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.

A Look Back at 2016: TuneCore Artists in the Spotlight

2016 was a generally…interesting…year around the world. We saw a lot of changes, but one thing that remained constant was the talented artists within the TuneCore community’s ability to shine!

We couldn’t be more proud of 2016’s movers and shakers who continue to crush it in the world of independent music — proving you don’t need to be on a major label (or in some cases a label at all) to build an audience, get heard and get paid what they’re truly owed. So join us as we take a look at some of the standouts from around the industry over the past year!

GRAMMY Time!

TuneCore artists, songwriters and arrangers are making some serious waves in both the GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY nomination pools this year. Check out some of the awesome noms received by independent artists from the TuneCore community and join us in congratulating them:

Best Urban Contemporary Album 
We Are King
KING
Best New Artist
Chance The Rapper
Best Dance Recording
Drinkee
Sofi Tukker
Best Rap Performance
No Problem
Chance The Rapper Featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
Best Rap Song
No Problem
Chancelor Bennett, Dwayne Carter & Tauheed Epps, songwriters (Chance The Rapper Featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz)
Best Rap Album
Coloring Book
Chance The Rapper
Best Latin Jazz Album
Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective On The Music Of Woody Shaw
Brian Lynch & Various Artists
Best Contemporary Blues Album
The Last Days of Oakland
Fantastic Negrito
Best Regional Roots Music Album
E Walea
Kalani Pe’a
Best Children’s Album
Novelties
Recess Monkey
Best Musical Theater Album
The Color Purple
Label: Broadway Records
Fiddler On The Roof
Label: Broadway Records

TuneCore Artists On the Come-Up

While we don’t live-and-die by the almighty “Best Of” lists each year, we are always proud to see some of the great artists who distributed their releases using TuneCore show up on ’em!

Pigeons & Planes’ “Best New Artists of 2016”

– Kamaiyah
– Lil Yachty
– Starrah
– Kaiydo
– Maggie Rogers
– Jessie Reyez
– Saint JHN
– Twelve’Len

Pitchfork’s “Best of 2016”

– A Good Night in the Ghetto by Kamaiyah
– Telefone by Noname
– Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper
– We Are KING by KING
– The Sun’s Tirade by Isiah Rashad (Hip Hop)
– Honor Killed the Samuri by Ka (Hip Hop)

SXSW, TuneCore Presents, A3C, Brooklyn Hip Hop Fest, Mondo.NYC

2016 saw a continued effort to connect with artists on the ground at some of America’s most exciting music summits and conferences, including one curated by TuneCore:

Deap Vally performing at TuneCore's 2016 Austin Takeover
Deap Vally performing at TuneCore’s 2016 Austin Takeover

 

Director of Video Camille Moussard breaking down how to earn revenue on YouTube during "TuneCore Presents" in conjunction with Austin Music Foundation
Director of Video Camille Moussard breaking down how to earn revenue on YouTube during “TuneCore Presents” in conjunction with Austin Music Foundation

 

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TuneCore holding it down in the Tidal Tent during the 2016 Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

 

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Sr. Director of Entertainment Relations Chris Mooney (far right) and Director of Marketing Mitch Wenger (far left) presenting/moderating “Under The Hood: Get Your Music Heard and Get Paid for Doing It” at Mondo.NYC 2016

Reeperbahn, The Great Escape, Indie Week, MusikMesse, MAMA

Not only did TuneCore launch new websites in Australia, Germany, France and Italy, we also made our presence known at some of the most prominent music industry events in Canada and across Europe:

great-escape_sam_diy-day
TuneCore UK Brand Manager Sam Taylor on stage during DIY Day at Great Escape 2016

 

International VP Marie-Anne Roberts, CEO Scott Ackerman, and Germany Brand Manager Stine Muehle at Reeperbahn 2016
International VP Marie-Anne Roberts, CEO Scott Ackerman, and Germany Brand Manager Stine Muehle at Reeperbahn 2016

 

TuneCore's Meghna Rajaram and Brittany Holloway at Indie Week 2016
TuneCore’s Meghna Rajaram and Brittany Holloway at Indie Week 2016

Giving Back in 2016

2016 was year for TuneCore to get involved with some amazing music-related non-profit organizations and serve as the distribution platform for some very thoughtful charity-based releases:

