Posts Tagged ‘Time management’

Question: What Does The Promoter Have to Pay For?

Keep in mind that the information here is general in nature. Your own circumstances may be different and will depend on the specifics of your deal.

Answer:When you’re booking a gig, what costs should you expect the promoter to cover, and which ones should you expect to pony up for yourself? There is no real simple answer to that question. The cost of putting on a show can be enormous, and depending on how much money your gig is expected to generate, a promoter may want to try and share some of the financial risk with you. That’s not entirely unreasonable in every instance, but we’ll get into that a bit later. First, here are some of the costs a concert promoter MAY pay (these are in addition to any guarantee you have for the show):

  • Accommodation
  • Food/Drinks (aka, a rider)
  • Gear Rental

The short answer to our original question is that a promoter is not REQUIRED to pay any of these costs. These things are all part of a larger deal that includes the money you will be payed to play, and essentially, they have a right to offer you what they think is fair, and you have the right to decline their offer if it doesn’t work for you. Unless they are charging you money to play, refusing to, say, pay for your beer and wine after the show isn’t inherently unethical. Asking you to pay to take the stage is out of the question, but any other kind of deal is really fair game. That doesn’t mean you might not encounter situations in which you have to turn down shows because you can’t afford to make it work, but that is not the same thing as getting ripped off.

Of course, getting a promoter to pay for these things is ideal. The easiest thing to get a promoter to cover is a rider and the hardest is gear rental – in fact, lots of big name acts don’t even get that. Accommodation is somewhere in the middle – sometimes free accommodation, like a floor in someone’s house, is on the table, and that’s easy to score. A hotel room for everyone in your band? A little trickier. There are a few things you can do to make it easier to get these extra benefits you want:

  • Demonstrate to the promoter that you have press/radio lined up that will make their promotion job easier and that may help increase the turnout for the show.
  • If you’re working with a promoter who has never booked you before, let them know what your audience is like in other towns so they can get an idea of what kind of crowd they might expect.
  • Above all else, be reasonable! Sure, getting a promoter to give you a big guarantee, plus a gourmet meal and rooms in the best hotel in town might be fun, but are you pulling in enough people to justify that kind of expenditure? In this great musical circle of life, no one wins when indie musicians try to force indie promoters out of business!

To that last point, if you’re an up and coming band trying to build your following, it is almost always in your interest to compromise with promoters who can put you in front an audience. Touring is often something that leaves musicians in the red when they’re starting out, and that’s an unfortunate truth. It may be a good investment in your future, though. Live shows are incredibly valuable in developing your fan base. The beauty of working on the indie level, including with indie promoters, is that neither you nor the promoter is bound to follow any cookie cutter kind of deal format, so work with them to develop a deal that works for both of you. If you can’t get money for a hotel, then ask if there is some place you can crash on the floor for a night. Instead of a large rider, get a few drinks and sandwiches and pay your own way for the rest of the night. Not only can compromising with the promoter help both of you make the night a success, your willingness to do so is good will in the bank when it comes time to book your next tour.

Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 tips on how to be a better time manager:

  1. Create a daily plan. Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.
  2. Peg a time limit to each task. Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.
  3. Use a calendar. Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software. Google Calendar is great – I use it. It’s even better if you can sync it to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are.
  4. Use an organizer. The organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.
  5. Know your deadlines. When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.
  6. Learn to say “No”. Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.
  7. Target to be early. When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time. For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.
  8. Time box your activities. This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Read more about time boxing: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.
  9. Have a clock visibly placed before you. Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.
  10. Set reminders 15 minutes before. Most calendars have a reminder function. If you’ve an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.
  11. Focus. Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.
  12. Block out distractions. What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in? I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting. When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.
  13. Track your time spent. Egg Timer is a simple online countdown timer. You key in the amount of time you want it to track (example: “30 minutes”, “1 hour”) and it’ll count down in the background. When the time is up,the timer will beep. Great way to be aware of your time spent.
  14. Don’t fuss about unimportant details You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective. Read more: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.
  15. Prioritize. Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest. Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. Read more about 80/20 in #6 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.
  16. Delegate. If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.
  17. Batch similar tasks together. For related work, batch them together. For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups: (1) writing (articles, my upcoming book) (2) coaching (3) workshop development (4) business development (5) administrative. I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.
  18. Eliminate your time wasters. What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often. One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites. While you’ll still check FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.
  19. Cut off when you need to. #1 reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to. Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.
  20. Leave buffer time in-between. Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

Do you have any tips to be a better time manager? Feel free to share in the comments area!

