Archive for January, 2014

2014 is going to be a killer year for Social Media and Small Business.

Social Media allows small businesses to leverage technology to even the playing field with bigger brands and companies. In 2014, some of the trends we saw in 2013 will continue to rise while others will fall. But it all comes down to how you communicate with your customers, how you leverage relationships, and of course how you share GREAT content.

Content is what businesses are built on today. It always has been and always will be.

So without further ado, here are 11 trends for 2014 and how you can get ready:

1. Mobile Is About To Go Mainstream
Every website needs to be optimized for mobile. This means having responsive design and thinking about how people interact with your business via mobile devices should be one of your top priorities. As a small business it’s time to make the switch to a mobile site if you haven’t yet, and think about ways that you can get in front of your customers through their phone. Yes, this include Mobile Apps, SMS, and emails that are designed to be viewed on your cellular phone.

2. Niche Sites Will Make An Impact
As Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus make it harder to get found organically, niche sites are going to prove to be more valuable than ever to get in front of your customers. Not only are niche sites highly targeted, they can also provide a much more affordable solution for advertising.

3. Blogging Will Remain The #1 Way To Generate New Business
Creating great content on a regular basis and driving traffic back to your site is going to remain the number #1 way to generate new leads. This means as a small business, if you don’t have a blog yet, it’s time to start one. Let us handle it for you. We’re the pros. :)

4. Spammy Content Will Be Eliminated Everywhere
We’ve seen it happen on Google and now it’s happening on Facebook. Spammy content is not going to get you anywhere, and the big sites are cracking down. Think about creating valuable content that resonates with your customers.

5. Google Plus Will Grow Faster Than Ever
G+ is my new favorite social network. With the search benefits from Google and the increased user base, it’s likely that your audience will be making the move from Facebook to G+. Being a step ahead of the game is a good idea. Plus, they are about to launch promoted posts (+Post ads) that will get your content to a larger audience than ever before. Get on Google Plus as soon as possible.

6. Triggered Emails Will Increase Sales
Consumers are looking to connect with brands and by providing custom content for them based on their behavior is going to help you increase your sales. We love Infusionsoft, and you should too.

7. Ambassadors And Influencers Will Hold The Power
Influencer marketing and word-of-mouth marketing is going to be one of the most powerful ways to get in front of customers in a new way. By empowering your best customers to spread the word for you, you can gain trust in a new audience and hopefully turn them into new customers.

8. Image-Centric Sites Will Continue To Rise
Instagram, Pinterest and probably many more sites will come about in 2014 that are based around images. While text is not dead, you need to think of ways to incorporate images into your strategy that compliment your written context.

9. Video Consumption Will Increase
Whether it’s an educational video or an ad, consumers will look to video content to learn about businesses. Video will continue to create meaningful relationships between business and consumer. Think video customer service here. Oh, and many times they will be watching video on their mobile phone. You know what that means. :) SEE #1 above.

10. Sharing Will Be More Important Than Ever
Social media sharing will be get ramped up and everyone and their mother will be doing it. While this is a good thing for getting your content shared, it also presents challenges to get found. The key here is to communicate to your customer directly and relevantly and you’ll be found.  Plus, it’s going to help your search rankings.

11. Marketing Will Be About Adding Value
It’s no longer about pushing yourself out there, it’s about how you provide value to your customer that matters. Whether this is through blogging, video, or email marketing, in order for people to stay engaged, they have to perceive value.

2014 is going to be an exciting year. Be sure to stay on top of as many of these exciting Social Media trends and Online Marketing trends as you possibly can.

Everyone talks about networking and how it’s so important for your business, but when it comes down to it, not many people know how to do it and why it’s so valuble. Here are a few tips for all the new networkers out there.

No matter what your business, if you’re a up and coming musician, a publicist or an accountant, it’s important to know people in your industry. Industry connections, no matter the context, can make a considerable difference when it comes to growing and maintaining your business. People you meet along the way in life can help you to learn new things, and with our ever changing culture, you never know who you will need in your corner in the future.

Now you know why you network, but how do you go about doing it? First and foremost, it’s important to always look presentable. No matter where you are, whether it’s at the office, at a concert, or running errands, first impressions are crucial! There’s nothing worse than meeting your future employer looking like a total mess.

But you can’t always expect people to come to you. So really make an effort when it comes to networking. Seek out places to meet people and engage accordingly. You can always count on conferences and festivals, but with all the access we have in the digital age, tools like LinkedIn can be a great asset for connecting and networking. Join relevant groups and start discussions. Share contact information, and always be sure to follow up with the connections you make along the way. After all, you never know when you might need something down the road.

Networking also isn’t limited to your industry. Be sure to, wherever you are, ask. Ask people what they do for a living, get to know them better and see how they might be able to help you in your business.

Hopefully these few tips clear up all your networking questions and make a difference in in all your future business endeavours. And incase you want to connect with us. You can add us to LinkedIn! We’re always looking to connect!

By Tommy Darker. The essay was originally published in The Musicpreneur on Medium.

I was at a gig last night and I saw three amazing bands rocking out the stage and making people dance very hard. Note: it’s London, normally people don’t dance that hard.

The sad realization I made is that none of these bands actually makes money. Isn’t it sad? The band entertains you, makes you feel great, you pay the bar for drinks, but the musician gets nothing of monetary nature.

