Being The Boss: Managing Your Manager

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Eli Ball, CEO of Lyric Financial. TuneCore and Lyric Financial partnered in April to bring artists TuneCore Direct Advance.]

 

As an artist your career is your business and you are the CEO. Before you begin protesting that you are an artist and you have a manager to deal with the business stuff, hear me out.

The music industry is full of so-called “professionals” who want to tell you how to be successful. In fact, many of them rely upon the assumption that you are not in charge, but make no mistake about it: you are the boss. While it absolutely takes a great and committed team to build a successful business, you as CEO are ultimately responsible (not your manager). Consider this: your manager is effectively the COO/CFO (chief operating officer and chief financial officer) of your business. As your COO/CFO the manager’s job is to execute your vision and be a trusted sounding board for your ideas. Sure, a good manager will bring you opportunities they think will advance your career – that’s their job. But remember, your manager works for you, not the other way around.

Here are some tips to help get you off on the right footing with your manager:

The Benefits of Having a Clear Vision

First, you need to define your vision for what you want to represent and accomplish as an artist. Be very clear about your goals and what you are willing to do and not willing to do in order to achieve them. Notice I did not use the word “comfortable”, since running a business is anything but comfortable. It’s challenging at every level of your being and the more success you have the more challenging it becomes.

By having a clear and concise vision that you’ve actually written down and discussed with your team, you save yourself from the directionless confusion so many artists fall victim to. It also gives your manager a clear idea of what you’re looking for and defined goals to achieve and to be measured by.

Be Aware That Your Career Needs Will Evolve As You Grow

There’s an axiom in the business world, that “the team you start with is not necessarily the same team you finish with.” In plain English, as you grow your career, the challenges you face at one level may require a different skill set from the one needed at the next level.

With that in mind, and setting aside for a moment the important issue of loyalty (to be discussed on another post), as CEO you need to be very comfortable that your manager can help you not only immediately, but is able and/or willing to adapt as your career grows. I am not advocating that you change managers whenever you hit a rough spot or the next level, far from that. However, as CEO you are responsible for making sure you have the right people on your team and the right people in the right roles (check out Jim Collins’ insightful book called “Good to Great” to learn more building a great team).

5 Fundamental Issues You Absolutely Need to Address

Regardless of your experience level and whether you have a manager or are considering hiring one, here are some basic issues you need to discuss with your manager:

  1. Does he/she clearly understand and share your vision and goals?
    As noted above, this is crucial for a successful long term business relationship. Of course, you need to really have a clear vision from the get-go to make the most of your artist/manager relationship, so if you don’t yet have that down pat, perhaps work on that first and find the right partner second.It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a one-time conversation. As your vision and goals evolve be sure that your manager continues to be in sync with you.
  2. Is there a fundamental level of trust and respect?
    How do you measure this since trust and respect are built over time? In the beginning, it boils down to personal chemistry. Do you feel comfortable with this person managing your business and representing you? Do your homework. Research their background and check industry references, education and training to determine whether their skill set will be additive to you and your team.If you already have a manager and it isn’t working, you need to ask yourself why and address the issue(s). Then trust your gut. In the end do your best to make the right decisions and if it turns out to be wrong, correct the mistake.
  3. Do you communicate well?
    Your relationship with your manager is the most intimate business relationship you will have. It’s a two way street. You both need to be able to speak honestly and without reservation on any topic. You will need to strategize together, support each other, constructively criticize each other and hopefully congratulate one another on mission accomplished. As an artist you are responsible for writing, recording, promoting your music, touring on the road, as well as keeping an eye on your business, i.e. – You’re busy as all hell! It is critical that the two of you can communicate almost telepathically and regularly. Make sure to put some strong systems in place that respect each of your personal styles, withstand busy schedules and changing time zones.
  4. As CEO what level of detail do you want to be involved in?
    Like a producer who manages the recording process in the studio, you need to be clear what you want to be involved in and just as importantly what you don’t. This is not a one size fits all template, since like a producer you organize your team to work fluidly with your personal style, strengths and weaknesses. Are you a delegating leader or do you like to be in the weeds on day-to-day decisions? What frequency of reporting and level of detail works for you? When are you able and ready to process business information given your responsibilities as an artist?Before any unnecessary confusion and frustration arises, you and your manager need to be in agreement on this issue. Expect to have to revisit this frequently. Your business is dynamic and constantly evolving. As such, the amount of information and decisions to be made increase with the growth of your career.
  5. What is your business plan?
    Assuming you and your manager are in sync on the previous four topics, a formal written business plan on how as a team you are going to execute building your career is absolutely critical before you take another step. This is the road map that will guide you towards achieving your vision. What tools and resources will be needed for touring, recording, promotion and administration? How do you plan to fund each part of it and manage the cash flow? Are you selling rights to your songs or recordings to raise capital? Taking on investors? Bootstrapping it, using one source of revenue, say touring to pay for the recording? Or a combination of all three? Keep in mind that a business plan is not set in stone rather it is an evolving document that provides a clear rational guide for your career journey at each step. As you face challenges and opportunities it will need to be modified. But having a clear well thought out map to begin your journey beats the hell out of flying by the seat of your pants, simply reacting to external factors rather than proactively dealing with them.

