Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It Ain't About the Money Or Is It? Its Your Decision

I have been watching, studying, and analyzing why some musicians ‘make it’ and others don’t for a long time, and I have given up trying to come up with some magic formula that every up and coming musician can follow on some imaginary road to whatever 'success' is.

In fact, I think as Americans, we are too addicted to self-help books and formulas for success. What is lacking in our day-to-day lives that makes us run out to buy the latest personal improvement manual? Could it be that there is a difference we detect in the attitude of successful, well-known people, and the attitude of the average working Joe?

Is There Some Magic Formula?

When it comes to music, why do some musicians make it big, while other equally talented songwriters and musicians never get their music heard by the masses? What specific skills and/or inherent talents do the successful artists embody that so many ‘wannabees’ do not? Is it charisma? That special something that many artists seem to exude the minute they walk into a room? I think that is part of it, but many successful acts have as much charisma as a pitcher of milk, and yet do quite well for themselves. So if you are looking for some magic formula that will transform you into a star...well, cut it out, there is no such formula.

Deep Pockets?

Maybe its all about money. Yeah, that seems to be the one sure thing behind every star. There are always record labels with deep pockets that know how to spend the money to push their acts into the hearts and minds of the public. Well lets talk about that for a moment. Money can only push something out to the public for their acceptance or rejection…that’s all it can do. Nobody reaches into their wallets and purses and spends their hard earned money on anything….unless there is some real value in what they see is being offered to them.

Today there is a lot of what some observers call ‘shallow and immature’ lyrics and disposable pop music out there on the charts… yet, no one who bought that music would cop to that criticism. The people who buy the latest sounds on the pop charts bought that music because it gave them some kind of pleasure. It meant something to them.

I think it all comes down to two essential things…creating and performing great music, plus having a savvy business mind that can figure out clever ways for people to hear your great songs. Lets look more closely at these two observations.

Music That Fulfills

First, we should look at what sells and what is successful from this standpoint; music fulfills the needs, wants, and desires of any group of fans because they identify with it. and they like a tune because they can hum it in the shower. The one thing that all successful acts have in common when they cross over to mass appeal is great songs! This is true as well for the more edgy artists who seem to eek out a living from smaller fanbases. They still write compelling songs that touch the hearts and minds of their fans. (Whether or not you personally ‘like’ hit songs or not has nothing to do with it.)

Lets look a bit closer at that second ingredient I mentioned business savvy. Yup…that’s it. Somebody, somewhere, in every successful act’s history there was someone that had enough business savvy to make that act the stars that they are or were. Somebody somewhere and somehow got a band or artist decent exposure in what I have always called "the 4 Fronts" of music marketing...great artist and product development, promotion, publicity, and performance opportunities.

That Certain Something

NOW….listen up! It isn’t as simple as you think. Historically that business savvy may have been solely the talents and skills of a weasel-like manager, or record label executive. It may have been the unscrupulous business practices of shady lawyers and booking agents, as well as greedy club owners, or money hungry publishers.

My point is that no matter what the behavior of a particular music business gatekeeper may have been…they got a certain part of the job done…they broke on through to the other side of the competition, and got their act’s song into the ears of the thousands of music fans. And to do that, I can assure you they had a business plan.

There are no short cuts to success, and there just isn’t enough room at the top for everyone who makes music to a living from their music. But there is a balance that can be obtained in ones life. With a combination of old school ‘analog’ marketing, and the today's ‘digital’ marketing tools available on the Internet and through the technology of downloadable and/or streaming music, no musician who writes great songs should have that much problem realizing (at least) modest successes with their music.

10 Step Programs

Be careful of the "10 Steps To Musical Success" and the " What every A&R Rep Is Looking For" articles and books. I must admit that I have written some articles with such titles, only because they are my way of getting the attention of an ever-growing group of celebrity ‘wannabees’. Once I get their attention, I show them proven strategies and tactics that record labels and industry professionals use to promote and market popular music.

Remember, in reality, there are no 10 steps to anything! There is however, your conscious involvement with, and your personal commitment to making the greatest sounding music you can, and committing to learning as much about the business of music as possible. The world of commercial music is a world of dollars and cents, whether you like it or not. But that does not mean that art and commerce cannot walk hand in hand…they must do that.

The Driven Artist

Most ‘artists’ in the truest sense of the word are narrowly focused people who never take no for an answer. No matter what challenges come along, they find a way of staying alive. More and more as the decades roll by, these artists are entrepreneurial musicians who grab a hold of the business reigns and find away to get the job done.

We live in a capitalist, consumer driven society. The successful musicians of tomorrow will be those people who either attract dedicated, knowledgeable business men and women to do the marketing and promotion for them, or take that responsibility on themselves. Give it a try. You may learn, as many are learning, that success can be defined in several different ways. You don’t have to sell millions of records to be considered a successful musician. You just have to sell enough records, concert tickets, and merchandise to pay the bills…do that, and I think you are a very successful musician.

Being an entrepreneurial musicians means you have to be able to write and perform great songs, and produce them with a contemporary sound, AND you have to take the time to read about the music business and stay on top of the evolving marketing and promotional opportunities popping up all around you. Read the music business trades and tip sheets, (Billboard, CMJ, etc.) Cruise the internet for the tons of free information at sites like,, and many others. Also, find time to call club bookers (over and over), read bad and good music reviews of contemporary releases, stay in touch with your fans on a regular basis, AND still put on a great show when you're exhausted or sick. (The show must always go on, you know.)

Entertain Always

When it comes down to it, being a professional musician is really all about entertaining people. Entertaining the public as a life commitment involves getting yourself into a deep sense of personal commitment to your art, and the business of your art. It seems to me that artists who are able to do that have come to grips with the notion that success is more an internal experience, and not necessarily one that will be satisfied by a money-hungry music industry that defines success only in dollars and cents calculations.

Looking at the work habits of most big stars, I think they all have an entrepreneurial entertainer inside them. That's what allows them to succeed in all areas of the business. That is what keeps them going during the fifth press interview of the day, and all the other crap that has nothing to do with music and everything to do with the business of music marketing.

Should the day come when you sense you have made it, know that the pressure to keep producing sellable music is huge. So you need to find a balance inside yourself. A sense of timing that lets you know when you have to take a break, or eat and sleep right. Successful musicians have to be healthy and ready to create/perform on demand. For example, you may have to hit the road for nine straight months, then make a world-class album immediately following the grueling tour, followed by endless media encounters along the way.

On Top of Your Game

What it all boils down to is that stars have to be on top of their game, both artistically and business-wise. It is essential to create a balance between music and business early on. Make sure your psyche is in the right place. You know, screw your head on right! Be honest with yourself regarding what things you are and aren't willing to do to be successful with your music.

Map out how you will improve your skills in both business and art. Put it on paper. Try living the 50% business - 50% music rule. Make sure you honor your business commitments and always act professionally. Again, make sure you keep your artist side healthy and creative. Take days off, take nature walks, and take time to noodle around that new song idea that just popped into your head. Such activities will help keep the artist inside you healthy and able to nourish your creative juices.

Should you ever become a successful musician (by your own definition) making money strictly from your music, remember that being a famous musician is not a "normal" life. To survive and thrive in the public eye requires a special set of skills. The good news is those skills can be learned and developed. Every little bit you learn now will benefit your career plans down the road. Believe in yourself, and never stop improving.

Your hard work will pay off, if not always at the cash register, at least with a sense of personal satisfaction for having done the best work creatively and business-wise, that you could.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Get Even MORE Clueless Emails -2010 Version

In 2008 I wrote an article for my website,, and in it I shared some examples of emails I had gotten over the course of that year.

Well, it's time for an update!

The hits keep right on coming; BAD hits that is. So, I will not giveaway the names of these hapless souls who wrote these messages (even though I am tempted to do so) because these folks have enough grief to deal with trying to just stay alive let alone prosper in this business.

I do get a LOT of emails, and I should. I have been writing about the music business since 1995, so my name is out there and so is my email address. Most of the email messages I get are polite ‘thank-you’ messages letting me know how much they appreciate all the free articles, blog postings, Tweets and Facebook posts I have done, and how much they have learned from my advice.

All those messages are quite gratifying to say the least, but I have a growing problem with some of the messages I get, and the problem is getting worse every day.

Too many wannabee-stars are out there. Too many artists and musicians that don’t have a clue as to how to write a polite and courteous message, let alone send a message that isn't riddled with grammar, spelling, and/or punctuation errors.

So many people have no clue how to approach a professional in the music business and/or introduce themselves properly. Others are blind to the imposition they are making by diving into very complicated issues without so much as a “Hi, my name is_______” followed by a simple statement like; “If it isn’t too much to ask, I would like to ask you a question.”

It is getting harder and harder to read these messages, let alone answer them. People just barge in and start asking me questions without a clue how to introduce themselves.

Why do so many people presume that I am sitting at my computer just waiting to write them back and answer their stupid questions?

For example, I get a lot of emails that ask this question? "Hey, what's a copywrite anyway, I don't understand what a copy-write is" (He means 'copyright')

Here is a typical question: " I have 5 songs, what should I do with them?"
(Do you really want me to tell you what you should do with them? I think not.)

I wonder what ever happened to researching questions you may have. Do people really not know of a search engine called Google? I guess not. Maybe they are just lazy so they send me a message wanting me to answer these and other questions that could easily be answered if the person(s) took the time to do some online research!

I ask the same question I asked back in 2008: "What’s up with all these rude and clueless people?!"

So, in my never-ending effort to educate you about the business etiquette that exists in this world, I have decided to print out a few recent messages that really drove me crazy. As you read these messages please note that I have deleted any reference to who these people are.

Please read these messages as if you received them, and ask yourself how you would feel about dealing with these creatures from some lost lagoon.

Ask yourself these questions as you read through some of the messages I've received:

* Are you offended by these abrupt and presumptuous messages that presume I have
the time to answer their questions as if I had nothing better to do?
* Can you decipher their cryptic writing?
* Do the numerous spelling errors, grammar glitches, and punctuation
catastrophes bother you?
* Would you respond to these messages? or would you just delete them and try to
forget them?

If you do indeed want to email someone you don’t know in the music industry, please approach them carefully. Ask if you can ask a question or two before going into an epistle on your situation, and for god’s sake introduce yourself and ask the person you are addressing if they have the time for your questions.
Just because you are using email doesn’t give you permission to barge into people’s lives and demand their attention. A small amount of common courtesy will take you quite far in this business.

Here now are some amazing-but true-messages I have received over the last year. I simply ‘cut and pasted’ these messages from my email into this blog for you to decipher at your leisure.


Here we go! (Remember the spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure errors are real. I am NOT making them up!)
"My question is about selling just one song. Not really intersted in complaying a whole CD at this time. Can it be done without a lot of hassle? I am thinking of trying to get someone like Bette Midler to sing and record it in one of her albums and get a piece of her the action. Of course, this is extremely hard to do. Will you do it?"
(Well no, I won't...would you?)

Next up: This one - exactly as I received it:

" Hi hey yo wuts up? I visited a site and got your contact info. I'm interest in writing and performing and also I have a media major (rba-almost). If you could help me with distributing and/or signing my own label PLEASE reply. Just a quick overview- I've recorded a few full recorded- music includes: hip hop rap, and "movement" types. Also, I write some timely rock shtuff. I would like you to visit my site on and hear some at a later date if your interested."
(Say what???)

And now for something completely different:

"Greetings Honrable Christopher Knab, I recently conversed with you about radio promoters within the last 20 minutes...thank you kindly, as well as me, I wish you the best. I may update you relative to future business relations."\
(I have no idea what he is talking about, but sorta like the attempt at being addressed as "Honrable".)

Next up we have this one:

"Hi Chris,I am a passionate singer, pianist, saxophonist that would love to be involved in music for the rest of my life. I have sung professionally and have even moved from Idaho to Tennessee to travel in a group there. I really missed the west and have recently moved back and happy to be home, but greatly missing singing. Currently, I cannot afford to pay an agent or promoter and I stumbled upon your site on the internet and it looks like you would definitely have some knowledge you could pass on to me? How can I get more involved in music and get some gigs?"
(Now this one was polite enough, but goes on too long, and the last sentence is an example of HOW IN THE @#(*&% can I possibly answer that type of question? I mean that is why I wrote my book, and other music biz professionals wrote theirs. It's just too general a question to ask and impossible to answer quickly, which is what your email questions should be concerned about...asking simple questions.)

Moving right along:

"Hello, I'm in a music Business course and I look like to futher my studies and practice yours with my peers. What are the answers?"
(What is the question?!)

Another one:

"Hello, I have gone through your website and have been trying to get an out of state indie artist here to St. Louis for at least 7 months now. St. Louis is a hard market to break as they support local artists and those that are in constant rotation on the radio. I have hit many lives music venues that just do not return my calls. This guy is very talented and has many followers around North America except St.Louis."
(powweb? … that isn’t even close to my web URL. Also, sometimes people ALMOST make sense, but then they don't)

One more for the road:

"hi Christopher i love your book. unfortunately i don't have it with me as i am in japan right now.basically, my friend wants to do a japanese release of the cd lp that i am currently recording.also, he wants to distribute it. i don't know the exact details of the distribution but i think that he can possibly get it into the records store here in tokyo.i told him that i wanted a contract and he said something about 50/50. i don't know whether this will be a lifelong contract or not.i don't know the main details of the contract yet yeah but was wondering if you could possibly direct me to any examples of such contracts or offer advice regarding the topic. i want to personally assess all the details before signing anything.sorry for the confusion. i don't know what the contract would entail just yet."
(ball of confusion, say what?)

The last one, for now:
"I'm interested in expanding my business to manage talent( singers, rappers)."

OK, one bonus message:
"and wht i meen is this...gotta get a deal man,got too! what would life belike if i
didnt sing nad you know what im thinkin.thanxs"

(Enough said...)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to Write a Music-Related Press Release

Everywhere we turn in the music business, the impact on digital marketing, promotion, sales, performances and publicity is changing the way artists and bands, as well as record labels are carrying out there business.

What is strange to me is that with all the website work one has to update, and blogs to keep up on and text messaging and emails etc. etc. one thing remains true.

The elements of what must be turned into digital items have their roots in the 'analog' world, especially when it comes to writing up a press release.

Today the traditional press kit still has its place. So, knowing how to write (and/or post) a professional press release can help you get the word out about what's going on with your music career.

Here is a guideline for writing a professional Press Release.

When to Write a Press Release:

* Concert/Shows and or Tour information
* Record, Publishing, Merchandising Deal Announcements
* Band Personnel Changes/Additions
* CD, Music File and/or Video Release Information
* any social networking or Internet activities
* announcements about anything you (the artist) or your label are doing

What The Print and Broadcast Media Need:

* News or announcements related to their target audience
* Deadlines met for calendars and event listings
* Event or information in proximity to their coverage area

Layout and Essential Information:

* Double space all content
* The phrase "For Immediate Release" centered near top 1/3 or page
* Date press release is sent out
* Contact information: Person media can call for more information with phone
number and fax number
* Printed on company or artist/band stationary with full address info
(or if it is digital and for an Electronic Press Kit -EPK- ready to upload)
* 1 to 1 1/2 pages long (unless for major event or project)
* End with the marks ### centered at end of the body

The Press Release Structure:

The Slug Line (Headline)

* Short, but attention-getting headline phrase
* A hint of the purpose or topic to be presented

The Lead Paragraph

* Should include the 5 W's and the H (if needed):
Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How
* Summation of the basic topic/information
* Begin with the most important part of the information
* Who is in the beginning sentence, followed by Where and When
* Why, What, and How follow in the next few sentences
* No unnecessary details should be included in the lead paragraph

The Body

* Elaboration on the theme or purpose of the press release
* One thought, one paragraph.
Cohesive, single ideas in each paragraph
* Write information in descending order of importance
* Keep information factual. Opinions only in quotes with proper credit
* Use simple sentences (Subject - Object -Verb) and avoid too much hype
* Ending option: Recap essential information from first paragraph
* Proofread several times for spelling, and/or grammatical errors

It will take you some practice to get all this down, but once you do-create a 'template' for future Press Releases!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting Gigs and Marketing Your Music

Live performance is arguably the most important part of an artist or band's career.

Playing live in front of your audience/fans can be a very exciting experience too.
So, it is not uncommon for performers to forget that for any venue they perform at the owners/managers of the venue look at your performance in a very different way: they see it as a business venture!

For them it is a business. A business that is risky and very competitive.

So, remembering the following information on live performance issues should be a major priority for you. It should be studied carefully before you begin dealing with the club bookers, managers, promoters, and assorted other characters who make up the live performance industry.

Keep this information in mind as you prepare to play live and tour:

* Whenever approaching a booker of a live venue consider "Why do clubs book certain acts, and not others?"

In other words, are there certain things that clubs look for in the acts they book, and if so, what is the criteria to get a gig at a live venue? For starters, the bottom line for a venue owner is that they need to make a living at their profession, and the only way they can do that is to book acts that fill the club. So any artist wishing to get booked should do an inventory of their talents and accomplishments and make a list of impressive data to present to the bookers.

