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.

TuneCore Closes Out Strong Year of International Growth With Launch of TuneCore Italy

Streaming Is On The Rise Across All International Markets

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – December 13, 2016 – TuneCore, the leading digital music distribution and publishing administration service provider, caps off a strong year of sustained and international growth with the announcement today of TuneCore Italy – the service provider’s fourth launch in the European market and sixth international expansion. Since the company’s inception in 2006, TuneCore artists worldwide have earned more than $783 million collectively from over 43.8 billion downloads and streams. As the only major global distribution service with a dedicated Italian offering, Tunecore.it features local content in the native language that caters to the Italian independent artist community.

As part of its continued commitment to support independent artists around the world, in 2016 TuneCore launched three international sites including TuneCore Germany (April 2016), TuneCore France (October 2016) and now, TuneCore Italy (December 2016).

TuneCore’s global expansion efforts have led to an overall increase in its year-to-date international customer base. Further, TuneCore’s local offerings in international markets have seen significant increases in customer growth, specifically in the France and Germany markets. TuneCore also identified Hip Hop and R&B/Soul as two of the fastest growing genres in each of its key international markets (U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, Germany and France). Additionally, TuneCore has seen the growing popularity of streaming reflected across its international markets, with a 340 percent year-over-year increase in streaming in Canada, as well as year-over-year increases in Australia (92 percent), Germany (71 percent) and the UK (67 percent). Streaming also continues to grow in the U.S., with a 65 percent year-over-year increase.

“As we head into 2017, global expansion is pivotal in furthering our mission to bring more music to more people worldwide, while continuing to establish TuneCore as a leader in the international digital music distribution market,” says Scott Ackerman, CEO at TuneCore. “Our global expansion into Italy – a market that previously lacked a dedicated local offering from a global distributor – is a natural fit as we continue to support our artists by giving them the local resources and tools they need to be successful.”

In addition to keeping 100 percent of their revenues, and retaining complete creative control and ownership of their music, Italian customers will have access to TuneCore’s robust portfolio of artist services, as well as local Italian partners such as Music Raiser and MusicOFF, and world-class customer service. TuneCore Italy artists can also opt to include their music in storefronts controlled by TuneCore’s extensive network of more than 150 digital partners across the globe, including iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and Amazon Music. In addition, TuneCore Italy customers will be able to take advantage of the company’s strategic partnership with Believe Digital. With an already existing office in Italy with more than 30 employees, Believe Digital will offer TuneCore Italy customers access to a variety of advanced artist services, such as international campaign management, trade and online digital marketing, video management and distribution, physical distribution and more.

With its expansion into Italy, TuneCore now offers local musicians in seven countries outside of the U.S. – UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy – the opportunity to collect revenue from streaming services, digital download stores, songwriter royalties, and sync licensing opportunities, all in their local currency.

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About TuneCore

TuneCore brings more music to more people, while helping musicians and songwriters increase money-earning opportunities and take charge of their own careers. The company has one of the highest artist revenue-generating music catalogs in the world, earning TuneCore Artists $783 million from over 43.8 billion downloads and streams since inception. TuneCore Music Distribution services help artists, labels and managers sell their music through iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play and other major download and streaming sites while retaining 100 percent of their sales revenue and rights for a low annual flat fee.

TuneCore Music Publishing Administration assists songwriters by administering their compositions through licensing, registration, world-wide royalty collections, and placement opportunities in film, TV, commercials, video games and more. The TuneCore Artist Services portal offers a suite of tools and services that enable artists to promote their craft, connect with fans, and get their music heard. TuneCore, part of Believe Digital Services, operates as an independent company and is headquartered in Brooklyn, NY with offices in Burbank, CA, Nashville, TN and Austin, TX, and global expansions in the UK, Australia, Japan, Canada, Germany and France. For additional information about TuneCore, please visit www.tunecore.com or https://youtu.be/TSjGACrJyiY.

How To Kick Out a Band Member

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post written by Mason Hoberg. Mason is a freelance writer who covers music-related topics and is a regular contributor to Equipboard.]

It happens to every band eventually. A bandmate might have an overinflated ego, or become unreliable, or even just lose interest in the project. Regardless of the underlying reason, eventually you’re going to find yourself needing to remove a bandmate from a project.

In addition to being emotionally stressful, kicking out a band member can be a pretty difficult process in general. It requires a lot of tact and forethought, and if you don’t go about it in a careful and measured way there will be consequences.

So if you’ve come to the point where you need to remove a negative influence from your band or musical project, check out the tips below. They’ll help you gauge the best solution to the problem, and hopefully end the dispute in a way that ends up being positive for everyone involved.

