A Hitchhiker’s Guide To Releasing an EP

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

 

A Quick Look at the Assets Needed and Suggested Timeline for Releasing An EP as an Independent Artist

One of the hardest thing for an artist to do is wait. Good musicians will spend a year or more writing and recording five or six meticulously arranged tracks. They know when to subtly sneak a guitar solo or drum fill on stage and how many bars to spend vamping on it. But when the time comes to share the music they’ve poured their life’s blood into, release day can’t come soon enough.

Much like the journey shared by Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, putting out music should be experienced in volumes. They had the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy to help them plan. The goal of this article is to provide something similar; albeit simpler. By taking these things into consideration, your music will be given the optimal chance to reach as many ears as possible with or without the assistance of a Babel Fish.

Stage 1: Life, The Universe and Everything…Gather Your Assets!

Okay, so after all this time writing and recording, your EP is ready. You’re just a few short steps away from sharing it with the world. Before you decide just when that date will be, let’s talk about what else you’re going to be doing to promote the record.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself at this point:

  1. What’s my budget?
    How much money am I able to spend on this record? Is there enough to hire any help or am I better off going at this alone? Knowing the answer to this question will help figure out an initial content plan. It will also give you an idea of how much time you should spread the release over. The more you’re handling yourself the more time you should give yourself to accomplish everything.
  2. Will There Be More Money Coming In Once The Release Cycle Starts?
    Are you going to be doing any touring? Have you had any luck, or is there any demand, for merch? Album sales are tough and streaming income is great, but the numbers dictate that a considerable number of streams are required to actually generate income. Since you can’t bank on that income, ignore it for now. Other more concrete opportunities for generating cash should be what you’re trying to estimate in this step. This will help you decide if it’s worth elongating your campaign a bit to allow for more content creation or additional help once the first single is out.
  3. What Content Will I Have?
    In addition to the music, will there be remixes, music videos, live content or behind the scenes stuff? Also on a related note, you will need artwork and social media “skins” and “copy” ready to roll at this point.

Stage 2: And Another Thing…Set The Timeline!

You should start pondering timeline once the music enters the mastering phase. However, dates for an independent artist shouldn’t be committed to until you have all assets in hand (or at a minimum deliverable dates). Once you’ve gotten to that point, though, it’s best to nail down when you want to release everything.

  1. First thing to consider are singles. If you have a five song EP, I generally recommend doing two singles ahead of the full release. This will allow you to start generating a buzz leading up to release week.
  2. If you did any videos, you need to decide if you want to do separate audio & video campaigns or premiere the song initially alongside the video. If you feel the video is so integrated into the song that people will appreciate the music best with the visual accompaniment then, by all means, put your best foot forward. If you want to save a few assets for after you put out the EP, it might be best to do them separately and release the video a little deeper into the campaign. Keep in mind that you can’t “premiere” a track from the EP after the whole release is out, so having a video or, depending on genre, even a remix gives you a bit of a longer tail on marketing post-release date.
  3. When coming up with a timeline, you should also consider how much time is needed by your distribution. For instance, if you’re using TuneCore three weeks advanced notice will be required to make use of their “Features Submission” form. There is usually an element of advanced deliverables requirement for most streaming and download services as well.

Stage 3: The Restaurant At The End Of The Galaxy…Time To Release!

Congratulations! You fought the urge to just throw your music up online all willy-nilly-like and, as a result, your release is doing well now that it’s finally out. What’s next? Here are a few things you can do to continue promoting your EP.

  1. Play Shows! –  I can’t stress how important playing live is when you’re trying to establish yourself. There will be thousands of artists putting out new music ON THE SAME DAY that you do. Developing a personal relationship with an audience in a live setting will help you establish loyalty with fans and bring them back to your digital presence.
  2. Continue to Reach Out – Your music is out now, so premieres and “first looks” are off the table. That doesn’t mean that you can’t keep looking for new press. Keep digging for contacts and find people writing about music that may be into your sound. If you’ve had a couple of good press clips at this point, you now have quotes from other tastemakers in your toolbelt to convince this new wave of writers to cover you. Same principal applies to Spotify playlisting.
  3. Get Social – You can always use social media to promote your records and attract new fans. Just because your music is out doesn’t mean you have to stop posting about it. I never recommend coming off as sales-y with your digital presence, but if somebody writes about your music, post it and thank them. Do some live videos you can get up on Facebook and Instagram. If nothing else, keep posting to show your personality. Every little bit helps.

