Archive for Art Business

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.

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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?

Louis CK’s Million Dollar Experiment

Posted in Art Business, music, The DIY Musician with tags , , on February 16, 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

For those of you who missed it, on December 10th Louis CK released a self-produced, self-financed comedy special for a $5 download on his own website. No restrictions, other than asking you “please don’t pirate this.”

He made a million dollars in ten days, no middlemen required. 

Louis C.K. said he was shocked as he watched the orders come in — and then began to feel guilty about the amount he’d netted.

“I’ve never had a million dollars all at once. I grew up pretty poor and I was like, this is not even my money,” he said. “This is just a five-dollar impulse that 220,000 people had, and now I have it. And I felt uncomfortable about having that much money.”

So Louis C.K. set aside $250,000 to cover the cost of the expenses of producing the special, then doled out another $250,000 in bonuses for his staffers.

He then donated $280,000 to five charities: The Fistula Foundation, The Pablove Foundation, charity: water, Kiva and Green Chimneys.

“I was going to [donate] $100,000, but it’s like blackjack — I just kept dishing it out,” he told Fallon.

That leaves $220,000 left over.

“Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my childen [sic]. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business,” Louis C.K. wrote in a statement posted on his website.

He’s not the first artist to make a killing without a label, this just serves as more proof that you can make it on your own. Radiohead’s In Rainbows made the band more money than they’ve ever made for a record even though it was a pay-what-you-want record.

1) Direct-to-fan sales mean cheaper products AND more money going to the artists.

For a large company, $1,000,000 is break-even. For a DIY artist, it’s a smash hit. Rembember $18 CDs back in the 90s? Each CD you bought from a third party only returned cents to the band.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather keep my first million.

2) Fans will pay for great art from the artists they love.What with all the shenanigans the MPAA and RIAA are throwing about to justify the Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act, you’d think people will only pay for art when they’re forced to.

Nope.

As the video game distribution platform Steam has shown, making legitmate purchase a better experience for consumers opens their wallets.

Piracy is a service problem.

Louis CK allowed you to download and watch his video using any platform you wanted.

He didn’t even bother copy-protecting the video.

He didn’t have to.

“I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one.” – Thom Yorke

Artist to Artist – Sherry Muldoon

Posted in Art Business, Artists, Community, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , on January 7, 2011 by artlovemagic

The ArtLoveMagic  special blog series  “Artist to Artist” continues with photographer Sherry Smith-Muldoon.    Our goal is to help artists by sharing  the wisdom and experience of  other artists.     What we wanted to know specifically from each artist was:   1)  What did you learn in 2010?     AND     2)  What are you planning for 2011?

Self Portrait Photo - Sherry Smith-Muldoon

As an artist, the most important thing that I learned in 2010 was to trust God by trusting myself.  In February of 2010, I made a very risky decision in my photography career.  I decided to leave a well paying corporate job with a pretty stable income and dive back into the insanity of self-employment.  I decided to become a fully self supporting artist!    Crazy?    I have not once regretted the decision.   As a result, I feel like I have been able to progress more creatively into my passion.

photo by Sherry Smith-Muldoon

My goals for 2011 are to do more things that I feel that I was “called’ to do both personally and in my career.   As a photographer, I am mostly drawn to children.  Maybe it is my inner yearning to stay lost in childhood bliss and to never grow up.   Or maybe I love the fact that children are generally never self-conscious in front of a camera.  You  get what you see!!   And I adore that about kiddos.    In 2011, I hope to work more with children and I am particularly passionate about drawing kids attention to the arts.   I hope to pursue my own personal mission in that area.    I also want to develop more in the art of photography and design.  There is much to learn and I still have a lot to say through the lens!!

photo by Sherry Smith-Muldoon

photo by Sherry Smith-Muldoon

To learn more about Sherry and her work, please visit these websites:   www.dreamfocusstudio.com
http://www.sherrysmith.exposuremanager.com

A little sharing….

Posted in Art Business, Artists, Uncategorized with tags , on June 16, 2010 by artlovemagic

This year has been incredible for me…artistically speaking.  I’ve been so blessed to participate in several shows, some large and small, but all of them have been awesome in their own way.    This week in particular has been super busy…I have 2 small showings this week and I’m getting ready for a larger show with ALM (girlShow) in July.    As a result of all these opportunities, a demand for changes in my life, art and art processes has arrived too.   Since I’m learning as I go, I wanted to share a little of my journey with you.

** The Recession – has helped me to get out of the box by working a little smaller than usual in order to produce cheaper artworks for patrons who are being more cautious with their budgets.  The quality is the same as the larger works and there has been a good response to the newbies so far.  AND, since everybody loves a sale, I’ve also discounted some older paintings.  (I can’t eat these things….)

**Art Inventory – I read a quote by O’Keeffe in which she advised that every serious artist should have 3 shows worth of work on hand at any given time so that they could be ready to take advantage of opportunities with little advance notice.    WOW, that’s awesome advice, but very challenging.   I only have about 1.5 shows worth of work on hand, so when opportunities arise, I get stressed and wonder if what I have left over from a partially sold series will work.    IF I had a large enough inventory, I wouldn’t have that problem.      What are some other benefits of having 3 shows of artwork on hand??    It keeps the artist busy producing new things,  which should help advance skill levels and concept development, plus it shows a diehard dedication to your craft to patrons/collectors.    What am I doing about it?  In the past 2.5 months I’ve created 38 paintings and have sold some here and there.  (Most of the newbies are small and are not on my website yet.)  My goal is to have another 20 paintings completed by the end of September, so I’ve been sketching like crazy.

**Getting Focused – For me, this means less TV, less talking on the phone, less time on the computer, less time hanging out here and there and more time behind the easel or drawing in the sketchpad.    These days, I don’t mind saying “no” in order to stay home and create, so this has been a huge leap, because I love to serve and help others, but establishing boundaries and knowing when to take time off is essential if goals are to be achieved.     

What are you doing or learning during this season of your artistic journey to hone your skills or advance your art career?       (Please feel free to share with us)

-Michelle McSpadden

Why Selling Your Art is the Best Thing You Can Do

Posted in Art Business, Artists, Community, Deep Ellum, Service with tags , , on November 5, 2009 by artlovemagic

The amount of money you receive is a measure of how many people you have helped and how well you helped them.

“You must come to see that part of your goodness, part of the benefit you bring to others, is your daily conduct in operating your business enterprise. You have to come to understand and utterly absorb into your being the fundamentally true idea that your activities in your business are virtuous and moral. You must understand the nobility inherent in going to work each day.” (How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist by Caroll Michels)

Earn a living while offering the world your artwork. Your art accomplishes this:

  1. Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one. ~Stella Adler
  2. To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist. ~Schumann
  3. Great art picks up where nature ends. ~Marc Chagall
  4. What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit. ~John Updike
  5. Art is like a border of flowers along the course of civilization. ~Lincoln Steffens
  6. Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable. ~George Bernard Shaw
  7. I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum. ~Claes Oldenburg

Come and enjoy my class, Why Selling Your Art Is The Best Thing You Can Do, this Saturday, November 7th at the Mokah Bar. Find out more on ArtLoveMagic’s website: www.artlovemagic.com

Nathon Hay