Utilizing Soundcloud to Drive iTunes Sales

[Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]

 

There’s no doubt that convincing fans and music listeners to buy music in 2017 can be an uphill battle. For nearly 20 years the music consumer has been conditioned into downloading music for free. Services like Spotify, Pandora and Soundcloud have made it even easier, while making it legal.

You may think the only way to get your music heard is to give it all away for free.

Not so fast.

Like any legitimate business model, you should be looking at how you can market your product to drive sales. A single can be your product to market while iTunes provides the vehicle to drive sales.

How do you do that? Let’s dive into a simple five step strategy to market your music on Soundcloud to drive sales on iTunes.

1. Create a Sales Goal

Before you start marketing your music, you should set a realistic sales goal of what you hope to achieve. Note, I said realistic. If you only have 30 Soundcloud followers and 100 Facebook followers, chances of you selling 1,000 downloads of your album on iTunes within two months are fairly unrealistic. In that case you need to make a compromise, either extend the timeline to where you can realistically sell 1,000 downloads or decrease the amount of sales to reflect your current followers.

2. Offer a Track for Free

If you want people to buy your music, you need to give them a sample of your music to try out. It’s the equivalent of going to your local market, trying that new crunchy snack at the sample table and then buying the entire bag because you can’t get enough.

Determine one single you can give for free off your new album and set a limited time frame to download it. You’re offering a single for a limited time for three reasons. It allows listeners a chance to really hear your music and decide if they want to hear more. The limited time creates incentive to download before it goes away and it keeps fans from solely relying on free music.

Lastly, by only offering one single it gives incentive to purchase more music if they are interested or at the very least streaming from Spotify where you’ll be paid for each listen. If you were to give away your entire album, you’re essentially giving away the entire bag of chips without asking for anything in return.

3. Post iTunes Pre-sale or Sale Link

Next, you need to make it easy for fans to know where to buy your music on iTunes. Post your iTunes pre-sale link or sale link on your Soundcloud profile, any public tracks from the album, and your Facebook and Twitter profiles. You should also include the release date so fans know when it’s available.

4. Alert Soundcloud Followers of New Music

Soundcloud made notification changes in 2014, which make it difficult to communicate when you have a new song available. In the past, when you uploaded a song, your followers would receive an email notification with a link to the new song. Currently, Soundcloud offers no bulk email notification option to alert fans of new music. Without your fans receiving notifications of your new music, what can you do?

First, you’ll unfortunately have to take the time to privately Soundcloud message every follower on your list individually to notify them of a new song available. That’s the good news if you only have 37 fans. It’s very bad news, if you have 10,000. This would be a very time intensive process if you did this every time you released a new single. You need a notification process that is both efficient and in your control. The best way to do this is to also notify your Soundcloud followers of your email list with a direct link to sign up and receive notifications when you release new music.

If you don’t have an email list, that should be your first priority for two reasons. One, you control how your fans are notified and you also don’t risk losing fan contacts on a platform who owns the contact information or controls how information can be sent.

Lastly, keeping your iTunes objective in mind, you should also include that iTunes pre-sale link and call to action in your individual messages and newsletter announcements.

5. Increase Soundcloud Following to Increase Sales

In order to increase sales outside of your base, you also need to increase your following. The best way to utilize this within Soundcloud is to follow those who would be interested in your music and are current Soundcloud users. If you also factor in users who repost tracks regularly, no more than 2-3 times daily, you have the opportunity to grow your base exponentially.

First, think about bands who are similar to you on Soundcloud and follow them. Then take a look at their followers and start following those who fit the parameters in the above paragraph. Soundcloud does limit how many you can follow in one day, so I recommend keeping it to ten per day, which will also make it more manageable as you engage with those who follow you and comment on your tracks.

This brings me to engagement. You should also be engaging with those you follow or who follow you, by liking tracks they post (If you like them) and commenting. This is especially true if you are following a band or someone else in the music industry.

This is also the one area where I suggest NOT sending your iTunes link, keeping in mind you should have it included in your song description. You are building a fan relationship when increasing listeners so you need to make sure the listener experience is a good one. Once you have built that relationship, then you can repeat the above process by releasing another single to support the album and including the iTunes link when you privately message.

This method is the first step in increasing sales for your music. In this day and age, however, you need to be creative and adapt to a constantly changing industry. Album sales are just a portion of revenue for a band. You should always look at how you can build your audience and create an experience they want to be part of, so they will in turn support your every endeavor.