  • Songs Of Love Foundation – Based in Queens, the Songs of Love Foundation matches independent songwriters with children and teens in difficult medical, physical and emotional situations, brightening their world with personalized songs about them. TuneCore has partnered with S.O.L. to become their official digital distributor. Read more about Songs of Love here.
  • Broadway For Orlando – After the tragic shooting that took place in the Pulse nightclub of Orlando, Broadway Records headed up a charitable initiative which organized the recording of Burt Bacharach’s classic “What The World Needs Now” sung by an all-star Broadway cast. 100% of the proceeds from this recording went to the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida. TuneCore was honored to be tapped as a distribution partner. Find Broadway For Orlando on iTunes here.
  • Broadway Kids Against Bullying – Similar to the above initiative,  Broadway Records coordinated voices from some of the finest young talent on Broadway to perform and release “I Have a Voice”, an effort to stand-up against bullying. All profits from the release go to NoBully.org, and you can find it on iTunes here.
  • The “Play It Forward” Campaign – In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks of December in 2015, the band in the middle of it all, Eagles of Death Metal, began an on-going initiative that invited artists from Kings of Leon to Jimmy Eat World to cover their song “I Love You All The Time”, with 100% of the revenue generated going to co-founder Joshua Homme’s nonprofit “Sweet Stuff”. Read more about the Play It Forward campaign here.
  • Notes For Notes – Notes for Notes is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that designs, equips, and staffs after-school recording studios inside Boys & Girls Clubs offering youth the opportunity to explore, create, and record music for free. TuneCore has partnered up with the organization to offer education around distribution, publishing and general music industry tips for young, aspiring artists.

So cheers to the end of 2016! We’ll be resting up and getting ready for an exciting 2017 and we hope you join us. Happy New Year!

Get In The Spirit With TuneCore’s Holiday Playlist!

We’ve explored the benefits and fun associated with releasing holiday albums and singles as an independent music maker in the past, and this year showed no slowdown in TuneCore Artists’ ability to spread holiday cheer and provide a seasonal soundtrack for their fans.

This week we’re psyched to show-off some of these talented artists’ efforts in our 2016 Holiday Celebration Spotify Playlist!

It’s jam-packed with 99you read that correctly – holiday-themed tracks spanning the genres. Intended to brighten up your holidays no matter how you celebrate, this playlist is the perfect way to support independent music, get in the spirit, and get away from all those Santa-themed mall pop hits from seasons past (no offense, Mariah).

If you’re not already following TuneCore on Spotify, now’s the perfect time. Finish up wrapping those gifts, break out the menorah, or simply cozy up with friends and family to a slew of awesome new talent for the TuneCore community of artists this weekend.

While you’re digging the music, start considering how you can get ahead of upcoming holidays in 2017 and what kind of holiday-themed music you can share with your fans! Valentine’s Day songs for lovers? A single for the music industry’s favorite holiday in Austin each year? Or maybe a dedication to mom’s everywhere for Mother’s Day – the possibilities are endless.

Happy jamming, and of course, happy holidays!

TuneCore Partners With Pandora

TuneCore is excited to announce that we’ve officially partnered with Internet Radio powerhouse Pandora!

Pandora became a household name for music lovers in the United States, New Zealand and Australia as a revolutionary source for music discovery and carefully curated radio stations based on the artists its users love.

Now, they’ve launched their brand new Pandora Plus platform – a non-interactive subscription service (meaning Pandora selects the music being played next) free of ads that introduces features like replays, skipping more tracks, and offline station access.

Independent artists of all stripes have been asking TuneCore about access to Pandora for years, and now we’re thrilled to be able to offer an avenue of submission for music makers hoping to reach the Internet Radio service’s 78+ million users.

It’s important to note that while TuneCore Artists will now have the opportunity to submit as many releases as they’d like to Pandora, the service is still ultimately curated by Pandora, and we can therefore not guarantee that delivered content will go live on Pandora or Pandora Plus. Read more about delivery to Pandora here.

How do I get my music delivered to Pandora if I’m a first-time TuneCore Artist?

It’s simple – when getting ready to distribute your first release, make sure to ‘opt-in’ to Pandora when selecting which stores and platforms you would like your music delivered to.

I’ve already distributed a release(s) via TuneCore – how can I deliver it/them to Pandora?

To send in your previously TuneCore-distributed releases to Pandora for consideration, simply log in to your TuneCore account and visit the TuneCore Cart. Your releases have already been placed in the cart for “Pandora Store-Add”, all you need to do is complete the checkout process (if you have Store Automator, there is no action needed)!
Got more questions? Learn more about Pandora Plus or get in touch with our world class Artist Support team.

