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.

Are You Guilty? 4 Ways Indie Artists Are Killing Social Media

[Editors Note: This post was written by Joshua Smotherman, co-founder of Middle Tennessee Music, and it originally appeared on the Cyber PR blog.]

 

In an ideal world I would wake up in the morning to a fresh cup of hot coffee. I would enjoy it as I check my e-mail and skim social networks to check up on friends and my favorite bands.

I would immerse myself in an online community of music lovers, songwriters, and musicians sharing, caring, and building with each other… NOT blasting commands to “check out my new hottest thing”.

I see enough billboards on the interstate.

In this world:

  • Bands would stop acting like rock stars and start acting like leaders
  • They would build self-sustaining tribes
  • They would listen to their fans
  • They would understand that growing organically will always win over view counts

As a music blogger, my inbox would NOT be full of one-liners and YouTube links I only see as distractions. Whatever happened to “connecting” with someone?

Unfortunately, this world does not exist. From where I’m sitting, the average indie band sucks at using social media and its ruining it for everyone else. Most importantly, your potential fans.

What are we doing wrong, you say?

Oh boy…where do I begin?

Me, Me, Me Marketing

You might have been raised in a world of billboards and commercials, but using social media as a one way street is killing your promo game.

It seems too many people are missing the social half of the phrase, social media.

You need to engage with fans and listeners instead of blasting them with links, videos, and nonsense about buying your album.

Sadly, most bands qualify [as what the marketing world refers to] as spammers.

Engaging is easier than you think and should come naturally (assuming you are not a recluse).

  • Share albums, videos, and news about other music you enjoy or local bands you play with. Ask others what they think.
  • Share news related to the music industry or issues that reflect the personality of your band and use them to engage in conversation.
  • Instead of posting links to the same videos and songs repeatedly, post clips of the band working in the studio or upload a demo mix and allow fans to share their opinions so you can take the art to another level. Involve fans in your process(es).
  • Network with bands in other areas to create an atmosphere for gig swapping and collaboration as well as cross promotion of content.

This list goes on but the takeaway here is engage in a way that results in feedback and interaction.

Build a community.

Focusing on the wrong metrics

Your follower count means nothing unless you see conversions.

Huh?!

More important than a follower, view, or like:

  • How many fans have signed up for your mailing list?
  • Do you pass around a mailing list signup sheet at your show?
  • How many people have you met at shows? (You do hang out with the audience after the show…right?)
  • How many people have bought a CD or t-shirt?

Stop putting all your energy into increasing numbers on social sites and focus on converting the followers you have into loyal fans.

Use social media to funnel music listeners to your website where you attempt to convert them into a mailing list signup, song download, or merchandise sale.

Would you rather have 1,000 likes or 100 fans spending $1,000 on music, merch, show tickets and crowd funding campaigns?

Show me the money!

Repeating yourself on every social network

Sending your Twitter feed to Facebook then copying and pasting it to Google+ so the same message appears on every site is a horrible idea.

So is auto play on audio embeds but that’s for a different time.

You are not expected to know marketing, you make music! Allow me to guide you on this train of thinking…

People who use Twitter are different than people who use Facebook and the people who use Google+ are not like the others.

It is imperative you consider these facts when developing a social media strategy and act accordingly.

Make sure you actually use social media as a music fan before deciding how to market your music using these tools. Follow bands who are in a position you would like to be in and see how they use each network. Notice what works, what doesn’t work, and then perfect your plan of action.

Posting several updates to Twitter every hour (depending on the nature of the updates) is more acceptable than posting to Facebook every 15 minutes.

When you over saturate a person’s FB News Feed, they hide you from their feed. Or worse…unlike your page or mark your posts as spam.

A general guideline is try to retweet, reply, comment, and share relevant content from others more than you broadcast and peddle your own wares.

Sell Without Selling

If you focus on building a community around your band instead of acting as a bulletin board, you will start noticing the true power of social media.

You will not see overnight results.

The key is to stay consistent, focus on creating great music, and communicate directly with your audience.

If you create a community of loyal fans, they will want to support you.

Your community will become your sales force and all you need to do is be yourself and continue giving fans a band worth loving.

Consistency allows you to reach a tipping point where fans begin promoting your music for you by wearing t-shirts, playing CDs at parties, and recommending you to their friends.

It is hard to conceive this when you are starting at zero, but 6 to 12 months down the road you will notice things happening simply because you remained persistent.