I hope this helps give you some perspective and a common sense guide to managing your career. Best of luck. Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint, so stay true to your vision and learn to smell the roses along the way. It definitely makes for a more fulfilling life.

July Industry Wrap-Up

Facebook Moves Closer Towards Copyright Protection


Folks in the entertainment industry (among other sectors of business) have been following Facebook’s growth and expansion into the music space, whether it’s sharing videos, partnering with streaming platforms to encourage social engagement and discovery, or supporting user-generated content and live feeds. With that, of course, comes pressure to protect songwriters, artists and other creators in the realm of copyrights and licensing and ensure that they are able to collect their owed share of revenue. Like YouTube before it, critics have been waiting to see what the social media giant does next in this realm.

This month, Facebook acquired Source3, a content rights management startup, whose goal is “to recognize, organize and analyze branded intellectual property in user-generated content”. Source3’s technology serves brands or users uploading content to “measure their presence or take action against infringers of their copyrights and trademarks.”

While this move for Facebook looks to serve users and brands outside of music, the company did begin hiring its first music licensing staff recently, likely satisfying labels and publishers seeking to further cement social media streaming royalties as a revenue source. And for independent artists outside of the label system, this acquisition can be seen as a step in the right direction as it hints at future revenue opportunities and a tightened up system to combat copyright infringement.

Amazon Music’s 3rd Place Status – Bigger Than It Sounds?


According to MIDiA Research, Amazon Music is now the 3rd largest music subscription service. MIDiA has been tracking usage of streaming apps on a quarterly basis since 2016 and claims Amazon has grown strongly quarter upon quarter: it ranks 2nd behind Spotify as ‘most widely used’; boasts the ‘largest installed base’ of active users (weekly); and as mentioned above, it ranks 3rd in subscribers with around 16 million, greatly surpassing the 4th and 5th placed QQ Music and Deezer (respectively).

Mark Mulligan of MIDiA’s Music Industry Blog argues that while those figures are impressive in an ever evolving streaming market, the real beauty in Amazon’s growth lies in its ability to convert Prime Subscribers (Amazon’s premium shopping service with annual fees) to Amazon Prime Music or Amazon Prime Music Unlimited users. With no additional costs, new payment schedule or commitments, users of the Amazon Prime app can seamlessly shift their music consumption habits – or adopt streaming for the first time entirely – to a trusted source that they are already actively using on a weekly basis.

In addition to subscriber growth, Mulligan also acknowledges not only the advent of the Amazon Echo (Amazon’s proprietary home speaker, of which they’ve sold upwards of 13 million) but also what he calls “The CD Factor”. As TuneCore Artists who have distributed to Amazon Music On Demand know, CDs can easily be made available for music fans who still prefer the physical medium.

While that might not strike some as a huge advantage, consider that physical sales still dominate in Japan and Germany, the world’s 2nd and 4th largest music markets – two out of the four markets in which Amazon Prime adoption is concentrated. Between this and a growing subscription rate, artists have good reason to look to Amazon Music as a propeller of revenue and discovery when they’re ready to release new music.

