4 Ways To Build Confidence as a Musician

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post written by Mason Hoberg. Mason is a freelance writer who covers music-related topics and is a regular contributor to Equipboard.]


The hardest part about participating in any facet of the arts is overcoming your own insecurities. It’s easy to feel self-conscious when you perform music, especially when you’re not confident in your playing abilities to begin with.

The worst part about being unconfident as a musician is that it will rob you of enjoyment from your playing. If you don’t feel comfortable playing in front of others you’ll never be able to experience playing with your friends, playing open mics (which is a lot of fun if you have the right mindset), or being in a band.

If this is an issue that you’ve faced you’ve come to the right place. This article will give you four great tips to help you build confidence as a musician, which in turn will help you become the musician you always dreamed that you could be.

Tip 1: Play For Family And/Or Friends

I know it sounds kind of lame, but playing for family is actually a really good way to dip your toe into the pool of live performance. Most families are relatively supportive, so it’s a bit less stressful than playing in front of strangers.

Playing in front of friends is the second step. Your friends are still likely to be supportive, but more honest than your family. Constructive criticism is going to help you improve, but it’s just as important to learn how to take feedback that may not necessarily be very positive. It’s a skill that helps you learn to accept your flaws as a musician, which will in turn help you increase your confidence.

Tip 2: Focus On Improving, Not Putting Yourself Down

A mistake that a lot of musicians make is that they focus more of their attention on worrying about the flaws in their playing, rather than how they can improve them. Analyzing every mistake you make and then letting it bring you down is going to hurt your playing more than it will help. It may even eventually lead to you abandoning your instrument.

Instead, count every mistake you notice in your playing as a lesson.

Think about why what you played didn’t work or didn’t sound quite as good as it could have, then start thinking about how you can change it. Doing this will help you keep improving because you’ll always be working towards something instead of spending energy worrying about what you’re doing wrong.

Tip 3: Play A Song A Day In Front Of The Mirror

The most important part of building confidence is to consistently see a visual representation of your success, and the easiest way to do this is to play in front of a mirror. Playing in front of a mirror allows you to see yourself succeed with some aspect of your playing. It reassures you that though there may be things you struggle with, it’s still worth it to continue practicing because you can see that there are things you can do well musically.

Even better, playing in front of a mirror actually improves your technique. It lets you see how you play with a perspective you don’t normally get, which will do wonders for helping you remedy flaws in your technique.

Tip 4: Play Live!!!

The most important thing when you’re trying to build confidence is that you really just need to put yourself out there. Odds are you’re not going to sound great, but that’s okay. Unfortunately, the only way to become a good performer is to perform. It’s not a skill that you can hone without practice, and you can’t practice without doing it. This is where open mics come in handy, because odds are there are plenty of other people there who are also just starting out.

Performing will also help build your confidence in your abilities as a musician, regardless of whether or not you choose to continue performing. This confidence will improve your overall performance, resulting in a positive feedback loop where you’ll find yourself improving more and more as time goes on.

Wrapping It All Up

While building confidence as a musician is a long and difficult process, it does have a big payoff. It can help you become the musician you always hoped to be, and even better it will help you enjoy playing your instrument more than you ever thought possible.

Got some advice for your fellow artists trying to build confidence? Share below in the comments!

Recap: The Inaugural Mondo.NYC 2016

A week and a half back, music industry professionals, artists, fans and students got together for the first-ever Mondo.NYC Festival at the Kimmel Center on the legendary NYU campus in lower Manhattan. Panels, keynote speeches, presentations and performances from artists dominated the five-day event, allowing members from different sectors of the industry to exchange ideas, strategies and thoughts on the future.

TuneCore was honored to be one of the sponsors at the inaugural Mondo.NYC 2016 festival, with indie artists across all genres performing throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan each night. In fact, we’re proud to mention that almost 50% of Mondo’s featured artists have used TuneCore to distribute their music at some point!

Bob Boilen, creator of NPR’s “All Songs Considered” and the Tiny Desk Concert Series acted as moderator throughout Mondo.NYC, offering decades of experience and overall music-nerdery to conversations with everyone from label owners and strategy folks to publicists and journalists.

There was a LOT to cover – not to mention TuneCore’s very own “Under the Hood” presentation on Friday morning – but below are pictures and quotes from some of the notable panels and discussions we were fortunate enough to make it to.

"Making Streaming Work for the Music Industry with Michael Nash & Robert Levine
“Making Streaming Work for the Music Industry” with Michael Nash & Robert Levine

During the “Making Streaming Work for the Music Industry” discussion, UMG’s Michael Nash explored the importance of major labels accepting and expanding the role of music streaming. With physical product dominating almost 70% of the market share in territories like Japan and Germany, there’s an important future to look at.

“How fast is change coming? It’s coming like a freight train,” Nash went on to say, noting “one of the most positive developments” being the growth in the space between Spotify, Apple Music and now Pandora. He believes that int the next 3-5 years we’ll see a few major players rise in the digital distribution space, as well.

mondo nyc 2016
Daniel Glass, owner of Glassnote Records, making a keynote address with Bob Boilen

Another inspiring moment during Mondo was the Keynote Address with none other than Daniel Glass of Glassnote Records. A man with a storied career in music, his imprint has been responsible for a new wave of independent artists looking for a friendlier label model. Glass explained while major labels can give artists the push they need, labels like his help left-of-center artists find their way in the world.

It was a bit of a trip down Memory Lane as Daniel and Bob reminisced and re-emphasized the importance of CMJ and college radio during the 80s and 90s. Plenty of laughter and note taking went down, and they transitioned into how Sirius XM stations are actually a refuge for would-be college radio fans.

Before wrapping up, Glass also reiterated the importance of a live experience in 2016, saying of Glassnote’s Aurora, “If I had $100K to develop her, I’d spend $97K getting people to see her live.”

"Press & PR: How To Rise Above the Din"
“Press & PR: How To Rise Above the Din”

Press and PR can be a pain-point for many indie artists just getting started down the DIY road. Rolling Stone contributor Christopher Weingarten, Audible Treats PR founder Michelle McDevitt, Big Hassle PR founder Ken Weinstein, and Bond Moroch PR founder Skipper Bond all provided what they  considered to be a ‘good day’ at their respective jobs.

Explaining the nuances of how to catch a writer’s eye and how to target your pitches, the attendees – mostly independent musicians – diligently jotted down bits of information. Bob Boilen kept things light and encouraged those in attendance to ask questions and get the most out of this very helpful panel.

It was refreshing to watch members of both sides of this complicated machine exchange thoughts, laughs and questions for each other behind the mics.


On Friday, TuneCore’s very own Senior Director of Entertainment Relations Chris Mooney and Director of Marketing Mitch Wenger presented and moderated “Under The Hood: Get Your Music Heard and Get Paid for Doing It”.  TuneCore Artists Devvon Terrell, Opus Orange, Kathryn Gallagher and The Republic of Wolves all sat in to discuss the state of digital distribution for independent artists in 2016.

While we couldn’t make all of those awesome panels and discussions, below are a few of our favorite helpful quotes heard from the Kimmel Center. Be sure to browse through some more photos, too, and share any great advice or stories YOU heard during Mondo.NYC this year in our comment section!

“That direct connection with your fans at shows is huge. When you’re sending them links to your music, send it to them at two points of contact.” – Benji Rogers, CEO, PledgeMusic

“If you’re doing pre sale ticketing on a tour, just make sure you have a period for fans associated with email sign ups to keep control of your data.” – Justin Spindler, Director, Music Glue

“Having ownership of your data is really important. People want to know if you’re worth their time and if you’ll make them money. It’s all about metrics.” – Matt DuFour, VP of Artist Development, ReverbNation

“Content is key. Audiences don’t mind being marketed to, but you have to do it well. There needs to be a balance between the brand, the audience and the artist.” – Jennifer Stilson, VP Music, MTV/VH1

“When it’s real is when the brand identifies with the type of music it is. By having something that the brand stood for, that became synonymous with the sound of the brand.” – Nick Parmar, Director, W Hotels

“Find your authentic lane when it comes to working with brands.” – Joi Brown, SVP Marketing, Atlantic Records

“Figure out who your fan amplifiers are and serve them. That’s what grows your fan base.” – Cortney Harding, Founder, Cortney Harding Consulting

Five Tips on How to Utilize Your Track Smart Reports

Choosing the best tracks to fine-tune, market and promote is a lot easier when expert music fans coach you along the way with their candid opinions.

That’s just one of the many benefits you get when you purchase and use a TuneCore Track Smarts Report. Each report gives you insightful fan reviews, uncensored comments, enlightening summaries and definitive analysis that provide a strong foundation for making decisions with your music.

These are five key ways to use your Track Smarts Reports:

1. Market Potential

Market Potential ratings will give you a definitive prediction of commercial success within the market. 80% indicates a very strong single with a high amount of potential.

2. Word Cloud / Song Element Analysis

The Word Cloud will give you an overview of the reviews and the elements that reviewers mentioned. The Song Element Analysis will give you a breakdown of the different components of your track and how positive/negative the reviewers were about each specific bit. Consider this data as you create new music.

3. In-Genre Classification

The In-Genre Classification will show you where your track sits within your genre. You will be able to determine what you’re competing against on a large scale. Understanding your target market is essential to channelling your efforts successfully.

4. Track Positioning / Rating Distribution

The Track Positioning will tell you if the reviewers agreed about your track and how it compares to other tracks of your genre. You can see exactly how the ratings are divided in the Rating Distribution; this will help you comprehend the other aspects of your report.

5. Compare Your Data

Evaluating multiple Track Smarts reports alongside one another can tell you much more about your music than a singular report. Learning which track is your best is essential to achieving your potential and will help you connect with your target audience.

Choose the Track Smarts Report that’s best for you:


40 fan reviews, 4 data points, track rating, song element analysis


100 fan reviews, 10 data points, passion rating, radio play consideration


225 fan reviews, 16 data points, radio play consideration, A&R consideration by major labels, track positioning against 1,000 major label releases

Learn how to hone, promote and market the “right” songs. Get smart advice on putting your best music in front of your fans.

Get a TuneCore Track Smarts Report today!

A Walk-Through: Sampling

By George Howard
(Follow George on Twitter)

I’ll be writing a periodic set of articles all designed to present the necessary information to make complex topics in the music business more easily understood—”walk-throughs,” if you will.  The first in the series is a walk through on sampling.

I chose this topic because it allows us to view an action—sampling—which requires an understanding of an array of music business elements.  As such, I’m able to introduce several important concepts at the same time.  Even if you yourself are an artist who does not sample, it’s important to understand the process because someone may desire to sample your music.

First, a definition.  Sampling is the act of inserting a portion of another work into your work. For instance, Vanilla Ice inserted the bass line from the David Bowie/Queen composition “Under Pressure” into his song “Ice, Ice, Baby.” As such, Vanilla Ice sampled David Bowie/Queen’s song.

Whenever you question whether something is allowable in the music business, you should always begin with examining the bundle of rights that are automatically granted to copyright holders upon the creation and fixation (writing down or recording) of an original work of authorship.  For a primer on this, please refer to this handy guide.

Ok, let’s take a look.

First things first, should you desire to insert the copyrighted work of another artist into your own work (i.e. sample their work), you immediately bump into that artist’s exclusive right to create derivative works.  This—the right to create derivatives—is one of the six rights conferred on copyright holders.  What this means is that only the copyright holder can do things like: make a translation of their song, create a screenplay of their song, and—most relevant here—create a new song that is in any way derived from the original composition.  So, inserting a portion of someone else’s work—however short that insertion might be—is deemed to be creating a new work derived from another work.  Only the copyright holder of the original work can do this without infringing upon another’s copyright.

What this means is that should you desire to sample someone else’s work in a song you have written, you must go to the copyright holder(s), and seek permission to do so.  Similarly, should someone desire to sample your work in one of their songs, they must come to you. Fair is fair, right?

In terms of what type of deal you must strike with this person (or, they with you), there is no compulsory rate.  In other words, unlike, for example, when you want to cover someone’s song, and can rely on the compulsory license statute, which establishes the rules (including what you must pay the copyright holder of the song you cover), no such statute exists with respect to derivative works; it’s a purely negotiated dynamic.  The person who controls the copyright you desire to sample in your work can grant you the right to create a derivative for free or for whatever fee the market will bear, or just say no, and, thus, keep you from sampling the work at all.

Of course, the same rules apply to you when someone wants to sample your work.  This is reasonable. Imagine someone wants to use your work in their work, but you feel their doing so would present your work (and, by extension, you) in a way that you’re not comfortable with—you wouldn’t want them to be able to just do it anyway.  Similarly, if you are the copyright holder of a very popular song, and someone who is less well-known wants to sample your work in their song (I’m looking at you P-Diddy), you might reasonably feel that this artist is reaping disproportionate benefit from your song; in other words, the popularity of “their” song is contingent upon the established popularity of your work.  In this case, you would want to be compensated in such a way so as to not feel that the artist sampling your work is free-riding, and being unjustly enriched.  By not having a compulsory rate, you are able to do this.

Before we move on to further details with respect to compensation, let’s pull back and examine what exactly is being sampled.  For every song there are two copyrights: the copyright in the composition itself (represented by the (c) symbol), and the copyright in the sound recording of the song—frequently referred to as the “master;” this is the recording/version of the song that is on a CD or download (it is represented by the (P) symbol).  While the songwriter or the songwriter’s publisher is typically the copyright owner of the composition (the (c)); the sound recording (the (P)) is typically owned/controlled by the label who releases the record/CD/download.  Of course, if the songwriter releases the work himself/herself he/she would be the owner of both the (c) and the (p).

Both the (c) holder and the (p) holder have the exclusive right to create derivative works, and so it’s not only the writer of the song (the (c) holder) that you must obtain permission to create derivatives from, but also the copyright holder of the sound recording/master (the (p) holder)—again, typically the label.

Either party can say no, and either party can negotiate whatever deal with you that they want.  Frequently, these deals are “Most Favored Nations” (MFN), meaning that whatever deal is struck with one party (the (c) holder, for example) must also be struck with the other party (the (p) holder).

The copyright holder to the composition (the (c) holder) is the dispositive party.  That is, if the (c) holder denies the usage, it’s game over.  If, on the other hand, the (c) holder agrees to the usage, but the copyright holder of the sound recording (the (p) holder—typically, the label) says “no,” the person desiring the sample can re-record the sample, and, thereby, bypass the (p) holder.

Obtaining permission from the rights holders to create a derivative work is the first step, but, again referring to the six rights the (c) holder(s) are conferred with, we see that there are other steps that must be taken.

Simply having the right to create a derivative, and, thus, include a sample of someone else’s work in your work, doesn’t do you much good if you can’t exploit (sell) it.  In order to sell you must have the right to do at least two other things that—unless a deal is struck with the copyright holder—only the copyright holder has the right to do: reproduce and distribute the work.

The rights to reproduce and distribute a work are, of course, essential to selling that work. Labels that desire to reproduce and distribute the copyrighted works of a songwriter on the label’s releases do so via a “mechanical license.”  Therefore, when a sample is inserted into a song, unless the copyright holder(s) of the sample waives their rights with respect to reproduction and distribution (and, why would they?) the copyright holder(s) of the sampled work must be paid for the reproduction and distribution of the work.

Typically, what occurs is that as part of the deal that “clears” the sample—i.e. outlines things like the right to create a derivative work—details concerning royalties associated with reproduction and distribution are also addressed.  These are negotiated, and — like the terms for the use of the sample—are determined by what the market will bear, but the normal scenario is that the person using the sample gives up some or all of the mechanical royalties to the writer of the original composition.  Note, that a “synchronization”—the use of a song combined with an image; such as in a movie or TV show—also triggers reproduction and distribution issues, and must be addressed in these deals. In short, if your work is sampled in a song, and that song is used in a movie or TV show, you should get paid when that movie is reproduced/distributed.

The last element to consider with respect to rights/income and samples is public performance. The exclusive right to public performance (both in the composition (the (c)) and the sound recording (the (p)) are exclusive to the writer and the master holder.  As such, when the writer and master holder’s works are publicly performed as part of the song that sampled them (that is, when a song that has a sample in it is played on the radio, streamed online, performed live in front of an audience, or, in any manner, publicly performed) performance royalties are owed.  In all cases, a public performance royalty is owed to the copyright holder of the composition (the (c)), and in the case of non-interactive digital streams (such as internet radio, Pandora, or satellite radio), a public performance royalty is due to the master holder and featured performer. The payments to the the songwriter are made via Performance Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.  The payments to the master holder/featured performer are made via SoundExchange.

As you can see, the use of another’s work as part of a new work (a sample) triggers a vast array of rights issues.  While—from the point of view of someone who desires to sample someone else’s work—this may seem extreme, from the other viewpoint—that of someone sampling your work—it should give you assurance that you have both control (via the ability to exclusively control whether or not a derivative of your work can be created) and compensation (via your exclusive rights related to distribution, reproduction, and public performance).

For those who feel that having their work sampled is beneficial from a promotional standpoint, and want to facilitate/encourage the use of their works as samples, they can utilize a Creative Commons license that allows the copyright holder to opt out of certain elements of their copyright bundle. For example, they could allow the creation of derivative works, and/or reproduction/distribution with few (attribution, for example) or no conditions. I suggested in a prior article that perhaps another way forward is to create a compulsory license for samples under a certain length (similar to the compulsory license rules around covers).

Certainly, there can be benefits to having your work sampled, as there can be benefits to sampling the work of others—in terms of revenue and awareness—and songwriters/master holders need to understand them, and, if they choose, attempt to maximize their value.

My hope is that, via this article, both those who desire to sample, and those who have their work sampled see that there is a system in place (however effective/efficient it may or may not be), and that the system is rooted in the same copyright law that governs all elements of the music business. To that end, if you understand this article, you’ve gone a long way in understanding the music business generally.


