How Open Mics Can Open Doors in Your Local Music Scene

[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.]

 

A hard truth of the world is that it’s never what you know. Rather, it’s almost always who you know. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, or how much time you’ve put into honing your writing or performing talents. If you can’t make valuable connections in your local music scene, odds are you’re going to have an incredibly difficult time in making any significant process in your career as a musician.

With that being said, there are a variety of different ways that you can open doors for yourself. This article is going to focus on open mics, and since this is the exclusive focus of the article we can get into the nitty gritty of how you can use them to help start your career as a musician.

1. Friends Talk To Friends Talk to Friends (Etc.)

If you’re looking for a talented musician, who are the first people you’re going to ask? Odds are, most of you are going to talk to friends who either are musicians or who are in contact with people in the local music scene.

Now believe it or not, the best way to take advantage of this, (aside from showing up and playing at least competently, obviously), is to always be professional and kind to those around you. Just about any band in the world would rather have a nice and dependable member than one who’s a jerk and causes the band problems.

Never talk down to your fellow performers, and for the love of God, don’t heckle. If you’re a musician who heckles your peers, get up right now and go look in a mirror. And then smash your face into it. The scars you gain from doing so will definitely add an element of mystique to your next performance. (Note: TuneCore is not liable for any heckler who smashes his/her face into a mirror. Even if it is kind of funny).

2. Networking With Other Musicians

While word of mouth is a powerful ally, it’s just as important to actually make connections with your fellow musicians. Imagine this scenario: You’re looking for a place to play gigs and you see a local gigging musician at an open mic night (which believe it or not, a lot of them do actually show up there to work on new songs or just to stay in practice with performing). You two get to talking and you mention that you’ve been having a hard time finding gigs, and then you ask if he/she would be able to recommend any venue owners who are pleasant to work with. Now you have a focused list of venue owners who host live music, and an idea of how it is to work with them. You can also ask about how the crowds were in different venues throughout town, giving you an idea as to which venues you should work on based on your genre.

While doing this once is helpful, doing it a dozen times is probably going to give you a pretty comprehensive list of the venues in the area, the type of music that works best in them, and how these venue owners treat their musicians. This is incredibly valuable information to have, because one of the most important parts of putting on a good show is finding a venue that works well for your music.

3. It Shows You What Type Of Music Is Best Received In The Area

Something many musicians don’t think about is how their audiences are going to react to the music they play, and not in regards to its quality. Rather, what is the demographic of listeners in your area like? Do they prefer metal? Soft acoustic music? Country? Folk? Do you have an idea of what these percentages are like?

While open mics are going to give you pretty skewed results due to the fact that most of the people who attend are likely to be more interested in acoustic music, odds are the overall reactions are still going to be at least somewhat representative. For example, if the crowd present likes Garth Brooks covers odds are that there will at least be some venues in town where country is well received.

Likewise, if the crowd loses their mind over a particularly inspired “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” cover for example, you can be pretty sure that there will be areas where Green Day will go over well.

4. You Get To Learn A Variety Of Approaches To Working A Crowd

Working a crowd is an art, and just like any other art there are a variety of different ways to approach it. Learning to time jokes well, figuring out how to introduce a song, and learning how to build a set-list are all fundamental skills for a musician.

While practice is important, so is being exposed to a variety of different approaches. You always want to be learning and trying new things, and there’s no better way to think up a new approach than to see what others are doing. Odds are they’ll do at least one thing that you never do that goes over well, and if they happen to be really bad at working a crowd, you get a few lessons in what not to do.

Wrapping It All Up

Being a musician requires a collection of several different skills, and open mics are a good place to hone them – aside from being an awesome place to make the connections that you’ll need to advance your career. They’re not always pretty, and the musicians who attend them may not always be the most pleasant to listen to, but there are a variety of things to learn and a huge population of musicians to network with.