That brought an avalanche of thoughts and I started jotting them down! I quickly came down to 6 main reasons of failure, which you’ll definitely relate with (if you’re a musician).

Note: this order IS hierarchical. In other words, if you haven’t solved issue #1, don’t try to solve #3.

Let’s go.

 

1. Lack of focus on a specific goal and vision.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carroll

Instead of blaming the system, musicians should blame themselves for not knowing where they’re going and having ambivalent goals.

A solo artist needs a long-term goal to focus on and a grander vision to accomplish. A band—to make matters more complicated—needs to maintain a mutual and clear route for all the 3-4-5 members that constitute it. Everybody needs to agree.

If you don’t, don’t blame the audience when you hear the phrase:

“You’re good, but you sound/look like (name other—probably well-known—artist)”

That is, you don’t stand out. Because you haven’t spend any time to refine what art means to you, who you are and why you’re different from the others.

And I don’t mean you need to be enormously ambitious to have focus on a goal. It’s good enough to say: “I will be the busker that all the people of Camden (neighbourhood of London) will talk about.”

 

2. They suck at communication.

Ok, let’s not hide behind our fingers. If you do have a vision, I guarantee that nobody will know about it if you haven’t communicated it properly to the world.

You can communicate a message in two ways: with words and with actions.

Speaking about actions, let me just drop some food for thought (and the hungry Musicpreneurs will get it):

The quality and nature of one’s vision is appraised according to the perception created by the context, the consistency and the progress of the visible bit of the vision.

All three must be present. In humanese: how do you expect someone to be convinced of your grand vision when you keep playing in bars and open mic nights all the time? Nobody says you don’t have a great plan behind it, but if people don’t see the signs to keep up with it, you’ve lost them forever. And that’s because of the bad communication on your part.

Actions speak loud, however copywriting is a forgotten but essential art for artists. As about verbal communication, I stated:

“Always try to build a bond and relationships that go through YOU, not through your band’s name or profile.

Everyone might be able to ignore a band’s music, but nobody can ignore the fiery passion and vision of a PERSONALITY. This is what you should sell them.Everybody’s got good music.

In other words, if you’re a charismatic communicator, this quality will rub off on your artistic profile as well. If you don’t have this inclination, work on it and become a great verbal communicator.

 

3. Has anyone heard of persistence?

The vision is there, you feel confident and you got some great people supporting you. But you are on the verge of giving up.

Persistence is the key. Which part of this sentence don’t you understand?

You constantly consider giving up because you haven’t tasted the corn yet after months of harvesting. It’s alright, keep harvesting. Adding value is not a race. It’s a life-long process.

The rewards will come sooner or later. It seems you still have steps to do, you’re not there yet. How can you expect to reach the goal if you haven’t executed all the steps? That’s unnatural, dude!

An example (for you to face reality):

What would the value of Ferrari be without years of persistence to build a luxury brand, which is valued according to its durability in time? Wouldn’t it be stupid (and funny) for Enzo Ferrari to say ‘it’s too hard, I quit’, while building something that exceptional?

An advice (for you to feel better):

Do you want to feel better and quit less often? Keep following the vision you have in mind, but slice it in small, measurable and attainable sub-goals, which will help you be accountable to yourself, boost your confidence and will give you shots of gratification to keep going.

And do you want to hear the harsh truth?

Nobody owes you a living and you need to go after it. With persistence.

 

4. Tools are there. Know-how isnt.

Yes, I’m saying that most musicians don’t know how to use the vast majority of tools available to them. That’s sad, so much potential goes to waste.

I’m not implying that all tools out there are relevant and useful to every musician. But when you combine strategically and skillfully some of them, you can effortlessly and cheaply create a system that will vigorously work on your behalf. Think beyond Bandcamp and Soundcloud, this is not all there is.

This is the power of the web, it shouldn’t go wasted. Especially if you have laid a coherent plan, talent and persistence on the table, the next step is the investment in knowledge. Knowing how and why.

You won’t get far without having a clear overview of the media world and the related industries that comprise it. You need to be sure where you stand in this map, and that only comes with knowledge. Some of the tools that I found most useful have nothing to do with musicians. And this is where the treasure is hidden, you cannot spot it unless you’ve build a media world map in your head. Oh Lord, how creative can this process be! You can’t imagine.

Investing in bodies of knowledge indirectly connected with the music industry is the way to go.

What kind of knowledge? A few examples: how startups work, psychology of copywriting, neuromarketing, design, how perception is formed and so on. A musician in the future will need to know about all these topics  why not invest in the future today?

 

5. Business model: whats yours?

Here’s where most heads will get scratched. But this is where the root of all evil lies.

Most musicians have no business model at all or just—badly—clone existing ones. (Because this is what others do)

What a business model is NOT, to begin with:

A business model is not how you make people spend more money on what you do.

What a business model is (my favorite definition):

A business model describes how you create, deliver and capture value (economic, social, cultural or other).

In other words, you might not sell anything, but you need to have a business model! Even non-profits, whose purpose is to deliver value, need a business model. This way, they organize how they deliver that value to the world and survive in an economic environment (because everybody needs some money to sustain what they do).

What happened here? Did the hateful attitude towards the word ‘business’ reverse? Yes it did.

Business is any operation that requires some form of transaction to progress. As a musician, you’re transacting (a lot): emotions, music, experiences, products, money.