Hope you found this little guide useful as you prepare to put your new music out. Until next month, So Long And Thanks for All The Fish!

Industry Navigation Tools for Songwriters

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by TuneCore Artist Skela. Enjoy her tips to better network, collaborate, and engage was an independent songwriter in the music industry!]

You have to work very, very hard for a just a little bit of luck in the music industry. There are so many beautifully talented artists in this world, and it’s so easy to become overwhelmed by the idea of being one small fish in what feels like many oceans. Instead of being intimidated or striking up ugly green competition with your counterparts, use the multitude of likeminded artists around you to your advantage.

Songwriters are special creatures. We are spectators, empathetic beings, and constantly translating emotion onto paper. You may not know it yet, but one of your greatest strengths can be the ability to connect with others.

So do it.

Interact with the musicians around you. You may have written your best song alone in your bedroom, but it’s about more than that. Creating a long lasting career takes a village – or, people who support one another. Here are a few navigation tips I wish I knew in the beginning of my career:

1. There is no way of knowing who is going to be plucked from the bucket next.

Don’t cling to the cool kids. Don’t pursue people that you think are going to be the next big thing. Find the artists whose work you admire and connect with them. If you vibe with someone’s music, there’s a good chance you’re going to work well with them. Find your people, not your posse.

2. Go to your friends’ performances.

This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t show up and support their music making peers. It’s important to show face because there is going to come a time where you need heads in a room and the favor returned. Also, buying tickets to concerts is what makes the industry go round. Most importantly, seeing someone in their element live is inspiring and always an opportunity to learn something new!

3. Never, ever stop writing.

If you’re going to be “something” in this world, then be the best damn “something” there is. If you’re going to call yourself a songwriter, then make sure you have an arsenal of material ready to work at any given time. You never know what session you might be asked to hop in on. Make sure you have it together so you don’t miss any opportunities to work with people.

4. Don’t burn bridges.

Again, you never know who is going to make it next in this industry. There is no foreseeable timeline attached to musicians so don’t write them off just because they’re not growing parallel to you. There’s a way to speak to people and a way to end relationships amicably. Lead a relationship by good example and leave the future open not barbed with past fallouts.

5. Speak up!

Just because you’re not a producer doesn’t mean that you should sit next to a producer in the studio silent. No one knows the sound you’re after better than you do. You might not know the technical aspect of how to create the palette and structure of a song, but you should know what it takes and be able to find the appropriate references and language in order to properly articulate your vision.

I know that working with producers can be intimidating. When I first started working with producers, I was just so grateful to be working with anyone at all that I nodded my head in agreement to almost everything. If you know what you want, don’t be afraid to speak up. The sooner the better, trust me.

6. When you know, you know.

Don’t force relationships. They should come naturally. It’s impossible to have a strong connection with every musician you meet. Take the session, try it out, and if it doesn’t work, both parties are going to feel something is off. Maximize your time by listening to your instincts when it comes to producers, songwriters and instrumentalists.

7. There is no such thing as an overnight success.

It is so easy to be jealous of others who are finding success in the music industry, but know that the people who are excelling probably worked extremely hard for their bite. It doesn’t come easy or without struggle. If one of your friends is finding success, it means that you’re surrounded by the right people. It’s a good thing when another musician starts to make traction. Your time will come because there is no expiration date if you don’t give up.

“Ahh, It’ll Be Fine!”

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Gabe Anderson, a TuneCore Artist and blogger. Check out his thoughts and perspective on music and the industry over at his site, Gabe The Bass Player!]

 

When you show up and the stage is a weird size or shape: Here’s what most likely happened…

…A few hours earlier when the people were done setting it up, they had a back and forth conversation with each other about whether or not they should make the stage less weird, because they kinda had a feeling it was a little off. But that conversation that ultimately ended with, “…ahh, it’ll be fine.”

But now you’re the one who has to deal with the consequences of “It’ll be fine.”

