I’m so damn sick of the “If you can afford a $5 coffee, you can afford to support musicians” argument. Here’s why:
a) You’re lucky people can’t download coffee (or your argument would be out the window)
b) I’ll support what I like, when it’s at a fair price and it’s something I feel I need to have (essentially a page taken from Supply and Demand 101)
c) Stop comparing proverbial apples and oranges and remember “if your government can afford space exploration they can afford to pay musicians union wages!” (That’s a joke for those of you having trouble with this blog)
Now for the record, I’m not saying your music isn’t worth five bucks – in fact it could be worth a lot more. What I’m saying is that it is your job to tell me why I absolutely need to have it! Why my life will be less interesting without it! And what added value I get from giving you my money versus some other artist (or just stealing the audio online for that matter). And if you can’t do any of these things? Well, you probably aren’t going to get my money (or other fans money either).
To continue on the coffee analogy, think about it this way: some coffee shops charge you a dollar for a cup of java whereas others might charge you upwards of $5 for a nearly identical liquid bean. Some companies turn profits based on high volume sales (due to a lower mark-up) whereas others have a substantially larger profit margin. And of course, much like music, let us not forget that every person at home thinks they can brew a perfectly fine cup of roast as well and will gladly give it out for free to their friends and family. Similarly, musicians charge a wide range of prices for their CDs ($5-$20+) and some will even just give them away for free (however this seems to be mostly those who have an issue with selling the product).
I could continue on the analogy train comparing Tim Horton’s and Starbucks to the likes of Universal or Sony but the point I’m trying to get at is that both the coffee and the music industry are multi-billion dollar industries which are consumed regularly by the masses daily. The big difference is that the coffee industry hasn’t tried to convince consumers it’s dying in a painful sympathy vote to get your money. It realizes it has a service that people want (arguably need!) and are willing to pay for. And much like other industries it’s found creative ways to market their product and continue to inflate pricing while turning a profit and providing a service people desire.
Somewhere the music industry lost the fundamentals of Economics 101 and tried to re-write supply and demand to fit within the very confines it had built around itself. Not only did it miss the mark entirely but along the way it confused many artists. The bottom line is you need to create something people want and will hold value for. Once you have that you can monetize it any way you see appropriate for your consumers.
With modern technology it is easy to stay in touch with your fans and even encouraged; while in the majority of cases this is a boon in some situations this can be detrimental. The most common case for this is allowing fans to access and hear incomplete or unpolished songs.
Most fans of your music are likely to want to hear things like rough mixes or demos of but chances are that you should avoid letting fans here these until after they have heard the final version of a song. Letting fans first experience with a song be one where it is incomplete or of poor sound is likely to leave a bad impression on all but the most interested of fans. It can also be detrimental to have fans get familiar with a song when the rhythm, melody or lyrics can still change, chances are you want your fans to be most familiar with the final version you play live and not the original rough cut.
Having demos or rough mixes be a person’s first experience of your music ever can create a negative impression for new fans. For people who are already fans this effect is dampened by their foreknowledge of what to expect but for someone unfamiliar with you it may make them think of your band not sounding very good or professional. Anytime you are trying to introduce someone to your music you should always put your best foot forward and let them experience what your music sounds like when fully finished.
You may also want to keep your demos out of the public eye if you are still shopping the album around to labels. While not as stern as they used to be on this sort of matter there are still plenty of labels(in particular the bigger ones) who will not want to release an album if fans already have easy access to a previous version of it. Allowing other industry to hear a rough draft or preview music for them is fine but you should never let something go public without fully considering the ramifications.
I have some bad news for you – very few people care that you’re releasing a new album, going on some little tour, or doing a new music video. Sure your core fans are tickled pink at the prospect of you doing one or all of these things but the average media outlet, music fan, or industry professional really couldn’t give a shit.
There are a few reasons for this: one is that this is all pretty standard fare for all performing musicians, and two (and perhaps most damaging) is that you aren’t giving them a reason to care. Creating genuine buzz or becoming a buzz band is often more calculated than many people would presume. At the very core there has to be a great work of music that is being shared but outside of having worthwhile content there are things you can do to make your band’s events more buzz-worthy.
#1. Tell A Story
People will always gravitate towards a good story, especially if told by a good story-teller.
#2. Engage Your Fans
Leveraging your fan base is one of the best ways to gain real buzz. Finding ways to make them feel included in your story is key to building a strong and lasting fan base.
#3. Use The Element Of Surprise
Most people are sick of hearing bands say things like “We have some big news coming soon”. In addition to raising the bar too high, this causes a boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome. Forget the tease (unless you know it’s actually big news) and just go for the sucker punch.
