Whose Music Career Do You Want To Have? – @TerraNaomi

Terra Naomi

Artists Sharing Their Own Journey

In my quest to learn about music marketing I’ve encountered many smart people, some of them music industry professionals, some social media and marketing professionals, and several who are, like me, musicians actively practicing their craft and trying to make it (whatever that means… but I’ll get to that in a minute).

There is something particularly genuine and relevant about advice that comes from another musician. The advice and perspective that comes from industry professionals is valuable too, it’s just coming from a different place. Non-musician professionals have an overall vision of the industry that is uncolored by their own ego and participation as an artist.

But musicians being vulnerable about their own journey – now that’s something immediately relatable to me.

There are a lot of smart musicians who are actively sharing – mostly for free – what they’ve learned through their own experience, and, through interviews, the experience of other musicians. Basically, what I do.

Here are a few practicing musicians whose blogs, books and podcasts I follow:

  1. Ari Herstand
  2. Dave Ruch
  3. Marcio Novelli and Ross Barber’s Bridge The Atlantic
  4. Brent Baxter’s Songwriting Pro (AKA Man vs. Row)
  5. Sean Harley Tucker‘s The Spark and the Art
  6. Bob Baker’s The Buzz Factor
  7. Bree Noble’s Female Musician Academy
  8. Shannon Curtis’ book on House Concerts

If you know more artists who are offering great music career and marketing advice based on their own experience and that of other real, DIY musicians, please feel free to add links to their websites or podcasts to this post in the comments section.

Terra Naomi

I recently had a very productive conversation with a musician of that ilk named Terra Naomi. She gained fame doing covers and originals on YouTube in the mid-2000s, winning the first YouTube Award for Best Music Video in 2006. Her original music video, Say It’s Possible, has over 4.8M views as of this writing, and she has many (hundreds?) other videos of both cover songs up and originals on her YouTube channel.

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DIY Is Dead: Seven Suggestions For Indie Musicians In 2016

DIY Is Dead

“How do musicians move from the investment stage to the revenue generation stage of their music careers in 2016?” is the question I hear most often lately. In other words, “When can I stop spending so much money on my music career and start making money from my music career?”

Identifying the sources of real music income with high margins is becoming an even more urgent issue this year as technology has enabled the production of more and more music and digital distribution has driven the consumer price for recorded music to zero. Everyone knows you don’t make a living on streaming, downloads are down, and pressing CDs is a cost of promotion. Vinyl is unlikely to fill the revenue gap for most.

The good news is that more free information on how to be a “musicpreneur” is available online than ever before, and paperback books on the subject of DIY musicianship abound.

“Easier said than done” has gained a new and profound meaning, however.

Maybe you are reaching year 10 of your 10 year music career. Maybe your subsidizing parents, grandparents, spouses, small labels, 401K accounts, and core fan bases are getting a little fatigued, too.

I think 2016 is the year many musicians are asking themselves:

  • What is the single silver bullet [platform, technology, program, technique, skill set, niche, tribe, cause, creative project] that will separate me from the crowd and elevate the visibility of my music in 2016?
  • How do I continue to cobble together a living financially?
  • How on earth can I get it all done myself in a 24 hour day: be a social media maven, blog every day, design perfectly branded website and merchandise, update my ReverbNation page, and still have time to write, perform, record and produce music – and also eat and sleep?

To help answer these questions, here are seven things I believe indie musicians should focus on in 2016 for success. [Credit goes to Kara Kharmah of Engage Your Fanbase for this click-bait post title. I spoke with Kara on Blab recently about music marketing, generating revenue for musicians, and some of the content of this post. You can watch the replay here]:

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Positive And Sexy: An Interview With Indie Artist @SuCh

Su Charles Headshot

I “met” Denver, CO singer and actress Su Charles (AKA SuCh) on one of the Grammy® Facebook pages, where she has been active posting and conversing with other musicians and sharing her music during this fall’s Grammy voting season. I was impressed with her single, “Sugar Maple”, from her 2014 album, Trial and Error, and the many YouTube views of her video (you can watch and listen to Sugar Maple on YouTube at the bottom of this post, where you can also find a link to SuCh’s music website and iTunes page. I also linked below to a lovely bio piece the Denver Post did for more background info).

What impressed me most about SuCh, in addition to her great voice and music, and the incredible diversity of her talents (she’s also an actress), is the positivity and sweet sexiness of her music.

I love that I can enjoy SuCh’s genuine smile, watch her playfully sexy imagery and production – and listen to her music – without her music video being NSFW.

As a woman in music (and an old-school feminist), I applaud any woman who can walk that line and be as successful at promoting their music as SuCh has been. Most of us women in music want visibility for ourselves in the industry. We certainly want people to discover our music. Sometimes it feels, though, like the only path to “visibility” is to show a lot of skin in your music marketing images.

Don’t get me wrong, I love skin. It feels like mainstream pop music videos have merged with the soft porn industry, however. Not so for SuCh’s music videos. There’s skin, but it doesn’t distract us from her music. (Maybe it’s the minister’s daughter thing). OK, I will step down from my post-feminist soapbox now.

Here’s my interview with SuCh, a positive and sexy young woman (and a mother, daughter and wife) who is successfully promoting her music first:

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Popcorn With @Mark_Mulligan And Indie Music Marketing Tactics


I attended an online Music Biz Association webinar last week presented by Mark Mulligan. Mulligan is the author of the Music Industry Blog, Managing Director of of MIDiA Research and “a media and technology analyst of more than 15 years’ standing and one of the leading voices in music industry analysis.”

I really like Mulligan’s blog posts because he is a music industry wonk, something I can only aspire to. His work is original and thorough. He often presents his research findings at music industry conferences.

One of the ideas Mulligan presented in this webinar is that music itself is no longer a revenue-generating product for musicians. This has powerful implications for the average musician’s marketing strategy and tactics.

Because music is so much in abundance now (due to the digital democratization of both music production and distribution) it has effectively been commoditized down to zero price, so that makes it hard to make a living as a musician.

This is not a new idea, of course. The effect is even more pronounced for emerging artists or artists with niche appeal.Mark Mulligan Popcorn

So what is a starving musician to do to keep themselves going?

Mulligan proposes that artists should follow the marketing model developed in the early days of the cinema (theater) business.

Here’s the basic idea (from a 2014 post on Digital Ascendency on Mulligan’s blog):

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5 Reasons Other Musicians Will Play On Your Album

Josh's Gear

You are a solo artist looking to record your next single, or album, but you need other musicians to perform on your tracks. You could be a songwriter who doesn’t sing, recording a demo in need of a vocalist. Or maybe you are a front man or woman who wants to showcase your original material, and you are searching for other likeminded, talented musicians to be your bandmates.

I know I want to work with the best musicians I can find on my projects. Preferably, they are even better musicians than me and will add a whole new creative dimension to my music. But we all have limited budgets.

How do we get other musicians to sign up to learn our music and lay down a track in the studio, or show up regularly and spend time practicing and putting together a set to perform out – preferably for free or little cost?

The other day I was chatting with a fellow musician at the Seattle AFM (Musicians Union) Chapter 76-493 before a meeting. He was talking about how he has a goal this year to release six albums (!) of original music. Now, he has the songs all written, but he has found it difficult to get other musicians to perform his songs in the studio for free. In particular, there was a musician whom he had approached because he was a much better guitarist. Somehow, my friend just couldn’t seem to get the other guy to lay down the guitar tracks to my friend’s songs. For free.

It became clear to me that my friend’s expectations were perhaps misaligned with reality.

I figured it’s time to share the obvious. Or maybe not so obvious.

I haven’t been at this music thing for that long (I’ve got friends who have been musicians for 40+ years, after all), but I’ve picked up on some pretty important basic etiquette of musical collaboration.

I’ve written another article about the mechanics of long distance musical collaboration, but this post is really about the business, the monetary  – and the non-monetary –  exchange involved in collaborating musically.

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An Interview With Pianist @LewinPiano

Michael Lewin headshot

I “met” Michael Lewin virtually (online) last year on one of the indie artist Grammy® Facebook pages. He sent me his CD, “Beau Soir,” in the mail, and honestly, I really loved it. I didn’t think I would. It was all classical piano pieces, and all Debussy, at that. We communicated briefly via Facebook, a medium in which he was unfailingly polite and sincere.

This year, Michael released a companion Debussy album, “Starry Night”, also on the Sono Luminus label. It’s a good thing he has a label to help market his music, because I think Michael is one of the least self-promotional, yet most talented artists I know.

Although Michael and I have never met in person, and I cannot say I am at all, even remotely, any kind of expert in classical music, I find Michael’s music pretty amazing.

It never fails to surprise me how much of a person is expressed in their music, regardless of the genre or format. I can hear Michael’s reserved and polite, almost formal personality, and his highly precise musical technique. I am not a pianist, but I can hear the perfectionism when he plays. It’s not surprising, given his education at Julliard, and the time he spent studying piano in France at Debussy’s boyhood conservatory in his hometown of St-Germain-en-Laye. Michael Lewin has devoted his life to the piano, and he demonstrates a level of musicianship that most of us can only aspire to.

Juxtaposed with that intensity and focus on technique, I can also hear the love Michael has for the pieces he plays. One cannot help but be moved by the passion he expresses while playing, and he has a loyal and growing global following as a result.

