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Top 10 Keys to Success For Independent Hip Hop Artists

[Editors NoteThis blog was written by Hao Nguyen and it originally appeared on Stop The Breaks, a digital marketing and promotion platform focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists.]

The independent route is a tough, long grind, no doubt about it.

People look at the top independent hip hop artists in the game today like Tech N9ne, Nipsey Hussle and Currensy and see how they’re balling out of control, but they don’t understand just how much work these artists put into building their lifestyle.

Tech and his business partner Travis O’Guin have been building Strange Music, Inc. from the ground up for close to 20 years. Nipsey got dropped by Epic Records before starting his independent grind. Spitta was hustling and learning about the rap game from No Limit and Cash Money since 2002.

It’s never easy and takes a special type of person to succeed in the independent music industry. Someone who has the entrepreneurial spirit combined with the gritty fortitude to keep going no matter how hard it gets.

As a digital platform focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists from all over the world, Stop The Breaks has had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of artists about their grind and really get an understanding of what creates success in this industry.

Here are our top 10 keys to success for independent artists. Or as Future would put it “I got the keys, the keys, the keys.”

1. Understand effective marketing

In its simplest form, marketing is raising the profile of a brand and its products or services in the public’s mind. So in that case, I would say all independent artists understand the basics of marketing their music – yes, even those rappers spamming SoundCloud links are doing some form of marketing.

But notice that I wrote “understand effective marketing,” which makes all the difference in the world between success and failure.

You can market your music by hitting up everyone on your Twitter feed with a link to your new single, or, you can effectively market your music by creating a solid marketing strategy and executing it regularly.

2. Relentless work ethic

There’s a saying: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” You’re not going to be successful at anything in this world without hard work and dedication, shout out to Money Mayweather.

Look at all our case studies on successful artists – whether it’s superstars like Kanye West and Drake or independent grinders like Yo Gotti – and the one constant factor is that they put in the long hours above everything else.

How do you think Curren$y drops some many projects in one year (8 so far in 2016 and counting)? How do you think Gucci manages to flood the streets even when locked up? How do you think Fetty Wap scored a number one album and five top 40 hit singles?

It’s all about hard work guys. But not just about the music.

In addition to putting in the long hours working on your craft; you also have to put in the hours distributing and promoting the music, fine-tuning your live performances, engaging with fans online and offline, and constantly educating yourself on the business side of things.

Which brings us to…

3. Music industry knowledge

Like Rap Coalition founder and music industry veteran, Wendy Day, said: “I think the most important trait is seeking out the knowledge and experience to do this properly. You either hire the right people who have the knowledge and connections to help you succeed as an artist or you learn how to do this yourself.”

Educating yourself thoroughly on the music business will make a huge difference in your success as an artist. Make sure you understand the fundamentals of music publishing and licensing your content, especially if you’re looking to set up your own independent record label.

4. Strong team around you

To Wendy’s point above, if you don’t have the experience or time to learn about the music business, then you need to make sure you build yourself a strong team to address your weaknesses.

Just because you’re an independent artist doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. There are only so many hours in the day and you have to be smart on which tasks you dedicate your time to and which tasks you delegate.

Depending on what you’re missing in your arsenal, consider hiring a manager, marketing director or promoter, tour manager, graphic designer, lawyer and accountant. It doesn’t have to be right away, but you should definitely have a plan to slowly build up your team as you hit new levels in your recording career.

5. Effective social media presence

How many rappers do you know who are really active on Twitter or Facebook, but all they’re doing is spamming their followers with music links? There’s no genuine engagement with fans, no real interaction with followers, just blindly spamming link after link hoping they’re going to be the next big thing.

Don’t do this. Trust me, it’ll do more harm than good.

It’s good to be active on as many social media networks as possible, but only if you can manage them properly and engage with the fans regularly, otherwise don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s better to be active and effective on 3 platforms, rather than on all them and not using them properly.

6. Produce regular content for fans

We’re currently living in a super connected world where consumers are conditioned for instant gratification and trained to get everything, right away. As an artist, you have to try your best to fulfill these consumer needs.

