Archive for July, 2013


By Brian Thompson of Thorny Bleeder.

For the musician who isn’t a digital native (someone who grew up immersed in Internet culture and online networking), the world of social media can be incredibly daunting.
Some might ask,“Wouldn’t my time be better spent writing songs or rehearsing?” The mere mention of Social Media Marketing is enough to make many musicians roll their eyes. You know you need to use the Internet to market your music, but how?

The 30-Minute Rule

In only 30 minutes per day you can find new fans, create new opportunities and improve your music career.

That’s equivalent to one rerun on TV, which you probably didn’t even realize you were watching. You could also stay up a little later in the evening to get it done, or get up a little earlier each morning. Or even try tweeting while on your commute to work or school.

If you’re sick of hearing about all of the “luck” other bands are having, then read on.

Luck doesn’t just happen — it’s created.

Luck is a culmination of being talented and prepared while doing the necessary networking to make yourself known to both fans and industry professionals.Luck can be created by pulling people into your world of awesomeness, through the creative use of social media.

Start with a very basic, three-day repeating schedule that takes only thirty minutes per day. Once you get comfortable with this schedule, mix it up and customize as you’re able to.

The 30 Minute Daily Strategy

Day 1:
10 minutes
– Use Twitter Search to find and follow potential new fans who are fans of similar artists.

10 minutes
– Post and schedule new updates for the next three days on Twitter and Facebook (using a free tool to schedule your status updates such as Bufffer or Hootsuite). 

– For starters, don’t post anything more than two updates per day on Facebook (at least a few hours apart). 

– Twitter updates however, can be more numerous, if you’re feeling eager and inspired. 

5 minutes
– Reply to every single tweet and comment you receive.

5 minutes
– Initiate one new discussion with someone whom you’ve never spoken to before on Twitter.

Day 2:
10 minutes
– Use Twitter Search to find and follow music industry professionals who are relevant to your goals (music bloggers or journalists, music supervisors, agents, managers, labels, publishers).

10 minutes
– Reply to every single tweet and comment that you receive.

5 minutes
– Initiate one new one-on-one discussion.

Day 3:
30 minutes
– Content Creation 

– Write and publish a short new blog post for your website. Always include an image. It can be about anything, just share something. It doesn’t need to be about the music. Share your personality and your interests. 

– Share your new blog post on your Facebook and Twitter pages.

Day 4:
Start back at Day 1 and repeat!

Next, apply the following concept into your schedule:

Two-Step Fast-Track Music Marketing Plan:

1.  Do something small once per week.
– a blog post, a new photo, a new video, a podcast, share an interview or review, a poem, a drawing, a painting… the sky’s the limit.

2.  Do something bigger once per month.
– release a new song or EP, put up a new t-shirt or merch item for sale, or launch a new contest, or announce a new tour, or a new merch bundle (get all 3 for only $35!), or a new limited edition item (only 5 left!), or a podcast, or an internet video chat, or an acoustic StageIt performance with guests. You can do whatever you want, but just do something.

Remember, people use social media to be entertained and to stay connected to those they care about. Make yourself worth caring about. Don’t advertise or spam your stuff onto people’s profiles, that simply doesn’t work and it annoys people, resulting in them un-following you.

In the world of social media, getting and keeping people’s attention is the single most valuable commodity. Get their attention and don’t lose it. Instead…

Be Remarkable. Exceed Expectations.
Intrigue people with your awesomeness.

Social Media Resources For Musicians – At this point in time our society at large must have the “news” the instant it happens. With the evolution of social media this instant gratification is not only possible but prevalent. There are several forums available to the consumer at large the choice is all based on your wants, needs and who you are trying to reach.

You may be looking to use a particular type of medium to get your story across or perhaps you’d rather not be limited to 140 characters to say what you have to say. The social media phenomenon has had a profound effect on how businesses run. This change is most noticeable in the music industry where the record label role has drastically changed. They are no longer the middle man between the artists and their fans because the creation of music related social media sites enabled them to communicate directly.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace bring people together, where sites like Spotify, LastFM and 8 tracks allow you to listen to your favorite band or artist free of charge.

Blog sites are considered to be another form of social media because they offer perspective on what others might be thinking about the topics you are interested in. Technology and social media have also altered they way in which music is created. You can now connect with others online and upload your tracks to a website where other artists can pair them with theirs and “tada” a song is made. Marketing is another area of focus in music social media which is why sites like Reverbnation, Fanbridge and Ourwave are popular.

If you think you have seen it all when it comes to social media, think again there are new and better forums on the horizon!