When the venue decides to use other green room for extra beer storage and cleaning supplies…can’t you just hear that conversation?! Also a conversation that ended with “…ahh, it’ll be fine.”

And now all 3 bands and crews, roughly a bazillion people, have to mash into a room designed for 8.

When the designated merch area is located far far away from the main entrance/exit of the venue…”…the people who want merch will still find the march table…it’ll be fine,” said the person who had to make the decision but was not well informed enough to make a good one.

But you and I both know the location of merchandise at the venue swings merch sales by a million percent.

“It’ll be fine” in so many cases usually means, “This decision works for me right now. I don’t want to work harder to figure out a better solution and I won’t have to personally deal with the consequences, so for me it really will be fine.”

Musicians and artists find themselves on the receiving end of “it’ll be fine” conversations and consequences all the time, especially on the road. And the truth is these little wrinkles in the day can literally make the whole thing crumble in an instant. I know you’ve been there, the rock in your shoe that keeps on stinging.

So per the situations above: after someone has left you with one of these “ahh, it’ll be fine” situations…you’re still the one left with a weird stage, a crammed green room and poorly located merch.

What are you suppose to do with this blatant injustice?

Well the first thing is just that…ARE you going to do anything at all?

Hold on…first things first…take a few minutes and get it out. Vent it. Because you’re right…what on God’s green earth were they thinking doing it that way? You’re right, you could have done a better job and you don’t even run a venue for a living. You’re right, the shouldn’t get to screw up while the consequences get placed upon your shoulders.

Let it out baby, I understand, it’s warranted.

Now then…If all you’re going to DO is complain, take your two minutes of rage and then shut up about it. If you’re not going to DO anything, let it go, make the most of it, move the conversation and your brain onto something else.

If you decide you are going to try and improve the situation, be realistic about the possible outcomes. You know how venue managers are notorious for being a ball of laughs and extremely helpful to artists.

But just to emphasize the idea of being realistic with improving the situations…let’s keep going with the examples from above:

  • You’re probably not going to get them to re-do the stage, it’ll just piss them off if you ask because to them it’s way too much work to pull off in a short amount of time. But you might ask to make more room on stage by putting the amps off stage, or putting the drum kit a little to the left so the keys player can squeeze in back there too as oppose to being up front.
  • You’re probably not going to get them to clear out the beer and cleaning supplies from the other green room. Don’t ask. They just did the awful work of getting all that crap in there. But you could make a deal with the other acts that each band gets the green room to themselves the 30mins before their set time.
  • You can probably move the merch wherever you want as long as YOU are willing to move it and it doesn’t violate fire code or access to the bar.

So I’ll leave you with two things to close:

When you find yourself about to utter the words “Ahh, it’ll be fine…”, remember how much it can put others in a pinch.

When you have to shoulder the consequences of “Ahh, it’ll be fine…”, as quickly as possible, decide whether or not you’re going to DO anything about it. If not, move on. If so, fight to employ a realistic approach on your part.

p.s. This could be fun: In what ways have you been on the receiving end of the “Ahh, it’ll be fine” mentality? Let us know in the comments!

The Sneaky Way to Promote Your Music Without Actually Talking About Your Music

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Dave Kusek and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

I know it sounds completely counterintuitive to promote your music and raise awareness for yourself as an artist without actually talking about your music – or your music career, for that matter. But it’s being done more and more and has become a really powerful way to make a name for yourself by bypassing the crowded indie-musician market.

Let me explain. The key is to establish yourself as an expert in some related topic like gear, self-releasing music, or songwriting. It’s about sharing valuable information on a topic you have a lot of experience in to draw potential fans. They find you by searching for “how to write a song,” or “how to book your own gigs,” or “guitar pedal review,” and discover your music through that connection.

Push vs. pull marketing

Traditionally, there are two ways to go about promoting your music. You can either push your message out to fans and potential fans (push marketing), or you can pull them in and get them to come to you (pull marketing).

Push marketing is those typical advertisements you see on TV and hear on the radio. They’re just pushing information out about their product to a large audience hoping to reach someone who may be interested.

