Advice to musicians who aren’t getting major league results: Artist Development Workshop: Image Identity Materials (I2M) Formula
by Tom Stein
For the most part, in today’s competitive music business, the responsibility for Artist Development has changed hands. Independent labels and entrepreneurial music artists have inherited the responsibility of nurturing new talent by fine-tuning their artistic and business development, and slowly growing their careers over several album releases. Developing a music career for the long haul is all about controlling one’s own destiny.
As an artist development consultant, aspiring musicians and artists regularly approach me with the question: what are the next steps I should take to develop my career as a recording/performing musician? I’d like to offer a few friendly pointers with this post to answer this common question.
Not knowing where to start can certainly feel overwhelming, because there are indeed many stages to developing an artist career, and many areas that need to be addressed. Over time, I came to see a pattern of perceived helplessness. I would need a much larger space to address all the aspects of artist development, so for now I am going to focus on the creation of your image identity materials, which I call I2M (pronounce: “I squared M”).
Bring Order From The Chaos
As with any complex endeavor, one must organize the work into sections, and devise strategies for dealing sequentially with each area. It is wise to take the perspective of music as a business, as a way of understanding the patterns of success and adopting the techniques that will lead you in that direction. I always recommend that artists study successful business role models and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. Information and inspiration are your weapons.
Most musicians sense that marketing is a key to “breaking in to the business” but again, don’t know how to begin. You can learn much from how others successfully promote themselves. Considering marketing strategies from the very beginning of your artist business development is one way to bring order to what seems like a plethora of tasks. Focusing on marketing your music will help you to organize all the other aspects of artist development in alignment with your goals.
A Magic Formula
I like to build and test models for everything I do in my own career. A potential formula for this early stage of artist development would be expressed as:
I2M(B + R) = Ma
Or: (Image Identity Materials) times (Branding plus Resonance) equals Market access. I could express this in several other ways that are considerably more complex, taking into account the demographic of the target market, viral marketing techniques, and social media, etc. but this simple equation will serve our purposes for now. I like this kind of simple equation because it helps us to focus on what we can do right now, and why we need to do it. Let me explain each part of the equation.
What Is I2M?
I abbreviated Image Identity Materials this way to highlight that your image and identity are intertwined, and each supports the other in a synergistic way. Image identity materials include, but are not limited to:
Your visual materials are super important because people decide in a nanosecond whether they like you based on visual impact, whereas it takes a bit longer for them to process the music aurally. In the digital era, if you don’t have compelling visual images people won’t likely ever make the decision to click a link to listen to your music, or go see you live. Images are key in defining who you are (your identity) to a potential listener and fan, and they do it quickly.
Your image materials should immediately convey the alluring aspects of your identity, forcing people to listen to your music. Importantly, your I2M needs to make sense to the viewer and match up with your music in a clever way.
*(B + R)** is Branding and Resonance*
*Branding* used in this context refers to the execution of your image identity strategy. It can refer to the crafting of the messages, the professional quality of your materials, the memorability of your name, your logo, color scheme, fonts, plus any other unifying elements that create superior impact. Successful branding is certainly crucial to the success of any marketing campaign. There is an overlap between I2M and your branding execution.
*Resonance *I use to describe how well your materials are received by your target demographic. In social media marketing circles, resonance is a measure of how many people access and share curated content. When a YouTube video is released and quickly gets millions of views, this is because many people like it and want to share it. Highly resonant memes and videos are viewed and shared millions of times over a very short period. Most people are quite familiar with this phenomenon by now.
*Adding It All Up*
To summarize: when you add high potential *Resonance *and effective*Branding* together, and multiply it by your *Image Identity Materials*, (with a little luck) it should give you *Market Access. *This last term is obvious, and dependent on your actual goals. The instant accessibility of image identity materials via the increasingly interconnectedness of the web is a powerful tool for gaining traction as an artist. The next step is to devise a monetization strategy, but that topic will have to wait for another post.
*A Few Final Tips*
Now that you are organized in your thinking, make a plan around my formula. Look at it as a project, and apply tried and true project management techniques to getting things done (read up on project management techniques if you don’t understand them fully). That means making a list of milestones, and creating a timeline for completion for each milestone on the list. Figure out what you can get done on your own, and what you need help with. Write out a brief description of each milestone, and collect reference materials. If you need a budget, figure out how to get it, and conserve your resources where possible.
