Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The 10 Artist-Music Commandments

Finding the right answers often comes from asking the right questions. As an artist you must always be aware of yourself and your brand as a whole. The more you know about yourself, the easier it will be to promote and build your brand and gain the exposure needed to have a successful career in music. Artists often overlook these questions and continue to shoot aimlessly in their careers, which leads to failed marketing campaigns, bad reputations and a whole lot of running in place. To help you understand yourself more as an artist, I’ve created the following list:
1. Am I Marketable? This has to be the most important question of all time. There’s a lot that goes into being ‘marketable’ as an artist. Most of it will depend on how you answer the rest of these questions and a major part of it has to do with how well you are branding yourself as an artist. What do you stand for? What do you want to be known for? Appearance, music, promo strategies, etc all go into making you a marketable artist.
2. Do I Make Music That Really Catches The Listener? Your music is your commercial for your brand. Your music – also known as your product -  is your marketing tool to gain fans and eventually make money doing what you love, but first you have to be sure to create music that will appeal to the masses and not just relatable to you. By no means am I saying that you must be a ‘commercial’ artist or that you have to make music that really isn’t YOU, however you need to be able to capture an audience with your lyrics, melodies and records as a whole. Actually, until you have this, your focus shouldn’t be on much else.
3. Am I Promoting Myself The Right Way?  Am I promoting the right product? This is a question that most artists as well as managers have a hard time with. What is the correct way to promote? Well I know one thing, the INCORRECT way to promote is by sending out unsolicited links to people via Twitter, Facebook, email or any other social media site. The main goal of marketing and promotion is to attract people to your music and brand. You do this by engaging with people, not just sending out music links to random people and hoping/begging for a listen. Truth is, you need much more than just a listen! You need people to share your music. You need to get enough people talking about you that others become curious and check out your music without you having to ask them. You don’t do this by spamming, you do this by talking with people and being yourself. They are called SOCIAL networks for a reason, be social! Also, both word of mouth buzz in the ‘streets’ and online buzz are needed, they go hand in hand. You need to be performing in your area, hitting up different events and networking with your peers, do what it takes to be seen and heard. Make it so that they can’t ignore you! Keep in mind that getting a great response from your marketing also comes from promoting the right product. You must be able to give the fans what they want. I was chatting with an industry peer of mine and he said, ‘If Biggie never released Juicy would we have heard Suicidal Thoughts?” I found this to be a great analogy because it clearly shows you how important promoting the right product can be.
4. Am I Investing In The Right Things For My Career? In case you haven’t figured it out yet, having a career in music really takes a toll on your wallet. Your best bet would be to find an investor, but in the beginning most of your career will be funded by yourself which also means that you want to be sure that you’re spending money on the right things. You should invest in your product, meaning invest in professional mixing and mastering to get your music sounding crisp and radio ready. Invest in design and branding, you want to make sure that when you promote your music it will capture the eye of the listener before they even give it a listen –  this means great visuals. Once you have the music and branding down, it’s time to invest in marketing and promotion. This can involve the materials needed to promote (merchandise, physical copies of your CD, banners, business cards, stickers etc) as well as actual promotion campaigns (viral campaigns, advertising, strategic blog placement and Public Relations). Notice, I didn’t mention anything about paying to perform or paying a bunch of money to feature your favorite artist on a track. If you promote yourself the right way, and you pay your dues, eventually you’ll be the one getting paid to perform and for features.
