Thoughts On How To Approach Music Bloggers

[Editors Note: This article is derived from the “Question and Answer” format found over at MusicPreneurHub.com, a site that connects artists and music industry experts. It was written by Jack Ought, a musician, freelance writer and digital artist from the UK.]

 

1. Start With Empathy

I’d say start with empathy. Empathy is a vital skill for dealing with other humans, whether they blog or not. Try to put yourself into the head of the music blogger before you contact one. What do they want out of life and how can you help them get it with your music? Put another way, ‘what’s in it for them’?

It’s a bit like submitting to A&Rs at major labels. If they’re really big, they’re getting more submissions than they can possibly deal with. They’re getting generic/irrelevant pitches all the time, and they might have grown to resent ‘bad pitches’. They don’t want to read War and Peace, even if your content is relevant to them – instead, they’re looking for short, informative, and ’to the point’ releases that allow them to learn more, if they want to. And they are always looking to uncover music that they feel has real value, why else would they do what they do?

If it’s a commercial blog (i.e they have ads), understand their revenue model – they want more page views, which generate more ad revenue. How can you help them generate more page views? One of the things that always gets my interest as a journalist or blogger is an exclusive – I’m not interested in posting content that a bunch of other people have put out before me. Do you have something new to announce that they can post first? A new tour perhaps, or a new single? Perhaps consider: “if it’s not new, it’s not news”

2. Your Mindset

Perhaps consider your mindset too; in the sense that you are here to serve and provide value. You are here to give them something very exciting to show to their readership. You have something genuinely valuable to share with them in the form of your art.

What to do when you pitch a blogger:

Have a strong headline: It’s worth bearing in mind that your email subject is a bit like your headline – you really have to get it right, because if they don’t like the title they won’t even read your email.

Do your homework on the blog: Some blogs ask you to do certain things in your email to help them better process your submission. If you don’t, the blogger will likely reject your message outright.

Personalize your pitch: Make sure the salutation references them by name, if you can. If not, name of the blog that they write for. Don’t start an email with something like ‘Dear Blogger’, please. Tailor it to the blogger in question, ideally in the first paragraph by referencing something they have written about in the past: And why what you have to OFFER them is RELEVANT. I speak from experience when I say that if someone shows that they have taken the time to research what I am writing, I am much more inclined to respond. It’s not flattery per se, more an example that you’re a professional who has taken the time and thought to do their research.

Expect a low hit rate: Sad but true, even the best crafted, most targetted pitches will often evaporate into nothing. This is very often the case and not something to take personally. People are busy, people forget stuff, sometime spam filters get excited, there are many reasons. Which leads us to the next bit… Follow up: 3-5 days later, politely. A short, friendly follow up email to remind them. There’s a trade off between emailing indefinitely until they get back to you or tell you to stop, or not. I think it’s like a lot of stuff in life in that persistence pays. Remember, you have something useful for them to see. An optional step – you could pick up the phone and call them (or try to get them onto Skype). If you are the kind of person who is good on the phone, this may be better for you.

Provide easily accessible links to your content: Either download links to music and imagery on a site like 4shared, or your EPK. Say thank you at the end: Everyone is busy, the fact that the blogger has taken the time to read all the way to the end is great. Politeness will get you around. Here’s an example of an email title (first introduction) that could work for you: “Hi [NAME OF JOURNALIST], I read your piece on [SOMETHING THEY WROTE] & thought you may like this…”

3. On Bloggers (Big and Small)

Please don’t rule out smaller bloggers. Just because they’re ‘small’ doesn’t mean they’re not important – even though a blogger may not have the following of a bigger publication, they often have a highly engaged and super niche following of the kind of people you want to get in front of. For example, they can be followed by journalists at bigger publications looking to catch new bands before they take off. Big outlets often get their ideas from smaller ones.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that bloggers are, on the main part, fanatical about what they like and they can be some of your biggest champions, if they like you. Most of the time, the ones who went into it purely for the money were quickly weeded out when they realized that they’re probably not going to get rich and famous overnight.