Read the Business Model Generation (a book worth buying) to get a full idea of how you can organize your assets and activities, offer more value, balance costs and revenue to make a profit. Organizeoffer valuemake profit. Splendid!

Having a solid vision, knowing how to translate it in words for the real world, knowing how not to quit and arming with knowledge. Assemble all that under the umbrella of a business model.

This is your part. Lots of things to sort out. You’re alone up to that point. But soon you’ll need external help. #6 it is.

 

6. Everyone needs some budget to get things done.

This is the #1 excuse of a musician, but in reality it’s the least important factor when it comes to building strong foundations as a band-business.

Money will be used to scale up, not to build something exceptional. I’m a big fan of bootstrapping and experimenting, just like the lean startup framework suggests. The more you experiment and play small, the more chances that you’ll create something truly exceptional.

Money is not a part of this equation. Despite the fact that most musicians think it is. Money will bring money (aka it will be used to scale up something that already makes money).

So, stop thinking about how you can fund something, start building something minimal that stands out instead. Cliché? Hell, can’t be truer.

Money is a multiplier, not a foundation.

What will you need money for?

To create a team around your project and compensate them for their time, to develop some concepts that require a budget, to use publicity services.

Where will you find that money?

1. Kickstart the well-defined project you’ve planned. You must have created some traction and gained some fans, right?

2. Find an angel investor to fund you. You’ll be accountable to them and that’s an extra motivation force. Your ‘product’ needs to be investable and scalable for Angels to be attracted. Keep in mind Bruce Warila’s articles.

3. Borrow that money. You believe much in your project, don’t you? That means you won’t be afraid to get in debt to pursue it.

 

What do I do next, Tommy?

Alright, hopefully you’ve read the whole article. What do you do now? How does this translate in the real music world?

Re-evaluate who you are and why you create art. What is the outcome you want: legacy, money, fame, freedom? Prioritize things and mainly focus on the number one. You can’t have it all (or at least focus on all of them on simultaneously). I focus on freedom and then legacy.

Arm yourself with knowledge. It has never been so fun and easy to learn and pursue what you want. But the good resources of knowledge are floating in a vast web. Some free, high quality knowledge sources can be found inCourseraUdacityedXKhanAcademyArtistHouseMusic, while great paid courses can be found on Udemy and Skillshare.

Start transforming from a hobbyist to a Musicpreneur. Start with this course on how to build a Band as a Business and a more advanced on How to Build a Startup (both are free). Follow my updates on Think Beyond The Band and read my extended report about the Musicpreneur. Watch the videos of Darker Music Talks.

Stop thinking about money. Release yourself from those thoughts. Money for scaling up comes last.

“The best way to maximize profits over the long term is not to make them the primary goal of the business” John Mackey

Go lean and experiment to find the perfect business model! The reality is I cannot give you specific advice on how to become successful and make money, because there is no universal solution yet. That’s good, only the serious Musicpreneurs will make a living, nobody owes you one! Start learning about the lean thinking and create a business model that suits your integrity. Again, this book is a must and a foundation.

 


 

For more essays like this as soon as they’re published, how should I contact you to stay in touch?

I love starting conversations. If you share the same mindset, find me on Facebook and Twitter and let’s talk!

 

I’m Tommy Darker, the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician. I started ‘Think Beyond The Band because I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and I like helping other fellow musicians that struggle with the same problems.

 

If there is one thing that almost every musicians dreams of, it is of that first major tour. Its that feeling of playing night after night, in the best venues of all of the major cities around the world, and always to a sold out crowd. But before that will ever happen, you need to answer one major question: Do you have a plan? If not, you can be sure to kiss that dream goodbye. And if you do have a plan, is it good enough? Music is a business just as anything else, and as such it is your job to play entrepreneur and marketer. While it is your product or service you are trying to sell, it is also your job to expose your music to the public.
First we will take a look at forming a proper plan, followed by exploring different strategies for putting that plan into action. The following are 3 very important steps to ensuring that you have a proper plan in place before you even attempt to get that first gig:

1) Choose The Right Venue

Every venue has its own style, and is known for showcasing music of specific genres. Some venues are known to hold rock concerts, other are known for hip-hop, so on and so forth. It all comes down to the location, and the surrounding music scene. Picking the right venue for your gigs is very important, as is the first step towards growing your core fan-base, which will ultimately increase the attendance at your gigs.  If your not playing to a crowd who won’t absolutely love your music, then you haven’t targeted your audience correctly.

As with any well thought-out marketing strategy, the first important step in promoting yourself and building your brand is knowing who your audience is. If you are trying to build a core fan-base, you better be sure you know who that crowd will consist of. If you are playing acoustic folk/rock, don’t play in a club for people who are looking to dance to reggatone. The same thing goes for hip-hop artists- don’t play in a coffee shop filled with art students who listen to indie rock.

So how do you target your audience? Start by asking yourself some basic questions such as:

-What kind of music are you playing?
-What is the demographic of your audience? (i.e. age group, sex, style)
-What kind of music is popular in your local music scene? Does this match with your style of music. If not, where does it match?
-What are some of the big, mid-size and small venues in the local area that do cater to your style of music? (its good to set yourself some goals)
-Of the popular venues, which has the largest gathering of your target audience?
-What are some of the bigger local bands involved in your specific scene?