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Tours come in all shapes and sizes, from loading up in an old beat up van for a week to being flown around the world on a private jet for six months. Regardless of the budget or length of the tour, there are certain steps you can take to prepare yourself for life on the road. Touring can be a lot of fun, but not if you’re losing your sanity because you ran out of clean clothes five days ago! From band rehearsals to healthy eating, prepping your gear to getting along with your bandmates, I’ve compiled some tips from my own experience that will help you feel your best and play your best every show, every night.


Tour rehearsals are the best time to get comfortable with the music you will be playing everyday for the next few days or few months of your life. They present an opportunity to really master your performance before you hit the stage, and fully understand your role in the music. Even if you think you’re ready to take the show on the road, well spent rehearsal time can mean the difference between a rusty start and a tight killer sound.

Before each Ingrid Michaelson tour, we’ll have one or two three hour rehearsals in a rented space in Manhattan. It’s important for each of us to review and memorize our parts individually before the first rehearsal so that we can spend the time together working out live dynamics, getting comfortable with tempos and allowing enough time for rehearsing harmonies. Preparing before rehearsal also makes the rehearsal easier and relaxing. I might spend time revisiting the recordings, listening for tempos, specific parts or patterns. I will make sure I have the new songs down verbatim, because I know they will be the focus of the rehearsals. Even though we play on the records, it’s important to review the recordings after the sessions. When everyone comes prepared, there’s less stress and we can also take the time to bond as people. When members of your band are involved in many different projects like we are, that kind of preparation is essential.

TIP: Practice is done at home, not at rehearsal. Practice is something you do alone, and rehearsal is something you do with others. Make sure you come prepared to play your part perfectly so the group can work together as one.


Preparing your gear for the road will require finding the right balance of preparedness and traveling light. At first it’s better to play it safe and bring too much, but eventually you’ll learn that taking care of your equipment and using professional and reliable gear relieves the need for backup instruments. It’s also a good idea to know the basics of how your gear works in case you run into a problem on the road. Even if you have a tech setting up or maintaining your instruments, when the downbeat hits, you’re the one on stage!

I use a Yamaha Oak Custom Kit, Sabian Cymbals, Vater Sticks and Evans Heads. I am fourtunate to have great relationships with all of these companies and get all of my gear directly from the manufacturers. Each company had different criteria that they used to decide if they were interested in working with me, but each company required a physical press kit to get the ball rolling. It takes time and patience to forge relationships with gear companies, but their service and personal attention has proved to be vital in helping me be prepared. I suggest you visit the website of the company you wish to work with and read their requirements carefully. If you think you fit the mold, you may want to reach out to them through the proper channels.

Before a tour, I make sure all of my gear is in working order and order plenty of spare drumsticks and heads so that I don’t need to worry about running out of anything or watching things fall apart after one week of shows. I have hard cases for all of my drums, cymbals and hardware to protect the gear during load in and load out. I also bring a small personal fan on tour to help me keep cool under the hot stage lighting.

TIP: Bring spare drum keys, guitar strings, cables, tuners, 9 Volts, ear plugs and all other “disposable” gear that you use. Sure, you MIGHT run into music stores along the way, but it’s better to have these things before disaster strikes. Also, some music stores won’t have these items. Your cable will always break when everything is running behind schedule, not when you have all afternoon to buy a new one.

Being Domestic on the Road

Although your gear may be in check, you also need to spend some serious time on your “living supplies.” Thinking ahead is important when you’re picking the right clothes for the job. Packing properly will help keep you stress level in check, your mind clear, and your budget low.

I always pack so that I have a variety of outfits to choose from each night AND so I don’t worry about running out of clothes if I miss an opportunity to do laundry. There may not be many opportunities to do laundry due to time restraints or location, so I make sure I am prepared with some extra pairs of socks and underwear. I also don’t over pack, so it’s easy to find things in my suitcase. When we’re out for more than two weeks, I always bring clothes for both warm and cold climates, because chances are, we will be experiencing all kinds of weather as we travel. A hoodie, light jacket, a winter cap, and some durable pairs of jeans go a long way.

TIP: Go clothing shopping before the tour. Bringing a full wardrobe on the road gives you an incentive to NOT spend money when you’re window shopping in your downtime.