How To Advertise Your Music on Instagram

[Author: Lisa Occhino *]

Instagram is one of the best ways to build your brand and showcase your personality as a musician. But now that the social media platform boasts 700 million monthly active users, advertising your music on Instagram has become more competitive, so you need to be savvier than ever before to reach new fans.

Let’s take a look at some best practices for Instagram advertising and how to get your ads up and running.

Instagram Advertising: Best Practices for Musicians

1. Keep your target audience in mind.

The most effective ads are highly targeted, so it’s worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the audience you hope to reach. If you have a clear idea of who’s on the receiving end of your Instagram ads, all of the creative decisions you need to make will flow from there.

Create a profile of your ideal superfan: How old are they? Where do they live? Are they male or female? What are their interests? Where do they hang out? Which other bands do they love? Use any existing fan data you have from your email list, band website analytics, or social media profiles for insight.

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2. Make it as authentic as anything else you’d post.

Just because it’s technically an ad doesn’t mean it needs to scream, “THIS IS AN AD!” You’ll generally want to avoid overlaying your image with text, because that tends to come across as inauthentic and most people will scroll right past it. You’ll have more success if you keep your ad genuine and consistent with the rest of your Instagram posts in terms of colors, filters, tone, and overall vibe.

3. Use a captivating, high-quality image.

Put yourself in the shoes of a potential fan. Would the image you plan to use in your ad make you stop and pay attention as you’re mindlessly scrolling through Instagram? If not, pick a different one that’s more compelling.

For inspiration, check out Instagram accounts similar to yours, and try to identify the specific elements that you admire about those posts that you could adapt and make your own.

4. Optimize your caption.

This is your chance to get creative and show who you are as an artist or band, while also making the purpose of your ad as clear as possible.

As a general rule of thumb, You’ll want to keep your captions on the shorter side (unless a longer caption would help convey the message in a stronger way and not detract from the ad), with a few relevant hashtags and perhaps an emoji or two thrown in (both of which have been shown to increase engagement on Instagram). Again, make sure you keep your target audience in mind and ask yourself what kind of message and tone would resonate with them the most.

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5. Give people a good reason to click on your call-to-action.

Ultimately, You’ll judge the success of your Instagram ad by how many people clicked through and performed the action you wanted them to take, whether that’s streaming your new single, watching your latest music video, signing up for your email list, or buying a ticket for your upcoming show.

Your image and caption should work together to deliver a strong message about whatever it is you’re promoting. Be sure to demonstrate the value of what you’re offering and provide a legitimate incentive to click your call-to-action button.

How to Set Up an Instagram Ad

Since Facebook now owns Instagram, you actually set up Instagram ads through Facebook Ads Manager. So, the good news is that if you’ve ever run a Facebook ad before, you pretty much already know how to run an Instagram ad. If not, all you need to get started is a Facebook page that’s linked to your Instagram account.

Here’s a condensed step-by-step guide to setting up an Instagram ad, but we’d recommend reading through our in-depth Facebook advertising tutorial to understand the ins and outs of Ads Manager.

1. Define your goal

You need to have a way of measuring the success of your Instagram ad, so the first step is to set a specific goal. Attach concrete numbers and a deadline to it. The more detailed you make your goal, the better.

Here are the objectives you can choose from in Facebook Ads Manager that are applicable to Instagram.

2. Determine your budget

You can set either a daily budget or a lifetime budget (meaning day-to-day spending will vary slightly, but you won’t exceed the total budget you allocate for the lifetime of the ad set).

Facebook and Instagram ads work on an auction, so the cost is determined by your targeting and the amount of competition among other advertisers for that audience. Depending on the goal you’ve set, you can choose to pay for your ads by cost per thousand impressions (CPM) or cost per click (CPC).

3. Identify your target audience

If you’re new to advertising on Facebook or Instagram, You’ll probably need to play around with different targeting options for a bit until you hit on the right combination. In Ads Manager, You’ll be able to see in real time how your estimated reach changes as you make tweaks. Here’s an overview of all of Facebook’s audience targeting options.