Pandora Hits Milestone and Introduces New Features


If you’ve visited our site, read our blog, scanned the industry trade sites, or signed into your TuneCore dashboard recently, you’ll know we’re very excited to be approaching a $1 billion  cumulative payout to independent artists this year. Leave it to our friends at Pandora to hit their very own BILLION milestone: one billion impressions on its “Artist Marketing Platform”. Congrats, Pandora! The AMP was revolutionary for its time as it allowed artists to use listener data to learn about their audience – similar to how TuneCore allows you to view data that makes it easier to decide where to spend ad dollars or concentrate touring destinations.

With the ability to pass direct audio messages to fans, Pandora says the platform has been used by over 11,000 artists, who have collectively driven said one billion impressions, which is a major benchmark for the relatively young direct-to-fan marketing approach.

On top of this news, Pandora announced two new direct-to-fan features for the AMP: the ability to promote a single (via pre-recorded audio message), and the ability to promote concert dates (via customized flight dates, ticket purchase links, and geo-targeted messaging). While Pandora remains a curated service, TuneCore announced last year that we’ve partnered with the internet radio heavy-hitter, allowing TuneCore Artists to submit their releases for consideration. With these added features, it makes more sense than ever to be taking advantage of this submission!

10 Fundamentals For Getting Along in Today’s Music Business

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Bobby Owsinski and originally appeared on his excellent music industry blog, Music 3.0.]

 

So much has changed in the music industry over the last few years that affect an artist’s ability to be successful. Some of it is brand new and a result of the technology we use, while some of it is good common sense that’s been used over and over during the past decades of the business. Here are 10 business fundamentals taken from my Music 4.1 Internet Music Guidebook (in no particular order) that an artist, musician, producer or songwriter needs to grasp in order to get along in today’s music environment.

• It’s all about scale. It’s not the sales, it’s the number of YouTube or Facebook views or streams that you have. A hit that sells only 50,000 combined units (album and single) may have 500 million YouTube views. Once upon a time, a sales number like that would’ve been deemed a failure, today, it’s a success. Views don’t equal sales, and vice-versa.

• The scale is not the same. In the past, 1 million of anything was considered a large number and meant you were a success. Today anything with that number hardly gets a mention, as it takes at least 10 million streams or views to get a label or manager’s attention. 50 million is only a minor hit, while a major hit is in the hundreds of millions.

• There will be fewer digital distributors in the future. It’s an expensive business to get into and maintain, so in the near future there will be a shakeout that will leave far fewer digital competitors. Don’t be shocked when you wake up one day to find a few gone. (Ed. Note: We’re not going anywhere!)

• It’s all about what you can do for other people. Promoters, agents, and club owners are dying to book you if they know you’ll make them money. Record labels (especially the majors) are dying to sign you if you have have an audience they can sell to. Managers will want to sign you if you have a line around the block waiting to see you. If you can’t do any of the above, your chances of success decrease substantially.

• Money often comes late. It may not seem like it, but success is slow. You grow your audience one fan at a time. The longer it takes, the more likely you’ll have a long career. An overnight sensation usually means you’ll also be forgotten overnight. This is one thing that hasn’t changed much through the years.

• Major labels want radio hits. They want an easy sell, so unless you create music that can get on radio immediately, a major label won’t be interested. This is what they do and they do it well, so if that’s your goal, you must give them what they want.

• You must create on a regular basis. Fans have a very short attention span and need to be fed with new material constantly in order to stay at the forefront of their minds. What should you create? Anything and everything, from new original tunes to cover tunes, to electric versions to acoustic versions, to remixes to outtakes, to behind the scenes videos to lyric videos, and more. You may create it all at once, but release it on a consistent basis so you always have some fresh content available.

• YouTube and Facebook are the new radio. Nurture your following there and release on a consistent basis (see above). It’s where the people you want to reach are discovering new music.

• Growing your audience organically is best. Don’t expect your friends and family to spread the word, as they don’t count. If you can’t find an audience on your own merits, there’s something wrong with your music or your presentation. Find the problem, fix it, and try it again. The trick is finding that audience.

• First and foremost, it all starts with the song. If you can’t write a great song that appeals to even a small audience, none of the other things matter much.

I’m sure you’ll agree that the music business is both exciting and invigorating in it’s current form. It’s not dying and it’s not wilting, unlike what you’ll hear and read from the old school naysayers. It is constantly evolving and progressing, and those who don’t progress with it will fall behind. That said, these 10 fundamentals will help anyone navigate the road to success.

June Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Tests “Sponsored Songs” and Expands Concert Listings


In lieu of traditional audio ads that ‘freemium’ tier users of Spotify hear during a given listening session, Spotify is testing a new process that would allow artists and labels to pay for placement of their song – thus monetizing the free listening associated with this kind of membership. This opens up the potential for artists to to secure a place on playlists, which have soared in popularity among subscribers of all kinds over the past couple of years.

Users of the ad-supported tier will have the option of opting out of this test; and Spotify has confirmed that even if the test is successful, this feature will only remain on this tier. Relying heavily on its plethora of data, Spotify will target sponsored song placement based on listening habits.

While sponsored songs’ likeness to the traditional ‘payola’ models of old terrestrial radio is up for debate, it does represent a shift in how Spotify manages its ‘freemium’ platform and drives revenue from those still unwilling to subscribe for a monthly or annual fee. Spotify has remained one of the few popular streaming platforms to offer a free listening tier, and there has long been speculation around whether or not the company would be willing to eliminate it; the ‘freemium’ model is a key differentiating offer when compared to its growing and formidable streaming rival Apple Music.

It remains to be seen how this will be rolled out and made available to independent artists, but if it is made reasonably affordable and accessible to music makers outside of the label system, they could stand to benefit from the feature by reaching new listeners who are more likely to tune into a ‘sponsored song’ then a generic advertisement.

Spotify also announced that in addition to its partnerships with Ticketmaser and digital ticketing platform SongKick, users will now be able to access artists’ upcoming tour dates via a collaboration with Eventbrite and AEG’s AXS. This means more hometown venues, more touring territories, and more opportunities to promote local live experiences for fans.

LANDR Celebrates 1 Million Users


TuneCore’s pals over at LANDR – the tool that allows independent artists to instantly master their tracks at an affordable rate – have hit a major milestone: one million users! LANDR has continued to offer a great solution to artists hoping to polish the sounds of their tracks while lacking a robust mastering budget.

Throughout most of June, LANDR partnered with TuneCore Artist Chance the Rapper, donating $1.00 for every user that masters a track Chance’s Chicago-based “Social Works” Music Academy, as well as 10% of all purchases. We always love to see great brands connecting with great artists, and the charitable element of this arrangement only warms our hearts more.

Google Play Music’s New Release Radio Feature Launches


No matter what music streaming platform your fans dig the most, (and remember, we help you get your releases on a lot of ‘em!), we can all agree that they should be aware of new releases each week. After all, with so much music being digitally released each year, listeners can feel a bit overwhelmed, and it helps to have a little curated direction when it comes to being alerted about the latest and greatest.

Much like Spotify’s “Release Radar” or Apple Music’s “My New Music Mix” features, Google Play Music announced this month that it’s now offering a feature for subscribers called “New Release Radio”. It’s essentially, according to the Android Authority blog, “a playlist that offers up the latest new release and is actually updated on a daily basis to ensure that you’ve always got something new to listen to.”

As personalized, data-driven playlists and features continue to increase in popularity among streaming platforms, Google’s New Release Radio is a welcomed addition. We look forward to seeing how TuneCore Artists can make their music more discoverable to more fans.

ASCAP and YouTube Strike a Performance Rights Deal


In an era in which artists and songwriters have been forced to be more vigilant when it comes to collecting digital royalties, video streaming giant YouTube and performance rights organization ASCAP have reached a multi-year agreement for public performance rights and data collaboration in the U.S. This comes as a sigh of relief to many who have been seeking ways to ensure that royalties are being paid to songwriters, composers and publishers when their works are streamed on YouTube.