Even some more detailed questions such as:

-Will your target audience want to dance?
-Does your target audience like to drink? (If so, find places with drink specials!)
-What other kind of music does your audience listen to?
-If were to mix in some covers into your set, what bands would your audience want to hear?
-Where is your audience involved outside of the live music scene? Do they follow any specific blogs or belong to any specific social networks?

Every additional question you ask will get you one step closer to finding just who your audience is and how you can establish a connection with them.

Once you have determined who your audience is, find the most suitable venues and do everything in your power to book gigs there. Don’t forget to look past the venue as well – take a look at their calendar and contact artists who cater to a similar audience. Booking an opening gig can be a very helpful way of getting your foot in the door at some of the venues that are harder to get in touch with.

NOTE: Notice the focus on being ‘local’. As a new artist trying to establish a core fan-base, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Make sure you have established yourself a home base of fans before you go elsewhere. Begin with a radius around where you live, say 20 miles. It is not until you are able to hit max capacity at the venues within this radius that you should begin looking to expand your reach.

2) Keep It Varied 

Creating a format for your live shows is very important, but it also important to keep the sets themselves varied. You need to make a few decisions:

-one set or two?
-fully electric sets or do you include an acoustic set?
-how many covers will you do? Will they be a regular part of the show?
-will you play the same music every time, or will you drastically change up the sets?
-will you speak with the audience?
-will the audience be able to participate in any way? If so, how can that be duplicated. While you want variety, you need that constant element as well.

All of these components are important decisions to make when creating the format for your live performance. Just as your image and your music is part of your brand, so is the format of your live performance. Entertainers like Brittany Spears and Lady Gaga are known to have extravagant performances that are fully choreographed and synced-up with the music.

They play one set of music straight through and the set-list never changes. Then there is the extreme opposite- bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish have always been known to play a format of two sets with a half-hour to 45 min. break in between. While the format remained consistent, it was the set-lists that were always different from night to night. Not only did this keep it interesting, making it so fans had no idea what would be played each night, but it added an additional layer of fandom to the mix, allowing the more obsessed fans to keep stats on which songs were played on which night and how many times per tour, which songs came before and after a song and the probability of that happening again, etc, etc. It is this kind of varied live performance that kept people coming back, allowing both The Dead and Phish to become two of the highest grossing touring acts in music history.

But maybe that type of a show is not for you or for your audience. Set-lists don’t HAVE to change from night to night, nor do new covers and/or new music need to be introduced or revisited at every show. The point here, is that your audience can already get your music from the recordings. So if you want to grow a fan-base that is willing to come out and see your perform live, you need to do something that sets your live show apart from your recorded music- it always comes back to adding value for your fans. If you are not doing something in a live setting that adds value for your fans, then they have no purpose for attending your shows.

3) Promotion 

Promotion is the most important part of getting people to your gigs. During your first few gigs when no one knows who you are, it is your job to make sure that everyone in the surrounding area knows about your show. Once you have an established fan-base, it then becomes your job to make sure the existing fans know of the show and are given the proper tools to help you spread the word.

Starting early is the best way to promote a show- don’t wait until 2 days before and think that your promotion will penetrate through to the public. There have always been traditional methods of promoting a show (i.e. posters, fliers, cards, etc) but social networks present an even more effective way of promoting your upcoming events in a way that allows fans to gather and create buzz, ultimately spreading the word by inviting others. The more people that spread the word, the more opportunity you have to host a sold-out show.

Just because social networking has made it easier for artists to connect with fans, doesn’t mean you can just take the easy way out. If you create a Facebook event, then just sit back and expect people to show up to your gigs, you will have another thing coming. You should still be using all of the traditional methods of promoting a gig to supplement your online efforts. Create fliers and posters and make sure they are strategically placed around your town, campus, restaurants, local stores and hang-out spots. Placing 100 fliers around town is great, but if they are all on side walls and in back-alleys, no one will see them and you have wasted your time. Partnering up with some local hang-outs, ones that are involved with the arts, or cater to a similar crowd that you are trying to attract is a great way of spreading the word. And whatever you do, do not, I repeat, do not make a flier that is hard to read. I know it is easy to succumb to the temptation of creating fliers reminiscent of 60’s psychedelic era, with all of that cool, trippy artwork and all those crazy colors:


STOP! No one wants to have to decipher a flier – make it clean and legible.

Use large block font and make sure it gets the point across (name, where, when, how much, special guests?, drink specials?, etc.). If you do want to include artwork, making the flier look a little more interesting, make sure the name is the centerpiece. If the name gets lost, the promotional capabilities of the flier will be wasted.


Using sites like Facebook and Twitter are great for promoting upcoming concerts. They offer the ability to reach large groups of people at the click of a button. But more importantly, they allow you to connect with your target audience in a way you were previously unable to. Facebook is the biggest social network in the world, but it is extremely general hoping they can cater to every possible aspect of life. While Facebook isn’t deep enough to cater to the specific needs of musicians, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be working on Facebook to connect directly with your audience. Create an event page, and start contacting people. Invite close friends, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find groups that cater to your audience and begin networking there as well. Create the most robust event page possible, using all that the Facebook pages allow for and then add more value by linking to other pages. Maybe offer all those who join the Facebook event a free download of your EP.

Don’t forget that there are a limitless amount of blogs out there as well. Music blogging has become very popular, and some blogs even have traffic that reaches hundreds of thousands of visitors per month.

