June Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Tests “Sponsored Songs” and Expands Concert Listings

In lieu of traditional audio ads that ‘freemium’ tier users of Spotify hear during a given listening session, Spotify is testing a new process that would allow artists and labels to pay for placement of their song – thus monetizing the free listening associated with this kind of membership. This opens up the potential for artists to to secure a place on playlists, which have soared in popularity among subscribers of all kinds over the past couple of years.

Users of the ad-supported tier will have the option of opting out of this test; and Spotify has confirmed that even if the test is successful, this feature will only remain on this tier. Relying heavily on its plethora of data, Spotify will target sponsored song placement based on listening habits.

While sponsored songs’ likeness to the traditional ‘payola’ models of old terrestrial radio is up for debate, it does represent a shift in how Spotify manages its ‘freemium’ platform and drives revenue from those still unwilling to subscribe for a monthly or annual fee. Spotify has remained one of the few popular streaming platforms to offer a free listening tier, and there has long been speculation around whether or not the company would be willing to eliminate it; the ‘freemium’ model is a key differentiating offer when compared to its growing and formidable streaming rival Apple Music.

It remains to be seen how this will be rolled out and made available to independent artists, but if it is made reasonably affordable and accessible to music makers outside of the label system, they could stand to benefit from the feature by reaching new listeners who are more likely to tune into a ‘sponsored song’ then a generic advertisement.

Spotify also announced that in addition to its partnerships with Ticketmaser and digital ticketing platform SongKick, users will now be able to access artists’ upcoming tour dates via a collaboration with Eventbrite and AEG’s AXS. This means more hometown venues, more touring territories, and more opportunities to promote local live experiences for fans.

LANDR Celebrates 1 Million Users

TuneCore’s pals over at LANDR – the tool that allows independent artists to instantly master their tracks at an affordable rate – have hit a major milestone: one million users! LANDR has continued to offer a great solution to artists hoping to polish the sounds of their tracks while lacking a robust mastering budget.

Throughout most of June, LANDR partnered with TuneCore Artist Chance the Rapper, donating $1.00 for every user that masters a track Chance’s Chicago-based “Social Works” Music Academy, as well as 10% of all purchases. We always love to see great brands connecting with great artists, and the charitable element of this arrangement only warms our hearts more.

Google Play Music’s New Release Radio Feature Launches

No matter what music streaming platform your fans dig the most, (and remember, we help you get your releases on a lot of ‘em!), we can all agree that they should be aware of new releases each week. After all, with so much music being digitally released each year, listeners can feel a bit overwhelmed, and it helps to have a little curated direction when it comes to being alerted about the latest and greatest.

Much like Spotify’s “Release Radar” or Apple Music’s “My New Music Mix” features, Google Play Music announced this month that it’s now offering a feature for subscribers called “New Release Radio”. It’s essentially, according to the Android Authority blog, “a playlist that offers up the latest new release and is actually updated on a daily basis to ensure that you’ve always got something new to listen to.”

As personalized, data-driven playlists and features continue to increase in popularity among streaming platforms, Google’s New Release Radio is a welcomed addition. We look forward to seeing how TuneCore Artists can make their music more discoverable to more fans.

ASCAP and YouTube Strike a Performance Rights Deal

In an era in which artists and songwriters have been forced to be more vigilant when it comes to collecting digital royalties, video streaming giant YouTube and performance rights organization ASCAP have reached a multi-year agreement for public performance rights and data collaboration in the U.S. This comes as a sigh of relief to many who have been seeking ways to ensure that royalties are being paid to songwriters, composers and publishers when their works are streamed on YouTube.

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews says, “This agreement achieves two important ASCAP goals – it will yield substantially higher overall compensation for our members from YouTube and will continue to propel ASCAP’s ongoing transformation strategy to lead the industry toward more accurate and reliable data.”

Good news for TuneCore Artists who are affiliated with ASCAP: this new deal will allow the two parties to address the issues around identifying and compensating songwriters using the extensive amount of data they have available. This, in general, is also another important step towards creating a system within the digital music economy that holds platforms and rights societies responsible for proper royalty payments.

How Exactly Do People Make Money on YouTube?

[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre. Hugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.]