How To Identify A Bad Band Mate

Believe it or not, this is actually a major stumbling block for a lot of people. They either have an issue recognizing that a bandmate is a negative influence on the project, or they mistakenly believe that their bandmate doesn’t contribute when in reality their a key component in the groups sound and/or creative process.

The key to recognizing a bad band member is that they put someone or something ahead of the band in almost every situation in a way that’s inappropriate and detrimental to the group. The key here is that their behavior has to be willful and a detriment to the group. There’s nothing wrong with a person having to reschedule the occasional practice because they have to work, that’s just a fact of life. However, if a person willfully ditches a practice to do a non-essential activity that’s a problem.

Emotional or substance abuse issues that causes a person to be unreliable or volatile is also a huge problem, and one that should be addressed as quickly as possible. You never know when your chance is going to come, so you want every one of your band mates to be as reliable and professional as possible.

Attempt To Reach An Understanding

Before you take any drastic actions you should attempt to resolve things. While the impact of a person’s behavior might be obvious to those around them, it’s possible that your bandmate might just not realize how his/her behavior is effecting the people around them.

The key here is to be as direct as possible, even if you come off as confrontational. Make sure that every member of the group is in agreement before the confrontation, and make sure that the person is aware of the consequences they’ll face if they continue their actions. If they work to correct their behavior it’s a good sign, but make sure that the positive change continues. Stay firm and reasonable, but don’t ignore it if they start to slip back into old habits.

Find Potential Replacements Beforehand

A mistake a lot of bands make is that they remove a band member before they find a replacement. This slows the band’s career momentum to a crawl, and in the worst case scenario it can actually result in the band splitting up.

The best way to avoid this situation is to line up a list of potential replacements before you remove your bandmate from the project. Ideally, you shouldn’t do this in a way that results in your bandmate hearing about the change. Don’t publicize it if you can help it, and tell as few people about it if you can. If anything, check around your local music venues to try and meet musicians. If you have even a hint of a music scene in your town odds are you’re going to be able to find a suitable replacement if you put yourself out there a bit.

Be As Kind As Possible

While your musical abilities are important, a band lives or dies based on their reputation. Believe it or not, word is going to get around about how you treat your fans, the owners of venues where you play, and even your own bandmates. No one is going to hire you to play if you don’t have a solid reputation, because it’s a sign that you’re unreliable.

To kick out a band member while maintaining your reputation you’re going to have to be as kind as possible, regardless of how you feel about the person. You’re also going to have to maintain professionalism.

The best way to do this is to remain calm during the confrontation, and explain yourself as clearly as possible. It’s also important to not badmouth the former bandmate in public, as this reeks of immaturity. If anyone asks about the situation, just say that your former bandmate experienced creative differences with the group. Even if your bandmate starts to spread rumors about the band as a whole or individual members, never respond in kind. If you stay calm and reasonable through the whole situation it’s going to reflect well on the members of your band, which in turn is going to make you appear more reliable to prospective employers.

In Conclusion

While kicking out a band member can be difficult, so long as you remember to be kind and calm the end result should be positive for the remaining members of your band. Also, remember to keep in mind that this doesn’t make you a bad friend or person. If someone isn’t pulling their weight in a project you have a right to find someone who will perform better, and even though it may hurt their feelings it doesn’t mean that you’re being callous. You can’t control other peoples’ behavior, but you can control the effect it has on you. You don’t have to sacrifice your career for anyone if you don’t want to, and if they don’t recognize the effect of their actions that’s on them.

Engagement: Myspace’s Real Legacy for Indie Bands

[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.]  

I came of age in the world of independent music at a time when the key to launching a new band was a successful Myspace page. A diverse array of artists from Fall Out Boy to The Arctic Monkeys to Lily Allen owe a tremendous debt to their days creeping into millions upon millions of fan’s “Top 8”. In what was most likely unintentional defiance of the traditional business model for breaking a band, Myspace allowed artists direct access to promoters to book shows, connect with fans and other artists and create a viral spike all without the help of a label, publicist or radio campaign.

The biggest aspect of Myspace’s legacy, at least in terms of music, is likely that “viral potential” and “direct-to-fan” connection it created. Today, we have major streaming sites and social media to hold bands down in this manner even if Myspace has largely shifted their music focus to editorial.

Perhaps the biggest thing that new artists can learn from these Myspace success stories is that it takes time, effort and commitment to make the most of these services and parlay them into a financially viable career in music. There is much, much more to creating a ‘viral’ hit and amassing hundreds of thousands of streams than just putting up a catchy song and asking people to share it.

