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.

14 Reasons We're Thankful to be Artists

Here in the States, we’re just two days out from Thanksgiving – a time of turkey, stuffing, football, family and friends. But this time of year goes beyond all that awesome stuff just mentioned. It’s truly a wonderful excuse to stop dead in our tracks and remember what we have and why we’re thankful for it.

We all know being an independent artist isn’t easy. In fact, it can be difficult to get down on some of the struggles, right? That’s why it’s important to remember why you chose to be a musician – why it called your name – and acknowledge that it’s a pretty incredible journey to embark on.

This year, we reached back out to our community and asked them to share with us why they’re thankful to be artists!

“I am thankful to be an artist because music and art have always been able to say what words cannot. No matter how loud or how subtle our mark is, I truly believe that every day we are given the chance to make a difference. Don’t believe me? Go to an Adele concert and then go to a political function and compare the attendance… art might be the only thing keeping the world together.”
– 
YONAS

“I’m thankful to be an artist because with a couple of chords, a melody, and lyrics I have the ability to impact somebody else and make them smile, or, even better, feel related to – even if it’s just in those 3 minutes and 30 seconds. I get to take my soul, emotion, or story and pour it into a form that can be danced to with friends, sung at the top of lungs in a car, or listened to on repeat.”
– Chloe Caroline

“Music has given me the opportunity to explore places I otherwise would have never seen and introduce myself to new friends I otherwise would have never met. So I’m thankful to be an artist because it means that every day is a chance to discover more of the world.”
 David McMillin

“I’m thankful to be able to perform and entertain people, and give them a moment’s break from their problems, jobs, relationships, etc.  That’s why I do this, that’s what Adakain is about, and I couldn’t be happier!”
– Ryan Ray/Adakain

“We’re thankful for being artists because it allows us to truly appreciate great art. Knowing that each creator has climbed their own mountain of doubt, frustration, and insecurity makes art all the more impressive, and all the more human.”
– Nikki’s Wives

“I am thankful to be an artist because it gives me a reason to get up in the morning and know that I have purpose: to be creative and to help people feel things they want to feel. When someone asks what do I do, I’m always proud to respond “I play music.” It’s our duty as musicians to help people feel.”
– Tyler Boone

“Thankful to TuneCore for putting my music in the ears of so many incredible fans. A lot of people come back to me and say that my music helps them through the dark times, and changes their life. Them telling me this, in turn, changes mine too. It’s a beautiful cycle, that I’m proud to be a part of.”
– Antix

“We’re thankful for being able to travel the world playing music with our friends. Meeting people who share our passion for music is a highlight of our job. We’re also thankful for Taco Bell.”
– These Kids Wear Crowns

“We are thankful as artists to be able to travel the country and share our music with others. We are most thankful for the opportunities our fans have given us to see the entire country and all its beauty. We are thankful for the many people we have met along the way that have shown us the magic of music and how it brings different people together.”
– First Decree

“We are thankful to be musicians because it’s the most powerful tool we know to communicate  feelings, ideas, and dreams.”
– Prinze George

“I’m thankful to be an artist because of the gift that music gives to me: It allows me to be emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually fulfilled every day. As long as I focus on living out of that gratefulness, the rest comes easy and I am able to give back to those around me more than I ever dreamt I could.”
– Adley Stump

“We’re thankful to be artists for countless reasons! One thing we especially love is getting to meet so many incredible people. It’s so inspiring for us to hear how our music has impacted them, and hearing these stories gives us more strength then our fans will ever know. It’s so fascinating how music can connect all of us in such a unique and special way.”
– Two Story Road

“I’m thankful to be an artist because I am given the chance to do what I love everyday, which is expression through singing, songwriting and performing. These are what dreams are made of and to share it with the world is the ultimate blessing.”
– David Garcia / Bridge To Grace 

Thank You TuneCore for helping me and many other artists connect and engage with our fans around the world.  No matter the physical distance – you bring us closer to our fans than ever before!”
– Denny Strickland 

 

A House For Lions: Raising Money Their Own Way

Bands and artists are finding continued success with fan-funded platforms like Kickstarter and PledgeMusic.  When indie rock band A House For Lions  was looking into the different crowdfunding platforms available to help raise money for their debut album, they found another option.  Mike Nissen, the band’s guitar player (and designer), did a little digging to find out if a WordPress plugin existed to help with their approaching campaign. Sure enough, he found Ignitiondeck, a WordPress plugin that lets you to implement a crowdfunding campaign without any fees (except the cost of the plugin itself and small PayPal transaction fees) or middlemen.