While fans are busy promoting your music, you need to seek out gig opportunities, blog reviews or interviews, and other chances to put yourself in the presence of tastemakers who can expose you to their audience.

Bloggers, journalists, booking agents, and other industry personnel will not give you their attention unless you have proof of a loyal, engaged following.

Buying followers or views might help you manipulate chart rankings and other metrics, but they will never replace the power of community. If you have 5,000 page likes but no one is liking, sharing, or commenting on your updates; we all see right through you.

So can the people who can expose you to bigger audiences of music fans.

In closing:

  • Build your tribe
  • Nurture your community
  • Stop acting like a corporate sales machine

You might also be interested in this panel discussion concerning Marketing, PR, and Promotion on a Budget hosted by Indie Connect NYC which discusses mores things indie musicians are doing wrong online.

How Have You Avoided Killing Social Media?

Let us know below what you have done to overcome these four social media killers above (or any others that you’ve experienced) in the form of a comment below!

3 Habits of Artists With a Strong Social Media Following

[Editors Note: This blog was written by W. Tyler Allen and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

 

There are many tactics that go into a solid social media marketing campaign, but tactics are just theories unless they’re put into action, right? Even then, you need to ensure that these tactics become habits so that you maintain a level of consistency with your social media presence. Wondering which habits you should be forming, exactly? Well, for starters, here are three that artists who have built up strong social media followings all have in common.

1. Embrace new social media channels

Bobby Shmurda may be in prison right now, but no one can forget his track “Hot Boy” (under the clean title), which surged to the top of the charts and even closed out the 2014 BET Music Awards. The track began gaining traction on the video-sharing app Vine, when users began to mimic Shmurda’s dance and the line “about a week ago.” This viral meme turned into a standard radio hit and really blasted Shmurda from struggling rapper to full-blown artist.

The key here is to always be aware of current outlets. Sure, Shmurda’s fans may have taken the effort to create memes, and it seems to have happened organically, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to hop on Vine with your own fun content and encourage folks to remix it, share it, and remake it.

2. Perfect your balance of promotional and personal posts

It’s hard to find ways to promote your work, and it’s also hard to find ways to integrate your personal life in your outlets – but it’s essential. Talking about your day, your life, and your non-musical interests really help fans feel like they’re getting to know you.

My favorite examples of this are 2 Chainz’s food and culinary posts on his Instagram and Diddy’s posts of his family and nights out. Rappers and mainstream artists obviously aren’t the only example of this, either – bands like American Aquarium and Angus & Julia Stone have gotten in the habit of using that healthy mix of posts, too!

3. Network to have the power of social media influencers in your corner

Indie artist Ryn Weaver wasn’t a very well-known name, but that all changed when her single, “Octahate,” was tweeted and shared by artists like Charlie XCX, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and Jessie Ware. This push from those heavyweights single-handedly assisted in the catalyst to her success.

Whether it’s organic, paid, or squeezed into, having influencers in your corner might be that extra boost you need to get your work heard. Check out paid networks like IZEA and Fluence, or better yet, simply make an effort to build genuine connections with journalists and fellow artists who have that large pull and following to help your work.

How You Can Use ‘Instagram Story’ to Market Your Music

[Editors Note: This blog post was written by Michelle Aguilar, a writer and digital artist based in Los Angeles. Read her tips on how to maximize Instagram’s coolest feature rolled out in 2016 when it comes to connecting with fans! If you’re a TuneCore Artist, be sure to check out TuneCore Social in your dashboard.]

Think about the last time you hung out with a group of friends or people.

Now, think about the person in the group that kept things alive and entertaining. Maybe it was that story your friend brought up about that one camping trip and how the tent flooded with rain because everyone else thought it was waterproof so you all ended up “glamping” in a somewhat dysfunctional tavern instead (true story). Well this experience is no different from Instagram’s new Story feature—it provides a visual compilation of a personal event or message. It gives people fresher insight and appreciation to the person sharing the Story. As the long-time writer for Time magazine Roger Rosenblatt puts it, “We are a narrative species.”

Since its launch earlier this year in August, Instagram Story has become millions of Instagrammers’ favorite tool for instant communication. Amongst these, include people of all kind and have attracted entrepreneurs, artists, illustrators, photographers, activists, musicians, DJ’s and much more.

Notice how I’ve mentioned “instant communication tool”. Of course, all social media platforms serve as a medium for communication but when it comes to Instagram as a whole, the new Instagram Story feature serves as a more specifically direct form of communication. Think of it as a new method for highlighting a certain message to your audience.

Reveal Sneak Peeks

Everyone loves gifts, and although it’s that time of year, the type of gifts I’m referring to are the gifts of good old sneak peeks; they provoke interest and an even stronger connection towards your fans and audience.

With stories, you have a chance to take your followers (and prospective followers) on a more realistic journey—without the staged and beautified element that the general platform presents.

Ramp up your Instagram Story by posting a rehearsal session in the studio, a moment with your friends, the process of your art, or exclusive footage on a video shoot. The choices are limitless– just think about a significant moment that your audience would normally not get a chance to see.

Although blogs have been commonly known for their roles in sharing additional insight on a band or any business, the immediacy of the Instagram Story provides the instant gratification that most users seek while helping to retain your current audience, as well as garner newer audiences (assuming your profile is public).

Keep Your Audience Posted

Definitely a pun intended here, but going back to the concept of Story as a more direct form of media communication, Story helps simplify your promotional endeavors. Many musicians, comedians, online influencers and the like use Story to update their viewers on new releases, projects or even special offers. By referring viewers to their link in their bios, they are smoothly directing them on learning more about the offer and how to participate. Announcing merchandise giveaways is no longer limited to a generic promotional graphic or even a gig. All you got to do is just say the word through Story.

Missed out on a concert? No problem!

For those who couldn’t make it to one of your shows, your Instagram Story could serve as an instant preview of what they have missed. Ask someone to record parts of your performance and update it on your story as soon as you can. Not only does this supply your viewers who weren’t able to make it, but it gives them a nice foretaste of your talent and energy — in real-time. Showing them a preview may ultimately inspire them even more to see you live and to continue to support your work.

“Hmm, What Happens If I Push ‘The Button’?”

Notice how when you first log into your Instagram account, you can’t help but glance at the rainbow highlighted icons right above the vertical strand of pictures that follow. There’s a tempting element to this approach. I myself notice that although I might not intend view a user’s story at first, I eventually tap to see what they’re about, because well, they’re all waiting in a row to be viewed!

The new Story feature has changed a significant chunk of Instagram’s template; take this change as a complimentary edge to your platform.

Regarding Instagram’s newly revised template, there are two other perks that come with this update.

First, is that you’re able to get quick qualitative and quantitative feedback on user engagement to your Story. After posting your video, tap on your Story and slide your thumb upwards to see who and how many users have viewed your Story videos. By doing this, you can gather this simple data to help draw conclusions about the types of videos that interest your audience and the types that don’t.

This leads me to the second perk of Instagram’s new template features. Although this feature was added on to Instagram much earlier than the Story, it is still worthwhile to mention. You can easily switch your account to “Business Profile”. Tap the options icon  and then tap “Switch to Business Profile”. You’ll need to connect your business profile to your Facebook account.

Once you’ve done that, make sure to review your business’s contact information and you’ll be ready to run your new business account. Shortly after, you’ll notice a blue “contact” icon to the left of your profile icon. You’ll also notice on the upper right hand side of the template, an analytics icon that will direct you to an “insights” page. This page allows you to review and gain more specific feedback on the behavioral impact of your posts on other users.

Story’s new “1:1” communication format is similar to Snapchat, and if you’re familiar with Snapchat, you’ll be much quicker to get the gist of how it works. On the other hand, if you’re completely new to this feature, it’s helpful to think back to that last time you hung out with a group of friends.

Think about what made you pay attention to that particular person telling a story. What made you engage and what made you respond? More often than not, when somebody shares stories which in turn creates and recreates moments, we are left feeling somewhat more connected and with a better sense of who that person is—that is, what ultimately interests us and keeps us wanting to learn more.

6 Steps To Making Your Band Press Friendly

[Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]

Have you ever tried to reach out to media only to find the sound of a deep and resounding silence on the other end? Maybe you heard back from one or two people who gave you a firm, “Thanks, but no thanks.” If you’re really lucky you heard back from one underground blogger who loves the sound and will get it up right away – and that’s the only response you hear after sending dozens, if not hundreds of emails on your band’s behalf.

It’s not easy to grab the attention of media when you’re a band who is not on the blogger’s radar. There are, however, a few simple steps you may have overlooked. These steps can also make the difference in who will pay attention to you and who will rapidly reach for the delete button on the keyboard.