TuneCore Closes Out Strong Year of International Growth With Launch of TuneCore Italy

Streaming Is On The Rise Across All International Markets

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – December 13, 2016 – TuneCore, the leading digital music distribution and publishing administration service provider, caps off a strong year of sustained and international growth with the announcement today of TuneCore Italy – the service provider’s fourth launch in the European market and sixth international expansion. Since the company’s inception in 2006, TuneCore artists worldwide have earned more than $783 million collectively from over 43.8 billion downloads and streams. As the only major global distribution service with a dedicated Italian offering, Tunecore.it features local content in the native language that caters to the Italian independent artist community.

As part of its continued commitment to support independent artists around the world, in 2016 TuneCore launched three international sites including TuneCore Germany (April 2016), TuneCore France (October 2016) and now, TuneCore Italy (December 2016).

TuneCore’s global expansion efforts have led to an overall increase in its year-to-date international customer base. Further, TuneCore’s local offerings in international markets have seen significant increases in customer growth, specifically in the France and Germany markets. TuneCore also identified Hip Hop and R&B/Soul as two of the fastest growing genres in each of its key international markets (U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, Germany and France). Additionally, TuneCore has seen the growing popularity of streaming reflected across its international markets, with a 340 percent year-over-year increase in streaming in Canada, as well as year-over-year increases in Australia (92 percent), Germany (71 percent) and the UK (67 percent). Streaming also continues to grow in the U.S., with a 65 percent year-over-year increase.

“As we head into 2017, global expansion is pivotal in furthering our mission to bring more music to more people worldwide, while continuing to establish TuneCore as a leader in the international digital music distribution market,” says Scott Ackerman, CEO at TuneCore. “Our global expansion into Italy – a market that previously lacked a dedicated local offering from a global distributor – is a natural fit as we continue to support our artists by giving them the local resources and tools they need to be successful.”

In addition to keeping 100 percent of their revenues, and retaining complete creative control and ownership of their music, Italian customers will have access to TuneCore’s robust portfolio of artist services, as well as local Italian partners such as Music Raiser and MusicOFF, and world-class customer service. TuneCore Italy artists can also opt to include their music in storefronts controlled by TuneCore’s extensive network of more than 150 digital partners across the globe, including iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and Amazon Music. In addition, TuneCore Italy customers will be able to take advantage of the company’s strategic partnership with Believe Digital. With an already existing office in Italy with more than 30 employees, Believe Digital will offer TuneCore Italy customers access to a variety of advanced artist services, such as international campaign management, trade and online digital marketing, video management and distribution, physical distribution and more.

With its expansion into Italy, TuneCore now offers local musicians in seven countries outside of the U.S. – UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy – the opportunity to collect revenue from streaming services, digital download stores, songwriter royalties, and sync licensing opportunities, all in their local currency.

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About TuneCore

TuneCore brings more music to more people, while helping musicians and songwriters increase money-earning opportunities and take charge of their own careers. The company has one of the highest artist revenue-generating music catalogs in the world, earning TuneCore Artists $783 million from over 43.8 billion downloads and streams since inception. TuneCore Music Distribution services help artists, labels and managers sell their music through iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play and other major download and streaming sites while retaining 100 percent of their sales revenue and rights for a low annual flat fee.

TuneCore Music Publishing Administration assists songwriters by administering their compositions through licensing, registration, world-wide royalty collections, and placement opportunities in film, TV, commercials, video games and more. The TuneCore Artist Services portal offers a suite of tools and services that enable artists to promote their craft, connect with fans, and get their music heard. TuneCore, part of Believe Digital Services, operates as an independent company and is headquartered in Brooklyn, NY with offices in Burbank, CA, Nashville, TN and Austin, TX, and global expansions in the UK, Australia, Japan, Canada, Germany and France. For additional information about TuneCore, please visit www.tunecore.com or https://youtu.be/TSjGACrJyiY.

November Industry Wrap-Up

By Hugh McIntyre

The end of 2016 is close enough to touch, but we’re not there quite yet. November was a big month for music, if not the business, and a number of the most popular movers and shakers in the game made waves with new projects, changed history, and tried to push the boundaries of where their art had been before.

  • The Chainsmokers and Halsey are now immortalized in charting history thanks to their shockingly-popular hit “Closer;”
  • With a new string of mixtapes on the way, it is starting to seem as if Hamilton will never go away—not that you’d want it to;
  • Beyoncé, the country music star? If she has her way, she’ll be on top of every genre.

