Category Archives: Engage Fans

Music Review Services: What’s Their Place in an Artist’s Strategy?

By Alex Horowitz

As many musicians know, there’s no shortage of services out there offering artists feedback on their music from unbiased sources.  Of course, that begs the question — just how useful are these services, and what role can they play in your development as an artist?

To better understand the potential value of music review services, we had two TuneCore employees, both part-time musicians in their own right, anonymously submit their music to TuneCore’s own Track Smarts service for review.  We’ll refer to them as Nick and Chris.

Let’s take a look at what our TuneCore friends learned from their reports.

Subjective Or Objective?

The reports Nick and Chris received were robust, containing metrics, charts, and, of course, individual fan reviews of their selected song.  Surprisingly, despite the increasingly important role data plays in the life of a music marketer, both our test subjects felt it was actually the completely subjective, individual reviews written by a random sampling of real music fans that offered them both the most value.

While at first glance this might be surprising — after all, we live in an age where data is king — it actually makes a lot of sense.

The data offered by their respective reports was largely designed to compile and quantify what the reviews were saying.  For example, Track Smarts utilizes what it calls a Passion Rating to quantify not just how favorably your music was reviewed, but how much fervor there was about your song by those that reviewed it positively.  The measurement provided a great way for Nick and Chris to quickly digest an aggregate of what the reviews were saying overall, but actually reading individual reviews actually offered an even deeper and more insightful understanding of how an average music fan was likely to react to their music.

Context Is King

I actually sat next to Chris as he poured over his Track Smarts report for the first time.  The comment I heard him mumble to himself the most?  Something along the lines of, “Well, yeah, ok, I knew that already.”

Chris makes a somewhat niche sub-genre of EDM which, though it enjoys a large and passionate following of devoted fans, would not be likely to find a home on the popular music charts in 2015.  Unsurprisingly, Chris’ music received a larger quantity of low marks than Nick’s from average music fans that just didn’t get it.

However, those that enjoyed his music seemed to enjoy it immensely.  In fact, those that liked his music the most even compared his work to, without knowing it, his favorite musician and biggest personal influence.  So, while the numbers that attempted to “grade” his music were lowered by his receiving fewer favorable reactions than he might have hoped for, what he actually learned from individual reviews offered him some measure of validation regarding the value of his music, as well as useful insights from those that are actually fans of his genre.

The takeaway here is that, as with any set of data, context is important.  If you’re trying to reach the top of the pop charts, the quantity of fans that find something agreeable about your music is likely a metric to which you’ll want to pay close attention.  If you’re dabbling in a more niche genre, be prepared for less people to understand your music’s value, and instead pay close attention to the comments you receive from those that get it.  The top-level numbers are important, but as with any set of data, the key is to contextualize what the data means for you in particular.

So, What Now?

The nicest thing a working musician could say about a tool in their marketing toolbox is, ‘Because I have this, I can tangibly improve my art or my career by taking this specific action.’  By that measure, in our little experiment, music review services have earned high marks, as both Nick and Chris were very impressed by the extent to which their reports offered specific points of feedback that will actually impact their artistic decision in the future.

For example, Nick learned from his report that for those that liked his song, his guitar riffs stood out as a key selling point of his music.  Nick had actually never made his guitar riffs his main focus, and is now likely to feature them more prominently in his live shows and recordings.

In Conclusion (A.K.A. “The Short Version”)

Didn’t read the whole article?  No sweat, here’s the gist: from the experience Nick and Chris had with these reports, our conclusion is that music review services can certainly have a place in a serious artist’s toolbox, especially artists still looking to hone their craft, so long as the artist is smart about keeping the findings from their report in proper context.  Be sure to not just look for scores and ratings and leave it at that.  Think about what your feedback means for your career in particular, and take some time to dive into individual reviews and look to trends or common reactions for specific useful tips that can improve your work.

