Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The way the music is going is the way the world is going.

Things that use to work, don’t work that way anymore.  So, what is one to do in that situation?


If you can’t, you have two options:

1. Quit while you’re ahead
2. Keep on doing what doesn’t work
Sound too ominous?

Not really. Let me explain.

Change is what life is all about. Think about it. We may want things to remain the same in a relationship but they don’t, or a job we’ve had for years requires us to get re-trained or risk being laid off or fired.

Somehow life gets in the way of our plans, and we have two options…change things, or pretend everything is just fine and face the consequences.

Well, life in the music business is no different.

The changes that have been going on for the last decade or so, present a similar situation for any musician or band. Change, adapt, or not.

Technology changes have been the most common trend in our business. Think of it: a decade ago there was no Twitter or Facebook, or MySpace. Social networking was an email event, or at best a discussion group.

The economy has changed dramatically too. Unemployment and the housing market have brought challenges to everyone. And that means your  fans have been affected by these and other social changes.

What are you going to do about it?

Face the fact that your fans are, like the rest of us, are trying to deal with technology and economic issues just like we are.

So, we have to adapt to these changes, as uncomfortable as that may  be, orNOT.
What is your decision? Are you going to adapt to as many new technology tools as you can and learn how to communicate with your fans in newer and more efficient ways, or are you going to remain stubborn, set in your ways, refusing to adapt to these new technology tools?

And the same goes for our economic problems. If indeed the economy is affecting all of us, and that means your fans too, what can you do to get their business, their money, when times are tough and fans of music have SO many other musical choices to choose from?

Are you going to give them some ‘special deals’, or reward them with free songs,
or tickets to your live shows, or contests?

What can you think of to attract your fans to support you MORE?


You still have that other choice…do nothing. Just deny reality  and pretend that nothing is different today in artist/fan relationships, and that the old analog technology you relied on in the past is just fine.

Yeah, do that. That’s a real smart idea. Don’t change, just deny as best you can.

Christopher Knab



Monday, August 23, 2010

10th and LAST "Reality Sandwich": Ignorant Musicians Finish Last

Ignorant, 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 musician who signs a record contract, and learns later what he or she signed, has only themselves to blame.

The amount of free information on the web is astounding these days. Type any topic about the business of music into Google and you will be drowning in resources.

In addition, there are many schools that now offer 2- 4 year programs on the business of music. Also, there are many seminars and workshops available on a year round basis in most major American cities.

Consultants, Attorneys, and Business Organizations abound, 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.

When people said to you “ Spend money on quality instruments and equipment”... you did that.

When they said “Spend time and money on practicing and rehearsing”, you did that, for the most part .
When they told you “Spend time and money finding the best recording studio, producer and engineer you can” also did that.

Well, nobody until now has told you “Spend time and money learning all you can about the business of music”. But I just did!

So…do it!

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 dollars and hours spent now can protect your future forever.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

9th "Reality Sandwich: How Do You Know If People Know What They're Talking About?

Don’t Take Advice From Anyone Unless You KNOW That They Know What They Are Talking About.

The best advice I've ever gotten in the music business came from people who talked the talk, and walked the walk.

The second best advice I received was from the experiences I gained from building my own career; learning from my interactions with the gatekeepers at labels, the media, management, booking, and digital companies as to what was right or wrong for me.

You can tell when you are talking with someone in the music industry whether or not they are full of it or not. Look them in the eye. Listen to how they talk.

Just buy yourself a high quality "bull" detector and make sure you keep the batteries charged.

Trust your intuition. If it ‘goes off’, listen to the inner voice that is detecting deceit or deception. Most of the time your instincts will be right about the advice you seek.

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 advice that might stand up over time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

8th "Reality Sandwich": Finding A Manager Ain't As Easy As You Think

Choosing A Manager Ain't So Easy

Self management is the way to go in establishing your career as a musician.