Copy of Facebook’s New Reach Objective: A Game Changer for Touring Musicians

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post written by Don Bartlett, owner of No Door Agency, an Austin, TX-based boutique management and marketing agency. Don also hosts a seminar titled “Facebook Marketing For Musicians. Be sure to read his TuneCore Blog article on maximizing your Facebook ads on an indie budget.]

From it’s earliest days Facebook has used its powerful data algorithms to deliver incredibly well-targeted ads. It was a dream for most advertisers. They wouldn’t just put your ad in front of your target audience, they’d put it in front of the specific members of that audience who were most likely to engage with the ad. The success of this approach changed the entire landscape of advertising, and advertisers reaped the benefits. For musicians trying to promote tour dates, though, this presented a problem.

Bands are in a relatively unique position, from an advertising perspective. In each tour city we have small but very valuable target group of people we want to reach. It’s critical that we reach ALL of that group, not just the ones who might be prone to engaging with Facebook posts. If we’ve got 500 fans in New York City, we want all 500 to see the ad for our show.

Until now, the best objectives were “Page Post Engagement” or “Website Clicks” which deliver to those people who historically took those actions when viewing ads. In many cases that left a decent chunk of your fans out.

In late 2016 Facebook rolled out a new objective that solves this problem. When you choose the “Reach” objective you are now functionally telling Facebook that you want to reach as many people in your target audience as possible. After a few months of testing we’ve found that ads with the Reach objective perform significantly better for these small but valuable targets.

Note that that when you’re advertising to larger, non-fan target audiences….fans of similar bands, for example…you’re still better off using the “Page Post Engagement” or “Website Clicks” objective.

Another significant advantage to the Reach objective is that for the first time Facebook is allowing you to put a limit on how often people see your ads. Even an ad for your favorite band’s show can get annoying if it’s popping up in your newsfeed 4 times a day. This new feature lets you define an amount of time that a user will not see your ad again after viewing it.

It’s a very helpful tool that provides an extra degree of control to what your fans are seeing from your page. A good rule of thumb is to build in a frequency cap of at least two days for most campaigns.

Taken together these two new features provide a huge improvement to the tour marketing arsenal. Facebook ads have always been a one of the most effective ways to reach fans in a given city, but the effectiveness was often limited by their optimization algorithms. With the “Reach” objective we now have a concrete way to reach all of them.

The Music Industry Belongs to the Hypercreators

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Ryan Kairalla, an entertainment lawyer based in Miami, FL. He recently published Break the Business: Declaring Your Independence and Achieving True Success in the Music Industry and also hosts the Break The Business Podcast.]

“You Can’t Use Up Creativity, the More You Use the More You Have.” –Maya Angelou

A few weeks ago, I was giving a talk at the NAMM Conference in Anaheim, California. After it was over, a musician approached me and asked me what was the most important thing he should be doing to be more successful in his music career.

I succinctly responded: “Make music. Make lots of music. All the time.”

I could tell that this young creative was more than a little unsatisfied with my answer. Perhaps he thought I would give a lengthy discussion on the value of effective social media. Or maybe he was expecting that, as an attorney, I would talk to him about the importance of having good legal structures in place.

Granted, those things are important. But if you’re going to be in the business of making music, there is nothing more important than making as much music as you can. Today’s musicians need to be “hyper creators.”

Let’s lay down some essential truths about the current state of the industry:

  1. It has never been easier or cheaper to create quality music thanks to advancements in low-cost home recording hardware and software.
  2. It has never been easier or cheaper to distribute your music thanks to the digitalization of music and the emergence of low-cost distribution platforms.
  3. It has never been easier or cheaper to promote your music with the advent of social media.
  4. It has never been easier or cheaper to fund your music projects with the rise of online crowdfunding platforms.

Modern technology has removed nearly all of the barriers preventing artists from creating music constantly and sharing that music with a worldwide audience. Being able to make more music means that artists can have more opportunities to connect with their fans. It also means that artists can have a larger catalog of material to sell or license.

The musicians that will succeed in this world will be the ones who are best able to take advantage of these developments. This means creating lots of music—far more than the musicians of previous generations did.

The prevailing music creation model of recording and releasing an album’s worth of songs every two or three years is making less and less sense in the New Music Industry. It is a product of a bygone era where the creation, distribution, and promotion of music was an expensive endeavor, and thus bunching together the release of a small number of tracks was the way things had to be done.

Today, it is a better strategy to (1) make more music and (2) spread out the releases of your music throughout the year so that your fans never have a chance to forget about you. You can still make and release traditional albums if you so choose, but don’t do it at the expense of depriving your fans of a steady stream of new material.

Many musicians have effectively embraced the hypercreation model. Ireland-based indie acoustic artist J.P. Kallio has garnered some impressive success by releasing new original songs every week. Colorado-based Danielle Ate The Sandwich gained considerable fanfare for writing, recording, and producing an album’s worth of songs in just 24 hours (and she’s done this twice).

And then there’s New Jersey’s own Jonathan Mann. Mann has written and recorded a new original song every day for the past eight years—and counting. Mann and his catalog of nearly 3,000 songs have been featured on ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and HuffPost Live.

If hypercreation seems too daunting to you, remember this: Creativity is a muscle. The more you create, the more prolific you will become. Conversely, the less you create, the more that muscle atrophies. Make creation a constant in your music career, as each song you produce gives you one more opportunity for success.

A final word of warning:

As you embrace hypercreation in your own career, you should be wary of business relationships that are not conducive to you being prolific with your art. You cannot hypercreate unless you have complete authority over when, how, and with whom you make music. As a result, you should look upon exclusive recording agreements with great skepticism.

These contracts essentially give someone else (such as a record label or producer) full control over your recording projects. Under such a deal, you would not be able to make music without that someone’s permission, and they almost assuredly will not approve of you creating new music on a weekly basis. Rather, they will favor the old release model: Make an album, wait 2-3 years, and make another album (assuming that the label/producer still wants to record with you).

In the New Music Industry – one in which the creation, distribution, and promotion of music is so conducive to hypercreation — artists should give some serious thought to the significant value in being able to create on their own terms.

February Industry Wrap-Up

The cold weather is slowly on its way out and SXSW is on the horizon – must be the end of February! That’s why we’re here to wind down the month in music industry happenings. Just because it was a short month doesn’t mean there was no action – read on to catch the latest on Facebook’s upcoming video ventures, collaboration among the YouTube and Google Play Music teams, and Spotify’s ‘sunny’ new parter.

 

Facebook to Introduce Longer-Form ‘Premium’ Music Video Content


As online videos become an even more integral part of marketing and promotion for artists – from major label mainstays to indie up-and-comers – competition to serve hungry fans continues to heat up among all the big name platforms. If you’ve been reading around, you know that Facebook is a key contender in its attempts to offer users exciting ways to consume video content, including it’s rolling out of Facebook Live which paid some big name creators to help promote the service in its early stages.

Recently, Facebook’s VP of Partnerships Dan Rose expressed their desire to begin offering ‘premium videos’, with content shifting into the 5-10 minute length. According to reports, Facebook will offer indie artists and labels the opportunity to test and create episodic content while being paid directly by Facebook in the early stages; Rose says the model will shift to a rev-share after that. With almost two billion users, Facebook remains a major platform for promoting and marketing musical content.

Like anything else surrounding the world of copyright and video content, Facebook is facing concerns from members of the music industry surrounding licensing. When you’re hoping to take a slice of YouTube’s market share, at the very least, a platform should have systems in place that protect copyright holders and ensure that they can be paid properly for the use of their works. Like YouTube’s Content ID system that allows TuneCore to help artists collect their sound recording revenue when their music is used in videos across the platform, sources say that Facebook is in the process of building a parallel copyright ID program. This will be crucial in the potential success of Facebook’s upcoming premium video plans, and it goes to show the importance being placed on protecting copyrighted work – good news for artists of all stripes!