3 Habits of Artists With a Strong Social Media Following

[Editors Note: This blog was written by W. Tyler Allen and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

 

There are many tactics that go into a solid social media marketing campaign, but tactics are just theories unless they’re put into action, right? Even then, you need to ensure that these tactics become habits so that you maintain a level of consistency with your social media presence. Wondering which habits you should be forming, exactly? Well, for starters, here are three that artists who have built up strong social media followings all have in common.

1. Embrace new social media channels

Bobby Shmurda may be in prison right now, but no one can forget his track “Hot Boy” (under the clean title), which surged to the top of the charts and even closed out the 2014 BET Music Awards. The track began gaining traction on the video-sharing app Vine, when users began to mimic Shmurda’s dance and the line “about a week ago.” This viral meme turned into a standard radio hit and really blasted Shmurda from struggling rapper to full-blown artist.

The key here is to always be aware of current outlets. Sure, Shmurda’s fans may have taken the effort to create memes, and it seems to have happened organically, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to hop on Vine with your own fun content and encourage folks to remix it, share it, and remake it.

2. Perfect your balance of promotional and personal posts

It’s hard to find ways to promote your work, and it’s also hard to find ways to integrate your personal life in your outlets – but it’s essential. Talking about your day, your life, and your non-musical interests really help fans feel like they’re getting to know you.

My favorite examples of this are 2 Chainz’s food and culinary posts on his Instagram and Diddy’s posts of his family and nights out. Rappers and mainstream artists obviously aren’t the only example of this, either – bands like American Aquarium and Angus & Julia Stone have gotten in the habit of using that healthy mix of posts, too!

3. Network to have the power of social media influencers in your corner

Indie artist Ryn Weaver wasn’t a very well-known name, but that all changed when her single, “Octahate,” was tweeted and shared by artists like Charlie XCX, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and Jessie Ware. This push from those heavyweights single-handedly assisted in the catalyst to her success.

Whether it’s organic, paid, or squeezed into, having influencers in your corner might be that extra boost you need to get your work heard. Check out paid networks like IZEA and Fluence, or better yet, simply make an effort to build genuine connections with journalists and fellow artists who have that large pull and following to help your work.

The Business of Making a Record (Part III)

[Editors NoteThis is the final installment in a three-part series of guest articles from Coury Palermo. Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you need to catch up. In this final piece, he guides first-time music makers as they navigate the world of defining their promotion and release strategy, as well as defining what success means to them. Coury is a songwriter, producer and musician who is currently one-half of duo love+war.]

 

Ok. The champagne’s been popped. You’ve listened to your album on repeat since receiving the master, ordered your physical packages, and now you’re ready; ready to share your masterpiece with the world. Before we get to the grit of “Now what?”, let me start by talking about the last part of the previous sentence.

A large part of your success as an artist rests in the tenacity of your belief – the belief you are creating something of worth. When I say “masterpiece, I mean masterpiece. You have, in whatever large or small way, created something that is uniquely you.

Remember that at every turn.

When you’ve spent hours sending your record to hundreds of blogs for review, and one blogger bites – remember that. When the “likes” on the debut of your “sneak peek” for the first single don’t stack up to “industry standards” – remember that.

We don’t create for praise. We create because we know no other way. It is the life of an artist. In this self-assured approach, do not mistake arrogance for quiet confidence; this is never a good look and will only lead to complications. Now, let’s get to the meat.

There are as many ways to market an album as there are to record a song. Some grand and proven, others outside-of-the-box and risky. The only way you “fail” in this pursuit is by not truly planning out your approach. Throwing something in the air and praying a stranger knows to look up is foolish.

In the same respect, a scattered, unplanned marketing strategy will only lead to an annoyed audience and wasted opportunity.

What is within my reach?

Start here. Don’t compare your album rollout to anyone else’s. New duo Levv is probably not going to have the same access or promotional reach as say Macklemore or Sia. Creativity is key.

With so many avenues of approach at our fingertips, it can be daunting for a new artist to decide the path that best suites her or him. This process is extremely important to your success. A well-thought out plan of attack is almost as important as the product you have created. Here are a few ideas that may help jumpstart your upcoming album release.

Find the “comeback”.

When people suggest social media is the best way to begin promoting your release, don’t assume you already know this little gem of information because you’ve posted a Soundcloud link of a song to your Facebook wall. The world of social media is a much more complicated arena than the occasional “Get ready for our latest single!” status/tweet, or a picture post from the studio. You have to create the “comeback.”

What about your music brings people back to your page – pulls their finger to the “like” button – and what has them waiting for what’s next? People enjoy having something to look forward to. This can come in the form of revealing different pieces of your artwork, teasing songs from the album through video or audio posts, playing one song from the record live in the weeks leading up to the release, doing a pre-release on iTunes or Bandcamp, making a new song available each week as the release date approaches – the possibilities are limitless. It just takes some imagination and hard work.

