Thursday, September 30, 2010

Split Gigs

As I've said so often on this blog, getting gigs is one of the hardest things for an artist or band to do. Once upon a time, there seemed to be a club on every corner and most of them had live music, but obviously that's no longer the case, so the competition for every date and time slot is fierce.

If you're playing in showcase clubs where you only play a single show, a way to expand your reach into another territory is to trade gigs with another band. This is where you each book a local show, but you trade them so each band gets to play in a new venue. The problem is, it's not always easy to find another band to trade gigs with.

Now comes a service called Split Gigs, a social network that helps bands, musicians and dj's find gigs to play. The site enables bands to connect with one another to exchange gig possibilities, and according to the site, even book a tour.

While this idea can work, be aware that you run the risk of incurring the wrath of the club owner or promoter if the band you're trading with doesn't bring a crowd (which won't happen since probably no one knows them), so it might not something that can be done often. Then again, if you can arrange for the other band to share the same bill on an opening slot and then vice versa, that could work well as long as the promoter agrees to it.

Check out the trailer for SplitGigs.

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Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Is A Brand?

One of the things that an artist or band hears a lot these days is the need to promote "your brand" in order to get ahead in Music 3.0. That's all well and good, but it's hard to promote your brand unless you know exactly what a brand is. So what exactly is a brand? Here's a quote from the Music 3.0 Internet music guidebook that describes it perfectly:

A brand is a promise of quality and consistency. No matter where in the world you go for a McDonald’s hamburger, you know what to expect. No matter what product you purchase from Apple, you can expect sleek high-tech design and an easy to understand user interface. Brand management is protecting the image of the brand and carefully selecting how to best exploit it.

For an artist, that means a consistency of persona, and usually a consistency of sound. Regardless of what genre of music the artist delves into, the feel is the same and you can tell it's the artist. Madonna has changed directions many times during her career but her brand remained consistent. Here persona remained the same even as she changed to and from the "material girl." The Beatles tried a wide variety of directions but you never once questioned who you were listening to. It was always fresh and exciting, but distinctly them.

On the other hand, Neil Young almost killed his career with an electronic album called "Trans" that alienated all but his hardiest fans, and the well-respected Chris Cornell may have done irreparable harm to his long-term career with his recent album with Timbaland ("Scream") even though it was the highest charting of his career. Why did this happen? For both artists, the album no longer "felt" like them. Both Young and Cornell built their careers on organic music played with a band, and as soon as their music became regimented and mechanical, they lost their brands. After Trans, Young returned to his roots and slowly built his brand back to superstar level, but it's too soon to know what will happen with Cornell.

How do you determine what your brand is? It's easier said than done.

In order for an artist to successfully promote their brand, they must have a great sense of self-knowing. You must know who you are, where you came from, and where you're going. You must know what you like and don't like, and what you stand for and why. And you must have an inherent feel for your sound and what works for you.

And that differentiates a superstar from a star, and a star from some who wants it really badly but never seems to get that big break.

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Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

5 Strategies To Sell More Merch

Every artist and band wants to sell more merch. It's a profit center (one of the few that a musician has) that has to be treated with a lot of forethought or you'll find yourself with too much inventory with a slow sell through. Here are a 5 strategies that can help you increase your sales immediately.

1) Limit the choices. Having 5 different colors of t-shirts might be a nice touch, but it's crazy inventory-wise and actually can impede that sale. A good salesman limits the choices to only 2. Any more and you risk the potential buyer throwing their arms up and saying, "I can't make up my mind," and not buying anything!

The same can be said for different styles of shirts as well. Remember, too many choices = buyer indecision.

2) Target the merch. You're a lot more likely to sell heavy sweatshirts, hoodies and beanies in the Minnesota in the winter than in California in the summer. Likewise, tanktops are going sell in better in Florida in the summer than in Detroit in the winter. You can even increase your profit margin (i.e. charge more) if the merch is climate appropriate and targeted.

3) Tie the merch to a tour. Tour merch generally sells better than generic items because you're celebrating a moment in time. Even if you're just playing local clubs you can do this successfully by calling a t-shirt something like, "2010 Club Tour." In 2011 you change the color and style to give your fans a reason to purchase again. Sports teams do this every year by changing the color and even the style of their uniforms. You can do it too.

