Creating a Content Pipeline: How To Be Prepared For Anything

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Kendra Gaines. Kendra is a digital music marketing fiend. ‘Like’ her Facebook page, Easy Music Promo for more.]

 

“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” – Zig Ziglar

The above quote is cool and all, but I don’t think it means what we think it means. A lot of motivational speakers and Twitter gurus like to use this quote. To them, it’s a way to get you moving. They tend to believe that you must be prepared. You must train. You must get everything right first, and then, once the universe is satisfied with your amount of preparation, you’ll unlock a golden opportunity.

It’s a great thought, and while I believe it to be true, I like to think of it slightly differently. See, in the quote, the opportunity happens first, then that opportunity meets the preparation. In the quote, there are no indications about when and how the opportunity comes about. You can prepare, easily, but you can’t really fabricate an opportunity, especially in the music business.

The Internet is crazy and it never sleeps. While you’re awake reading this right now, someone from across the world is laying their head down to sleep right now, and the cycle turns continuously. As artists, we don’t get to pick and choose what listeners latch onto and how they share it; we just hope they will.

Let me give you an example. Long ago I worked with a friend who’s a singer. He worked long nights and spent a lot of money putting together a fantastic project that was received pretty well. He and I did what we thought was our due diligence and sent out press releases, contacted blogs and radio, and made sure the fan base had enough to keep them busy and entertained for a while. It did well for the moment, but eventually the buzz wore off.

Do you know what went viral weeks later?

An old-ass video of he and a group of friends singing in a Waffle House. Someone whipped out their video phone and got a snippet of them singing.

Thousands of dollars doing the right thing for a project and a potato-quality video is what catches on. Geez.

And to make matters worse, we had nothing else. An opportunity arose and we had no new content to keep newcomers engaged. We weren’t prepared.

So, how do we combat this?

The way a lot of independent artists work is they put music out and hope for the best. Sometimes they’ll plan a release, but they still generally put the music out, do a cool thing or two and then move on to the next project.

While not wrong, it’s just not enough. That’s why artists should be building pipelines.

No matter what industry you’re in right now, content is king. And if you don’t have enough content to get attention, then you’re falling behind.

Guess what? One album every nine months isn’t enough. You’ve got to do more.

Before I tell you how to create a pipeline, I’m going to give you two great reasons why pipelines work.

1. Motivation.​ I have no clue what it is with creative types, but we’ll have an idea and be really into it. But maybe two weeks later, we’ve moved on from that idea with nothing to show for. There’s a theory out there that we only have so much motivation and will power, and when we get the feeling to do something, we just need to do it. The problem happens when we do stuff and want to release it right away. The idea of creating a pipeline encourages you to wait for the right time, while taking advantage of your wave of creativity.

2. Time.​ If you’re an independent artist and you have a small team or no team at all, you’re probably doing a lot of the work yourself. That leaves very little time to do anything else. However, the pipeline theory works like a blitz — you take two or three weeks out of the month to make month’s worth of content. Then as your content is being released in phases, you can just chill, create more or have something in your back pocket for when an opportunity arises.

Creating a Pipeline for Success

It’s important to know beforehand, that you’re going to need to be committed to creating content for the allotted amount of time needed to create. When I mention content creation, I’m not just talking about making songs, though that is away at it. I also mean bite sized pieces of content for social media, whether that be photos, graphics, contests, etc.

To get yourself acclimated to the idea, I suggest taking one to two weeks to create four to six weeks worth of content. ​You want to create so you can release one to two things a week. So, a six-week pipeline, as six to 12 good pieces of content to be released. Make sense?

1. Get a calendar and abide by it. Before you start making the content, you need to essentially create a release schedule. What days and times and what kind of content do you want to release? Do you want to release a new song Tuesday at 6PM? Is it behind-the-scenes studio footage that you release Wednesday at noon? For contests and deals, you want to also consider how the particulars will work. Put it all on an ideal schedule of how things will be phased out (or dripped).