Pull marketing is about giving out valuable information that you know your target audience is searching for. This valuable information could be exclusive or behind-the-scenes access to you as an artist. This kind of content will pull in current fans and deepen your relationship.

But you could also share advice on something you have a lot of experience with. This will help you reach a new audience who may not even be familiar with your music.

So let’s go through the strategy step-by-step.

1. Find your expertise

The first step is finding something you have a lot of experience and knowledge in. As a musician, you have a few really obvious routes – music, songwriting, mixing, mastering, music theory, gear, instruments, etc. These are the skills that form the very foundation of your career, so you definitely have a lot of valuable information to bring to the table here.

Many musicians, including Scale the Summit’s bassist Mark Michell, have set up online schools to share their musical knowledge and techniques. The key here is to bring this training online instead of doing local lessons. Not only will you be able to reach a much larger audience, you’ll also start showing up in Google searches for things like “online bass lessons.”

Other musicians pull on other skill sets like music business knowledge, booking gigs, or creating YouTube videos. DIY musician Ari Herstand, for example, runs the blog Ari’s Take, where he shares his experiences and the skills he’s learned from booking his own shows and generally running his own career. Other musicians like Alex Cowles share their knowledge on self-releasing music.

2. Find the right platform

If you want people to organically find you, the best option is to go online. Depending on the kind of information you share, your platform may be a little different. So, if you’re creating music lessons, videos may be your best bet. Try making YouTube tutorials, playthroughs, and lessons, and release them regularly to build an audience.

On the other hand, if you’re sharing the things you’ve learned on getting your songs licensed or booking college gigs, a blog may suit your information better. Gear and guitar pedal reviews and demonstrations might use a combination of blog posts and videos.

You could also aim to partner with other media outlets to share out your information. This will help you get your name out to a larger audience. In addition to his own blog, Ari Herstand also writes for Digital Music News. Maybe you could get a regular column in a small online music magazine or music industry blog – start small and grow from there.

3. Show up in search

Now that you have your content up, you need to make sure people can actually find it. There are plenty of SEO guides out there, but basically, you just want to think about what people are actually typing into search. There are also a lot of cool tools like Google’s Keyword Planner that can give you some ideas.

You want the keywords and article titles you choose to be relevant and specific to what you’re posting. So if you’re posting a review of a certain guitar pedal, a title like “Boss Waza Craft VB-2W Vibrato Review” will perform better than “Guitar Pedal Review.” Likewise, if you’re sharing your tips on how to set up good lighting for a music video, something like “Setting Up Good Lighting for a Music Video” will probably do the trick.

Of course, good SEO won’t instantly drive thousands of people to your articles and videos. It’s going to take a lot of work and consistent posting to build up an audience.

4. Create the connection

Here’s the most important part of this strategy: you need to make the connection to your music and drive your viewers or readers to check it out. After all, music is your main gig.

There are a few options here. You could obviously host your blog on your band’s site, or share your tutorials or gear reviews on your band’s YouTube channel. That way, your music is just a click away. This works, but it will make it more difficult to get the SEO working like you want.

If you host your content off your music website, you need to make the connection obvious. Include an “About” page that shares your story. Highlight your musical journey and your creative career as an indicator of your expertise on the subject.

You should also mention your career and bring out stories in your articles and videos.Preface an amp review by saying you brought it on tour and recorded some awesome sounding live videos with it. Include the live video to prove your point (and introduce your readers to your music).

If you’re teaching people on YouTube about modes, you could mention that you used a certain mode when writing a new song you have out. Play a short section of that song to show your point and include a card in the top right corner to link to your music video.

Engagement: Myspace’s Real Legacy for Indie Bands

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech.] I came of age in the world of independent music at a time when the key to launching a new band was a successful Myspace page. A diverse array of artists from Fall Out Boy to The Arctic Monkeys to Lily Allen owe a tremendous debt to their days creeping into millions upon millions of fan’s “Top 8”. In what was most likely unintentional defiance of the traditional business model for breaking a band, Myspace allowed artists direct access to promoters to book shows, connect with fans and other artists and create a viral spike all without the help of a label, publicist or radio campaign.

