Business for the Independent Musician

Speak Your Music was founded on the principle that artist’s create.  Whereas a lot of people who get involved in music also tried to get their own music career going at some point, this was never the case for me.  I’ve always been the business person in all of my music dealings and have never tried to pretend that the music lime light was something I aspired to engage in.

The true difficulty, I’ve found, for musicians trying to make it independently comes from a lack of sound business principles. Most independent artists learn a form of “street business” that comes from the constant hustle and grind of trying to peddle your music to whoever will listen.  This street business knowledge is extremely important for the independent artist but it must be supplemented by the foundations of business.

When I started my first music based business at 17, I didn’t know what I was doing at all.  I lost a lot of money on frivolous business decisions that I thought would be a good idea but if I looked at it from a true business foundations stand-point I would’ve realized that I was creating waste.  I didn’t have processes, I flew by the seat of my pants and tried to react to items thrown at me daily.  There was no strategy.  I picked up the street business knowledge but I wasn’t rooted in the foundations that would’ve helped that first business take off.

With street business knowledge for independent musicians, you’re reactive.

There are no strategies and no processes.

You have a goal that you hope to get to but, you don’t know how you’re going to get there other than try to get your music heard.

This type of business is great for dream chasing but it is not ideal for running a strong business.

The key to reaching your goal is to understand the steps you need to take in order to get there and put processes in place in order to aid you in achieving those steps.

Let’s think about a standard organizational structure for example:

At an organization you will have functional groups such as Marketing, Engineering, Procurement, Sales, Research and Development (sometimes under Engineering), Manufacturing, Customer Service, Finance, Accounting, Legal, and more.  Typically, as an independent musician you will have to ignore some of these functions at first, wear many hats in another case, and build your team for the final case.  However, when you think about the functions you allow yourself to begin organizing your patterns and where you focus your efforts.

Lets break some of these functions down from the standpoint of the independent musician:

Marketing:

As an artist you need to have a plan for how your music and YOU (as the brand) are going to be perceived.  This includes the message you convey throughout Social Media, the branding on any flyers you hand out, how your shows are structured, and the overall way in which your marketing efforts will build on themselves.

Engineering/Research and Development:

Engineering/Research and Development is truly the creative process for independent artists.  In conjunction with your marketing efforts you should understand what kind of music you are looking to make.  Your marketing efforts (along with sales) should help you understand what kind of music your fans enjoy the most.  Note: This does not mean you hurt the creative process by only catering to what is popular but instead you are knowledgeable about what is in the market place and what works.

Sales:

You need to have goals for you music, shows, and merchandise!  I’ve seen too many times where an independent artist will put on a show and blast it all around social media without a plan.  Focus on what you would expect your actual attendance to be (unless you’re established, you will likely not sell out…be realistic) and then set a goal for sales.  By setting a goal you can ensure you focus your efforts on the correct market to achieve your goal.

Why is this important?  If you focus your efforts in a calculated manner you can also ensure that you have time to focus on other respects.  Think about it this way: If I spent 100 hours  getting people to my show who would’ve come with only 20 hours of work, I could have spent another 80 hours on other potential revenue streams such as merchandising or preparing ways to capture fans.

Organizational structure is key in being able to develop strategies and processes that allow you to take your independent music business to the next level.

In order to understand your own personal independent music business you need to understand how to structure yourself to succeed.  By thinking about the different facets and the processes involved in each you will be able to create a long lasting strategy to move you into a better position with your business.

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K.I.S.S.

K.I.S.S. means Keep It Simple Stupid.

Sometimes we all get way too focused on all of the latest stuff that we never allow ourselves to actually make anything happen.  I remember when Myspace started getting big for artists and you had artists adding all of the latest widgets and gadgets that it completely bogged down their page and made it unnavigable.  You have to be careful about this in your music career as well.

There are tons of ways to market yourself, and you should try to use all of them.  But, the key is to create a system that allows for ease of use and simplicity.  Whenever you begin exploring a new avenue for music marketing and promotion you should be asking yourself “how can I fit this into my system?”

For example, their are tons of social media sites out there, there are also tools that allow you to update every single one of them at once, you should be utilizing these tools.  I use TubeMogul when I want to upload a video, this allows me to upload a single video and then it distributes that video across multiple video sites.

Keeping it simple does not mean that you avoid new things, it means make them work in a system.  Simplicity is best met when you use a team.  Running a team to perform tasks is much easier than trying to do everything by yourself.  But, how do you find a team?  My favorite place for teams when it comes to music is to find college students who have an interest in music business.  A lot of people get this wrong though, they think they can take college students as free work by saying they’ll gain experience.  Be real with them, give them real benefits, and do what you can to give them REAL rewards.  College students tend to have a strong work ethic which is why I like working with them.

Remember: KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID

-Eric “Fuse” Phillipson

PS.  You can catch me with DJ Fittd on 502FM.com today (Mon, May 10th) at 4PM EST.

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Music Marketing with Social Media: Why Most Artists Are Failing


Social Media Integration for Artists

About a week ago I made a status update on facebook that said, “Logging on just so I can hit ignore, ignore, deny, ignore, mark as read, deny.”  Funny, I know, but its true.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t deny, ignore, or mark as read everything I get, I confirm things I’ve seen elsewhere or am familiar with, I attend events that are relative to me.  This brings up a few points in Social Media and how artists are using it in music marketing and promotions.

With social media you cannot focus on one place. There is no reason, as an artist, you should be on Myspace and not on facebook and twitter, or even youtube.  These sites work together to build your brand recognition.  Myspace is great for use as a second electronic press kit (your first should be your own website).  Youtube allows fans to connect with you visually, twitter allows fans to see the day to day, and facebook is a great avenue to just keep that crowd up to date.

A good social media campaign for an artist will have all of their social sites working together to build the brand.  As an artist you are a brand and if you don’t think of yourself as such, you need to start.

Beyond keeping social sites in sync, many artists are failing at creating a targeted fan base.  Why am I receiving event invites for parties in New York when I am in Michigan?  The best thing about the internet, from a marketing standpoint, is that it is measurable.  You can measure where traffic is coming from, with ease.  So why take away from these measurable stats by not focusing in on your target market.

Here’s a tip for new artists, instead of spending countless hours adding a bunch of random people, why don’t you invest those hours into targeting potential fans in your city? Once you gain a following in your city, and you’ve captured them through your social sites as well as created your “street” exposure, then branch out to capturing those in your state, from there branch regionally.  If you start small with baby steps, you’ll be able to run eventually.

So why do most artists fail with music marketing through social media?

A) They don’t allow their social sites to build off of each other or run in sync

and

B) They don’t target potential fans

If you think of yourself as a business and make your moves based on business decisions rather than whats easy, you’ll see your career move in a better direction.

-Eric

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Booking is in the Details

“I’d like to perform at your venue, how do I go about doing that?”

“Send us a press-kit”

End.

I’ve heard this exchange MANY MANY MANY times.  The truth is, a lot of beginning artists don’t know how to go about trying to get booked for shows.  I like to liken getting booked for a show (in the early stages) to job hunting and job interviews.

When you are trying to get booked for a show a lot of times you are trying to find the venue that has the right fit, just like a job that is the right fit.  If you are a BRAND NEW artist your first venue should be in your area.  A little basics real quick, capture your market (city) first. Once you find the venue that you feel is a good fit for you, there are a few options to explore.

One, you could try to book a show on your own night, this is good for people who have a decently established fan base.  But, here I want to talk to the young artists.

The other way is to try to book as an opener for a larger act.  This is where it is also like a job interview, going in to speak to the booker, you should already know the date and who you are trying to open for (i.e. know the company).  Also, a lot of times promoters are the ones who determine who is at the concert, so find out whether the venue is booking the acts or if an outside promoter is.

The reason I say booking is in the details is because the more you know, the less you’re asking the booker to research.  If you know the name of a group performing, the date they’re playing, and you think your style compliments them, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the new guys who call up and say “I’d love to play a show, what do I need to do to do this?”

By knowing exactly what you’re after you are taking out a lot of guess work.  Most bookers are still going to need music, so also try to find out when the person booking the acts will be in so that you can deliver a sample of your music to them.  This will raise your chances of booking a show a lot more than the person who decides to just leave it at the venue for booking to pick up when they get a chance.

Remember, it starts with one.  Once you get that first show booked and you can build a following of people to show up, you’ll keep building your leverage for other shows.  Just make sure when you’re doing shows, you capitalize on the opportunity!

-Eric Phillipson

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