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Improving Your Community: 3 Ways To Build A Local Following

Most bands who are just starting out often ask themselves the same question: “How do we build a local following?” And a good majority of experienced musicians would respond succinctly with, “Just play as many shows as possible,” which is certainly good advice. But an artist doesn’t just want fans. An artist wants a community, people who can get behind the music and the message.  This is the artist’s challenge. Luckily, there are some strategies that can really help get the locals on board (assuming the music doesn’t totally suck). Here are three good ways for you, the artist, to build a local following:

1.) Make a lot of friends (particularly within your genre/scene)
Okay, I know this seems like a crude piece of advice, but whoever tells you that being a musician is not a popularity contest is wrong if your goal is to have more fans. Even if you weren’t the most popular kid in high school, it helps to be outgoing. Seems obvious, but if you’re not already a charismatic socialite, this can be a challenge. Generally, every artist’s first few shows are attended by supportive friends. Later on, you may have some work friends, classmates, or even family members who come to a show every once in a while. However, if you get in with a certain crowd that you know is into your type of music, they will back you 100 percent.  This will provide you with an organic foundation for your fanbase since these people know you not just as musicians but as friends, and they can vouch for you when inviting other friends to come to your shows. Ultimately, the more friends you have that are into your music, the more personal your connection to your fanbase.  I know you like to think your music can speak for itself (and perhaps it can), but it helps to have some loyal comrades to help promote you. Consider it a sort of “street team.” Networking is just as much about social activity as it is about business. So stop playing video games, get off Facebook, and go meet some real people! Go to parties! Go to shows! Be present.

2.) Befriend other local bands with loyal fans
Don’t have many friends? Have trouble meeting new people? Well then one of the best things you can do is form strong ties with other local bands within your scene who already have somewhat of a strong, loyal following. Hang out, play shows together, sing on each other’s songs—before you know it, their fans will become your fans too. People love seeing bands work together; it’s all part of developing a musical community. The music scene is not just about one band, and it’s certainly not about rivalry. It’s about the whole movement, and the more you act like a team player, the more likely you are to gain real respect. In order to keep these types of connections going, always be sure to return favors and do what you can to help your fellow bands whenever possible. Too often connections are lost and bridges burned simply due to lack of reciprocation. Become a part of the collective musical effort, and your fans will do the same.

3.) Book and run your own shows with other locals
This is a path that more bands should be take advantage of, but don’t because of the extra work involved in booking your own shows. However, if you’re willing to put in the effort, be sure to talk to the right venues and the right people as you play “promoter.” Band-run shows are the best for everyone involved. There’s no middle man taking a cut of ticket sales, so all of the money (if any) goes back to the bands. When you are in charge, the show runs the way you want it to. One of the main advantages here is that both bands and fans will be more inclined to come to you for information and opportunities in the future. Bands are more likely to want to work with you because you hold a valuable key to the scene. This is a great way to make connections on a higher level, a level that shows how responsible and proactive you are (assuming you do a good job). When you start consistently booking solid shows, you and your band will be recognized as true team players in the community, making fans more inclined to support your work and spread the word. People love supporting a DIY effort

These are just a few ways in which you can easily build a community around your music. It has nothing to do with being a “rock star” and everything to do with being a hard-working, responsible, and dependable individual. People can see right through superficiality, so the best thing you can do is be true to yourself and to others, and lend a helping hand to your local music scene. If you do, others will respond with appreciation and respect. Now get out there and make some moves!

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Story Of The Year Members To Create Documentary About Music Industry

Hard rock band Story Of The Year‘s Ryan Phillips (lead guitarist) and Adam Russell (bassist) are planning to create a documentary called Who Killed (Or Saved!) The Music Industry?. The two band members have years of experience between them as film makers for music videos, documentaries, art films, and more, but now they are asking for your help to produce what may be the most important documentary of their careers to date. The duo plan to tackle to issue of our rapidly changing and deteriorating music industry by talking to bands, artists, producers, record labels, managers, and anyone else who has been affected by this dilemma. Their goal is to attempt to find answers to some of the industry’s biggest and most currently pressing questions by offering insite into the working class artist’s perspective. To learn more and donate to the funding of this project, head over to their Kickstarter. This is something that affects all of us music types, especially here at OurStage, and it would be really great to see this documentary come to fruition!

If you like Story Of The Year, then you might also like OurStage’s own Arazi.

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Weird Al Sues Sony Music for $5 Million

In case after case, the major record labels have sued everyone from college students to Napster, ostensibly on behalf of their artists. Unfortunately, it seems these gardian angels of the music industry may be less vigilant when it comes to their own accounting. According to Billboard, Weird Al Yankovic is suing Sony Music through his company, Ear Booker Enterprises, for $5,000,000. Yankovic is accusing Sony of acting improperly as the company took duplicate recoupments of his music – resulting in lower royalty payments. In addition, it is alleged the company has fallen short on their licensing contract with Yankovic – merely paying straight royalties for download sales instead of the 50% of revenues Yankovic’s licensing deal entitles him to. Most notably, Yankovic is accusing Sony Music of  hypocritically refusing to share any money it received from lawsuit settlements from sites such as Napster, Kazaa and Grokster. Further, the lawsuit states that Yankovic is entitled to a portion of deal Sony made with YouTube – providing the website with “White and Nerdy” and other “official” Weird Al content.

Billboard reports Sony Music has yet to respond publicly to the allegations.

Sound and Vision: Why Recording Artists Should Look on the Bright Side of Piracy

“I’m a music fan that didn’t have a lot of pocket money as a kid. I bought what I could afford and taped the rest off radio or made a tape from my friend’s copy of the album.”

That’s what John Taylor of Duran Duran recently told Time Out Melbourne on the subject of illegal downloading. When I read Taylor’s comments, I applauded as if his band had just completed a rousing encore of “Skin Trade.” Finally, a pop star who understands what it’s like to be low on cash but high on music.

Back in the old pre-Internet days, before iTunes, Amazon and having access to the latest hits 24/7 on YouTube, if you couldn’t afford to pay to listen to the music you loved anytime you wanted to, you had to improvise. For me, and, apparently, for Taylor, that meant pushing a tape recorder up the speakers of the radio, waiting for your favorite song to come on, pressing play when it did, and praying for no outside noise to interfere with the sweet music coming from the speakers.

Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: Why Recording Artists Should Look on the Bright Side of Piracy’

Licensing Landscape

We all know how much the music industry is changing. Technology is evolving and most people have ditched their CD collection for an iTunes library full of illegally-downloaded music. And while file-sharing seems to be the most prominent headline these days, there’s other music news to report. Music licensing has fast become a crucial aspect of the music industry, especially when it comes to making money. When someone owns the copyright to a piece of work, others must obtain a license from the artist in order to use said work. For example, music supervisors must get a synchronization license to use someone’s song in a movie or TV show. Recently, there’s been a lot going on in the world of music licensing. Here are some of the important music licensing stories we think you should know about!

  • YouTube settled in a lawsuit with the NMPA (National Music Publishers Association of America) by agreeing to pay publishers a portion of their ad revenue in order to keep their artists’ music up on the site (this includes fan made videos with artists’ songs in them). The important thing to know about music publishers is that they represent writers. Sometimes a performer of a song is also the writer, but that’s not always the case. So, only the writers and their publishers will benefit from this settlement.
  • Back in the ’70s, copyright law was revised to allow artists to reclaim their work (termination rights) after thirty-five years, so long as they apply two years in advance. Right now, record labels own the master recordings of huge artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. The first wave of recordings that this rule applies to is from 1978 and record labels are anxiously preparing to fight back. If they lose the rights to these recordings, they will lose a huge source of income.
  • A judge found that MP3tunes, in a case against EMI, was not guilty of promoting infringement. The Web site is a music cloud service that allows users to access their own music as well as the songs found through a search engine, which is the main point of concern. The case started out based on the allegation that 33,000 of the songs were infringing on copyright but the case brought it down to only 350 tracks.

The Boss

Live Wired: Controversy Of Airing Festivals Online

Technology is changing the world as we know it every day. We all know that new technology and advanced knowledge may lead to incredible achievements but they also result in criticism. When technology is used properly, an industry can do great things. But there will always be the people who want things done “the old-fashioned way”. Within in the music industry, new technology has completely changed the way things are done and the opportunities available. From social-networking Web sites to digital music and illegal downloading, the way that people consume and connect with music has changed drastically in recent years.

One prominent example of this involves music festivals. Not able to afford a ticket? Live thousands of miles away? You no longer have to worry because most of these events now bring the entertainment to you for free…and you don’t even have to leave the house! This year, many of the big music festivals began live streaming their performances online. Coachella used YouTube, where fans could choose between three different stages at any given time to watch their favorite acts. NPR Music and Limelight Networks provided SXSW with the means to stream featured performances over the course of the festival.  HullabaLOU Music Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival and Bonnaroo Music And Art Festival also followed this growing trend. In addition to festivals, Ben Folds even took to Chatroulette during one of his live performances last year and improvised songs about the random people he was connected with through the Web site. Overseas, BBC aired performances from the huge Glastonbury Festival, which takes place every year in England.