Food and Health

Eating nutritious, lean and tasty food is key to keeping the energy up and sickness away. Packing healthy snacks before leaving and visiting grocery stores along the way always helps control the quality of food. It also saves me money. It’s fun exploring for local fare, but it can also be risky, especially when the tour is a long one. Even if we opt to eat out several nights in a row, we pace ourselves, and keep the meals balanced.

This past tour, I worked out as much as possible, whether there was a gym around or not. I would run in the morning before my shower, or run before soundcheck and shower after if there was a shower in the venue. My workouts were always simple; I did push ups, ab exercises, and stretches. If I had access to a gym, I would also use free weights and some of the machines. I always carried water with me, and made sure I drank enough after the workout and after the gig. Our tour bus didn’t have a shower, so our tour manager arranged for a single day room at hotels in the cities we played for us to share. That way we had an opportunity to shower each day, even if the venues didn’t have an available shower. Hand sanitizer is always handy on the road. We’re all clean people, but living in such close quarters, playing late night shows, getting little sleep, and being around thousands of different people each week can get anyone sick.

TIP: Remember these five steps to healthy touring: Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat right, workout at least 30 mins a day, and shower whenever possible. You’ll stay in strong, happy, healthy and pleasant smelling to your band mates and fans!

*For more information and tips on how I keep it healthy on the road, visit my blog The Healthy Musician.

Living and Working Together

As a musician, touring together means living together. Just as a live performance can be unpredictable, so can life on the road. You need to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the journey. You’ll be dealing with other people’s emotions, daily habits, personalities and more. Keeping a positive and professional attitude might be difficult in times of fatigue or frustration. Everyone has good days and bad days. No matter what, you will be up close and personal with the musicians you work with on the road.

Luckily for us, Ingrid, Bess, Allie, Chris, Dan and myself are all close friends. We work together and play together even when we’re not touring together. There’s a great vibe between us as people and that translates to how we interact together as musicians. It’s easy to make music together and we have a lot of fun on tour. Though as much as we love each other, everyone needs their space from time to time, and it’s important to respect that.

After we load in and set up, there is usually a few hours of downtime before soundcheck begins. We use this time to break apart into smaller groups, or even fly solo for a little while. After soundcheck, before the doors open, there’s usually a little more personal time as well. Some of us opt to nap, others will go out to dinner. Like a family or like roomates, we learn to take cues from each other as to when space is needed. We also lend a helping hand when needed, or try to cheer up each other if someone is having a bad day. It’s important to be thoughtful at all times.

Simple things like reading my favorite magazines, watching YouTube, calling my family and girlfriend, or taking a short walk while listening to my favorite music help me stay relaxed and centered.

TIP: Be polite to each other. Show respect for your fellow musician. Common courtesy goes a long way when you’re in close quarters with your band for extended amounts of time.

Being prepared for a tour is a personal responsibility. Although people can help you out, ultimately no one else can take care of it for you. It may seem daunting at first, but if you make a list, set small deadlines and break it down into steps, you will be ready. If you give yourself enough time before the tour to prepare, you’ll get the job done and be ready for almost anything. Almost…

– See more at:

Don’t let the memory of a past experience hold you back or prevent you from trying again.

Everyone experiences failures. It’s a part of life. 

The important thing is to learn from the things that didn’t work out for you. Take a step back from your failed attempts and try to remove your emotions from the situation. I realize how hard this is, but try to look at things analytically.

If the same thing were to happen to someone else, what advice would you give them? When you take a subjective look at the situation, be honest with yourself and ask, Why? What was missing? What could have been done differently? 

For a developing artist, failed attempts are often the norm rather than the exception. In Canada, the first thing that jumps to mind is funding and grant application rejections from our government’s cultural organizations (FACTOR, BC Music, Alberta Music, SaskMusic, Manitoba Music, etc.). It can be a real drag to find out that your application was rejected. Especially after you spent so much time creating the “perfect” marketing plan… and you even printed it on pretty paper too!

There’s no lack of things to get you down when you live the life of an artist. Heartbreaking and frustrating things surround you (if you let  them). Let downs such as your songs being rejected by radio programmers, promoters not accepting your band to play in their venue, being denied a slot on a festival, agents turning you down, managers saying you’re not ready for them, and of course… empty venues.

But… now you’re going to hate me for saying this, but it’s true: everything happens for a reason. Seriously. So what can you do about it? Well, here’s an idea, analyze that shit! 

The world isn’t out to get you. 