Much can be learned by taking on the jobs of securing gigs, getting varied licensing deals, getting some publicity, planning tours, dealing with personal issues that arise within the band, and whatever else is needed to stay on course.

These days doing your own management may be what you do for the rest of your career.

However there MAY come a time, when the daily tasks of doing the business of being a band takes up too much time, and it is then 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 moneys 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.

Personal managers get paid a negotiated fee (20%-25%) for their services (get it in writing) for any and all business transactions they are responsible for over a particular contract period.

No musicians should ever pay an "up-front" fee to a so-called ‘manager’ who will not do any work UNLESS they are paid upfront. 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. This is what the management game is all about.

So, don't be in a hurry to 'get' management.

You could be better off just keeping your hands-on business the way it is.

Friday, August 20, 2010

7th "Reality Sandwich": Got An Entertainment Law Attorney?

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. When all is said in done with the ‘courting’ process, the musician is never present during the actual negotiations.

The musician's attorney and the music company’s attorney meet, talk over the phone, and fax/email 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.

You may not need an attorney right now, but you should find out what lawyers are available to you in your area. A good place to start your research is talking to some local bands/musicians, and asking who they use and what their experience with them was like.

Trust only those lawyers that have a reputation of being trustworthy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Know The Labels and The Music Publishers You Want To Work With

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 executive’s background and experience?

The same is true when shopping for a record or publishing deal.

Some musicians get too excited when a certain label or publisher approaches them with a contract offer.

Being approached for a deal is a compliment and is a recognition that a musician’s music is appealing.

But, to rush ahead without taking the time to learn a few things about those companies is foolish indeed.

Ask some questions:

How have they done with your particular genre of music?
What specific kinds of deals are available?
Who runs the label or publishing company?
What is their reputation in the music business?
What are their ideas for promoting your music?
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.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

5th "Reality Sandwich": Design Simple But Effective Promo Materials

Simple, but effective promo materials can draw people to your music!

Designing and writing effective promotional materials;
fact sheets
cover letters
quote sheets
flyers what I'm talking about.

Here are 3 tips to help you promote your careers, and enhance your chances of getting some deal offers.

Do the following:
1. Take the time to inventory any accomplishments, positive reviews, training and awards, past sales, and live appearances, and organize them into bios and fact sheets.

2. Make your promo materials as compelling, and informative as possible. If you can’t write, hire a professional publicist.

Having done that, take more time 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 sent out to any gatekeepers in the music business.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

4th Reality Sandwich: Register Your Copyrighted Songs

When you write a song and "fix" it "in a tangible form", i.e. write it down somewhere or record it even in a simple way, your song is at that moment-protected by U.S. copyright laws.

But...PROVING that the song is yours requires another step...REGISTERING the song with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Doing that offers you not just more protection but more proof that the song is yours if you ever have to go to court to sue someone you believe stole your song.

I never cease to be amazed how few artists are willing to spend $40 to register their songs. (even though they brag how 'great' that song may be!).

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 by registering them 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.

Do it now!

Go to and get started!

Monday, August 16, 2010

3rd "Reality Sandwich" To Chomp On

Be a master musician on your instrument.

One of the curious developments of the late 70’s was the huge increase in garage bands, punk bands, and ‘do-it yourselfers’, 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 the 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, worshipped at the feet of some master rock n’ roller, 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 more lessons, or better yet, sit yourself down with your iPod or CD player and choose a favorite musician's 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 come across some new inspiration, wherein you will find yourself, your own 'sound’, and thereby Increase your chance to stand out from all the mediocrity that is your competition.

Believe it or not, most music lovers (and your fanbase) love to hear innovative, accessible new sounds. Actually in their heart of hearts, that is what they are really hoping to hear everytime they search-out so men new act, and from every act they go see at a live venue. You the business of music when we hear something new, original, and accessible ...we can invest in you with some sense of security. We believe that if we put our ‘label brand’ on you, and add our talents of promotion and marketing to the mix, then we ‘have something’, and your music becomes our music, and we can work together to broaden you audience appeal.

