Being The Boss: Managing Your Manager

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Eli Ball, CEO of Lyric Financial. TuneCore and Lyric Financial partnered in April to bring artists TuneCore Direct Advance.]

 

As an artist your career is your business and you are the CEO. Before you begin protesting that you are an artist and you have a manager to deal with the business stuff, hear me out.

The music industry is full of so-called “professionals” who want to tell you how to be successful. In fact, many of them rely upon the assumption that you are not in charge, but make no mistake about it: you are the boss. While it absolutely takes a great and committed team to build a successful business, you as CEO are ultimately responsible (not your manager). Consider this: your manager is effectively the COO/CFO (chief operating officer and chief financial officer) of your business. As your COO/CFO the manager’s job is to execute your vision and be a trusted sounding board for your ideas. Sure, a good manager will bring you opportunities they think will advance your career – that’s their job. But remember, your manager works for you, not the other way around.

Here are some tips to help get you off on the right footing with your manager:

The Benefits of Having a Clear Vision

First, you need to define your vision for what you want to represent and accomplish as an artist. Be very clear about your goals and what you are willing to do and not willing to do in order to achieve them. Notice I did not use the word “comfortable”, since running a business is anything but comfortable. It’s challenging at every level of your being and the more success you have the more challenging it becomes.

By having a clear and concise vision that you’ve actually written down and discussed with your team, you save yourself from the directionless confusion so many artists fall victim to. It also gives your manager a clear idea of what you’re looking for and defined goals to achieve and to be measured by.

Be Aware That Your Career Needs Will Evolve As You Grow

There’s an axiom in the business world, that “the team you start with is not necessarily the same team you finish with.” In plain English, as you grow your career, the challenges you face at one level may require a different skill set from the one needed at the next level.

With that in mind, and setting aside for a moment the important issue of loyalty (to be discussed on another post), as CEO you need to be very comfortable that your manager can help you not only immediately, but is able and/or willing to adapt as your career grows. I am not advocating that you change managers whenever you hit a rough spot or the next level, far from that. However, as CEO you are responsible for making sure you have the right people on your team and the right people in the right roles (check out Jim Collins’ insightful book called “Good to Great” to learn more building a great team).

5 Fundamental Issues You Absolutely Need to Address

Regardless of your experience level and whether you have a manager or are considering hiring one, here are some basic issues you need to discuss with your manager:

  1. Does he/she clearly understand and share your vision and goals?
    As noted above, this is crucial for a successful long term business relationship. Of course, you need to really have a clear vision from the get-go to make the most of your artist/manager relationship, so if you don’t yet have that down pat, perhaps work on that first and find the right partner second.It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a one-time conversation. As your vision and goals evolve be sure that your manager continues to be in sync with you.
  2. Is there a fundamental level of trust and respect?
    How do you measure this since trust and respect are built over time? In the beginning, it boils down to personal chemistry. Do you feel comfortable with this person managing your business and representing you? Do your homework. Research their background and check industry references, education and training to determine whether their skill set will be additive to you and your team.If you already have a manager and it isn’t working, you need to ask yourself why and address the issue(s). Then trust your gut. In the end do your best to make the right decisions and if it turns out to be wrong, correct the mistake.

 

  1. Do you communicate well?
    Your relationship with your manager is the most intimate business relationship you will have. It’s a two way street. You both need to be able to speak honestly and without reservation on any topic. You will need to strategize together, support each other, constructively criticize each other and hopefully congratulate one another on mission accomplished. As an artist you are responsible for writing, recording, promoting your music, touring on the road, as well as keeping an eye on your business, i.e. – You’re busy as all hell! It is critical that the two of you can communicate almost telepathically and regularly. Make sure to put some strong systems in place that respect each of your personal styles, withstand busy schedules and changing time zones.

 

  1. As CEO what level of detail do you want to be involved in?
    Like a producer who manages the recording process in the studio, you need to be clear what you want to be involved in and just as importantly what you don’t. This is not a one size fits all template, since like a producer you organize your team to work fluidly with your personal style, strengths and weaknesses. Are you a delegating leader or do you like to be in the weeds on day-to-day decisions? What frequency of reporting and level of detail works for you? When are you able and ready to process business information given your responsibilities as an artist?Before any unnecessary confusion and frustration arises, you and your manager need to be in agreement on this issue. Expect to have to revisit this frequently. Your business is dynamic and constantly evolving. As such, the amount of information and decisions to be made increase with the growth of your career.