2. Start setting deadlines. This part is super hard, especially if you have a team or outsource some of your work. It’s tough to ask people to give you things by a certain time, but try to build extra time into your deadlines. Ideally, you’re telling your team what you want and when you want it by. If you’re working along, these are just rubrics for when you want to have final products ready to go.

3. Create! There are so many things you can create for content that range from entire new songs or cover songs to footage. Don’t think this all has to be expensive. Something I’ve learned is finished is better than perfect — it’s ok to shoot a couple videos on your iPhone. It’s ok to use a free beat you’ve found online every so often. Most of your pipeline work is just to keep you relevant. When you have specific, original content, you’ll start making campaigns for that. Create stuff that works in-between time.

4. The create some more. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of getting a fluctuation of interest and no way to engage or monetize off that. Even if it’s not on the schedule, get in the habit of recording more, taking more photos, recording more songs, etc.

5. Release your content. Easily. It’s hard to remember when to release stuff all the time. It slips your mind and that’s cool. Use a service like TuneCore Social to drip your content out amongst your social medial channels. This makes it easier for you, as you get to set it and forget it.

6. Reap the benefits. Now, you’ve got content for the next few weeks! That’s great. You can kick your feet up, or, as I’d recommend, get right back into creating. Perhaps your next piece of work is for a campaign around a single or project. You can use the same idea to put something together for it, just make sure it’s all related and has the same feeling behind it.

When it opportunity comes, you want to be prepared to handle it. Making sure you have something to keep people engaged is so important as an independent artist. Try out the pipeline theory and see how it works toward growing your fanbase.

Why So Many Musicians Will Never Be Successful

[Editors Note: This was written by Anthony Cerullo and it originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

Even without seeing his full face, it’s a fair assumption that the man pictured above is none other than Bono from U2. Say what you will about the man, but it’s hard to deny his success. The quest to finding success like Bono’s – or any other famous musician, for that matter – is a difficult one. The reasoning behind this is because the definition of success is different for many people.

Some believe that all it takes is maintaining a standard of excellence. As long as they conquer the technical aspects of their instrument and become fluent in the language of music, then success will grow naturally. Not to put down those aspects, but there’s more to it than that.

Today’s age of music is increasingly competitive. Techincal musicianship is common practice and no longer a mind-blowing concept. Of course, there are still musicians out there who are better than others, but in terms of the audience, people won’t pay that much more to see someone like Herbie Hancock play piano compared to Taylor Swift. In fact, Taylor Swift probably charges more and isn’t nearly as musically talented as Herbie Hancock, yet some would argue she has a more successful career.

Audiences and musicians alike understand that technical excellence is a necessity if one wants to make it in music. That being said, it’s hardly all you need for success.

The keys to a successful personality

First of all, great job at mastering your instrument. You’ve practiced until your fingers bled and fought through the periods of low motivation until, finally, you’ve broken through. Friends, family, and teachers alike all praise your ability on your instrument… so why are you not playing Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve? Well, as we already know at this point, it takes more than skill to breed success.

If you want to change the world of music, that’s not going to be done just by being the best – people also need to recognize your creativity and individuality. By approaching your music in a unique and thoughtful way, you don’t even have to be an amazing player. You can see examples like this all over the music industry. Take the Beatles, for instance. None of them were virtuosos at their individual instruments, but they did something that no one else did, and they will be remembered forever for it.

Besides originality, a few key personality traits are needed as well. It’s easy to get lost in the monotony of life, but if your career isn’t going where you want it to, think about something: Are you playing it too safe? Are you sitting at home practicing your instrument and looking at all the massive tour schedules of other bands?

Some people who play it safe think that in order to make it big, you need to be skilled, rich, or lucky. A little bit of that will help, but more than anything, you need to be bold, dedicated, and devoted to taking risks. The big gig isn’t going to fall in your lap – you have to get out of the house and go for it.

You know that feeling that you might lose everything when taking a risk? It’s not a bad one. A scary feeling, yes, but bad, no. In the end, it will be persistence that brings you to the top, not luck or money.

