Archive for the Marketing Category

How to Sell Out Properly pt. 2

Posted in Marketing, music, The DIY Musician with tags , , , on May 17, 2012 by artlovemagic

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at derekmiller5@gmail.com

(This is a continuation of last month’s post of How to Sell Out Properly)

6. Maximize Your Draw: Adding a band/company to your portfolio is risky. The larger an initial market you can show your investors, the easier it is for them to justify signing you up for a few albums.

Put yourself in the A&R rep’s shoes. Even if you loved this new band you saw, how would you defend your decision to sign the band if the only people in attendance at the show are the band’s significant others?

Same decision, now assume the band can regularly pull 60 people at regional shows.

Get your pull up. Don’t assume that a label will “discover” your no-name band at an open-mic night. Get a big enough fan base and buzz that the label hears about your music and have to check it out themselves.

7. Already Be Making Money: Less risk for investors. Same as above.

8. Take Any Contract to Your Lawyer Before Signing: Yes, lawyers are expensive. But so is being trapped in a crappy contract for five albums. If you’re not finished with or currently working on a law degree, you’ll save yourself years of heartache by having a professional review the contract to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.

Labels assume (correctly) that most musicians don’t know about or care to know about contracts. While there are benevolent labels out there, there’s also malevolent labels out there. Protect your band so you don’t become trapped in a terrible marriage.

9. Know Your Band Member’s Intentions: Have a serious, sit-down talk with everyone in the band to work out all the details you can think of before you sign anything.

-Does everyone want to get signed?

-Is everyone willing to relocate?

-What is the minimum offer we would accept?

-What is our goal for getting signed?

-Where does everyone want the creative direction of the band to go?

-What would make everyone happy?

-How much control will we give up?

-Will everyone be able to work around getting signed, or will some have to quit their jobs?

-Would the band member’s spouses approve?

-Would each band member be able to take care of their dependents?

-How much touring is everyone willing to tolerate?

-What would cause someone to want to quit the band?

-Are there any current issues with/between people that must be taken care of? (Skipping practice, not paying rent, fights, medical issues)

10. Be Respectful: You’ll get turned down.

A lot.

The Beatles were turned down by Decca, HMV and Columbia because “Guitar groups are on the way out.” It happened to them, and odds are your band isn’t the next Beatles.

That’s perfectly ok.

Deal with rejections gracefully. Say thanks, and scurry off. Don’t get mad, don’t act crazy, and don’t bad mouth the label; the industry is all connected. If word spreads you’re jerks, it’ll be much harder to gain an audience with already-overloaded label professionals.

There’s millions of other considerations to make, but these are the red-flags you need to take care of before earnestly pursuing a label. Anything else you think should be added to the list?

P.S.: Are you noticing how improving your band in order to get signed sounds awfully similar to how you build a career as a DIY artist?

I thought so.

Yelp Presents Passport to Deep Ellum

Posted in Art Business, Community, Deep Ellum, Marketing with tags , , , on May 14, 2012 by artlovemagic

This is a great video promoting Yelp’s Passport to Deep Ellum. Thanks to Harmony Witte for being the lead mural artist, Taylor Cleveland for being the assistant artist and capturing the footage, and to Pablo Herrera for editing the film.

How to Sell Out Properly pt. 1

Posted in Art Business, Marketing, music, The DIY Musician with tags , , , on April 19, 2012 by artlovemagic

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at derekmiller5@gmail.com

So you’ve got it in your head that you must be signed to be happy. As you know, I am very much against labels as they are 95% of the time a terrible financial decision.

However, you don’t care.

Cool, let’s work with that. Join the party!

Since you’ve got your heart set on getting signed, let’s get our heads around how to look sexy for a label. As I’ve mentioned before, getting signed and getting bought out are exactly the same thing. A larger entity with lots of cash is willing to supply you with some sweet, sweet cash money in exchange for future profits and oversight. Not all of these investments (bands) will return as much cash, so a venture capital firm (label) will have a diverse portfolio (artist roster) in the hopes that a few investments (bands) will make enough money to cover the losses for all the failures.

The label’s interest in you is contingent upon how your band performs as a financial instrument. An advance is essentially the label loaning you money for a set period of time with the expectation that you’ll be able to repay the loan plus interest, thus making the label a Return On Investment (ROI).

If you’re making the label less money then they’re spending on you, consider yourself on the short list to get dropped. At this point they may suggest you change your look, sound, or direction. It’s not really a suggestion. Once a label has thrown cash at your band, it’s your duty to help them recoup their cost. Often, a band is given an advance to record an album with the stipulation that the band will not receive any additional compensation until the label makes enough cash to cover the advance. After that thresh hold is met, you’ll still earn only a percentage of profit from each sale. You have to make them that skrillah or you’re gone.

So if you really want to be signed, you want to position your band in a way that signals to labels that “this band is a solid investment.”

Let’s talk about some ways to preen your band for getting signed.

1. Study the Labels You Want To Get Signed On: Each label has a distinct personality, and your band needs to be careful about who they choose to do business with. (Death Row Records was affiliated with The Bloods and hired crooked cops/gang members!)