Here are five things that today’s independent artists can learn from the “Myspace Bands” of the mid aughts.

1. Use Your Page to Build A Brand

While pop-punk and other ‘local music’ wasn’t started on Myspace, it did become exorbitantly more popular because of it. People became “Myspace celebrities” and millions of ‘ego swoop’ haircuts flooded the site as a direct result of kids trying to be like the bands they loved.

Your band does not need an emo swoop.

What your band does need is a definitive approach to the vibe of your online presence. In fact, many savvy new bands and managers are forgoing a presence on all social media sites to focus solely on Instagram. The reason for this is twofold:

  • (a) the ability to really create a distinct visual, and
  • (b) to take advantage of the opportunity for reaching a new audience via direct interaction and proper tagging (both hashtagging and geo-targeting).

2. Sell Without ‘Selling’

Not to sound all “business-y”, but Myspace was great due to the fact it created a viable direct-to-consumer situation for bands.

Is your band playing in a new city for the first time? Go through people commenting on similar band’s pages and reach out directly. If you do it right, you’ll be playing in front of some fans that are familiar with your music instead of an empty room. You can still do that today, but the key is to keep that casual approach that Myspace bands were built on.

“Hey I saw you were a big fan of Minus The Bear, Highly Refined Pirates is one of my favorite records of all time!” is a better first impression on a fan than “Hello, I play in Band X. We are playing in Aurora, Illinois tomorrow. Buy tickets now!”. Myspace taught us the key is to make people realize they want to be at your show, not just making them aware you’re in town.

3. Engage! Engage! Engage!

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re an unknown band (or even a mid-sized one), talk to your fans. If you don’t another band will. It helps to reach out to new fans as well, but if you’re uncomfortable doing so at least reply to those that care enough about your work to reach out to you on Facebook or shoot a Tweet or Instagram comment your way.

4. Promote Your Promoters

Something bands and their teams often forget is that press and radio are two way streets. Yes, they are happy to promote your music, but they also have bills to pay and their own fanbase to grow.

I’m not saying you have to post every blog about your band to EVERY social media site but at least shoot them a tweet or retweet thanking them for writing the post. Same goes for radio play and YouTube, Apple or Spotify playlisting. This is something a lot of Myspace bands did great at and that’s why so many writers and radio DJ’s have been so loyal to them throughout the years.

5.Consistency Is Key

Myspace band accounts seemed to always have that green “Online Now” text flashing on their profile. This is because they understood that the more time they spent interacting with fans and building their network on the site the more it would translate to better attendance at their shows and more records and merch sold.

Don’t just sporadically post a Facebook status that you’ve got new music coming and then disappear for a few months. You don’t have to spend all of your time maintaining your band’s online profiles, but definitely make it a point to be active on it for a little bit each day.


You’re trying to grow a loyal fanbase. The best way to do so is to get fans onboard early and let them feel a sense of ownership towards your band. If you can’t afford to drop everything and tour 200 days a year, then social media is your best way to do so.

Just ask Tom.

YouTube and GEMA Reach Licensing Agreement

After years of legal disputes, German royalty collection society GEMA has finally reached a licensing agreement with YouTube. Through this agreement, songwriters and artists registered with GEMA are now able to get paid for the use of copyrighted works on the video platform.

Back in 2009, a contract between the digital video giant and GEMA came to a close and was never renewed due to disputes over pay-outs. That means for over seven years, any music from the GEMA repertoire was not accessible on YouTube – instead, users repeatedly saw blocking messages. This agreement allows those previously unlicensed music videos to be available all over the region, which means great things for artists looking for exposure on the platform and monetize their music on YouTube in a major market.

TuneCore offers artists the opportunity to monetize their own sound recordings on YouTube. That means artists can earn money when they and other people use their sound recordings in their videos all over YouTube.

Through the agreement between the GEMA and YouTube, all TuneCore artists now have the opportunity to earn money when their music is streamed on YouTube in Germany. It’s especially great for German artists who will be able to reach to their local fans on YouTube and for artists with a large German audience. Through the new agreement between YouTube and GEMA, YouTube is committed to transfer he owed GEMA amounts for used YouTube audio files.

YouTube stated in a blog, “That commitment has helped YouTube evolve into an important source of promotion and revenue for musicians. As such, we continue to invest in our rights management system, Content ID, to protect rights owners while continuing to innovate and create new and exciting YouTube features such as VR and 360, that can heighten the music experience on YouTube even more.”

To learn more about how you can monetize your sound recordings on YouTube, click here!