Lastly, don’t only promote your music online! I know the internet has made it easy to sit and promote your music from the comfort of your own home. That said, if you only market your music offline, you’re missing out on a load of other worthwhile opportunities!
What? Bear with me. Most bands have been struggling to make ends meet, so when a label offers them a $25,000 advance it seems like such a large sum of money, and the opportunity to make even more. But if your band is already financially stable it won’t seem like such a big deal. When the label does a Dr. Evil with the pinky and says “We’ll offer you $25,000 dollars” as an advance, you want to be in a position to negotiate a better record deal. Maybe a joint venture. In addition, you could cut a deal that dedicates more of those dollars to marketing, music videos, advertising, or upgrading your live show.
Ocean finally broke his silence, emerging with a teasing live stream as the prelude to a full visual album (“Endless”), followed quickly by “Blonde,” deployed equally as a marketing and business strategy. “Endless” fulfilled his commitments to Def Jam and “Blonde” was an independent release. His effort channeled Beyoncé and Kanye with pop-up stores, a zine and Snapchat filters all combing to make the weekend of the release all about Frank.
And that’s what this article is for. I’ll share 21 books that will help you out in your music career. Some of these are written specifically for artists and industry people, others are written for a wider audience… but the information inside them is applicable to building your artist career.
But that doesn’t mean you’re forced to perform in the traditional ways. Bars and clubs aren’t the only options. The Internet has opened up new ways to perform which didn’t exist just five years ago. One route is through live video performances, either for a small, personal audience through a service like Skype, or for a large audience through platforms like Twitch. On Twitch, you can live-stream your performance, interact with your fans through chat and video, receive payments, and sell merchandise. Some artists are using connections built through the Internet to book small house shows all over the country. The crowd is small, but intimate, and fans are willing to pay more in order to actually meet and hang out with a favorite artist.
In 2013, Marcus Taylor won the award for ‘Young Visionary of the Year’ at MIDEM. Marcus is passionate about marketing and the music industry, and has consulted to some of the biggest names in the music industry through his agency, Venture Harbour. Marcus founded this website in 2009, and has reached over half a million musicians ever since.
Getting your music on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play and other platforms makes you available to your fans wherever they listen to music. Obviously the royalties won’t be huge the second your music is in the stores.
[…] to musicians they also find themselves responsible for the business side of the music industry. Self-promotion has never been more important, but it’s also never been easier or cheaper. Social media and […]
If you distribute through CD Baby or Tunecore, I recommend you use their Publishing entities CD Baby Pro or TuneCore Publishing. Another good option is SongTrust because they are highly adept at YouTube collection. If you are signed to a label or a 3rd party owns your master, you can start your own publishing company and have Harry Fox Agency (Now owned by SESAC) manage this part of your publishing rights.
We don’t want to equate music sales to buying electronics, shoes, or clothes. The point I want to make is that the consumption of your music needs to be a polished and effortless experience. Think about the process of buying an Apple product, or shopping on Amazon. If those don’t appeal to you, think of your favorite brand and why you like buying from them over and over again. Go through the process of discovering and buying your band’s brand and products. Is it ideal? Does your best stuff come up first? Did you find the track you want coming up first? What’s preventing people from discovering or buying your music and merchandise? Is it the algorithm? The price? Somebody else’s content? Optimize the discovery and conversion process for your band.
StageIt and Concert Window are leading the way in the online concert world. Most shows are “pay what you want” and encourage tipping. I’ve played a few StageIt shows and have averaged about $5 a head for a “pay what you want” concert (from tipping and tickets). Not bad for playing songs from my living room.
This year Taylor Swift assumed and defined the #squad by amassing a multi-talented tribe including Lena Dunham, Cara Delevingne and “It Girl” Kendall Jenner. Her squad was then deployed across music videos, live shows and awards shows. She drove wide use of the term in culture and girl power and still benefits from it through a sense of ownership of the tag.
Album art is extremely important for the online music world. In most cases, your music will be prominently featured with album art being the first thing people see – before ever hearing your music. If you want a chance at someone clicking the artwork to hear your song, the image better look worth clicking.
Try it out by setting up a paypal.me address and adding it to a new page on your site. It takes less than five minutes to set up, and could be worth so much value to your yearly income online. And hey, you might be surprised at the greatness that can come from just asking.
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Ian Clifford is the owner of Illicit Media, a music management and consulting company. He is also the owner of Make It In Music, an online site that is the ultimate resource for aspiring musicians offering advice, tips, and insight on all the skills needed by modern artists to succeed in the rapidly changing music industry.