 

Google Merges Play Music & YouTube Music Teams


This past month it was revealed to media outlets that the product teams in charge of directing YouTube Music and Google Play Music will be combined into a single unit. Confirmed by Google, a spokesperson said: “Music is very important to Google and we’re evaluating how to bring together our music offerings to deliver the best possible product for our users, music partners and artists. Nothing will change for users today and we’ll provide plenty of notice before any changes are made.”

What does this mean for artists? Well, we already know that independent music makers can make their music available on YouTube and Google Play via TuneCore, but with the platforms technically being under the same umbrella, this appears to be a play towards creating a better overall user experience for music consumers. As streaming services acquire new subscribers every day, access to independent music grows and artists are able to make themselves available to fans who use all different ‘preferred platforms’ for discovering new tunes.

There’s an array of possible reasons for this internal shift at one of the biggest media companies in the world – perhaps as a move to simplify in-app listening, and more interestingly, a way for Google to negotiate deals with artists and labels. Either way, users of both apps will be able to continue using them as normal for now, and it’s highly possible that artists can look forward to a simpler way to reach YouTube- and Google Play-loyal fans in the near future.

 

Spotify’s Latest Partner is … a Weather Company?


We all know that weather impacts our moods. We all also know that music can play a similar role. But how do listeners build playlists that capture any given climate?

Ever the forward-thinking streaming platform, Spotify announced in February that is partnering with weather reporting website AccuWeather to develop and launch a site called Climatune, offering playlists for various cities based on varying weather conditions. This comes after partnerships with modern apps and companies like Uber, Tinder and Headspace, and shows that Spotify has no intention of slowing down its pace of clever collaboration with those looking to bring music into the fold.

So instead of just throwing on Banarama on those sunny days or curling up to some Morrisey during a morning rainstorm, Climatune offers playlists to music fans based on the hours and hours of research in major cities pointing to habits of listeners based on the skies. For example, did you know that residents of Chicago get excited when it rains, causing a huge lift in happier music? Houston Spotify subscribers, on the other hand, boost their acoustic listening by 121% on rainy days.

While it remains to be seen just how many subscribers will utilize this cool new service, we here at TuneCore see it as just another interesting avenue for music discovery via the popularity of playlists.

TuneCore Heads to Mondo.NYC 2016!

New York City has long been a hub of creative talent and technological innovation here in the States. Between the thousands of artists and bands, the amazing music venues, and headquarters of music industry brands, it only makes sense that organizers have chosen Manhattan and Brooklyn as the landscape for Mondo.NYC 2016!

Mondo.NYC is kicking off it’s inaugural business summit, festival and digital platform from September 14-18, 2016, and TuneCore is honored to be a part of the action as a sponsor and contributor. We’re of course honored that almost 50% of the artists scheduled to perform use or have used TuneCore as their digital distribution partner!

A multi-day event filled with panels, showcases and performances, Mondo.NYC is a celebration of music, technology and the entertainment industry among fans, artists, and tech/music professionals. If you haven’t grabbed a ticket, we worked with the staff at Mondo.NYC to make sure we could offer TuneCore Artists 20% off their purchases. All you’ll need to do is enter promo code TUNECORE2016 when you purchase online.

By day, New York University will serve as the setting for discussion, networking and education. By night, live music across Brooklyn and Manhattan hot spots will be raging.

Join us on Friday, September 16th from 10:00-10:50am in room 914 the Kimmel Center at NYU for “Under the Hood: Get Your Music Heard and Get Paid for Doing It” – a panel about distribution for independent artists.

In this  featured panel discussion, Scott Ackerman, CEO of TuneCore, will discuss TuneCore’s digital distribution platform and how we help thousands of artists of every size and genre get their music heard around the world, get paid for doing so, and keep 100% of their rights and earnings.  Scott will help artists better understand the process and value of independent distribution.  In addition to his valuable insights, there will be a panel of successful TuneCore artists to give first hand accounts of how they have leveraged the digital distribution platform to enable and enhance their careers.