Once you finally have the courage to risk it all and leave your comfort zone, you need to figure out how to maximize your time.

Don’t settle for mediocrity

Once you join the rat race to success, it’s crucial to differentiate yourself from the pack. There will be plenty of musicians of equal talent and dedication to compete with. To stand out, many believe they should practice longer or more efficiently. This will help, but you only have so much time and energy. By not managing your time effectively, you’ll burn yourself out.

Once that happens, you’ll seek any victory you can get to revive confidence. This is why so many people aim for mediocrity. It’s easy to obtain, safe, realistic, and doesn’t consume much energy. Some people are content with mediocrity as it satisfies them just enough.

However, the field of mediocrity is crowded. Mediocrity is like a lake full of trout fishermen. Sure, trout is alright, but there’s a lot of other guys here fishing for it. Meanwhile, in the ocean, a few daring seafarers hunt after Moby Dick himself. Moby Dick is certainly a much harder catch, but there is also less competition for this very reason.

The big goals are the ones to go after. Assuming you’ve already mastered your instrument, your energy will be best spent putting maximum effort into what you believe. You want the Moby Dick of ideas – the one that seems almost unobtainable, yet you couldn’t imagine failing to capture it.

This dream has to be deeply personal. If it’s not, you won’t be willing to do whatever it takes to make it come true. Before attempting anything, that desire has to be into place. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting time and energy. In other words, don’t exhaust yourself fishing for trout.

Put it into action

This will sound cliche, but it’s time to be honest with yourself. We all have dreams, but what stops us from doing them? If you took a piece of paper and wrote down the top five things to do before you die, would you start doing them right that second? Probably not, but that’s the issue with many who fail.

Too many musicians crave success but, whether they know it or not, shy away from it. It can be something small like not telling your friends about a gig because you’re afraid of what they’ll think. Maybe you’re sitting around putting off album production for another day. Have you written out the song you’ve been humming in your head for the past week? Why not?

It’s common sense, but nothing will get done unless you put it into action. Start small and write a list of things you need to advance your music career. Then just start doing them. Put more energy into the bigger goals on the list, but don’t skip over the smaller, necessary ones. If you’re really that dedicated to becoming a successful musician, then you’ll be rewarded greatly for your dedication to action.

How Musicians Can Take Advantage of Key Digital Trends Towards 2020

[Editors Note: This blog article was written by Michelle Aguilar.]

 

It is probably no surprise that businesses are being transformed by digital platforms such as Facebook. The platform has recently released a report that looks at the different ways in which businesses are being reshaped. Out of the many insights from the report, there are three findings that can be of great use, especially if you are an independent musician.

Consumer Expectations are Increasing

Facebook notes that people are expecting higher quality in mobile experiences and customer service. Reflective of their data, Facebook conversation around ‘user experience’ has been observed to grow considerably. Because of this increase, people are more accepting of surging prices. There is a willingness to pay for more convenience. This highlights the need for business to gain better understanding of the modern customer experience.

As a musician, this data can be applied to the digitalized aspects of your endeavors. Your website, press kit, and social media are all channels you can clean up and modify to make information accessible, easy to navigate, and responsive. You can also compare this to your experience as a user when attempting to connect to a business; you’re more likely to engage more when the experience is without stress or confusion.

Consumer Participation in Ecommerce is Increasing

An increase in globalization has significantly influenced the ecommerce reach. According to Facebook, more than one billion users are connected to another business in another country. Two in three online shoppers have already shopped cross-border. To give you a statistical run-down on people per region around the world are connected to a business in another country:

  • In the US, over 60%
  • In Canada, over 60%
  • In the UK, over 75%
  • In Germany, over 75%
  • In India, over 40%
  • In Japan, over 30%
  • In Indonesia over 45%
  • In Brazil, over 60%
  • In Mexico, over 60%

If people are becoming more willing to make business abroad, it is important that you make your music and music events available internationally available on the web, this includes making your music available on Spotify or other streaming services. You can also include a ‘tip jar’ to your website by creating an account on www.paypal.me—there, people can make donations by sending payments to your PayPal account.