Don’t skip over this. I intentionally did not title #2 as “Up your merch game” even though that is what this is BECAUSE you’re probably so over hearing how important merch is that you would just skip right past it. Listen to me. When on tour, merch is your #1 income generator. If you do it right. Artists fret over guarantees and door splits while totally ignoring the potential of merch.
This is a great book, but keep in mind that it’s not up-to-date anymore. The music business is rapidly changing such that the internet is more important than physical CDs. This book has a lot of great information on brick-and-mortar retail, but doesn’t focus enough on or have the most current information on online marketing.
This book is a personal favorite of the EDMProd team. It’ll change your perspective on the modern workplace, teaching you how to craft a business that works on its own. As an artist, you’re also an entrepreneur. The hacks and tips in this book will help you be more efficient and effective, not just in production but also in your career.
Mike King’s, “Music Marketing…,” is a great insight into the industry from someone who has actually worked in the game. He provides tips and tricks with how the industry used to and currently operates giving a leg up for the saavy artist who desires to make a living in the music world. Mr. King does not honey-coat the realities of the business because, after all, music is a business. The book takes the reader through some industry history, current operations (at the time) for marketing and supply chain distribution and insightful quotes from organizational leaders who have either grappled with or taken ownership of technology and how its transformed the business. The advent of internet sales and marketing are now in the forefront of the industry so I certainly look forward to a second edition follow-up. This is a must read for those setting their sights on making a career with music and I highly recommend it. Great read!
Put a tip jar at your Merch table with a big sign, “If you liked the show, show us how much! Cash (arrow) or Venmo: @mybandname” You can even have a projector on stage and have like a real time auction with Venmo tips for a screen print or a backstage hang or a date with the drummer. Whatever. There are endless possibilities. Either way, think about how you can utilize Venmo to make more money at the show.
Julie understands the mindset you need to succeed because she’s worked in all sides of the business. She was a major label AND an indie DIY artist, and she now coaches creative entrepreneurs on how to increase their income, and change their overall mindset for lasting and healthy success. Julie helped me grown my own business and she is incredibly gifted at helping creative people move mountians.
It turns out that fans want to support artists, and they’re willing to put money on the table so long as that money reaches the artist, not a middleman. This isn’t small change, either — fans are willing to invest serious amounts of money in their favorite artists.
Learn how to get your music into brick and mortar independent retailers, what kind of materials you should make to support your release, and the inner workings of the online retail and distribution outlets
Patreon is one of the most amazing platforms I’ve come across, because it’s like every musician’s dream! It provides a way to rake in a steady stream of monthly revenue on the basis of sharing your art and giving rewards. They’ve built the site to provide a sense of community and filled that gap between artist and fan. It’s beautiful, and I can’t rave about it enough.
When Drake’s “Hotline Bling” single came out it didn’t make a huge impact, but then the video was released, propelling it up the charts. Drake appealed to fans to push it to No. 1, but by then the new music queen had returned, so “Hotline” settled at the No. 2 slot. The music video is a best-practice benchmark on how to design a music video for the internet. A selection of choreographed dance movies on richly colored backgrounds, it’s screaming to be sliced into gifs and memes and it gave publishers a unique angle to cover.
We have to start this list with the new queen, Adele. She disappeared, the industry stopped talking about her, but when she came back, she did it right. The album launch of “25” was executed brilliantly, and according to Nielsen Music it sold a record 3.38 million copies during its first week. Adele smashed the previous record-holder NSYNC by over a million copies. Her single “Hello” also broke the record for the most-watched video on Vevo in 24 hours, racking up 27.7 million views.
Digital goods aren’t perceived to have a high value, because the cost of making another copy is essentially $0. That’s not true of physical products, and that’s why fans are willing to pay a lot more for these goods. This is precisely why vinyl has had such a startling comeback in recent years. Of course, merchandise is another wonderful example of a physical good which has remained strong as a source of income for artists. This is especially true in combination with…
This doesn’t work. Social media isn’t just about getting more Facebook likes for your band – if you want to have success in social media, it’s important to treat it as a tool for fan engagement rather than a promotional platform.
If you don’t have a big budget, and want to go at it DIY, check out this guide on promoting your music to radio stations. If you do have the money, you can hire a radio promotion company to reach out to radio stations on your behalf. These companies have existing connections at radio stations, and can give you play reports to help with touring efforts.
Now, companies have a direct and almost instant link to people that use their products, and will pay people to help them speed up their market research. When I found out about it, I was a little skeptical, but I decided to try my hand at it anyway.
Keep this quote from Abraham Lincoln in mind. “If asked to chop down a cherry tree in four hours; I would spend three hours sharpening the ax and one hour cutting down the tree.” Apply this to your money making ventures. This ties nicely with leading with your best content.