Use this information to get yourself prepared for performing live. Becoming a gigging band can be the best way to grow your brand, ultimately helping you achieve whatever level of success you are looking for. But without a proper plan of who you are trying to attract, how you are going to attract them, and then actually attempting to do so, you will see yourself falling short each and every time.

One of the most widely unanswered questions that every emerging artist asks is ‘how do we get people to our gigs?’. The truth of the matter is there is no one way to get people to attend your shows. Some people may struggle for years, some people may find success right away. But once you have prepared yourself for performing live, there are strategies that can help increase the chances of achieving that first sold out gig. The following are 4 strategies for creating awareness and long-term engagement:

4) Invite the press

One of the most simple ways to gain publicity is to invite the press. While this is one of the most commonly overlooked methods of establishing a name for yourself, it is also one of the easiest to do. Many artists see creating a press kit as a way to book a gig- the musicians version of a resume. But a press kit is also used as a way to attract press to your show, to ultimately cover your performance, attracting new listeners who are looking for the kind of music you play and/or the kind of show you put on.

The press that comes to your performance does not need to represent the largest publications – just try to contact Rolling Stone about your gig in nowhere U.S.A. But you can, and should contact the local paper, the school paper or any other form of school publication, local music bloggers, local arts magazines, etc. The more angles you can think of to bring the press to your shows, the better off you will be.

5) Create buzz

Nothing is more helpful than creating buzz around your brand. If you are still a relatively unknown artist, the best thing you can do is to get involved with the already established music scene. Find out if there are any upcoming music festivals, showcases or Battle Of The Bands in your area that involve some similar acts who cater to a similar crowd and get yourself involved. This will help expose you and your music to a new audience and will create buzz- everybody loves a new ‘breakthrough artist’.

While playing the most popular venues is the best way to grow your fan-base, it is the smaller, alternative venues such as coffee shops and restaurants and public events such as festivals and fairs that will help you initially connect with new fans. Playing these alternative venues will allow you to expose yourself as an artist to a crowd of people who may not have heard about your last show, while generating talk about your next one. But remember, one of the most important things to always think about it is ‘who are you trying to attract?’. You will be wasting your time, talent and potentially money if you have established your fans as smooth Jazz lovers but you are playing at an upbeat sports bar/ grill in a college town.

Networking with the local artists is also a great way of generating some buzz. Do some research and find out who the bigger acts are within your local scene and get in touch with them. Find out when they are going to be playing in the area, preferably at a venue you have already performed at, and try to book the opening slot. Even more, you should try to book these opening slots strategically around when you have upcoming performances. Performing as the opener for a major local band a week before your own headlining show is a great way to increase attendance at your next gig.

6) Create A Mailing List 

A mailing list is extremely important. Playing those opening gigs and small alternative gigs are great, but without establishing a way to directly contact those new fans at a later date, not much has been gained. You need to be able to reach new and even existing fans directly with important updates about new gigs, new music, last minute changes or even personal week-to-week updates. You can promote all you want on Facebook, but when it comes down to the last day or so before a gig, you need to be able to give a reminder to your fan-base that your performance is tonight, at such and such a venue and this time- so don’t be late! Oh, and bring your friends! (And for any place that has a bar, always remember to mention the drink specials!)

And believe it or not, but some people just don’t care much for social networking. It seems ridiculous in today’s tech savvy world- but its true. You cannot depend on social media to be a completely solution. Using a mailing list is a great way to reach ALL of your fans in as personal and directly a manner as possible.

7) What you do off the stage is just as important as what you do on the stage

By now, you should have a pretty good idea of what you need to do in order to increase attendance at your gigs. But there is one rule that can outweigh the importance of all the rest if done properly: What you do off the stage is just as important as what you do on the stage. If you are performing only once a week, or once every few weeks, yet are not getting in touch with your fans in between that time, how do you expect your fan-base to grow and your attendance to increase? After all, creating a fan-base is truly priority #1 and you should be doing all that you can to grow that fan-base as big as possible. Any value that can be created for fans off the stage, should be. There are ways to use social networking and blogging to connect with your fans on a regular basis, breaking down barriers and allowing them a glimpse of your personal life.

But there are also other promotional ideas that will help as well – free downloads of past performances, sweepstakes and competitions that revolve around your music or your band name (i.e. post up a lyric from one of your really old songs, and ask your fans to guess which song its from. The winner gets a free download of your recent album). I will say it again because it is worth repeating- anything you can do that your fans will find of value, should be done. Fans are looking for value from all angles and any stone left unturned will just become a weak spot in your promotional campaign as an artist.

Now get out there are start building your fan-base! Keep the fan-base growing and attendance at your shows will increase! Keep increasing the attendance at your shows and soon you will be hosting sold out gigs. And THIS, is when you are ready to start contemplating a tour….


Have you ever played to a sold out gig? Is there anything that you think is important that we missed? Please feel free leave suggestions and comments, as this article can ALWAYS benefit from the input and experience of others!

 

Jon is the co-founder of MicControl, a music blogging network based on a music social networking platform. This post originally appeared as a two-part series on the MicControl blog on April 29, 2010. Jon can be found on twitter and facebook.

Author Zig Ziglar was often as saying, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”

Your music career is no different. Unless you have a target that you are reaching for, you’ll just continue down random pathways hoping to get somewhere. How will you know what successful looks like if you haven’t defined success for yourself? You need to begin by creating (or revisiting) your goals.