 Pay attention to the sounds of artists already on the label. Do they already have forty bands that sound like you? Or do you think you’d be a good way to round out their lineup? Remember, it’s about portfolio diversification.

 Pay attention to the marketing and tone of communications the label uses. Do they like proper press releases with careful wording, or are they more punk rock-ish? This will help you determine if the personality of your band would be a good fit.

 Pay attention to how satisfied artists are with the label. Does the label actually listen to the artist, or do they chew bands up and spit them out on a regular basis? (See the Victory Records Hawthorne Heights lawsuit)

 Pick out a list of a possible labels in your genre that might be a good fit for your band. Tailor your band’s “pitch” to fit each label’s personality, and you’re more likely to catch their attention.

 2. Find an “In”: Getting a label interested is infinitely easier if you can find an actual person to listen to you, as opposed to sending in a demo EP in the mail. Look around the label website, music publications, blogs, and local music industry directories to see if you can get a name.

In most cases, phone will tend to be ideal since emails and physical mail are much easier to ignore. Better still would be having a friend introduce you. Be polite and to the point with your pitch.

3. Pitch: Label or no, you need to know how to describe your music in under 10 seconds with a solid pitch. The goal of a pitch is to only get the “main ideas” of your art across and interest the listener enough to have them say “Hmm, ok. Tell me more.”

This is good: “We’re The Wigglin’ Waggles, a danceable Nirvana-sounding band from Dallas. We’d like to ask your permission to send a demo CD so we can talk further about possibly signing with your label.”

This is bad: “Hey, dude. Where do I send our demo?”

Expect more posts on building an effective pitch in the future. This is a BIG topic.

4. Get a High-Quality Demo: Your music needs to be its best to get someone to pay attention. If you have to apologize for your sound recording (It’s just a demo, man, so ignore the skipping sound), you need a new recording. End of story.

5. Minimize “Distasteful Behaviors”: Pure-bred businesspeople are uncomfortable going too far outside the norm. Musicians and artists live to push the boundaries, as that’s where artistic growth comes from.

But be aware of this disconnect.

There’s an limited amount of ‘edgy’ that a firm will be willing to tolerate before you cross a psychological thresh hold where people become uncomfortable. the ‘edginess’ works against you. Venture capital firms are less likely to help fund totally new enterprises in wholly unproven markets, as they have to defend their decision to their bosses. It’s much easier to defend investing $10 million when “the market for all-natural pet nutrition has been growing at 12% yearly, and this young company is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this growth.” It wasn’t until after Nirvana and Pearl Jam blew up that it became incredibly easy for a grunge band to get signed.

This thresh hold exists even in corporate life. Even if the official company policy says “tattoos and piercings are ok”, having ostentatious sleeves and plugs will permanently stunt your career at a corporation. We (humans) like those that look like us. We identify and help those that look more like us, consciously AND unconsciously. Being “too far out” makes others uncomfortable with you AND themselves. Just the same as if you were wearing a full suit to a punk rock show, looking like a punk rocker in a cubicle is asking for others to distrust you. Don’t.

So how do we apply this knowledge? First, cut the songs you have called “I’m Going To Punch Your Mom In The Face”. That’s not mass-market material. You can still keep some swearing and vulgar material in your songs because, hey, it’s rock and roll. But you don’t want to get too avant-garde with your performance or too offensive in your lyrics that your songs would not be playable on radio.

You don’t have to water down yourself completely, but be aware that you’ll want to polish your rough edges so that an A&R rep will spend her time selling you instead of explaining/defending you. And ditch hard drugs. Drugs signal unreliabile people which makes it difficult for a label to trust that dropping $20k on an album won’t end with someone in the band freaking out and ending up in rehab. Don’t be stupid.

To be continued next month.

What Exactly Is “Exposure” Worth?

Posted in Art Business, Marketing, music, The DIY Musician with tags , , , on March 15, 2012 by artlovemagic

Derek Miller is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at derekmiller5@gmail.com

“Getting your name out there.”

 Some are willing to give away their entire catalog for free in  hopes that the extra exposure will build loytalty and gain fans.

 Other artists insist that every piece of music should be paid for and don’t care about exposure.

 What, exactly, is exposure worth?

 My thoughts:

 A) The exact value of exposure-for-exposure’s sake is nebulous at best.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to calculate an exact value for each additional unit of exposure, so to speak. Much like advertising, the benefits are only visible over the long-term and are often difficult to directly quantify.

For example, how many additional fans would you expect to get for making an album available for streaming online for free? Would these additional fans buy enough of your music, merch, or shows to make this trade-off a net benefit for your band? This great post by Frank Woodworth does the math to estimate profit per stream, but attempting to discern the value of increased fans and their propensity to purchase is strictly guessing.

 As much as I’d like one straightforward answer, it seems justifying a decision based on the value of exposure is a subjective choice. In the case of streaming, I choose a blended approach.

B) Some types of exposure are more valuable than others.