Collaboration is an often overlooked aspect of music promotion. It’s a great way to get your music in front of a new group of people and grow your fanbase exponentially. You can collaborate on pretty much anything. Just make sure you collaborate with musicians whose fans would appreciate your music. Choose to work with bands in a similar genre or with similar fanbase demographics.
In episode #24 of the Music Marketing Manifesto Podcast Ariel Hyatt from Cyber PR joins us to discuss the impact that a well developed brand can have on your music career. Because without a well developed brand… the marketing just isn’t going to work. In this interview Ariel lays out a few simple steps that any artist can take […]
Some examples of Government Sponsored programs are below. You must be a citizen of the country in order to qualify. Most governments offer grants and assistance to fund the arts, some better than others. It’s disappointing that music is such a powerful cultural source, but only allot less than 10% of their cultural budgets to musicians. The United States is in jeopardy of losing their organization completely, so it’s important for musicians to speak up about this issue now. I went to the website where I was hoping to point you in order to apply for a grant, and this is what it says right now (here). It seems rather dire. I found an email address to the director if you want to voice your support for the program and get active. Ann Meier Baker firstname.lastname@example.org
I bought this book because of how affordable it was used, it might have been relevant when it was published however now all of the information published, especially with regard to social media is outdated and/or easily found for free in music marketing blogs. I hoped at least the music industry information would be helpful, but it’s only a brief synopsis. For example, it talks about press releases without providing any in depth examples or instructions on writing one. That’s just one example however. If you know nothing about the music industry I guess it might be helpful, but most of this information is already available for free on the internet.
This book is an extremely fun and insightful read, written by the Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. How Music Works dives into what makes music catchy, and how musicians adapt their music to different venues and mediums. A great read if you want to learn about the business but want a more “leisurely” read.
It’s important to remember, though, that social media isn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to promoting your music. It can easily become a huge time suck that takes you away from your music if you don’t manage your time properly (Hint: get social media time management tips here).
Now onto the really great stuff – the books above are great reading if you want to learn about promoting music or the music business in general, but the most well-rounded and intelligent musicians I meet are often those who explore outside of the boundaries of the music section in their library. Here are my top five books of all time for musicians.
Great discoverability – when you watch a video on Facebook, that’s been uploaded to Facebook, they recommend more videos. This means if someone is watching a music video similar to yours, they might be exposed to yours next.
This is one of my favourite books on the boring side of the music business (sorry music lawyers). In Music Business: The Essential Guide to the Law and the Deals Ann talks through everything you need to know to keep your hands clean and be prepared when managers, record labels, sponsors, and other music companies start asking for your autograph on a dubious piece of text-heavy paper. The book is fun and has lots of hard-hitting case studies from her career as a music lawyer where well-known musicians got screwed over by lawyers, record labels and other music business professionals. If you’re looking to learn about the various types of emerging deals and contracts, this is the book.
This course starts with the basics – an overview of key music marketing principles, terms, and practices which together form the foundation for all music marketing plans. From there, students will dig into the key areas of opportunities for musicians, including merchandising, publicity, radio promotion (online and traditional), retail & distribution (online and traditional), advertising, and touring. Students will learn what companies and partners to work with to reach their core fans, how to communicate with them, and the ways to leverage the changes and new opportunities that the internet offers to marketers. The information in this course can form the basis for a full marketing campaign, or be immediately implemented into a new marketing and promotion campaign. This course looks at the opportunities available at both traditional terrestrial marketing opportunities, as well as online opportunities. By the end of the course you will have an active marketing plan and timeline tailored to your own unique strengths and budget.
When musicians ask me for recommendations on books to help them advance their music career, I rarely recommend books about music promotion, as many get outdated, or just say the same old shit e.g. ‘Be active on social media’ or even more painfully ‘Build a loyal fan base’. Below are a few exceptional books that I would recommend, along with a few great books on creativity, and success that I regularly recommend to musicians.
This can be a delightful way to earn on the side. I sometimes find myself looking for new and interesting music to listen to whenever I want to relax. I’d definitely welcome any worthwhile opportunity to earn extra while doing something I enjoy. It’s also a good opportunity to help aspiring music artists. Thanks for sharing this post.
21. PS ALSO – if it’s right for your style, DO put yourself into the LOTTERY of the big time – record deals, the Voice, and shows like it, etc. Just realize it is a LOTTERY and a game, not a measurement of your talent, abilities, soul, musicianship or success. At most, it might be a metric of your good looks and commercial appeal. It’s a game you can play, but you can’t make the rules for it. Don’t take it too seriously, but PLAY it if you are brave and silly enough. We did! And while it lasted it was a thrilling ride on the rollercoaster of the music business. You just have to remember that you don’t own the amusement park!