The Chainsmokers now have the fourth longest-running number one hit of all time

After what felt like forever, The Chainsmokers finally slipped a single spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, vacating the number one spot the EDM duo had owned for months. The pairing’s hit song “Closer,” which features the vocals of up-and-coming pop singer Halsey, ruled the all-encompassing singles tally for an incredible 12 consecutive weeks, which puts the track into the history books alongside some of the greatest tunes that have ever been released.

The surprising reign enjoyed by The Chainsmokers and Halsey goes to show that despite reports, EDM is far from dead, and in fact in many ways, it has become the new “pop.” For months on end, “Closer” was the most-played song on the radio, the most streamed track, and the best-selling song in the country, proving that the masses have accepted this relatively new genre just as they have so many others in the past.

As production software becomes cheaper and easier to use, there are more remixers and dance producers than ever before, but clearly there is a market for this kind of material, and it is now entering a new era where it can compete with the biggest of all time.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is extending the Hamilton brand into a series of mixtapes

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is clearly a proponent of the idea that if something is working, keep running with it until people are tired of it. The man behind the hottest show to come to Broadway in years began rolling out the first tracks from the Hamilton mixtape that he revealed as in the works earlier this year, and already people are freaking out. The album-length project doesn’t yet have a release date, though it’s due at some point before the end of the year, but it already looks like it will be one of the biggest, and certainly the most highly-anticipated, pieces of music of all of 2016.

Miranda caused a frenzy online when he tweeted a photo featuring the tracklist for the Hamilton mixtape, complete with what artists had taken up vocal duties on all of the reworked songs. The group of names that the theatrical prodigy was able to put together is incredible, and it reads more like the lineup of which artists are set to perform at the Grammys or who has been hired to headline Coachella than a mixtape. Kelly Clarkson, Sia, Chance The Rapper, The Roots, Usher, Alicia Keys, and over a dozen others have all lent their talents to the CD, which is now even more hotly tipped than ever before (if that’s at all possible).

Around the same time, the playwright also revealed that this upcoming album was just the first mixtape, and that he was planning on turning Hamilton into not one, but a series of mixtapes. The actual cast recording of the show, which has already been certified double platinum and is still hanging on in the top ten on the Billboard 200, features 46 tracks, so it’s not difficult to understand how Miranda could continue to roll out mixtape after mixtape, keeping the brand fresh and alive for years to come.

Hamilton was creative enough as it is, but Miranda’s plan to morph it into mixtapes is a fantastic idea, not just in a creative sense, but when it comes to business as well. He’s turned one successful project into several, which is something that other musicians should take to heart.

If audiences love a song or an album, why not keep serving it to them in different ways to see how far it can stretch?

Beyoncé runs the (country) world—or at least she wants to

Beyoncé, or as many know her, Queen Bey, has already conquered the worlds of R&B and pop, but someone as ambitious as she is always looking for new challenges and new ways to come out on top.

When the singer launched her second surprise visual album earlier this year, fans were excited and shocked to hear a bit of twang on the new CD. Lemonade featured a country song entitled “Daddy Lessons,” which saw Bey going in a new direction with her music. Fans and critics applauded the effort, and it has been noted as a standout track from the album alongside singles like “Formation” and “Sorry.”

Now, with Lemonade slowly working its way down the charts, Beyoncé has launched a full-scale promotional campaign to make her mark in the country music world with “Daddy Lessons,” but surprisingly, it isn’t going as smoothly as the star is used to. Just days before the CMAs (Country Music Association Awards), it was announced that Bey would join forces with the Dixie Chicks to perform “Lessons,” which excited both country fans and the Beyhive. The aftermath of her stellar showing was mixed, with many complementing the excellent performance, while others commented that she seemed out of place at the CMAs, which are focused solely on country.

Not long after her time on stage, a live version of “Lessons” made its way onto Spotify, becoming the first track off of Lemonade to be made available to the public outside of either Tidal or iTunes. Up until late November, the only way the public could hear the superstar’s new collection was to buy it in full or sign up for Tidal, a streaming service co-owned by Bey, her husband Jay Z, and a few dozen other musicians. Her acquiescence shows that while she might be one of the biggest stars in the world, even Beyoncé needs to be on Spotify, where millions around the world access their music.

Reinventing yourself as an artist is difficult, especially when it comes to switching genres, though it’s not impossible. Bey was smart enough to go country in her own way, and not simply copy what the chart-toppers in the genre do. “Daddy Lessons” may have more guitar than the world is used to hearing from her, but she was able to discover what she could bring to the table that other superstars weren’t, which is a Louisiana vibe and a charisma and voice no other artist can match.

Transitioning from one style to another is possible, but it needs to be done intelligently and correctly if it’s to work out.