Press: The ask.

For an independent artist this may be the most difficult part of the equation. If I’ve learned anything from my time in the industry, it’s this: the ask will get you further than the fear. If your goal is blog supremacy, then roll up your sleeves, and get to work. This is not for the easily winded.

Step 1: Compile a list of your favorite music blogs and publications. Begin following the sites and make a habit of regular visits. Be invested in the platforms you hope invest in you.

Step 2: Pick your most commercially viable or best song (TIP: send out an email to friends and family with a private playlist of the album, and have them vote on their favorites) and formulate a personal email to EACH of these outlets. Yes, personal – yes each. No blogger or music content editor with any clout is going to waste time reading, or listening for that matter, to a mass email talking about a song /record from an unproven, unknown artist when their inbox is full of known acts looking for the same spot (and usually sent from a reputable publicist).

This is work, my friends. You can’t decide one day that all you need to do is send out an email to 200 of your favorite online outlets and expect the rest to just fall in to place. Start this process early – long before your rollout is to begin.

The day after…

You’ve come to a crucial point that few talk about, but everyone experiences. I call it “the day after.” The album has been released, and you’ve spent an ungodly amount of time promoting and planning only to find yourself a month in and feeling as though all your hard work is already forgotten. Stop right there.

I am a firm believer in defining your OWN idea of success. Those in the arts, or most human beings for that matter, get caught up in numbers. Societal bars that dictate whether or not we are successes or failures. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

The easiest way to avoid following the lemmings to this destructive cliff is two-fold.

Redefine what success looks like within your reality, and never assume quality work doesn’t require hard work when it’s finally time to release it.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you refused to carry the weight of living up to expectations that were never yours to begin with. All you’re in control of is the quality of your work and how much time you’re willing to put into making it a success. Before one album or song is sold or streamed, decide what your goals for the record are according to where you are in the journey. Build your brand and career with the knowledge that it may take some time before the work reflects the prize.

This business is a killer. It’s sleepless nights and dive bars – working two jobs mixed with moments of creation.  Remain true to what you feel makes you great – different from the pack. When you discover your unique point of view, create with intent. Be the best at what you do, work hard, and people will take notice.

For all the advice and careful planning one can give or receive, there is no perfect guidebook to the world of creative arts. It is a place for the dreamer; a road of self-discovery that will lead to triumph and loss – failures and success. Resolve to create because you must, and the rest will fall into place.

Thank you for allowing me to talk a little about my thoughts on making a record through the lens of my personal experience. These are challenging times for artists, but remember, we are the pulse of each generation. Without art, music, or words, we are left to brave the world in silence. So play loud my friends, because whether or not they know it, they need us.

4 Ways To Build Confidence as a Musician

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post written by Mason Hoberg. Mason is a freelance writer who covers music-related topics and is a regular contributor to Equipboard.]

 

The hardest part about participating in any facet of the arts is overcoming your own insecurities. It’s easy to feel self-conscious when you perform music, especially when you’re not confident in your playing abilities to begin with.

The worst part about being unconfident as a musician is that it will rob you of enjoyment from your playing. If you don’t feel comfortable playing in front of others you’ll never be able to experience playing with your friends, playing open mics (which is a lot of fun if you have the right mindset), or being in a band.

If this is an issue that you’ve faced you’ve come to the right place. This article will give you four great tips to help you build confidence as a musician, which in turn will help you become the musician you always dreamed that you could be.

Tip 1: Play For Family And/Or Friends

I know it sounds kind of lame, but playing for family is actually a really good way to dip your toe into the pool of live performance. Most families are relatively supportive, so it’s a bit less stressful than playing in front of strangers.

Playing in front of friends is the second step. Your friends are still likely to be supportive, but more honest than your family. Constructive criticism is going to help you improve, but it’s just as important to learn how to take feedback that may not necessarily be very positive. It’s a skill that helps you learn to accept your flaws as a musician, which will in turn help you increase your confidence.

Tip 2: Focus On Improving, Not Putting Yourself Down

A mistake that a lot of musicians make is that they focus more of their attention on worrying about the flaws in their playing, rather than how they can improve them. Analyzing every mistake you make and then letting it bring you down is going to hurt your playing more than it will help. It may even eventually lead to you abandoning your instrument.

Instead, count every mistake you notice in your playing as a lesson.

Think about why what you played didn’t work or didn’t sound quite as good as it could have, then start thinking about how you can change it. Doing this will help you keep improving because you’ll always be working towards something instead of spending energy worrying about what you’re doing wrong.

Tip 3: Play A Song A Day In Front Of The Mirror

The most important part of building confidence is to consistently see a visual representation of your success, and the easiest way to do this is to play in front of a mirror. Playing in front of a mirror allows you to see yourself succeed with some aspect of your playing. It reassures you that though there may be things you struggle with, it’s still worth it to continue practicing because you can see that there are things you can do well musically.

Even better, playing in front of a mirror actually improves your technique. It lets you see how you play with a perspective you don’t normally get, which will do wonders for helping you remedy flaws in your technique.

Tip 4: Play Live!!!

The most important thing when you’re trying to build confidence is that you really just need to put yourself out there. Odds are you’re not going to sound great, but that’s okay. Unfortunately, the only way to become a good performer is to perform. It’s not a skill that you can hone without practice, and you can’t practice without doing it. This is where open mics come in handy, because odds are there are plenty of other people there who are also just starting out.

Performing will also help build your confidence in your abilities as a musician, regardless of whether or not you choose to continue performing. This confidence will improve your overall performance, resulting in a positive feedback loop where you’ll find yourself improving more and more as time goes on.

Wrapping It All Up

While building confidence as a musician is a long and difficult process, it does have a big payoff. It can help you become the musician you always hoped to be, and even better it will help you enjoy playing your instrument more than you ever thought possible.

Got some advice for your fellow artists trying to build confidence? Share below in the comments!

10 Ways to Make Vocals Sound Modern & Professional

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Rob Mayzes, producer, mix engineer and founder of Home Studio Center, a site dedicated to providing valuable tips around recording from home studios.]

 

In most genres, the vocals are the most important part of the mix.

Especially in modern pop styles, there are a number of techniques that make a vocal sound modern, expensive and professional.

Once you apply these ten techniques, your mixes as a whole will improve.

1. Top-End Boost

This is perhaps the easiest and fastest way to make a vocal sound expensive.

Most boutique microphones have an exaggerated top-end. When using a more affordable microphone, you can simply boost the highs to replicate this characteristic.

The best way to do this is with an analogue modelling EQ, such as the free Slick EQ. Use a high shelf, and start with a 2dB boost at 10kHz.

Experiment with the frequency and amount of boost. You can go as low as 6kHz (but keep it subtle) and boost as much as 5dB above 10kHz. Just make sure it doesn’t become too harsh or brittle.

2. Use a De’Esser

When you start boosting the top-end, the vocal can start to sound more sibilant. To counteract this problem, a de’esser can be used.

These simple tools are a staple of the vocal mixing process, and required in at least 80% of cases. I find they usually work best at the very beginning or end of the plugin chain.

3. Remove Resonances

If you’re recording in a room that’s less than ideal, room resonances can quickly build up.

Find these resonances using the boost-and-sweep technique and then remove them with a narrow cut.

4. Control the Dynamics with Automation

For a modern sound, the dynamics of vocals need to be super consistent. Every word and syllable should be at roughly the same level.

Most of the time, this can’t be achieved with compression alone. Instead, use automation to manually level out the vocal.

I prefer to use gain automation to create consistency before the compressor. But regular volume automation works well too.

5. Catch the Peaks with a Limiter

Using a limiter after compression is another great way to control dynamics.

You don’t need to be aggressive with it (unless you are going for a heavily compressed sound). Aim for 2dB of gain reduction only on the loudest peaks.

6. Use Multiband Compression

As vocalists move between different registers, the tone of their voice can change. For example, when the vocalist moves to a lower register, their voice might start to sound muddy.

Instead of fixing this with EQ and removing the problematic frequencies from the entire performance, you could use multiband compression to control these frequencies only when they become problematic.

For any frequency-based problem that only appears on certain words or phrases, use multiband compression rather than EQ.

7. Enhance the Highs with Saturation

Sometimes EQ alone isn’t enough to enhance the top-end. By applying light saturation, you can create new harmonics and add more excitement.

8. Use Delays Instead of Reverb

For a modern sound, the vocals need to be upfront and in-your-face. Applying reverb to the vocal does the opposite of this, so is undesirable.

Instead, use a stereo slapback delay to create a space around the vocal and add some stereo width.

Use a low feedback (0-10%) and slightly different times on the left and right sides. I find that delay times between 50-200ms work best.

9. Try Adding a Subtle Plate Reverb

To add more width and depth to the vocal, try adding a subtle stereo plate on the vocal.