There are only a few major artists out there who can get away with disappearing for months on end and coming back to commercial success. Kanye, Eminem, Drake and Kendrick, just to name a few.

Everybody else needs to be continually creating and distributing content to stay in touch with fans. When I say content, I don’t just mean music. It can be social media updates, email newsletters, tour videos, blog posts, guest articles, whatever you need to engage with your fans.

7. Investing in building their brand

Investing the time and money to build up your brand now is the most important thing you can do for a long-term career in the rap game. Other artists can copy your ideas, fashion, music, and believe me, they will. The only thing they can’t copy is your brand.

Think about the most successful independent artists in the game and how they communicate their brand to their fans. Currensy has his Jet Life movement, Tech N9ne with his insane live shows and Technicians following, Chance The Rapper and his positive, Chicago music.

Everything you put out contributes to building your brand, whether it’s positive or negative. Your new logo has just as much impact on your overall brand as how you perform on tour. It’s a long term investment but it’ll definitely pay dividends if you put in the effort now.

8. Focused promotion campaigns

Marketing is your overall strategy of raising awareness of your music and brand to your target audience; promotion campaigns are more tactical and focused.

For example, releasing an album would be one promo campaign. To ensure you get the most out of your promotion budget, your campaigns need to be planned out and precise. Consider the best distribution channels for this project – will it be online, offline or both? Which platform will you be using – Bandcamp, SoundCloud, iTunes, etc.?

Which publications and blogs are you going to be targeting? It’s better to pick out 10 to 15 to send out personalized press releases rather than spamming 1,000 people with a generic message.

Once you have everything in order, hit the launch button.

9. High quality product

Let’s keep this one short and sweet. To be a successful independent hip-hop artist, you need to have dope music. I don’t mean Grammy-award winning, critically acclaimed music – I just mean music that will build you a fanbase. You need to make music that people want to listen to, otherwise, it’s not going to work, period.

10. Create realistic goals

Being ambitious is one thing, having realistic goals is another. It’s great if you have ambitions to be the biggest rapper in the world, making the most money, winning awards, selling out stadiums, but having pragmatic, achievable goals is a much better way to approach your recording career.

Let’s take a look at J. Cole. He went from posting songs online to standing outside JAY Z’s building, wanting to produce for the legend. Cole dropped mixtape after mixtape and it was only after Hov heard “Lights Please” that he decided to sign the rapper to Roc Nation.

From there, he released a number one album, went platinum just last year, and is now selling out stadiums across the world with his very own HBO documentary and record label, Dreamville Records, financed by Interscope.

Having goals is the best way to not drive yourself crazy, thinking that your career is going nowhere. Start off small – e.g. you want to perform in front of 25 people for the first time in your career, you want to drop a mixtape, you want to collaborate with an artist you like, etc.

Create a list of realistic, achievable goals, then tick them off as you accomplish them. Keep grinding, keep working, keep putting out dope product, keep engaging with your fans and your dreams will come.

6 Essential Tools for Indie Artists

By W. Tyler Allen

Being a DIY musician in today’s industry requires, work and hustle — but it’s possible. Straight up, it’s completely possible to become a successful independent artist in today’s digital landscape. How exciting is that?!

You can make it, but like any profession or task, you need tools. Throughout my career working with artists and management teams, I find that there’s a lot of tools out there that are simply overlooked, or just not known about.

Here are some items to add to your “tool kit” to ensure that you’re marketing and managing your work properly.

1. First, The Things You Already Have…

I find that often in the music industry, we are signed up for certain memberships or use certain programs, but we really aren’t using them to their fullest potential.

For instance, did you know that TuneCore offers publishing administration services, for a small one-time fee? With this service  they actively assist in the process of getting your work licensed in TV and film.  This is just one of many services that your distributor can provide for you. Do your research, as there is plenty more!

Similarly, is your music registered under a PRO (performing rights organization), such as BMI or ASCAP? It really should be. A PRO is how to ensure you’re getting actively compensated for your work.

But did you also know that PRO’s also have workshops, networking events and even pitch sessions? While some of these may require some travel, your PRO tends to do more than just look out for royalties. For instance, many PRO’s will have music supervisor sessions, where a supervisor listens to pitches and considers your music for placement in TV and film.

Your distributor may also offer conferences, speaking series, or even concerts. Look into these events — and see how they can benefit you.

Research the tools you’re already using and see how you can ensure you’re optimizing them.

2. Buffer and/or HooteSuite

I believe that artists should tweet and post in real-time. Scheduling too much of your content can come off as impersonal. However, you also want a consistent presence. So I do recommend looking into scheduling programs such as Buffer or HooteSuite.

These are especially useful for when you’re touring or busy recording — however, I find them the most useful for certain “pieces” of content. A good content mix, which I’ve discussed before, is about 70% branding, 20% personal posts and 10% sales posts.

A scheduling tool can take care of those occasional promo posts, or brand building posts — so you can focus on simply interacting with others, and using your social channels as you normally would.

Buffer and Hootesuite are two of the more popular platforms, however, there exists dozens of similar outlets. I prefer Buffer as it automatically posts during your customized “peak hours”. So you simply schedule, and it posts automatically during times that are the most active for your follower-base. This feature is also optional as you can schedule whenever you’d like.

I also dig Buffer as it automatically pulls photos from links, where as with HooteSuite you have to manually insert the link.

HooteSuite, on the other hand has integration with Instagram, and if you’re a manager or agency, you can manage multiple accounts for free — and an unlimited amount for only $10 a month.

Regardless of how you go about handling your social media, a scheduler is key to having a solid content mix. It allows you to consistently have a social media presence even when you’re on the road, touring — or maybe just not feeling up to it that day.

Although, remember that you need to schedule a mix of content — so, re-share your videos, but also throw up new music you like, or local events you want to check out. Be dynamic — but also, with a scheduling tool, you can also remain consistent.

3. Canva

I always recommend an artist hires a designer for any kind of complex design campaign. This might be an album cover, or a banner for a website. However, images go beyond that — artists need visual content on their social media channels. Images always do better than text posts — so, little things like “Coming Soon” graphics, simple show reminders, or even graphics with your lyrics on them can go a long way.

However, these aren’t really worth investing in a designer, especially when tools like Canva exist. Canva allows for simple graphics, and also gives templates that include dimensions for certain social outlets, as well as text tools. It doesn’t have great “photoshop”-level editing functions. But it does allow you to quickly edit a photo, as well as add in lines and other tools to really create some compelling and simple social media (or blog) graphics.

I highly recommend you check Canva out if you need a quick image boost on your social media.

4. Boomerang

Boomerang is one of my secret weapons. Boomerang allows Gmail users to schedule emails — while this might seem like a small feature, it’s actually huge for artists who want to pitch press, but don’t have access to a professional email tool. Sure, you can use MailChimp for this, but email inboxes register it as as a “marketing” program, so it goes to a “promo” or even a spam folder.

To use Boomerang, first, I activate up Gmails “canned response” feature. This allows you to quickly pull up pre-written text without having to go and copy/paste. That way you can tweak a pre-written pitch, quickly.

(Note: Always tweak your pitch, state the writer’s name, tell them how you found their info.. make ’em feel special. This is key.)

Then, you simply go to the Boomerang icon, that now appears in your email window, and schedule it! You can schedule a certain amount a week for free, or for a small fee you can schedule a larger amount. It’s certainly worth the cost.

I even have access to major PR databases and scheduling programs, but I still find myself using Boomerang for the scheduling aspect. I simply feel that it’s easier to tweak the pitches in Boomerang, and make them more personalized towards the writer. Rather than just launching them all out in bulk.

This is also good for artists with small media lists, or who just want to send pitches out to a few key people before a launch.

Bonus Tips: Searching for writer emails? Use outlets like ZoomInfo for press contacts — another good way? Google ’em. Seriously, try searching a writer’s name and you’ll be surprised with how often you find some form of contact info.

5. Google Drive

If you’ve worked for any agency, start-up, or company with a lot of moving parts — you may be familiar with project management programs such as Slack, Trello, and BaseCamp. These are all great tools, and I’ve used them with a few labels — however, they’re only really necessary for large teams with numerous projects.

So… if you have an in-house PR team, booking agent, a designer, an inventory specialist and a manager — then sure, use these programs! But if you’re reading this, you’re likely a team of less than 5 folks and having project management tools may be a bit overkill.

While I’ve used these tools with large management teams and indie labels, most of my clients work directly off of Google Drive. Google Drive is just like Dropbox, though since it’s cloud base — it’s a bit easier to navigate and edit documents in real-time. Here’s what I use in Google Drive:

  • Google Drive Folders

Obvious, but great for separating out photos, PR documents, tracks, and organizational documents.

  • Google Sheets

This is my go-to tool for weekly status updates. I have columns for “Task”, “Status”, “Next Steps” and “Responsibility”. Then we work with the team (managers and/or artists) to fill out each item.

I also use Google Sheets to keep up with media lists, budgeting, track what writers I’ve pitched, venue contacts and more.

  • Google Docs

Another obvious but good tool is the Google Doc. Google Docs allow for one document to be shared with your team for collaboration. So, this could be a marketing plan you’re working on with your manager, or it could be a social media content calendar.

It’s a great tool to create a document, and have a team give insight and feedback.

6. Good Ole’ Fashion Knowledge.

Hey! I know you wanted some hacks and quick tips, but I can’t stress this piece enough. Simply, educate yourselves.

One of the largest ways artists step towards failure is by trying to rush success. This might be going broke paying for sketchy promo deals, or maybe just giving up because they aren’t seeing results soon enough. However, the real success comes in understanding the industry. It goes into knowing what makes a good pitch, how to network, what makes a good social media presence.

You might say, well — I can have a PR team handle that. Yes! But… how are you going to know if they’re doing a good job? How do you know if your manager is doing their par? If you don’t understand what goes into these two arenas, you can’t gauge their productivity.

Recently, I started offering musicians my Artist Launch Kit which, instead of blindly pitching on the artist’s behalf, I give them all of the tools they need to pitch press and operate their brand. This includes a series of pitches, an EPK, a custom media list, as well as a marketing plan.

However, it goes beyond working directly with folks like me. TuneCore’s blog has become a great resource for artists, same with HypebotSonicbids, and more. There’s also some incredible social media influencers out there who talk about music marketing (without trying to sell you something too often.)

Read blogs, connect and network with folks in the industry, education is everything, especially as our industry continues to grow.

w tyler allenAs a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more about Tyler Allen’s music consulting and background on his website here.

The Most Overlooked Elements In An Artists’ Digital Presence

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written for us by music marketing strategist Tyler Allen. Learn about his consulting services and follow him on Twitter here.] 

10 years ago you wouldn’t have been reading this blog.

Because even just a decade ago, the digital landscape that we use daily was an entirely different place.

While sure, self distribution and some social media marketing tools were around in 2005 — they certainly weren’t polished and geared towards the self-marketer, and certainly not intended for the DIY musician.

Twitter wasn’t around quite yet, and neither were music-centric programs such as SoundCloud or BandCamp. Facebook was just a year old and restricted to college students– plus there weren’t even Facebook fan pages yet, and certainly not viable Facebook advertising tools. Similarly, a decade ago you wouldn’t find any streaming services, and physical CD’s were still a relatively normal route for artists.

But that’s all changed drastically, right?

These days everyone has a platform to promote their work through social media, stream their music through various channels, and to even build their own websites, and book their own tours. The internet and social media have become very powerful forces in promoting our music, getting our work noticed, and for some, it’s even been an avenue for mainstream success.

This isn’t breaking news. This isn’t a revelation — success via social media has obviously been true for well over a decade.

My focal point though is the effect of these platforms–because with this blessing also comes a curse.

Now with social media and DIY tools, anyone can be an artist, anyone can have a platform — which now puts you into a sort of competition with thousands of other artists. All vying for the same spotlight.

So, how does an artist stand out from the rest? The answer is simple.. but very important: Be Professional.

By having a professional, solid and thorough feel to your social media, website, and all other digital outlets, you’re going to stand out from the static. A solid product and solid digital presence is certainly going to get you more attention than the artist that’s barely putting in any effort.

So, what makes a presence “professional”? And what are the most overlooked components of a professional presence? Here’s a few of my go-to tips that I give clients of all genres on how to clean up their online profiles.

A Proper Content Mix

This is easily one of the most overlooked aspects of an artists digital presence. Think of a major brand that you follow online, any one will do. Go and check out their content.

You’ll notice that it’s typically going to be a combination three content “types”:

  • Brand building posts
  • Miscellaneous content that may have nothing to do with their brand at all
  • Sales posts

Those three elements are the main elements that you want to showcase in your online presence. You also want a good mix of these three. You don’t want to post way too much sales content, and scare fans away with spam, and on the flip side, you don’t want to post so much random/personal content that everyone forgets your an artist.

There is a formula for this, called the 70-20-10 rule which (roughly) says 70% of your content should be brand building.

This is you in the studio, you on the road, photos from shows thanking fans, or talking about an upcoming project.

20% of your posts should be misc. content, or personal posts. These are the posts that fans like to see — it shows your brand in a more personable light. This is you talking about a good restaurant you found in town, talking about the new Jordans, current events, or funny memes.

10% of your content should be the content where you’re actually getting folks to buy your work. These are the download posts, the posts that push your merch, or showcase your presales.

Now, is this an exact science? Not at all. Plus “brand building” can be pretty subjective. Let’s say you post a photo of you and your band at a restaurant with the caption:

“We’re here at Gino’s Pizza in Austin, after wrapping up one hell of a show! One of our go-to spots when we’re in town for late night eats. Thanks to everyone who came out tonight to Joe’s Bar, we’ll be back soon! We’re also in Houston next Friday! Check out the pre-sale info here…”

That post was brand building, because it showcased your recent gig and shows that you’re a touring band. It hit that personal/misc. category because you mentioned how the local spot was a go-to spot for light night food, and you plugged a pre-sale link.

Just in one post just you hit all three of our categories. But it was done in a way that wasn’t in-your-face, or too salesy. The overall point here is to divvy up content topics, and ensure that your posts aren’t too one sided. Give your audience a full glimpse of your work.

Frequency of Posts

Engagement is key to any social media platform. For Facebook, it’s 100% essentially, as you could have 10,000 likes, but if you post something that gets little engagement (likes, comments, shares), only a very small fraction of that 10,000 will even see it.

Similarly, with Twitter or other outlets such as Pinterest of Tumblr, if your work isn’t retweeted (re-pinned, re-blogged), it’s not going to have much of a shelf life.

Being active is incredibly important, and while I recommend scheduling posts in advance via HooteSuite or Buffer App, you should also spend time engaging with fans and showing love to each platform. The sweetspot for each outlet tends to be:

Facebook: 1-3 Posts Daily

Twitter: 3-5 Tweets Daily

Instagram: 1-3 Posts Daily

Twitter and Instagram can surely go beyond the above recommendations. Just ensure your posts are spread out — also ensure that you’re interacting with others on Twitter or Instagram. Finding people to follow and actually engaging with their work.

The idea here is to have an active presence, not only to engage fans, but also to show other influencers such as media and labels, that you take pride in your work.

The Big Picture

One big issue I find in a lot of artist’s online presence is the linked accounts, or the copy and pasting on various outlets. For instance, having a Facebook tied to a Twitter, so every time one posts on Facebook a link appears on Twitter, too.

Not only is this not engaging, it’s also lazy and an eyesore. Most tweets end up looking like this:

“Make sure to order our new album out o… http://fb.com/1237867/page/aiaiajf5454”.

And while taking a tweet and copying and pasting it into a Facebook post is a little better, you should still ensure that every social media outlet has it’s own voice and purpose.

For instance, you may utilize Facebook as your go-to place for ads due to it’s user-friendly platform, Instagram might be your place to really showcase that personal side of you or your branded imagery, where as Twitter is your go-to place to find fans, and be interactive.

Don’t forget other outlets too — an artists website is very important, and should serve as a long-form version of what you feel is too long or intricate to post on social media. Your newsletter is also a great place for fan interaction in a more “fan club” type of way.

Ensure that each channel has your brand, but that it always gives your fans something new and fun to interact with.

These are just three general issues one can find in their digital presence. Though, by being consistent and having a strong presence, you can always ensure that you’re standing out from the crowd and making an impression on potential fans, listeners and media, too.

As a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more at wtylerconsulting.com.

Interview: TuneCore Talks to Cymbal App Co-Founders

A lot of folks first heard of an app called Instagram and blew it off as a fad – after all, there’s other social channels on which you can share photos that are far more popular and widely used. It didn’t take long for public opinion to sway and for Instagram to become one of the most popular apps available today.

While it’s been described as “Instagram for music” by early adopters who also happen to be die-hard music fans, Cymbal is a relatively new app that’s finding an audience — and venture capital — quickly. Think about it: all music fans already love sharing what they’re listening to, and we’re living in a day and age where it’s acceptable to share everything and anything. Cymbal is the perfect home for music lovers who not only want to share their flavor of the moment, but also follow likeminded fans who can turn them onto new artists.

Cymbal was founded by three college students in Massachusetts – Gabriel Jacobs, Amadou Crookes and Mario Gomez-Hall – and now it’s on its way to growing to new levels, attracting new music and tech fans each day. The guys at Cymbal do an amazing job of summing it all up:

Cymbal is simple.  Make a profile and post songs you love from Soundcloud or Spotify. Then follow friends and tastemakers —blogs, artists, smart people. Follow by follow, you create a timeline: a playlist of songs, one from each of your friends, of the song that means the most to them this instant.

Read on to learn a little more about the three co-founders’ adventure so far, and where they feel Cymbal plays a role in the musical landscape of 2015 and beyond.

First off, share how you all met and began developing Cymbal to begin with. Was it a mutual love of music or programming that spawned the app?

Gabriel Jacobs: We all met at Tufts University. The app development community at Tufts is very small, so we all kind of knew each other. Amadou and I met during our sophomore year when we were assigned to be programming partners in a notoriously hard computer science class.

Since we worked really well together, we decided to take a stab at making an iPhone app junior year. That app never took off, but it gave us the experience and technical knowledge we needed to make Cymbal. Meanwhile, Mario was designing apps for Microsoft, freelance projects, and his own personal ventures. When Amadou and I approached him during the fall semester of our senior year, we immediately knew that we had the perfect team.

cymbal shot2

How do you feel this disrupts the larger apps/social channels that allow users to share their favorite bands and artists?

GJ: The issue with sharing music to larger social networks is that most of these networks were not designed specifically for music. Take Instagram for example. Instagram is an unbelievable network for photos. However, a lot of Instagram users attempt to share music through instagram by sharing album art and using hashtag “#nowplaying.”

But in order to listen to that song, their friends have to search it out on a different music network. The same goes for Twitter and Facebook. Music was not meant to be shared on these platforms. On the other hand, Cymbal was specifically designed for the act of sharing music, and we hope that people see it as a more functional way to do just that.

Conversely, explain how major digital music platforms/streaming services come into the fold for Cymbal users.

Mario Gomez-Hall: We’re so lucky to be working on Cymbal at this point in music history. We’re building this product at a time when streaming music has just overtaken digital downloads for the first time ever and is on track to just keep going.

With Spotify, for $10 per month, you can listen to basically every song every recorded. How cool is that? At the same time, there is this incredible DIY music platform in SoundCloud that’s built for artists to quickly and easily upload their music to the internet, so all of this amazing independent music is just waiting to be discovered.

With Cymbal, we’ve combined both of these great platforms with social features that let our users define themselves through music and discover new artists every day.

How would you describe the target user of Cymbal?

Amadou Crookes: Part of what makes Cymbal so cool is that it can be used in so many different ways. A music fan can share their favorite current songs with their friends. Someone looking for new songs can just listen through their feed to find new music. An artist can distribute songs directly to their fans. A label can support emerging artists and debut tracks. A venue can post songs from upcoming shows, and since we’ve got an in-app browser and active links, can post ticket links along with them. In the same way, publications can post songs with links to articles in them.

It’s harder to think of use cases that don’t exist on Cymbal than to winnow down a list of those that do.

We know music lovers are digging Cymbal. What has been the overall response from artists?

AC: They love it! I think it’s appealed to labels first, because they see it as a new way to promote their artists. I think artists – especially independent artists – will see it as a new way to get their music directly to their fans, in the space they’re listening. In that way, it’ll be a powerful way to control how your music is distributed and promoted. Pretty cool.

Similarly, how do you see Cymbal as it relates to the world of independent music and those creating it?

GJ: It has been really fun to see the way independent and emerging artists have been using Cymbal to promote their music. For a lot of these bands, there is no publicist or PR manager getting them album reviews, featured premieres, and other media attention. For them, Cymbal is an easy way to immediately be immersed in an active music community.

One of the best upcoming artists we have on the app is a band called LVL UP. They love it! They joined Cymbal early and have really taken advantage of all the ways Cymbal can help them grow and be discovered. They have over 1.1K followers on Cymbal and their posts consistently get around 40 likes each. For a band like them, that is trying hard to book good gigs and be recognized, Cymbal is a big deal. We hope that as Cymbal gets more popular, bands like LVL UP rise with it.

cymbal shot1

Will Cymbal simply remain a platform for discovery and sharing, or do you have ambitions to get into partnerships, either on the brand or label side?

MGH: It will always be a platform for discovery and sharing, but I think partnerships, whether they’re with brands, labels, or anyone else, can make that experience a lot better for everyone involved. We can work with labels to do exclusives, or to help brands find their target audiences, or help the two do dedicated guest DJing… the list really does go on.

I think you’ll see brands embrace Cymbal because of how powerfully music can unobtrusively convey feeling. That said, the beauty of Cymbal is its democratic nature. Every profile gets one spot in your feed, whether you’re a brand, a band, a blog, or a label.

Are there any exciting plans you get share with us for the rest of the year or in 2016?

MGH: We’re super excited to be working on a full-featured web version of Cymbal. So many startups these days are mobile-first and laugh when you suggest they make a web version, but Cymbal, and music in general, is something people listen to for an extended period of time and in one place. The music media world still primarily exists on the web, and discovery is a time-consuming thing.

If you go to any college and grab some random kid’s MacBook Pro, you’ll see Spotify’s desktop app installed — I guarantee it. Music is what we listen to while we sit at the office all day, write a class paper, and browse the internet. Being on web means we can be with you wherever you are, whatever the activity. It opens us up to amazing things like an embeddable Cymbal widget and means more people can experience social music, regardless of what computer or phone they use.

Interested in getting your music on Cymbal? Do it up! Download Cymbal for iOS here.

Getting Social Series: 7 Tips For Running a YouTube Channel

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post from TuneCore Artist Hannah Trigwell. The 24-year old singer/songwriter went from busking around her hometown in England to touring throughout Europe. Her YouTube Channel boasts over 350,000 subscribers and has garnered more than 35 million views!]

Want to have your own channel on the most popular video sharing site on the web? Whether you are using YouTube to reach new audiences or simply to promote music to your current audience, here are some tips that are guaranteed to get you off to a good start!

1. Aim for: High Quality, Regular Quantity.

Regular uploads will produce a regular crowd of viewers, but only if the content quality is consistently high. You don’t necessarily need to have the best camera, lights, and microphone, (though it helps!), but really, the most important thing about a video is the quality of the content. For example, a video of impressive vocals or incredible drumming skills filmed via webcam is going to be much more entertaining, (and inspire more sharing), than a video of a poorly rehearsed performance captured in an expensive studio through an expensive lens. Once the quality of the content is high, regular uploads can lead to a dedicated and exponentially-growing fan base.

2. Compliment videos with more videos.

Uploading a great video is the beginning, not the end! Add more videos to create a story. As a fan, I love to watch behind-the-scenes footage of my favorite bands on the set of their latest music video shoot or backstage before a show. I get to know the people that write the music that I love, and I find out when their next performances are and when the new merch is released. I absorb all of this information through watching videos that surround their latest music video release.

3. Give your video the best chance.

Accurate representation of video content through customized thumbnails is essential. After going through my videos and creating customized thumbnails that captured the main message of each video, I saw my views (per video) increase significantly. Furthermore, having optimized titles, tags and descriptions for each of your videos will give them the best chance to be seen by the people who are looking for them, as well as those who aren’t! This is where the magic of audience growth comes in.

4. Collaborate as much as possible!

As well as meeting new people and learning music and video production techniques from others, collaborations are brilliant because they can expose you and your music to new audiences. Cross-promotion of content through other creators’ channels can potentially expand your fan base – especially if you are collaborating with someone who uploads videos that have similarities to your own.

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5. Analytics are for geeks.

So embrace your inner geek! If you don’t, you are seriously wasting an opportunity to get real insight into what is working for you and what isn’t. Use the data generated by your YouTube channel, (which is presented in a very practical way via the ‘Creator Studio’), to learn what your audience likes and when they like it. Here, you can discover your video playback locations, demographics, audience retention, traffic sources and much more. This information can be very useful in booking tours if you are an independent act, (promoters will be more inclined to work with you if they can see the right numbers), and discovering the optimum timezones for publishing your videos.

6. Don’t just upload, interact.

Think of your video as the conversation starter. Don’t just upload a new video and expect audience engagement to be high – if you don’t interact you can’t expect your viewers to. Aim to answer questions that are asked via the comments section below your video, and ask for feedback in the form of comments.

Recently, I uploaded a demo of a new song I had written to see what my fan base thought – this was a conversation starter. I learned what they liked about the song, what they didn’t like and what they thought I could improve on. This was really valuable for me, I’m currently working on the finished version of this song with all of these comments in mind! Linking back my first point, I had made sure that the quality of the video I uploaded was high, which meant that it was entertaining and it encouraged sharing. The end result: I was able to promote new music to my current audience whilst growing my fan base via their video sharing – all the while getting the positive feedback and constructive criticism that I needed to encourage me to work up an official studio version of the song.

7. Enjoy!

If you don’t have much to say or you’re not really feeling the song you have been working on, don’t upload a video. Don’t just post out content for content’s sake. People will see through videos that aren’t genuine and lose interest. It has to be real, and it has to be something that you are passionate about – whether that’s an interesting arrangement of a well-known song, an exciting new song, or a new tour announcement! I think it’s most important to do what you want to do, but don’t be afraid to experiment and find out works works for you and your fan base. And don’t expect to grow a worldwide fan base via YouTube overnight, perseverance is the key.

Follow Hannah Trigwell on YouTube and Twitter.

Getting Social: 7 Tips for Tweeting a Live Event

[Editors Note: This article is written by Bob Owlsinski and was originally featured on his Music 3.0 blog. As an artist, tweeting at live events – whether it’s a peer’s show or your own – is a great way to engage with your fans who follow you, connect with others at the event, and show that you’re out there doing it! Add your own voice, spin, and sense of humor to make it an event worth following.]

Adweek recently ran a great post about tips for Tweeting a live event. They were thinking more about a business conference than a gig, but many of the tips apply to a live show anyway. Here they are, but with a music spin.

1. Use the right hashtag(s).

If you have a following that regularly attends your gigs, start your own hashtag that you can consistently use. Something like #(yourband)live could work. Also find out if the venue has a hashtag and include that as well.

2. Let your followers know.

If there’s going to be a flurry of activity in a short period of time, let your followers know beforehand. No one likes their feed dominated by one poster, but at least they can tune you out if they’re not interested if they know it’s coming.

3. Be interesting.

Try to give a unique perspective that only you can give. What’s the venue like? Did you meet anyone interesting (give them a  shoutout)? Is there a meet and greet or something happening preshow or aftershow?

4. Retweet others.

If there are others tweeting about the gig, retweet them as well.

5. Take pictures. 

Tweets are a lot more interesting when a picture is included and the engagement is increased as well.

6. Follow other tweeters.

This includes the promoters, venue and other bands on the bill.

7. Use Vine and Periscope.

Twitter is more than just text, so don’t forget to share a video about meeting a fan, what’s happening backstage, from the stage, etc.

Twitter is especially cool for communicating at events, and that’s the perfect time to engage your fans. Follow these tips and you’ll keep everyone happy.