#4. Do Something Different
While it has pretty much all been done before, if you look hard enough and get creative you will see that there are still unique ways to reinvent the proverbial wheel.
About Rose Allen
A marketing and communications professional with a love of the cultural landscape on the East Coast, Rose Allen has worked with organizations including the East Coast Music Association, OUTeast Film Festival, The Disappeared, the Halifax Jazz Festival, the Atlantic Film Festival, Neptune Theatre and Eastern Front Theatre.
Rose is a devourer of news, art, books, adventures and social media, and is always looking for new organizations or projects to get involved with. Engaged in her community, she has volunteered in leadership roles with Gottingen Street for Scott Jones, the Halifax Pop Explosion, WetSpot Halifax, Women in Film & Television Atlantic, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and LunaSea Theatre Company, to name a few. She is dedicated to experiencing and listening to her community.
It’s probable to find her with a dog or three, carrying a newspaper, a Steinbeck novel and an Archie comic at the same time. Rose is a future fashion designer and a children`s TV show host; dream big kids.
I see a lot of artist bios. (I shake my head at a lot of artist bios). I think the artist bio is one of the most important pieces in a press kit, festival guide, website, etc. When I read a musician bio, I want to know the artist behind the curtain; I want to get a peek at their creative mastery. Tease me, intrigue me, and if you can do it in less than five sentences you’re sure to please me. Since I complain about artist bios, I thought I should put my money where my mouth was. Since I am not going to re-write all the bios I hate, I wrote this instead.
On Musician Bios…
Your bio is a sales tool, which communicates what you have to offer to bookers, labels, media, agents, promoters, fans, etc. This value has to be communicated clearly and should be clever, but not indulgent.
Bios are usually the first thing read about your band. A good bio may get your music listened to, a bad one can turn someone off from listening to your music altogether. Your artist/band bio needs to have a positive tone, be straightforward yet enlightening and the narrative has to be interesting – you want the reader to not just listen to your music, but ultimately become a champion for it.
Where to Start
To start your bio, think about your story and what your music sounds like. What is your mission statement? Why do you play music? Which qualities set you apart from other bands within your genre? What can a fan expect at a live show? Having a mission statement will help inform your bio and can be woven into your story.
If you had 30 seconds to answer “what music do you play?” or “tell me about your band” what would you say? Your mission statement needs to not just be your own reflection/perception. Think about your fans (other than your Mom) and peers – why do others love your music? What is the audience reaction at your live show?
A band bio that starts with or integrates a mission statement is powerful and has a better chance of captivating your reader (so they keep reading, about you googling you, listening to and promoting you).
Tell a Story
While your band bio does need to be professional, it also needs to tell a story and avoid the standard formula.
Start your bio with your mission statement and then make sure all the particulars that follow about your history and playing experience could not belong to anyone but you. Just like who? Avoid comparisons to established artists. Who are YOU? Again, being clever is good, but don’t indulge yourself. You don’ t want to induce eye rolling. What is happening NOW in your career? That is what I want to know now and where you should start.
There are a lot of attractive, talented, hard-working musicians out there, so without your story (which is more than education, practice, etc.) your bio will probably sound just like that other band, you know the one…I forget their name.
That being said, this is not a memoir. No one wants your life story and most readers don’t give a shit if you started playing piano at age four (unless you’re Mozart). Generally, skip childhood. Are you promoting a new record? Talk about that record. What experience relates to your band/music? If you’re a band and not a solo artist, no one wants individual member bios. You want your readers to know the names and roles of the members, but you are selling the package, not the fact that Johnny was in the best Blink 182 cover band ever.
The Long and the Short of It
Your long bio should be max 500 words. Your short bio should be about 250 words and even then, sometimes you will be asked for 100 words. You should also have a three- five sentence bio that can be used for social media, festival guides, etc.
As a rule of thumb, your short bio is just your long bio stripped of a detailed history, focusing heavily on your mission statement and current projects.
Your baby bio is the hardest to write. Clever, capturing and current. (The bios in the SappyFest and Pop Explosion guides are my most favourite East Coast examples).
Your story is dynamic and always unfolding, and your bio is a way to tell this story, so keep it up to date. What is happening NOW? Land a big show? Get signed? Win a prize? Working in the studio? Writing new music? Even if nothing earth shattering is happening, you should be revisiting your bio often. Clean out that symbolic refrigerator. This sales tool needs to reflect your current plans and where you will be in the future. Keep ‘er up to date to keep your audience engaged and paying attention.
