(Excerpt from “Your Band Is A Virus – Expanded Edition) A big question often asked in today’s music market is how independent musicians can sell product. After all, most people steal their music these days, right? Well, not exactly. There are still ways to make money at this thing called music. We’ll go over a wide range of tips.
Create abundance in your mind: A lot of musicians have unhealthy attitudes towards money. Many musicians tell themselves that money is unimportant. If you want to be a successful musician, you will need to discard this idea right away. Call it “punk rock ethic”. Call it whatever you like. If it doesn’t help you, it’s just a convenient world view – an excuse.
Change your attitude: There is a lot of doom and gloom in musician’s minds these days. Don’t even hang around with these people, let alone allow yourself to be one. Music should be played for the love of itself before all else. Don’t let anyone convince you that your art is not welcome in this world. Be a positive force.
Outsource: Why is it that musicians often yell the loudest, demanding to rake in money, but yet they very rarely actually try it. Making money is not just about asking for $5 for your CD. That’s lemonade stand thinking. Why not outsource your efforts? Hire a personal assistant. Hire freelancers. They are much cheaper than you think, and you can start on Craigslist. Have them research the licensing and publishing markets. Have them build media lists for you. This can change your life.
Don’t be daunted by your friends and family: Your friends and family, in most cases, are going to be unsupportive. They’ll tell you they love your music – just don’t expect a CD sale. It’s just the way things are. That’s ok, because it’s the outside world you want to reach anyway. Don’t let it get you down. Put yourself in their shoes. Do you really want to go to your cousin’s dance recital? Your art is for the world, not your family. It will save you endless discouragement if you just expect nothing from them. Believe in yourself and don’t let it stop you.
Customize your content: Not everyone wants the same old CD. Many artists are finding the secret to earning more money is targeting niche groups. Making custom merchandise for each tour stop is an idea that will engage your fans and also give them the feeling of individuality. Why would they want the same t-shirt that everyone else has? Hunter’s caps and baseball caps, or possibly shot glasses, could end up being your biggest sellers, so don’t write off any options.
Limited edition: That sounds enticing, doesn’t it? People are attracted to scarcity. Limited edition vinyl pressings or CD releases can generate amazing results. Some record labels even adopt this strategy, limiting each release to only 500 or 1,000 copies. This could even encourage pirating of your music, which, as I mentioned earlier, isn’t a bad thing. It just means you’re in demand. It’s hard to create that demand when there are limitless amounts of the same product.
Target the market with buzz: I wrote earlier about “creating the frontline”. This may take a few months, but once it’s complete, your band looks much more appealing to the buyer. Go to www.kyshera.com and check out their press section. This is a perfect example of impressive press quotes, and you can certainly take it further. In order for you to be in demand, and for your product to be in demand, you need to “appear to be” in demand. Get it? This is why it’s so important to have 50, 60, 100, 200 reviews, blog posts, and press quotes. Fan-made videos and forum posts as well as news releases and an active fanbase spreading them all make a difference. Appearances become reality, especially when the buzz is warranted.
Get busy, look busy, and stay busy: Some bands don’t sell and they can’t identify the problem. Maybe your album came out 6 months ago and you’ve been playing a show a month ever since. People can tell when you’re not busy, and it’s not all in relation to live shows. People can just sense when the momentum is missing. That’s the best way I can explain it. This is why it’s important to record multiple bonus tracks, even extra EP’s, high quality live audio and live videos. If you’re not releasing a new album for another year, it would be a huge benefit to put out something new monthly to appease your fanbase and encourage growth. As a result, the outside world will see your band as productive content providers, and worth following up on. The band that waits around loses.
Stream your music and don’t believe the hype: Many new streaming services have popped up over the past 10 years, and they have mainly been controversial because of their typically horrible payment rates. Spotify leads the pack here and is generally the most heavily criticized of the bunch. Pandora, Last.fm and Jango are other popular streaming sites. What many musicians don’t understand when they debate on forums about these things is that these changes are most likely here to stay, and most importantly, a significant portion of people choose to discover their music through sites such as these. If you withhold your music because of political reasons, you miss out. Some people stream in order to decide what to buy, as well, so being accepted in the streaming game can mean more sales.
Go viral: Get people posting your mp3’s and sales links all over the place (the ones you want distributed, anyway). Persuade people to write about you in their blogs and forum posts. Put up YouTube videos featuring your songs. Spread the message far and wide.
Talk to people: Be a real person. Talk to people on Facebook. Comment their profiles. Participate on forum chats. ALWAYS leave your web address as your signature. Many people are more likely to buy your CD if they feel they have had a good conversation with you or that they ‘know someone in the band’. It’s a win-win situation.
Solve a problem: Who needs your music? There are niches out there that your music can fill. Is your music good for meditation? Could it be used by a political activist organization? Could it be marketed to others who are in line with your beliefs? How could it be useful in people’s actual daily living?
Covers: Everyone knows that cover bands make way more money than original acts. The covers market is lucrative and shows no signs of letting up. Sure, you may want to wear a mask to hide your real identity, but gigging regularly as a cover band could earn the funds you need to properly promote your original band. Just saying!
Note: Only you know if this is a good option for your band. I don’t typically recommend it as I personally prefer bands who are uncompromising. However, anything that allows a band to save up if a positive thing; even if it’s children’s parties.
Play live: I constantly hear artists saying that “if a good live opportunity comes up, we’ll do it”. I’ll save you some time in telling you that if you’re waiting for someone to knock on your door and bring you out on tour, you’re going to be waiting a long time. It’s important for many reasons that you play live and play often. All the tactics in this book should help you, but it’s arguable that the single most important thing for you to do is to play live. Book your own tour or hire a booking agent. Don’t whine about the fact that you have a job. You’re the captain of the ship. You’re just contradicting yourself, which brings me to my next point.
Mixed signals: Most bands fail to create momentum and really sell/create demand because they send mixed signals. They say they want to be in Rolling Stone and travel the world but expect someone to do it for them. The world is always against them somehow, and it’s easy to see through.
This isn’t even something that should be said when it comes down to it. It puts a jam in the works, doesn’t it? The main thing to understand is this. All of us human beings, we are all in the same situation more or less. We all experience the same sorrow. We all go through hardship. Most of us don’t have what we need to live a healthy life. Most of us are poor.
No one cares about your particular situation. It’s neither unique nor special in any way. It doesn’t even matter how justifiable your story is. Whether you broke your leg or you got a disease, there’s a point when complaining loses its potency. Complaining about Spotify, Sonicbids, or entertainment lawyers won’t do any good. Don’t let being in a band be your thing to complain about. Do your research and set an example by showing a positive face to the world.
Music consultants will tell you that at the independent level, bands and band members must be accessible. So create profiles for each of your band members and make them accessible. Provide contact information for each member on your official website. Add their individual profile information to your Twitter account. Some people may have questions for the lyricist about the meaning of a particular song. Other people may want to ask the guitarist about his gear, or how he or she got started. Once they get that friendly response directly from the member of the band it will get them on board. They will be a loyal fan and much more likely to buy a CD.
Steal your way to the top: One of the best ways to get ahead is to steal tactics. Find bands that are similar to yours but more successful. What are they doing right? Start connecting with their fans. Connect with them and ask their advice. Post comments on their page – the less spammy and the more personal, the better.