 

By now, everybody involved in music (and the internet, really) must be aware that there is money to be made on YouTube…but how is that done? How can somebody actually see their bank account inflate (if only by a little bit) based on content they give away for free?

It’s all about the ads! Throwing advertisements onto your upload might not make you rich, but it can earn you some much-needed cash, so here’s a primer on what you need to know and how you can get started when it comes to advertising on the free-for-all that is YouTube.

Make Sure You’re Actually Displaying Ads!

I have heard a number of musicians admit that while the idea of collecting even a few dollars from their YouTube videos is appealing, they don’t even know how to get started. Creating monetary connections with a multibillion dollar company and becoming something of an advertiser can be somewhat daunting, but don’t let it scare you off from inserting ads into your content!

Unless you’ve specifically gone through the process of actually adding advertisements onto your clips, it is highly unlikely that you’re already making money off of them, which means you’re missing out.

The first step is to join YouTube’s “Partner Program,” which essentially means you’re worth advertising with. Don’t be nervous if you’re not accruing millions of plays per video—every video is worth monetising, especially to YouTube. This step should take all of about three minutes.

The next necessary step is creating what Google has termed an “AdSense” account, which is where the money comes in. AdSense has become one of the biggest and most important advertising platforms on the internet over the years, and YouTube knows how to make it work as well as its parent company. This requires you to have some financial info on hand, and it can take a few moments, especially if you don’t have everything necessary right in front of you. Again, it’s not hard, but you’ll need to be approved before you can move forward.

From there, you’ll decide what videos to monetize. I’d suggest at this point in your career throwing ads onto everything you upload, but if you have a piece of content that is truly special and that you feel will be hurt by a something like a car commercial playing before or a banner appearing at the bottom of the screen, feel free to opt out. This is your art and your career, after all.

Different Kinds Of Ads

Okay, so you’ve decided that you can handle a bit of advertising with your music if it will help pad your bank account. Is that all you need to know? Not even close. There is still plenty to learn about advertising, ads, making money, and what will keep people coming back…but I can’t fit everything into a single post.

You may not have realized it while watching videos on YouTube, but the company actually has half a dozen different kinds of ads that can earn you money, depending on the situation. They will all make you different amounts, and you should consider carefully which ones would be most appropriate for which uploads. Here’s a quick rundown looking at what is what (using the company’s terms, because that’s what you’ll want to become familiar with):

Display Ads

These are the visuals that don’t actually cover your video in any way, but which are posted to the right of the screen, which is common for any website these days. Even if you’re not a fan of interrupting your art in any way, you can surely support this, right?

Overlay Ads

These are the banner ads that pop up at the bottom of the video screen that you’ve probably seen a million times. They’re not nearly as intrusive as some other forms, but that also means they won’t net you quite as much money per click.

Skippable Video Ads

This might be the best option for you as a musician when it comes to inserting ads to your videos. These video advertisements play for a few seconds, and then the user has the option to move on or keep watching the sponsored message. This puts the power in the hands of your fans, but it also means you could earn a few dollars if all works out.

Non-Skippable Video Ads

Brands will pay good money for ads that cannot be ignored before the music plays, but that also intrudes on the listening/watching experience. Are your fans willing to stick around through a 30-second ad to see your latest music video? You need to ask yourself this before selecting this option.

Bumper Ads

These are also a potentially perfect option, as they bring in more cash from advertisers because they are video ads that can’t be skipped, but they are only a few seconds long, so most people won’t mind sitting through them. At just six seconds long, these aren’t likely to annoy many, and it’s difficult to imagine hordes of fans moving on from your content because of these short promotional moments.

Sponsored Cards

These aren’t quite as common, but they can actually be helpful in some small way. Sponsored cards aren’t random ads—they typically offer items for sale that a user may have just seen in your video, or which relate in some way. That’s a nice tie-in, and it doesn’t feel quite as corporate.

It’s Not Just Your Videos That Make Money

This article was primarily focused on covering or introducing your music videos with ads, but the above options aren’t the only ways to make money on the world’s largest video hosting site. You should also be monetizing your music, which either already is, or will at some point in the future be used in other people’s clips. You never know when a fan will make a lyric video or post a cover, and while you have the power to take those down, it makes so much more sense to simply throw an ad onto those and collect the cash.

