jimi Hendrix:
The point I was trying to make was along those lines of the old saying: "they don't make them like they used to". Years ago, with less technology available artists would crank out a full length album about every 8 months. That is unheard of these days. Some bands take up to 3 years to finish an album (under normal circumstances, not the insane situations I have dealt with). I think that in many cases years ago people worked harder with less. I am reminded of this by this old picture of the Marquee of the movie theater in the town I grew up in, Ridgefield Park,NJ.
I was amazed to see how fancy this theater looked about 100 years ago in such a small town as if it was a Broadway theater. Especially after the Marquee for the Rialto that I knew growing up:

I think perhaps back then people had more of a sense of community and sharing. They probably didn't see it as a something they had to do, but something customary. If you were unfriendly and selfish, word would get around and no one would help you when you needed help. Perhaps these old ways are long gone due to how hard times have been and the change in people's attitudes. I really don't think there has been a band since the Beatles that has changed the way people interact with each other, but I do think some of these old ways would make the music community or "Scene" better. If you read my blog entry Set the bar for yourself you would know why I blatantly misspell that word and refer to what we have in NYC as a "Seen".

Anyways, with so much available to us these days we can really be our own record labels, booking agents, merchandiser and beyond. Just look at video for example, it was very expensive to acquire a halfway decent camera to shoot video and many didn’t have the skills to get the best footage. I have been lucky enough through trial and error to learn how to shoot video(or probably after manning my family's video camera as a kid and hearing my Mother complain several times that she was getting nausea from video I took with the camera shaking around). Which I have gladly done for many bands around town, just because I saw the need was there and not looking to gain from it. At the end of this blog, you will find a video a just filmed for Richie Rye.I would like to point out that in the early 80's Richie's old band, Frank Reeves & the Sneaker boys was able to film an actual music video with green screens and all(which can be seen on his facebook page) because of connections they had a music college in Manhattan. Like I had read in the book I don't need a record deal by Daylle Deanna Schwartz (one of the books that I will have on my list of recommend industry books in a future blog) I learned of bands networking, pooling resources with each other to "trade shows" in layman’s terms getting band from another city a show in your city in exchange for a show in theirs. Or even doing a non traditional show such at a studio, someone's home or other place besides a club. Or even in a town that is not known for music, sort of a "big fish in a small pond" concept which seems to work for some,since you are the focus because their is not much or any competition.

My young friend is actually taking this approach today, despite his discouraged feelings early in the week. He and his band have teamed up with another up and coming band, the Amatory Murder to host a free show at a studio in Brooklyn today. I am excited to be going to see a free show in a non traditional venue. Hey, its something different and may cause a ripple effect that is much needed here. So hopefully there will be more shows like and people can link up, discover new bands and have fun. But we all need to realize that it is work and not always fun. As we know hard work can be rewarding, so If you have something to bring to the table, any talent at all such as artwork, photography, merchandising connections, Public relations, modeling or any other. It is best to find like minded people to include in your ventures and work towards and a common goal. That is how a "Scene" should be.

So I hope this made you realize that a blend of our technology mixed with the work ethic and mannerisms of the past are probably the best path to success. In closing I would like to share with you a video that I have filmed and edited for a friend of mine mentioned in an earlier blog, Richie Rye performing a song that shares the same name as this blog entry.Until next time Enjoy, Nate