Connect With People

MySpace– Artists and or bands can link up with people in the industry or with people who love their music. This particular format allows the artist/band to post photos, upload their songs and keep all who are interested informed about upcoming shows.

Facebook– Whether you are a business, band or person Facebook has the formula to get you noticed. Fans can “like” their favorite band or artist which facilitates communication between the two whether it’s through messages or wall posts.

Twitter– You have 140 characters to tell the world what you’re about, what is on your mind or where your next show is going to be

Tumblr– Express yourself using your words, a picture, a video or your favorite quote

Twitmusic– An extension of Twitter specifically geared towards musical acts– discovering new music and bring people together who share an appreciation for this music

Connect To Music

Spotify– Personalize your page, create playlists, and decide whether you want to listen to the playlist you have created or choose from the playlists your friends have created– Expand your listening horizons when it comes to music, will introduce you to an artist and recommend another 5+ artists in the same group that you might enjoy, review the artist or band via post or chat

MOG– Listen to music, organize your music and discuss how you feel about this music with other fans

8tracks– 8 tracks dares you to tell us what kind of mood you’re in using only 8 tracks.

Connect Using Other Mediums

YouTube– Share videos

SoundCloud– Share sounds

Instagram– Share pictures

Find Your Market

Reverbnation– A place where artists can communicate with other artists, talk with people in the industry and further their career using the tools provided.

OurStage– Share and promote music while networking with fans, other bands and people in the industry

OurWave– Each band and or artist gets their 15 minutes of fame with OurWave, they are able to use this site as a promotion tool by posting their music and announce upcoming shows

Fanbridge– Mailing list that connects bands with their fans and even offers them deals for being members

Artists.MTV– Want to know more about a specific artist? MTV has a database full of information, videos and pictures just waiting for you to view

Eventful– If you have an event, post it here and people will find you

Create Music

Kompoz– Team up with other musicians both on and offline

Dopetracks– Hip-Hop/Rap based forum where atrists can join forces musically

Write About It

Hypebot– Instant music “news” at your fingertips

SoSoActive– What’s hot in the digital age is what SoSo is all about– All your music blogs in one convenient location

A New Band A Day– The title says it all


Written by Sarah Oliver @SoSoActive


For some musicians, having a Top 40 hit is not the be all, end all of musical success. There are artists who are quietly content in recording, producing, and selling their own music. Yes, you heard it right. You can produce your own music, sell it yourself (or through independent music stores and other distribution networks) without the contracts, legal bills, and headaches found in dealing with major, mini, or even independent record labels. While this is not every aspiring music star’s dream, for some it’s a perfect compromise. They maintain control of their music, make decent money, and still see a little spotlight time.

In “The Musician’s Guide to Making and Selling Your Own CDs & Cassettes” by Jana Stanfield, Ms. Stanfield explains that she got tired of waiting for her big break in the music business, so she went on without it. All it takes is a little hard work and some alternative marketing ideas — and, of course, the requisite talent.

If you read How Music Royalties Work, you also know that the money musicians make from their recordings is usually less than you might expect because much (and sometimes all) of the costs of production, promotion, touring, and other expenses come out of the artists’ royalties before they can be paid. And, unless you also write your own songs, you don’t see royalties from performance of your music on the radio or other broadcasts. Advances that recording artists received prior to making the album must be also be paid back out of those royalties. If you compare that to selling your own CDs at local and regional concerts, music festivals, clubs, and other smaller musical arenas, you may find that you make decent money doing it yourself. Jana Stanfield states in her book that her five self-promoted and self-sold albums pull in about $30,000 per year.

Thousands of artists have been successful this way — you may not have heard about them, but they may be making more money than they would have had they signed with a major label. For example, rather than getting 8% to 12% royalties on their sales of CDs, they keep all of the royalties. Rather than splitting performance royalties with a publisher (if their music is played on the radio), they keep it all. Rather than giving away the rights to their music so that a record company can ultimately shelve it when something “better” comes along, they keep complete control.


Ever since Clear Channel pledged to sever its connections with independent promoters, the world of music promotion has been exposed for all to view and judge.

What the public doesn’t realize is that, according to some, much of the music we hear on prominent rock and Top 40 radio stations is played because independent promoters pay the stations to add it to their playlists. Because it is illegal for record companies to directly pay radio stations to play their music — or for radio stations to play music someone paying them to play, at least without disclosing on the air that the time is paid for — they bring in a middleman, the independent promoter, or “indie.” This is reportedly how it works:

An indie approaches a radio station manager or group owner about becoming their exclusive representative. In exchange, the indie will pay the station an annual payment of $75,000 to $100,000 per year (for medium-sized markets) for “promotional support.” This means the indie gives the station money, vacations, or gifts in other forms (often gift cards or American Express money cards) that they can use for their promotions, or for whatever use they choose. Because the “gifts” are to be used for promotions, the pay-for-play is side-stepped. The station’s part of the deal is to add songs the indie recommends to their playlists. These are called “adds” in the business. Most stations have an average of three adds each week.