The band carefully considered their options, as they acknowledged that using a well-known platform like Kickstarter might result in getting a few more eyes on their project. But at the same time, as they explained, “We realized that we might just be white noise in those other platforms, just another band trying to raise funds for their album.”

One of the plugin’s selling points for the band was that it wasn’t an “all or nothing” model;  “If we come very close to our goal but aren’t fully funded we will still get to make the album no matter what so that our backers will get what they are pledging to help make.”

Any good campaign requires a solid kickoff.  “We wanted to make an intro video that pokes fun at the idea of hitting people up for money, because we realize that it’s a bit of a ludicrous thing to do,” they explained.  So they did just that.  Their launch video shows the band interviewing several precocious children, asking them if they might be willing to spare some money and donate to the campaign. Definitely worth watching.

Also vital to any crowdfunded campaign is that the artist keeps fans interested throughout.  A House For Lions is tackling this by releasing silly outtakes from the launch video and extended cuts from their interviews with kids.  They’re also churning out creative rewards, including t-shirts and posters designed by Nissen. With 9 days to go, A House For Lions has received 54% of their goal.

At TuneCore we always encourage artists to be their own labels.  In the new music industry, artists have all of the resources, and bands like A House For Lions are proving just that.

Check Out the “A House For Lions” Campaign

Learn More About The Band

 

 

Cary Pierce Of Jackopierce Says "Invest In Yourself"

(Note from TuneCore: The post below is from TuneCore Artist Cary Pierce, a member of the band Jackopierce. You can catch the original post on Cary’s blog.  Make sure to check back on the TuneCore blog next week for another post from Cary!)

Invest In Yourself


By Cary Pierce

(This is an excerpt from a book I am working on about being creative for a living. I will post a new chapter every Friday.)

 

(dollar Origami came from super cool site http://www.boredpanda.com/cool-dollar-bill-origami)

Quit waiting for your ship to come in. Start sending ships out.

GIVE YOURSELF A RECORD DEAL OR A publishing deal – don’t just wait around for it.

By writing this book – I’ve “given myself a publishing deal.” I have a computer to write on and I know I can use blurb or lulu.com to print my books for very little money or release it as an ebook.

When it comes to your time, don’t go invest in a bunch of stuff you don’t like/love or believe in just because you think it will make you money.

Start small. Go slow. It’s ok. Warren Buffet is a huge proponent in investing in what you know and taking your sweet time.

You can invest a lot of your most valuable resource (your time) on your own terms. You can work on what you want, when you want  – without someone over your shoulder – wondering when they’ll get their money back.

Some people love having the pressure of using other people’s money. I do not.

My best investments – with returns off the charts – have all been investing in myself or my endeavors.

I have invested in the stock market, in restaurants and in real estate and by far, my best investments have been in the things that I do – mainly songs, records and merchandise.

People like doing business with busy people. People are not attracted to “needy” people. It’s ok to be diligent, persistent, but if you come off as “I really need this money” it’s just not attractive. It’s not a place of power. The least attractive people are the ones who feel they can’t start anything until they’ve raised money.

Do what you can in the interim. Build. They often come. And “they” tend to come when you’re so busy, you really don’t have all that much time to deal with them.

Jackopierce was never out to get a major label deal. Then one day, a Dallas band (Patrick Pike’s “Sister 7”) was getting a record deal through a Nashville attorney, Jim Zumwalt. Zumwalt had been talking a lot with Sister 7’s local distributor, Crystal Clear, and asked them if there were any other artists in Dallas worth checking out.

Crystal Clear told him that their biggest seller, by far, was an acoustic duo called Jackopierce. It just happened to be that JP was playing in Nashville that weekend. We were asked to put Zumwalt on the guest list and we did. The only problem was – the show was so oversold that they would not even let him in the front door. Zumwalt had to come around back to meet us in the alley right before we went on stage.

We were not some band that sent him a demo hoping to get “discovered.” We were not chasing him around town to get a record deal. We were out there quietly investing in ourselves, building our fan base, one city, one college campus at a time. We were selling CDs and t-shirts, making a living and growing along the way.

Zumwalt found out about us and he came after us. It was simple math for him – we had sold over 45,000 copies of our three independent CDs and were selling out shows all over the country. This was a no-brainer for him to take to the major labels. We got offers from several labels (and had a blast being courted by them**) but decided on signing with Larry Hamby at A&M Records in LA. Later we also signed a deal with Warner Chapel Music Publishing.

People like doing business with busy people. People want what they think they can’t have or might lose. It’s just the way it is.

Quit waiting for your ship to come in. Invest in yourself and start sending those ships out.

**side story: our first LA “courting trip” was to visit with MCA (now Universal) Records. They flew us out and put us up in the Universal Hilton (near Universal Studios). They informed us at check-in that we had a $250 per day spending account on the room. We were beside ourselves. The hotel was really nice! And here we were – in Los Angeles being courted by one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world! Once Brady (our manager), Jack and I got into the room, we got a call from Ron Oberman (the MCA A&R guy that was trying to sign us) to set up a time and place for dinner. When I picked up the phone, he asked, “Cary – what are you doing in Brady’s room??” Brady’s room? It turns out he had gotten us each our own room room with $250 per day to spend. We were even more beside ourselves!  Good times!

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Cary Pierce is a professional musician, songwriter, performer, producer and event creator. He’s also half of the band Jackopierce.  You can read more excerpts and news from Cary here.

How To Start: An Interview With John Strohm

By George Howard
(Follow George on Twitter)

Where to start? When to start? How to start? These are the questions that come up so often. The questions raised by anyone who feels his or her music should be heard, but is unsure of the appropriate next steps.

I recently had the opportunity to interview my good friend John Strohm. John is uniquely qualified to speak to the above questions.  Sure, John is now a successful entertainment attorney— representing, among others, Grammy winners Bon Iver, and one of the most successful independent (and by that I mean their own label, distro through TuneCore) artists of all time, The Civil Wars—but long before John became a man of law, he too was an independent artist working his way through the same issues and opportunities that you may be.

While attending Berklee College of Music, John started a band called The Blake Babies with fellow Berklee students Juliana Hatfield and Freda Love.  The Blake Babies, through great songwriting and hard work, propelled themselves from the Berklee practice rooms to the national stage. John then went on to play guitar for The Lemonheads.  In short, he knows of what he speaks.

In this interview John focuses on actionable things artists can and should be doing to propel their careers forward.  What is resounding is the importance of being remarkable.  This is a theme I write about time and time again. If you pull the word “remarkable” apart you note that at its root is “remark;”people must “talk” about your work.

Of course, in order for that to happen, you must get your music out there.  TuneCore, of course, facilitates this, and I’ve written a lot about the importance of using the Lean Startup methodology of creating a “minimum viable product” to get a sense of what the market thinks of your work; again, TuneCore makes this process an incredibly efficient one.

So, balance John’s words of wisdom regarding making sure that your work is remarkable with the incredible ease of getting feedback via creating a minimum viable product, and distributing via TuneCore to constantly improve.

Take heed also regarding John’s advice when it comes to who you work with.  His thoughts here mirror many of the ideas I’ve discussed in articles like “Strengthen Your Core.”  It’s about alignment of values and expectations.  Of course, you can’t align your values with anyone else’s until you clearly know what your own values are.  This comes back to getting started.

There’s magic in motion. Moving your songs and ideas and aesthetic (values) from your brain/bedroom to a more tangible place—distro via TuneCore/playing shows—are necessary steps in understanding your values, becoming remarkable, and, generally, moving forward in your career in a manner that shows you have a plan, a vision, and a direction.

Watch this space for continued conversation with John. He’s got a lot more wisdom to share, and we’ll discuss things like when it’s time to get a lawyer, key legal details that every band should understand, and more.

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George Howard is the Executive Vice President of Wolfgang’s Vault. Wolfgang’s Vault is the parent company of Concert Vault, Paste Magazine, and Daytrotter. Mr. Howard is an Associate Professor of Management at Berklee College of Music