Tips For Developing Your Artist or Band “Story”

[Editors Note: The following is an installment in our monthly series of a partnership between TuneCore and students at Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business at Belmont University. In an attempt to offer new insight and educational content for independent artists, we’re excited to give these music industry professionals of the future a journalistic platform.]

 

WWOD? (What Would Oprah Do?)

Oprah’s strength is listening to people’s stories. So what is your story as an artist? Ask yourself questions that tell the story of your life. Answer those questions in less than 30 seconds, drawing out the most important, impactful, and life-changing moments. How did you grow up? How did your childhood impact you? When did you start making music? Why do you make music? Does your music tell your story?

After asking yourself these questions, think of where you would like to take your music. What is your goal as a musician? What are the biggest challenges that you currently face? Try to understand why these challenges are so pressing to you as a person and figure out how they influence your artistry. The changes you make will help you further understand why you make the decisions you make, and hopefully they will push you to establish your values and what you believe is morally correct. In the long run, this development of your ‘story’ will help you stand out. Going even further, ask yourself: what makes you unique? If you’re stuck at a crossroad, to whom do you look to guide you? What are your weaknesses? What are your strengths?

Once you figure out your story, use it to augment your brand and improve your image! In the words of Oprah, “Turn your wounds into wisdom.” Use those things that you view as weaknesses to improve your image. Weakness and vulnerability make you relatable as an artist and gives your fans something to connect with.

As long as we’re mentioning celebrities, think about Taylor Swift. One thing many associate with Swift are her breakup songs. You’d better believe that her label and management know that breakups are relatable. Maybe breakups aren’t your thing, but be yourself and use your story to be relatable.

Content, Content, Content

One of the most important things you can do as an artist to boost your career is create and share social media content. You want to develop a diverse content marketing plan for all social media channels you choose to use. The content you post should follow the “80/20 Rule”: 80% entertainment or engaging, and 20% promotional. Make sure the content is interesting to your followers. Integrating pictures and videos and even time lapse effects can be very eye-catching.

Be sure to post frequently and consistently. Have your content prepared two weeks in advance and schedule your posts accordingly. This will become a lifesaver when you begin touring or are otherwise too busy.

Staying active on social media channels is essential in keeping fans engaged and informed on what’s going on in your life and in your music. These platforms are tools for artists to convey details not only about their music and careers, but also their personal lives. 

Editors note: Be sure to check out our “Social Media For Musicians: A Beginners Guide” PDF!

Here are a few quick tips to make the most of your social media:

  1. Focus on the four major platforms: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Learn these inside and out. Try to make your profile on each site resemble the professional touch of the artists you look up to, but with your own unique twist.
  2. Think about when you visit social media most often. Now, try to make sure you are posting during these high-traffic times! Frequently engage with other artists, celebrities you like, and anyone with similar interests. Consider creating a “post schedule” to make sure you are delivering quality content on a consistent basis. In the world of social media, more is more.
  3. Don’t spam! The last thing your followers want is a human advertisement. It is advised that you strike a balance between music promotion and friendly engagement. Ensure your followers know about your releases, but make them feel like genuine friends, not just fans. Follow back regularly and always say thank you when someone gives you a shout-out. These strategies will definitely increase the chances of your followers reposting your music and attending your shows.
  4. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have incredible integration with Spotify and other outlets; make sure you take full advantage of this. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to hear your music.
  5. #DontForgetTheHashtags. These will add you to different pages exposing you to different audiences with similar interests.

Let’s get to posting!

“Drop a Single…Like It’s Hot.”

In the fast pace world we live in today, music consumers constantly want the newest release. This is in part why the music community is moving away from releasing an album every year or two and towards dropping a single every couple months. Having an extended amount of time in between your music releases allows your fans to have time to grow tired and possibly lose interest.

Instead of building hype up for an album and letting it die out by the time you are ready to release your next project, keep your momentum going by having something new to promote by the time your audience starts to get ready to move on to the next thing.

Apart from the benefit of keeping your buzz alive, releasing one song at a time is typically easier on an artist financially, especially if you are doing so independently. It’s almost as if you were paying for your album with an installment plan; only having to pay for one of the songs every couple of months. Don’t forget, with every release you should utilize every marketing tool you have. Tease your single by posting a short clip on your social media accounts.

When your song is released, make sure you have posted it on all platforms: Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play, etc. There are an endless number of streaming or music purchasing sites now, and if you want to make sure your music is heard by as many people as possible, put them everywhere.

Come out of your artist cave and make friends.