* Your Promotional Kit is the tool that contains the data on an act that a booker of live shows needs to see. The Promo Kit or EPK should include a cover letter, a Bio, a Photo, a selection of press clips, possibly a 'Fact Sheet', and of course a CD or music file of your music.

Don't send music files without getting permission to do so before you sent it!

* If you don't have a full CD, send 3 or 4 of your best songs on a CDR. Unlike radio promotion, live venues will accept a live recording of your music instead of a studio recording IF the live recording sounds really good. If a full CD is sent, mark 3 or 4 songs that best relate to the music that the venue presents.

* What kind of live venues are there? Many. Besides clubs, there are taverns, bars. coffee houses, festivals, fairs, concert halls, schools, churches, and even book and record stores, as well as shopping malls. Keep in mind that when dealing with venues other than traditional club type gigs, there are still many business considerations to take into account, that may affect whether or not an artist is qualified to perform at the venue.

* Artists who are just beginning to perform live have a tough time getting those first shows. A certain 'Catch 22' type situation does exist. You can't get a gig unless you have gotten other gigs, and you can't get other gigs until you get that first gig. So be it. Everyone has to start somewhere, and many artists frustrated by this situation have simply rented a space, gotten a permit, and rented a sound system...and put on their own show. (At least then, they can say they have performed live before.

* It is the job of the live venue bookers to be up on what new acts are up and coming, and causing a stir in their own community. It is also their job to listen to the demos included in the Promo Kits that come in the mail by the dozens every week.

* This brings up the issue of protocol. Yes, there is an etiquette to be followed in all areas of music marketing, and when it comes to dealing with bookers, that protocol calls for mailing the Promo Kit, waiting a week to ten days, and then calling the booker to follow-up on the kit. Believe it or not, politeness, and respect are fairly uncommon virtues in the music business. It is strongly recommended that courtesies be extended when calling a venue. Make sure not to interrupt meetings. Ask the person if now is a good time for them to talk. If they request a call back, do so at the time requested.

* Artists and bands who think they are ready for prime time may not be. It is a good idea to have at least 3 or 4 hours of prepared material that can be performed live. If an artist has only a half hour or an hour of songs, the clubs will most likely not be interested in booking your act. Different clubs have different needs, and some offer special nights of the week for open mikes, or showcases for unproved acts. Be sure to check the booking policy of every venue.

Never forget: any live venue can only afford to book acts that draw crowds!

* Live venues make most of their money from sales of alcoholic beverages and food. They like artists and bands that get people up and cheering or dancing...getting thirsty or hungry and buying more drinks and/or food.

* As long as you are out on the scene, getting good radio airplay and press,and can report decent sales of you music
plus getting listed in concert calendars, and print media calendars, the more resistant venues may become more friendly toward you. If you are out there playing gigs and expanding your touring base, bookers should eventually take notice of you. That is part of their job.

* Once a venue books an band or artist, they add them to their schedule and include them in their press releases, calendars, posters and flyers. This does not mean that an artist should leave the promotion of the concert to the venues. On the contrary, acts should notify their fans consistently about all their marketing efforts, and print up their own posters and flyers, and promote their shows in any creative way they can think of, especially utilizing all the tools that the Internet has available these days.

Performance Contracts

* The music business is very fond of contracts. The record, publishing, merchandising, and management sides of the industry are contract crazy. In the performance arena, there are indeed contracts, but in the beginning they are more of the handshake or verbal variety, then signed contracts. When an act gets more established, they can rest assured that the written contract will be around. This does not mean that a beginning act should not try to get something in writing.

* The verbal contract between a club and an artist may simply be an agreement that the artist will perform on a certain date, at a certain time, for an agreed upon length of time, with what specific other act, and how much will be paid. Many venues require some kind of written confirmation of a verbal agreement made over the phone. This is to the advantage of the artist anyway, so it is strongly recommended that you invite this kind of thing to happen.

* As your act gets more established, you will probably stop booking your own shows, and a manager, and/or booking agent will take over the task. At this time the artist's attorney may write up a Performance Contract with the following points to be negotiated:

1. The name of the venue hiring the act
2. The name of the artist
3. The date, place, and time of the performance
4. The price of the tickets
5. The fee paid to the artist
6. How the artist is to be paid (fee system)
7. The length of the performance
8. The type of billing the artist gets for the show on the marquee
9. The order of appearance (if other artists are on the bill)
10. Food and other refreshment considerations

* Without a doubt the single most contested area on the above list is how the artist will be paid. The act may receive a flat fee, a straight percentage of the door or ticket sales, or a flat fee plus a percentage, where the artist receives a guaranteed fee plus a percentage of the door after the venue (or promoter) reaches a break even point. Remember...the venue is concerned with making and not losing money, so the break even point for a show is based on the costs of putting on the performance, which includes promotion costs and any 'guarantees' that may have been made to the artist for their performance.

* A good habit for young acts to get into is to have a member of the band's team count the ticket stubs collected at the door. This is a fairly common task, that assures the artist of getting a correct count of the number of patrons who came to the show. More established artists who are dealing with Booking Agents, can demand as much as 50% of their performance fee up front, before they perform. Even more established acts can demand their whole fee before they perform.

* One of the most important financial advantages to playing live is the opportunity for an artist to sell their CD's and other merchandise at all their shows. Most clubs and venues, outside of big festivals and fairs, allow acts to sell their wares in the lobby, or from the stage. Only a few venues take a percentage of the sales. Whatever the case, it cannot be stressed strongly enough how essential it is for an artist to take advantage of this lucrative sales opportunity.

One last thought..don't forget to bring a mailing list sign-up sheet to all gigs.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Planning and Implementing Your Radio Promotion Campaign

The commercial radio industry, at this time in history, couldn’t be less friendly to the independent musician.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some significant radio airplay available to you if you know what you’re doing. Outlined below is a plan to consider if you have the three important ingredients necessary for working your record to radio.

1) The money to fund the campaign
2) The time to spend working all the stations you submit your music to
3) A recording that meets the standards of radio broadcast/streaming quality

Forget About Commercial Radio Airplay

When it comes to commercial radio, the chances of getting significant national airplay for your independent record are next to none. We live in an era when a small group of powerful media conglomerates own and control the most important radio stations in the land. Unless you are connected to a major label, or are independently wealthy, the costs of promoting your songs nationally to commercial radio have spiraled out of sight.

There are, however, lots of local music shows, mix shows and specialty shows on commercial stations that may offer limited airplay for you. These shows air in low-listening off hours, such as late at night on weekends or early morning programs on weekends. There will be a lot of work involved in finding these stations yourself, city by city, and music format by music format.

If you have money to invest in radio promotion it’s possible to hire an independent promoter who may be able to open some doors to these shows for you. Be prepared to spend several hundred dollars a week for their services. Also, in some smaller market cities and towns across the country there MAY be some stations these indie radio promoters can get you some airplay.

Please note this important rule about securing ANY airplay: If you have NOT setup a way to have your music available in stores (through traditional distributors or online stores, FORGET about trying to get any airplay. The reason is IF a station of any kind plays your recording and people like your music...the fans/customers will not have a way to BUY your why bother to try and secure airplay?)

A more realistic approach for radio airplay is to consider the options available on the noncommercial side of the FM dial. (88.1 FM to 91.9 FM) With the combination of college radio stations, community stations, and even some of the larger National Public Radio affiliated stations, your chances of getting your record played are much better.

Also, today we have tens-of-thousands of Internet radio stations that you may have more luck securing airplay on, especially if you are a new act. The problem is that finding shows on these Internet stations will be a full-time, and ongoing job for you. In addition to these Internet stations there is Satellite radio (XM/Serius) and they do play new music by alternative acts. So check them out first for their rules and policies for submitting your music.

Below you will find an outline based on how Major and the better Independent record labels plan for their radio promotions.

You need to prepare:

* A database of commercial and non-commercial and Internet stations that
realistically may play your music.
* The timeline you'll use to put the promotional material together
(basically setting your deadlines).

Be sure to remember that your plan may be distributed to any other assistants or employees, and any independent promotion people you may hire. This plan will be their introduction to your or your artist, and is the plan they will base their work on.

1) Design a detailed overview of your radio promotion plan.

* Consider all marketing and promotional ideas listed below.
* Propose what you think would work best in each of the areas to help market your
music to radio.
* Remember to keep cohesiveness between all areas: Give reasons why your music
is appropriate to each station you approach.