Michael also had a featured performance of a Chopin Nocturne on the Grammy-winning No.1 Billboard New Age Album “Winds of Samsara,” by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman.

This fall has seen further well-deserved success and visibility for “Starry Night.” The album has been featured on the front page of Apple Music, MusicWeb International awarded it September 2015’s Recording of the Month, and Rhapsody named “Starry Night” one of the Top 10 Classical Albums of the Month.

Michael Lewin Rhapsody Top 10

I hope you enjoy my interview with Michael. I’ve put a link to his website and social media channels at the bottom of this post so you can watch and listen to him play, follow him on social media, and find out when he’s coming to a town near you to perform.   In addition to being a fantastic pianist, he’s a super nice human being.

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Case Study: How The Rock Band @NightRiots Broke Out

Night Riots Promo Pic

What factors cause a band with regional popularity to suddenly break onto the national scene?

Night Riots is a California-based rock band that has gotten a lot of buzz recently, and this article is all about how and why from a marketing perspective.

Disclaimer: I don’t have any personal or professional connection to Night Riots; I’m just interested in profiling them as a marketing case study in indie music success.

I’m a member of a public Facebook Group called The Music Biz Weekly Music Marketing Mind that currently has over 1250 members. If you’re a musician or otherwise in the music business, I can recommend this group as a great place to share and get ideas about music marketing.

A few weeks ago, one of our Facebook group’s members, Diane Phillips, posed a question to the group about Night Riots. This stimulated some lively commentary from myself and others, because goodness know that we Music Musketeers, er, Marketeers, er… Marketers cannot refrain from giving our opinions when asked (and even sometimes even when not asked). I say that with great humility and affection.

I thought it would be useful to summarize what I learned from my research and other peoples’ comments about Night Riots’ recent success. Perhaps you will see elements of yourself, if you are a musician, or your clients, if you are a music marketing consultant, and find something that you can run with to further your own success.

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The Importance of Purpose For Musicians


Blah blah blah personal branding blah blah blah purpose blah blah blah cause marketing…

I hear several related refrains oft repeated in the world of social media gurus:

  • “Purpose” is important if you are going to do social media
  • “Cause marketing” (eg. The Ice Bucket Challenge) is the best way to get attention in a crowded social media world drowning in selfies
  • The millennial generation wants to know what principles a brand stands for before they will buy a product with that brand
  • “Storytelling” is the heart of marketing today
  • Being “genuine” is critical in getting your message across because trust is everything in social media and marketing

When my friend, social media practitioner and public speaker, Russell Sparkman, guest lectures in my social media class, he emphasizes the important of Purpose (which from now on in this post, I will refer to with a capital letter) with his succinctly worded foundational principle for social media and content marketing:

As Russell says, “the path to engaging content happens when you connect the dots between:

  • The share-worthiness of meaningful content,
  • The share-worthiness of content that offers “utility purpose,”
  • Increased consumer expectations that brands must address social issues,
  • And consumer acceptance of brands talking about the good work they do.”

Create A Marketing Plan With Purpose

In working with artists to create a marketing plan that is personalized to their music and where they are at in their musical career, I think all of these “outbound” marketing reasons around social media effectiveness are great. But there are also very clear practical reasons to be clear about your Purpose before launching into the frenzy of ANY PR, promotion, or marketing of any kind for your newest release, for a single, or for your music video.

To be clear, this post is NOT about Purpose in a religious sense, although that may be related for some people. It is, however, all about something transcendent. Also, I will note up front that I am very aware that the items I am talking about spell POT. OK, enough 9th (6th?) grade jokes.

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5 Tips To Make A Viral Music Video

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 3.51.13 PM

[Watch me talk about this post with Michael Brandvold on the Music Biz Weekly Episode 195 on YouTube here or listen to it on Soundcloud here.]

YouTube is the number one search engine for music, so having at least one or two music videos up there seems like a no brainer, check-the-box item for an indie musician.

And once in a while, a music video from an unknown artist goes viral, giving them a huge boost in visibility.

As indie artists, we all feel the pressure to produce a stellar music video (or two), and we look with no small amount of envy at those artists who seem to get discovered overnight via their viral music video. But how is it done? Can you make a music video that is more likely to go viral?

I’m less interested in the viral videos by popular stars like Taylor Swift (Bad Blood) or Sia (Elastic Heart, Big Girls Cry), because those are undoubtedly supported by large online marketing efforts. I’m more interested in music videos made by relatively unknown artists with small to zero marketing budgets which nonetheless seem to have caught on and propelled those musicians’ careers forward in a significant way.

So let’s look at three recent examples.

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