Making yourself a household name does not happen overnight. It takes personality, strategy, and connections. Local radio stations can be your goldmine because they tend to host lots of events that you could attend, which could be used as networking opportunities. Getting to know people in the industry is crucial. From the outside, the music industry looks like a huge industry but realistically, everyone knows someone. People like to know that they are acknowledged and it makes you stand out.

Regardless of the outcome, networking is always a step in the right direction. You will never lose anything from putting yourself out there. Having business cards, CDs, pins, stickers, etc. with you to give to industry folks you come across could take you a long way, as you’re giving them something to keep and bring with them.

A major plus to face-to-face meeting is being able to showcase your charisma. Potential fans want to know that you have a personality and are a good person to support. Industry professionals want to know you are in this because you want to be. All of this is so simple yet so overlooked, so start when the opportunities first arise.

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.

How I Grew My YouTube Channel’s Subscribers From Zero to 5,000

[Editors Note: This article is written by Nate Maingard. Nate is a modern troubadour and live-streamer. He’s been on the music scene since 1998 and right now he is in the top 50 musicians on Patreon. He is a guest lecturer at SAE, Ovation Award Winner and Gold VIP live-streamer on Periscope. This article is part of our collaboration with MusicpreneurHub.com – a platform providing answers to questions from music industry professionals.]

 

This may not be what you expect. I’m no YouTube superstar, with millions of views and professionally produced content. I’m just a simple human sharing the things I love…and I’ve been blessed to come to know a wonderful online community of people who enjoy what I share. And so, here’s how I grew my YouTube subscribers from 0 to 5,000!

Be Consistent

It took me a long time to learn this simple lesson, but the truth is that every single successful person I’ve heard talk about success says the same thing: BE CONSISTENT!

Just. Keep. Creating.

One of the ways I do this is to release a new video on the same day every week. I’ll be the first to admit I still don’t get this right a lot of the time, but when I get in the flow of it, this brings me so much stability, and is great for my subscribers too!

Consistency also helps me with ‘imposter syndrome,’ or, the feeling that I’m a fake and should just give up because I don’t really matter and my art sucks anyway, (not sure if you ever feel that, many artists do).

Anyway, creating on a regular timeline means I’m generally too focused on what I’m doing next to worry about whether or not people are going to love what I’ve already done! It keeps me passionate, forward-looking and motivated – which are great alternatives to ‘depressed in bed binge watching Netflix while I think about how much more I should be doing with my life’.

Every Person Matters

Social media has a tendency to get us so focused on the big numbers: how many million subs, watches, likes, comments, etc. – but you’ve got to remember that each interaction is coming from a real, unique, beautiful human being! Someone has taken time out of their own busy, complex existence to connect with your creations. This is HUGE!

I do my best to respond to every single comment with thoughtfulness and gratitude. I thank people for sharing my creations on Twitter when they tag me. I respond to emails from people who have been positively impacted by my art. I message every new patron to give a personal ‘Welcome’. Yes, these things take a lot of time and YES IT IS WORTH IT!

We are all individuals, we all want to be seen and heard. Be grateful to those who take the time to connect with your work, and they will reward you by sharing more of their precious presence with you.

Make Beautiful Things

I don’t know what beauty is to you, and I’m not here to tell you what it should be.

All I know is that the world needs more people sharing their perceptions of beauty with the world. The most important thing is that you create what you believe in, what you are passionate about, what makes your heart race and your eyes light up. THAT is what I want to know about from you!

If you are authentic about what you share, that will resonate with other people like you out there in the world. These are the people who will become your tribe, your foundation, your support.

Be prepared to suck when you begin, everyone does. There’s an amazing talk by Ira Glass about this, I highly recommend you watch it.

Ask For Support

How do people know how to help you if you don’t tell them?

Be sure to ask your audience to subscribe, to comment, to share!

Ask for their opinions, and listen to their responses. Make them a part of your journey from the beginning and you won’t have to do it alone, you’ll have a whole community of collaborators excited to be a part of your journey!

These are the people who will celebrate your successes, and support you in your failures. All it requires is for you to be open, honest and authentic with them.

In Closing

Be consistent, treat people with care, make beautiful things and ask for support!

These are the approaches and attitudes I have found to serve me in my own journey, and I’d love to hear if they help you on yours in the comment section.

Wishing you well on the road, and I look forward to seeing what your heart brings into this world.

Do Less, Get More Done: The Ultimate Time Management Tip For Musicians

[Editors Note: This article was written by Chelsea Ira of New Artist Model.]

 

Pretty much every indie musician I’ve talked to has two big problems that really overshadow just about everything else. Number one, there’s just WAY too much to do. These days, you need to essentially set up a business around your music – which is a full-time job in and of itself – AND you need to find time for practicing, playing, writing, rehearsing, recording, and gigging on top of that. It’s a lot to manage.

