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.
Videos by American Songwriter
Jacob Jones – Singer-Songwriter, Performer; Marketing Director, Artist Growth
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?
First of all, congratulations! Now that you have the song comes the task of getting that song heard! Not to fear, you have written your song in the right time and place, there are more avenues than ever before to get it out. If you’re still getting on your feet as an artist, GIVE IT AWAY. Put it on your site (you will need one of those), tell your friends about it online, and throw it on every possible site for free download you can find. Bandcamp is a great place to start, they have a “pay what you want model”. This way you’re giving it away but your new fans will most likely feel obliged to give you a buck or two.
Do I post my music on Facebook, or is there a better place for music?
Yes and yes. Post it on Facebook, post it on twitter, post it everywhere. It is good to put it online at a central location and then you can easily see how many are getting downloaded. Some sites even offer you analytics on where those fans live, how old they are, and when they downloaded it. This way you can discover, for example, you are huge with 14 year old girls in Vancouver. I know, surprising right? Just make sure when you post it, you actually engage with your subscribers and not just beat them over the head with “I have a song! Hey everyone, I have a song!” The competition is stiff and cleverness can get you in their ears faster than aggression. No one likes to be annoyed.
If I do post it for free, will anyone want to buy it?
Yes, you will probably make some money on very considerate folks buying it even if they got it for free before. You need to think about value as more than just dollars at this point, though. If you are giving it away for free, you are probably still in a stage of development. Music lovers talking about your songs, going to your shows, and sharing those experiences with their friends can be more valuable at times than cash in your pocket. Just don’t tell your landlord that theory.
Should I sell it on iTunes, CD Baby, Spotify? What sort of cut will I get?
Both Tunecore and CDBaby will put your music on several different digital sites for sale, so as an independent they are great options. If you are outside the US, there are even more options too. Keep in mind though, that iTunes for example takes a hefty percent of your sales even after you pay the flat rate to your digital distributor. You can forget about Spotify being a revenue stream, it’s fractions of pennies, and unless you are being streamed by tens of thousands a people a day, it won’t add up to much. Again, in this new music model era, this isn’t always bad. With something like Spotify, fans can access your tunes online all over the world and get familiar with them and be advocates for your songs. You have to look at the money as a result of live shows and other options. Spotify can get you more fans which will pay to see you, 1 + 1 = 2.
What if only ten people buy it? Will I still get digital royalties via SoundExchange? How do I protect my recordings?
If only ten people buy it, you will still make money. Most digital distro companies offer a flat rate (expect around $50) to put your music online. If you then sell 10 albums on itunes at $9.99 (who takes about 30%), you have a profit of about 20 bucks. Just don’t spend it all in one place. These kind of avenues can be huge though if you put in the time promoting your records, meeting new fans, touring, and learning about the constantly changing landscape of new revenue streams for artists. I would say copyrighting your songs and registering them with some kind of performing rights organization is very important to, for both protection purposes and getting paid for live performance royalties, licensing, etc.
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?
First, ask yourself if a record deal is the best thing for you at this point. If it is, great, but there are so many other ways to run your career now. You can basically write, record, distribute, and market a record all on your own. You can book your own shows or seek a booking agent. You can pursue publishing deals without a label. Basically, a label is just a bank. However, you might decide you need more money to move forward. a lot of money. If that’s true, then a label deal might be best for you if you are willing to give up a little control. The smartest thing you can do is manage yourself well, keep track of all your numbers, keep records of your tours and merch sales, and know the big picture of how many fans you have and where they live. A label will want to know as much information about you and your career as you can provide, so being business minded from the beginning gives you a huge leg up.
This is actually one of the main focus points of Artist Growth. Typically (I speak from experience) artists hate this part, so we made it simple. While a band using Artist Growth’s plans their tours and travels, the system does all the back end work at the same time. All you have to do is go on tour, meet yor fans, and come home and hit “print” before you enter a meeting.
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?
Hiring PR never hurts, but most starting artists simply cannot afford it. If this is the case, I would recommend learning as much about PR that you can. Learn what a press release is and when to send it. Learn how to talk to radio or press folks, learn the best ways to get your music in the hands of these people and venues you are seeking without getting lost in the massive amount of submissions they get. Do your research. Take some time to learn to work for yourself. Again, all of this is ind Artist Growth and there is a reason for that. We are all artists and we learned this the hard way. When the time comes for anyone else to work with (sign you, represent you), they will love the fact that you are able and willing to get out there and get it done. The artists who are willing to work and do anything to promote their music are the artists professionals are looking for. There is so much great music out there now, and you really have to stay on your toes if you want to get heard. Oh, and yes, tour as much as you can, say yes to everything, and let the chips fall where they may.
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