This site is a blog for musicians and music industry people. It is a free educational resource and it is also the way I advertise my music consulting services. I am an entertainment professional with deep roots in the music industry. Throughout my music career I have been a major label A&R representative, a music supervisor, an artist manager, a reality show producer, a bass player and the head of a digital record label.
Posts Tagged ‘music marketing and promotion’
I genuinely love helping artists find and tell their stories. And as I have expressed many times through articles I have written about the bio-writing process, I am delighted to have the privilege of watching musicians and songwriters discover the most remarkable milestones on their creative journeys, reconnect meaningfully with the real reasons they make music and share their passion with the world.
But I am going to be brutally honest: There are a lot of terribly-written artist bios out there – bios that are so ridiculous that I can’t hear the music over the sound of my own laughter (or uncontrollable sobbing). And your band bio might fit into this category. You may even know your bio is embarrassingly bad, but feel either totally overwhelmed by the prospect of writing about yourself, or simply too lazy to make changes. Maybe you are just unaware that a well-written bio is the most crucial piece of your written marketing materials and that it will be seen (and in most cases, harshly judged) by event promoters, magazine, newspaper and blog editors, venue owners, industry professionals and potential fans. Regardless of the reason you are not investing any energy into your bio, what the f&*k are you thinking?
Our rapidly-evolving technological world has made both computers and the Internet accessible to almost everyone. And, in my opinion as a professional writer deeply in love with the wonderful nuances of words, that has led to one of the most nightmarish consequences of the Digital Age– a consequence that has profoundly affected the way people write about themselves: The Internet has evolved into an untended wilderness, where everyone is encouraged to vomit out (completely unedited) thoughts no one cares about, all over a global audience. Thanks to fully-accessible blogging platforms, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and a variety of other tools that give all of us permission to speak like 13-year-old girls and casually throw the beauty of proper language and grammar under the bus (and then run over it several times to make sure it is truly dead), there is a very blurry line between “some notes and unfinished thoughts to get me started on writing my bio along with some stuff I like about myself, which occurred to me in the shower this morning” and “my polished, professional bio, which I will proudly use to present myself as a serious person and artist.”
If you have writer’s block, or are not sure your bio is working in its current form, here are some of the bio f&*k-ups that I see regularly lead to the most abysmally-written bios. If you can avoid these, you’re on the right track.
1. “And when I was five, I invented the piano.”
Were you kicking along to the beat of music while you were in the womb? Did you start playing the violin at age three? And were you also making up sophisticated songs about your oatmeal in 13/8 time at the breakfast table and singing them into your spoon to the delight of your parents and jealous dismay of your talentless siblings? If you can answer these questions with a confident “Yes” (and you are not currently a child), then allow me to hand deliver a message to you: No one cares.
If you are an adult, your child prodigy years are of no real interest to anyone that will be reading your bio. Mentioning how amazing you were as a child will also encourage someone to gauge how far you’ve come since then, look at the state of your current career (or lack of career) and perhaps even think, “Wow, that’s too bad … what happened?” Plus, a childhood ability to easily pick up instruments and comprehend elements of harmony and melody is not a unique selling point for your story as an artist, because it is something that is shared by a majority of your contemporaries. Briefly celebrating the earliest environment that nurtured your talent can offer an introduction to you. But you need to connect with that moment you decided to pursue your art seriously and made the grown-up decision to turn it into your life’s work and illustrate the thrill of that decision as part of your bio. That is likely where your real adventure began.
2. “Since the beginning of time, there has never been a better singer writing more wonderful lyrics than [insert name of the best singer in the world here].”
Are you the best bass player that ever lived? Do you love to write beautiful songs more than any other unique songwriter? Are your varied influences as a guitarist pretty damn eclectic – more eclectic than anyone who has ever written songs that might be compared to yours? Well, who the hell do you think you are … (and while I’m asking, what exactly are you trying to say, anyway?)
During one of my recent bio-writing workshops at an art school, I shared my pet peeve of bios that make grandiose, assertive, clichéd statements that are not supported by any hard evidence (or by any truly descriptive adjectives or cliché-free phrases). One of the students said, “Yeah. You can only do that if you are Prince.” While I would argue that even Prince should not make obnoxiously-grandiose statements about himself, he probably has. And he can only get away with it because of his lengthy track record of proving his competency as a musician and performer and his “unique”ness as an artist, the unquestionably-loyal fan base he has built and the countless reviews he has received from reputable industry experts saying he is a pioneer in his field (and clearly explaining why).
Look at your own bio. Does it humbly describe the sound and feel of your music using tangible adjectives that conjure up a taste, a texture or even a smell (though hopefully not an unpleasant one) that someone that neither plays nor composes music can understand? Does it capture how your music makes your fans feel? And if the tone is a little cocky, do you have some real press quotes from legitimate online or print publications (and not My Mom magazine) to back up that attitude? Yes? Great … now prove it! (Also, might I remind you that there are only 12 notes; get over yourself.)
And as a real-world example to illustrate the point of this particular f&*k-up, here is a bio an artist friend of mine recently asked me to critique. His name and location have been changed for his and your protection (and yes, he fixed it!):
“Flibberty Giblet is a walking contradiction. He is a singer-songwriter, but he has very little in common with most singer-songwriters of today. His tableau of jagged sound stands out like a sore thumb against the airier tones of the Atlantis folk scene in which he thrives. But as dark as his jumbled and oft-disturbing lyrics can be, his melodies are every bit as gorgeous.”
3. “Thanks for describing the water while I’m drowning.”
This may sound unbending, maybe even impossible, but your bio has to get to the point before the first word. (And this f&*k-up is actually an outgrowth of f&*k-up #2.) If the first few words of your bio do not immediately start setting the stage for your narrative, and if your name does not appear in the first sentence, you have already failed. I hold pretty solidly to the guideline that the longest a bio should ever be is somewhere around 750 words (1,000 if you have a creative purpose that necessitates more words and moves the narrative along compellingly). And ideally, this 750-word masterpiece should be an “opt-in” after you have presented a short-form, 250-word bio first and that short introduction piqued further interest. People reading about you have thousands of other artists to read about and even more music to hear, so you have no room to go on long-winded tangents or define the words you are using to talk about yourself.
Sometimes when an artist is particularly blocked about the details that make his/her story worth following, I ask for some examples of music bios that the person enjoys reading, just to get a feel for style and give that person some inspiration. A very young R&B artist I worked with a couple years ago on a bio went through this exercise and sent me a few bios of fairly big hip hop and R&B artists. I was shocked to find that each one of them was worse than the one before it (and even more shocked to find that these bios had come from professional writers). The common problem amongst all of them was the amount of words that were wasted on “posturing” and desperately trying to convince me that the artist was “the best of all time.” Sometimes, the bios spent several sentences or even a paragraph defining a word used, like in the case of this bio, which started with a dictionary-style definition before it even identified the artist it was talking about:
“Natural can be described as innate or instinctive in essence, disposition or temperament. Quite simply, natural can be summed up as God-given or God-inspired because it comes so easily.” (Wow, that is quite simply put! I always wondered what “natural” meant. Thanks so much! Now, what if I don’t believe in God? And, wait … wasn’t I reading an artist bio?)
Present yourself and your music as objectively as possible, then respectfully let readers draw their own conclusions. You won’t make lifelong friends (aka, build a fan base that will support you for life) by strong-arming someone into liking you.
4. “We’re all with the band.”
It is human nature to wonder about the names, birthdays, hometowns and sexual orientations of all the members of your favorite band. It is also human nature not to know the name of the bass player (and not to care enough to even consider asking).
The tendency for a lot of bands when crafting their bios is to ask each member to put together a resume which includes details like education, past bands and other accomplishments, likes and dislikes and then throw all these resumes together to create a total frenzy of information that is ultimately irrelevant to the current band’s mission and music.
While you certainly want to give your fans and others some personal details about you and your band mates, so you can get them invested in your success, the bio needs to have a focused story and purpose. Start your band’s tale with why and how you came together as a group. How are you connected to each other, and why do you make melodic, ugly, dark, dirty, gritty or [insert a description of your sound and sensibilities here] music together? Save your pet peeves, favorite colors and favorite place to eat cheese for a blog post.
5. “My name is Sybil … no, wait! It’s Gertrude.”
If I ever butt heads with an artist while writing a bio, this fifth f&*k-up is the one we most often disagree about: Having multiple professional bios that serve different purposes. Succeeding in the music industry involves a lot of diversifying, and while possible, it is still a rare privilege to make a sustainable living playing your own music. To make ends meet and support a still-growing career, many artists must take up jobs as session players, songwriters for other artists, etc. I sometimes work with artists who are either afraid their persona as a solo artist (or a band leader) is not “professional” enough to get them work in other areas of the industry or just think their roles are so all over the place that they are not connected enough to put together; thus, they want to create several different bios in order to present each of the different “hats” they wear.
I understand the feeling of needing to pay respect to each of your different personae as well as the fear of publicly embracing all the different aspects of your very-diversified artist career. But multiple personality disorder is no fun for anybody. When you cannot find one way to celebrate your many different dimensions, you are communicating exactly the opposite of what you want to communicate to potential employers or collaborators. Instead of saying, “I am 100-percent committed to working hard at making music in all its forms, and I have a deep skill set that reaches into many different areas of the music business,” when you have many different bios, you are basically saying, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, so I’m just doing a bunch of stuff to see what sticks.” Or even worse than that, you are saying, “I will be whoever you want me to be,” which will invite some pretty unsavory and counter-productive characters into your world.
As satisfied and refreshed I feel after reading a beautifully-written bio that invites me into an artist’s rich, inner world, I feel that much more physically and spiritually ill when I find one that misses the mark. Hopefully the above can help you find a direction for your own writing process. If you are still struggling, reach out to your friends (or even your fans!) for feedback. And remember, there is no shame in hiring a professional bio writer!
Jesse Lundy is the talent buyer for Point Entertainment, a live events promotion company based in Philadelphia, PA. He got his start in the music business playing in bands and writing about rock for the campus newspaper while he was at the University of Maine. Jesse has been working as a concert promoter and publicist in Philadelphia since 1995 and has worked at companies including Electric Factory Concerts and New Park Entertainment/Jack Utsick Presents. He joined Point Entertainment in 2002 as a talent buyer and publicist at the award-winning listening room The Point in Bryn Mawr, PA. During his time at Point Entertainment, he has produced shows at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA as well as concert series and special events at venues including the Campus Philly Kickoff Concert and Eagleview. Point Entertainment has also been programming the Philadelphia Folk Festival since 2008. During his career, he has worked with artists including Norah Jones, The Rolling Stones, Amos Lee, Melody Gardot, Grace Potter and The Avett Brothers. Jesse is also the manager for The Brakes and John Francis and teaches at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design at Drexel University.
Jesse talked to me recently about the work he does with musicians and what artists can do to build a following through live performances. He also shared some advice for bands that want to successfully promote their shows and continue to expand their reach into new markets.
Thanks for taking some time to talk, Jesse. How did you get started in the music industry?
I went to college at the University of Maine in the early ‘90s. I played in bands and was one of the rock music writers for the campus paper. I did a little bit of work at the college radio station. By the time I was ready to graduate, I was booking the on-campus, 150-capacity club called the Ram’s Horn. I was a journalism major in college, but I ultimately realized that putting concerts on and being involved in the music business was something I enjoyed and probably a better fit for me.