The indie then contacts record companies to tell them he has this agreement with the station. He charges the record company a fee (usually around $1,000) every time the station adds one of the label’s songs to its playlist. For most singles, the record companies are paying in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $250,000 to indies. According to some, if they don’t, the songs won’t get played. In addition, there are “spin maintenance” charges to keep the song on the list. To avoid legal problems, indies have their lawyers examine their records to make sure the transactions are still on the legal side of the line. The real problems come in when, rather than using the money or “gifts” for promotions such as vacation giveaways for listeners, the program directors or other station staff pocket the money themselves.

Since part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act increased the number of radio stations an individual company could own in a single market and eliminated the cap on the number of stations it could own nationally, there has been a huge run by large corporations to buy up as many radio stations as possible. Rather than having more than 5,000 radio station owners in the country, four companies now own 62% of the Top 40 radio market. In addition, the vertical market has been affected. These same large corporations, such as Clear Channel, own not only the radio stations, but concert venues as well. This puts into the hands of a few large players much of the control over what music makes the Top 40 and what we, as the listening public, get to hear. Centralized decision making regarding playlists is typical. Disk jockeys and station managers may not have the control they used to have over what gets played and what doesn’t. Small record companies who can’t afford to pay the indies have an extremely hard time getting their music on the air.

While many stations deny that indies have this control over what they play, others, like Radio One, which owns 65 radio stations across the country, admit accepting money from indies. After all, it isn’t illegal, and it’s another revenue stream for them.

How Top 40 Radio Works

Posted: July 30, 2013 in Artist Corner

If you grew up listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, keeping your own list of the top songs and digging the behind-the-scenes tidbits of information Casey gave during the show, you’re not alone. The syndicated American Top 40 radio show was one of the most successful in the history of pop music. The snippets of information about your favorite recording artists, sentimental long-distance dedications, and Casey’s personal flair for teasers that kept you listening made the show the success that it was and still is today.

The heart of the show, however, is the music. Those chosen 40 songs that fall at the top of the Hot 100 chart — and sometimes stay there for a while — are compiled by Billboard Magazine and are based on some pretty amazing research. But what information does Billboard look at? How does music promotion affect what you hear on the radio? And, how does what you hear on the radio affect what music sells?

In this article, we’ll look at how radio stations decide what to play, and how Billboard comes up with the magical list of “the best” music. We’ll also see what happens when artists decide to buck the system and go for it on their own. Read on, and, as Casey always said, “Keep reaching for the stars!”

How Does a Song Make it to the Top 40?

Each week, Billboard puts together a chart of the top 100 most popular songs (as well as several other charts) based on a national sample of top 40 radio airplay, top 40 radio playlists, and music sales. Since the Top 40 comes from the Hot 100 chart, let’s look at how the Hot 100 is compiled. As you can imagine, this is quite an undertaking.

First, there is airplay. What is actually being played on the radio and on music video channels on TV? Assuming program directors and disc jockeys have their finger on the pulse of popular music, this could be good measure of what people like. Airplay is tracked through Broadcast Data Systems (BDS), run by Nielsen. BDS uses digital pattern-recognition technology to identify songs that are played on radio stations and music video TV channels across the United States and Canada. This is done 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and captures over 100 million songs annually. BDS also provides “gross impressions,” which is simply the number of people listening to a station multiplied by the number of times the record was played. When new songs are recorded, a copy of the recording is sent to BDS so it can be encoded and tracked by its system on the stations it monitors. This data is used not only by Billboard in compiling the weekly charts, but also by record company executives, radio stations, publishing firms, performance rights organizations (to calculate performance royalties), music retailers, independent promoters, film and TV producers, and artist managers.

Another measure of what music is hot is what people are buying. To find out what music is selling in record stores, Billboard goes to SoundScan. Nielsen SoundScan is an information system that tracks the salesof music and music videos throughout the United States and Canada. By scanning the bar codes, they can collect sales information from cash registers each week from over 14,000 retail, mass merchant, and non-traditional sources such as online stores, concert sales, etc. The data is compiled and available for subscribers every Wednesday. Like BDS data, the data from SoundScan is also very valuable for record companies, artists, concert promoters, and retailers.

Billboard’s methodologies for compiling the charts have gone through several changes over the years. Since switching to Nielsen’s BDS and SoundScan (see below for a little background), Billboard changed the weighting of airplay versus sales. Because tracking a single song through album sales isn’t exactly accurate, singles sales have always been used to track the sales side of song popularity. But, since only about 20% of people actually buy singles and over 90% listen to the radio, it made sense to alter the ratio of points. Now, the overall points are weighted to 20% sales and 80% airplay.

But, if Billboard bases its charts on what is already being played on the radio and purchased in music stores, how do radio stations find out about new music?


By , Guide

If you’re trying to get started in the music business, it can sound like everyone is speaking a different language, with all of their demos, promos, one sheets and whozits and whatzits. Don’t know the lingo? Don’t sweat it! These basic music industry terms will give you all of the vocab you need to talk like an old hat music biz pro.

360 Deals – An increasingly common major label deal structure in which the label not only earns income from the sale of recorded music of their artists but also gets a cut of other artist income, including money generated by touring and merchandise sales.

Agent – Someone who liaises with promoters and venues to book gigs for bands. (Sometimes people use the term “agent” when they really mean “manager” – careful!)

Big Four Record Labels – Major record labels.

Demo – A sample recording of a band’s music. Often rough recordings or early versions of “songs in progress.”

Digital Distribution – Distribution of music online, i.e., downloads.

Digipack – A type of CD case that looks like a book instead of a plastic case. The outside is made of paper and the CD sits in a tray inside that is attached to the paper.

Door Split – A type of payment deal for a live performance, in which the band and promoter agree to split the proceeds for the show, after the promoter has recouped their costs.

Gatefold Sleeve – Vinyl album sleeve that folds out either opens like a book or fold out in three sections. Usually used for double LPs or for special artwork. Sometimes the gatefold format is used in smaller format for digipack CD cases.

Indie Labels – Self funded labels not tied to any major label/Big Four label.

Jewel Case – Traditional plastic CD case, also sometimes called a jewel box.

Longbox – The cardboard boxes that manufacturers and distributors send out CDs in – 25 to each longbox.

Manager – Essentially the business manager of a band. Duties vary wildly depending on the level of the band, but generally managers try to seek out new opportunities for the band while being the contact person for all other people (agents, promoters, labels, etc) dealing with the band.

Mechanical Royalties – Royalties paid to the songwriter per album pressed (or sold, depending on the deal). Also sometimes called “mechanicals.”

One Sheet – The info sheet for a release – can contain info about the band, the recording or anything else significant about the release. Also gives the release date. One sheets are used by labels and distributors to sell a new release. They get their name from the fact that they are (or at least they should be) one page long.

P.D.s – Also PDs. Short for “per diems,” which means “per days.” This refers to the stipend paid daily to band members and crew on a tour (or sometimes when out of town for recording) for their personal expenses, such as food and drinks.

PR – Technically means “press relations” but is also used in a slang way to refer to a person who works in press relations. PR is also known as “publicity.” PR companies/PR people are usually hired to work on a campaign basis to promote a new album, single or tour. Some PR people only promote to print media, some only to websites, some only to TV and some to a combination of mediums. Some PR people also work in radio plugging, but often radio is treated as a separate entity.

Performing Rights Royalties – Royalties paid to a songwriter when a song they have written is performed.

Playlist – The list of songs played by a radio station. For some radio stations, the playlist is up to the DJ. Other radio stations have set playlists of songs that have to be played. Often these radio stations have tiered playlists, such as A list, B list and so on, that dictate how many times a day a song has to be played.

Promo – A promotional copy of a recording, different from a demo in that it is usually a finished version of the recording. Promos can be complete copies of an album complete with artwork or they can be CDs in cardboard or plastic sleeves.

Promo Package – A package used to promote music, including a promo CD and any appropriate press releases, one sheets, photos and other information. Also known as press kit or press pack.

Promoter – Someone who promotes live performances for bands. (Sometimes people refer to PR companies and publicists as promoters – careful!)

Publishing – Essentially another level of copyright control for songs, publishing deals simply put a person in charge of making sure the appropriate amount of royalties are collected for a song, in exchange for a portion of those royalties and some rights to the song. Most publishers go further than that and actively try to place songs in revenue generating positions, like advertisements or with other artists for cover version, etc.

Radio Plugger – Also sometimes simply known as a plugger, radio pluggers promote releases to radio. Pluggers usually work with specific singles and go around to radio station playlist meetings, playing the singles they are representing and trying to get them placed on a playlist. In some cases, pluggers may work with full albums, letting the stations themselves decide what the single is.

Session Musician – A musician who contributes to a recording or a live performance but is not actually a full time member of the band.