These are the things that most serious-minded artists do when starting out. Not every part of the process is equally fun; sometimes it feels like work, because it is. It’s important to seek out inspiration, and make sure to enjoy your time in the sun, when it comes as a result of your planning, hard work, and dedication.
I welcome your comments and ideas.
About Tom Stein:
Tom Stein is a visionary musical entrepreneur, music producer, artist development consultant, arranger, bandleader and performer on electric bass, voice and guitar. He is also a professional educator; he teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and is the founder of Music Connectivity, a cultural diplomacy firm. www.tomstein.com
For more information on the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), please go to: http://www.inacoustic.com
Top Seven Rules For Getting Music Gigs
by Tessie Barnett & Jessica Brandon
Are you looking for Gigs? Here are a few helpful tips for the best practices in the gig business.
Many artists and professionals have built a solid, organic following with their talent but struggle to get beyond a certain threshold. It’s a point at which some artists give up and others get big. It is possible to grow your business to the level of name and brand recognition. It just takes consistent movement, time, and exposure. By incorporating these tips into your own business, you can attract loyal clients and jump to the next level in your career.
When you’re performing or engaging with your fans, there needs to be energy—and lots of it. An audience can very clearly see when an artist has become stagnant or bored. Having experience in your field is a benefit for obvious reasons, but after the initial excitement of performing wears off, you should be aware of how that affects your output.
Try to push yourself at all times. What would be an unusual addition to the song you’ve gotten hundreds of requests for? What could you bring as a visually appealing element to your performance? How can you get closer to the audience? The performers who involve their fans make a lasting impact, and those fans are eager to tell others about it.
Too often, entertainers will pass up an opportunity to perform because it doesn’t pay well—or at all. Yes, it’s a controversial subject and this is your livelihood we’re talking about. But in order to increase your exposure and networking opportunities, it’s going to require a little give and take.
Charity and nonprofit functions are just a few events that will request donated performances. We’ve seen many artists advance their business by taking advantage of this outreach. The event organizers responsible for raising funds for a particular cause have to entice people to attend. What better way to do that than with live entertainment? With that in mind, they’ll promote your talent to the community as it benefits you both.
These charitable events are typically attended by community leaders, business owners and journalists, so the exposure and networking opportunities can be well worth a performance donation.
Speaking of networking…
It’s imperative to take advantage of the outreach capabilities available through social media. These days, artists are able to connect with fans more than ever, so it’s become easier for them to expect this direct engagement. In order to gain traction in your industry and build a loyal following, you’ll want to make yourself accessible. Your social media platforms can be used to promote your talent, of course, but it has increasingly become a way for your followers to get to know the person behind the talent.
Networking is about creating ongoing relationships. As your business grows and your calendar starts to fill up quicker, you may find it difficult to maintain each of these relationships. Your network can evolve on its own simply by displaying client reviews on your website. A recent consumer review survey showed that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Request reviews from your client right after a show when your performance is still fresh on their mind. This is the optimal time for feedback. Fans are still pumped by your intense energy and often times want to give back any way they can.
Another benefit to the review process is that it requires the client to list details that, over time, could be forgotten. Because they took the time to reflect, your performance can be imprinted in their memory which will make them more likely to recommend you.
We’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date with any new trends or practices that can help you get more gigs. Until then, be passionate, be open, and be everywhere.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” -Steve Jobs
There is a need to be not just “good enough”, but GREAT. Why settle for less? Whatever developing stage you are at, go beyond it, re-commit yourself to your instrument or voice. Take lessons, or better yet, sit yourself down and watch on YouTube or at your CD player and choose a favorite musicians record, and listen closely to what they are playing. then re-play it, and re-play it again. Challenge yourself to go beyond your limitations. Who knows, maybe you will fall into some new territory, wherein you will find yourself, your “sound”, and increase your chance to stand out from all the mediocrity that is your competition.
Believe it or not, record labels love to hear innovative, accessible new sounds. Actually in their heart of hearts, that is what they are really hoping to hear on every new demo, and from every new act they go see at a live venue. You see, in the business of music, when we hear something new, original, and accessible to people, we can then invest in you with more security, believing that if we put our “label brand” on you, with our talents of promotion and marketing coming to the front, then we “have something”, and your music becomes our music, and we work together to broaden you audience appeal.