I often tell people, journalism has a code of ethics that they’ve taken the time to write down, but that, in my experience, they d follow. And I’ve always felt that the best thing about the music industry is that they didn’t bother to write down a code of ethics, so there are no rules.
When I got out of college, I was fortunate, because my uncle was friends with Larry Magid, who was running Electric Factory Concerts. Larry gave me the option of being his personal assistant or working in the marketing department. Foolishly, I chose working in the marketing department, which, despite being a good education in the music industry, was not quite the “officer training program” I would’ve probably had if I’d chosen to be his assistant.
I worked with Electric Factory from ’95-’97 and was basically a glorified intern. But I got a great education in marketing, doing ad files for arena shows, etc. And I learned the city through street marketing. It was a solid entry-level job.
In ’97 a couple of the principals of Electric Factory left and started a new company called New Park Entertainment. I begged and pleaded with them for about six or eight months to take me with them. I was eventually hired and immediately went from glorified intern to talent buyer/marketing guy, which was a big step up. It was a great job, and I was there for five years. We got to do a lot of incredible stuff, like work with The Rolling Stones three times, U2 and on the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tour. We also booked a lot of shows at the Keswick Theatre. We worked with Phish, Barenaked Ladies when they were at their peak. My job at that point was to work with developing talent, which has been the thing I enjoy the most about the music industry. I love watching them grow.
In 1998, Richard Kardon opened The Point in Bryn Mawr, which was a 120-seat, all-ages listening room that served coffee and paninis, etc. The stage jutted out so the artist was amongst the audience, and it was a really intimate setting. I started doing a lot of my development work there. Eventually, Rich asked me to come and work with him. It was probably the best move I could’ve made at that time, even though a lot of my peers wondered why I was doing it. But I did it because I wanted to make more money and also it involved doing something I was passionate about.
Rich and I have been working together since ’02. The Point was a great venue, and we developed a lot of great acts and were the first play for Norah Jones in the market. We also worked with Tommy Emmanuel when it was a six-dollar ticket. We worked with people like Howie Day and Vanessa Carlton and did tons of Canadian acts that came through.
And was this gig the one that led to your current work?
Yes. The Point closed in June of 2005. And Rich said we were going to stick together and continue with our mission, but without the other employees and without the overhead of having a venue, office space, etc.
By the time The Point closed, we had started to develop the Colonial Theatre as our venue. We’d picked up a lot of outdoor concerts that happen in the summertime. To some people, these concerts are pretty significant. For example, Eagleview is going into its thirteenth season as a free concert series in the suburbs. And I don’t give artists a radius clause when I book them for it. And there is no real marketing for it, but we see anywhere from 500 – 1,000 people show up every week. It’s been a great way to be able to work with some of the local bands and also to help agents with some of the developing acts. We’ve had Amos Lee, Melody Gardot, Grace Potter, The Avett Brothers and a lot of others who have played the series on the way up. It’s been a great way for us to continue to continue to serve developing talent and establish and cement relationships.
Having worked with all these acts on the way up, can you point to anything that the people who are now successful did differently from the ones who faded into obscurity?
Take a band like The Avett Brothers. They have been very loyal to us, which is rare in the music world. We started them as a $100 act, opening for Ollabelle at The Point. We lobbied for them to get things like their first place at the Philly Folk Fest, etc. We put them in soft ticket situations, like the Philly weekly concerts, where they could play Center City, Philadelphia in front of a couple thousand people. e were able to help get them into low risk, high visibility shows when they were developing.
As a band, The Avett Brothers write music that is very sincere and earnest, and a lot of people really enjoy that. And aside from being really great entertainers, they’re also good to their fans and are in turn very supported by their fans. And there also isn’t a lot of ego there. They do a lot of work with the public and a lot of charity work. They’ve struck that chord with their audience that has made them who they are. New Year’s Eve, they drew 13,000 people in their hometown.
Beyond being talented, good entertainers and the charitable piece, is there anything the band is doing from a business perspective that has helped them succeed? It’s a given that you have to work on being talented and entertaining to build a solid brand. But I feel like having business acumen is really necessary. And so many musicians are missing that.
In the touring world, there are a lot of variables. A band like The Avett Brothers doesn’t play tons of shows. In the beginning, they did. But they don’t play the market three times a year anymore. Philadelphia is lucky if they see The Avett Brothers once a year, which keeps the demand high.
An act like Grace Potter, which started in the jam band world is based entirely on playing a lot. The fans will come back again and again. And Grace has always delivered an A show with an A band. And she’s a real entertainer.
As far as business, it’s a little harder for me to point specific things out, because I don’t know the inner workings of how these people do what they do.
Well, and I’m interested in hearing about people who are making a local splash. You have seen a lot of bands at their beginning stages, and I’m sure you have some insight into some of the things people should be doing when they’re starting out touring, etc.
I managed a band called The Brakes. And The Brakes were fortunate, because they had supportive families who were willing to help underwrite their touring when they weren’t making any money. I think a lot of acts are spoiled by that support, so I think in some cases, that type of situation can be bad. But in other cases, that support is great, and it helps artists get places they would not have been able to get otherwise.
The biggest thing I tell acts is that it comes down to what you do in the studio. I think a lot of bands feel like they have to put out a full-length record. They find a producer to make a record for $20,000. And I will tell bands that consider this investment that it’s about basic economics: “How many records are you going to have to sell to make $20,000 back? And are you ever going to sell that many, or are you just doing this for posterity?”
Yes. And people don’t realize that the bottom half of the Top Ten only sells 15,000 – 20,000 records.
Right. And, Amos Lee holds the title of the artist who sold the lowest number of records to get a #1 debut album on Billboard. He sold 40,000 records. Compared to the ‘90s, that’s incredibly low and is hard to believe when you look at the way things used to be.
I tell acts, “You’re going to be lucky if you sell 700 copies of your album without any kind of support. You’re going to print 1,000, give away 300 and sell 700 if you’re lucky.” But 700 times ten dollars still only $7,000. So, how do you justify spending more than $7,000 on a full-length record? And then, how do you actually make a full-length record for less than $7,000?
The other part of it is, artistically, do you really want your first record to be your big artistic statement? The saying is you have your whole life to make your first record and six months to make your second one. Another thing we say about the music industry all the time that is true is, “It’s just math.”
But artistically, you don’t need to release a 12-song album as your first project. I think you’re much better off releasing an EP. Put your four, or even your three best songs and a live track out first. Hold some things back that can be part of your live show and that you can release later. The Brakes released three EPs before we made a full album. And they might argue with me, but I still believe that was the best strategy for them.
That strategy is especially smart now, because you get the same amount of attention whether you release a full-length record or a single. So, why bother putting all your best material out all at once when chances are people won’t even hear more than three of the songs you release. Economically, it’s more viable. And I felt like it made more sense even before the music industry had a major paradigm shift.
You obviously have a lot of experience working with live events. People often come to me and ask how they can break a tour or a new market. I know there isn’t one set of rules that apply to everyone. Every band is different. But are there some mistakes you see people make again and again when touring and trying to get into a new market?
No question. First of all, I think the idea of touring before there is a demand for you to tour is questionable. Some people have been able to do it successfully. But there has to be some sort of financial underwriting happening, whether parents or something else. Gas, hotels and food cost money.
Let’s say you’re a lower-level act from Philly and want to play New York, DC, Boston and Allentown. Again, you will have fixed expenses like gas, places to stay and food. If you go and book a date at a club, even if you’re just on a bill with three other bands, chances are you won’t get paid more than $50 – $100. And you’re usually putting almost all the weight on the club to draw people in. The thought process there is, “Put me on a bill with other bands that draw, and everyone will like me.”
My advice is, go out and invest the same money into playing open mics in the venues you want to play. If you’re playing smaller listening rooms or clubs, you’re going to have a better chance of doing a great job and creating an audience for yourself at an open mic, because we know the talent level at open mics is usually kind of low. If you get up and do a pro set, you’re playing the same stage you want to play as a regular act, but you’re taking the pressure off the club. You’re not asking the club to invest in your future; you’re investing in your experience in the club. If you do a great job, the bartender, sound person and open mic host will turn around to the club owner and say, “This act showed up last night and blew everybody’s mind. You should take a look at them and maybe book them.”
Then, you have a credible reference from within the club. And the owner might say, “If everyone is really excited about this, maybe I should look into it.” And then that person might call you and say, “I heard you did a great job. Why don’t you come and open a show? I’ll give you $50.” And even if the club owner is aware you may not draw anybody, the fact that you got a positive response when you played there will make that person willing to make a $50 investment in you.
And have you seen a lot of artists do this?
Not a lot. But the bottom line is, it comes back to simple math and economics. If you do five dates and get a total of $250, wouldn’t it be worth $250 to have one of those clubs take a real interest in your career? You’re not buying them off or anything. You’re just demonstrating your value.
There are acts that do it. Amos Lee started at open mics in Philly.
I know most venues have a list of press and radio partners that they might pass along to artists once they build a relationship with them. Does it make sense for an unknown band to promote to channels like that before hitting up their email list, friends of friends, etc.? What are the best practices to get into a new market if you only have a handful of friends, or no friends at all?
I think it’s really hard. It’s a long-term time and money investment. Press lists have some value. But I can tell you that in this market, the newspapers mean very little until you get to a certain level. Unless you find a really sympathetic writer, you won’t see much come out of that.
I hate to say this, but I find that some writers are much more interested in the pretty, young girls than the dudes with beards. The girl is a much more attractive package. Personally, I’m always happy to share my list with a band that will actually be proactive about using it. But I don’t think you’re going to get much out of it as an artist just starting out.
I try to impress on people that, in Philly, you’re going to have a much easier time getting into the blogosphere. We have a few really good music blogs that people pay attention to. And this is the same thing I impress upon our college students at Drexel in the music industry program: “If you’re going to be in the music industry, you better be aware of how to promote a concert in your own market. Who are your mouth pieces?”
Truthfully, I wouldn’t put a whole lot of emphasis on press until you have a promoter behind you that will tell a journalist, “You might want to look at this. It’s really cool.”
And what’s your take on artists using email lists, social media and online advertising? Is there anything that you’ve seen consistently work better than something else at promoting shows?
No. I really haven’t yet. I think in a lot of ways social media has hampered artists’ abilities to promote their shows. If you are an artist and are on Twitter and just using it to say, “Here are my tour dates,” I will personally be “unfollowing” you immediately. If you’re not getting a window into who the artist actually is – what their sense of humor and personality is, etc. – it’s not something I’m going to pay attention to.
I hear a lot of local bands say, “I put it on Facebook. I can’t believe nobody came.” There is still a lot more you can do, especially if you are a local artist. You can still go out and hang up posters, give away music, etc. And I don’t understand why more bands don’t tape themselves. In a lot of cases, I would rather hear an audience recording done through GarageBand of a band I like playing a club than something polished. I don’t need everything to be studio quality. If fans really like the music, they will want to hear it in whatever form it takes.
There’s a lot out there. There’s that guy “NYCTaper” that does this. He goes to shows, tapes and puts it up. And he gets a ton of downloads from it. You can do the same thing as an artist if you have a decent website. With some storage capability, you could give away a new live recording every day if you wanted. If your fans are really your fans, hearing the evolution of your music will get them really excited.
You don’t need a live album anymore necessarily. People are a lot more forgiving of sound quality now. Another example is a guy with a blog called Large Hearted Boy. He does a daily download, and it’s always something live he gets sent from different bands. It’s a way to hear a band live. And a lot of times, bands are better live than on albums.