And the second big problem is that despite putting a lot of time and effort into their career, many musicians STILL feel stagnant – almost like they’re not making any progress.

So today, let’s solve both problems at the same time, so you can start getting more accomplished and start building up some serious momentum. If you want more guidance and time management tips, I have a time management and productivity guide that you can download for free. Click here to get your free copy.

The Problem with Trying to Do Everything

What if I told you that you were wasting a lot of time and effort doing things that may not have as big an effect on the growth of your career as you thought?

Let me explain. The DIY revolution has created this mindset that indie musicians need to do everything and that they need to do it all themselves.

The there are so many musicians out there competing for attention that you feel like we have to be on every single social media platform out there if you even want to be noticed at all.

Not to mention, the diminishing and fragmenting revenue streams. Today, there are more revenue streams out there than ever before. BUT, the small payouts from things like streaming services can make it feel like you need to have your hand in just about every revenue bucket just to make a decent living.

Now here’s the big flaw – if you’re trying to split your limited time between everything, you probably don’t have the time to dedicate to each to do them really well. And as a result, you’re taking a lot of small steps in different directions.

There are only so many hours in the day and time management is about using them wisely – focusing on the essentials, the big movers that will really make a difference in your career.

Let’s take a look at an example.

It’s totally normal to be on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Soundcloud to promote your music and connect with your fans. But can you realistically fully understand each platform? Will you know the best ways to engage? The best times to post? All the while pushing out unique content and actively engaging with fans on all platforms? Probably not. All social media platforms require a unique approach if you want to be truly successful.

It’s the same for revenue streams. If you really want to be successful licensing your music, you can’t treat it like a passive income stream. You need to be actively improving your songs, co-writing, networking in the licensing industry, sending personalized emails, and doing research to find the productions your music would fit best.

I hope you’re starting to see just how important focus is. If you try to do everything you just can’t give everything enough attention to make your efforts really successful. In short, you’ll be doing a lot of things half way, never actually putting in enough time to reach your goals.

The Focused Approach

So how do you get passed this perpetual overwhelmed feeling and also start seeing real, meaningful progress in your music career?

It may seem counter intuitive, but the key is to do less – do less but better. If you really want to be successful, it’s not about doing a million different things and hoping it will work out. It’s about knowing where you want to go and taking calculated steps to get there. And saying no to everything else.

Understand Your Goals

So how do you simplify? The first step is to really understand your goals in music. What is the one thing you really want to accomplish with your music? What do you want to spend your days doing?

If you really want to spend most of the year gigging and touring regionally and nationally, why waste your time pursuing sync licenses?

Instead, focus! Make connections in the live industry, develop your setlist, improve the way you set up your merch table, and promote your shows. Maybe you could start doing streamed concerts or house concerts and think up some really cool merch. As you can see, all these tasks really compliment and work with the gigging goal.

As a rule of thumb, every time you’re presented with a new opportunity, ask yourself, “Is this related to my goals in music? Will this help me get closer to my goals?” If the answer is no, it may not be worth your valuable time.

Cut Back

The next thing I’d recommend is doing a time analysis. For the next two or three weeks, write down everything you do each day and how much time you spend on each task. This might seem a little tedious but it can really help you get a bird’s-eye view of just how much time things take.

And finally, it’s time to start cutting things out! What tasks aren’t taking you closer to your goals? What tasks aren’t getting the results you want?

You may find that you’re pouring a ton of time into trying to grow your following on Twitter. And maybe, despite your efforts, Twitter just isn’t catching on for you in terms of engagement compared to your other channels. Maybe you’re just using it because a lot of other musicians do. In this case, it may be best to put Twitter on the back burner and focus on making your other social channels even more awesome. Reallocate your time to a more productive task.

As another example, you might see that posting videos to YouTube doesn’t really align with the goals you set for your career. Despite what you may hear, doing YouTube successfully is a huge undertaking that goes way beyond just posting videos every now and then.

On the flip side, it can be a great career path for musicians who want to release cover videos, music videos, gear reviews, and tour and studio vlogs, and channel monetization and partnerships can become a viable revenue stream if you get enough views and subscribers. YouTube can also tie in well with a Patreon, and many successful YouTube artists have incorporated Patreon into their income strategy to great effect.

 


Time management and staying focused on your goals is going to be an ongoing effort. As your career grows you’ll find you need to reassess how you’re spending your time to make the most of your present opportunities. To help you stay on track, you can also download my free time management guide: The Musician’s Guide to Getting More Done, and revisit it as often as you need to.

If you want more tips, I’d also recommend checking out the book Essentialism.