4. Create your ad

You have several options for the format of your Instagram ad, including photo, video, carousel, and Stories. For musicians, we’d recommend starting out with a simple photo or video ad, depending on what your objective is. Be sure to review the design requirements and recommendations for Instagram ads.

When you create a new ad in Ads Manager, You’ll be guided through selecting your objective, audience targeting, budget, schedule, and placement (i.e., where it’s going to be displayed). By default, all of the placements will be selected, but if you only want your ads to run on Instagram and nowhere else, uncheck all of the placements except for Instagram.

After you finalize your settings, You’ll then be taken to the section where you choose the format, media, and text for your ad. Once you’ve reviewed all of the details, click the “place order” button.

5. Measure your ad’s performance

The work isn’t over once your Instagram ad is active! While it’s running, you need to track its performance and make any necessary adjustments to have the best chance of success. Ads Manager provides all the metrics you need to help you figure out how well your ads are doing.

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[This article was written by Lisa Occhino and originally appeared on the Bandzoogle Blog.

Road Hazards: 5 Challenges Of Touring and How To Avoid Them

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

For young, ambitious bands, there’s nothing more exciting than hitting the road for a national tour. There’s something timelessly exciting and relatable about a band traveling from city to city in hopes of getting the world to care about its music. But while tour is capable of bringing huge benefits for artists as far as opportunities and industry credibility goes, touring can be tedious, thankless and even downright dangerous for some bands. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the road’s more serious challenges and show you how to cope with them.

1. Physical Inactivity

If you’re someone used to exercising regularly, touring for long periods of time can be especially brutal. Unless your band is raking in the dough and traveling in a big tour bus, you’ll most likely spend the majority of your days on tour crammed in a car or van. Long-term physical inactivity is hell on your body, and the longer you stay sedentary, the more your risk for things like depression and heart disease increases. One two-week tour isn’t a big deal, but if you’re a serious musician intent on touring over the course of your career, inactivity can lead to massive problems.

The only solution here is movement. Make every effort you can to move as much as possible throughout the day. Encourage your bandmates to get a gym membership at a national club and to reserve an hour or two each day for exercise. Easier said than done, of course, but if you don’t take care of yourself on the road you simply won’t be able to do it for very long.

2. Excessive Drinking and Drug Abuse

Partying is simply the funnest part of tour for some musicians, and while it’s not our place to judge here at the TuneCore Blog, booze and drugs have caused musicians more than their fair share of problems over the years, so we think it’s worth mentioning. Whether it’s a tedious eight-hour drive through the midwest or the lengthy period between loading in and performing, there’s a ton of time to kill on the road, so it’s no wonder musicians drink and use drugs to pass the time. But while casual drinking or drug use is completely harmless for some people, it can be hugely damaging for others.

Moderation is the key here for some musicians, but if you find yourself getting out of control when you drink or use drugs, it’s time to stop and even consider getting off the road altogether. Assuming that you tour because you’re a serious musician, the main goal of touring is playing well on stage and making connections on the road, and this is going to be much harder if you’re drunk and high constantly. If drinking and drugs are keeping you from being your best on the road, consider cutting down, taking a break or stopping completely.

3. Strained Relationships

Maintaining relationships out on the road can be a huge challenge whether you’re touring for the first time as a young band or are a seasoned touring veteran. Relationships are essential to the happiness of most people, and this is one of the main reasons why so many serious musicians become depressed and eventually burn out. If you plan on being a serious musician for the rest of your life, you’ll have to learn how to make relationships work on the road.

Nothing can replace the time spent away from a loved one, but there are things you can do maintain relationships while you tour. Scheduling and sticking to daily calls, FaceTime and Skype chats is one obvious option. Bringing your loved ones with you on the road for certain legs of your tours is another, though that’s not always an option for some musicians. No matter what you decide to do, just remember how vital your relationships back at home are and proceed accordingly.