Legendary lead singer of the rock band The Who, Roger Daltrey has been vocal about his aversion to the concept of airing live music festivals. In speaking to BBC Radio in Scotland last month he certainly didn’t hold back, saying that the TV coverage makes him “want to puke”. He elaborated by explaining that “most of the mystique is taken away” with this recent development. He also criticized the idea because he doesn’t believe artists are able to benefit much from it. Daltrey commented on the industry as a whole, saying, “I think the record industry has been decimated by free downloading and touring is becoming incredible expensive”. Having been a part of the music world for a long time now, he certainly has a different perspective on the way it has been shifting. But, are his complaints valid? Continue reading ‘Live Wired: Controversy Of Airing Festivals Online’

Member’s Only: Music Licensing Without All The Noise

Last week we talked about all the ways OurStage’s Premium Artist Membership can lend a hand when it comes to the crazy world of music licensing. From establishing (and maintaining) relationships with music supervisors to working out all the little details in order to seal the deal, OurStage knows countless ways to keep music  licensing simple and set up OurStage Artists for success. The methods to our madness have resulted in licensing success for dozens of acts on OurStage, and we want to share our knowledge with those who maybe haven’t taken advantage of all the benefits the Premium Artist Membership has to offer just yet. Our Music Licensing Without All The Noise webinar not only explains the ins and outs of licensing, but also gives artists the chance to ask music industry pros questions in real time. Check out last week’s recorded webinar below and keep an eye out for info on the next session in case you missed it.

Be sure to check out all the benefits of OurStage’s Premium Artist Membership.

Behind the Mic: Management Essentials

As an upcoming artist, you can only go so far on your own. Sooner or later, you’ll need a manager to assist you in your career.

Generally, you should consider getting a manager once you’ve developed a solid following and are starting to profit off of your merch and ticket sales. Though you may be more inclined to hire a professional, a relatively inexperienced band need not look any further than good friends, family members or fans. In the early stages, a manager is mostly used to help book shows, manage finances, send out music/press kits and help with promotion. There are three key qualities that we think every manager should have.

Passion

Passion is key for a manager at any stage in the game. If you know someone outside the band who is extremely passionate about your music and willing to help out, they may be worth a shot for this position. Think of it this way: if your manager isn’t in love with your music, then they won’t have much real motivation to help your career. Your ideal manager is a fan first and foremost, with the motivation to help your career take off.

Personality

Your manager should be a “people” person. They should be friendly, kind and understanding. You want to feel like you can trust your manager and treat them as if they’re another band member. You wouldn’t allow just anyone off the street into your band, and you shouldn’t allow an inexperienced stranger to be your manager, either. They need to be comfortable with approaching people they probably have never met before, like other managers, booking agents, promoters and more. They need to be willing to reach out to anyone who may be able to help your career. In this way, they’ll be able to build a network of connections that can be used at anytime to help your band with new opportunities.

Professionalism

This is an especially important quality for people working in the music industry. Your manager should know how to construct a well-written email, with accurate grammar and spelling, and have a “work” email address set up solely for management work. They should be comfortable with managing your Web site and promoting online through Facebook, Twitter, etc. They should know how to carry on conversations with other music industry professionals in a polite and sincere way, both in person and on the phone. They should be organized, responsible and well put-together.

Don’t forget, your manager is a representation of YOU. If your manager has a sloppy, unprofessional appearance, is irresponsible with band decisions or doesn’t work to their full potential, your band could miss out on great opportunities.

Already have a great manager? What made you decide to hire him/her? Let us know in the comments!

Behind the Mic: What’s The Deal With Record Deals?

There’s no question that the music industry has changed drastically in the past few years. As the power has shifted from the major labels to nearly anyone with Internet access, it’s hard to tell what artists really need to do to get their careers off the ground. After all, it could take years of constant touring, promoting, spending money you don’t have  and sleeping in a van to finally get your big break…or you could become a celebrity overnight thanks to YouTube, MySpace and Twitter.

So, what’s the deal with record deals, anyway? Should you try to get signed on an independent (“indie”) label or a major label? Do you even need one at all?

Indie label Epitaph Records is home to acts such as Weezer and Every Time I Die

In general, indie labels tend to be like small businesses. They typically sign a small number of semi-established acts and have much less funding than a major. Examples of indie labels include Epitaph, Victory, Saddle Creek and Fueled By Ramen. On the other hand, major labels have big budgets and are similar to corporations. They are fast to sign acts with huge followings and many marketable qualities, and can put much more money into their artists’ careers. Examples of major labels include Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and EMI.

EMI artist Snoop Dogg

Essentially, in order to know what kind of label you want to be on, you need to figure out who you are as an artist. Try to compile a written plan for your career. What is your genre? Target audience? What are other acts your target audience likes and why? What have those acts done that helped them succeed? Do some shopping and start a list of labels you like that will help you realize your goals. Once you have the list narrowed down, you’ll need to learn how to effectively and appropriately get the attention of A&R executives.

If the idea of being on a record label doesn’t appeal to you, fear not: it is possible to have a successful career as a musician without a label. Let’s not forget that when Radiohead released In Rainbows without a record label and at any price the customer chose, they saw 1.2 million downloads before it was even physically in stores! With so many free outlets available (including OurStage, of course!), more unsigned musicians are able to be discovered without having to send out demos and press kits to add to the growing pile at an A&R’s desk.

Do you need a label? Not necessarily. Ultimately, the choice is up to you. But whether you choose to stay unsigned or try to get signed by a label, always keep your ideal goals in mind and stay true to what makes you unique!

Q&A With Good Charlotte

Bands can easily fade away like a passing trend, but Good Charlotte remain at the forefront of the scene they helped create a decade ago. The band, which includes now-celebrity twins Joel and Benji Madden, has released four studio albums and toured worldwide, while at the same time adjusting to life in the limelight and an ever-changing music industry.

Today, the band releases their brand new album, Cardiology, a record that was originally finished in January and set to release in March. Feeling unsatisfied with the final product, Good Charlotte returned to the drawing board and created a pop-punk record that they are truly proud of. We got the chance to speak with bassist Paul Thomas about life for GC a decade after the debut, being in a band with celebrities and the changes that occur when a young band grows up.

OS: The music industry has been through a huge transformation since Good Charlotte first started out a decade ago. Has it been difficult to adapt to the changes?

PT: Yeah, it’s a lot different now than before, like you said. It’s been difficult, but we’re trying. You’ve got to do a lot of online work and a lot of touring. It’s brought it back to like… it really matters about touring and building fantasies. Just hitting the road nonstop. It’s cool because it’s like the music has to be better to cut through now, it can’t just be fabricated and thrown in your face.

OS:  One big change for the band is having two members become as famous for their personal lives as they are for their talent. Has that impacted the band?

PT: It is what it is, you know? They’re just living their lives and we’re still doing the same thing that we’ve been doing. It’s been a good thing. We’ve been able to keep touring and doing our thing for ten years now. Hopefully we’ll still be able to keep doing it for another ten.

OS: Joel started off writing lyrics about high school and now he’s writing songs about his kids. Are you intentionally aiming your music to an older audience or is your songwriting more a reflection on where you are in your personal lives?

PT: That’s just what it’s always been about, what’s going on in our lives. Talking about where we are. It’s not like we’re aiming it towards anything, it’s just that’s what’s going on now. We’re not in high school, we’re having babies. The twins are really truthful with their lyrics, like when they talk about their lives and families…they just can’t help but write about what’s going on. If babies are being born, there’s gonna be a baby song, you know it! (laughs)

OS: Do you have any plans for commemorating the ten-year anniversary of your self-titled record this year?

PT: We haven’t really talked about that too much…we’re all focused on Cardiology right now. But it’s not a bad idea, maybe I’ll bring it up! (laughs).

OS: It seems to be a big trend lately. A lot of bands are getting back together, doing reunion tours, re-releasing albums…

PT: I think it’s a great idea. I hope all those shows do well for those bands. We’ve talked about something like that before but we definitely have not been focusing on that lately.

OS: Your last album, Good Morning Revival, was more of a pop record than your previous releases. Has your sound evolved again on Cardiology?

PT: I think pop has always been part of our sound, no matter what the albums sound like. The twins can’t help but write catchy pop songs. The music to it is always changing. We’re always trying to do something different. We don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. I think Cardiology sets itself apart…I think every album is completely different. It’s still Good Charlotte, I don’t think any album doesn’t sound like us.

OS: So it’s still Good Charlotte, just a different take on it?

PT: Totally.

OS: Cardiology was finished awhile ago, but you decided to throw everything out and start over with a new producer and a new record label. What was the reason for that decision?

PT: We just weren’t feeling it, you know? Things weren’t feeling right.  We established a lot of good relationships with Sony and it was a peaceful parting. We were just ready to move on to a new label that would be a little more energetic and focusing on us instead of other bands. Capitol is really making us feel that way. We haven’t felt this much love from a label since The Young and The Hopeless, so we’re really excited. Things are hopefully winding up really well here and that’s what we wanted. We wanted a proper setup for a release and stuff instead of everything just being pushed out there when we weren’t ready, so that’s why we took so long with this one.

OS: Some of the bands you’ve been on tour with recently were fans when your first record came out. What is it like to play shows with bands who grew up listening to your music?

PT: It’s a lot of fun. They all told us they were fans every day! It was really cool. It definitely made me feel a little older…we’re not the “spring chickens” on the tour buses. We started so young and we were always the youngest, but now that’s just not the case. But it was cool. A lot of the bands made us feel really good about ourselves.

Pick up Cardiology, in stores and on iTunes now…and check out the music video for the first single, “Like It’s Her Birthday” below!

 


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