With the right set of eyes, an objective opinion can go a long way in helping you grow as an artist.


Next Steps for TuneCore Artists

If you’re interested in TuneCore’s music review service, Track Smarts, you can learn more by clicking here, or view a sample report.

 

How to Reach Music Industry Influencers the Right Way

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post by Cortney Harding (Director of Media Relations for Muzooka) and originally appeared on the Bandzoogle Blog. Remember – if you’re looking to build a great artist website, Bandzoogle is your first stop!]

We’ve all seen the old cliche — a plucky, struggling artist takes the stage at a small club, while a record exec who just happens to be there skulks in the back. By the end of the set, the exec is so blown away that he or she races after the artist, promising them fame and fortune. Six months later, they share a laugh while hoisting a gold record.

If only it were so easy. In today’s ultra-crowded and competitive marketplace, artists should use every tool they have to reach out to the influencers who can help their careers. Unfortunately, many go about it in the wrong way, coming across as naive and tone-deaf. Here are a few pointers on how to get your music in front of the right people — without getting ripped off.

  1. Be smart about what you pay for. There are plenty of sites promising big things for just a little money — and yet those big things rarely materialize. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t pay for someone’s time if it provides value, but that you should do your homework  before entering your credit card number. If a site promises that someone will listen to your demo, make sure check the play count — at least one company that made this promise got busted for taking cash without delivering spins. And be aware of high-priced events and conferences promising big names; the famous folks will generally show up for their panel, say a few boilerplate things, and bail. I’ve moderated several of these, and in one case had to play the bodyguard to a pregnant exec who was racing out and almost got trampled. Which leads me to…

  2. Don’t be a creep. Any industry person with a tiny bit of experience can smell desperation. Don’t shove your demos at people. Don’t hit people up on Twitter. If you’re going to hit people up to Twitter to write about you for a magazine, look at the masthead and make sure those people are still there. Don’t spam. Don’t send random files and huge attachments. DO use official platforms, like (shameless plug) the Muzooka Partner Platform to submit content.

  3. Start at the bottom of the totem pole. Jimmy Iovine isn’t going to come to your show. But spend some time surfing LinkedIn and search for interns at labels you’re interested in, then email them (get the free Rapportive plug-in for Gmail and Chrome to help figure out email addresses) and put them on the guest list. Most college kids aren’t going to say no to a night of free music and free drinks, and they’ll talk you up to the bosses.

Slogging through gigs in empty rooms can be tough, and it can feel like things will never get better. But as long as you keep your wits and basic manners about you, connecting with the people who can make you a star can be remarkably easy.

SEO for Musicians: 3 Tips To Optimize Your Website Content

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Melanie Kealey and was originally featured on the Bandzoogle Blog. If you’re looking to increase your online presence, Bandzoogle is THE place to go to build your artist website!]

Making your website rank well in search engines can seem like a daunting task. Now more than ever, people look to Google to find out information, and it’s important for your music website to work in search engines.

Not sure where to begin? Even starting with a few small things can help with the search engine optimization (also called SEO) for your website. Let’s look at a few quick ways to update the text on your website to help it rank better in search results!

Content Update 1: Page title

Writing a descriptive page title tells Google what your website’s pages are about, and improves the chances of matching a search query.

Let’s look at Bandzoogle members Gladstone Ave, a new band just starting out. They have a generic band name and no custom Page title yet.

Changing their page title from the default “Gladstone Ave – Home” to “Gladstone Ave – Acoustic-folk duo in Toronto” gives a bit more information about them right off the bat. It makes the page more likely to return in search results that include “acoustic-folk” and “Toronto,” and a user is more likely to click on it because they know what they are clicking on (that IS the band website I was looking for!)

Band website in Google

To do this with your Bandzoogle music website, click the Pages tab and choose Edit Title and Settings. Look down the page to the ‘Meta tags for this page’ area, and click Custom.

