Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hook Me Up!

~ I often get asked about how to get endorsements, aka "free shit". I found this helpful little piece off of the Schecter Guitar myspace. www.schecterguitars.com Enjoy...

Musicians performing at all levels consider acquiring endorsements at some point in their career. Some play with the idea; others move on it. Ultimately, it is the reasoning or motive behind one’s actions that determines success as an endorsing artist.

From the manufacturer’s point of view, endorsements are designed to help promote the credibility of a company’s instruments or accessories. They also exist to give the appropriate support to established artist and to help the company sell more instruments.
Ask Why

When someone asks a manufacturer that they want to endorse their instruments, they listen without interrupting until they are completely finished with their pitch. Then, after a long pause, they look you straight in the eye and say one word, which is one of the most empowering words in our language. They simply ask "Why?’

The artist’s response will ensure or quell any interest on the manufacturer’s behalf. If they continue talking about how good they are, or how close they are to signing that big record deal, or how they would be crazy not to sign them, then they’re invited to send a package and the conversation is ended as quickly and politely as possible.

If, on the other hand, the artist says that they love the instruments, have found complete freedom in musical expression playing them, and indicate that they will continue playing them whether they are endorsed or not, they continue to listen.

Be Professional

It is amazing that musicians will apply to several manufacturers at the same time. Consider the lack of credibility involved here. What does this say about their musical decisions? What they are really saying is that it doesn’t matter, musically, what instrument they play and that they are just looking to find the company that will give them more.
Musicians "get a clue." If you want to be taken seriously in the big leagues, act like a professional, make a musical decision, and stay with it. If you want to be considered for a corporate, musical, and personal relationship through an endorsement, consider the following:

1) Cast a clear vision for yourself: know who you are; determine your own sound; devote yourself to music … the songs, the group, the sound, your students, and your career. When you are making a living playing music and have something to offer others, then move on to number two.

2) Ask yourself why. Why are you asking for an endorsement? What are you willing to offer? What do you bring to the table that would matter? What attributes do you have as a person and as an artist that would make you invaluable to a company?

3) Do you have an established career in music? This is a yes or no question. Be realistic, as this is the real world. Some guidelines: how many thousand or tens-of-thousands of recordings were sold last year with your name listed as the main artist? Are you currently on a major tour? How long have you been in your current band or symphony? Of what college or university are you a faculty member? If you are still in college, stay focused on your music and forget about endorsements.

4) In order to merit clinic support, you must be a great clinician. A great player is not necessarily a great teacher or clinician. This is an important point. Before you ask for clinic support, have 100 clinics under your belt and make sure that belt is a black belt in the art of teaching. It is important to the manufacturers that someone who calls himself or herself a clinician is indeed artful and effective at this work.

5) Make yourself an expert on the company that manufactures the instruments you play. You show know its history, philosophy, current artist roster, and position in the market. If you want to be an endorsing representative of a company, you simply must know and respect whom you would be representing before you approach them. Study the company’s website and determine how it represents its artists. Do you fit in the roster?

6) Establish rapport. Introduce yourself at trade shows to the company’s staff without presenting a package or even mentioning the word endorsement. They assume, if you are talking to them, that you can play. Remember, many of the people working for instrument manufactures are fine musicians. Many of them would surprise you if you ever heard them play. In the endorsement context, you need to present yourself as a businessperson. They would like to know what it would be like to work with you.

7) Prepare a well-crafted promotional package. Your package should include a short letter, a biography, a recording, a photo, and the URL to your website. Take time and have fun constructing this package; it is your first impression. Do some background work and be sure your sending it to the right person. Get the correct spelling of his or her name, as well as that person’s correct title.

8) Don’t expect free instruments or to be paid money in return for playing a company’s instrument. Artist discounts will be discussed after your package has generated interest. Companies expect endorsing artists to play their instruments exclusively; to mention their companies at educational events; to thank the company for their support; and, when possible, to include the company’s name on recording materials. Individual companies may have other expectations beyond these, which will be discussed if they are interested.