To some this is a regular, fundamental practice. To others, there isn’t much thought put into it, or they don’t make one at all.
There are several advantages to taking the time to write out a set list:
When each band member knows what song is next, the show will run much smoother.
You can properly time your set.
You’ll learn how to make the show flow and reduce or eliminate “dead-air.”
You’ll be able to go back over it and review what worked and what didn’t work.
There is a definite art to constructing a good set list – especially one that works well over and over again. When it’s done correctly, you’ll consider keys, tempos, genres, and especially – your audience, and put it in an order that makes sense.
The primary objective is to take people on a ride by dictating the mood in the room with the way you put your sets together. Creating and utilizing great segues and medleys is also a must to keep things moving and to keep the crowd engaged. With practice and tweaking, you can come up with brilliant set lists that make your band look like pros.
This is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of your live show. There are many factors to consider including your genre, the ability of the musicians in the band, the venue, and the type of gigs you are playing.
The priority here, of course, is to make sure that the crowd is enjoying the show. If someone has walked into the room where you’re performing, they’ll be much more likely to stay if they like the songs you’re playing. You’ll never be able to please everyone, so you want to focus on what the majority of people want to hear. It’s important to always remember that you are not playing for you, but rather, you’re playing for the people that are listening to you.
As previously mentioned, your show and song list should be catered to the people in attendance. If you have a regular following, you should have a good idea of the kind of music that they expect to hear you play. Just like a company that has a physical product that they are looking to sell, your band has to have an intimate understanding of what the people want.
One of the best ways to determine the preferences of the crowd is to simply talk to them individually. Ask them what they like and don’t like, why they like you, and how they think you could improve. Quite often, you won’t even have to ask, and people will just voluntarily offer up information. Your job in this case is to simply pay attention and take it all in. Then you can process what you have to work with and base your presentation on what will yield the best results for everyone involved.
GigSalad is the largest entertainment booking platform in the U.S. and Canada. This marketplace connects event hosts with entertainment. GigSalad can help you do what you love. www.GigSalad.com
For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com
by Kari Estrin
There’s lots of advice on how to have a successful career in music, but in the end, knowing these five tips will give you a “leg up.”. Of course, each of us may define what success is differently – but however you define it, these tips will also help you chart a steadier course along the way.
1) BE AN AUTHENTIC ARTIST
One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to be individual, be true to what special talents you have, what you’re writing and your vocal style. Although some artists may imitate others, your best shot (unless you’re into tribute bands) is in developing your own unique sound.
2) CRAFT YOUR ART
Sometimes the best song you ever wrote happened in five minutes with no edits. That is a gift from the muse, but that’s not always the usual case. Don’t be afraid to edit your songs to make them even better, take voice lessons if you need to hit the notes the way you’d like, or beef up your instrumental work with lessons when you’re starting out. Do what it takes to refine your sound by editing, rewriting, resigning and of course, practice. Reach out for help and expertise – it’s all around you and some of it is free for the finding!
3) DEFINE YOUR IMAGE/BRANDING
You may have written songs that are jazz, blues, pop, singer/songwriter and country, but just because you have all that talent, know what are you trying to project to your audience? It’s great to be multi-talented and to occasionally throw something atypical into a set artfully, but with so many choices of talent, you need to have a sound and image that people will instantly recognize as yours. Otherwise, you’ll dilute your appeal and have a harder time standing out above the crowd.
4) DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE/WHO DOES YOUR MUSIC APPEAL TO?
Do you understand who comes to see you and if so, do you know can you reach them? Is Instagram or Twitter the social media your audience prefer – or are your fans mostly on Facebook? Knowing your audience, the medium that they will respond to in order to engage them to come to live shows, sell your music and reach them on an emotional level is important.
5) BE BOTH PROFESSIONAL AND SHARP IN YOUR BUSINESS:
Arrive at gigs on time and prepared; thank those who work with you or do your sound, serve the drinks or do your backstage catering and let them know you appreciate them. When you’re starting out and even after you “make” it, making those around you comfortable and valued goes a long way to your longevity in business. But learn your business as well – there are resources, including info on the ‘net to help you know the best way to negotiate a contract, how to deal with conflict, what are common music business practices, etc. There are plenty of people who might want to take advantage of you in the business, so if you know more about best how it works and are savvy, you’ll be more protected. Although many bands we may worship have/had a lot of that “bad boy” image – trashing hotel rooms, demanding those brown M & M’s,that’s generally not the smartest way to think you’ll advance yourself or survive in the business these days!