There are a number of services that can track where your music is being used and help you earn from those clips, including TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection service, which utilizes YouTube’s own ContentID platform.

TuneCore’s Social Media For Musicians Guide [Free Download]

With the recent launch of TuneCore Social Pro – a premium version of our free social media management tool, complete with a mobile app – we think it’s important for independent artists to take an educated approach to how they handle their marketing strategy on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

That’s why we’re introducing the totally free TuneCore Social Media For Musicians guide. Designed for artists at any comfort level and experience using social platforms – and packed full of useful content – the Social Media For Musicians guide is a great tool for any artist who is taking their musical journey to the next level.

How can you find your ‘social voice’? In what ways can you be building an audience? When should you post on certain platforms – and for that matter, what kind of stuff should you be posting?

We all know it’s not enough to simply set up profiles, post once or twice a week, and expect those minimal efforts to have a meaningful impact on the way you build your fan base online. But at the same time, artists and musicians were born to do just that – create! It shouldn’t be expected that every creator is a natural self-promoter or marketer, regardless of how experienced with social media one is in their personal life.

In addition to information on building a sufficient social media strategy and utilizing analytics (gasp!), the TuneCore Social Media For Musicians guide also has some incredible video components to it! We interviewed experts in the field of promotion and PR, social data, and even some TuneCore employees who happen to be independent artists themselves to find out what kind of struggles music-makers need to get over when diving into the brave new frontier of social media marketing.

So – looking for tips to master your social media strategy? Look no further! Download the free guide at Amazon here, and enjoy our six-part video series below or on our YouTube channel.

TuneCore Social Pro Has Arrived!

Last October, we announced the exciting launch of TuneCore Social – an all-in-one platform designed especially for artists who want to reign in control of their Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and Mixcloud profiles and have an easier place to plan, schedule, publish and engage with their fan base. The service is free for any and all TuneCore Artist who currently has a release distributed with TuneCore.

Today, we’re thrilled to expand on those efforts and offer TuneCore Social Pro, an upgraded, premium version of TuneCore Social that allows users to schedule an unlimited amount of social posts per month (including media posts), add other artists to their account for social profile management, share social media reports, and access more comprehensive social media analytics, stats and audience insights.

The coolest part? TuneCore Social Pro includes a mobile app!

When an artist signs up for TuneCore Social Pro, they’ll be able to post or schedule posts to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, check their TuneCore balance and trend reports – all from their mobile devices!

For $7.99/month (or a discounted annual fee of $85.99), TuneCore Artists can sign up for TuneCore Social Pro, download the app on their Android or iOS devices, and get a huge jump on managing their social media strategy.

TuneCore Social Pro is an all-in-one platform designed exclusively for TuneCore Artists who want to reign in control of their Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and Mixcloud profiles and have an easier place to plan, schedule, publish and engage with their fan base – not to mention have a high level view of important analytics that can impact decision making.

Offering a premium version of TuneCore Social is just another way we’re looking to make the lives and careers of independent artists easier. We know how important getting the word out about your music is and we’re always here to help by providing valuable tips and advice for doing so – now we’re giving you the social media management tools to take it one step further.

5 Tips & Taboos to Remember at SXSW

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Jhoni Jackson, a music journalist and Puerto Rico-based venue owner.]

 

Planning is key to a successful SXSW experience, but there’s more to prepping than booking shows and finding a place to stay. Understanding what you could potentially get out of your time at the fest is equally important as accepting what’s very unlikely to happen; whether you’re a first-timer or returning band hoping for better results this year, this guide can help lay the foundation for your plans.

1. Tip: Set realistic networking goals

Getting noticed by important industry folk at SXSW would be a career-boosting dream, of course. But for most bands and artists, even if they’re on full display at an official showcase, enamoring a label rep or booking agent to a point that they sweep in and offer a massive deal that changes their lives forever—that’s simply not reality.

While the ultimate winning scenario isn’t impossible, your time at the festival is much better spent focusing on realistic networking goals. Instead of hoping for the ultimate opportunity, seek out connections with all types of people regardless of presumed influence. The founder of a tiny label you hadn’t heard of before, the blogger who’s there as official press but is covering events on their own accord, that person in the crowd who took a video of your set—any of these people could potentially help you in some way, big or small. Networking as a independent musician isn’t just about moving up the ranks, it’s about finding your people within that community, cultivating those connections and collaborating together to elevate each other’s work.