 

  1. What is your business plan?
    Assuming you and your manager are in sync on the previous four topics, a formal written business plan on how as a team you are going to execute building your career is absolutely critical before you take another step. This is the road map that will guide you towards achieving your vision. What tools and resources will be needed for touring, recording, promotion and administration? How do you plan to fund each part of it and manage the cash flow? Are you selling rights to your songs or recordings to raise capital? Taking on investors? Bootstrapping it, using one source of revenue, say touring to pay for the recording? Or a combination of all three?Keep in mind that a business plan is not set in stone rather it is an evolving document that provides a clear rational guide for your career journey at each step. As you face challenges and opportunities it will need to be modified. But having a clear well thought out map to begin your journey beats the hell out of flying by the seat of your pants, simply reacting to external factors rather than proactively dealing with them.

I hope this helps give you some perspective and a common sense guide to managing your career. Best of luck. Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint, so stay true to your vision and learn to smell the roses along the way. It definitely makes for a more fulfilling life.

July Industry Wrap-Up

Facebook Moves Closer Towards Copyright Protection


Folks in the entertainment industry (among other sectors of business) have been following Facebook’s growth and expansion into the music space, whether it’s sharing videos, partnering with streaming platforms to encourage social engagement and discovery, or supporting user-generated content and live feeds. With that, of course, comes pressure to protect songwriters, artists and other creators in the realm of copyrights and licensing and ensure that they are able to collect their owed share of revenue. Like YouTube before it, critics have been waiting to see what the social media giant does next in this realm.

This month, Facebook acquired Source3, a content rights management startup, whose goal is “to recognize, organize and analyze branded intellectual property in user-generated content”. Source3’s technology serves brands or users uploading content to “measure their presence or take action against infringers of their copyrights and trademarks.”

While this move for Facebook looks to serve users and brands outside of music, the company did begin hiring its first music licensing staff recently, likely satisfying labels and publishers seeking to further cement social media streaming royalties as a revenue source. And for independent artists outside of the label system, this acquisition can be seen as a step in the right direction as it hints at future revenue opportunities and a tightened up system to combat copyright infringement.

Amazon Music’s 3rd Place Status – Bigger Than It Sounds?


According to MIDiA Research, Amazon Music is now the 3rd largest music subscription service. MIDiA has been tracking usage of streaming apps on a quarterly basis since 2016 and claims Amazon has grown strongly quarter upon quarter: it ranks 2nd behind Spotify as ‘most widely used’; boasts the ‘largest installed base’ of active users (weekly); and as mentioned above, it ranks 3rd in subscribers with around 16 million, greatly surpassing the 4th and 5th placed QQ Music and Deezer (respectively).

Mark Mulligan of MIDiA’s Music Industry Blog argues that while those figures are impressive in an ever evolving streaming market, the real beauty in Amazon’s growth lies in its ability to convert Prime Subscribers (Amazon’s premium shopping service with annual fees) to Amazon Prime Music or Amazon Prime Music Unlimited users. With no additional costs, new payment schedule or commitments, users of the Amazon Prime app can seamlessly shift their music consumption habits – or adopt streaming for the first time entirely – to a trusted source that they are already actively using on a weekly basis.

In addition to subscriber growth, Mulligan also acknowledges not only the advent of the Amazon Echo (Amazon’s proprietary home speaker, of which they’ve sold upwards of 13 million) but also what he calls “The CD Factor”. As TuneCore Artists who have distributed to Amazon Music On Demand know, CDs can easily be made available for music fans who still prefer the physical medium.

While that might not strike some as a huge advantage, consider that physical sales still dominate in Japan and Germany, the world’s 2nd and 4th largest music markets – two out of the four markets in which Amazon Prime adoption is concentrated. Between this and a growing subscription rate, artists have good reason to look to Amazon Music as a propeller of revenue and discovery when they’re ready to release new music.

Pandora Hits Milestone and Introduces New Features


If you’ve visited our site, read our blog, scanned the industry trade sites, or signed into your TuneCore dashboard recently, you’ll know we’re very excited to be approaching a $1 billion  cumulative payout to independent artists this year. Leave it to our friends at Pandora to hit their very own BILLION milestone: one billion impressions on its “Artist Marketing Platform”. Congrats, Pandora! The AMP was revolutionary for its time as it allowed artists to use listener data to learn about their audience – similar to how TuneCore allows you to view data that makes it easier to decide where to spend ad dollars or concentrate touring destinations.