If you want to increase the chances you’ll band will be covered, follow the next six steps to get your music heard.

1. Make your Site and Social Media Press Friendly

Believe it or not, media is always on the hunt for new bands. Outside of a publicist or direct email from a band, the discovery may happen through Facebook, Spotify, Soundcloud, or a major music festival like SXSW. Once a blogger has found a band he loves, he’s going to look for more information on the band so he can write about it. That may end abruptly when going to the website or social media if there’s no bio, contact information, or in the worst case – music that can be posted on the site. You may think the blogger will just keep digging for the information like a detective hot on the case of a suspected thief. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The blogger is already buried with other band submissions who provided the information quickly and easily so he can write a legitimate post. He’s not just a lazy journalist who can’t bother to do his research. He’s a blogger who has a high demand for his time and can only do so much.

How can you make the blogger’s job easier so you can increase the chances he’ll write about your band? Use this checklist to make sure you have all the relevant information on your website and across your social media.

  • Contact information with an email address
  • Bio
  • Streamed music or link to hear streamed music on a site like Soundcloud or Spotify
  • Links to social media
  • Hi resolution publicity photos
  • Cover Artwork on the single or album

2. Know Your Sound

Blogs, writers and radio hosts often focus on a specific genre or niche, so it’s important to know if your sound would fit what appeals to that particular contact. Before you do anything else clearly state your genre and in seven words or less describe your sound. As uncomfortable as it may be to pigeonhole your sound, it will also help you reach the right audience and start building into a larger one. As I mentioned in my last point, bloggers often face a time crunch, so if you can quickly and easily show them your music is the right fit, you’ll also increase the chance of clicking on the link to hear your music.

3. Know Your Story

Now that you know what information to include for a journalist, you need to know how to convey that information. The first step is knowing what your story is so you can convey it in a compelling way in your bio. At my company, Green Light Go Publicity, we ask all of our bands to fill out a 35 question survey to help round out the story and determine what would differentiate the band from all the other bands out there. You want a bio and story that would make a journalist who’s never heard of you immediately want to listen.  Here are few questions to get you started in helping define your story:

  • Where are you from? How does your location influence your music?
  • Are there any current events or anything in the media that influences your music? Or do any of your songs or album themes tie into any current events?
  • What’s your history? (How many albums, when they were released, how long you’ve been in the industry, etc.)

4. Have an Image That Conveys Your Sound

A publicity photo or cover art can often be the first deciding factor on whether a media contact will listen to your music. Like the bio, you want to make it compelling. You also want to make sure it represents the sound you’re making. Hiring a professional photographer whose photos have been published on reputable music sites is one of the best investments you can make for that reason. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at bands who are similar to you and see how their publicity photos convey the sound. This can give you a great launching point to define your own vision for your band. If you do plan to invest in a photographer, ask bands with compelling photos in your area who they hired and determine if the photographer would be able to capture your sound with the right image.

5. Set a Single, EP or Album Release Date

News by definition is looking for something new. If you’re trying to peddle your six month old album, you’ve already missed the window of opportunity and you’re better off waiting until you have new music to release.  Although there are blogs who are more (and less) forgiving on the timeline, typically you have about a one to two week window to send information on your single release prior and after the release date.

Once you have released it, I highly recommend having it publicly available on your social media and website so it can be easily heard. Pin your tweet and and Facebook post announcing the single release so it’s at the top of the page. If you’re releasing an album or EP, you’ll want to start sending information three to four months prior to the release. This is so the media contact has time to become familiar with your band and give the music a good listen. Your album or EP should only be available as a private link until after the release date. [Editor’s note: Try setting up a Pre-Order for your release on iTunes and Google Play to build excitement!]

6. Make Sure Your Pitch Includes Necessary Information

Now it’s time to put it all together and write a pitch that includes the necessary information in a clear and concise format. You should include a two-four sentence description of your band including your hometown, genre and description of sound, accolades (notable musicians you’ve played with either on tour or on your record etc), and story about  your band or album. In addition, you should have links to the following information (no attachments!):

  • Single approved for download
  • Private album stream
  • Bio/EPK
  • Publicity Photo
  • Social media including Facebook and Twitter

Once you’ve pulled all this information together you’ll have a steady foundation to not only contact media, but to also give you a chance to be discovered and written about without having to advocate on your own behalf.