It’s like a partnership ...something about ‘Art and Commerce’...they can work together, you know. Be a professional musician because only a professional lets the best come out of themselves.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

2nd "Reality Sandwich": Play Often No Matter What

Play Live Often and Don’t Worry 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. Well, If you think that you can make your living solely as a musician in the first three to four years of your career, you're 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. Playing live as often as possible was as natural to them as breathing in and out.

So, 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.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A "Reality Sandwich" For Lunch Today

For my next 10 Blog Postings I will feed you a daily 'Reality Sandwich' to chew on.

The term ‘Reality Sandwiches’ appeared in a poem by the late Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. I adopted it years ago to explain that there are certain realities about the music business that must be chewed and digested in order to rid ourselves of any na├»ve concepts and beliefs about breaking into the industry. With this in mind, the following observations should be taken as wake-up-calls about establishing your career.

First Sandwich: Make Music That Doesn’t SUCK!

Since we do indeed live in a time when everybody and their sister can and does make their own music, that doesn’t mean that your music has what it takes to make it. A&R Reps are always saying, when asked what they are looking for, “We don’t know what we are looking for, but we’ll recognize it when we hear it.” What we can read into this comment is that your music must truly stand out in some significant, original, dynamic, and creative way.

95% of the independent music out there contains regurgitated ideas that were ripped off from some other more gifted musicians. Don’t copy! Borrow yes, but copy no.

Challenge yourself. What is it about your music that makes it stand out from all the rest?

From songwriting to musicianship, music intended for the marketplace must be performed and recorded capably. Music that sucks is music that does not grab your listener. Music that sucks is music that takes only 10 seconds to dismiss because the production quality, or the vocals, or the lyrics are pedestrian at best, or mediocre for the most part. Music that sucks is music that sounds like you’ve heard it all before.

If you don’t think a lot of the music coming out today sucks, drop by your local college radio station and ask them to let you listen to some of the hundreds of new CDs they get in the mail every week. You won’t even be able to listen for more than 20 seconds to most of the independent releases that flood the market today.

Make music that doesn’t suck and you will be making music that makes the listener’s hair stand on end, or gets their feet moving uncontrollably, or singing your songs in the shower because they can’t get it out of their heads. Music that doesn’t suck is music that packs people into clubs, and gets people so excited that they are willing to spend their hard earned money to buy it. So, what does non-sucking music sound like? It sounds like all the varied records that are selling around the country, and it sounds like what the people are talking about to their friends. It sounds like all the great music you bought for your collection.

Monday, August 9, 2010

There Are No 10 Steps To Stardom

I have been watching, studying, and analyzing why some people ‘make it’ and others don’t for a long time, and I have given up trying to discover some magic formula that every musician can follow on the road to so-called ‘success’.

Today, more than ever, there are countless advisers like myself who offer tips to developing acts and ‘struggling musicians’, and all too often we try to inflict some step-by-step process on musicians that will help them become successful as musicians, but the truth is ‘There are no 10 steps to success’ or even 25 or 50 steps.

So, I have been asking myself some questions about why some acts make it and others don’t.

Is there a difference between the attitude of successful, well known acts and the attitude of upcoming acts? Why do some musicians make it big, while other equally talented people 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.

How about a lot of money?
That seems to be the one thing behind so many successful names these days. There are always major labels owned by huge multinational conglomerates behind so many superstars. They can buy their way into the hearts and minds of the public, right?

Wrong. Money can only push something out to the public for their acceptance or rejection…that’s all it can do. Nobody reaches into the public’s wallet and forces them to spend their hard earned money on anything unless the public sees some real value in it.

Think about it. Today there is a lot of (what some observers) call ‘shallow
and immature’ music out there. But you know what? No one who bought any of that music would cop to that criticism.

No indeed, the people who buy the latest sounds on the pop charts buy that music because it gives them some kind of pleasure. It means something to them.