This will open up a Page Title field and that’s where you’ll write out your text. Try to keep it under 55 characters so that it will show up in Google without being cut off.

Content update 2: Page Description

Similarly in the Edit Title and Settings area, you’ll see a spot to add a custom meta description. This tells the search engine what that specific page is about in more detail, and helps match the page to search results.

You can set a page description in your Pages tab, again by clicking Edit Title and Settings, then looking for Meta tags for this page: custom: Page Description.

By default this is set to ‘Automatically generated from your page content’ which can work well. But it’s nice to have a bit more control, especially for your pages that don’t have much text, or if the text that you do have is not very descriptive or keyword friendly.

For your Home page, describe your band in detail. For your Music page, you’ll talk more about your sound or your latest CD. With your Events page’s description, you might mention that you play at a certain venue regularly, or an important upcoming show. Write these details in paragraph form, using around 155 characters.

SEO music website page description

Another reason to add a great page description? Social sharing sites like Facebook tend to use a page’s description when that page is shared.

Content update 3: Homepage text

Remember, Google is a machine, not a human, and can only match what people type into the search engine to your website if you provide the words. So adding a short paragraph to your Homepage that includes words that describe yourself and your music (called keywords) will help your website come up more easily in search.

To do this, write your bio and make sure to include your band name, your genre, your location – things that you think people would type into Google to find you – and put it right on your Homepage (need help writing this? Here are a few tips on creating a perfect pitch).

Search engines are also very smart, using complex algorithms to determine what is relevant on your pages, and can penalize you for stuffing many keywords that make no sense in context onto your page. So keep it simple, relevant, and human-readable.

Updates complete? Submit to Google!

Once you’ve done these updates, you can re-submit your website for Google to crawl here: Submit Url to Google

I hope that these tips give you a bit of insight into how to make your website more search engine friendly! Have fun adding or updating your page title, page description, and homepage text.

New Web Domain ‘.BAND’: More Than Just the New Kid on the Block

[Editor’s Note: This was written by Jesse McCracken, Social Media Manager for Rightside, and it originally appeared on Rightside’s blog. Visit tunecoredomains.band to get “.band” or “.rocks” web addresses that capture your band’s and you brand’s personality and voice.]

Van Morrison is a music legend. As a singer-songwriter since the late 1950s, he has seen the industry go through a lot of changes. He’s quoted as saying, “You can’t stay the same. If you’re a musician and a singer, you have to change, that’s the way it works.” Well, get ready for a big change to how musicians can present themselves on the Internet, one that every artist needs to know about: new top level domains—alternatives to .COM—that are geared toward the music industry.

In my day job I manage social media for Rightside, but I am also a lifelong musician. When I learned that Rightside was adding the .BAND domain to a portfolio that also includes .ROCKS, I started thinking about all the ways my fellow artists can put a music-specific domain name to work.

Make it super easy for your audience to find you

To make a living in the music industry, you need an online presence that’s easy to find, be it a website, SoundCloud profile, or Facebook page. Don’t bother saying a long, ungainly URL from the stage; no one is going to remember it—they may not even remember your group’s name the first time they hear it. As entertainment journalist Hugh McIntyre noted in his recent article in Forbes, music acts can use .BAND to “make it immediately clear who they are and what they do with a short, snappy domain name.”

Jeff Pollack, CEO of Global Media & Entertainment for Pollack Music & Media Group, knows the importance of recognizable branding for bands and musicians. Pollack has been at the forefront of music trends for nearly 25 years, and his clients have included MTV and VH1. “Artists require not only talent, but also a strong, creative identity that will allow them to stand out in a highly competitive musical landscape,” he said. “New domain name options, like .BAND, give musicians exciting new opportunities to extend a unique identity online.”

Synth-soul group Keeper grabbed the URL keeper.band and redirected it to their existing site, keepermusic.com, which isn’t as easy to say or remember. That short, memorable web address will come in handy.