There’s a reason why each and every one of these things has happened, you owe it to yourself to figure out why.

Perhaps, now brace yourself, perhaps someone else’s song is better than yours. Or perhaps another song is more suitable to that radio station’s demographic? Or perhaps the production on your track isn’t up to par with commercial radio standards? Perhaps you don’t have enough touring experience to get that opening slot on that tour. Perhaps you haven’t done anything special to set yourself apart from the rest of the bands out there. Perhaps you have no fan base. Perhaps you’ve done zero marketing to grow your audience.

All of these potential reasons for your failed attempts should create an automatic Action Plan for you. Once you pinpoint what it is that’s holding you back, attack that shit and fix it! You owe it to your dreams to do everything you can to create the opportunities that await you.

Don’t let your past dictate your future. 

Take control of your future, take control of Now. Throw away the tissue box, roll up your sleeves… and let’s get to work!

Need more inspiration on this topic? Here’s some of my favourite quotes on this subject:

“I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.”
—Tony Robbins

“The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it: so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it.”
—Elbert Hubbard

“Like success, failure is many things to many people. With Positive Mental Attitude, failure is a learning experience, a rung on the ladder, a plateau at which to get your thoughts in order and prepare to try again.”
—W. Clement Stone

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
—Winston Churchill

Now get out there and kick your past in the ass!
—Brian Thompson

Connect with Brian on TwitterFacebook, or on his blog at Thorny Bleeder.


The more that I read about the latest and greatest music marketing trends, the more I want to stand up on my desk and shout “don’t go over the cliff with the rest of the lemmings!” But, given the current hype and the herd mentality that artists usually exhibit, twenty-four months from now 5,000,000 artists will be using Twitter and fan relationship management tools to attempt to acquire fans and/or to boost average-revenue-per-fan (ARPF). When I think of the prospects of millions of artists traveling down this road, ARPF is exactly what I want to do. Three years from now, most artists will be disappointed and a new crop of artists will be jumping off a different cliff altogether (remember the MySpace cliff?).

The famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is; a great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” In this post I want to uncover the obstacles to self-promoting music and suggest an alternate path that will take you where the puck is going to be.

Self-promotion obstacle one – online fragmentation
The Internet is not one big homogeneous, connected web of word-of-mouth amplifiers. The reality is, music consumers are frequenting a hundred different disparate sites and they are engaging with music in a myriad of ways. An artist is extremely fortunate if he or she can attract a large audience within one or more of these online fragments at a time. Great songs do go unheard. Don’t buy into the hype/myth that putting your songs into ten online stores and upon fifteen social networks matters. It doesn’t. Consumers need filters and the imprinting that results from radio-like repetition.

Self-promotion obstacle two – geographic fragmentation
The English-speaking world is comprised of over 1.6 billion people. The fragments that may enjoy your brand of music are going to be spread out all over this world. The combination of online fragmentation combined with geographic fragmentation is a matrix of target and reach challenges that’s extremely difficult to overcome given the promotion budgets of independent artists.

Self-promotion obstacle three – the need to obtain multiple impressions 
Once you have sorted out the fragmentation obstacles you have to start thinking about obtaining multiple spins for your song or video. Depending on the song, after a certain number of spins and/or live appearances, some X percentage of listeners may become fans; chances are it’s going to take more than one spin. Previously, it was easy for music marketers when radio was the biggest source of repetition; now spins have to be had within a variety of devices (iPods, cell phones, laptops, etc.) and upon a variety of ‘radio’ options (terrestrial, internet, satellite, cable TV and wireless).

At this point in the post, visualize the multi dimensional music promotion matrix that includes online fragmentation, geographic fragmentation, network fragmentation, device fragmentation, consumer preferences, and consumer behavior.

Self-promotion obstacle four – delivering the right online value proposition
A value proposition answers the question: “What does this product or service do for me?” Does the product make me smart? Does the product make me sexy? Does the product make me healthy? What does your music-related website do for me? For 99.9999% of all artists, the answer to that question is: your website informs me and that’s it. Your site tells me: who you are, where your next show is, what you look and sound like, how to obtain your music, and how to purchase your tickets or merch. What you site probably fails to do, is to truly entertain ‘me’ (as in consumers).