* Remember you will need several practical tools/materials to achieve your
goals. (Computers, hardware/software, office supplies,cell and/or land-line
phones etc.).

Address the following specific topics in your plan:

* Background/Goals: Give a brief history of the artist, and describe the goals
of your plan.
* Image: Describe and maintain the artist's image consistently in all promo
* What radio format(s) will be targeted? What markets? Which songs? Any station
promotions? (On-air concerts?) Hiring any Independent promoters?
* Describe your plans to create a “buzz” in the print media. Any press releases
(EPKs) to the music industry trades or music press?
Update your website,Blogs,MySpace and Facebook pages,bios, fact sheets, and
other press materials.
* Describe traditional and Internet distribution and music retail plans. Any
in-store play/ promotions? What other specific sales opportunities? Mail
order, live shows. Any store promotional tie-ins with radio stations?
* Video: Is a video cost effective? What airplay opportunities are there for the
video? Consider using sites like YouTube especially.
* Touring: Describe the time frame for touring, and other promotional events to
coordinate while on the road. Consider specific clubs, halls, fairs,
festivals, music showcases at music conferences like SXSW etc.
* Any club/venue promotional tie-ins with radio stations
* Advertising: Design ads to be placed in the music trades/consumer music press,
and other media? What funds are available for purchasing ads? Describe the
* Misc.: Record release party? Novelty item? Any other clever ideas? Explain
clearly and and all unique promotional ideas you can think of.

2. Design a 12 week plan for the product and promotional tools.

* Lay out what needs to be accomplished each week to get the CD/Music File out.
* Consider the: artwork, mastering, credits, sequencing, printing, pressing,
booklets, layout/design, converting of master recordings to digital files.
* Include in the time-line when to start working on the promotional tools that
you will need for your plan (photos, press releases, novelty items, display
material, ads).
* Design the time-line with deadlines for each element of your project.
* Remember too: We are in a digital age now, but that doesn't mean you no longer
need any older traditional promotion tools. YOU NEED BOTH!

As you can see, a radio promotion campaign is something that is done as part of a wider marketing plan. Always have distribution and sales plans, as well as publicity, advertising and touring and any and all Internet plans coordinated carefully with your airplay campaign.

I will say this again: The worst thing that can happen to any song on the radio is that someone hears the song, but can’t find a way to buy it. Professional record labels always have distribution and sales connections set up before they secure airplay. You should do the same.

The last word: The reason for coordinating all the "Four Fronts" in a RADIO promotion campaign is this. Nobody is alone in the music marketing world. When you talk to radio decision makers, they want to know WHY they should play your music. After you have given them solid 'business' facts about why they should air your songs, THEN you move on and tell them what OTHER marketing plans you have up your sleeve. That is where the other topics come in to play. Radio wants to know what your plans are to sell your release. What your Publicity plans are and what your touring plans are.



Thursday, April 15, 2010

10 Reasons Why Most Demos are Rejected

"Getting a deal" has long been the goal of many would-be artists and bands. For mostly naive reasons most new artists and bands feel that by securing a recording contract with a significant major or independent label, success will be guaranteed. (talk about naivete).

Even in this new era of "do-it-yourself" career building, many musicians figure all they have to do is send off their demo to a label, and a recording contract will come their way.

The following list of '10 Reasons Why Most Demos Are Rejected' was gathered together after years of listening to comments made by Record Label A&R reps at music industry conferences and workshops; as well as from personal interviews with reps, and from many interviews A&R reps have given to the press. In addition, I can verify that these observations are true from having personally listened to thousands of demos over the years.

Since there is little I can do to stop anyone from 'demo shopping', (which I truly believe is a waste of time these days) the least I can do is try to improve the odds that your music will get listened to if you do send out your demos. This list will look at the most common mistakes musicians make when either shopping for a record deal, or trying to get the attention of A&R Reps with their demo recordings.

10 Reasons Demos are Rejected:

1. No Contact Information on CD,CDR and/or CDR container
(put your name, address, phone number, email, website URL, MySpace/Facebook address, on all submissions)

2. Lack of Originality
(just because you can record, doesn't mean your music is worth recording)

3. The Music Is Good, But The Artist Doesn't Play Live
(this applies to all genres of music except electronic and experimental music)

4. Poorly Recorded Material
(so you bought what...most submitted recordings sound horrible)

5. Best songs are not identified or highlighted on the CD or the CDR
(send only 3 or 4 songs and highlight the best ones)

6. Sending Videos In Place Of CDs or CDRs
(keep it simple. In the demo world all anyone wants is to check out your songwriting and musicianship. If you want to send a link to a video you have put-up on YouTube, that would be a better idea then sending a video disc or tape.)

7. Sending Unsolicited Recordings
(you sent them, but they never asked for them...which means they will probably mail them back to you.)

8. Sending The Wrong Music To The Wrong Label
(you didn't do your research to find out what labels put out what kind of music, did you?)

9. Musicians Can't Play Their Instruments Competently
(this is so basic, but you would be astounded at how incompetent most start-up musicians are)

10. The Music Sucks
(this criticism is as old as music itself. You may think your music is the greatest thing since frappacinos, but most demo recordings the industry receives are as bad as the first round contestants on American Idol)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

10 Essential Tips for Making a Living with Your Music

Everybody loves Top 10 Lists, from David Letterman's countdowns, to the Huffington Post's top 10 this and that. It’s a fun way to maintain the illusion that in a complex world, things can be simpified, or dumbed-down.

So...Let's play along. Why not a Top Ten List on the subject of Making A Living From Your Music?

The following list highlights 10 habits you should develop if you want to make a consistent living from your music. I can honestly say that these habits are the habits of successful musicians I have known and admired:

1. Find ways to get ordinary people who love music, to love your music.

We live in a time when everybody and their sister can and does make their own music. That doesn’t mean however that your music has what it takes for record labels to invest their money and time developing, promoting, and marketing that music.

Try your music out on music fans like you solicit opinions from A&R Rep. These talent scouts in the music industry are always following tips they hear from their street connections. But remember, your music must truly stand out in some significant, original, dynamic, and creative way.

95% of the independently produced CDs out there contain regurgitated ideas that were ripped off from some other more gifted musicians.
So prove to the industry that ordinary music fans in your city love your music.

You can do this by giving away samples of your music by putting some of your songs
on the many internet websites that allow people to download or sample new music. If people love something they let other people know about it. So, you can find out quickly if your music has what it takes to please the public by giving away your music, for awhile, until there is a real demand for your music. Then continue to give away your music, but in a more controlled or limited way.(Perhaps giveaway a song or two for a limited time on you website, or through MySpace and/or Facebook. You will sense when the time has come to control this habit and charge a reasonable fee for access to your music.

2. Play live often and don’t worry (at first) about getting paid for every gig.

You can always tell the difference between a musician who is in it for the money, and a musician who is in it for the music. The dedicated musician can’t not play music every chance they get. Money-focused musicians whine about the fact that they can’t get club gigs that pay anything. If you really think that you can make your living solely as a musician in the first three to four years of your career, you are headed for a breakdown and disappointment. Think about it...almost every legendary, gifted musician who has made a mark on our culture has been a musician who struggled long and hard at their craft, and...never gave up. Eat determination for breakfast! Go out there and play on the streets if you have to, play at schools, fairs, festivals, do benefits to help other people and organizations. Offer your services to non- profits, charities, church groups, and any other companies or organizations you can think of. Hang out at clubs, look for jamming possibilities, or start your own jam sessions. Look around your city or town, and you will see many places and venues where musicians can play. As you establish yourself and more and more people show up at your shows, the paid gigs will increase. Remember... play live, and then after you play live, play live again, that’s what musicians are supposed to do.

3. Know your instrument inside-out.

One of the curious developments of the late 1970’s was the huge increase in garage bands, punk bands, rappers, and ‘do-it-your-self-ers’, who just picked up an instrument, or started to sing with some friends, and 6 months later recorded a record and began to play live. Some great music, and new directions in music, came out of that situation. But now, 30 odd years later, the novelty of hearing amateurish thrashings has gotten a bit dull.

Prior to late 70’s, more often than not, the music that is our heritage was made by musicians who, from the time they took up their instrument, worshiped at the feet of some master bluesman, jazz player, folk legend, songwriter, or whatever. The habit of these inspired musicians was an appetite for perfection. A need to be not just ‘good enough’, but GREAT. Why settle for less. Whatever developing stage you are at, go beyond it, re-commit yourself to your instrument or voice. Take lessons, or better yet, sit yourself down at your CD player and choose a favorite musicians record, and listen closely to what they are playing. then re-play it, and re-play it again. Challenge yourself to go beyond your limitations. Who knows, maybe you will fall into some new territory, wherein you will find yourself, your ‘sound’, and increase your chance to stand out from all the mediocrity that is your competition.

Believe it or not, record labels love to hear innovative, accessible new sounds. Actually in their heart of hearts, that is what they are really hoping to hear on every new demo, and from every new act they go see at a live venue.
You the business of music, when we hear something new, original, and accessible to people, we can then invest in you with more security, believing that if we put our ‘label brand’ on you, with our talents of promotion and marketing coming to the front, then we ‘have something’, and your music becomes our music, and we work together to broaden you audience appeal. It’s kinda like a partnership ...something about ‘Art and Commerce’...they can work together you know?!

4. Protect your investment...register your songs for proper copyright protection.
I never cease to be amazed how few artists are willing to spend $40 to register their songs with the Copyright office. By the way, these folks are often the same folks who complain about not getting paid to perform their unknown music. All I know is that when an inventor comes up with some new product that they think will appeal to a certain type of customer, the first thing they do is file for a patent on their invention. The same reaction to protecting songs should be there for any serious songwriter. If you really intend to work hard and develop your career as a musician who writes your own songs, don’t wait too long to take care of this simple, but essential task. If you really believe in your unique and original music then take the time to learn the basics of copyright protection. From the Internet to the library, there's an easy way to learn what it takes to file for copyright protection. Do it now! Go to

5. Design and write your promotional materials so they stand out.

The topic of designing and writing effective promotional materials; bios, fact sheets, cover letters, quote sheets, website and blog pages etc. is a lengthy one to say the least. As far as some tips that can help musicians promote their careers, and contribute to their getting any deal offers, is to make the promo materials as compelling, and informative as possible. Take the time to inventory any accomplishments, positive reviews, training and awards, past sales, and live appearance highlights; and organize them into professional written documents that you have saved for you website, MySpace and/or Facebook accounts. Having done that, time also needs to be taken to research who to send the materials to, and to ask each potential recipient what type of information they would like to have sent to them. No ‘generic’ kits should ever be created. let alone sent to any gatekeepers in the music business.

6. Know the labels and music publishers you hope to be signed to.

If you were applying for a job with a certain company of corporation, wouldn’t you take some time to ask questions about their stability as a business, their reputation in the industry, and the executives background and experience? The same is true when you are approached by any reliable music industry company. Some musicians get so excited when a certain label approaches them with a recording contract offer, or a publishing company offers to sign them. Being approached for a deal is a compliment and recognition by a label or publisher that a musician’s music is attractive to them. But, to rush ahead without taking the time to learn a few things about them is foolish indeed. have they done with your particular genre of music? What specific ‘points’ are they offering you? Who runs the label or publishing company? What is their reputation in the music business? How do you like them as people? These and other questions can be crucial in making an unemotional decision about an arrangement that could make or break your career.

7. Have your own ‘Entertainment Law Attorney’ to represent you.

The business of getting signed to any deal in the music business has always had, has now, and will always have, the involvement of entertainment law attorneys. No jokes will be inserted here, because any relationship between a musician, a record label, a publisher, a merchandiser etc. will come down to two attorneys hashing out the contract for the musician and the respective companies involved. It should be pointed out here that when all is said in done with the ‘courting’ process, the musician is never present during the actual negotiations. The musicians attorney and the music company’s attorney meet, talk over the phone, and fax/email or snail mail their offers and counter-offers amongst themselves. This fact serves to remind you that choosing a reputable, ethical, well respected attorney with lots of deal-making experience within the music industry is an absolute necessity for any serious musician who wishes to fight the good fight in the legal arena.

8. Choose a well-connected and respected personal manager.

Great artist managers are becoming a thing of the past. Self-management is always a valid option in the developing stages of establishing your career as a musician. Much can be learned by taking on the jobs of securing gigs, getting some publicity, planning tours, dealing with personal issues that arise within the band, and schmoozing with A&R Reps and various other label and publishing personnel. However, there comes a time, usually when the daily tasks of doing the business of being a band takes up too much time, and it is at this time that the services of a good manager can be very useful. I have always felt that if any musician or band has worked hard to establish their career, and achieved a modicum of success, they will have a better chance to ‘attract’ the services of a professional, well-connected and respected manager.

Managers who do this job for a living can only take on clients that generate income. Making money as a personal manager is no easy task, and many upcoming artists forget that if any monenies are to be generated from their music, it can takes years for the flow of that income to be reliably there. So, as a band develops self-management, or gets help from intern/student manager-wannabees, this can help pave the road for professional management.

Over the years I have heard several horror stories about ‘managers’ that approach upcoming acts and say that for X amount of dollars, they can do such and such for the artist. No... this is not the way legit personal managers work. Well-connected and respected personal managers get paid a negotiated fee for their services (get it in writing) for any and all business transactions they are responsible for (15%-25%) over a particular contract period. No musicians should ever pay a fee to a so-called ‘manager’ who will not do any work UNLESS they are paid up front. Flim-Flam men and women still abound in this business... be forewarned.

One of the most important jobs of a manager is to secure recording and publishing contracts for their clients, this is why it is so essential to choose well connected and well respected managers. The music business is a ‘relationship’ business. Who know who, and who can get to know who, and who did what successfully for who... is what this management game is all about. Choose carefully those people who will be representing you in any business dealings.

9. Don’t take advice from anyone unless you know that they know what they are talking about.

At the beginning of this article I stated that these 10 tips were just my comments from years of dealing with the business itself and many musicians. Everybody has their own list of Do’s and Don’ts and the only real value they have is that they present you with ‘opinions’ about what to do to get established as a musician.

To be quite candid, the best rules in the music business comes from the experience of building your own career; learning from your own interactions with the gatekeepers at labels, the media, management, and booking companies as to what is right or wrong for you. For every Do or Don’t there is an exception to a so-called ‘rule’. As I reflect on the advice I sought out and listened-to over the years, the most valid tips came from people who walked the walk, and talked the talk. If you feel that the source you have contacted knows what they are talking about, and has had first hand experience doing what you want to learn about, that is the only feedback that might stand up over time. Choose carefully.

10. Musician...Educate Thyself!
If you want a record deal, learn what a record deal is, and learn something about the business of music.
Naive or mis-informed musicians are a menace to themselves. Enough already!

Over the decades there have been countless stories of musicians who were ripped off by their record labels and music publishing companies. Why? Exploitation was the name of the game for a long time. Keeping musicians in the dark was standard business practice. However, the past has passed, and today any musicians who sign a record contract (and learns later what he or she signed) have only themselves to blame. Even 20 years ago, it wasn’t that easy to gain access to the inner workings of the music business. (There are more letters in the word business than in the word music.)

Today there are dozens of outstanding books available on every conceivable topic related to the business of music. They can be found in bookstores, libraries, and through the Internet. In addition, there are many schools that now offer 2- 4 year programs on the business of music. Seminars, and workshops are available on a year round basis in most major American cities. Consultants, Attorneys, and Business Organizations are all around and so it is only myth, superstition, stubbornness, and immaturity that stand in the way of any musician making a commitment to educating themselves about the business that exists to exploit their music.

I cannot stress how important I feel this issue is. I am here to tell you, one and all, that you have been told many things about music that you did believe. “Spend money on quality instruments and equipment”... you have done that. “Spend time and money on practicing and rehearsing”, you have done that, for the most part.“Spend time and money finding the best recording studio, producer and engineer you can” have done that. “Spend time and money learning all you can about the business of music”...well, no one told you to do that did they?!

It has been said about education that we don’t know anything until someone tells us. If that is true, the fault in ‘not telling’ musicians that they MUST spend some time and money on educating themselves on music business issues is the fault of the businessmen and women who kept their clients uninformed. (Ignorance IS bliss as far as the old guard of music executives are concerned). But, KNOWLEDGE IS BLISS should be the byword for the musician of the new millennium. Please...spend some time and money educating yourselves about the music business, a few hours now, can protect your future forever!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Artist/Band Interview Form

The following questions are helpful for any artist or band if they are serious about conducting their music careers as a business.

Thoughtful, honest, and detailed answers to these questions will help prepare any artist or band in writing bios, press releases (and EPKS), and fact sheets, as well as marketing plans that are necessary for getting the word out about your new release.

Answering these questions NOW will also help prepare you for any interviews that may come up as you work your music releases.

So, don't cut corners on some of the more detailed questions. THINK about your answers before you write any answers.