Paying your own tour expenses in order to tour with an internationally popular band that fits your genre would (probably) be worth it. Paying to get your music tweeted about by a local music blog may be worth it. Paying to get your music available on a Chinese web store if you’re a Tennesse-based funk band will not be worth it.

C) Opportunities that tout “exposure” as their primary selling point should be looked at skeptically.

 Often, the word exposure is a red flag that a service or person is trying to take advantage of you. We’ve all had fantasies that if we get our music in front of the right A&R person / magical wizard, our entire musical career would be solved forever. Companies who base their value proposition on offering bands exposure are playing to this fantasy.

 In our early days, my own band bought into one of those compilation CD rackets where we had to pay $200 for a box of compliation CDs which one song of ours would be on. We were going to be taking baths in exposure-flavored champaigne!

 After dropping the cash and getting the compilation, we quickly realized that the other tracks on CD were awful and didn’t have any rhyme or reason as to why they were all included. It was a mess and we couldn’t, in good conscience, charge people for that collection of debris. I’m pretty sure we ended up throwing the box out.

 Our email inbox is so flooded with these kinds of “opportunities” you’d think we were one email and a thousand dollars away from a world tour. That exposure must be some pretty powerful stuff!

How do you feel about the concept of “exposure”? Does your band give away free music or not? Why do you make the choices you do?

Don’t “Go Viral”

Posted in Art Business, Marketing, The DIY Musician on December 15, 2011 by artlovemagic

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at derekmiller5@gmail.com

You don’t actually want to go viral.

Sure, “Going Viral” is a sexy buzzword. Sounds downright fun to get a million youtube hits in a week; “Woo woo! We’re gonna get a million dollar record contract now, lets go out and buy golden toilets!”

Not quite.

Recent research shows that speed of adoption is inversely correlated with longevity. Or, to put it more plainly:

The faster you rise, the faster you’re gone.

HappyCat 4 LYFE

Cats Are More Viral Than You

The Beatles didn’t “Go Viral”, they worked their butts off night after night after night. Michael Jordan didn’t make a video of a cat playing a keyboard next to introduce him playing; he worked his butt off night after night after night.

If you don’t have the quality to sustain the sudden fan interest, you’ll disappear overnight.

I’m not denying that the idea of getting your “Big Break From The Internets” isn’t sexy. I’ve fantasized about the magical “discovery of our band” too. It’s a pretty satisfying daydream, to be honest. Fun stuff.

But don’t forget how short memory is on the internet. Getting attention for the sake of attention is a waste of time. The only endurable way to build your musical future is to get attention because you’ve worked your butt off night after night after night; when your stage performance is so brilliant that anyone who sees you will tell their friends “Hey man, these guys are INSANE on stage! I want to steal their garbage they’re so good!


Anti-Marketing

Posted in Art Business, Marketing, music, PR, The DIY Musician on November 17, 2011 by artlovemagic

post by Derek Miller

The Atlantic did a killer piece that highlighted the trend towards band’s using Anti-Marketing.

Short Version: Some indie bands are purposely obscuring their names, hiding their faces, and refusing interviews as a means of image-management.

Love it.

As I mentioned previously, becoming too popular too fast will hurt your band’s longevity. 

Buzz magnifies people’s expectations, which in small doses is beneficial for a band. But if too much buzz is laid on, the gap between fan’s expectations and the actual music is too wide, and the fan is left with a foul taste in their mouth.

Smart bands need to adjust how much hype gets pushed on them. Too little and the band’s fan growth stagnates but too much and the band’s fan base deflates. It’s all about managing expectations.

From the article:

From that point on, there has to be enough substance to the group to sustain them through the post-hype phase. Look at Die Antwoord. The South African rave-rap duo baited the media for months with a lewd web art, bizarre videos, scarce information, and exotic promise. Once people learned that they were a satirical act helmed by Johannesburg performance artist Watkin Tudor Jones, who had released music under other personas in the past, excitement for the group largely vanished, right on time for their Interscope debut, $O$, to debut at 109 on the Billboard 200—a flop by major-label standards.

Anti-marketing is a valuable tactic. It’s a pressure-release valve for when you feel that the press is going a little too far in their promotion of you. How to make the call when you’re getting extravagant praise is the real challenge here. Intuition is all you’ve got here, and that’s easily clouded by the ego getting all warm-fuzzy from the attention. In all likelihood you won’t need this tactic though, since most artists don’t get explosive hype storms.

Anti-marketing, like all tactics, needs to fit within the strategy of your art. Using a tactic that doesn’t fit your strategy is not a good idea. Self-aggrandizing rappers probably don’t have much use for anti-marketing. Bedroom produced indie-electro-pop is a different story.

Keep an eye on how much hype you get. Anti-marketing may one day be just the tool you need to keep buzz under control.

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at derekmiller5@gmail.com

DFW Reporting article on ArtLoveMagic

Posted in Community, Deep Ellum, Marketing, videos with tags , , , , , , on September 4, 2011 by artlovemagic

Deep Ellum has people with hearts for the arts [HD] from DFW Reporting on Vimeo.