And don’t get me wrong: I think you can still monetize music. Selling a song for a buck is not an unreasonable thing. I think when you give people a choice of twelve songs and basically ask them to pick one for a buck, it gets a little more confusing.
We’re paralyzed by choice as it is.
Yes. You need to make it simple for fans to get your music.
Something else artists miss the boat on is videos. You can buy a camera for $300 that is HD, edit your video in iMovie and have a great video to share. I listen to a lot of new music via video. Every video doesn’t need to be a work of art; it just has to be a vehicle for getting your music out there.
And it’s worth noting that YouTube is a bigger search engine than Bing or Yahoo.
Do you have any other parting advice for artists?
I think artists have to take financial responsibility for themselves. This really goes back to the $20,000 record example. If you’re going to use Kickstarter to raise $20,000 in order to make a record, it better be amazing. Otherwise, you could do the same thing for $6,000.
With touring, asking to play a room constantly will get annoying. Just go play the room. That $50 you might spend can only help your career.
David Choi is a singer, songwriter and producer. Originally from L.A., he grew up playing violin and piano and came into singing and songwriting when he was in high school. His music has been played on major channels like NBC, FOX, VH1, MTV, A&E, E!, Travel Channel, Style, PBS, Food Network and the Disney Channel. He has also worked on creative projects with companies like Kelloggs, Starburst, the American Cancer Society and Samsung. David was chosen in 2004 by David Bowie as the grand prize winner in his Mash-up contest. Shortly after, he won the USA Weekend Magazine John Lennon Songwriting Contest for teens and appeared in USA Weekend alongside Usher.
David Choi is an amazing example of a DIY artist that has used YouTube annotations, playlists and embedded links to connect to existing fans and continue to turn new people onto his music. In fact, on YouTube, he has amassed over 884,000 subscribers and has had over 95,000,000 YouTube upload video views. In 2008, he produced and released his first album, Only You, followed in 2010 by his second album By My Side.
I sat down and talked to David about his success in the music business as an artist and songwriter, why he has been so successful at marketing his music through YouTube and some advice he has for artists that want to connect with fans and build their careers.
Thanks so much for taking some time to talk to me, David. How did you get into the music business? And how did you build such a following using YouTube?
I grew up playing violin and piano. I was forced to play and actually hated it. But then I discovered songwriting in high school. This kid brought in a CD and said, “I created this music.” And it had never clicked in my mind before that you could actually create something from your own mind. That’s how it started. I started when I was 16 and started interning with music companies – the whole thing a lot of people in the industry do and have done. About six years ago, when I was 19, I got signed to Warner/Chapell as a staff writer, which I got through a workshop with ASCAP. I just put in my stuff and got selected out of 2,000 people throughout the United States along with about 15 other people. I got really lucky.
I started posting to YouTube in about 2006, and I kept posting. In my second year with Warner/Chapell, I posted a YouTube video just for fun. I wrote the song in about 15 minutes. It got featured on the home page somehow a couple weeks after I put it up. I wasn’t expecting anything, and I wasn’t even pursuing a career as an artist. I was strictly a songwriter and producer. About a week after my video was featured, it already had half a million views. And that’s kind of what got the ball rolling. I didn’t even start doing shows until 2009. Everything just started growing, and life took me in a little bit of a different direction than I intended. I’m still doing the producing thing but am focusing on the artist thing for now. In conjunction, I’ve been trying to do a lot of things with YouTube and other social media.
Let’s talk about that. Over the years, a lot of people have been featured on the home page of YouTube. And that didn’t wind up leading to a career, as it has for you. It seems like YouTube is where you’ve exploded. I notice you do really interesting things there with playlists and annotations, like the feature on your new album. Is there advice you can give people who want to market themselves on YouTube?
To be honest, I think a lot of the success I’m having through YouTube is because I started early. I’m not saying it’s too late for other people, because there are plenty of people that are rising to the top. There are some people who have only been on for a year and are just growing like crazy. YouTube definitely has changed from what it was when I first started. In 2006 it was more about, “Oh, wow. This person is making a video from their house. It’s so unpolished and unprofessional.” But the landscape on YouTube is changing, and now everyone is getting HD cameras. It will still work to not have polished videos, but it seems like the trend now is that everything is much more polished, because above all, YouTube is a video site. It was never really a music site; it was always a video site.
As far as advice for people that want to use YouTube well goes, I think consistency is very important. You have to be persistent.
How often do you post videos at this point?
I don’t really post as much as I would tell people to, because I’ve just been doing it for so long and am a little tired of it. I think I’ve been posting about one every 10 days or so. But I’ve been doing that for five years, so there have been periods of three months where I haven’t posted anything. That’s really bad. You should never do that. But I guess it’s a little more understandable for me since I’ve been doing it for such a long time.
I think if you’re just starting off, you should definitely do it every week. Another thing that seems to work is recording a cover of one of the more recent songs that came out and posting it, because people will be searching for that. It’s all about views and reaching an audience. And there are a lot of people searching for the new music that comes out. So, if they see your cover up there, they can listen to it and make their judgments about whether it’s good or bad. And if they like it, they might become a fan. They might check out some of your other covers or see if you have any originals. That’s the direction I took it. I did covers and hoped people would check out my originals.
I agree. I’ve found covers are a very good way to combat consumer fatigue. I don’t know about you, but when somebody says they’re a musician, I kind of roll my eyes. It’s gotten that bad sometimes. When somebody is bringing me something I’m somewhat familiar with, I’m more likely to give it a chance.
Yeah. That makes sense. Definitely.
How did you select the covers you chose?
I just looked at the top charts on iTunes and chose something in the Top 10. For me, personally, my selections were based on which songs I liked. And I really liked oldies, so I did a lot of covers of oldies. The label didn’t like that so much at the time.