Millennials Are The Most Populous Generation in the U.S 

According to Facebook, it is estimated that by 2020, Millennials will make up half of the global workforce. The Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization, has defined key Millennial values that will shape the future of the American economy—these include:

  • An interest in daily work that reflects and is a part of larger societal concerns.
  • An emphasis on corporate social responsibility, stronger brand loyalty, ethical causes, and ability to offer specific solutions to specific social problems.
  • Respect for the environment.
  • Ability to build communities based on shared interests rather than geographical proximity, which in turn bridges dissimilar groups.

It’s important to become acquainted with the demographics that will make up most of the future workforce. After all, you are ultimately trying to find financial sustainability through your work (work which doesn’t come close to those that have a promising check every other week).And since Millennials listen to 75% more music on a daily basis (ERA) compared to other generations, these insights can serve as a guide to help you better understand your target audience.

Are there any social, economic or environmental issues that you’re interested or passionate about? If not, try to think about your personal interests; there is always someone out there that can relate and you never know, something that makes you tick may do the same for 100 (or more) others.

As an independent musician, staying on track with digital trends can be laborious since most of the time you’re busy producing, searching for gigs and doing a hundred other things to keep the ball rolling. So I hope that this brief recap on Facebook’s digital report can help fine-tune business for you and keep you prepared for your current endeavors!

Do you know of any other social media/digital trends that may be of use for other musicians? How have you managed to stay active on social media platforms? Feel free to share with us below in the comments.

Do You Need a Publicist Or Just Some Research?

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

 

Building out your team as an artist is a very difficult process. Young musicians often believe having a manager, a publicist or a booking agent onboard will be the core to somehow expediting the process of launching their career. Today you’re playing to ten friends and family members at your local VFW or singing at open mics. Then, viola! Your team has scored you a spot on tour with your favorite band, selling out arenas.

As most of you are probably aware, that scenario doesn’t necessarily match up with the reality of building a career in music. There is no magic bullet. In fact, building out your team too early can lead to getting stuck in business relationships that don’t necessarily make the most sense in the long run or, as is the case with publicists, see you investing what little money you have to spend on your project in areas that you won’t necessarily see the sort of results you’re hoping for.

Here are three questions to ask yourself before deciding whether or not to pull the trigger on bringing a publicist into the fold:

Will I Be Able To Give A Publicist Enough To Work With?

An important key to publicity is having assets to work with. Yes, you have a great EP, but is there anything else that your publicist can give to press? Are there tour dates or live shows in your hometown? Do you have a unique element to your story that could lead to a bigger editorial piece that will serve as a cornerstone for the campaign? Did you shoot any high-quality music videos for the project?

A publicist is going to have to sell a writer on the fact they are getting in early on something that will be bigger down the line. Just having a handful of quality songs does not go a long way to help them sell that idea.

What Are My Goals With This Campaign?

Am I hiring a publicist because I think they’re going to take me from my bedroom to the cover of Rolling Stone? Do I think that I am going to see a significant financial return immediately from doing a few months of PR? If so, you’re probably going to be disappointed with the results you’re going to get.

One in a million projects can break immediately without a ton of work from major industry powers going on behind the scenes. The vast majority of artists need to build out their public presence in stages. Your initial public relations campaign should be about building that first tier of coverage. This would likely consist of grabbing a few of the aforementioned cornerstone pieces and streaming playlists that you can start building a 1-sheet around and getting writers out to see you play live.

From there you can start building anticipation for your next release or, if the campaign goes really well, you can continue to go after additional coverage on the release immediately.

What Is My Next Step?

A standard PR campaign will run around three months. Once that three month period is over, if the coverage isn’t rolling in enough to continue seeking press, what’s your next step?

Are you going to be right back in the studio working on the follow-up or is there going to be a long wait before you release music again?