4. Financial Hardship

Touring is a huge financial investment that never quite pays off for some bands. This means weeks or months at a time away from jobs and a steady source of income. There’s no way to tell for sure, but money problems have probably caused the untimely demise of many bands, and it’s not difficult to see why. Musicians are accustomed to making all sorts of sacrifices for their craft, but there’s a point where lack of money makes it impossible to keep going.

To avoid burnout over money issues, conversations need to happen long before you hit the road about your resources and limitations. Lots of bands set out with lofty goals for tour without having this conversation break up when they realize they can’t be on the road for months and pay their bills at the same time. Communication, realistic expectations and planning will help you be able to tour and keep your personal bottom line intact.

5. Lack of Sleep

Everything from the bad food to excessive drinking on tour can be hell on your body, but the lack of sleep can be especially pernicious. Not getting eight hours of sleep a night while you’re on tour might not seem like a huge deal for some bands, but sleep loss can cause everything from obesity to depression. Again, on a short tour this isn’t a problem, but it’s something that serious career musicians should address.

A major factor in sleeping issues on tour has to do with the fact that most bands can’t afford hotel rooms every night on the road. What can you do if the house you’re sleeping at has a party raging till four or five AM? Doing your best to find accommodations before you embark on a tour is essential if you hope to get good sleep on the road. Stay with friends and family when you can, and communicate your needs, even if it’s awkward to do so.

3 Tips For Nailing Your Next Interview

[Editors Note: This article was written by Suzanne Paulinksi, an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate.]

 

All musicians understand that press is crucial for growing their fanbase and getting attention to their music. Not all musicians, however, know how to create the greatest impact with an interview.

An interview is more than simply answering questions. The information potential fans find in an interview can be incredibly insightful, allowing them to connect more deeply with the you than if they simply read a review of your music.

An interview is a way to show people who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re currently promoting. In order to properly execute this interaction and leverage the exposure that comes with it, below are three things every artist should keep in mind when preparing for an interview (whether in print, over the phone, or on video).

1. Remember It’s About More Than Your Music

Let’s say you’ve just finished a song and you’re ready to release it to the world. It’s completely understandable that that would be all you’d want to talk about. However, keep in mind most of the readers/listeners have never heard of you before and therefore have no reason to care about your latest release.

An interview allows them to dig a little deeper – learn the story behind the music, behind the performer. They want to get to know you. Make sure you have a few relevant antidotes handy to share during the interview that will resonate with the outlet’s audience.

Not sure what stories to tell? How about what inspired you to write your latest song, or the thing that keeps you going despite all the hardships in this industry? What about the memory of your first concert, or the moment you knew you’d want to write music for the rest of your life? You could even share who in your family/circle of friends are your biggest supporters and what they mean to you (every reader loves a good “This is Us” moment).

Being relatable is what attracts new fans who will then be interested in downloading or streaming your music once they’ve connected with you.

2. Get to Know the Interviewer

It’s not difficult to spend a few minutes researching the person who will be interviewing you. Find out who else they’ve interviewed, what their interests are, who they follow online that you’re a fan of as well.

This will do two important things for you: (1) it will enable you to speak more freely as you won’t feel you’re opening up to a complete stranger and (2) taking time to respect and acknowledge the person who is sitting down to speak with you illustrates to them you’re a professional and appreciate the work they are putting in to help you spread your message.

3. Work Within the Medium

It’s important to consider ahead of time who you will be reaching with this interview. For instance, if this interview is being broadcast over YouTube, you’ll want to consider what you’re wearing and where you want to make eye contact during the discussion; you’ll want to focus on how you’re physically presenting yourself. Could you be wearing your band’s merch or a t-shirt that supports a cause you care about? Will you be bringing a copy of your album to show on camera?