Kari’s wide expertise in the music industry spans four and a half decades. Starting in the early 70’s to her concert/festival production days in the 80’s in the Boston/Cambridge area (Harvard, The Berklee, Symphony Hall, Newport Folk, etc) Kari carved out her national reputation. She managed/booked/tour managed guitar legend Tony Rice in the early 80’s and world music act, The 3 Mustaphas 3, who reached No. 1 in Billboard Magazine, truly establishing Kari as a sought after professional. Her groundbreaking Career Assessment System predates “coaching” and has helped a wide variety of artists, from beginning to established, to take their careers to new heights and expanded levels as Kari pioneered working with the “whole” artist in her integrative and holistic approach. She is also is an acoustic music radio promoter and her artists have topped the Folk DJ charts for roughly 17 years. http://www.kariestrin.com
For more information on entering IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com
7 Ways to Improve Your Music Recordings
by Jessica Brandon
Today, I’d like to give you 7 ways to help you meet your music recordings and help you grow yourself as a music artist.
A lot of musicians/music artists waste a ton of money on demos/recordings because they haven’t spent enough time choosing the right sound for their music act. Get clear about who you yourself as a music artist/band and who your audience is. Once you do this, you’ll cut your waste to zero and start getting maximum results from all your music.
If you are still comparing and competing with other music artists, then your Sound needs work. We get comment from music artists describing themselves “I sound just like Ani DiFranco, but better”, or “I sound like the band “Kings of Leon, but more acoustic sounding”. Create a sound that makes your music the clear and only choice for your audience.
When you have run of ideas, you may want to co-writer with another songwriter or producer who may bring other ideas to the table to help you with your next song.
Are you tired of your homemade recordings, sound and need fresh ideas? You may need to look for a professional recording studio and seek a music producer (with whom the recordings that the bands you recorded you respect).
If you have a regular gig at a club (or try out at an Open Mic event), you may try performing your song and see what kind of reaction from the audience you get. If it doesn’t work, you can always tweek the lyrics and chord progressions when you get home.
Competition for attention of you and your songs are at an all time high. Too many music acts are sloppy and don’t give enough care to creating good, relevant, compelling songs —consistently. Learn the fundamentals of crafting compelling songs and resist the temptation to just whip something up and get it out. Poor songwriting will alienate your audience—sometimes permanently. While a consistent compelling songs will get them wanting you more.
You might be surprised how many of your great music and song ideas have “gone missing”. Record your ideas on your smart phone or voice recorder as you go through your day. Just a one line change, a lyric change, a chord change may dramatically improve your song and go from good to great!
Doing one of these things will improve your recordings. Doing all of them could make a tremendous impact. Pick one or two to start and once you’ve implemented them; move on to another one (or two) on the list.
To enter the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to:
Musician Tips: Music, Marketing and Me
by Grant Genske
Music is one of the few things that come quite naturally for me; I don’t know why I love it, but every day I wake up and know that I am excited to keep writing, recording and singing. It’s been that way for a while now. I spent most of my gangly, awkward childhood listening to my father’s old Led Zeppelin CDs, stumbling through piano lessons, and waiting until my family left the house so that I could practice shout-singing My Chemical Romance songs. Though my tastes have changed, music has always been at the center of my life.
Although musical expression is almost instinctual for me, ideas surrounding “brand awareness and development” have, for a long time, felt clunky and awkward. I think that this stems from being genuinely shy as a child and disdaining self-promotion, or maybe from being raised protestant (I learned early on that God doesn’t like a show-off).
When I first began recording myself, I felt uninspired doing cover videos, which, for many artists, seems to be the most viable social vehicle in the YouTube/ Soundcloud era. I hated sitting in front of a camera, with no audience, and presenting myself for all the world to critique. I generally thought, “I am very bored watching myself do this, so why would anyone else want to watch me do this?”
I did not see much potential for advancement of my career until I discovered my ability to write music. At that point, I became highly engrossed in the process of creation – currently, I write anywhere between 1-3 songs per day and record demos almost as frequently. I rediscovered a passion for music and dedicated my life to writing and recording, and that was when I ran into the problem: how do I get people to listen?