Often a band will look to other bands for inspiration or advice on how to advertise their new album, social media or other relevant materials and while this is a a generally good thing to do looking outside of music can be a great place for new ideas. Other forms of art and industry can often times have easily applied methods and ideas to helping advertise whatever it is you may need.
Video games in particular as a newer medium often times will focus on newer more digital methods to advertise themselves which can mimicked at a much lower cost than more traditional forms of entertainment such as T.V. or Movies(though both do sometimes have great moments). Something videogames are great for is putting out videos whether on youtube or elsewhere as well as creating communities both of which can be done relatively cheaply and quickly these days.
Even larger businesses such as Strabucks can have great though somewhat expensive advertising plans such as when they had manholes painted into their logo. What a lot of these larger companies are good at is plastering what they are advertising everywhere and making sure it is in face so that it will eventually become ingrained in your mind. While you will want to avoid becoming too spammy and repetitive in alerting people to yourself there is obviously a merit to ensuring people are aware through repeat and broad advertising.
Chances you will dislike thinking of advertising and the inherent self boasting that comes with it but if you honestly believe that you have a good and worthwile product for people to indulge and consume shouldn’t you want people to know about it.
We have decided to take the easy route for this final music solutions blog of 2013 and rehash some highlights from our year.
Overall it was a great year for us at Red Tentacle, we kicked off our year by showing our NO ONE OWES YOU SHIT presentation at Music PEI Week, which was also featured in the fall in Calgary at NOCTIS Metal Fest before launching a brand new presentation titled 20 REASONS YOU’RE NOT A ROCKSTAR! at Pop!Talks during the Halifax Pop Explosion. We also spent a few months helping out the good people at the East Coast Music Association by providing social media management for their amazing 25th Anniversary East Coast Music Week in Halifax.
Our (near)weekly Music Solutions blog continued strong cracking 30,000 blogs read this year with our most read blog being Enforcing Your Own Radius Clause. As always our purpose has been to provide free knowledge, ideas, education and of course, the occasional hostile rant such as articles: You’ve Waived Your Right to Complain and Placing The Blame so delicately pointed out. In addition to our own writings we were joined by Chantal Caissie for this great guest blog Do I Have to Spell It Out for You? (which should be mandatory reading!)
When we weren’t ranting on our blogs or blabbering our presentations we were happy to get to work with so many awesome bands like Shooting Guns, Nami, Ramlord, Death Valley Driver, Orchid’s Curse, TSLCORSASZ, We’re Doomed, Bloody Diamonds, PITH and record labels including: Year of the Sun Records, Diminished Fifth Records, Hypaethral Records and No List Records. So a big thanks to all our clients!
Plus you know we love live music, and we are happy to report that we helped to produce over two dozen concerts(many partnered with Morbid Entertainment) including FUCK THE FACTS, VITAL REMAINS, TRIGGER EFFECT, THE MONSTERS OF SCHLOCK, INSURRECTION, BIIPIIGWAN, THE GREAT SABATINI, HELM, BLACK MOOR, DEATH VALLEY DRIVER, IRON GIANT, ORCHID’S CURSE, WE’RE DOOMED, DISSECTIONAL (A Tribute to TOOL), PORK SODA (A Tribute to PRIMUS), our monthly LOUD THURSDAY series and many others! (Our upcoming shows can be found here)
Thanks again for all your support in 2013! We look forward to another great year of supporting and helping musicians and independent music businesses in 2014!
-Josh & Hassan
As the new year is soon upon us much like in your personal life as a musician you should take some time and review some of your goals, your current standings on those goal and other things you hope to have happen this year. A good thing to do would be to take some time and look at things like your social media growth and sales for the year so that you have a solid foundation to start with and that you can build out from for the rest of the year.
As a band you should always have goals, those don’t have to be anything extravagant or impressive such as becoming fully employed playing music or having a national tour. It can be as simple as play x number of shows or release album by x date, without having even minor goals chances are as a band you will just mindlessly float about never doing anything or playing much. If you are a more serious band then you should look at fleshing out your goals with details and projected timelines.
Keeping tack of things like shows you play, attendance, followers/likes on social media etc. are all great things to help you in measuring and progressing towards your goals. These numbers do not have to super detailed at all, a simple spread sheet with a few columns that summarizes these things is more than enough to help you at having a better ability to see how these things are changing over time.
Finally do not get too caught up in hitting your numbers perfectly at the exact times you want. Setting realistic goals can be very difficult as a band so if you don’t hit all your goals in the exact way you want do not let this discourage you. The best thing you can do in this situation is take some time, re-evaluate our goals and perhaps change them a little to be more attainable.