9) Keep focused on the music while paying attention to your sound and to your business skills. Music manufacturers are, above all, interested in being represented by good, professional musicians who truly love the tools of their trade.

An endorsement relationship with a company is a privilege. It is a truly reciprocal relationship, which is based on trust and great communication. Endorsements do not exist to propel anyone’s career. Rather your successful career will propel endorsements.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Outsource Your Weaknesses

~ I snagged this from www.genyrockstars.com. I love this concept. Focus on your strengths and outsource your weaknesses. Check out the article here: http://www.genyrockstars.com/2010/01/musician-outsourcing.html

Being a musician in today’s economy is not an easy task to tackle. You know everything you need to do and that list never seems to get smaller, only longer. Here is one of the secrets of business that took me a long time to realize - you need to play to your strengths and outsource the rest.

This goes against everything you are taught in school or probably have ingrained in your head. We are always taught to educate ourselves and practice on our weaknesses. I am here to tell you to stop. You are a musician. You have a special set of talents (hopefully). You can’t do everything no matter who tells you that you have to (and I am one of the ones saying you need to do everything).

The fact is that as an upcoming musician you have the same number of hours that any business has to get done in one day - 24. No more, no less. Focus your time on achieving your goals and doing the things you are great at - not ever good, there are others that are great that will help you be 100% more productive.

Here is a video I shot on the topic of Music Outsourcing:

Music Outsourcing

From the video here are some resources to get started in learning about outsourcing:

The Four Hour Work Week - if you want to get more done with less, pick this book up. It wasn’t mentioned in my top 5 marketing books for musiciansbecause it is so much more. After you read through this, everything you thought you were doing right, you will question. Your time management will be better and you will be focusing on results oriented projects.

eLance - Have a project you need done? Write a description, set a budget and have freelancers bid to work on your project.

Guru - Same as eLance.

Scriptlance - Same as eLance and Guru, only there is a focus on people that write scripts from advanced to very basic.

Criagslist - Post a job or opportunity in a specific market. This is great if you want to oversee the project locally or have someone join your team full time.

oDesk - This is the best resource I know to find a virtual assistant. If you are a band on the road, or one that has to juggle press, booking, sales, finances and other business related tasks that are not to your strength, get an assistant. You can find a good English speaking assistant for anywhere from $3 - 6 an hour.

123employee - Higher caliber of virtual assistant. Have them handle tasks such as SEO, managing your email, your social networking, article writing, booking, research and so much more.

99 Designs - Need some logos, t-shirt ideas, album artwork? Outsource it. 99 Designs is an amazing community of top notch designers looking to work on your project.

Source Control - This is a course by David Walsh where you can learn how to talk to these companies and get the most out of your outsoucing. When working with outsourcing companies you need to provide great directions and detail. This ebook and templates will help you maximize your money spent.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hollywood Music Mag

~ Here is an article from Hollywood Music Magazine that I contributed to. You can check out the source here: http://hollywoodmusicmagazine.com/?p=750

Blasko said quite frankly that the base of the formula has not changed, that there is no secret “Holy Grail” of information that only a few people know. This is not the Masons. Bands still have to work hard and be creative and create their own buzz in order to get noticed. Seemingly a lot of bands today rely on MySpace and YouTube and the viral aspect of the digital age, thinking that is their ticket and have gotten lazy. If you think that label execs are digesting who has the most friends on MySpace trying to find the next band they want to sign and spend their money on, then chances are your band will continue to play the same local bar and the same people will see you over and over. If you play music as a hobby and that is the ceiling of what you want to do with your music, then everything beyond this point is just filler. If you are striving for something more, chasing the same dreams as those in Decline of the Western Civilization 2 and you want to be a rock star, you want to play in front of thousands of people, you want this to be your job then you have to treat it like it is a business not just recreation.

It is no secret that if you want to have a record label give you money to record, to tour, pay for public relations, and for merchandise there has to be a “perceived value” backed up with a demonstrated value. As Stevens elaborated, musicians that want to fight the exploitation of artists by labels are fighting the wrong fight. Yes, record labels are going to exploit you in every way that they can. Exploitation is their business. Contrary to some belief, labels and their network of promoters, booking, marketing and production professionals at their disposal are not in business to make sure everyone gets a shot at their dreams. They are in business to make money and if you can make them money, well that is how you get to where you want to go. Where do you even begin?

