After two plus years working at this thing, wrestling with the beast that is the music industry, I’ve finally figured out the secret to success.
It’s not how many Likes on your Facebook page, or how many Twitter followers you can get. It’s not how much you spend on your website, or your PR campaign, or making a viral music video.
It’s pretty simple: Be better than everyone else.
Yup. That’s all. Just be better. Be a better singer, a better guitar player, be better looking, be sexier, be a better storyteller, be more shocking, be more thoughtful, be more profound, be more evocative, or be more provocative.
Make it impossible for your audience not to feel something.
Be Remarkable and Be Unique
Here’s the caveat: you have to be a lot better – not just as good as, or slightly better – than everyone else. You have to be really amazing at doing at least one thing, whether it’s vocally, instrumentally, lyrically, sartorially, or as a performance artist. I suspect you also have to better at more than just one thing in order to be unique, because there are a lot of good musicians out there.
Seth Godin said: Be Remarkable. I say:
This week on Walking The Dog, I talk about Performance Rights Organizations, or PROs. In the US, the PROs are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Musicians can register with one of these three PROs as songwriters (music composer/lyricists) as well as publishers of their own music. Once you are a member of a PRO, you can then register your songs, which has the advantage of allowing you, the musician, to use the services of your PRO to collect royalties whenever that song is performed.
In this 15 minute episode, I refer listeners to a website called MusicalRedHead hosted by Christiane Kinney, who is an entertainment lawyer as well as an indie musician. I met Christiane a few years ago at SF Music Tech, and also follow her on Twitter (@musicalredhead). Her blog has a lot of great information for musicians.
In addition to giving a brief overview of what the function of a PRO is, the two issues I talk about in this episode are live performances, especially in smaller venues, and music licensing for television shows and commercials, and where PROs figure in the equation.
Please leave your comments and rebuttals below!
I first wrote about them in October 2012 on this blog, but the world now knows that a combination of strong, socially conscious messaging, a well-defined visual persona, an electrifying live show, and great music characterize the hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Amplified by impeccable marketing execution and excellent timing, they have become the poster child group for DIY indie artists around the world and put Seattle back on the map of music industry innovation.
Zach Quillen (@wexington), who began managing Macklemore and Ryan Lewis full time in 2012, was interviewed this past Saturday live and in person by Larry Mizell Jr. (@lar206), DJ from KEXP Seattle. This happened at Seattle’s EMP Museum at the Pacific Northwest Chapter of The Academy’s Songwriter’s Summit 2014. I was fortunate enough to be in the audience.
As both a marketer and an indie musician, I was fascinated to finally hear Quillen talk in person about the details of marketing The Heist. I’ve been waiting to meet Quillen for almost two years, and I wanted to hear straight from the source what his biggest challenges and most difficult decisions have been. I was not disappointed.
There Has Always Been A Plan
My key takeaway? There is a plan. There has always been a plan. It’s a plan you can trace back to the early 2000s, but the additon of Quillen brought music industry marketing expertise, experience and connections to the mix. The seemingly meteoric success of The Heist has been planned by Ben Haggerty, Ryan Lewis and Zach Quillen for years. Marketing for The Heist has been strategically thought out, considered, discussed, rehashed and then tactics executed boldly – with adaptations made on the fly as opportunities arose.
Most every morning I walk my dog. That’s where I do a lot of my thinking about my own music and social media, about music marketing and about what’s happening with music and technology in general. I thought you all might want to come along and hear what was on my mind this Friday morning.
The subject of today’s podcast is gear. What is the role of gear in your music career? Have you recently purchased some new gear and has it made a big difference in your recording or live performance?
In this 5 minute episode I talk about my own experience and also my observations from watching Stevie produce local bands. I didn’t admit it in the podcast, but I’m not immune to the siren song of gear. I’m like a kid in a candy shop at Guitar Center. In fact, I purchased the JamMan Looper/Sampler pictured above in October of last year. I haven’t yet figured out how to use it.
It often seems that musicians are more willing to purchase expensive musical gear than to spend the same amount of money on music lessons, professional performance coaching, song critiques, marketing, or legal services. In my mind, expensive gear is a social signal – but what it signals to others is not necessarily what I think many musicians believe it signals.
I’d love to hear your experience and your opinion on this issue in the comments section below. I’d also love your feedback on this format!
I recently made friends via Twitter with musician Eric John Kaiser, a native Parisian who now lives in Portland, Oregon. Like many who make a living full time from music, Eric is a busy person, juggling several different sources of income, as you will read below.
Eric has managed to successfully carve out a niche for himself in the Portland musical ecosystem playing “French music” several days a week. I thought it would be helpful for other musicians to read some of the smart and practical things he does to find, classify and promote his local and regional gigs. I also feel it is worth highlighting how Eric does business as a musician: he treats bookers and the other musicians he works with respectfully, fairly and professionally.
Question 1: Tell our readers a little about yourself: your music, where you are from, and how you ended up in Portland.
EJK: I’m a professional singer-songwriter originally from Paris, France, now based in Portland, Oregon, USA. After doing over 350 gigs in France and several records, in the summer of 2006, I followed a girl from Portland whom I met in Paris. Now I tour mainly on the West Coast, Idaho and Montana, in Louisiana and in Quebec and some parts of Canada. I also go back to France to tour once a year. I have released, at this point, three full length albums and three EPs. It’s been a great musical adventure so far.
Over time, I’ve learned that I needed to be flexible and be able to play solo gigs, as a duo with my accordion player or play with my full band.
You’ve probably heard people talk about how if you’re “serious about your music career” you should move to Nashville or LA.
I’ve been thinking lately, however, about what makes my hometown of Seattle such a great incubator for talented musicians.
It’s not just the recent blockbuster success of (multi-category) Grammy winners Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. A lot of really great music and music production has come out of Seattle over the years. From the Kingsmen and Bing Crosby to Jimi Hendrix, the Sonics, Quincy Jones, Heart, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Queensryche, Mudhoney, Tingstad and Rumble, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Danny O’Keefe, Alice Stuart, and Kenny G all the way to current success stories like The Head and The Heart, Brandi Carlile, Blue Scholars, Shabbaz Palaces, Allen Stone, Kris Orlowski and Shelby Earl. (I’m not even counting Dave Matthews, although he does live here.)
Here are some of the special things about the Emerald City which make it a better environment than Nashville or LA in which to nurture a music career: