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.

April Industry Wrap-Up

Facebook Launches ‘Chat Extensions’ That Encourage Music Sharing

As both streaming music and social media use has evolved over the years, it became pretty obvious pretty quickly that people love to share whatever new music they’re digging with their networks. Spotify was an early player in this arena by connecting social profiles to their platform so that users can see in a feed what the folks they follow are listening to at any given time of day. On top of this feature, users have always been able to send music directly to one another via a built-in messaging app.

As the social media giant Facebook looks to appeal to more and more businesses that use the platform for leads and engagement with customers, they’ve announced the introduction of ‘Chat Extensions’ within their messenger platform. The primary function of this launch is to offer the ability to perform actions within Facebook Messenger without switching apps.

For Spotify, this means the launching a new ‘bot’ that includes search, recommendations, and the ability to share 30-second song clips as well as launch Spotify from the app to hear full songs. Friends now have more options for sharing and discovering music within their chat windows. Facebook has revealed that a similar launch to support Apple Music integration is on the way, too.

As Facebook continues to beef up its music department in general and looks to innovative streaming platforms for partnerships, indie artists of all genres can feel good about new ways for fans to be sharing their tunes with friends.

A Month of Updates From Spotify

It’s hard to get through one of our ‘Monthly Industry Wrap-Ups’ without breaking recent news related to streaming giant and our friendly partner Spotify! This month, Spotify re-structured its multi-year license agreement with global music rights agency Merlin – which represents independent music companies like Beggars Group, Secretly Group, Domino, Sub Pop, and others.

The big story from this signing is that the updated agreement allows these labels to ‘window’ releases for Spotify Premium users only – a tactic used by major label groups to limit access to a release for usually up to two weeks. The significance of windowing is that it allows releases to only be made available to users that contribute higher streaming rates, (when you’re a ‘freemium’ Spotify user, you are using an account that gets served ads and each time you play a song, it pays out less than that of Premium subscribers’ streams who pay a monthly fee).

Spotify and other streaming platforms are required to sign licensing agreements with both independent and major label groups. But what’s new here is the apparent bargaining scraps indie labels have when it comes to keeping up with the majors. As a distributor that sees its artists getting signed to indie labels on a regular basis, it’s encouraging to see that they’re able to take advantage of opportunities offered by streaming platforms like Spotify.

Additionally this month, Spotify rebranded their “Fan Insights” – data about who is listening to artists, from numbers of monthly listeners to cities they’re being streamed in most – as “Spotify For Artists”. It’s available to all artists and managers, and is designed to be a ‘one-stop shop’ that allows you to track growth, update creative profile assets, and feature particular songs and playlists. Here at TuneCore, we’re always excited to see more data and insights being offered to artists to help them make business and branding decisions. If you haven’t already, head over to Spotify’s site to take advantage of these updates.

Google Play Music Gets Cozy With Newest Samsung Galaxy Model

As competition for subscribers and listeners continues to heat up among music streaming platforms, so too does competition among mobile device manufacturers. Nowhere is that more obvious than between Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy. As each company strives to attract brand loyalty to their respective operating systems, Samsung announced that its latest model, the Galaxy S8, has made Google Play Music its preferred music player.

That means those who pick up the newest Galaxy S8 will get the opportunity to use Google Play Music with enhancements just for them. One of these is an increase in cloud locker storage, with Samsung users being able to upload up to 100,000 tracks that can be streamed from anywhere (up from 50,000 for other users). Also, Samsung promises that it’s choice music player will support Samsung’s smartphone assistant, Bixby, “once support for voice commands is actually ready to roll out.”

It remains to be seen how many Galaxy S8 users will adopt Google Play Music over a preferred service, but it’s no doubt that Samsung will do what they can in collaboration to make it more attractive. For independent artists, it’s just another push for a platform that is carrying your releases already (unless, of course, you still need to add your music to Google Play!), and it may in turn end up being a great excuse for you to be promoting your Google Play links, as well.

TuneCore Partners With Lyric Financial to Launch New Service That Empowers Independent Artists

First-Of-Its-Kind Integrated Financial Tool Gives Members Ability to Easily Request Advances on Future Earnings

New York, N.Y. – April 13, 2017 – TuneCore, the leading digital music distribution and publishing administration provider for independent musicians, today announced the launch of TuneCore Direct Advance. A unique collaboration with Lyric Financial, the leading financial services and technology company serving the global music industry, the innovative new service offers U.S.-based TuneCore artists automated advances on their future distribution sales revenue.

With many independent artists and labels operating as small to medium-sized businesses with sometimes minimal resources, TuneCore Direct Advance is a valuable new offering that allows them to take advances on future earnings to help fund new projects and further their careers. From recording new material to purchasing new equipment to funding a tour, TuneCore Direct Advance provides a simple way for artists to access advances at their convenience, 24/7 and on their own terms. In addition, this new advance model does not require artists to pledge ownership of their music, which is often the case with many competing services. With TuneCore Direct Advance, independent artists can have full control of their finances while still maintaining total creative control of their music.

“This is a one-of-a-kind integrated offering that gives artists a hassle-free, reliable way to access their future earnings quickly and easily, eliminating the difficulty often associated with obtaining advances,” says Scott Ackerman, CEO at TuneCore. “We are deeply invested in the careers of our artists and are committed to ensuring they have the tools and resources needed to succeed.”

TuneCore Direct Advance is the latest addition to the company’s comprehensive array of artist tools and services that are made to help them build successful music careers. The new service is available for U.S.-based TuneCore artists that meet certain eligibility requirements, including sales history and earning thresholds.

Qualifying customers can request a cash advance directly from their TuneCore Balance Page, and for a low, one-time fee, they will quickly and easily receive the money through PayPal or ACH (Automated Clearing House). The advance is repaid directly from future sales and automatically deducted from streaming and download earnings. Since this service operates as an independent process, artists avoid additional, time-consuming tasks often associated with obtaining advances, including registration and negotiations.

Based on direct feedback from customers, TuneCore recognized the need for a service that gives artists easy access to future sales income.

“As an artist for more than 20 years, I know firsthand the need for a money advance to cover anything from production to personal expenses,” says Lito MC Cassidy, TuneCore Artist. “For the first time in my career, I not only feel in full control of my money but also relieved to know that by simply choosing the amount of money I need, I can receive an advance in seconds.”

TuneCore Direct Advance was developed in partnership with Lyric Financial Founder and Chief Executive Eli Ball to give independent artists the ability to budget and access their royalties and licensing income at their convenience.

“For the last two years, we have worked to automate what has historically been a cumbersome manual advance process in the music industry,” says Ball.  “TuneCore Direct Advance is a simple, easy-to-use application that provides creatives with a clear view of their current and forecasted earnings, allowing them to request advances in less than a minute. These basic tools will be invaluable to any music industry professional in budgeting and managing the ups and downs of their cash flow. The deal we have announced today with TuneCore is a huge validation of the platform we have all worked so hard to create.”

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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 $836 million from over 57.3 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, France and Italy. For additional information about TuneCore, please visit www.tunecore.com or https://youtu.be/1Kuu_tZ1In0

About Lyric Financial:

Founded in 2007, Lyric Financial is a financial services and technology company that provides innovative financing solutions to the global music and entertainment industry.  The company’s latest innovation, a virtual ATM platform called SNAP*, empowers creatives to tap into their catalog earnings in less than a minute. Based in Nashville, TN, for more information about Lyric Financial and their virtual ATM products please visit lyricfinancial.com.

For media inquiries, please contact:

TuneCore: Alisa Finkelstein, MWW PR

212-827-3753

afinkelstein@mww.com

 

Lyric Financial: John Vlautin, SpinLab

818-763-9800

jv@spinlab.net

March Industry Wrap-Up

Pandora Premium Takes on the On-Demand Streaming Game


While household names like Spotify and Apple Music boast a combined 120+ million users streaming music each month, Pandora has enjoyed the success of their proprietary “Music Genome Project” algorithm and their ability to draw users in with perfectly curated and personalized radio stations. Last year, Pandora announced it’s “Pandora Plus” service, offering listeners more replays and skips, as well as the ability to listen to offline radio stations. Now, after much anticipation, the biggest name in digital radio has announced “Pandora Premium”, their brand new on-demand streaming service.

Pandora Premium will function much like other monthly subscription streaming services, offering a similar catalog of over 30 million tracks for listeners to browse and discover. With its current user-base of 80 million, Pandora sees its transition into on-demand streaming as an opportunity for further growth. While it remains to be seen, there may be an advantage to joining the game late – for instance, Pandora won’t be focusing on ‘exclusives’ for big name releases, and instead hopes to utilize its personalization proficiencies to stand out in the crowd of streaming services when it comes to recommending songs to users based on their listening habits as a means of music discovery.

“We have very grand ambitions for what this can be,” Pandora CEO Tim Westergren said. “If we look around at the space right now, we just don’t think that there’s a product that’s done it right. No one has solved the ease of use and personalization part of the on-demand world. I don’t think there’s really a true premium product out there yet… we think we’re bringing something really different here.”

This development is great news for indie artists who hope to tap into Pandora’s user-base by making their releases available on-demand.

Ticketmaster Uses Software to Combat Bots More Effectively


Whether you’re a fan who paid out the nose for a ticket or lost out to what would have to be the fastest ticket-buying hands known to man, or you’re an artist who has had to deal with the backlash of bots buying up all their tickets, there’s a general consensus in the live music industry that these bots aren’t really doing consumers or artists any good. In fact, you could say most people feel that bots – which derive from software that immediately purchases tickets when they go on sale in bulk, only to re-sell at a higher cost to fans – are completely ripping people off!

Enter Ticketmaster’s “Verified Fan” program. Ticket scalping (re-selling tickets at higher costs), as it’s known, has become such a problem on the company’s platform that they’ve introduced new efforts to combat it by using customer data and new systems. For example, identifying fans’ purchasing history has been tested with lower-level tours to cut down on automated ticket buying systems and bot purchases. The program requires fans to register to buy tickets in advance (typically 48 hours before they go on sale); shortly after, Ticketmaster collects emails and scrubs out any believed to be connected to scalpers. Verified Fan is being used for pre-sales at the moment, but could be expanded for general sales in the future.

This is a meaningful attempt to make sure that artists – both major label and independent alike – are able to continue to offer tickets to their tour dates through this platform without worrying that their fans are getting ripped off.

Early Reports Suggest a Potential $16.1 Billion Year For Recorded Music During 2016


Each year, the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) announces official music industry figures to show how much was earned over four quarters. In March, Midia Research offered its own 2016 estimates ahead of the annual IFPI announcement – suggesting a 7% ($1.1. billion) year-over-year increase in the realm of recorded music at $16.1 billion.

Since the music industry entered into a major paradigm shift in the early days of Napster, and as illegal downloading took off across other platforms, this is considered a major uptick in annual growth. As Midia puts it, “Underpinning the growth was streaming which grew by 57% in 2016 to reach $5.4 billion, up $3.5 billion in 2015.”

While streaming music platforms were initially introduced as not only a way for fans to have legally licensed music at their fingertips but also to curb the trend in music piracy, there’s little doubt that artists and industry professionals alike have reaped the benefits of its popularity in the past couple of years. The report credits Spotify’s role in the growth, “accounting for 43% of the 106.3 million subscribers at the end of 2016.” But don’t sleep on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Deezer, who have been considered “strong contributors” to streaming growth last year.

Breaking revenue down by record label, we see that Universal, Sony and Warner Music made up a combined $11 billion in revenue, with independent labels generating $5.1 billion, or 31.3% of the global market share! As 2017 looks to offer increased figures, independent artists can rest assured that overall, recorded music can still be a viable revenue stream as more fans subscribe, listen, and discover.

The Music Industry Belongs to the Hypercreators

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Ryan Kairalla, an entertainment lawyer based in Miami, FL. He recently published Break the Business: Declaring Your Independence and Achieving True Success in the Music Industry and also hosts the Break The Business Podcast.]

 

“You can’t use up creativity, the more you use the more you have.”
– Maya Angelou

A few weeks ago, I was giving a talk at the NAMM Conference in Anaheim, California. After it was over, a musician approached me and asked me what was the most important thing he should be doing to be more successful in his music career.

I succinctly responded: “Make music. Make lots of music. All the time.”

I could tell that this young creative was more than a little unsatisfied with my answer. Perhaps he thought I would give a lengthy discussion on the value of effective social media. Or maybe he was expecting that, as an attorney, I would talk to him about the importance of having good legal structures in place.

Granted, those things are important. But if you’re going to be in the business of making music, there is nothing more important than making as much music as you can. Today’s musicians need to be “hyper creators.”

Let’s lay down some essential truths about the current state of the industry:

  1. It has never been easier or cheaper to create quality music thanks to advancements in low-cost home recording hardware and software.
  2. It has never been easier or cheaper to distribute your music thanks to the digitalization of music and the emergence of low-cost distribution platforms.
  3. It has never been easier or cheaper to promote your music with the advent of social media.
  4. It has never been easier or cheaper to fund your music projects with the rise of online crowdfunding platforms.

Modern technology has removed nearly all of the barriers preventing artists from creating music constantly and sharing that music with a worldwide audience. Being able to make more music means that artists can have more opportunities to connect with their fans. It also means that artists can have a larger catalog of material to sell or license.

The musicians that will succeed in this world will be the ones who are best able to take advantage of these developments. This means creating lots of music—far more than the musicians of previous generations did.

The prevailing music creation model of recording and releasing an album’s worth of songs every two or three years is making less and less sense in the New Music Industry. It is a product of a bygone era where the creation, distribution, and promotion of music was an expensive endeavor, and thus bunching together the release of a small number of tracks was the way things had to be done.

Today, it is a better strategy to (1) make more music and (2) spread out the releases of your music throughout the year so that your fans never have a chance to forget about you. You can still make and release traditional albums if you so choose, but don’t do it at the expense of depriving your fans of a steady stream of new material.

Many musicians have effectively embraced the hypercreation model. Ireland-based indie acoustic artist J.P. Kallio has garnered some impressive success by releasing new original songs every week. Colorado-based Danielle Ate The Sandwich gained considerable fanfare for writing, recording, and producing an album’s worth of songs in just 24 hours (and she’s done this twice).

And then there’s New Jersey’s own Jonathan Mann. Mann has written and recorded a new original song every day for the past eight years—and counting. Mann and his catalog of nearly 3,000 songs have been featured on ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and HuffPost Live.

If hypercreation seems too daunting to you, remember this: Creativity is a muscle. The more you create, the more prolific you will become. Conversely, the less you create, the more that muscle atrophies. Make creation a constant in your music career, as each song you produce gives you one more opportunity for success.

A final word of warning:

As you embrace hypercreation in your own career, you should be wary of business relationships that are not conducive to you being prolific with your art. You cannot hypercreate unless you have complete authority over when, how, and with whom you make music. As a result, you should look upon exclusive recording agreements with great skepticism.

These contracts essentially give someone else (such as a record label or producer) full control over your recording projects. Under such a deal, you would not be able to make music without that someone’s permission, and they almost assuredly will not approve of you creating new music on a weekly basis. Rather, they will favor the old release model: Make an album, wait 2-3 years, and make another album (assuming that the label/producer still wants to record with you).

In the New Music Industry – one in which the creation, distribution, and promotion of music is so conducive to hypercreation — artists should give some serious thought to the significant value in being able to create on their own terms.