There’s a popular business acronym that says goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. In a band, I think goals should be SMARTER, because they need to include Everyone and be Revisited often.

There are many good articles on how to be more effective at writing and reaching goals. In fact, there have been many great books about them. It’s one of the most important aspects of your career, so it’s good to spend time on goals.

Here’s a quick rundown on how you can make goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R.:

Specific

Ask yourself the big questions: Who, what, when, where, why, when? A specific goal lets you know what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it by, why you are doing it, who will be involved, and where it will happen.

Many artists have a generic goal of “make a living full-time from doing music.” But what does that mean to you? Most independent artists who are making a living from music also manage their own careers, book their own shows, solicit sponsors, etc. in addition to creating and performing music. For them, their goal was to be independent of another job or career. For others, they want to concentrate solely on music so a booking agent, a manager, a lawyer, and publicist would be involved as well.  How much money do you need to live on? Spell out the goal completely.

For example, a goal I’ve used before: Tour the continental U.S in August 2013 with at least 18 shows, playing a mixture of all-ages, 21+, and convention shows making an average of $500 per night. Also, see an increase on social media and web traffic by at least 10% and increase online sales by 20% for the month before, during, and after the tour. Those are all specific targets that I can definitely measure against.

Measurable

A goal should have specific metrics so you know if you’re making progress. If you have one larger goal, you should break it up into smaller parts over the course of time. That way, you and your team can always know where you stand against the overall goal. During this time you should be asking questions with how, when, and what: how much do you have left to go? When will you reach your goal? What do you have to do to stay on track?

Using the tour goal listed above, one could easily measure against the goal in a number of ways:

  • How many shows have been booked for August 2013? What kinds of shows have been booked?

  • How much income is being earned per night?

  • What is the average monthly online sales? Have they increased – and if so, by how much?

  • What do I need to do to help increase merch sales, at shows or online?

Attainable

The goals that you develop should be ambitious but realistic. For example, if you don’t have the right resources, abilities, finances, or followers, perhaps you should create a smaller goal and adjust it as the situation improves. If you focus on what you can do, it sometimes reveals new opportunities. For example, potential sponsors – many are probably in your own backyard but are often overlooked for the larger, sexier opportunities.

Goals should grow with you. As you gain more resources, abilities, finances, and followers, your goals should get respectively larger. Having them just out of reach helps you stretch. However, having them too far away will only cause frustration.

Relevant

The goals that you choose should matter. They should motivate you and drive your career forward. For example, I’ve talked to many artists who have a goal of playing a large festival like SXSW even though it doesn’t relate to their current state of their music career. Things shouldn’t be goals just because others are doing them. Ask yourself these questions: Is this the right time? Is this worthwhile? How will this directly help me?

Timely

Your goals should have a time-bound deadline. When would you like to reach your goal by? If your goal is shrouded in the idea of “someday,” you’ll have a much more difficult time of reaching it. If you want to achieve a goal by the end of the year, you’ll work more aggressively for it. For example, if your goal is to sell 5,000 records, you would treat it much differently if that was 5,000 someday as opposed to 5,000 by December.

Everyone

This is one that I like to use for musicians. Goals in a band should have everyone involved. If some of your bandmates aren’t on board with the goals, then you might consider having someone else replace them – that’s how important this is. People should be on the same page, have the right expectations, and the proper work ethic for reaching the goal.

Also, when I saw everyone, I mean everyone. This includes spouses or other people whom we depend on for support. If your band members would like to tour 8-10 months out of the year but their significant others aren’t supportive of that goal, some serious issues could arise – especially when that opportunity presents itself. If you want to focus primarily on licensing for films but your manager wants you to focus on festivals, those incongruent goals would also cause issues. Make sure the key players, as well as the most important people in your life, are in alignment when it comes to your goals.

Revisited

Goals should be revisited often. Not only should you be checking on your progress toward your goal, but you should also see if those goals need to be adjusted. Ask: are these goals still relevant? Is this what I want/need still?

Years ago, most artists had a goal of signing on a major record label (a few still do). However, since the market has completely changed, most have realized that this isn’t always the most appropriate opportunity for them. Major things can alter our goals: relationships, the market, our fans, political instability, and so on. Revisit those goals and make sure they meet the criteria above.

—————

Simon Tam is the President and Founder of Last Stop Booking, author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, and performs in dance rock band The Slants. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at http://www.laststopbooking.com. He is on Twitter @SimonTheTam

I’ve become very fond of Craigslist.

Searching for players, gigs, and gear, somewhere between my first cup of coffee and a cleaner pair of underwear, I feel like I’m going to need a pair of bunny slippers and a robe this winter in order to fully realize my out of work potential.

I stay in the musician section for the most part, but even those ads are littered with nerds, real-estate agents and date rape enthusiasts. It’s a great place to be if you’re a “serious”, “drug free”,  22 year old female vocalist with your own equipment. And it’s as close as I’m ever going to get to Reality TV.

The searching, however, has paid off.

I now know there is a Timpanist available in my area for any and all of my timpani needs.

For those of you who don’t know what a timpani is, it’s those big copper drums used to create that boom boom boom sound of thunder, or an army of invading orcs, or anytime a German enters a room.

In five short minutes, I have come up with hundreds of uses for a local Timpanist ranging from door bell substitution to following around my neighbor’s chihuahuas.

The Timpanist has a card that says he does weddings as well.

My god, how could I have possibly missed that?

But Craigslist isn’t all timpani and giggles, I’ve booked shows, collaborated with some nice people, and learned which marketing scams are worth my time and which are just not.

Of course they’re all scams. If you’re a talented musician, willing to work hard, and have what it takes to go to the next level, then I’ve got a five hundred dollar 12 part video course that is going to change your life (Or blow your mind, either way).

But some scams might backfire with intended consequences.

Let me explain:

Did you know that there are companies out there that will guarantee a certain amount of page views, YouTube hits and Facebook ‘Likes’ for a fee?

Neither did I.

Thank-You Craigslist.

Now, this part of the story is four-fold:

First, they do it by creating millions of fake accounts all across the social medias, and then program the fake accounts to check out your stuff. Give ‘em a few bucks and you can quadruple your reach. Everyone is in on it, from Reverbnation to Facebook itself.

But, since its all fake, you haven’t increased you reach, you’ve only increased your metrics.

Given enough dollars, my little songs can pretend to be as popular as a kitty playing the piano.

Yet secondly, for obvious reasons, this practice is severely frowned upon by the industry insiders who are very quick to point out that because it doesn’t really increase the amount of people who are being entertained by your stuff, then you’re just lying to us, like the kid who insists he has a girlfriend in Canada.

But the third bit is where it gets interesting:

Actual people might click on something if it looks like it is popular.

Everyone wants to be in the know.

Things go viral by looking like they’re going viral.

I will absolutely get booked at bigger venues if a promoter sees that I have 25,000 Facebook fans instead of the 87 I have now.

Songs will get heard more, videos will get watched more, nobody likes to stand in line, but everyone wants to know where the line is going. Nobody ever made their first million honestly. This way to the ‘Egress’

And if you’re asking yourself why you haven’t tried this yet, the answer is simple:

Fourth, it doesn’t work, and if it did, you’re not ready.

Are your songs as freakishly awesome as Lorde’s. Are your videos a sexy as Gotye or as brilliantly choreographed as Okay Go? Do you appeal to cat lovers and Jennifer Lawrence fans?

Can you imagine the kind of local reputation you would have if you booked a gig in a thousand seat house and only your mom shows up? (Unless, of course, your mamma is so fat she can fill an auditorium)

The reason it doesn’t work is because for virility to occur, content must far exceed the hype, and if you’re content is that good, it’ll generate all the hype you could ever want.

Here’s a free lesson: Take all that money you think you might want to spend on your imaginary friends, put it in a bank, take some time away from your day job and go play in every dive bar, coffee shop, open mike, street corner within a 100 mile radius of your apartment. Gather fans in the crudest way possible. This won’t get you to prime time, but it will toughen your skin and tighten your chops.

And I promise you, I promise you, you will be found, you will be liked.

Unless you’re terrible.

Then consider blogging.

{Cue Timpanist}

 

 

(Joshua Macrae is a singer/songwriter who writes a daily blog about being a musician, a pop culture enthusiast, and a terrible, terrible parent. You can find more at his websitewww.waitdad.com or “Like” him at facebook.com/waitdad)

If you’ve been making music for a while by now, you probably already know how to write a song. If not, you’ll want to check this beginners guide to songwriting before you go any further.

Now I’ve a question for you: Does the kind of songs you’ve been writing match the aims you have for your music career?

Depending on what you hope to achieve, the way you write and structure your songs should take a certain path. For example, if you’re a rapper who wants to appeal to the underground rap scene, your lyrics and beats will need to be different then the ones you’d use if you was aiming to create a more commercial pop song. Most likely your lyrics would need to either be very technical or witty, the song wouldn’t necessarily need a chorus, and you’d need to have a simplistic or thumping beat to spit over. As a broad example.

If however you’re a rapper who’s aiming to release a song into the charts (with the aim of doing well of course), the type of song you’ll need to write would be very different. Instead of your lyrics being too technical, you’ll most likely want them to be easy to understand. You may still want them to be witty, but in a different way. You’ll definitely want there to be a chorus in there, but you may want a singer to do it instead of you. And the backing track will likely be a lot more ‘commercial’ in nature.

While this is just a brief overview of some changes you may want to make depending on the aims you have as a musician, hopefully it shows that different paths you may take will require you to take different actions.

For the rest of this article, we’ll mainly be talking about how to write songs that could potentially do well commercially. It’d be impossible for me to go into all the needed things you should be implementing to write successful songs in all genres and non commercial scenes, at least in this one blog post. That said, as the formula for writing a commercial song is quite similar no matter what type of music you make (not exactly the same, but there are things which work well across the board), we’ll focus on this. Ok, so let’s get into it! Important Note: Even if you write songs which could potentially do well if they entered into the charts, that won’t mean your song will get released and end up charting. You will of course need to mass promote your music, either independently or though a record label. This guide won’t cover that side of things, although I’ll point you in the direction of some marketing related resources at the end.

How To Write A Song With The Aim For It Going Commercial

So let’s start looking at some of the things you’ll probably want to implement if you’re aiming to create a popular chart song. While there are of course exceptions to the rules and musicians who have done well commercially without following these strategies, if you’re new to the charts and want to increase your chances of doing well, you’ll probably want to implement them:

1. Your Song Chorus Will Have To Be Catchy

This is probably one of the biggest factors you’ll need to learn when it comes to writing a popular song. If you want to give your song the best chance of climbing up the charts, you’ll need to write a catchy chorus.