If this release took a year or two to prepare and you don’t see a next release in the near future, you’re better off handling press yourself and focusing on building an organic following through playing live and direct-to-fan initiatives.

In short, ask yourself if this release is going to set up a bigger push in the next year or is it step one in your career as an artist from which you will decide where you will pivot to next.

It’s best for an artist not to rush to add structure to their project to quickly. It’s usually better to find yourself creatively before looking to start working towards a sustainable career. If you do find yourself in this stage of self-discovery, don’t rush to hire a publicist. You can find the contact information for most of the writers or blogs that will be most likely to cover your project in these early stages on their website or via the writer’s Twitter account.

The more you can do on your own before hiring people around you, the better you’ll understand the process of releasing music and ultimately the more worthwhile your eventual first proper PR campaign will be!

Tips For Getting Your Song On a Spotify Playlist

[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.]

 

You’re absolutely certain you want, no, you need, to get on an official Spotify playlist. The problem is you’re not sure how to reach the elusive curators and you’re struggling to get past 50 followers on Spotify.

Asking to be on an official Spotify playlist in that case is somewhat the equivalent of wanting to be on the cover of Rolling Stone when the only show you’ve played is the local dive bar on the seedy side of town.

Don’t despair. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it does mean you’ll have to put in a little elbow grease to build up to it. Just like the mailroom guy has to work through a multitude of career levels before becoming manager, you’ll have to create some momentum to reach your official Spotify playlist goal.

Here’s a few simple steps that are within reach no matter the level:

1. Get Verified

The first thing you should do is get your Spotify band profile verified. This does a few things. It gives you credibility and shows you take your band seriously. It can also help with Spotify algorithms which prioritize verified accounts.

Lastly it can help you get noticed by Spotify influencers, including those who create unofficial playlists, but are influential nonetheless. You can find the five simple steps to get verified on Spotify here.

2. Work Unofficial Spotify Playlists

The best way to reach a goal is to start where you are. You may want to go straight to being featured on an official Spotify playlist, but the truth is that you’ll most likely need to build up to where a Spotify curator will pay attention. The good news is that there are a lot of unofficial Spotify curators who will be more open to featuring bands who haven’t yet built a larger following. At this stage in the game, Spotify curators, both official and unofficial, are heavily guarded and extremely elusive.

Start with the ones who want more followers and help brand them by asking your followers to follow them. In your head you may think they’re not worth the time. Instead think about not where they are, but where they could end up. Isn’t that how you would hope playlisters would think of you?

I can still remember when Alex with Consequence of Sound reached out to me to purchase a $25 ad on his site. Nobody knew who the blog was then, but now they’re one of the top blogs. And almost every band who comes to us for music PR at Green Light Go asks to be featured there. You never know where someone will go so treat them with the kind of courtesy and respect no matter what the level.

3. Promote Spotify on Social Media Platforms

If you want to increase followers and awareness with Spotify influencers, you’re going to need to increase your marketing efforts on your social media. Make sure you have links to your Spotify profile in your about sections. Also, once or so per week ask fans to follow you. But don’t just ask them to follow you without giving them something new.

Be strategic by offering fresh content whether it’s announcing your single release, album release or creating a playlist with new songs. Also be sure to promote the playlists of influencers you want to include you in their playlist. Especially with those who don’t yet have the following yet, this can go a long way and allow you to get in on the ground floor before they make it big.

4. Promote Spotify on Website

Just like you promote your social media on your website with Facebook and Twitter links, you should also include Spotify anywhere you can. They have a great tool to create a follow button so fans can follow you straight from your site. In addition, you should include icons next to your other social media and also include a Spotify playlist so people can listen to your music. Lastly, include a widget to listen to the music you have available on Spotify.