I am happy to say that my work as a social media marketer continues to provide answers to that question. It has made me more confident in my self-promotion, and it has made the process of audience development feel a lot more natural. The following lessons are my musings on what has worked well for me – they may or may not work for you, but I think there is some universality in all of them.
Your personal network is important and highly relevant to your success, but at the end of the day your career is reliant on capturing the attention of people who you may never meet. I was very good at getting my friends to pay attention to my work, but once I started collaborating with people around the world, I realized that I needed to be working to get people who had never met me to engage with my music.
As much as we love to glorify the X-Factor stars and social media sensations who seem to become successful overnight, most musicians have been working for years to gather fans before they hit their big break. It makes sense to assume that you are going to have to build your fan base yourself if you are truly committed to having a sustained career.
There are many ways to organically do this; you can design graphics to give engaged users a shout-out, you can give away signed merchandise at your shows, or plan surprise shows and invite your most active fans as a reward. I would also suggest looking to curators to grow your reach – these include YouTube/ Soundcloud accounts that post new music and bloggers who write about your genre. You cannot do all the legwork yourself.
Technology cannot replace originality and authenticity, but damn if it doesn’t help with making the work easier. I am a strong advocate of using tools like Crowdfire to organically grow a Twitter following or utilizing websites like EDM Lead to convert Soundcloud downloads to follows. If you have money to spend on marketing, investigate how you might run a targeted campaign with Facebook.
Nothing good happens overnight, so be wary of “get followers quickly” schemes – they aren’t worth your time and they rarely work. Get comfortable with tools and with doing something small every single day to keep your fan base growing.
Over the past 2 months, I used social growth techniques to to more than double my Twitter following, triple my Soundcloud following, and increase my Facebook likes by 125%. I never spent more than 15 minutes per day doing any work, and I saw strong returns because I learned how to integrate organic interaction and technological innovation. More importantly, though, my followers are engaged and interacting with my posts, and I am actually cultivating a community around my music.
Instagram is the platform where we see the most brand interaction, and studies on Instagram success point to brand consistency as being a really important factor in conversion to follows. This means both posting with some regularity and posting content that is somehow thematically linked.
Brand fundamentals include color palette, tonal consistency and anything that makes you unique, be it your product, sense of humor or simply an idea. Any choice to change these things is permitted, but it should be a choice, not a result of ignorance or laziness.
If this is to be truncated into one sentence, just try to think about how your friend would describe you to someone else: “Oh, he or she is the _____ girl/guy/person. He/She/they does _______.” If you can’t fill in those blanks, it’s important to think about why and strategize about how you might be able to do it better. It’s definitely my biggest challenge.
Looking at YouTube, Soundcloud, Twitter or Facebook, it is really easy to see that the same logic applies. The most successful producers on Soundcloud are constantly posting their own new material and reposting other content. The most followed YouTube accounts are incredibly active, uploading new content as frequently as every week.
It goes without saying that, as much as you want consistency, you also want people to remain engaged with you and to feel some growth. Look for ways to keep things fresh – identity collaborators and work together on something new, find a partner who can offer a new spin on your same photo arrangement, work current events into your brand content. Never let things get stale – the social world moves incredibly quickly and you will get left behind.
It is really easy to lose your identity as you try to grow. When you are attempting to capture and keep someone’s attention, it is natural to think about what they like and how you can conform to that. The stakes are pretty high for music artists; audiences have so many choices, and it can be tempting to try and be all things at all times. But the reality is that, if you are doing something that feels artificial, bland, or trite, it probably is. If you are doing something because someone told you it would make you successful, and it hasn’t made you successful, you might want to stop. It may be time to switch up your strategy.
For me, I realized that I wanted to focus less on covers and more on original music. I spent a lot of time not getting any recognition for it and being really bad, but then I got better at it. I am constantly getting better at it, and I am feeling momentum.
(Reprinted by permission)
Grant Genske is a marketing associate with BEGIN who works primarily with indpendent artists in their talent division, New Music Empire. But that’s just his day job. He’s also a singer and songwriter living in Los Angeles, California and a producer of the College Star competition that produces talent competitions on college campuses.
To enter the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: