Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How to launch a music publicity campaign

This excerpt from our Planning Your Album guide speaks to things you should do as you prepare to launch a PR campaign and enter your music publicity phase

planning a music publicity campaign
If you’re sitting down to tackle making an album, there’s a lot to think about; from clearing the rights for your cover songs to converting the cover art to the right format. These issues can trip you up, or cause the album to take a lot longer than you’d expect. Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan, authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide, have revised our popular Planning Your Album From Beginning To End guide. Here’s an excerpt from the revised guide, which you can download for free right now!
The following material has filled many books, so rather than go into detail about how or why you’ll want to do all the steps below, we’ll simply list them out so you don’t forget to do them as part of your music publicity campaign.

1. Plan your PR campaign

This should be your overall strategy for the album and any live shows you do in support of it. Most bands do both a traditional media campaign (newspapers, magazines, and radio), as well as a new media campaign (podcasts, music blogs, MP3s, entertainment blogs).
Promotion requires creativity
Music publicity is not just compiling lists and following steps mechanically. It can and should be fun and creative too. It’s at the planning stage that you should be channeling the same creativity you put into your music to build excitement and buzz about your upcoming album.
Here are some planning ideas to get you started:
  • Do a contest
  • Make a video*
  • Create a Flash game based on a song on your album
  • Partner with a blog or podcast
What’s the biggest music search engine in the world? YouTube. In fact, video is possibly the only true viral media on the web. Beyond being an amazingly powerful medium for generating awareness and sales of your music, it also can be monetized and generate revenue for you.

2. Set up alerts with your new album name and song titles

You’ll want to keep up-to-date on what people are saying about your new album and songs. This is as easy as setting up a Google Alert with your band name, as well as the name of your album. (For step-by-step instructions on setting up Alerts for your music, see the IndieGuide.com article “How To Get Automatic Alerts When Your Band is Mentioned Online.”)

3. Update your music resume documents

Your “music resume” contains the following important brand elements:
  • Your bio
  • Your fact sheets
  • Your online press kit
  • Your offline press kit
  • Your tour schedule
  • Other PR documents with the new album information
These are the documents that you’ll either send out (to the press, bloggers, music reviewers, etc.) or need updated online if they have questions or need more information. Updating these now will save you time and energy later when you start sending these out or people start asking you for them. Plus, by crafting the message, tone, and language for your release and promotion here, you can repurpose the content as you update your website and web presences.

4. Prepare PR documents such as press releases

Sending a press release is a simple way you can notify the media of your album and CD release show. They’re not that difficult to write and there are free press wires that will help you blast out your release to the media.

5. Compile your target PR lists

There are plenty of outlets within your arm’s reach that you can target to get your music reviewed and heard. In short, you’ll want to compile a list of:
  • Album review press, magazines, zones, and websites
  • Traditional local and national press
  • New media press
  • Commercial, college, and public radio stations
  • Internet radio stations
  • Music blogs
  • Music podcasts
  • Radio stations
  • Non-music blogs covering topics in your niche
  • Non-music podcasts covering topics in your niche
  • Other websites
If you find a website, blog, radio station, or podcast that looks like it may play your music but lacks details about submitting, reach out to the blogger, podcaster, or website owner directly. Always obey the rules of submission. Don’t miss out on coverage by making their life more difficult.

6. Work with your street team and fans

It’s people, not technology, who make things happen. Your fan network is no exception. Don’t be afraid to involve them and ask for their help. Keep your fan network up to date about the upcoming album and give them exclusive cuts from the album as a reward and to whet their appetites.
Involve your fan network early in your music publicity efforts so you can create missions and steer their enthusiasm from random acts of buzz to a coordinated effort that’s in line with your overall strategy.

7. Maintain and update your own website

Don’t rely on just a social network (e.g. Facebook) as your website. Platforms like Facebook are important for promotional purposes, but these are your “web presences.” Every musician needs a home base – a site that you control, with your own domain, where you’re not competing against advertising.
If you’re looking for a place to build and host your own website with your own domain, check out HostBaby, a web hosting service for created for musicians. HostBaby features include 10GB of space, hundreds of design templates to choose from, an email newsletter tool, gig calendar, streaming audio, video, guestbook, and blog/news page tools. You also get unlimited email addresses @yourdomain. Often overlooked, writing from your own band’s domain name is a simple, consistent, and effective branding and promotional practice.
Once you update your music resume documents, you’re ready to update your website to announce and feature your new album. This should include blogging about the upcoming release, but also could include adding songs and videos on your site to generate interest.

8. Update your web presence (Part I)

Update your web presences with news about your upcoming album (Facebook, Twitter, Eventful, etc.). Remind fans about your mailing list and blog so they can stay informed as to when the album drops. Add the “radio single” to your web presence audio players.

9. Contact your mailing list

Nothing justifies a new newsletter or email campaign like announcing your upcoming album and shows and following up with promotion and press being generated.
Billboard magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” They’ve written three books with major publishers (Macmillan, Random House), teach music business (including a 15-hour online course called “Making Money with Music”), and are regular contributors to Electronic Musician magazine.
To learn more about generating awareness and sales of your music on YouTube, watch Chertkow and Feehan’s class “Making Money From YouTube” from their online course, “Making Money With Music.”

Read more: How To Launch A Music Publicity Campaign – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/10/launch-a-music-publicity-campaign/#ixzz3HT4KgTGd

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Avoiding Common Songwriting Obstacles

songwriter-thumbBen Camp is a successful songwriter whose song “Gold” was a hit for Victoria Justice, tallying more than 14 million YouTube views. In Part I of this interview, “The road to becoming a successful songwriter,” Ben spoke about his journey as a songwriter and the importance of building a team as “today’s music industry is very fragmented, so the more angles you can come at a project with, the more likely you are to be successful.”
In this post, Ben shares his perspectives on the art and craft of songwriting, including methods he uses to develop compelling song ideas. He expands on his thoughts about the importance of co-writing and why he believes it’s essential to build a network of talented collaborators while pointing out some of the common mistakes aspiring songwriters often make.
Let’s dive into the craft of pop songwriting. You mentioned there are rules and conventions, so when you are working with someone who excites you with their raw talent, what types of issues come up that you help them understand and improve?
Singers with fantastic voices provide an interesting problem. Most great singers know exactly what range makes their voice sound spectacular. As a result, a lot of them tend to write the entire melody of their song in that one little sweet spot, within the range of fifth or a sixth, which robs them of the ability to use a melody to affect the listener’s emotions. Instead, they rely solely on the strength of their voice to influence the listener.
When you cut the range down and only allow yourself a handful of notes, your melodic contour can’t take the listener on a journey. Even if you do something as simple as take the chorus and move it up an octave, you can really set off some great fireworks and draw the listener in.
One of my favorite examples of that technique is the song “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty. The verse and the chorus are centered primarily around the same scale notes, but when the chorus uses those notes an octave higher, the song hits almost everybody that listens to it like a ton of bricks. Even if you’re going to use the same pitch set from verse to chorus, just taking it up an octave and hearing the change in the voice is such a powerful tool.
Songwriting tips
What about lyrics? What problems pop up most often?
A lot of young artists fall into a few common traps, the first of which is rhyme scheme abuse.
Much like we just discussed the pitches being the same in every section, they will have the same rhyme scheme in every section. The verse will be A-B-A-B, the pre-chorus will be A-B-A-B, the chorus will be A-B-A-B and maybe even their line lengths will be identical. Repetition and variation are the keys to songwriting success. You want to repeat things enough to give the listener something to hang on to, but you want enough variation to make it exciting and fresh. Repeat too much and they get bored, if you vary too much, they get disinterested. That applies in use of rhyme scheme, as much as it does in melody and length of lines.
Another trap a lot of young writers fall into is clich├ęs. Since they feel it’s really nice to sing an “I” sound at the end of a line, they go with “fire,” and the next line they go with the first thing out of their mouth, which happens to be “desire.” This is one of those craft versus instinct battles, where I would encourage people to let their craft have a fighting chance.
Your instinct is going to tell you what vowel sounds best – I believe it was Keith Richards who once called his writing process a “vowel movement.” Which is to say he is simply singing vowel sounds over the melody to try things out. And if you get a rhyming dictionary, or even just spend five minutes going through that vowel sound exercise, you’ll be able to drastically increase the amount of your personal flavor that’s going to be in the track. Because I guarantee you, anybody with a firm grasp of the English language and a basic knowledge of pop music of the last 50 years is going to instinctively come up with “desire” to rhyme with “fire.”
So when you’re working on your lyrics, take a minute and really look at your rhyme sounds and the words that you’re choosing and ask yourself if something else hits you harder. And the only way to tell that is to sing it, which is another mistake a lot of young writers make. They’ll literally write lyrics and never sing them, so they never have any idea how good they are.
Frequently in a writing session, I’ll have what I think is the dumbest idea down on paper and something I think is pretty good, and when we actually sing them, they get completely reversed! As a result, I’ve made a rule in my writing sessions that if somebody writes something down, you gotta sing it, just to hear how it sounds. The number of untapped gems that we’ve found that way has made a lot of songs stand out.
In addition, for some listeners, the lyric is going to be the most identifiable element of how they remember that song. And how does that artist wear that lyric? I sometimes use the analogy that the artist is the actor, and the lyric is the script, and the song is the movie. You wouldn’t want to cast an action hero in the role of a damsel in distress. So you want to make sure your lyric is always putting your best foot as an artist forward so the listener connects with the feeling you are trying to portray.
Can you talk a little bit about collaboration? It seems on nearly every hit song today, if you look at the writer’s credits, you’ll see quite a few collaborators.
The aspect of [songwriting] specialization is something that has become less and less practiced these days. I think that is because for nearly every label or project, it seems the budgets are shrinking from what they used to be – and the timetables, too. Everybody wants better results and faster turnarounds. So to keep up, you have to collaborate. You either need to have someone on your team who can do what needs to be done, or you need to learn how to do it yourself.
The frequency and type of co writing that happens today as opposed to that which happened 50 years ago (Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards) is a reflection of that. Today, a publisher or A&R rep emails you and says we need this song for project A, another for project B, and this song for this particular movie; and you have a week to hand in three songs, fully finished.
We’re not talking about, “Write the song and send in a voice memo from your cell phone.” They need the song, they need the beat, the vocal arrangement, and the mix; meaning they can send it to the movie and have it ready to place, or they can submit it to an artist and just swap out the lead vocal and go.
Putting together a specific team of people for each project is pretty helpful to be able to deliver the results they are asking for: quick turnaround and a high level of quality. With a team, you are able to stylistically broaden the horizons of what you can deliver. One day I’m writing an urban song, the next day I’m writing a dance a capella, and the following day I’m working with somebody who wants an indie-electronic sound. I will bring in different co-writers for each of those.
If it’s a rock artist, I will bring in a buddy of mine who has great rock instincts. I don’t come primarily from a rock background. So there will be the artist, myself, the rock guy, and perhaps a fourth person if we need another producer. There are also the business elements as I said before. The more people you have working together on a project, the more avenues you have to get that project placed.
Also a lot of times, labels will not want to release something if it doesn’t have one of their guys on it. Their producer, their writer, their vocalist, and so on. If you want to get the next Cee-Lo single, chances are you’re going to be working on that track with one the label’s in house producers, because of course, the labels want to get a cut of the publishing income and keep as big a share as possible.
Any closing thoughts on what it takes to be successful as a songwriter?
You had brought up the etiquette of co-writing earlier and a couple of things come to mind. First of all, one of the best ways I’ve heard it described is as a “no-free” zone, which I have to credit to my teacher at Berklee, Pat Pattison. The idea being that you should never just flat out say “no” to any idea. You should either not say anything and just keep generating ideas, or take the idea and find something you do like and add to it.
When you are co-writing, keeping a great emotional vibe in the room and keeping everybody’s spirits up is just as important to getting a quality product out. When people are excited they turn out more and better work. So your job is not only to come up with great melodic, lyrical, and production ideas, but also to keep people engaged and excited about what’s going on.
A second co-writing tip is something that I learned over time that I have found very useful to remember.
The first two years out of Berklee that I spent writing, we would get a pitch sheet and it would show everyone who was looking for a particular type of song and when they needed it. The writing sessions would be, “Today, we are going to write a Kelly Clarkson song.” And we would spend all day listening to every song that Kelly had recorded and we would find a singer with about the same vocal range and every decision in the writing room was made trying to decide, “Does that sounds like something Kelly would sing?” Is that something the label is looking for?
That led to a lot of turning off of the instincts of the people in the room instead of trusting our gut feeling to what was a great song. As a result, we got a lot of garbage songs that nobody was interested in, and we didn’t understand why.
The approach that I use now is to treat someone in the writing room as an artist. And trust my instincts on what sounds good in their voice. At every melody or lyric choice, I ask that somebody in the room in a co-writing situation is going to be able to sing, and we treat that singer as the artist. Whether or not that person wants to sing the song for themselves, of whether or not their style of music is totally different than the style of music we are writing that day, my question is, “Am I moved emotionally when I hear that voice singing that melody with that lyric?”
If I had a different singer in the co-writing session that day, I would probably write a different song, and unless the voice on the demo captures the emotion you want, the chances are less and less in today’s music industry that an A&R or music publisher will be able to project a fantastic voice onto that song later and really nail it.
So I really just try to find the emotional truth that is in that singer’s voice [in the writing session] and put that down on the recording and trust that somebody will hear it and have an emotional response to it.
Later they can decide where it needs to go – “as is” directly to a film or TV show, or will they say, “Yeah, I feel sad when I listen to this song and Leona Lewis is looking for a sad ballad, so let’s send it to her.”
So it all comes down to the honesty of what the song is communicating. In a way, nothing else really matters.
Correct, at least that’s how it works for me. I recommend that aspiring songwriters at least give this approach a try and see how it works for them.
Keith Hatschek is a regular contributor to Disc Makers Echoes blog and directs the Music Management Program at University of the Pacific. He’s also written two music industry books, How to Get a Job in the Music Industry and The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets from the Pros.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

4 Royalties You’re Probably Missing

pile-of-money_thumbIf you’ve affiliated yourself as a songwriter with a performing rights organization (such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC) and registered all your songs, you’ve taken an important first step in collecting the publishing royalties you’re owed.
That being said, PROs such as ASCAP and BMI only collect one form of music publishing revenues: the performance royalty.
In order to collect ALL of the royalties you’re owed, you either need to have a publishing rights administrator working on your behalf, or spend hundreds to thousands of hours each year tracking down this money yourself (in every corner of the globe); oh, and you’ll also need to speak dozens of languages and be absolutely psyched about paperwork.
In case my sarcasm went undetected, I’ll repeat it plainly: it’s nearly impossible for independent artists to collect all the music publishing revenue they’re owed — while also having time to make music — without the help of a traditional publisher or a service like CD Baby Pro.

If you’re only signed up with a performing rights organization such as ASCAP or BMI, here’s what you’re missing:

1. Mechanical royalties for physical product (CDs, vinyl, etc.)
Performing rights organizations do NOT collect mechanical royalties. Yet every time a song you’ve written appears on an album that is manufactured for sale, you’re owed a mechanical royalty. If you’re releasing your own material, you’re essentially paying this royalty to yourself. But if other artists cover your songs, are you set up to get paid?
2. Streaming 
Every time your music is played on an interactive streaming service such as Spotify or Beats Music, you’re owed publishing royalties, in addition to the standard streaming license fee you receive per play. These publishing royalties from streaming services are comprised mostly of mechanical royalties, but there is also a small percentage of performance royalties that will be paid to your PRO. Again, if you’re only registered with ASCAP or BMI, you’re only getting paid a fraction of what you’re owed.
3. International download sales
As our friends at SongTrust explain: “Outside of the US, music retailers (iTunes, Amazon, etc)  are required to pay mechanical licensing societies (think Harry Fox Agency but in other areas of the world) around 9% of revenue earned from each download. This amounts to about 9 cents per digital download, owed to the songwriter. This money sits at the mechanical society until it is collected by a publishing administrator.” Without a service like CD Baby Pro, you’re leaving those uncollected international mechanical royalties on the table.
4. International Performance Royalties
US-based PROs such as ASCAP and BMI are great at collecting performance royalties within the United States. But with CD Baby Pro, your songs will be registered directly with international performing rights organizations around the world. We’ll collect your international performance royalties straight from the source. With our direct agreements, you’ll get paid faster and more efficiently than you would via BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC (who have reciprocal agreements for international performance royalties).
If you want to make sure you’re set up to collect all the publishing royalties you’re owed, check out CD Baby Pro.
Courtesy of Indie-music.com