The days of plastering Sunset with flyers may have fallen by the wayside but the premise is still the same. If you handed out 1,000 flyers and got 20 more people to your show, then it seemed like it was worth it. With email, social networking sites, uploading videos, Twitter, there is a far broader potential fan base that can be reached; however, just as handing out flyers and the ratio of the number that you handed out to the number of fans you actually reach, the key is being able to connect with your target audience and getting your message to the right people. Blasko elaborated that not “knowing who your demographic is; who you are trying to reach,” is where many bands stumble and end up wasting their time and resources. He further intimated that “Labels are no longer putting their money towards just pure musical value; you have to have something going on.” What that “going on” is can’t be defined, but rest assured if the only thing you have going on is that you write good songs, the road is far more difficult to navigate. Some think that having something going on means that you have to have a gimmick, whether it is wearing make-up, or costumes or pyrotechnics or theatrical show, etc. and that has been a feature of some very successful bands/artists like KISS, GWAR, Alice Cooper or even Poison. There is no one thing that is going to propel your band. It is a combination of things; promotions, touring, establishing a solid fan base, being able to connect with people, image and oh yeah, good music.

Although, 20 years ago, it may have seemed that bands were getting record deals just because of their image; that is an aberration. As Blasko said, “Poison didn’t get signed or sell all those records because they looked like girls. It was because they had good songs; that connected with people and were marketed properly.” Yet he also asked rhetorically, “How important is image? Why don’t you ask Lady GaGa how important image is because she sells a lot of records.” Image may play a role, but it is only a piece of the puzzle, even if you are anti-image. Stevens added that even not having an image, is an image in itself. Case in point: Grunge. All those Seattle bands of the mid 90’s were determined to just play music, wears jeans or shorts and a flannel and have no image; however, that in itself became the image of a huge movement in music. So much so, that Collective Soul, who hailed from Atlanta, were dressed in flannel, at the behest of their label, after their song “Shine” broke and the label wanted to cash in on the grunge image. The band that arguably has succeeded best in a demonstration of anti-image is Tool. Yet, that is their modus operendi and thus, their image.

Billie Stevens extensively talked about the first step aside from writing songs and music being connecting with people; building relationships and a solid fan base. The music plays a huge part in that, just as image and promotions do. But like any relationship you have to connect with people. You may write songs that when digested by fans the song is about something totally different than what you were thinking when you wrote it. Nevertheless, you connect with people through your songwriting. Maybe the guitar riff musically expresses; without words, the rage or energy that someone feels. The bass line and drum beat may depict the building anxiety. Musically connecting is the premise of what defines most musical genres. The metal scene was formed and gained notoriety because there was a musical movement happening that connected with the angst of teens that expressed their rage, their anger with parental units, school, etc. People want to feel like they are a part of something.

Steve Bartolone touched on the approach to the different age of music and how it is received, distributed and promoted with the following: In today’s Music Industry, the artists need to grasp the power of the Internet much more fluently, but the trick is to know what works and what doesn’t. It’s a time to run your band like a business, you can make more money in a band today by investing into yourselves, being smart, professional and most importantly getting off your ass and promote than you could have ever done in the past. Most bands think that just because we have the internet to promote they think they can just sit around writing songs without connecting on a personal level with their fans. This is the same idea business professionals thought when Amazon.com launched; they thought that people would never go to their local mall ever again because they could get everything the needed online. Last time I checked, people still go to the mall and the ones that don’t are affected by the economy more than they are Amazon. Most people want to get out, and bands need to go out and meet your fans, and make new fans, make them feel part of your family or that they are a part of something. Myspace and other social Networks have crippled bands in many ways when they are not sure on how to separate the two promotional styles, and grasp each of them to benefit their success.

This is just scraping the surface of the Industry Insider series. Come back to future issues for more thoughts on how to move forward with your passion from the people who know.