Bringing awareness to your music has always been generous with its challenges, here are the top three music tips from industry leaders.
Topics ranged from music distribution to promotion in both physical and digital mediums.
Jon Delange (Tinderbox Music Owner, SESAC Consultant)
Patrick Hertz (Tinderbox Music, Copycats, The Licensing Lab)
Jaime Sarrantonio (Red Gorilla Music Fest, Muzooka)
Should you like our team to put ears on your music, please reach out here, we’d be delighted to do so!
Have a new CD of your music? Radio remains a perfect handcuff for physical distribution of music. It is also generally inexpensive to do so. With the exception of certain specialty shows, commercial airtime is closed to independent acts. Thankfully, the US has the world’s most robust and organized form of small watt radio in its college and community format. These stations can credit fundraising and educational budgets for their existence, making for a much more open listening format. Most importantly, these stations are often easy to have results with. Music directors at terrestrial radio still prefer a CD submission. If you have good music and it’s reasonably inside their format –most are open to playing new music. The CMJ portion of stations is an album or EP format, a single is more difficult to work. Most of the independent music a station uses arrives in the mail. Your radio package should contain the disc and a one sheet or at the least a sticker on the CD with info with emphasis tracks and FFC (profanity) disclosures. Most of those who captain small watt radio will remind you they can’t play music from their email. Downloading links and preparing them for their format is something they’d like to avoid.
Are College and Community Radio worth it? Airplay is always a good thing. There’s a reason virtually every established label works college and smaller market radio. Universally, indie labels have discovered that even though your songs may not be heard by millions, you are still sending your record to hundreds of “tastemakers” across the country. If they love your band, chances are they will help you in their market whether it be on the air, at a venue, with a peer, etc. Social media has made for a better bond between an artist and station spinning their music than ever. It’s replacing a phone call that often went to voicemail anyway. Now an act can follow a station on Twitter, or reply to a Music Director’s posts on Facebook. If you’re looking to read more, we highly recommend a widely read post on the Sonicbids platform here.
A long time author of music articles recalled their job reviewing music as “calling balls and strikes”. It’s important for artists to connect with these professional skeptics. Although opinions and context of these critics vary widely, it is still an important part of music discovery. Press is generally research. There are countless album review sites these days, and many of them are free. The best advice would be to spend time looking at each music reviewers rules of engagement, i.e., how they would like to receive the music. Often this is still best accomplished by sending a CD. In other cases, you would be uploading your music via WeTransfer, Dropbox, Box.Com, or some other file transfer application. There are even a few zealots who want the music a on a thumb drive. Rarely is it ok to just email them an MP3. We’ll add, that as you are researching your press prospects, be mindful of the articles and reviews they are currently writing about. Are they covering your favorite new indie electronic artist, or are they more focused on the new major label releases that are coming out? Be humble, be efficient, and be effective by approaching the best press outlets for YOU and where you are NOW. That said, don’t cheat or under sell yourself either. You can browse free album reviews sites and quickly come up with a lot of potential options. Some music review sites will allow you to pay $15-$25 to expedite a review. Not surprisingly, that’s a growing trend on the web. Established music publicity companies are always for hire and they will generally have a large database of music reviewers, bloggers and beat writers. A lot of publicists will want a monthly retainer to work on press, because they legitimately often need 3 months to show results. It’s generally a slow process. When you hire a publicist, you can expect to pay $500-$1,000/month. An important caveat to consider is that much of the work a publicist does is in the first month; after that, they generall have an intern check the website or set a Google alert. Point being, you should consider this when discussing your goals with a publicist and ask if they’d be willing to work by the piece or trade instead of on retainer. Also, inquire about their process in detail; know what you’re investing into and what’s realistic for you at this point. Likely, your publicist will be very straightforward and help you manage realistic expectations. If your publicist has any experience, they’ll know that this is really best for both parties. Of course, never forget that with research, you can do some of this publicity work yourself!