A playlist filled with your songs, two of your videos and pictures of your cat is not entertainment that can compete with all of the other forms of online entertainment, and it’s probably not entertainment that you can build a sustainable, product-shucking, cash-generating brand upon. To begin to solve the puzzle of obtaining multiple impressions on a low budget from a highly fragmented and geographically dispersed target audience comprised of overloaded consumers that don’t want to spend more than .99 cents for a song, you are going to have to grow beyond ‘informs me’ to deliver ‘entertains me’ and more.

Self-promotion obstacle five – overloaded consumers
Five years ago, in any given marketplace the impressions (the spins) were simply delivered through five to seven competing radio stations featuring separate to overlapping genres of music. Now, not only have the listening options expanded, every kid with an electric guitar and a TuneCore account is promoting music. Self-promotion will not scale; there are not enough receptive consumers to absorb the marketing messages or to take on the spins that are needed to convert listeners into fans for all the artists attempting to do so. When three million artists start pounding out emails, tweets and fan management action items, the whole lot of you will start to seem like stockbrokers at a cocktail party.

Self-promotion obstacle six – minimal ROI
Dollars that were once earned from three to four revenue sources are now pennies earned from hundreds. Given the investment you have to sink into solving the Rubik’s promotion cube divided by the revenue you generate from all sources, the return seems hardly worth bothering over. When a million artists generate one dollar of revenue each, who makes the real money? The aggregators that collect a percentage of every dollar processed are the ones generating a reasonable return on investment; it’s certainly not artists.

Yes there are independent artists earning a sustainable living, and there may even be one or two that are making a lot of money. However, show me another industry where the gross / aggregate investment (time and money) across all of the participants generates such a negative ROI. When this industry had (past tense) a massive upside lottery component to it, the potential reward mitigated the risk. Now, if you are going to go over the dream-chasing cliff that the tech providers are currently peddling, you better be doing it for the love of your art (period).

Go where the puck is going to be…
Look at the fragmentation of the music consumption marketplace this way: genres are coastlines, niches within genres are beachfront properties, and standalone artists are rocks or grains of sand. Sticking with the metaphor: coastlines and beachfront properties are compelling, interesting and entertaining; rocks and sand are things that get stuck in your shorts and sandals.

IMPORTANT – the competition for consumer mindshare (when it comes to music consumption) is going to be fought on the battlefield where the war is over which ‘channel’ can deliver the most compelling entertainment (underline) to any given market segment. Moving forward, trusted entertainment channel providers – filters that can continuously find great songs for a niche – will have access to consumers as surely as consumers desire to gain access to the beach; alternatively, attempts by standalone artists to ‘manage’ relationships with fans will be as welcome as sand in a sandwich.

Pick a niche, band together, form a channel, attack radio…
Radio stations and the radio industry are vulnerable right now. The radio spectrum, the broadcast antennas and the satellites that define traditional radio are becoming an expensive liability (think debt service and operating costs). More and more consumers are switching to online listening (internet, iPhone, etc) as the preferred method to consume ‘radio’ programming. When this happens (and it’s happening) there’s really NOTHING that a conglomerate of artists can’t do FAR better.

Better than radio…
When it comes to being the ‘channel’ that can deliver the most compelling online entertainment (to a targeted niche) radio stations can’t compete with an organization of artists and/or rightsholders working together (referred to as ‘you’ from this point onward). Here are just some of the distinct advantages ‘you’ have:

Advantage one – the cost advantage. Radio stations have legacy costs (mentioned above), they have to pay royalties and they have high (relative to you) operating costs. You can put together an operational and a legal structure where all your costs are far less. Moreover, you are probably going to be selling your own product (music, tickets, merch, ringtones), which means you don’t have to attract numerous annoying advertisers (ads are annoying); just one or two sponsors will probably suffice.

Advantage two – the entertainment advantage. Just streaming music is yesterday’s entertainment. Broadband speeds are expected to rise substantially over the next few years, which will increase demand for all forms of high definition audio and visual content. Your ability to provide hours of HD video and thousands of relevant images (think high resolution, flat panel wallpaper coupled to music) blows away what a radio station can provide; moreover you own it, radio doesn’t.

Advantage three – the niche advantage. Radio stations stock their playlists to satisfy the widest possible segment within a genre; it’s the most common denominator approach that mass-market media outlets always pursue. This won’t work on the Internet. The Internet is about sub-segments, fragments and niches. You can splinter a radio station’s audience by promoting a superior entertainment product to a sub-segment of listeners.