The biggest aspect of Myspace’s legacy, at least in terms of music, is likely that “viral potential” and “direct-to-fan” connection it created. Today, we have major streaming sites and social media to hold bands down in this manner even if Myspace has largely shifted their music focus to editorial.

Perhaps the biggest thing that new artists can learn from these Myspace success stories is that it takes time, effort and commitment to make the most of these services and parlay them into a financially viable career in music. There is much, much more to creating a ‘viral’ hit and amassing hundreds of thousands of streams than just putting up a catchy song and asking people to share it.

Here are five things that today’s independent artists can learn from the “Myspace Bands” of the mid aughts.

1. Use Your Page to Build A Brand

While pop-punk and other ‘local music’ wasn’t started on Myspace, it did become exorbitantly more popular because of it. People became “Myspace celebrities” and millions of ’emo swoop’ haircuts flooded the site as a direct result of kids trying to be like the bands they loved.

Your band does not need an emo swoop.

What your band does need is a definitive approach to the vibe of your online presence. In fact, many savvy new bands and managers are forgoing a presence on all social media sites to focus solely on Instagram. The reason for this is twofold:

  • (a) the ability to really create a distinct visual, and
  • (b) to take advantage of the opportunity for reaching a new audience via direct interaction and proper tagging (both hashtagging and geo-targeting).

2. Sell Without ‘Selling’

Not to sound all “business-y”, but Myspace was great due to the fact it created a viable direct-to-consumer situation for bands.

Is your band playing in a new city for the first time? Go through people commenting on similar band’s pages and reach out directly. If you do it right, you’ll be playing in front of some fans that are familiar with your music instead of an empty room. You can still do that today, but the key is to keep that casual approach that Myspace bands were built on.

“Hey I saw you were a big fan of Minus The Bear, Highly Refined Pirates is one of my favorite records of all time!” is a better first impression on a fan than “Hello, I play in Band X. We are playing in Aurora, Illinois tomorrow. Buy tickets now!”. Myspace taught us the key is to make people realize they want to be at your show, not just making them aware you’re in town.

3. Engage! Engage! Engage!

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re an unknown band (or even a mid-sized one), talk to your fans. If you don’t another band will. It helps to reach out to new fans as well, but if you’re uncomfortable doing so at least reply to those that care enough about your work to reach out to you on Facebook or shoot a Tweet or Instagram comment your way.

4. Promote Your Promoters

Something bands and their teams often forget is that press and radio are two way streets. Yes, they are happy to promote your music, but they also have bills to pay and their own fanbase to grow.

I’m not saying you have to post every blog about your band to EVERY social media site but at least shoot them a tweet or retweet thanking them for writing the post. Same goes for radio play and YouTube, Apple or Spotify playlisting. This is something a lot of Myspace bands did great at and that’s why so many writers and radio DJ’s have been so loyal to them throughout the years.

5.Consistency Is Key

Myspace band accounts seemed to always have that green “Online Now” text flashing on their profile. This is because they understood that the more time they spent interacting with fans and building their network on the site the more it would translate to better attendance at their shows and more records and merch sold.

Don’t just sporadically post a Facebook status that you’ve got new music coming and then disappear for a few months. You don’t have to spend all of your time maintaining your band’s online profiles, but definitely make it a point to be active on it for a little bit each day.


You’re trying to grow a loyal fanbase. The best way to do so is to get fans onboard early and let them feel a sense of ownership towards your band. If you can’t afford to drop everything and tour 200 days a year, then social media is your best way to do so.

Just ask Tom.

13 Tips For Getting the Gig From Talent Buyer Christina LaRocca

Hello music makers!

My name is Christina LaRocca, Founder/CEO of L Rock Entertainment.   As a talent buyer with a decade of experience, I get somewhere between 25-100 requests A DAY from bands all over the country, asking to play the Big Apple or looking for assistance with tour booking.  How do I choose which bands are the best fit for my shows?

First impressions are everything.  Remember you are contacting a human being, so it’s best to treat them like one.  No one is going to reply to an email that says: “My band is awesome you need to book us…check it out man www.weareanawesomeband.com”

With that in mind, here are some great tips to help you get the gig: Continue reading “13 Tips For Getting the Gig From Talent Buyer Christina LaRocca”