I think 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. Basically people like a song 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 eek out a living from smaller fan-bases… they still write compelling songs that touch the hearts and minds of their fans. I think that is the reason why some musicians succeed and others don’t.

Whether or not you personally ‘like’ current popular songs has nothing to do with it. Enough ‘somebodys’ coughed up $10 each to prove your tastes may not be in-tune with what the general public likes.

But there must be something else that separates successful artists from those who don’t connect with the public. What other thing is it that successful artists and bands have that separates them from struggling artists?

My answer is business savvy. Yup…that’s it. Somebody somewhere in every successful acts history had enough business savvy people behind them to make them the stars that they are or were.

NOW…listen up! It isn’t as simple as you think. In the past having some business savvy may have been the domain 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 plan.

There are no short cuts to success, and there just isn’t enough room at the top for everyone who makes music to make a living from their music.
But there is a balance that can be obtained in one’s life. With the tools available on the Internet, and the technology of downloadable music now an every day reality, no musician who writes great songs should have that much problem realizing modest successes with their music.

Be careful of the “10 Steps To Musical Success” and the “What Every A&R Rep Is Looking For” articles and books. I myself have written some articles with similar such titles, only because they are my means of getting the attention of an ever growing group of music star ‘wannabees’. Once I get their attention, I try to give them proven tactics and strategy tips that are time-tested ways that record labels and industry professionals work.

In reality, there are no 10 steps to anything!
There is the conscious involvement, and commitment to your songwriting and musicianship, and to the business of music.

Remember that 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. It never ceases to amaze me how often history repeats itself when it comes to the question of artistic achievement and music business savvy.

Most ‘artists’ in the truest sense of the world are narrowly focused people who never take no for an answer. No matter what challenge comes their way, they have no recourse but to turn to their creative side and get lost in their music as a way of staying alive. Then, along comes a businessman or woman who either is or is not ethical, but knows the music business inside out. They hear the magic in a client’s music, and they do what it takes to get that music into the marketplace.

Today, businessmen and women are the artists themselves. They have to be. That’s just the way things work in this era.

We live in a capitalist, consumer-driven society. The successful musicians of tomorrow will be those people who either attract dedicated, knowledgeable
People to do the marketing and promotion for them, or they take that responsibility on themselves and realize that no artist has to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of their music to make some money with their music. Just KNOW who your audience is and create a lasting ‘friendship’ with them.

However, you do have to be able to write and perform great songs, and then produce them with the ‘sound’ of your particular genre carefully understood and honored, AND you have to take the time to read trusted consultants and advisor’s articles and books and also find time to stay on top of this ever changing business by attending a few music business conferences or seminars.

But you also need to do some ‘grunt-work’… Keep up on your social networking presence at Twitter and at least Facebook, call club bookers (over and over), read good and bad reviews, put on a great show when you're exhausted or sick, and tirelessly promote your music. This is where the ‘entertainer’ steps in and handles things.

The ‘entertainer’ is someone who knows that the show must go on. They know that no matter what obstacle is put in front of them, they will persevere. Looking at the work habits of most successful musicians and bands, I think they all have an ‘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.

When an upcoming artist finally ‘makes it’, the pressure to keep producing sellable music is huge. So the ‘artist’ has to be healthy and ready to create on demand. You may be asked to hit the road for nine straight months, then make a world class album immediately following the grueling tour.

What it all boils down to is that any professionals 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. First, 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.

Then, make a plan. Map out how you will improve your skills in both business and art. Put it on paper. Try living the 50% business - 50% music lifestyle.

Make sure you honor your business commitments and always act professionally. Make sure you keep your artist side healthy and creative. Take days off, take walks in nature, take time to noodle around that new idea for a song that just popped into your head. Those types of habits will keep the artist inside you in good shape and feed the creative juices inside you too.

Being a famous musician is not a "normal" life. To survive and thrive 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 plan down the road.

Put your hands together. The one hand is the creative side of you, and the other hand is the business side of you.