Licensing your music for use with television shows, movies, advertisements and video games is an important part of marketing your music in today’s music industry. It’s also one of the few ways artists are still making an income from their music. Look at bands like American Authors, Imagine Dragons and Santigold – their placements in advertisements took them from being indie artists to becoming superstars practically overnight! Of course, not all placements or sync licenses are the same. The payment and clout of a placement will be directly related to the caliber of the TV show/movie/game. You have to understand that, as an indie artist, you’re probably not going to come out of the gate with a big advertisement license for your first offer. Realistically, you’re going to need to start by grabbing onto the accessible throngs at the bottom of the ladder to make your way to the top. Some major network shows still offer a small sync fee; most cable broadcaster’s lean towards the budget saving option of a royalty use. Gratis licenses, as they are often called, are common. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get paid for allowing them to use your music. It only means that there is no upfront sync fee, and what you will be paid is based on the royalties that are due. So basically, you’re going to get paid for every second your music used within the context of that media.
How do you get royalties on licensed music? It is very important to have your songwriter and publisher affiliations with your performing rights organization (PRO) set up correctly as your music is being licensed. In the US, your three choices are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Here’s a basic checklist for covering your bases with these PROs to make sure you get all the royalties you deserve:
It’s important to note you don’t need a CDBaby or Tunecore to establish this. That’s an unfortunate trend that has a lot of artists giving up an unnecessary piece of their publishing to have these third parties “admin” your music. Avoid that if you can.
ASCAP: You need to establish a songwriter account and a publishing account with ASCAP in order to collect all of your publishing. Once you have a songwriter account, you also need to register your songs and include the percentages of how much you own of each song you register.
BMI: You only need to sign up as a songwriter if you do not already have a publisher, because you can “self-publish” your music with BMI. You will also need to register each individual song.
SESAC: This is the only private or “invite only” of the three PROs, so you can’t just go and sign up online with SESAC. However, if you are with SESAC, they will assign you a representative who will help you establish yourself as a SESAC songwriter and publisher. They are the only one that doesn’t have a set up fee for each writers publishing company creation.
You may choose to have another band member or co-writer sign up with one of these PROs as well. If you do, you’ll have to designate how much each member owns of each respective song within each song’s own registration. Make sure that you proof read all of your PRO documents. Clerical errors can create problems, so take your time and be diligent.
Keep in mind there are hundreds of major cable shows and the great news is, for independent artists, many of these can’t afford major label music. Your songs might be much more desirable than you’d think if you can make that connection. How do you accomplish this? Well, that’s tougher. You can join music libraries. You don’t have much to lose in doing so but remember sometimes you’re a needle in the preverbal haystack of tens of thousands of songs and most music supervisors don’t browse these libraries as much as they may advertise. Most shows have their own library of songs. These are handed out by the network, an executive producer or the music super– these are generally what you’re after. The best advice is to find a trusted partner who can help you obtain these licenses.
Lastly, many TV shows that license music add value and social media cred to their placements by using chyrons. A chyron is the text that often appears in the lower third of the TV screen, with the song title and band name of the music that is playing. This is a great way for the fans of those shows to become fans of your music. It’s also a great way for other music supervisors out there to discover your band! An act who now makes a living doing sync work is Aaron and Andrew (check out their Q&A here).They have patiently built their brand and found their way to an amazing number of placements.
Social media management and strategy is one of the biggest tools for an artist in today’s short attention spanned tech world. A well-executed approach can spread your brand and foster discovery of your music possibly more than any other tool out there. There are so many strategies but the most important thing to remember is to be active on all of your social media platforms and continually engage your fans, whether that is through the regular posting of YouTube videos, contests, Q&A sessions or simple updates. As they say, content is king. Along with posting your own content, make sure to engage and be a part of the conversation. Social media is a community, and community requires participation. It’s a two way street.
That said, be creative and genuine to let your voice shine through. Your fans can smell BS from miles away, and want to know you for you. Fortunately, especially as your building your brand, you can choose to post about the things that serve you the best and build the image, ideas, and messages you are trying to convey. Your artwork contains your voice (literally and figuratively), figure out what you’re trying to say and say it. Escapism and community are intricately woven into the social media driven paradigm, be mindfully aware of your presence and appearance on these platforms.
Social media has made has made it possible to loop traditional victories into viral ones. Using radio data as an example, it’s easy to inform your fans about the success you’re having. Twitter, in particular, is a wonderful tool for this. However, a disciplined approach to tweeting or posting is key. Through a well-crafted post, you can not only thank a station or review site, but you can also showcase your success to your fans. (i.e. “Thanks KLXA for adding our record this week! #YouRock”)
The music business has always been a bandwagon industry. Fans and professionals alike want to keep a finger on the pulse of who’s catching the buzz. You’ll find this work cumulative.