Match the brand to the .BAND

Your band name probably doesn’t include the words “dot com” or “dot net,” but if you’re like Dave Matthews Band, KC and the Sunshine Band, or the Steve Miller Band, your name has the word “band” in it, and if so, there might be a perfect match in the form of a URL ending in .BAND. Having your band name exactly match the words people type into search engines can positively impact your search-engine ranking.

Improved discoverability, artistic expression and having the perfect online name are potentially big advantages for today’s artist.


Visit tunecoredomains.band to get “.band” or “.rocks” web addresses that capture your band’s and you brand’s personality and voice.

The 8 Things That Should Be In Every Band’s Digital Press Kit

[Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Dave Cool, Director of Artist Relations at Bandzoogle, and originally appeared on the Bandzoogle Blog. Check out Bandzoogle to learn more about how you can build a truly unique website for your music & brand!]

There are many different kinds of people that will be visiting your website, but likely for different reasons. These include your current fans, potential new fans, as well as media, bloggers, bookers, and other industry folks.

For example, your fans might go to your website to read your latest blog post or download your latest song. But with media and industry, they’re probably visiting your site to find things like your official bio, or some promo photos.

To make it easy for media and industry to find the information they need (and quickly), the best thing to do is create a Digital Press Kit section on your website.

What should you include in it? Here are 8 things that should be in every musician’s digital press kit:

1. Bio

The first element to have is your most current bio. Bookers and festivals often have different needs and word limits for bios, so it would also be a good idea to include a few different versions, including an elevator pitch, a short bio (1 paragraph), a medium bio (a few paragraphs) and a long bio (4+ paragraphs).

2. Photos/images

The next element to include in your digital press kit is a section with downloadable (professional) photos. Have a few different official photos, with vertical and horizontal options, as well as black & white versions available. Make sure some of them are hi-resolution in case the media person or festival programmer needs to use the image for print. You can also include the image for your most recent album cover, which can be especially helpful for reviewers.

3. Music

You’ll of course need to have your music available to listen to, including a few tracks available to download. If a media person wants to get a copy of your full album or EP for review, just put clear information on who they can contact to get a copy.

4. Video

Many blogs and media sites love to embed videos of the artists they’re covering, which helps make the article more visual and engaging. Embed a few of your best videos in your digital press kit to make it easy to find a quality video that best represents your band.

5. Press articles/reviews

It wouldn’t be a press kit without some press, so post links to a few of your best reviews and interviews. Don’t assume that people will click on each article and read them in full. Pull the best quote from each review and include it underneath the link. You can also spice up this part of your digital press kit visually by including the logos of the media source next to each article/review.

6. Notable achievements

If you’ve been nominated for any awards, charted on radio, performed at noteworthy festivals or conferences, you should definitely include this information. Anything that can help to give positive context to your music and career should be in your digital press kit.

7. Contact info

Although you should of course have a “Contact” section on your website, you should also have detailed contact information in your digital press kit to have everything in one place. Include an email address as well as a phone number where a media person or booker can reach you if they need to speak to you in a hurry, they’re often working on tight deadlines.

8. Social media

And finally, include your social links on the page so that if the media person or booker wants to quickly check out your social media presence, they have all the links right there. You don’t have to overdo it, simply list the social media networks that you are most active on.

Merch Tips From the TuneCore Artist Community

A lot of artists find excuses to ignore the concept of selling merch. Maybe you don’t play live too often yet, or you just distributed your first single or album. Or maybe you’re playing regularly but you just don’t see merch as a necessity. Because after all, how could it really be that big of a piece of the puzzle, right?

Well, while you’re overlooking the values of a well-stocked merch table at your shows or even a small selection of items on your website, artists just like you are turning their fans into walking brand ambassadors for their music. Shirts, hats, posters, stickers, buttons, drink coozies – the list goes on. And if bands like the Misfits and KISS have taught us anything, it’s that you can slap your brand on just that: ANYTHING! Can’t you remember showing off your first band t-shirt or hanging that awesome artist poster in your room?

What’s even better about merch aside from just making extra dough is the unlimited amount of creativity you can put into it! Not feeling creative? That’s fine too – you can use merch to help sell your music, too: by pairing a t-shirt or poster with a copy of your album at a lower ‘bundle’ price, a new fan might feel as though they’re getting more value out of that purchase!

We asked the experts within the TuneCore Community to share their thoughts on the values of merch. Artists of varying genres and career levels weighed in with some awesome words of wisdom…

“We recommend putting together packages that encourage customers to buy more product by giving them a volume discount, for example: 1 CD = $13 and 1 T-shirt = $15 but when bought together as a package your customer will pay $25 – this “up sell” technique is important because it will help put more of your branded product in your customers hands. Also make sure not to overcharge your fans, they will respond by NOT buying your product. Make your merch reasonably priced and a good value. ”
– Calling Glory

“Limited edition and novelty items are a great way to engage fans. Having a varied selection of merchandise at all times allows fans to express themselves and support you in any style they wish.”
– Ennui Breathes Malice

“At shows, your performance will have a lot to do with the merch you sell. If you work hard to engage the audience, they’ll be more likely to follow you to the merch booth. And DO go to the merch booth after a show – that’s part of your job as a performer. If you don’t want to be too overt about the merch booth onstage, tell the audience you’ll be there after the show to meet and greet, and say thanks in person!
Your merch booth is your storefront. Make sure it is visible, portable, and as attractive as possible. Carrying extension cords and lights to illuminate your products is an easy way to attract more customers, and have everything organized so that customers don’t have to wait long for you to find the right size/color/type of product they want.”
 Swift Olliver

“I like to have a little contest at some point in my show and the winner gets a piece of my merch.
For our upcoming tour, we are planning on having fans at the show post the answer to our trivia question (either about the venue, or about a cover song we are playing) on our Facebook fan page. This will help get them to our page (bonus!) and the winner of gets a T-shirt and CD. So we have a reason to show everyone our great merch, without coming across as sales-y.”
– Scott Shea

“Not everyone has cash in hand when walking past the merch stand, so something I’ve started doing which works great is using a modern card terminal. They’re now a lot more easily and cheaply available, such as the type PayPal offers.”
– Mi’das

“If you don’t have money to invest in merchandise, put up the design on a mock for pre-order, and use that money to place your order with the printer!”
– Mark Rosas

“Of course you have to have the standard offerings: CDs, posters, T-shirts, but it’s also good to think creatively and have a couple ‘stand-out’ items that no one has ever seen before, (or sees less often).  It also helps if these items are on the less-expensive side: lighters, shot glasses, etc…be creative, your fans will thank you later!”
– Ships Have Sailed

“What’s most important is trying different things. We’ve had shirt designs that we thought would sell like hot cakes, and they’d do poorly. The opposite was just as true. Try to anticipate sales by thinking not in terms of what you would buy, but what the people coming to the show would buy.”
– Fifth On The Floor

“All our merchandise ideas came from us, we sketched designs according to the demand of audiences, We use Adobe Photoshop to create album covers or ideas for logos.
Creativity will be lost, if we don’t dare to innovate.”
– ToBeCeen

“After live shows, merch often supersedes music sales as the second largest revenue stream. Don’t be afraid to invest in a bulk-buy on your T-shirts, hoodies, etc. in order to secure a greater discount per unit; any money that helps you make music for a living is worth getting.”
– Sùilean Dubha


Don’t forget that with TuneCore, you don’t just get top notch digital distribution & music publishing administration – we offer our artists great deals via MerchLink! This month, you can save 10% on orders of customized Beanie hats. Just use the promo code BEANIE to your order, and stay tuned for more monthly exclusives from MerchLink!