Advantage four – the personality advantage. You are not bound by the restrictions placed on radio and you are not (should not be) confined to the traditions and practices that define the personality of radio; you can be something completely different. Furthermore, the local radio station jock is a middleman between you and your fans. Within your online community, you (collectively) can supply highly relevant, direct, continuous and simultaneous interaction.

Advantage five – the promotion advantage.
Take away radio’s satellites and antennas (which are becoming irrelevant), and you are competing against five guys withering under relentless budget cuts that are trying to survive an unprecedented downturn in ad revenue receipts. Your ability to leverage 100 artists and 100,000 fans to promote (for free) a single brand / community will trump anything these low budget operations can put into a niche market. Furthermore, an organization of artists pulling together can overcome every promotion obstacle listed above.

I found the puck, how do I score?
Clearly, there’s a lot of wood to chop to take on radio stations in any market or niche. This is a blog post not a book, so there’s lots of missing details… Here are some execution ideas and obstacles to think about.

Stocking the pond…
It’s essential to find unencumbered songs (no strings attached – any deal is possible) that squarely appeal to the niche you are targeting. Each song will have to meet a quality threshold and you will have to monitor your traction analytics (plays, skips, session ends, downloads, etc.) to determine when it’s time to say goodbye to certain songs. You will also have to set all politics and personalities aside when programming your station. Death occurs for a proposition like this when you start spinning songs and featuring videos because you like the person more than his or her music.

The incentives and the deal structure…
Consider this fictional example:

  • 100 artists contributing 100 songs are on board initially – more could follow.
  • Participation in the program is non-exclusive.
  • (Although, I think exclusivity will ultimately be better for everyone involved.)
  • Each artist will send 1,000 fans to the ‘channel’ within a year.
  • Each fan will stream every song three times (on average).
  • Which means – each song will receive 300,000 spins.
  • At a 2% conversion rate, each artist will generate $6,000 in music sales (average).
  • Everything takes place over a rolling twelve-month period.
  • Due to participation in the channel – every artist will see an increase in show traffic.
  • Due to participation in the channel – every artist will obtain a portion of sponsor revenue.
  • Due to participation in the channel – every artist will share in branded merch revenue.
  • The channel should be jointly owned by the anchor tenants (most popular artists) and management.
  • New artists and songs are introduced to the channel through any artist or fan of the channel.
  • Note: the numbers above could be much higher or lower depending on the artists and the songs.

Management’s responsibilities…

  • Recruit (sign) the first 100 artists / songs / videos and associated images.
  • Utilize the latest technology and infrastructure to provide a compelling online home for the channel.
  • Deal with all of the legal docs, reporting, payments and tax forms.
  • Provide participating artists with everything they need to uniformly promote the channel.
  • Eliminate all middlemen that extract percentages.
  • Only use services and products that are sold on a fixed-cost, fixed-fee basis.
  • Compel participating artists and fans to contribute video and images.
  • Put listener-driven, artist-driven and management-controlled mechanisms in place to maintain the most compelling mix of online content.
  • Be mindful that you are not managing artists; you are managing an entertainment channel.

Conclusion – do your own research…
Go to and install the Compete Toolbar into your browser. Although this toolbar isn’t always accurate, it will give you a reasonable indication of how much traffic a site generates. Visit the sites of individual artists that are supposedly building strong standalone brands and compare their web traffic to radio stations, record labels (any size), music bloggers, and to other unique music sites. Then consider what’s really being offered upon any of these websites that can’t be offered by any organization of artists. There’s NOTHING in the technology candy jar now that can’t be simply bought, built or rented inexpensively. The only thing any of these sites have over you (collectively) is the strategic sense to organize a bunch of you to deliver the ‘entertains me’ value proposition versus the ‘informs me’ value proposition that you are delivering now.

Just to be clear, I think a lot of the promotion technology in the marketplace is great stuff. I just don’t agree that using it to promote standalone artists is the best use of anyone’s time, as it would be far more effective to promote a destination (preferably owned by artists) that has a lot more ‘inventory’ on the shelf.

Here’s a possible scenario for the distant future:

  • Channels will bid for the rights to exclusively feature songs and/or artists.
  • There will no longer be radio stations that play new music.
  • There will no longer be content aggregators.
  • iTunes will relegated to back catalog; new songs will be on channels.
  • Widget providers will merge into channels or disappear all together.
  • There will be no music-related websites/social networks other than the channels.
  • Artists will own a chunk of the channels (teams) they play for.
  • Consumers will simply flick (think iPhone) from channel to channel.

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.



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