Taboo: Being obnoxious

Don’t let your eagerness to talk with someone in the industry obliterate common sense. Interrupting a conversation, grabbing at a passing person to get their attention, forcing a chat to keep going despite sensing the other party is trying to move on—all of these things are as unacceptable in industry networking as they are in any social setting. Being excited to meet someone and super-hyped by the possiblity of working together is not an excuse for being annoying or making other people uncomfortable.

2. Tip: SXSW is not just about networking

Don’t forget so wrapped up in making connections that you forget the festival is a stellar opportunity for growing your fanbase. If you’ve landed an official showcase, congratulations—but don’t ignore the unofficial parties. If there’s no stipulation in your contract against playing outside the official fest, then definitely, absolutely look into official shows.

Music passes cost between $800 and $1,000; not everyone wants to or has the option to spend that much for access to legit SXSW events. Naturally, the overflow of unofficial parties is immense. Those crowds are real opportunities to grow your fanbase. If you’re not already playing an unofficial event, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hop on an existing bill at this point. Still, you can search for shows featuring likeminded bands—go check them out, meet people, watch other bands perform, and talk about your band and pass out CDs or cards with download codes when you can.

Taboo: Forgetting the unofficial shows

Seriously, it’s where the action is. As an independent artist, putting too much importance on official showcases and dismissing unofficial shows altogether is basically sacrilege. If you weren’t contracted for an official showcase, you can still play these unofficial shows and have a productive experience.

3. Tip: Prepare thoroughly

If you’ve got a lot of shows lined up, your time at SXSW will inevitably be chaotic. You already know it will be incredibly crowded, and schedules are incredibly compact, packed to the gills with back-to-back sets. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to crumble under the festival’s inherently stressful pressure.

Map out your schedule, taking care to allow for time spent traveling from set to set. Whenever possible, include extra time for the possibility of fighting through a mass of immovable party people. Grabbing a bite seems relatively easy in theory, but the crowds can cause serious delays so you’ll want to figure in some time to eat, too.

Carry a snack on you, just in case. Bring along a refillable water bottle, too. Lastly, keep a portable phone charger handy, bring back-ups like strings and cables and, unless you want to feel miserable for the bulk of your trip, consistently use sunscreen during daylight hours.

Taboo: Freaking out when your schedule goes awry

No matter how meticulously you plan, it’s very possible that some outside factor will negatively affect your schedule. Do your best to adapt to whatever changes you encounter. After all, if a situation is out of your control, the best you can do is minimize additional damage: try to be constructive, but above all else, stay calm.

4. Tip: Use SXSW as a chance to try something new

Is there an idea you’ve been holding onto for fear of it not working in your local scene? Sometimes the habits you develop working your city’s circuit—even the positive ones—hold you back from trying new things. You’ve established a certain rapport with your crowd; suddenly switching things up could put off existing fans.

Handing out flyers with your social media info and album download codes in your own city might feel like overdoing it if you’re under the impression that anyone who wanted to check your band out already knows you exist. Austin during SXSW, totally jam-packed with people who’ve never heard of you, is an ideal opportunity to employ that promo strategy.

That’s only one example—you could incorporate new ideas almost anywhere, from your live setup, to how you deliver a particular song or the kind or cost of merch you sell.

Taboo: Not being yourself

Trying out something new is generally a positive thing, but you shouldn’t go so far as to present a version of yourself that isn’t genuine. It’s a fine line between entertaining a possible change and forcing one. Trust your instincts—you know when something feels insincere or contrived.

5. Tip: Enjoy yourself!

As stressful as SXSW can be, you should still be able to have a good time. Following the aforementioned tips will help you avoid major let-downs and stay chill in times of trouble. You’ll make the most out of the fest if you employ all of them—and you can still do that while having a good time.

If you don’t pile up so many expectations about networking, you’ll find it more enjoyable to connect with people. You can make new connections while hanging out and watching bands at an unofficial show—and that should be fun, duh! And that water bottle you’ve been lugging around will prove especially useful in moderating the effects of booze consumption.

Taboo: Having too good of a time, i.e. getting totally sloshed

It should go without saying that if you hit the booze (or whatever else) too hard, you’ll weaken your chances of making SXSW a productive experience. In a too-wasted state, you could screw up a set, miss an opportunity to talk with industry rep or give a music writer a really terrible first impression. Know your limits, and stick to them. The fest is good reason to party, sure—but don’t forget why you’re really there.

5 Things Artists Can Do to Build Their Network

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech.]

 

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what aspirations you have for yourself professionally, at the end of the day you’re only as strong as your network. In the past, there was a bit of a stigma about artists being active in terms of connecting with music business professionals beyond playing shows and hoping their manager can get a label rep or two out to see them play. For a musician or band to be viewed as an “artist”, it had to appear they didn’t care how successful they were. The rule of thumb for creating a successful music career was to “get in the system without personally engaging in it”. As a result, a lot of artists ended up getting completely ripped off by said system or never truly reached their potential as a career musician because they felt it was ‘uncool’ to take matters into their own hands. Thankfully, those times are done.

In the 90s, we saw punk and hip hop bust open the door and show that you could be a ‘cred’ artist and still handle your business as a professional. One look at what Jay Z did with Rockafella or Brett Gurewitz (of Bad Religion) did with Epitaph (and all its subsidiaries) will put to bed the idea that real artists don’t involve themselves in the business of the business. In the subsequent years, this has trickled down to each level of artist; from Metallica finally gaining the rights to all their masters a few years ago to the bedroom producer running their own press and Spotify campaigns around their singles.

Here are five ways that independent artists can be more aggressive in taking their fate into their own hands:

1. Facebook and Linkedin Groups

Okay, so maybe involving yourself in Linkedin Groups is a little ambitious for most artists, but there are plenty of Music Business Networking groups on Facebook. I pull new contacts and valuable strategic information from these sorts of groups literally every day. While a lot of my personal favorite groups are invite only, there are plenty that are open for anyone to join. Start joining these groups first and gradually as your network grows you’ll gain access to some of the more exclusive ones. Same principle applies to Linkedin groups if you’re willing to delve into those waters as well.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Cold Email

A lot of people are under the impression that it’ll be a waste of time to email the people they look up to, but doing so can lead to the biggest breaks you’re going to find. What’s important is to just do so with tact. Don’t email an A&R from your favorite label or the guitarist in that band you’ve been obsessed with lately to speak about yourself or ask a favor. Hit them up with specific questions and ask for advice that doesn’t require them to commit to anything. For example…do you really love a particular manager’s roster? Do they always seem to release music in the way you wish you did? Find a contact there and reach out.

Here’s a basic example of a way to reach out that may be fruitful for you:

Hey <artist manager>, my name is Rich and I am a songwriter. I currently play in a band called <band name>. We’re about to release our first record and I am really big fan of the way you roll out new singles with your roster. I was wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee or shoot over a couple of questions via email to pick your brain a little bit if that’s okay? Thanks so much for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you!”.

3. Go To Networking Events

Same principle as the Facebook Networking Groups but in real life. If you live in a major city like Chicago, Austin, New York or Los Angeles there are ample such events you can find and attend. If you don’t, start your own group. It may be sparsely populated at first but it’ll grow over time. Also, keep in mind that when you’re first getting started these events are about quantity. When you’re starting out you should try to meet anybody and everybody in your city that is involved in the music industry. As you progress, you can hone in on those with events specifically for the bigger players.<

4. Embrace the Hashtag

There are certain hashtags that you should monitor and look to throw yourself into the resulting conversation on Twitter, for instance #MusicBiz. This is a great way to figure out what is currently trending in your professional world, engage others with the same goal and start establishing yourself as someone that people should take seriously. The same sort of success can be achieved by following music business professionals and engaging them in conversation around industry-related articles or thoughts that they post.

5. Collaborate!

A beautiful thing about a music ‘scene’, whether in real life or digitally, that often gets overlooked is the exposure to each others network. Whether you’re collaborating with another artist on a local show or tour, creating a networking group or writing/recording a song together, if you work together both of your networks will automatically double for the endeavor.

If you take a little time each day to dedicate to these suggestions, you will see incredible gains in terms of your understanding of the music business, as well as, the number of opportunities that are presented to you. Also, it puts you in a position where you have a lot more of the chips on your side of the table when the time is right to start talking to labels and managers about your project.