On the other hand, if the interview is over email and will later be in print, make sure your answers are clear and concise, as readers will not hear your tone of voice and have a much shorter attention span when scrolling through on their phones. If the interview is for a podcast, realize that people won’t be able to see you wearing your latest t-shirt or see your album’s artwork, so you’ll want to make sure you take a moment to verbalize where to find you online and where to purchase your music (for obscure names, spelling out your social handles and/or website help).

No matter what, always lead with a confident attitude and don’t be afraid to practice a few times with a bandmate or friend beforehand.

Exposure via interviews can be a very powerful thing. Don’t miss out on making the most of your next opportunity by taking some time to think through your strategy. Get clear on what you’d like to see come from your next interview and then do everything in your power to ensure that happens.

What message are YOU looking to share with your audience? Tell us in the comments below!

Make Your Guitars LOUD!!!

[Author: Chris Gilroy *]  
I love guitars. Something about them excites all my nerve endings. From softly picked acoustics to a mountain of amps at full blast. These nuanced instruments can be tricky to record. Luckily for you, I’m setting up for a session right now where we will be tracking distorted guitars for the next 3 days. Let’s talk a bit about getting some of the best results you can while recording and the things I will be doing for this session.

Before you even get into the studio to shred, find a few different examples of recordings where you, the artist, producer, or whoever is in charge of the project, are inspired by for this session. Guy Picciotto of Fugazi has a very different tone then Matt Pike of Sleep/High on Fire. Talk to your engineer about how these different sounds speak to you and how they were achieved. What amps, guitars, pedals, etc etc were used for tracking.

If you are engineering, you need to learn the different sounds between guitars. Why grab a Fender Stratocaster over a Telecaster? What’s the draw of a hollow body guitar? Each instrument sounds very different. Then there are amps! A Fender Deluxe sounds AMAZING when cranked, but very different from a Marshall JCM50. It is a never ending task for us to learn these differences. I’m not a guitarist (my mind was simpler and could only handle smashing two pieces of wood against a drum) so every session I work on I make sure we try a few amps and guitars. Mostly so we can make sure that we have a sound we are happy with in the room, but partially so I can listen to different combinations of instruments and amps, learning it and internalizing it.

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Luckily I am fortunate enough to work in a place that has a bunch of great sounding amps. When you turn the gain till the pre amp starts to clip, we reach a magical land. Which is emulated through so many pedals. To get geeky for a second, a lot of distortion pedals are trying to recreate the sound of tube amps distorting. Housed in much smaller and cheaper enclosures they are create to throw a few flavors in your bag for a gig.

But these boxes use transistors and diodes to compress and clip your sound, which will flatten your dynamics and take a ton of life out of your guitar. Live they totally rule, but if you are in the studio and have a Marshall Bluesbreaker, you probably also don’t need that OCD pedal on. Turn up the amp, and rock out.

A hard balancing act while tracking distorted guitars is not OVER distorting. When we play live we have the benefit of watching the player’s hands on the instrument. We don’t get that same luxury through a recording. Our guitar sound must be clear enough to make out all the notes and harmonies played. For listening example, blink-182’s Enema of the State is laden with giant and punchy sounding guitars that we hear everything Tom DeLonge is playing. Back a few albums to Cheshire Cat, it is much more difficult to hear exactly what he is playing. His sound is muddied and a bit too crunchy to full hear everything. When we are tracking back down the amount of distortion a little less then when we play live. The clarity will come through but we still have the amp growl.

Kurt Ballou of Converge is a master at getting an insanely aggressive sound while still maintaining note clarity. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE horribly recorded black metal records. But after a short period of time my ears get fatigued because the guitars basically almost white noise (which then I wonder why I didn’t put on a Merzbow record).

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When I double guitars I first make sure I know why we are doubling. Recently I finished mixing the new Nihiloceros EP. I wash’t involved in tracking, so during mixing I heard sections that I wanted a slight energy boost like after a bridge into the final chorus of a song. To solve this we tracked a meatier guitar sound to blend in slightly behind the rest of the guitar assault. Mixed in you can’t quite tell that there is another guitar, it just feels like the part swells a little more.

For another record, a new band from Philadelphia called Puriden, we wanted to have a massive wall of hard panned guitars. They had recorded an SG through a Vox AC30 as the main guitar. Since the guitarist has that rig as his tone, we didn’t want to lose the Vox sound so we doubled using the same amp and a Telecaster. This gave us enough sonic difference to know that we had two guitars, but have no phasing issues between the two.

Steve Albini spoke about this very eloquently in Mix with the Masters. In short, if you have a different initial sound source with a different timbre you decrease the chances of having phase issues. Even if it is a different amp, mic, etc, the initial harmonic character is the same. For the most clarity and less phase related issues down the line change your instrument. If you have the ability then change your whole rig but at the very least try a different guitar.

Micing amps is a whole other beast. This section alone can be a whole book so I will only briefly gloss over some ideas here. Or buy me a beer at a show and we can chat all night.

The placement of an amp in the room affects your sound dramatically. Having an open back amp against a wall will increase the amount of low frequencies in your sound. Having a small amp on the floor will increase first order reflections. Is the room large and live (reverberant) or tight and dry? Often the room sound will slip into your mics and affect your recordings. Speaking of mics, each type of mic responds differently and adds or subtracts to our sound.

The SM57, love it or hate it, will always be around and serve it’s duties wonderfully. Learn it and how to use it. Ribbon mics, like the Royer R-121, will add extra lower mids to your sound and often tame harshness. Condenser mics also sound incredible on amps. I love the sound of a Schoeps M22 (tube small diaphragm) on amps like a Fender Deluxe. Or a Soyuz 017 slays on guitar amps, as do so many other large diaphragm options.

Be mindful that each mic has a limit of how loud it can handle. If you have a Marshall Plexi at full blast some mics won’t be happy and give you thinner or distorted tones. You could also damage the microphone, like the sensitive ribbon mics, rendering them into very expensive door stops.

Placement of the microphone on the cabinet has a big change of sound. The more on the center of speaker cone you get, the brighter a sound you capture. As you move off axis, the sound gets a little darker, or warmer. How far or close your mic is will also change the timbre and room tone. Among other reasons, if you place a cardiod mic too close you will get a bass bump known as proximity effect. Listen to talk radio to hear this overused. Justin Colletti, of Sonicscoop, has this wonderful video exploring the different sounds we get with just this principle alone.

Originally I was hoping to get into mixing guitars, but that must wait till next time. The last point I want to drive home is that this is a skill set that we can always improve on. We are constantly learning. Go to conferences (AES), workshops, talks. Read magazines (Tape Op!) and watch videos. Talk to peers at all levels. Whenever possible I try assist other engineers. It lets me see how other people do things and handle situations. The amount I have learned from that or the conversations after the session about techniques and decisions used in the session has been monumental.

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*[This article was written by Chris Gilroy, producer and house engineer at Brooklyn-based Douglass Recording. Chris earned his degree in Sound Recording Technology from UMass Lowell. Chris has worked with a diverse range of artists including Ron Carter, Mike Stern, The Harlem Gospel Choir, Christian McBride, to name a few.]

Wednesday Video Diversion: November 1, 2017

Nursing a Halloween Candy Hangover? We feel you. Fun fact for the start of November: it was approximately 20 years ago today that Scandinavia’s Aqua rocked the UK Singles Chart with their massive hit, “Barbie Girl”. Likely just by reading that sentence, the chorus of “Barbie Girl” is already stuck in your head! Enjoy that. And enjoy this week’s round-up of TuneCore Artist music videos:

Jae Jin, “Darling U Know”


Epic Rap Battles of History, “Jack The Ripper vs. Hannibal Lecter”


KoBoogie, “Don’t Be Mad At Me (Real Rapid)”


Captain Kidd, “Stay”


SiR, “All In My Head”


DJ SPINALL, “Gimme Luv (feat. Olamide)”


Truett, “Left In The Dark”


Charlie Farley, “It Ain’t Over Yet”