Now clap your hands!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How Record Labels Are Setup

There is a lot of work involved with running a record label: signing, recording, promoting, publicizing, and selling music. The following introduction to the way major labels and independent labels setup the business of music marketing is broken down by departments. As you will see, the larger record labels have the luxury of having many different departments and dozens of employees to carry out the many responsibilities involved in running a label. And, the smaller companies, that have the same work to do, have to be quite creative and energetic to get all that work done.

Major Label Departments:

What are the key departments at a record label, and what are those departments responsible for? Let’s take a look.

For starters, the CEO of a major label will generally oversee the business affairs of all the affiliated labels under their corporate umbrella. Each major label will have its own President who is responsible for all the label activities. For example, at Warner Brothers, there is a president for Warner Brothers Records, a president for Reprise Records, a president of Atlantic Records, etc.

Every department at a major label is usually run by a Senior Vice President, in charge of one of the following:
The Business Affairs Department takes care of label finances; bookkeeping, payroll, et al.
The Legal Department handles all contractual issues and other legal responsibilities.
The A&R (Artists and Repertoire) Department locates and signs new talent. They work with the artist in song selection, choice of producers, recording studio selection and they communicate with the label’s Business Affairs Department to make sure all the paperwork and accounting issues involved with the actual recording of an act’s record are setup properly. In short, The A&R Department can serve as a liaison between an artist and all the other departments at the label.
The Art Department supervises all product design jobs, (CD, Tape, Vinyl cover art etc), trade and consumer press advertising, retail sales posters and flats, and other needs of the print media.
The Marketing Department is responsible for creating the overall marketing plan for every record the label is releasing. They are also involved in coordinating all the promotion, publicity, and sales campaigns that the label is committed to.
The Publicity Department arranges for any feature stories, interviews, or record reviews in local and national newspapers, magazines, web-zines, as well as the broadcast opportunities for such coverage on radio stations and television. They may also co-ordinate any of these publicity opportunities with an artist’s own Publicist.
The New Media Department produces and promotes the music videos for the label’s artists that are shown on MTV, VHl, etc. This department also oversees some promotions and marketing opportunities on the Internet that use the audio and video technologies available from online hardware and software sites that support music..
The Artist Development Department usually oversees the career planning of artists signed to the label. This department coordinates a consistent marketing and promotion presence for an artist throughout their career with the record label. The Artist Development Department has changed over the last decade. Many labels no longer have such a department. Others have changed the name to Product Development and concentrate more on “breaking,” or promoting artists quickly in order to try to speed up the return on their financial investment. The pressure to return a profit to shareholders has changed the face of the music business dramatically in recent years, so the emphasis has been more on Product Development, and securing a hit as fast as possible.
The Sales Department oversees all the retail activities of the label, and concentrates on building relationships with the key record store chains and other mass-market retailers. The Sales staff coordinate their efforts with the major label’s distribution company, as well as communicating regularly with the Promotion and Publicity departments at the label.
The Label Liaison is the person who coordinates the business of the major label’s distribution company with the needs of their parent record labels. Street dates, (the date that a new release goes on sale at music retailers), must be approved by the label’s distribution company
The Promotion Department’s primary goal is secure radio airplay for their company’s new releases. Their ability to get songs played on the radio is central to the success of the whole company. The Promotion department is closely connected to and constantly communicating with other departments within the label to make sure that all strategies being used to market and sell an artist’s record are working together properly. Soliciting videos to MTV, VH1, BET and other music oriented television networks and programs may also be the responsibility of this department. At some labels this job is a separate department, or part of the New Media department.

Every department at a record label plays an essential role in the success or failure of the company. They are team members, working together toward the goal of selling their records, cassettes and CDs as one lean, mean machine.