You don’t want the reverb to be noticeable, as discussed in the previous tip. Instead, bring the wetness up until you notice the reverb, then back it off a touch.

Start with the shortest decay time possible and a 60ms pre-delay to give the transients a bit more definition and room to breathe.

10. Try Adding a Subtle Chorus Effect

Another way to give the vocal a bit of depth and shimmer is to apply subtle chorusing.

Again, you don’t want the effect to be noticeable. Add a stereo chorus to the vocal and increase the wetness until you notice the effect, then back it off a touch.

Conclusion

The vocals are extremely important and will require more time mixing than most other instruments.

But once you apply the 10 techniques in this article, you can take a big step closer to a modern, professional sound.

The Perks of Living in L.A. as a Singer-Songwriter

[Editors Note: This blog was written by TuneCore Artist and Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Uri Grey.] I’m like most singer-songwriters. I’m from a small city that no one really ever thinks about, and I was on the path to pursue one thing, until music took over my life. I started writing songs seriously in high school, when I fell in love with the piano and guitar. I would write lyrics and melodies to my chords, and would study jazz, classical, and soul music as if my life depended on it. In college, I would sneak out of class to practice and write songs, and miraculously pass organic chemistry so that I could transfer out of that place, and apply to music school, before mentioning a word to my parents.

Music has been with me my entire life, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Believe me, I tried. I started out pursuing a career in nursing, then physical therapy, then counseling, and to make the transition better, music therapy. I just couldn’t run away from it. Sure those other careers seemed steady and promising, but I dreaded going to class, then dreaded going to work while sitting in some cubicle. I just couldn’t shake it. Music was what I was born to do. Now, I just needed to find the best way to get it done.

So over the years, I spoke with friends, family, and industry people I admired about wanting to move to Los Angeles. Needless to say, everyone had their own opinions about my future and where I should be. Some suggested that moving is pointless now because of the internet. Sure I had “access” to the world, but I couldn’t stand the thought of becoming just another email.

The other consensus went something like, “The cost of living is super high, it’s overly saturated with talent, everyone’s trying to make it, you’ll do better creating a buzz “here” instead of moving to hot expensive LA where the traffic is exasperating, no one’s “making it” anymore.” I’ve heard it all. Yet I still needed to experience it for myself. So I came.

Seven months in, I’ve now discovered the real cost of LA. I’m guessing you don’t need a long list. You’re probably already considering the jump, but you just need that extra push to confirm what you already know. You should move here. And here’s why:

1. LA is the entertainment capital of the world. Everyone is here from musicians, to producers, writers, engineers, and publishers. Whoever you need to meet, either lives here or works here throughout the year. That should be enough right? I’ll continue.

2.Networking opportunities are endless. Everyone’s working, and looking for that missing key to open the next door. This means you have a greater opportunity to randomly run into that producer you’ve been dying to work with. Or that songwriter you’ve been itching to collaborate with. Just stay informed on where they’re going to be, and make sure you’re in the building. So instead of being another email or a voicemail, you may actually have the opportunity to develop a real connection that may lead to something amazing.

3. Monthly industry events. Industry events happen all of the time. Forums, seminars, concerts, PRO events, festivals, etc. These events place you in front of key players most of the time, all while keeping you updated on the moves and trends of the industry.

4. Film and television industry opportunities. Some of my first writing sessions here were with producers who were working on tv and film placements.

5. Don’t laugh – It’s actually affordable. You may have to dig a bit, but affordable living is possible. And even better with a roommate. If you’re not into conventional work, be prepared to work 2-3 freelance jobs to maintain a flexible schedule. If you really want it, it’s TOTALLY doable.

6. An extra perk is the weather! Some days I write at the beach, and other days I write on the top of a mountain. Where else can you do that?

7. And lastly, it’s very simple: If you’re thinking about doing it, JUST DO IT.

It’s so easy to overthink your next step. Believe me. I considered Nashville, New York, and Atlanta before moving to LA. While all cities are great, and have many things to offer, I believe LA was the right move for me. I’ve only been here for 7 months, and I’ve already been on tour with a R&B artist, I’ve met some great producers, engineers, and songwriters at random events, I’ve attended BMI forums, where I connected with top producers in the industry, and I occasionally run into a movie star or NBA basketball player while catching lunch; which is pretty cool.

I’ve also been able to connect with industry key players at the Grammy academy events. I’ve heard stories of people moving to LA and having success within 30 days, while others say it may take up to three years or more. Whatever your path may be, I think it’s important to stick to it, roll with the punches, and expect the best for yourself. There’s no wrong choice, except the one made in fear.

So, go for it. What do you have to lose?