The reason for this is simple; you’ll want it to stay in people’s heads. You want people to hear your song through once, and even if they’re not fully paying attention, have that chorus go over in their head for the rest of the day. That is the power of a strong and catch chorus.

But how does this help you? Well not only will it help you in terms of having more people singing and talking about your songs, it also does two other important things:

Makes your music more appealing to a younger audience.

While it varies from genre to genre, the younger audience (think school kids under 12 years of age) are a market you’ll want to be targeting. Young kids love catchy songs, and are very good at getting their parents to go out and buy these songs for them.

If you can get these songs sung throughout schools up and down the country, you have a good chance of making more sales and climbing the charts.

Increases the chances your song will be used for other uses

If you can write a very catchy chorus which takes off well and has ‘everyone’ singing it, your song will automatically become more attractive to big budget companies with a product to sell. They may want to license your song for use in their latest commercial, website, TV program or computer game. If this happens, the amount of money you make from this song will be a lot more than you would have made from chart based sales alone. You can see more about music licensing here.

While some would disagree, I’d go as far as saying having a catchy chorus is the biggest factor you need to get right when writing a pop song, no matter if it’s ‘rock pop’, ‘rap pop’ or other. You’re a lot more likely to find songs which do well commercially with a strong chorus and just above average verses, than you are to find a song with a just above average chorus and really good verses. You should be aiming to make all of your song top quality of course though.

I doubt you’ll find anyone knowledgeable about the music industry who would say catchy choruses don’t increase your chances of creating a hit pop song, so be sure to spend time making sure yours is just right!

2. You Should Try And Write In Some Memorable / Sing-Along Parts

As well as writing a powerful and catchy chorus, you should also aim to include additional catchy parts within your verses that people will easily remember and sing along to every time it comes up.

I know you’ve been in this situation before: you and someone you know are listening to a song. Nether of you know many of the words, but when it comes to a specific line, you both suddenly start singing that line. This is because it’s catchy, it’s easy to remember, and fun to sing along to! That’s the kind of line you want to include when writing your songs…

One of the best ways to make a line or two of yours more memorable is by making it stand out from the rest of your lyrics. So you may have written your lyrics to all be at a similar speed, then suddenly slow it down or change it up in some way so people’s ears instantly pick up when that part comes on.

Another way you can do this is by changing up the flow of the stand out line, and saying something that is also stand out. This can be in the form of you saying something cheeky, or by you making a powerful statement which sums up the whole song.

If people can relate to the line, even better. Which leads me onto the next factor which you should be implementing in your lyric writing:

3. You’ll Need To Write A Song With Lyrics People Can Relate To Or Envy

Next up, let’s look at the type of song subject you should be going for. While a wide range of song subject can do well commercially, whichever subject you pick should usually fall into one of two categories:

  1. Lyrics about something people of your target market can relate to, or
  2. Lyrics which people in your target audience can aspire to.

Let’s look at option number one first; you’ll want to write lyrics which talk about things which people can relate to. This could be because they have been through similar things themselves, or could imagine themselves feeling the same if they were in a similar situation.

This is an extremely powerful song type to write. If you’re writing from your own personal experience, than chances are there are a lot of other people who have felt the same before, and will more likely be interested in what you have to say. When people can relate a song to them, they’re more likely to remember that song, or more importantly buy it. A song about how you feel after you’ve just come out of a roller coaster relationship for example, that’s something a lot of people could relate to.

But what if you want to write a song about something which only a small percentage of your target audience have experienced? Well, if that subject is something that people in your genre generally aspire to, than this could be ok.

An example of this is the talk of money. Some musicians who start making a lot of money often talk about their new found riches, and make that the subject of many of their songs. And while a lot of their audience maybe can’t personally relate to living the same lifestyle, they may want to eventually live that life, so listen to and buy these songs for motivation.

Again, while there are exceptions to these rules, if you want the best chance of writing a good popular song, you’ll want your lyrics to fit into one of the above two categories.

4. You’ll Need A High Quality Backing Track

The last main point I want to make about writing a song which has the chance to be received well commercially, is about the backing track you use to put your lyrics on.

While the kind of instrumental you use will depend on your genre of music, I will say this:

You want your backing track to be high quality!

There’s nothing worse than having a song with great lyrics, but a poor quality instrumental. It’s such a let down, and one that will show in terms of your sales figures.

If you’ve taken the time to write a high quality song, be sure to also get a beat that will match that song, both in terms of theme and quality. Doing any less will lessen your chances of climbing higher in the charts.

How To Write A Pop Song Conclusion

So there you have it, some of the main things you need to implement when writing lyrics for a tune you want to do well in the charts. These are by no means the only things you need to bare in mind when writing lyrics for a commercial song, but they are among some of the most important. Feel free to let us know your thoughts of important factors in the comments section.

Before I go, I want to remind you that writing a top song alone won’t be the only thing you need to do to enter and do well in the charts. If you don’t properly market that song, either independently if you have the budget or thought a record label, you will have no chance of making your song chart.

So if you want to learn key skills to marketing your songs, you’ll want to read up on how to market your music properly. I’ve written a big guide on promoting your music here, as well as a guide on what to do after you’ve recorded a single. You should check out both as well as the other guides on Music Industry How To for help on promoting any songs you write.

I hope this guide has been useful for you, if it has please share it around. Thank you.