Inside an Independent Record Label

Independent record labels come in all sizes and shapes. The large, well-funded indie labels are organized by departments much like the major label operations described above. The more money a label has the more they people they can hire to handle the various responsibilities of a label. Smaller, grass roots or garage labels organize the work of promoting, selling and publicizing their releases by wearing as many different hats as they can. These smaller labels have an awesome task marketing their records because there may be only two or three employees, including the label owner, doing the A&R scouting, calling radio stations about airplay, working with a distributor (if they even have one), checking with the music retailers, and coordinating the publicity efforts, as well as dealing directly with their artists and bands helping them find gigs and put tours together.

Running a record label is a very expensive and time-consuming job. One of reasons so few independent labels succeed is related to the issues I have just outlined. It takes a lot of money, and a lot of time to operate a legitimate record label. The more research and planning a young label does before jumping into the world of music marketing, the higher the likelihood that they will survive, and perhaps even prosper in a very competitive business.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Some Things To Remember About Distribution

Things To Remember About Record Distribution

By Christopher Knab (copyright 2010)

Distributors will usually only work with labels that have been in business for at least 3 years or have at least 3 previous releases that have sold several thousand copies each.
Distributors get records into retail stores and online stores, and record labels get customers
into retail stores and to visit online music retailers through promotion and marketing tactics.
Make sure there is a market for your style of music. Prove it to distributors by showing them how many records you have sold through live sales, internet sales, and any other alternative methods.
Be prepared to sign a written contract with your distributor because there are no ‘handshake deals’ anymore.
Distributors want ‘exclusive’ agreements with the labels they choose to work with. They usually want to represent you exclusively. Exception is online distributors such as, iTunes, CDBaby etc.
You will sell your product to a distributor for close to 50% of the retail list price. Online price for a song is set by each online store.
When searching for a distributor find out what labels they represent, and talk to some of those labels to find out how well the distributor did getting records into the various types of retailers, both on and off-line.
Investigate the distributor’s financial status. Many label have closed down in recent years, and you cannot afford to get attached to a distributor that may not be able to pay its invoices.
For traditional distribution find out if the distributor has a sales staff , and how large it is. Then get to know the sales reps.
What commitment will the distributor make to help get your records into stores. Ask them.
Is the distributor truly a national distributor, or only a regional distributor with ambitions to be an national distributor. Many large chain stores will only work with national distributors.
Expect the distributor to request that you remove any product you have on consignment in stores so that they can be the one to service retailers.
Make sure that your distributor has the ability to help you setup various retail promotions such as: coop advertising (where you must be prepared to pay the costs of media ads for select retailers), in-store artist appearances, in-store listening station programs, and furnishing POP’s (point of purchase posters and other graphics).
Be aware that as a new label you will have to offer a traditional distributor 100% on returns of your product.
You must bear all the costs of any distribution and retail promotions.
Be able to furnish the distributor with hundreds of ‘Distributor One Sheets’ (Attractively designed summary sheets describing your promotion and marketing commitments. Include barcodes, list price, picture of the album cover, and catalog numbers of your product too).
Traditional distributors may ask for hundreds of free promotional copies of your release to give to the buyers at the retail stores.
Make sure all promotional copies have a hole punched in the barcode, and that they are not shrink-wrapped. This will prevent any unnecessary returns of your product.
Don’t expect a distributor to pay your invoices in full or on time. You will always be owed something by the distributor because of the delay between orders sent, invoices received, time payment schedules (50-120 days per invoice) and whether or not your product has sold through, or returns are pending.
Create a relationship that is a true partnership between your label and the distributor.
Keep the distributor updated on any and all promotion and marketing plans and results, as they develop.
Be well financed. Trying to work with distributors without a realistic budget to participate in promotional opportunities would be a big mistake.
Your distributor will only be as good as your marketing plans to sell the
record. Don’t expect them to do your work for you, remember all they do is get records into the stores.
Read the trades, especially Billboard for weekly news on the health of the industry, and/or the status of your distributor.
Work your product relentlessly on as many of the Four Fronts as possible…commercial and non commercial airplay, internet airplay and sales campaigns, on and offline publicity ideas, and touring…eternally touring!