4) Don't forget the girls. Under the right circumstances, it's well worth it to have an item aimed just for the ladies in style and color, since many girls and women would never be caught dead in a generic shirt. Guys, don't design or pick this item out yourself. This is one time help from the opposite sex is mandatory. If in doubt, go back and read #1.

5) Be careful of novelty items. Novelty items such as lighters, condoms, beach balls, etc. can be fun, but usually don't sell well. They're usually meant to be given away for free to remind people of the brand, and that's the way they're best used. Once again, remember #1.

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Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How Not To Do Business

It's tough enough to try to work with a major record label if you're an artist, but if you're a producer, engineer, studio, or anyone providing services to a label, it can be completely maddening.

For instance, it used to take 60 days to get paid after you turned in your invoice, which seemed like an eternity. Then the majors lengthened it to 90 days, which is totally unreasonable. Now the norm is more like 120 days (4 months) or more, which is outrageous. But you have to draw the line when they ask for sensitive personal information, and then negligently share it with the outside world.

The following is an email I received from famed producer/engineer Ken Scott (The Beatles, David Bowie, Jeff Beck, Missing Persons, among many others) regarding trying to get paid for a Supertramp DVD mix from Universal Music.
"Some information for you to use however you see fit, whether that be with your friend or in your blog or not at all.
I am in the middle of a battle with the accounting department of Universal Music, which you might or might not know is now based in India. Yes, they've outsourced it. 
The battle started initially because of slow payment through their incredibly ridiculous Uniport payment website. That is nothing compared to what is now happening. Uniport is a supposed "secure" website and so there is a certain feeling of safety when one HAS to insert full bank details, routing and account numbers, the usual. BUT when they start to send out ones full banking information via completely unsecure email I get very worried. 
I have raised my concerns several times, the last to which I received the following: 
"Just would like to inform you, your below bank details are completely safe as we are care taker for your account and we did not mark any outside people. We did mark only Jack as he is your label (provide good and services for you). If payment got rejected then we need to inform to you and label as well." 
Of course this email once again contained all my banking information.
What has brought me to "spread the word" is that subsequent to my concerns, they are still sending emails containing my information, just not copying them to me. The fact that a major company like Universal would make you give them your most valuable information, if you want to get paid that is, and then float ones most private information for any cyber criminal to obtain and use should be brought into the open so they are forced to change this completely negligent, bordering on criminal, practise.
As I said, use it however you see fit. Quote me if necessary."
If anyone connected to UMG sees this and can help Ken, let me know.
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Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

10 Resources For Booking Gigs Online

Here's a post from the great Hypebot blog regarding finding and booking gigs online that deserves a repeat. For just about every artist, playing in front of an audience is the ultimate reason why you get into music in the first place. Getting gigs has always been the toughest part of the job until you have an agent, which you never have when you're first starting out.

This post is attributed to Duncan Freeman (founder of Band Metrics and Indie Music Tech), provides a pretty good overview on the services available.

    1. GigMasters (booking platform for artists and talent buyers)
    2. GigMaven (free and easy-to-use booking website for musicians; currently available in NY, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, DC, Austin, Phoenix and Ohio)
    3. Gigwish (influence venues, promoters and booking agents by enabling an artist's fans and their local music scene to vote for them)
    4. (an online booking community where bands and musicians connect with venues by sharing their music)
    5. Live Music Machine (get booked anywhere for any type of live music event, as well as getting booked directly from MySpace)
    6. MusiGigs (a private beta service that helps artists get booked by connecting venues directly to bands)
    7. OnlineGigs (booking and promotional tool, and one of the largest detailed venue databases)
    8. ReverbNation's Gig Finder (search over 100,000 venues and clubs, and locate those that have booked similar Artists)
    9. Sonicbids (the largest and most successful online booking service for musicians, bands, managers, promoters, etc., as well as corporations and organizations looking to book artists)
    10. SplitGigs (a new social web-app that helps emerging artists find other artists to exchange and share gigs with)
      Artists may also find sites like EventfulMeetupBandsintown and Songkick helpful for locating venues and artists to perform with.

      Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

      Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.


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