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews says, “This agreement achieves two important ASCAP goals – it will yield substantially higher overall compensation for our members from YouTube and will continue to propel ASCAP’s ongoing transformation strategy to lead the industry toward more accurate and reliable data.”

Good news for TuneCore Artists who are affiliated with ASCAP: this new deal will allow the two parties to address the issues around identifying and compensating songwriters using the extensive amount of data they have available. This, in general, is also another important step towards creating a system within the digital music economy that holds platforms and rights societies responsible for proper royalty payments.

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.

May Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Launches “Spotify Codes”


Remember the QR Code Craze? Sure you do! It took place a couple of years back when we began seeing these funny little squares with unique black and white patterns in them all over promotional materials, from the subway to magazines. People could use their mobile device to scan the QR code and it’d offer them some sort of exclusive content. Marketers saw this as a fun new way to connect with consumers, but ultimately the process involved proved to be just over the line of effort that most consumers were willing to put into connecting with a campaign.

Flash forward to present day, and we see Spotify has announced a new in-app feature called “Spotify Codes”, allowing music fans to scan said codes to share music with friends. It’s being rolled out globally and is about more than just sharing your favorite playlist with a like-minded pal. Music Ally points to the strong potential for artists to market their music using Spotify Codes: “Flyers, posters, billboards… perhaps even TV advertising – something that would take Spotify Codes into the territory traditionally occupied by Shazam.”

A strong and thoughtful point, indeed. Indie artists of all genres can direct potential fans directly to their latest releases using traditional DIY promotional tactics simply by including their unique Spotify Codes within their visual assets. It’ll be very interesting to see how artists get creative with sharing these codes, and of course, how fans react and engage. Get started using them today with instructions via Spotify here.

Amazon Prime Offers Live Streaming Concerts


Is there anything Amazon Prime can’t deliver us? Well, up until this month, you could technically put “concert experiences” in that category (which seems reasonable enough), but alas, the online retail giant continues to out-do itself. In May, Amazon announced that it has begun offering tickets to concerts to its members. Not just any concerts, but a series of live events, with tickets being offered exclusively via the platform to Prime customers, featuring internationally recognized artists playing in small, intimate settings.

While concerts are being booked for Prime members in the UK right now, it has hopes to add U.S. concerts by the end of 2017. Additionally, Prime members out of the market for these experiences can catch recorded and streaming versions of these concerts so fans can get in on the fun from home. (Kind of a different version of those home concerts we’ve written about in the past.)

Amazon’s attempt to attract older, mainstream music fans who consume music – and live music for that matter – differently than the typical 20- or 30-something music obsessives is a great thing for independent artists who are hoping to reach similar crowds. Additionally, this move shows Amazon taking a step to connect artists with fans further, “combining customer data, billing relationships, content and services, infrastructure and consumer hardware.”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the near future – not just what new ways Amazon offers experiences exclusively to Prime members, but also how they bring independent musicians and bands into the fold.

Facebook Rights Manager Helps Artists Collect Ad Revenue


Good news for music creators looking to benefit monetarily from Facebook videos: the social media giant has updated its “Rights Manager” feature, allowing artists to generate revenue from pirated videos that had mid-roll ads placed within them. If an artist’s song is being used in a video across Facebook (with or without permission), they can now get a cut of that sweet, sweet ad money previously reserved for the video creator.

Facebook pays 55% of ad revenue to rights holders (much like YouTube), and until now, its Rights Manager could only successfully notify a rights holder when their music was being used in a video somewhere on the platform – giving them the option to take the video down or leave it up as a means of promotion. Similar to YouTube’s Content ID (which you can take advantage of using TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection service), artists can “claim ad earnings” and even choose where the 15 to 20-second ad is inserted in the video.

Any new revenue stream for artists is viewed as a win for TuneCore and the greater independent music community. It will be exciting to see how this adds up for those who get their songs featured in videos across Facebook, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction in honoring copyrights. Artists can sign up for Rights Manager via Facebook here.