Labels used to crack down a lot more on YouTube covers. Lately I haven’t heard of anyone getting into real trouble for it, other than a wrist slap – a take-down notice or an infringement notice.
Nobody has been sued yet on YouTube for doing a cover. But there have been channels that have been suspended. I actually got suspended before because I got three strikes for doing a cover of “What a Wonderful World,” which I did twice. Nowadays, there are things being worked out with labels and publishing companies. I’ve seen a little bit of progress happening. Really, you can’t stop it. People want to share music. And of course there are two sides to the story, and I completely understand both. There’s the business side, and then there’s the whole creative idea of being able to share music because it brings joy to people’s lives. My viewpoint is that we should find a solution and find a way to monetize everything.
And I think people are starting to chip away at it. For example, Sony emailed me, and they said they are getting into the YouTube thing too. The truth is, YouTube is very powerful; everyone is on it. But that’s a whole other topic.
I notice you’re also really big on collaboration. Has that contributed to getting a lot of fans and viewers?
I would say that collaborating is definitely another tool to expand your fan base. It’s a great way to get a new audience, in a way similar to doing covers. It’s about drawing a different crowd. Of course there are some politics involved. There are issues like, “How much am I going to promote this person, and how much are they going to promote me?” But aside from that, generally collaborations help mix their fans with yours and your fans with theirs, depending on how much you and the other artists promote.
You have to throw a little caution to the wind when getting into business with someone new and hope that they will at least provide an equal output of effort so you’re not just getting someone who is leeching off your brand equity.
Yeah. The way you worded it makes it sound like a business. And it kind of is. At the same time, most people started YouTube because it was something they did for fun or because they were bored. It didn’t used to be a business, and most people didn’t go into it thinking it was a business. Maybe they do now, because it’s a partner program. And now people get excited when they find out they could possibly make money from it. But when I was first getting into it in 2006, everyone that was also getting into it thought it was just all for fun. Now there’s actually a business model you can follow with it.
Do you get performance royalties checks from the stuff on YouTube? Do you see any income from the videos you post?
I guess it could be considered a performance royalty, although you don’t get paid per view. It’s similar to AdSense. You definitely don’t make as much money through these ads as you would through a commercial on TV. In terms of the amount of money you can make on your original content – it’s probably around $1,000 per million views.
If you think about TV, and if it was working the same way as YouTube, an ad that played on a TV show that gets 2 million viewers in a night would make $2,000. Mainstream media charges tens of thousands of dollars for commercial placements on a TV show that gets 2 million viewers, whereas on YouTube, you get $2,000. That’s why the industry is not happy. I don’t know if mainstream media is asking for too much money or if YouTube is undervaluing people’s content. That’s also another subject.
But is YouTube a good source of income? For some people it is. For musicians, I wouldn’t say it would be a main source. But it will help you get people to your shows and it will help drive album sales. And people share videos. So, it helps with exposure as well.
On the new release, you used links and annotations within video really well. Can you explain exactly what you did on that album promo?
It’s an interactive CD basically. I decided to do it because I know people are going to steal my music anyway. So, I made it available on YouTube with some voiceovers telling people what they were listening to and where they can get it. So, if they don’t want to hear a version with my voiceover, they can get the album on iTunes. It was basically a way for me to make it easy for people to listen to my music and for people like you to embed it in blogs. A musician that loves YouTube would love it if you embedded their videos. You’re just sharing it. It’s expected that the videos will be shared.
Do you have any parting words of advice for artists or songwriters?
If you’re a musician, and you don’t have videos on YouTube, you have to do it. It’s free advertising. If I look at myself as an example from a third person perspective, I think it’s funny that someone who had no ambition to be an artist and travel around the world performing, through the power of YouTube, was forced in that direction. I think that alone right there is enough reason for all people that want to do music to be on YouTube. People are using it already, it’s free advertising, and for me, it’s the biggest promotional tool – more than Facebook, Twitter, anything else.
This interview was originally published in August, 2011. You can check out David Choi’s latest album, Forever and Ever, along with new videos and more on the official David Choi official website or hear all his music on his YouTube channel. Below is his song “By My Side,” an example of how he uses annotations in his YouTube videos to promote his music.
Heather Fay is a Connecticut-based singer/songwriter. After going to school to become a filmmaker, she moved to L.A., where she began to work in TV and as a director, still writing and performing songs on the side. After moving back to the East Coast to start a family, she decided to pursue music full time. Heather’s music is a mix of Americana and folk/rock, and she writes of universal experiences and emotions. Her debut album Scrape Knee’d Girl is a warm collection of songs about themes surrounding heartbreak and hope. Most recently, Heather has gained recognition for being one of the first musicians to use the “Hangouts On Air” platform on Google+ to build a global audience for her music. In addition to performing Hangout concerts for her nearly 200,000 followers, She also hosts a series of open-mic Hangouts, which enable her to build an ever-growing network of musicians from around the world. Heather also plays shows in CT and New York City at venues including Rockwood Music Hall and the Living Room.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Heather about her journey towards becoming a professional musician, her views on marketing and promotion as a DIY artist and how she has successfully leveraged Google+ to grow a global fan base.
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, Heather. First of all, how did you decide to become a musician?
When it comes to music, I’m kind of a late bloomer. I was originally going to be a filmmaker. I went to film school and then went out to California and worked in TV and tried my hand at directing for a while.
One Christmas, while I was still in college, I asked for a guitar and got a little inexpensive Alvarez. I decided I was going to learn it. I signed up for a basic guitar class, went once and then left, because I just figured I could make pretty sounds on my own and didn’t really have time to take lessons. Of course, now I’m kicking myself for that, because I should know theory. But I could create pretty melodies and start writing a little bit, which was enough for me at the time.
When I was living out in L.A., I had friends who were doing coffee shop gigs. I saw what they were doing and thought, “I can write songs like this,” but never really pursued it. I kept writing throughout the years, but never with aspirations of becoming a rock star. It was just something I did as a creative outlet.