As psyched as we are to talk about the value of digital distribution, it’s not all about us! Panel discussions topics will range from the roles of music management and the use data to track/manage audiences, to synch licensing and public policy around music – and everything in between. Learn more about the extensive list of panels here.

If you’re an indie artist, a music entrepreneur or music fan looking to learn more about the industry, grab your tickets today – and don’t forget to nab that 20% discount code using promo code TUNECORE2016.

As with any event TuneCore’s staff is hanging at, we always encourage artists to come up and introduce themselves. You can find members of our team taking notes by day and rocking out at night – we hope to see you out in person!

Maximizing Facebook Ads On an Indie Budget

[Editors NoteThis is a guest blog post written by Don Bartlett, owner of No Door Agency, an Austin, TX-based boutique management and marketing agency. Don also hosts a monthly seminar titled “Facebook Marketing For Musicians.]

Independent artists are constantly looking for ways to eke maximum value from very limited promotion budgets. As Facebook continues to solidify its position at the center of the social media ecosystem, many conversations revolve around taking advantage of their incredibly powerful advertising tools.

The primary hesitations about the platform tend to be some combination of “it’s too expensive” and “we don’t see results”, but by sticking to a few core targeting and budgeting strategies you can take advantage of Facebook’s promotional benefits without going broke in the process.

In our experience you don’t need to spend a lot of money on Facebook advertising to get concrete results. However, if you’re working with a modest budget, it’s even more critical to structure your campaigns in a way that delivers the most value.

To this end, start with a premise: The bulk of your “results” – ticket sales and album sales in most cases – are going to come from your existing fans. Using Facebook ads to increase this pool is a separate topic entirely, but once a show is on sale your focus should shift to those who have already identified themselves as fans.

The most effective way to spend money on Facebook by a wide mile is reaching this group of people. On the surface this seems like a very easy concept and in many ways it is. So why do so many bands have a tough time getting results from their campaigns? In many cases, they’re spending too much.

Let’s look at an example…let’s say a band has 500 Facebook fans in Chicago, and they have an upcoming Windy City show scheduled that they’d like to promote:

Assuming a typical ad cost of about $10 per 1,000 people reached, a budget of $10 will reach all of those fans, likely twice each.

Since these 500 people are our most-likely ticket buyers, we always suggest reaching them three different times leading up to a show. However, these three campaigns should to be separated from each other by some “dead air” time where people won’t be seeing your ad.

Think of it as a reminder. This is a group of people who already likes your band, so they don’t need to be persuaded – they just need to be reminded. And if you remind someone about something five times a day, they’ll be annoyed. If you remind them every week or two, they’ll appreciate it.

So ideally, the band creates three different campaigns budgeted at $10 each, for a total of $30. It’s important to note here that this is very different from a single campaign for $30.

With the 10/10/10 model, they’ve got 100% coverage of their fans a few different times, but not to the point where they’re being bombarded six times a day for a month.

So to reach the 500 fans in this example $30 is not only all you need to spend, it’s all you SHOULD spend. Unfortunately many bands think that by pushing the budget up to $100 is going to give an extra push to ticket sales, when the reality is that it won’t help – and often it hurts. When people see your ad too many times they often will block or hide the ad posts, which negatively affects your page’s organic reach down the line.

There are certainly ways to put an additional $70 to good use, but that isn’t one of them. And the bulk of actual ticket sales are always to your existing fans so spending the $30 is critical, but spending the additional $70, even when done correctly, is far, far less critical.

Which brings us to another critical component of campaign structure: Your ads to existing fans should always be separate from any other targets.

As your most-likely ticket buyers, you want to ensure 100% coverage of this target. With other targets, you’re just looking to reach as many people as possible within your budget. So instead of running one campaign to “fans of our band, fans of Band X and fans of Band Y”, you should run one campaign to “fans of our band”, budgeting to ensure full coverage, and then a separate one to “fans of Band X and Band Y”.

To be sure, there are plenty of other elements that go into successful Facebook Ad campaigns. But following these targeting and budgeting strategies will put any campaign in a much better position to maximize the value of limited budgets.