* Name of Artist/Band? (Include all band members names and instruments played.)
* Is your stage name trademarked?
* Have you registered your songs for copyright protection with the U.S.
Copyright Office (
* Have any of your songs been published? (If so, by whom?)
* Have you affiliated with a performance rights organization? (which one? ASCAP,
* Have you signed up with (Check out what they do!)
* What is your music background? 9Tell your story in a short and concise manner.)
* Do any band members belong to the Musician’s Union?
* Do you have a written ‘band agreement’?
* Why do you want to record and release your own music? (Be very honest.)
* Who is your fan/customer? (Analyze this question thoroughly.)
* What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
* Do you write your own songs? (Discuss the songwriting process in detail.)
* Who are your musical influences? (Site specific examples.)
* How do you describe your music to people? (This is not a short answer.
* What image do you think your music conveys? ( Do not avoid the image issue!)
* What are your immediate music career goals? (Next 1 to 3 years.)
* What are your long-term career goals?
* How would you define the word “success”?
* Do you have any personal contacts in the music business?
* Do you have an entertainment law attorney to consult with?
* Are you looking for an independent label deal or a major label deal? (Why?)
* What live performance experience have you had? (Any industry showcases?)
* How do you rate your live performance ability? (Be very critical. No cliches)
* Have you recorded any previous CDs or posted any audio files on the Internet?
(What type of recording process did you use? Who produced your recording?)
* How did you sell your CD’s/Audio Files? (Consignment? Live sales? iTunes? CD
Baby? Tunecore? Through traditional distributors/stores?)
* Have you had any previous print or broadcast media exposure or reviews?
* Are you financially able to fund the costs of establishing your career?
(Are you in debt?)
* Do you have a business license? (City, state, federal?)
* What is your current “business form”? (Sole proprietor? Corporation?
* Have you set up a system for tracking your financial activities?
(Software system?)
* Are you aware of the tax deductions available for musicians?
* Do you have insurance on your band equipment and vehicles?
* Who handles your daily business activities? (Bookings, promotions etc.)
* Have you created a career, marketing, or business plan? (Is it in writing?)

Note: These creative and business-related questions are the questions I ask my clients to answer before I can help them through my consultation services. So, you should deal with all these questions for no other reason than to help yourself!

Friday, April 9, 2010

An Interview With Myself About Music Distribution and Small Minded People

So Chris, in the past, only labels with brick and mortar distribution were considered legitimate. Do you think that presumption holds up today?


No, there are online only labels now, as well as the traditional type of labels. It depends very much on the style or genre of music an act has. It is possible, for example, with any type of alternative music to rely more these days on Internet marketing, selling, and streaming of music and NOT have to rely on traditional distributors as much. There are a lot of small indie labels that specialize in one niche genre of music or another and they can do things these days that were harder to do in the past, like licensing deals with each other in different countries for example. For me it is a question these days of “balance’. By that I mean different genres of music require more OR less of traditional brick and mortar distribution depending on the buying habits of those music fans. If you study your fans, and find out HOW they get or buy their music, that will lead you to the answer.

With so many independents (labels and artists) flooding the market – has your approach to distribution changed?


Well for starters every year that goes by in this new millennium you find fewer and fewer distributors, because there are fewer and fewer brick and mortar stores staying open anymore. That is just a sign of the times. We are really in a ‘wild west’ kind of world where the rules of distributing, and buying music is in constant change. The problem is that we cannot abandon the older brick and mortar world of is slowly fading away as digital distribution gets more and more popular, BUT, remember that the bulk of sales from music is still CDs, even though the number of sales of CDs is going down rapidly each year.

So, if I had a label these days I would seek out non-traditional music distribution methods and retail sales techniques. I would not stop what I have been doing, but simply monitor the results carefully of those older techniques, and use as many of the newer on-line distributors as I can handle, from CDBaby into iTunes. or even better check out and see all the great stuff they have available for Indie labels and bands. It is like this: On the one hand you try to get your music into brick and mortar stores, as we always have, but with the other hand we check out and use the new and developing digital distribution companies that are sprouting up like weeds on a lawn.

Has the playing field realistically leveled regarding majors vs. indies, as so many people claim?


NO! I have never held to that belief. It is nonsense to think that a true independent label is on the same level playing field as any of the remaining Big Majors.

If an artist wants to have a real shot at the big time with what we call call ‘pop music’ in particular...they have always, do now, and will always need the muscle, money and contacts that the major labels have. Now remember, I am talking a success that any so-called Superstar has. A real independent label is not really interested in that kind of success for their artists anyway. They are more concerned with finding their niche, and mining it for all it is worth, but usually, with far less financial muscle.

Industry insiders have said, “We have to find a way to get music to people who will pay for it.” What are your thoughts on that?


This is the one question I get in most trouble with. To me that question is the wrong question. We shouldn’t even be discussing “having to find a way to get music to people who will PAY for it”. The rules have changed no matter how much we wish they hadn’t changed. A decade ago the original Napster changed the way people got music to each other forever. The genie was let out of the bottle. Music IS free..illegally free, but billions of downloads a week say it is so, whether you like it or not,it is not going to change...WE have to change the way we perceive the value of music in this brave new world.

The fact is this: Some people will always insist on getting the music they want for free, legally or illegally. It is just a fact!

So I think the question to ask is: How can we get to know OUR fans and develop a real relationship with them? So that fans will want to be proud of supporting their favorite acts and WANT to contribute to artists and bands financial well being buy music in unique packaging or digital downloads, or buy acts merchandise, or sheet music, or subscribe to some special members-only club that offers stuff they cannot get anywhere else...the list goes on.

This means a deep commitment to studying and develop a database of fan information....and not just learn the hard facts and demographics of who the fans are, but what are their lives like? What other hobbies or interests do they have?, and how can we tap into their consciousness and really motivate them to support musicians.

If I am going to work with any kind of distributor, going back to that issue, I will ask them how are they going to help me get my records out to my fans. And if I don’t like the answers they give me I will not work with them. I will move on and either find someone who ‘gets it’ or do it myself.

What else do you think could help artists and bands understand how change can be a positive thing, and not something to fear?


Learn from history...remember what a big hit it was when prohibition was the law? That really stopped people from finding a way to get drunk, didn’t it?

Life IS change, you know? The RIAA can sue the world because they don’t want the world to be round, but you know’s round! So, lets get beyond what I call
“desperation thinking” that says that we MUST find a way to get people to PAY for music. a music fan's perceived value of music is what this is all about. These days its all about VALUE. If you have something someone values and the only way to get it is to pay something for it, they will pay for it. Ask Apple.

If you just concentrate on your music and make it sound the best you can, and get it out there in well thought-out marketing ways, with customer service as your byword, everything will work out just fine. I really believe that.

The sky is not falling. The stuff you feel landing on your head are drops of inspiration waiting to be acknowledged. (Please don’t be a late-adapter marketer that has to have those drops of inspiration be as big as baseballs pounding on your skulls before you start thinking in new ways.)

All most music fans are asking the record labels and artist is; pay attention to what is going on ....and dare I say it....THINK of new and exciting ways you can please your fans.

Do that and they will love and support your forever.

Is there anything else you would like to say?


No. I have spoken! Well, wait...I do want to thank you Chris for taking your time to interview me, that was very thoughtful of you>

I Know, I am a great guy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What's A Record Deal All About?

It is my experience that most musicians think they want a record deal, but know nothing about these ominous 80 –100 page, single-spaced recording contracts.

Recording contracts are legally binding agreements between artists and/or bands and a record label. These contracts, when signed, commit the act and the label to certain obligations.

So, in this digital age when fewer and fewer Major Labels are signing new talent, and what they sign and release is selling poorly, labels these days are more demanding than they were in past decades, when it comes to signing anyone.

Record labels today are attracted to acts that have built a strong following and have proved to the industry that they are a solid investment. When a record label signs an act to a recording contract, they expect to make a substantial return on the financial investment they have made in that act.

The following information is provided to you as a basic outline to the key parts of a recording contract. Please be advised that should any such contract ever come your way, never sign anything without consulting your entertainment law attorney.


Indie Label

By the purest industry definition, an independent label is a record label that is not affiliated in any way with a Major Label, and uses independent distributors and/or digital distribution methods to get their releases into stores, both online and into the traditional brick and mortar music retailers.

Note: For an in depth article on the types of relationships that exist between independent labels and major labels see the chapter I co-wrote with entertainment law attorney Bartley F. Day in the excellent resource book The Musicians Business and Legal Guide, 4th Edition, published by Prentice Hall.

When you think about pursuing an independent record label deal, think about the following issues:


Make sure the label has a solid distribution deal on a national level. Be sure to check on the relationship between the label and their distributor(s). Ask some questions like:

* How many records has the distributor sold of the label’s product?
* Did the label have any problems getting paid by their distributor?
* What kind of working relationship do they have with their distributors on
their new releases?
* Does the label have a budget to pay for some co-op ads, and in-store
promotions through their distributor?
* What kind of Internet distribution and online sales methods does the label use?


Make sure the label’s roster isn’t too big, or else you won’t be given the attention you deserve. Also, make sure the acts on the roster match the type of music you play.


If the label has an affiliated Music Publishing division, and wants part of your publishing, don’t be surprised, but be sure your attorney protects as much of your publishing royalties as possible. Never allow a label to recoup any monies advanced to you for the recording of your record from your mechanical royalties. (This is the money owed to the songwriter and music publisher of the songs you wrote on your record, for the sales of your record.)


Merchandise deals are deals made by your attorney outside of your recording contract, for your likeness to appear on t-shirts and other clothing and objects. If the label wants a percentage of the income from such a deal, you may have to negotiate how much they get.


Find out how many options the label wants. Since “options = number of records,” you don’t want to agree on too many options.


Find out if the label works with independent radio and/or retail promoters. It’s a good sign when they do; this raises the chances that your record will be seriously and effectively promoted.


Find out if the band has an advertising budget for releases.


Find out if and how they support you on your tour (financially, morally, etc.) and how much of any advances for touring are recoup-able.


Find out how much you get paid for each record sold. A new act usually gets somewhere between 10-15% of the suggested list price of a recording. (Remember too that out of your percentage, you must pay your producer their percentage, for producing your record.)

Major Label

By industry definition, a major label is a label that commands a high percentage of the annual sales of records, and has their own distribution system. (The Big 4 distribution companies currently are: WEA, SONY/BMG, UNIVERSAL, and EMI. Please note that at the time of this writing - April 2010- EMI is probably going to be merged or bought out by either Sony or Universal, so keep your ears to ground for any updates on this important issue. We soon may be down to The Big 3 Labels!)

When pursuing a major label deal be absolutely sure that this is what you really want. Here are some points that might help you determine if this is the right thing for you to do:


A major label often signs artists for six to eight records (not years).


Research the A&R person. Know whom they’ve signed, who they’ve worked with, who they’ve worked for, and how long they have been employed.


Find out how many records the label releases per year. You don’t want to sign with a label that releases too many records. Remember, they only have so much time and enthusiasm to put into the promotion of each record. Many major labels have between 12-25 releases coming out each month.

Here are some clauses that you will encounter (and sometimes have to watch out for) in a contract with a record label:


Every record contract includes a provision stating that the deal is “exclusive.” In other words, during the term of the agreement, you can’t make records for anybody else. Therefore, an exclusivity clause in a contract refers to the fact that you may only contract with this record company (you are “unilaterally married” to that company.) I strongly recommend that your attorney define the extent of exclusivity.


The duration of the contract. (How many records? Any time constraints?)


Who will control the amount of product and the quality of the product? You always want as much creative freedom as possible; the record company often maintains a veto power when letting a band choose the producer, engineer, studio, etc.


How much (recoupable) recording money will you get? Don’t overdo it! Remember, you will have to pay it back from your royalty rate as applied to actual sales.


How much (living) money will you get that is recoupable? What about other advances, such as videos, and touring? Remember, you will have to pay back that amount to the label.


The money paid for your service as recording artists. Outside of U.S. is calculated differently. (Canada: 75–90 % / UK, Japan, Australia: 60–70 % / Rest of the world: 50 %–of U.S. rate).


Who controls the music video and how the costs are apportioned. Try to have only 50% of the cost recoupable.


The label will need your permission for name, likeness and voice in order to publicize your record. Also, ownership of your website URLs may also be a point of negotiation.


Same as with Independent labels


Your promise to join a union (AFTRA, AFM).


Your right to audit the books. Make sure this clause is included in the contract.


The label’s responsibility is to report financially to you (reports to artists usually occur every six months; i.e., if an accounting period lasts from January till June, the label will report to the artists approximately in September).


The record company’s right to sell the contract. Majors sometime shuffle acts around from one affiliated label to another within their family of labels.


How the label will pay mechanical royalties. Standard practice is that the label will only pay on 10 songs on your record, and at 75% of the current statutory mechanical license fee. (As of 2010, 9 cents per song, per unit sold.) This rate changes every two years.


This clause specifies the songs you may not be allowed to record for a set time after the ending of the contract.


You might want to consider including a sideman’s clause. A sideman’s clause allows an artist to do studio work. The artist still needs permission from the record company; they however, can’t say no unless they have a very good reason. Under normal circumstances -- without such a sideman’s clause -- you would be prohibited from performing for any other band/label under the terms of an exclusive contract. If you have a sideman’s clause in your contract, make sure all members of your band sign the document.


If a significant label executive resigns, or leaves the company, you may terminate the deal. The label may also put such a clause in concerning a band member.

I hope this information was useful for you. Knowing some basics about the realities of recording contracts before you get involved with them can save you a lot of grief down the road. Remember, record company lawyers have a reason for every clause in their contracts—so should you.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How To Write An Effective Bio

When you write your bio, you are NOT writing your autobiography. You are writing a music business document. Your bio then is written FOR the music business contacts you want to impress, deal with, and create lasting relationships with. (because you are into this for the long haul, aren't you?)

Before you begin to write your bio, be sure you have taken an inventory of your background, accomplishments, goals, and objectives as a musician, and, once again, remember who you are writing the Bio for: A&R Reps at Record Labels, Media Contacts, Booking Agents, and Management Contacts, Booking Agents, Promoters, etc.

These professionals in the music business are busy individuals, who may deal with dozens of "wanna-be's" every week, so make your bio informative, upbeat, and filled with useful comments, descriptions, quotes, and motivational language that can make them want to listen to your music, and help you on your musical way.

When you are ready to write your Bio using this outline can keep you focused and organized.

Note: The instructions and suggestions below are for traditional music business oriented needs. Since we are in the midst of the digital music revolution, I would ask you to do one other thing besides write a traditional artist or band bio. Please visit this important They can help you with what are called EPKs (Electronic Press Kits. However, the information I am providing you with will go along way to helping you with your EPKs, but you WILL need both at this time.

So, let's get going. Follow these directions and you will have the tools to write your own bio, and essential part of any Press Kit, analog or digital.

1st Paragraph:

Start with an introductory sentence that clearly defines the essential band/artist name, your specific genre of music, where you are from, and perhaps a positive quote about your music from a contact you have made in the music business.

2nd Paragraph:

This section should address the immediate purpose of the Bio. What are you doing at this time? Mention a current activity you are involved with. If a new CD or digital release is coming out, that should be the main topic of the first sentence of the second paragraph. In other word, a reason why the Bio has been written should be clearly stated early on. Hints about any promotional activities that will be occurring to support the CD or digital release is also useful in this paragraph.

3rd and 4th Paragraph:

At this point, information on any other band members can be introduced, and background information on the forming of the group, past experience, accomplishments, and recognition issues can be addressed. If you have developed a plan for your career path, additional paragraphs elaborating on this type of can be written, that demonstrate how your current project is part of a larger career development plan. Quotes from a couple of your songs can be useful to highlight your new release.


Remember, the bio should not waste words. For a new artist 1 page is sufficient to get the job done. For more experienced artists, a page and a half to two pages should be the maximum length. So, ending the Bio in a efficient way should be the aim; use another quote from a gatekeeper who supports the artist, or summarize the 2nd paragraph information, reminding the reader of current activities.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Will Your Record Be a' Priority' When Your Label Accepts It?

Since so many of you are still obsessed with the idea that signing a recording contract with a Major Label is the be-all and end-all, I am going to let you in on some facts about what can make a record a priority at a Label or NOT.

Ready, set, go....

Major labels often find that they over-extend themselves by signing too many acts within a short period of time, and scheduling too many releases to come out at the same time.

So, when the label honchos discuss which scheduled records have the best chance of success in the marketplace, they may simply push a release back six months to a year.

Unfortunately, depending on an act’s actual contract, there may be no guarantees that a label has to ever release a record they recorded by one of their acts.

Another situation is this. If a label signs an act because they play a genre of music that is currently hot on the charts, but the negotiations for signing the deal or the recording process took too much time, they may have missed their opportunity to cash in on a current popular music trend. Realizing that, they may decide not to make the record a priority release but to sit on it and wait to see if another time of year would be more opportune for releasing the record.

To complicate matters even more, a label executive may sign an act only to stop a competing record label executive from signing them. When the record is released, any interest in promoting it takes second place to the executive’s personal satisfaction of having one-upped a competitor—and the act is left out in the cold.

But the ego issue can also work positively for a recording artist. An artist may have a manager who also manages another act that is currently hot. The label executive may sign the lesser known artist with hopes of getting the manager to sign the other band to their label some day.

So, when the record of the lesser-known artist comes out, the label executive may pull out all the stops, to show the manager what a great job the label can do. If the label shows it can do a good job with a newer artist on that manager’s roster, perhaps the manager will send one of his established stars over to the label when the existing recording contract with the established artist runs out.

Here’s another reason why a record might become a priority at a label. We’re constantly hearing about labels reducing their staff with every new merger or corporate buyout. Many major labels are merging with other large labels and increasing the workload for the remaining staff.

A decade ago there were six major labels, and today we’re down to four. Recently it looks like EMI is in big financial trouble (again) and that may mean that sometime in 2010 we will be down to only 3 Major Labels.

Another issue is this: it can be important for a label executive to demonstrate to the shareholders of their corporation and the staff at the label that the downsizing issue isn’t a concern. A particular act’s new release is given a stronger push to impress all concerned parties. There’s a flip side, however. When downsizing occurs, an artist’s record may be shifted to a different priority level.

Key personnel who were excited about and instrumental in “breaking” a new label act may be fired or asked to take early retirement. When it comes time to release the new record, a different person may be assigned to work the act; someone who may not care much about or even like the music of the artist they supposedly should be working hard for. Will that record remain a priority? There are no guarantees that the new employee will be excited about the act’s music. They may have their own pet projects to put ahead of any previous arrangements.

“Bidding wars” also affect priority status. Bidding wars occur when a new band is the hot topic of the industry grapevine. One label makes an offer to sign the artist or band, another label hears about it and ups the bid, a third label offers even more money. The winner of this bidding war will probably be forced to make that act’s initial release a priority. The label will need a sizable return in sales-dollars from the new band’s recording to recoup their large investment.

Interestingly, as of this writing, no band or act signed from any bidding war has ever gone on to major stardom.

Music trends come and go. In the early and mid ’90s grunge came and went. What followed in the late ’90s were young boy vocal-groups, and blond ingenue solo-artists. Today R&B, hip-hop, and rap acts have become more mainstream than ever, as have some high-end solo acts.

When a hot new music style comes on the scene, any act that’s signed to take advantage of a new popular music trend will usually become a priority at the record label that signed them.

By the way, new releases by superstar acts are usually automatic priority records because of their star status, and the simple fact that they potentially sell a lot of product consistently. But this issue has changed considerably in the last decade, where we see FAR FEWER major hit records than anytime within my memory.

So, take heed.

Many people think signing a recording contract with a record label means automatic stardom. That’s not the case.

You’d do well to research a label’s track record and reputation for making their releases priorities before signing a recording contract with any label.

These issues I have gone through have come up often enough to contribute to a change in the attitude many musicians have toward working with record labels.

This is why you hear me harping over and over that in the last three decades more and more musicians have taken charge of their own business careers. The list of artists and bands releasing their own records and marketing them themselves grows longer every day.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Yes, Independent Record Stores Still Exist, But You Need To Work With Them

When record store buyers choose records to buy, it’s a business decision, not an emotional decision.

I know this from first-hand experience. I owned a record store for ten years in San Francisco. In fact,Aquarius Records is still there, still supporting new alternative sounds, and as I learned the oldest-still operating record store in SF,(very cool! Keep it up Aquarius!)

Anyway the first lesson I had to learn when I owned the store was that I couldn’t carry every record I wanted to carry. I had to choose the ones I felt I could sell, out of all the thousands of new releases coming out each week.

Today that decision is harder than ever to make.

It’s estimated that over 2500 new CD titles are released each week! Yow!

Just a couple of years ago, there were about 1000 new CD titles released each week.

No store on the planet can carry even close to that many new titles. So, music retailers can only select those titles that they feel they must have and are fairly certain will SELL!

This gets us back to the marketing plans you must create to get your music on the web, on the air, reviewed in the press, and heard from concert stages.

Do those things well, and the report cards you’ll get from the record stores will look pretty good.

If the buzz you create about your music reaches store employees, and you can create excitement about your release, then that can make it a necessity for the store to stock your record.

If you want record stores to carry your record, it’s your job to convince the store buyers that they have to have it.

• Keep the stores up to date on your other marketing efforts (radio airplay, press reviews, concert attendance figures website visits and blog subscribers).

Contact the music retailers you work with regularly.

• Think up some value-added promotions to offer the retailer. Value-added promotions are things like giving a free live-CD to all the customers who buy your record, or discounts off your older, back catalog releases, or discount coupons for your upcoming live shows.

• Give things to the retailer to make their job of selling your record easier. For example, a packaging option that can make CDs more appealing as holiday and birthday gift ideas like slip covers that come in shapes, (heart shapes, etc.). You must create these slip covers, but they go a long way toward showing a retailer that you want to help them sell your CD. Think...what cool item could be a future collectible?

• Work with your distributor to offer a special price on your new release. Even though you want to price your CDs competitively, do what many labels do when they introduce a new artist: make the list price cheaper.

So, instead of making your releae $16.98, make it $9.98! That is the new price the music industry is advocating now anyway.

This way the store’s price is cheaper for them to buy from you and/or your distributor and of course it’s cheaper for the customer too.

• One of the most common tricks the labels use to create demand for a record is to release a song to radio three or four weeks ahead of the street date (the day the customer can buy the record).

This will only work for indie music and the indie radio stations you have playing your release.If you decide to do this, work with the retailer to encourage them to take advance orders, or set up a special late night purchase party if the demand for your record merits it.

• Give them point-of-purchase items to put up in the store (posters, postcards, bin cards).

• Check with your local retailers to see which independent distributors they buy their product from. Perhaps you can get in on some seasonal promotion campaign or new artist program one of these outlets are offering.

• If you use a distributor, get to know the Sales Reps and find out which stores they call on to solicit new releases. Much of this business centers around personal relationships and a Rep who knows and respects you, your label, and your artists, can do a lot for you at the retail level.

• Many independent record stores have comprehensive listening station programs that record labels can buy in to, but be sure to research this carefully. This may be too expensive for you to participate in.

• The best indie stores leave room for staff favorites or CDs from local bands and solo artists. Also, since many of these independent stores belong to a coalition these days, find out which coalition your independent stores belong to.

• Give free copies of your CD to the store owner or buyer, and be sure the record store clerks who might like your music get their own copies. I can’t tell you how many records I’ve sold simply by playing them in the store. Actually a good record store is much like a good radio station. In this case the customer is a captive audience and to this day you’ll spot hip store clerks scanning the shoppers and finding the perfect record to pique their interest.
• Ask permission to post your live show posters or flyers at the store and give some free passes for your shows to the staff.

• Check for any in-store artist promotions, like store concert series or autograph parties, and be sure to bring your mailing list sign-up sheets to these events.
• Put your records on consignment (at a competitive price with other artists of your style) and call the stores regularly to check up on how they are selling.

• Consider pressing up some cheap limited edition sampler CDs that can be given away to store shoppers. Put your contact information on these.

• Many independent and chain stores have their own music publications, so be sure to submit your records for reviews. Also research the cost of buying ads in relevant store magazines.

• Ask about the store’s website and/or Blog. Do they have any online promotional opportunities for you to take part in? How about links connecting your site to their store’s homepage?

• Think about any combination of online and offline experiences your fans will use while shopping for music. The future of music retailing will be one that finds creative ways for a music fan to go from a store’s actual brick-and-mortar site, to the store’s website, to a favorite band’s homepage, to radio stations that are playing the band’s music, to content at cool Internet magazines and e-zines—with links allowing the fan to hear the music all the way down the digital line.

And, don’t forget to include some clubs and other live venues in your linking strategies.

To sum things up, every record store is in business to do one thing; sell music. Granted, the music retailer’s world isn’t what it once was. Gone are the days when they could make a buck selling music and nothing else. But this change can work in your favor as well. If they sell entertainment lifestyle products like t-shirts and other stuff, give them a reason to sell your products.

It will be a long time—like never—before the record store disappears from our cities and towns. So, take some time to study the stores available in your area and in the regions of the country that your marketing strategies expand into. Internet or no Internet, you’ll always need to work with record stores. Bank on it.

The creative record label and entrepreneurial musician will make sure to leave no stone unturned when working with a retail music store. It may not always be a music fan’s final destination, but it will be an essential player, especially for your 'Early Adopter' fans!