Then, years later, I actually shared a song with a friend of mine at work, and his reaction was really, really positive. He said he wanted to hear more and started spreading the word around the office that I was a songwriter. He was the one who first really put the idea into my head that I should do something with this and let my music out into the world.
I started playing a little bit around L.A., really just for friends. And then I found out I was pregnant, and my husband and I decided to move back East. For some reason, while I was pregnant with my daughter, my creativity was flowing like crazy. And I started putting songs up on MySpace and was contacted by a guy named Eric Lichter, who has a studio in Connecticut. And he invited me to come and work with him in his studio, where I did my very first real show as part of a concert series. And after I recorded my first album, I decided that maybe it was finally okay for me to start referring to myself as a musician.
What have your experiences been with marketing and promotion? It sounds like a majority of what you’ve been doing has been online based.
Social media and online platforms really lend themselves beautifully to someone who is a mother aside from being an artist. I’m not 20-years old and I can’t jump into a van with my band and tour the country for months on end to build an audience, one show at a time. Being a mom and a wife, I’m at a different stage in my life than a lot of musicians who are just coming into their own. I started by working with MySpace and submitting to Internet radio and doing some things with Facebook. I really am not great at Twitter, but I’ve been working on it. And there has definitely been an audience in these places, but it wasn’t until I started using Google+ that it really felt like the right timing, right people and the right phase in my career. That has been the platform for me, especially because of the Hangouts. The Hangouts allow me to play a show face to face.
How many people can see you play through that?
Google+ now has the “On Air” function, so I can hit a button, and I’m broadcasting to anyone on Google+ in the world who has the link and has my page. I think there are a few countries that don’t yet have the On Air capability. But I’m playing to people in Japan, Australia, Europe, India and all over. I can play a show while my kids are napping and reach a global audience.
A lot of people are on Google+. And many musicians have claimed that Google+ is not necessarily revolutionary. Why do you think this platform has worked so well for you?
There are a few reasons I think it’s worked well. First of all, people come to Google+ and put their content up, thinking that’s going to be enough. But the communities on Google+ are a little different from how they are on other social media platforms. Because they allow engagement and conversation, you really need to build relationships. So, you have to actually work at it. You have to have conversations with people and spend time in Hangouts meeting new people. You really have to put yourself out there and be involved and interested in what other people are doing. People are doing really incredible things on this platform.
So, I think the first thing you have to do to get the most out of Google+ is put yourself out there. You can’t just sign up like you might on Facebook, put your music up there, sit back and see what happens. The platform just doesn’t work that way.
And Google+ has recognized you as someone who is using it well.
I got on there right when it first started. And I was reluctant at first, because it just felt like one more thing I had to do on top of Facebook and everything else. But within the first week or two, I saw potential with the Hangouts and just really threw myself into it. As they were testing new features, I volunteered to help test them. And I think Google is looking for people who will use this platform in interesting ways, so being one of the first musicians on there, I had an advantage. I think they’ve really recognized how much it has been helping me.
In terms of numbers, I have 155,000 people, and growing in my circles. I know a lot of people say Google+ is a ghost town, but I am continuously reaching new fans from all over the world. It kind of blows my mind. A global audience is not something I ever thought I’d have.
Another thing I did when I first started using Hangouts is connect to other musicians in some meaningful ways. I really wanted to use Google+ to reach out to other musicians, because I just thought it would really be cool to start conversations with them and build a global network of other people like me. So, I started an “open-mic” hangout and invited other musicians so we could share our music. And I broadcast it, so I’m not only showcasing my music but other people’s music. It has built a real community, and I really would refer to that as the biggest mark I’ve made on the platform. I’ve played shows with musicians I’ve never met in person. And now I know that if I ever have the money to do a European or world tour, I have friends to gig swap with.
That’s another thing about being an independent musician: without this, I wouldn’t know where to start when looking for places to play around the world or musicians to play shows with if I were to tour. Now because of this, I have musician friends that can share booking information with me, and I can share my resources with them if they ever come to New York City.
Has your success on Google+ been based entirely on your participation in the different communities, or have you noticed specific things you need to do with details like profile design, etc. to get noticed?
In my opinion, the community scene is very visual. For example, there’s a huge photography and art community, so the whole platform is set up very visually. You open up your stream, and there are a lot of images going by. I’ve noticed that when you write something as an update, if you add a cool photo, people tend to be more interested than if you just put up text.
But also, content is incredibly important. I actually share who I am on Google+. On Facebook, I keep my identities very separate. There’s “HeatherFayMusic,” and then there’s my personal profile. But on Google+, I feel compelled to share who I am with total strangers. I’m of course cautious with what I present. But if I’m having a hard time juggling the kids and my music career on any given day, that is part of my journey as a musician. I am a mom and an artist, and sometimes that is hard. So, that might mean I post a morning photo of cereal spilled all over the kitchen with a comment about not having time to practice.
I think because of the Hangouts platform and that fact that you can build relationships so easily, it’s a really compelling experience. For instance, if I am having a real conversation with someone in Hangouts, they want to know who I am outside of just music. If I am being myself and sharing my story, people in my circles will be that much more invested in my success. I am able to build a stronger connection, because I can actually talk to people one-on-one and build a fan base with real interactions. And I think my fans really become invested in me.
That makes sense. A video is much more personal than a profile photo. Is there anything you can point to that you did on Google+ consistently that other musicians didn’t do that has made you successful?
As I mentioned before, I think the “open mic” Hangout was really the unique thing I did that didn’t exist before, but that other people really wanted. I think people enjoy sitting back and seeing who else is out there. I think that particular Hangout was what gave me a name on Google+.
Did that provide you with a good opportunity to market yourself to those other musicians’ fan bases?
