Dream Big: Tim Putnam of Moontoast

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We polled industry experts for the March/April feature Dream Big: How To Succeed In Today’s Volatile Music Business. For those of you who really want to get ahead, here’s the full transcript of each interview, with lots of extra insights and advice.

Tim Putnam – Vice President of Client Services, Moontoast

I just recorded the best song I ever wrote. What’s the new model for getting my music heard? What to do with my demo?

Everything you create has value. There are many options to distribute a song, but I’ll focus on building relationships with people through social networks and delivering direct-to-consumer offers that actually reward people for publicly saying they “like” you.

The long-term approach has three basic phases that are repeated for each project you are marketing:

1. Create expectation
2. Deliver the goods
3. Interact

The first cycle might be to build an audience. Giving away a new song or your last album for free in exchange for an email address is a good and low-cost way to build an email list. Even though it’s a free download, you still have to market the offer and push it in front of people.

1. Create expectation by announcing to your existing audience that a special offer is coming. List the date and time to create an event out of it. You may want to put a deadline on the offer or frame it as “for a limited time”.

2. On that date, drop the offer (there are tons of tools out there to deliver a download in exchange for an email – we do this at Moontoast, and check out NoiseTrade, too). When you announce on Facebook and Twitter, keep in mind that your post will fall down and off the news feed over time so it’s important to post a few times a day to get the offer in front of people who are online at different times. Ask other musicians and bands to
help support you and do the same for them.

3. Talk to people. Respond to comments. Be thankful and ask people to share.

Repeat this cycle with a new offer and capitalize on your growing fan base by launching a pre-order of your new music project. If you can afford to make bundles, it’s a great way to increase the value of the offer…EP + T-Shirt + Sticker or the like.

Do I post my music on Facebook, or is there a better place for music?

Facebook is a huge channel I don’t think you can ignore. It’s important to realize that while there are a bajillion people on Facebook, you’re really interested in creating a concentrated community. Your post aren’t going to reach every single person who Likes your page (it’s important to post regularly and include photos, videos and surveys to increase interaction).

Moontoast’s Impulse App lets musicians sell music and merchandise within Facebook and is super simple to set up. And as with any promotion you do on Facebook, you have to push the offer into the News Feed often to get it in front of people. Since your fans can Like your page and then consume your updates in the News Feed rather than visiting your page, you have to continue to push content to them through status updates. To increase
traffic to a Tab Store, you have to tell fans about the offer and link them back.

Twitter is another channel you don’t want to ignore, and most of the messaging you would share on Facebook translates well on Twitter, just be mindful of the 140 character limit.

It’s also worth getting involved with other niche websites or communities that have an interest in your genre of music. Post comments and interact with people on those sites – they might be the most likely to share your music with their friends.

If I do post it for free, will anyone want to buy it?

Everything you create has value. If you give it away, you’re building an audience. You could argue that even if you don’t ask for an email address, you’re building a relationship and getting a reputation as “that cool artist who just gave me this song for free.” Build your audience/email list, then follow up with Bundles, and creative offers.

Look how Third Man Records builds their bundles – they have a very niche and dedicated audience and they constantly give them cool products. Even if you can’t afford to product merchandise, you can give people shout-outs on Twitter and Facebook, host live chats and video events. Debut music videos to a core group of people…then the next time you have something to sell, take it to those core people first.

Should I sell it on iTunes, CD Baby, Spotify? What sort of cut will I get?

Each distributor has their own terms, and it may make sense for you to get the additional exposure their networks bring. Even if you’re on iTunes, you can still offer different bundles to your direct fan base through email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

What if only ten people buy it? Will I still get digital royalties via SoundExchange? How do I protect my recordings?

I dont’ know the minimum SoundExchange requires you to sell before you get paid. Did you see what Louis C.K. did a few months ago? He made the case for offering pure content, free of rights management. He made it easy for fans to get the content at a reasonable price point. He wrote an authentic letter to fans asking them to do the right thing. In fact, he even teased the offer a few weeks before it was available. He launched the offer. And he kept updating his site with gratitude throughout the week as his “experiment” outperformed his expectations.

1. Create expectation

2. Deliver the goods

3. Interact

He is kind of the perfect direct-to-consumer example right now – a guy who didn’t need a bigger studio behind his offer and was able to make a chunk of change on his own.

Next, how do I get people in the industry to hear it, so I can get a record deal or have it placed in a commercial?

Keep creating with high standards and put your emotion into the music. It’s entirely possible to make a living with out a record deal. Building that core audience is key. Even when you are heard by labels, they will look at your fan base, so keep building.
To get placed in commercials, check out some of the sites that do sync licensing like JinglePunks. Publishers also help out a ton in this area, so building those professional relationships will help, as well.

The response has been great but I haven’t been signed or picked up for a commercial — what’s my next move? Tour? Hire PR?

If you’re getting a great response and can sell directly to your fan base, do you need to be signed? Keep going through the cycle, building your fan base and offering high quality and creative products. Touring helps for sure. PR can help support your releases and give broader exposure. Keep building relationships with your fans and in your professional network.

Keep an eye out for opportunities but realize that you don’t need a windfall moment to be able to offer fans something amazing. You can do it now and with every release you offer. Everything you create has value.

Next: Traci Thomas of Thirty Tigers

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Dream Big: Traci Thomas of Thirty Tigers