5. What Are My Strengths? Weaknesses? Ask yourself this often and be brutally honest with yourself. Being totally aware of what you’re capable of is important and will help you find your niche’. You should be constantly learning and evolving as an artist. Your goal should be to become the best artist you can be, but you can’t do this without first having a clear understanding of your strong points as well as places where you need some work. You need to build on both your strengths AND weaknesses. You might be amazing at writing hooks but your verses aren’t as strong, understanding this will allow you to focus your efforts on becoming a better songwriter while also allowing you to play on the fact that you write extremely catchy hooks. You might be amazing at recording but your performance needs work, therefore you focus your attention more on perfecting your live show, you should get the point. Understanding all of this will make you more confident, which in return will make a better impact on everything you do.
6. How Do I Compare To Other Artists (Similarities/Differences)? As a new artist you will definitely get asked this question at some point, and yet it is something that many artists resist thinking about. When asked this question, most artists will say things like “We don’t sound like anyone else,” or “We don’t want to be categorized,” however defining your sound is an important step in defining your brand. Understanding who or what you sound like immediately helps you identify your target market and creates a firm foundation for your marketing strategy. It will help you understand which platforms you should be targeting, which fan bases you should reach out to, and which media outlets you should contact during your PR campaign.
7. Who Is My Target Audience? This is basically asking yourself, who do I appeal to? Face it, your music doesn’t appeal to everyone, so therefore you shouldn’t try to promote it to everyone. The more detailed you get into this, the more targeted your promotion will be, which is much more effective than chasing random people for listens and downloads. Finding your target audience comes from learning about yourself and who you relate to through your music as well as your appearance. Does your music appeal more to the male or female audience? What age group would your music be suitable for? Where do these people go to find new music? Those are just a few questions to ask yourself when narrowing down your target audience. Please do not skip this step, this is something that you need to be aware of or else your marketing campaign will not get the response that you’re looking for.
8. Do I Have The Right Team Around Me? I don’t care what anyone says you cannot do this on your own – I repeat YOU CANNOT DO THIS ON YOUR OWN! You need power behind you, you need extra ears, you need hard workers to push you and keep you motivated. Now think about it, who are you surrounded by? Is everyone on the same page and working towards certain goals? Is everyone a good representation of you? Are you surrounded by honest individuals that have your best interest at heart? Is everyone actively making connections to solidify the teams future and help reach goals? The last thing you need is to be surrounded by a bunch of egotistical slackers that are only worried about themselves in the long run, or that just aren’t focused or professional enough to handle the hurdles in the music business. If you feel that there are people around you that just aren’t ‘cutting it’ be sure to make the necessary adjustments before it’s too late.
9. How Many Fans/Sales/Downloads/Views Do I have? In order to reach your goals you first have to know where you currently stand. You need to have a clear understanding at where your stats are currently in order to adjust your marketing plan to reach higher goals. You should also know how many people are subscribed to your official mailing list (please tell me you have a mailing list!) because this will allow you to measure and estimate how many downloads, likes, views etc that you will achieve with your next release. Keep in mind that all numbers must be real in order to make an impact. If a record label sees that you have over a million views on YouTube and 30,000 followers on Twitter, but you still can’t pack a venue or sell records, having those big numbers doesn’t look good. So remember it’s not all about the numbers, it’s about actual fan engagement.
10. What are my goals (Immediate + Long Term)? Artists fail a lot of the time because they are shooting aimlessly, just doing what they think is right and just ‘winging it’ when it comes to their career, instead of making realistic goals and sticking to them. The better understanding you have of your current situation plus your goals, the easier it will be to reach them. You should have a list of immediate goals (whether it be to get a certain number of downloads for your next project release, or you want to bring your views up to a certain level etc) as well as long term goals for the next year or so, and you must stick to them as much as you can.
If you need help with any of this please do not hesitate to contact me on twitter @BreezyB215 and also visit my company site www.ExclusivePublic.com to put some strong power behind your music and brand.

Monday, November 11, 2013

5 Secrets of the Successful Indie Artist

Invite your fans behind the curtain and into your world as an indie artist if you really want to connect, grow your audience, and find success

Behind the indie artist curtain
Gone are the days when being an indie artist meant boldly throwing off the corporate structure and shaking your fist at “The Man.” While there is a certain freedom obtained in independence, being an independent artist is no longer the anomaly – even for larger acts. Going independent is the new reality for many successful music artists across the globe.
What does being an indie artist mean, exactly? For one thing, a new game requires a new set of skills. Those who got into this gig because they can master melodies and craft thoughtful lyrics now find themselves facing the world of social media, marketing engagement, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, pings, tweets, adds, and more.
But independent musicians are taking on the challenge, and some are doing better on their own than they ever could have imagined with traditional label backing. What’s their secret? It starts with great music, but when it comes to relating to your fans, here are five secrets to having success as an indie artist.

1. Have a compelling story and share it

If you write music or perform or breathe in and out on a regular basis, you have a story. The key is identifying it and effectively sharing it with your fans because, regardless of what you may think, they actually do want to hear it.
To find your story, ask yourself strategic questions: What drives me to create? How did I come to love writing music? What inspired the lyrics to the last song I wrote? What themes or issues in life really resonate with me or push me to be creative? What are some of my quirks? What hobbies do I have that might surprise my fans? The list goes on, but the point remains that you have a story and music fans in this day and age don’t just want to listen to your music – they want to know you as well.
How do you go about sharing that story? At PledgeMusic, this is the driving force behind everything we do. We see music artists sharing their stories with fans every day. Whether it’s an update giving special access to their Pledgers to listen to new demos, sharing photos from the studio, or giving an exclusive video tour of their bus (“Yes, I sleep in that tiny little bunk”), indie artists are sharing the details of their everyday experiences, and fans are responding.

2. Offer fans an experience

Once you understand that your fans want to know your story and the stories surrounding your music, it kind of goes without saying that they want to be invited in. Successful indie artists offer up something even greater than just their new music: they offer a new and personal experience not available anywhere else.
If you’re performing live, give your fans a way to respond immediately. Instead of offering a quick handshake and a “Get my new album next spring” (which may as well be, “I hope you remember this feeling in four months”), offer something immediate like “Pre-order my upcoming album on your phone right now, and you’ll get to be in on the process of making it.” Offering these personal and exclusive experiences can be a tremendous win/win.

3. Invite fans behind the curtain

Speaking of exclusive experiences, once you’ve decided to offer fans something beyond an opportunity to simply listen to your album when it releases, what are you going to do? Where do you start? Well, the only thing better than an “experience” is an exclusive experience – one only a limited number of people are in on. Who doesn’t love a little VIP access?
This is what we see working so well at PledgeMusic. An indie artist will invite fans into the making of a new project and keeps them in the loop with exclusive updates, merchandise, and experiences fans simply can’t get anywhere else. And what we’re seeing time and time again is that this is something that gets fans extremely excited.
For example, if you were to go to PledgeMusic right now and pre-order Lissie’s new album,  Back To Forever, you could choose to spend a little more money to have that album come with a T-shirt and signed vinyl from Lissie herself. Or, you could Pledge to have Kate Miller-Heidke perform at your wedding, all while you support the making of her next album.
Fans want to be more than just listeners, they want to be involved, and the artists who have figured this out are rising to the top. And not only will fans get excited about these kind of experiences – they’ll pay for it, and they’ll pay significantly more than they would for a CD at Target.
To pull this out of the theoretical and down to statistics, here’s what we’re seeing on a regular basis at PledgeMusic:
  • 37% of Pledgers spend more than $250 per Pledge!
  • The average pledge is around $55
  • 17% of all platform traffic is driven through Pledgers-only updates via Facebook and Twitter
  • Another 12% is driven via email, which is also generated through these Pledgers-only updates
  • 22% of all site traffic comes from social referrals – fan-shared links of Pledgers-only updates and milestones
Notice what’s happening here: The average fan spends $55, roughly the price of four CDs, and almost 40% of Pledgers spend the price of something like 17 CDs per Pledge. The reason fans come back to PledgeMusic on a regular basis is to see the exclusive updates, and then as they share links to these updates, they bring even more fans to the campaign, and those fans become Pledgers. If you’re an indie artist, these statistics should excite you as much as they excite us because they mean that fans do care and they are willing to spend money when you offer them exclusive experiences.

4. Don’t be afraid of “new”

New can be intimidating, but new also ushers in a realm of possibilities and opportunities you never dreamed of before. You may have come into this business with a set understanding of how things should work – something like “write, record, release, tour, repeat” – but it’s vital not to let initial expectations keep you from adapting to current realities. It might not be enough to release an album on iTunes and hope for the best, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to be a successful indie artist.
Music artists who are making it in the new landscape are those who are able to look ahead and see where the future of music lies. The industry is changing, but some great things are cropping up as a result – fans are getting more involved in the release process, artists are experiencing a new freedom to do what they love, and new music is being released by the second, which is truly no small deal. The fan-artist dialogue is an extremely positive thing, and that conversation has flourished in the past few years.

5. Know your fan base

We’ve established the importance of your fans knowing you, but it’s also important to note that you need to reciprocate. After all, you’re writing songs for your fans and connecting with them through your music, so of course you’ll want to know something about who they are.
If you choose to take the direct-to-fan route on an album, you may get the chance to have dinner with a fan or visit a theme park with them or sing them Happy Birthday over the phone, so there’s one avenue for the relationship to develop.
Another very practical, essential, and often overlooked way to know your fans is to have a tangible email list with their names on it. That’s right, this one didn’t fade in importance with the advent of paperless trends. You don’t have to carry a clipboard (though we wouldn’t totally advise against it), but you absolutely must find a way to get your fans’ contact information.
This is another opportunity for you to show off your creative side. We love sharing the story of how Ben Folds approached this during his PledgeMusic campaign. From the stage at a show, he had everyone in the audience pull out their phones and email him at a specified email address in exchange for a free track. Boom. Within seconds he had their contact information so he could keep them updated, they had a previously unreleased track, and everyone was happy. He even snapped a photo from the stage to make it a bit more personal.
This is just one example of an artist thinking outside the box, embracing the new, and letting fans into his world. You absolutely can make it as an independent in today’s music industry, and fans are your most precious resource. Whether you make it or not depends on how well you know your story, share it with your fans, and invite them in.
PledgeMusic is a music company offering artists a new way to take control of their careers by helping artists fund, market, and release whatever music they want to make. PledgeMusic helps and encourages artists to participate with their fans in an exciting and unique way by creating an irresistible customized menu of exclusive content and experiences that integrates email databases, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and various other social networking sites. Learn more at PledgeMusic.com.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Top 5 Website Mistakes Musicians Make

car-crashDon’t give your web visitors an excuse to hit the “back” button

Someone is checking out your website. You’ve done something right — announcing your URL from stage, optimizing your site for Google search, doing targeted advertising on Facebook, etc. — and here they are, checking out your online headquarters, waiting to be dazzled.
But that’s only half the battle.
You now need to KEEP them on your website for more than 5 seconds if you want that person to buy a CD, book you for a festival gig, download a new track, review your latest album, attend a show, or sign up for your email newsletter.
If that potential fan or music industry professional gets annoyed, they’re going to back out of there in an internet minute.

Here are a handful of common website mistakes you should avoid making!

1. Autoplay — Do NOT leave your audio player on auto-play. People may have their speakers turned up all the way; they might be at work; they might not want to hear that song in the first place!
2. Scarce or outdated content — Was your last blog post or news item from 2011? That’s a sure sign that your website is a ghost town. If you’ve quit updating your site, don’t expect visitors to stick around for long. Check out “10 Kinds of Content to Keep Your Blog Posts Funky Fresh.”
If you don’t have a lot of content to begin with, just be sure to put the important stuff front-and-center, and then get busy recording more songs, writing more blog posts, shooting more videos, etc.
3. Vague descriptions — Oh, so you’re an “outfit” from Ohio with a completely unique sound? Great. Next!
Put some real thought into your band bio and style description. You need to capture people with WORDS before they’ll actually spend the time to listen to your music. Check out “The Art of Tasteful Boasting: How to Write a Great Band Bio.”
And when it comes to the basics of a band bio, be sure to name each band member and the instruments they play. It’s crazy how many bands don’t do that!
4. No call-to-action — Contrary to most aspects of life, when we first visit new websites, we like to be told what to do. If you don’t have a call-to-action on your website, PUT A CALL-TO-ACTION ON YOUR WEBSITE!!! If you don’t know what a call-to-action is, check out “Boost Sales by Using Better Calls-to-Action on Your Website.”
5. No web store — If you don’t give people the ability to buy your music when they’re visiting your website, when do you think they WILL buy your music? Probably never. So don’t miss out on those sales opportunities; embed a music store on your website. It’s easy!