5. Create Spotify Playlists

If you have yet to build a following or create relationships with Spotify playlisters, a good place to start is by building your own playlist including your music. To better your chances with Spotify aggregators, limit it to one song per artist (including your song), a minimum of 20 songs and give the title something catchy that is also searchable based on your theme. For instance, we have a playlist themed around indie folk, which we simply callIndie Folks. We also have an indie rock playlist we call, you guessed it, Indie Rocks.


The above steps can help you start breaking down the barrier to get your songs on Spotify playlists. Go ahead and get started by working on the achievable areas to make you more attractive to Spotify influencers.

4 Things Music Journalists Expect After Reviewing Your Album

[Editors Note: This blog article was written by Allison Johnelle Boron, editor-in-chief of REBEAT Magazine, and it originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

 

It finally happened: that hot music blog called your album “inspired” and urged its voracious readers to give it a listen. You do a happy dance and text your mom to tell her you’re on your way to bonafide rockstar status. This one 300-word post has made your entire day, week, and month.

But before you get too swept away by seeing your band’s name in print, don’t forget whose fingers typed it. You likely either cold called the writer or blog, worked with a publicist or PR agency to facilitate the review, or had a friend of a friend pass along your music to his or her music journalist pal.

Whatever route the review took to get written, pause your celebrations and make sure these four things are on your immediate to-do list.

1. Write a thank you

Music journalists aren’t obligated to write about anything musicians send over. In fact, writers’ inboxes are absolutely flooded with emails from artists and publicists, making it impossible to open each one, let alone play the tracks inside. So the sheer fact that your pitch broke through, warranted a listen, and inspired a write-up is a bit of a miracle.

Be sure to send a thank-you note over to the writer. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but make sure he or she knows you truly appreciate the time it took to give your music a thorough evaluation. Regardless if the resulting piece is positive or negative, thank him or her for sharing his or her thoughts and getting your band’s name in front of readers.

If you were fortunate enough to have a friend or PR person introduce the writer to your music, be sure to shoot him or her a thank-you email, too. It’s a small gesture that only takes a moment but makes a huge impact.

2. Share on social

The first logical step after reading a review of your music is to share it on social media. But before you scamper off and start posting all willy-nilly, put some thought into it. Make sure you’re posting so that the blog knows you’re doing your part to promote its article. After all, writers hate thinking that their pieces fall on deaf ears, just like you worry that no one is listening to your music.

When posting to Facebook, go ahead and tag the writer and/or publication in your post. This can be done low key; a simple, “Thanks for the review, Blog Name!” at the end of your post can suffice. In a tweet, either mention the blog or writer at the end. As a bonus, it’s likely you’ll get a retweet from the publication. Yay for more promotion!

3. Credit when using quotes from the review

You already know that press quotes are a valuable part of any media kit or artist website. Displaying them for promoters, other writers, potential team members, and more adds credibility to your whole musical operation. If there’s already press buzz around your music, you’ll look that much more attractive to folks you’re trying to woo.

Just be sure you’re not extracting lines from reviews and posting them into the ether. Be sure to attribute them with the writer’s name, publication, and date, as well as a direct link to the review itself.

Also, if you want to clip the review into a snippet by condensing sentences, that’s fine. Use an ellipsis (…) to denote that you’re Frankensteining the review into a format that works for your purposes. For example, “the band’s new album is a real departure from anything else on the radio…a complete 180 from their last single.”

4. Keep the relationship going

Most writers aren’t expecting an everlasting friendship once your review goes live. After all, they’re busy people who also often balance their passions with day jobs, families, and personal obligations. Not to mention that after your review goes live, they’re probably already onto the next thing. This doesn’t mean, however, that they’ve forgotten you or don’t want to hear from you ever again.

In fact, it’s really important to keep those connections alive in an organic way. If you live in the same city as the person who wrote about you, invite him or her out to see you play, or if you have a plus one for a show, offer to take him or her as your guest. If you see an article or meme or funny video that makes you think of an email exchange you had, send it over.

The key is to forget the “salesy” stuff and forge a human connection. That way, the next time you release a single, album, or video, he or she will be more likely to jump at the chance to support it because of your personal connection.