George Howard is the Executive Vice President of Wolfgang’s Vault. Wolfgang’s Vault is the parent company of Concert Vault, Paste Magazine, and Daytrotter. Mr. Howard is an Associate Professor of Management at Berklee College of Music

A House For Lions: Raising Money Their Own Way

Bands and artists are finding continued success with fan-funded platforms like Kickstarter and PledgeMusic.  When indie rock band A House For Lions  was looking into the different crowdfunding platforms available to help raise money for their debut album, they found another option.  Mike Nissen, the band’s guitar player (and designer), did a little digging to find out if a WordPress plugin existed to help with their approaching campaign. Sure enough, he found Ignitiondeck, a WordPress plugin that lets you to implement a crowdfunding campaign without any fees (except the cost of the plugin itself and small PayPal transaction fees) or middlemen.

The band carefully considered their options, as they acknowledged that using a well-known platform like Kickstarter might result in getting a few more eyes on their project. But at the same time, as they explained, “We realized that we might just be white noise in those other platforms, just another band trying to raise funds for their album.”

One of the plugin’s selling points for the band was that it wasn’t an “all or nothing” model;  “If we come very close to our goal but aren’t fully funded we will still get to make the album no matter what so that our backers will get what they are pledging to help make.”

Any good campaign requires a solid kickoff.  “We wanted to make an intro video that pokes fun at the idea of hitting people up for money, because we realize that it’s a bit of a ludicrous thing to do,” they explained.  So they did just that.  Their launch video shows the band interviewing several precocious children, asking them if they might be willing to spare some money and donate to the campaign. Definitely worth watching.

Also vital to any crowdfunded campaign is that the artist keeps fans interested throughout.  A House For Lions is tackling this by releasing silly outtakes from the launch video and extended cuts from their interviews with kids.  They’re also churning out creative rewards, including t-shirts and posters designed by Nissen. With 9 days to go, A House For Lions has received 54% of their goal.

At TuneCore we always encourage artists to be their own labels.  In the new music industry, artists have all of the resources, and bands like A House For Lions are proving just that.

Check Out the “A House For Lions” Campaign

Learn More About The Band



How To Start: An Interview With John Strohm

By George Howard
(Follow George on Twitter)

Where to start? When to start? How to start? These are the questions that come up so often. The questions raised by anyone who feels his or her music should be heard, but is unsure of the appropriate next steps.

I recently had the opportunity to interview my good friend John Strohm. John is uniquely qualified to speak to the above questions.  Sure, John is now a successful entertainment attorney— representing, among others, Grammy winners Bon Iver, and one of the most successful independent (and by that I mean their own label, distro through TuneCore) artists of all time, The Civil Wars—but long before John became a man of law, he too was an independent artist working his way through the same issues and opportunities that you may be.

While attending Berklee College of Music, John started a band called The Blake Babies with fellow Berklee students Juliana Hatfield and Freda Love.  The Blake Babies, through great songwriting and hard work, propelled themselves from the Berklee practice rooms to the national stage. John then went on to play guitar for The Lemonheads.  In short, he knows of what he speaks.

In this interview John focuses on actionable things artists can and should be doing to propel their careers forward.  What is resounding is the importance of being remarkable.  This is a theme I write about time and time again. If you pull the word “remarkable” apart you note that at its root is “remark;”people must “talk” about your work.

Of course, in order for that to happen, you must get your music out there.  TuneCore, of course, facilitates this, and I’ve written a lot about the importance of using the Lean Startup methodology of creating a “minimum viable product” to get a sense of what the market thinks of your work; again, TuneCore makes this process an incredibly efficient one.

So, balance John’s words of wisdom regarding making sure that your work is remarkable with the incredible ease of getting feedback via creating a minimum viable product, and distributing via TuneCore to constantly improve.

Take heed also regarding John’s advice when it comes to who you work with.  His thoughts here mirror many of the ideas I’ve discussed in articles like “Strengthen Your Core.”  It’s about alignment of values and expectations.  Of course, you can’t align your values with anyone else’s until you clearly know what your own values are.  This comes back to getting started.

There’s magic in motion. Moving your songs and ideas and aesthetic (values) from your brain/bedroom to a more tangible place—distro via TuneCore/playing shows—are necessary steps in understanding your values, becoming remarkable, and, generally, moving forward in your career in a manner that shows you have a plan, a vision, and a direction.

Watch this space for continued conversation with John. He’s got a lot more wisdom to share, and we’ll discuss things like when it’s time to get a lawyer, key legal details that every band should understand, and more.


George Howard is the Executive Vice President of Wolfgang’s Vault. Wolfgang’s Vault is the parent company of Concert Vault, Paste Magazine, and Daytrotter. Mr. Howard is an Associate Professor of Management at Berklee College of Music