With the ability to pass direct audio messages to fans, Pandora says the platform has been used by over 11,000 artists, who have collectively driven said one billion impressions, which is a major benchmark for the relatively young direct-to-fan marketing approach.

On top of this news, Pandora announced two new direct-to-fan features for the AMP: the ability to promote a single (via pre-recorded audio message), and the ability to promote concert dates (via customized flight dates, ticket purchase links, and geo-targeted messaging). While Pandora remains a curated service, TuneCore announced last year that we’ve partnered with the internet radio heavy-hitter, allowing TuneCore Artists to submit their releases for consideration. With these added features, it makes more sense than ever to be taking advantage of this submission!

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.

May Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Launches “Spotify Codes”

Remember the QR Code Craze? Sure you do! It took place a couple of years back when we began seeing these funny little squares with unique black and white patterns in them all over promotional materials, from the subway to magazines. People could use their mobile device to scan the QR code and it’d offer them some sort of exclusive content. Marketers saw this as a fun new way to connect with consumers, but ultimately the process involved proved to be just over the line of effort that most consumers were willing to put into connecting with a campaign.

Flash forward to present day, and we see Spotify has announced a new in-app feature called “Spotify Codes”, allowing music fans to scan said codes to share music with friends. It’s being rolled out globally and is about more than just sharing your favorite playlist with a like-minded pal. Music Ally points to the strong potential for artists to market their music using Spotify Codes: “Flyers, posters, billboards… perhaps even TV advertising – something that would take Spotify Codes into the territory traditionally occupied by Shazam.”

A strong and thoughtful point, indeed. Indie artists of all genres can direct potential fans directly to their latest releases using traditional DIY promotional tactics simply by including their unique Spotify Codes within their visual assets. It’ll be very interesting to see how artists get creative with sharing these codes, and of course, how fans react and engage. Get started using them today with instructions via Spotify here.

Amazon Prime Offers Live Streaming Concerts

Is there anything Amazon Prime can’t deliver us? Well, up until this month, you could technically put “concert experiences” in that category (which seems reasonable enough), but alas, the online retail giant continues to out-do itself. In May, Amazon announced that it has begun offering tickets to concerts to its members. Not just any concerts, but a series of live events, with tickets being offered exclusively via the platform to Prime customers, featuring internationally recognized artists playing in small, intimate settings.

While concerts are being booked for Prime members in the UK right now, it has hopes to add U.S. concerts by the end of 2017. Additionally, Prime members out of the market for these experiences can catch recorded and streaming versions of these concerts so fans can get in on the fun from home. (Kind of a different version of those home concerts we’ve written about in the past.)

Amazon’s attempt to attract older, mainstream music fans who consume music – and live music for that matter – differently than the typical 20- or 30-something music obsessives is a great thing for independent artists who are hoping to reach similar crowds. Additionally, this move shows Amazon taking a step to connect artists with fans further, “combining customer data, billing relationships, content and services, infrastructure and consumer hardware.”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the near future – not just what new ways Amazon offers experiences exclusively to Prime members, but also how they bring independent musicians and bands into the fold.

Facebook Rights Manager Helps Artists Collect Ad Revenue

Good news for music creators looking to benefit monetarily from Facebook videos: the social media giant has updated its “Rights Manager” feature, allowing artists to generate revenue from pirated videos that had mid-roll ads placed within them. If an artist’s song is being used in a video across Facebook (with or without permission), they can now get a cut of that sweet, sweet ad money previously reserved for the video creator.

Facebook pays 55% of ad revenue to rights holders (much like YouTube), and until now, its Rights Manager could only successfully notify a rights holder when their music was being used in a video somewhere on the platform – giving them the option to take the video down or leave it up as a means of promotion. Similar to YouTube’s Content ID (which you can take advantage of using TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection service), artists can “claim ad earnings” and even choose where the 15 to 20-second ad is inserted in the video.

Any new revenue stream for artists is viewed as a win for TuneCore and the greater independent music community. It will be exciting to see how this adds up for those who get their songs featured in videos across Facebook, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction in honoring copyrights. Artists can sign up for Rights Manager via Facebook here.

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.