Sound Engineer – Generally, the person in charge of making the sound for a show work. There can be many different specific roles for a sound engineer.

Tech Spec – Short for “technical specifications.” A venue or promoter usually asks for a tech spec so they can set up the stage properly for a band and ensure all of the bands technical needs can be met.

Tour Manager – Tour managers take charge of the details of a tour. They travel with the band and do all of the jobs like checking into hotels, liaising with promoters, and generally trying to make things go as smoothly as possible. Also sometimes called a road manager.

Tour Support – Money paid out to cover the costs of a tour, usually by a record label.

Tray – The plastic part of a jewel case or digipack that the CD sits in – the part with the teeth.

Tray Card – The part of the album artwork that sits behind the tray and is seen when you look at the back of the CD case.

Music Industry Investors

Posted: July 29, 2013 in Artist Corner

By , Guide

Music business angel investors can take several different forms. Your angel might be a family member or friend with deep pockets, or they may be a complete stranger with loads of cash who is interested in investing in start-up companies. Some music business angels are people who have made their money in music and want to pass along their good fortune AND their expertise. Other are simply people with money to spend who like the idea of getting involved in music. Angels will help with start-up cash, but your proposed business needs to be of a certain size to make it worth their time (see “Small Print” section below).

Venture Capitalists:

Venture capitalists (VCs) will invest in businesses both at start-up and at times when the company needs a cash injection to grow. If you’re looking for VC funding, make sure you look for a group that has history of investing in music related businesses. Although VCs look for high risk investments, they’re not always good matches with creative industries unless they’re used to that realm. In other words, if you can even get them to take you seriously to begin with, they don’t really care about your “artistic integrity” – they want the loot, and they want it fast.

Arts Councils:

Americans can all but forget about this one, but outside of the States, most countries have funding bodies that provide money for the arts, including the music industry. These arts funding groups can be great places to get the money you need because they are willing to work with music businesses of all sizes and have the ability to take chances on projects profit seekers like angels and VCs wouldn’t touch. Even better, most of the time they give grants rather than loans, so you don’t have to pay it back. You’ll still need a good business plan to work with them, however – though in most cases, they can help you write it.

Major Labels:

For indie labels, investment by a major label is an option. This kind of investment will typically only after you’ve built a proven track record of success as a label and need money to expand – start-up cash from a major is usually only given to someone who has either run a successful indie label in the past or has a good sales record as an artist.

Of course, funding from a major will require ceding some control of your label, which has not always ended well for indies. Learn more: 


This is another one that is specific to labels, and it’s getting a bit harder to find. However, in some cases, you may be able to get a distributor to invest in a release on a project basis. For instance, if you have a chance to work with a big name artist, but you can’t really afford to come up with the advance or the money to give the album a proper push, your distributor might step in with an advance against future earnings on the album or with a loan that would make them an investor in the project, giving them a larger cut of the album’s profits.

Distributors might also help with manufacturing.

The Small Print:

When you’re looking for investors in your music business, it’s important to remember that in exchange for the cash, you’ll be giving up a chunk of your business, some of your autonomy, or both. Make sure you carefully consider the real cost of the investment – not only what you will have to pay back, but what you will be sacrificing when you work with an investor – and make sure you are clear on these points in advance. Some things to consider include:

  • Does your investor want to be involved in making business decisions? If so, do they have experience in the music industry or another creative industry (and if yes, do you share a similar philosophy in terms of the business)? Working with an investor with tons of music industry experience who wants to help you shape and build your business can be a great thing. Working with an investor who simply has a lot of money and wants to invest in your music related business because they think it would be kind of fun might not be such a great thing if they want some say-so in your business decisions. (Note that not all investors will want to become involved in your business. Some just want to make an investment and wait for the payoff.)
  • Make sure you understand if you are getting an investment or a loan. Investments bring risk for the investor, and so they understand they may lose their money. A loan needs to be paid back.
  • If your investor is pressuring you to sign over a large share of your business, be cautious. If large amounts of money and large shares are involved, get legal advice.

Another thing to remember when you’re seeking investment is that the hardest kind of business to find funding for is a very small one. Generally speaking, VCs don’t want to talk to you unless you need at least several hundreds of thousands in investment. Music business angels will invest in smaller companies than that, but typically they’re looking for investment opportunities at least in the tens of thousands range. Raising a few thousand dollars is the hardest thing to do. In the absence of arts councils or generous family/friends, you may need to consider savings, personal loans and credit cards if you need a relatively small amount of money to get going.

Also, be aware that music investment is usually given to businesses like labels, promotion companies, etc. Bands looking for investment will have a difficult time going through one of these routes and will need to look to labels, distributors and so on for their needs.