I think so, and vice versa. Because, we would feature a musician as well on the open mic. So, we’d give someone more songs than everyone else one night and talk to them a little bit so everyone watching and participating could get to know them. There is a huge crossover of similar fans if you look at the circles of all the people that have participated in the open mics. And it makes you wonder if people feel like they have to ultimately choose their favorite artist – if there would be some sort of rivalry going on. But the community is really supportive of everyone, so there’s no need for anyone to play favorites. It’s really open to all different types of music.
To learn more about Heather Fay and listen to her music, you can visit her official website or check her out on Google+. You can also see her talk about her experiences using Hangouts On Air here. She is currently in the studio recording songs for her upcoming album, which will be released early 2013.
One of the most disturbing things I’ve learned through the process of working with artists to craft bios that, ideally, fully and compellingly capture the spirit of their music and the essence of them as unique individuals is that many of them – and I might even say most of them – have never truly asked a very important question: “Who am I?” And those that have asked that question are often coming up with an answer that is dead wrong … and then building their entire brand around the identity of an imaginary stranger they have created.
Of course, soul searching is not easy for anyone. Many people devote their entire lives pursuing philosophy and determining the reason for their existence and still come up short. And “Who am I?” is an especially bold, nerve-frazzling question for an artist, band or anyone in a creative field to ask, because the answer gets communicated through every recorded song, live performance, Facebook status message update, tweet, email, professional interaction with music industry professionals and personal interaction with fans. (No pressure!)
As an artist, you need to know what your unique brand/identity is and be able to express it in a confident, authentic and consistent voice in order to connect through your music, engage meaningfully with fans and have a successful, long-lasting career. Are you comfortable in your own artist skin? Here are five ideas to consider as you are developing a consistent artist brand, voice and identity.
Tell a story. “Storytelling” is a simultaneously over-hyped and under-utilized branding tool. In the world of business and branding, it is the way you focus the messages you send out around a central theme and create consistency. Your story gives people additional reasons beyond your music to invest in you emotionally and financially, which is why, as a musician, you need to have an interesting narrative that moves forward and grows with you as your career develops. The special story of your personal relationship to music and who you are artistically is concisely summed up by your mission statement, which you will be communicating through every aspect of your website, press pack, social media pages and other marketing pieces. (If you need a refresher course on the topic of your mission statement, revisit point #1 of the article “5 Tips about Writing Your Own Band Bio.”)
While it is certainly important that your story have a plot, even more important is that it has real conflict and tension and engages fans and potential fans emotionally. That doesn’t mean your story must be wrought with gripping drama, have a clear beginning, middle or end, or feature an arch nemesis (and if it does, you probably want to leave him/her out of your self-promotional process). But it should have a theme. For example, did you discover you wanted to become a professional musician while you were struggling through medical school/law school/clown college? Tap into that. How does your music reflect that moment of change, and how did that turning point in your story shape your journey as an artist? People make their biggest decisions with their heart (or “gut,” or whatever you’d like to call it) rather than with their head, so when you tap into others’ emotions with your story, you compel them to not only learn more about you but also spread the word to others about your music. It goes without saying that your story also needs to be authentic and credible, as people are more likely to respond to you when they feel you come from an ethical and honest place.
If the concept of telling your story terrifies you, the good news is, if you write and perform music, you are already a storyteller. Narrative is the way all of us make sense of the world around us and our experiences so we can create memories that piece together the diverse and ongoing events of our lives; so, even if you were not a “creator,” telling stories is innate to the human experience. Relax, let your story flow and you will unlock a huge opportunity to connect with your audience on a very deep level.
Keep all your media and marketing materials consistent. When putting together official websites, album covers, Facebook fan pages and press packs, many artists let their creativity take over and forget that one of the most important aspects of branding and voice is consistency. Throwing every idea you ever have and every photo you ever take out into the universe without considering how it will contribute to your career aspirations and business plan will just cause mass confusion. Sometimes consistency can feel repetitive and constrictive, especially when you’re repeating the same words, images, color schemes and ideas over and over again. But it is necessary. Business experts will tell you over and over again how in order to be perceived as professional, your Facebook fan page needs to match your website, which needs to match your Twitter account, ReverbNation or SoundCloud page or anywhere else you’re presenting yourself and your music online. And this is absolutely true.
But why? The way fans and others experience you needs to be consistent in order for them to understand who you are and feel comfortable in the space you’re creating for them. Whether fans are visiting your official website or holding your physical album in their hands, each page, piece of artwork and blurb needs to be clearly-identifiable as yours, with a specific look, feel and style that ties in directly to your identity and speaks to them in a way that only you can. You need to use the same fonts, colors, images, backgrounds, page layout and voice in everything you put out into the world, even newsletters, email and promotional posters for your gigs. When fans feel comfortable in the space you’ve created, they will be more likely to click through the pages of your website, listen to your music and watch your videos, without you having to pressure them.
Do you want to test out what you have? Gather up all your artist collateral – your press pack, website, album(s), Facebook page, Twitter profile, anything and everything – and ask yourself some questions: Are the visual design elements – colors, fonts, photos, images, etc. – the same across platforms and media? Is your mission statement clearly visible and the same in all places? Which messages and values is it conveying about your identity as an artist? Are these messages consistent with the type of artist you want to be? If you looked at all your artist materials, knowing nothing about yourself, would you be able to describe your fans? Does what you talk about on social media align with what you hope to communicate through your music and your own personal values?
Listen to feedback from your fans … but NEVER betray your authentic self. You have likely (at least partially) chosen a career as a performer because you want to entertain and move others through your music. Thus, it’s very hard to ask that “Who am I?” question without considering who others want you to be; a portion of your brand has to be shaped by your fans, because your growth as an artist partially depends on them.
I often hear artists say that they don’t understand or even like the type of people that like their music. While certainly we, as musicians sometimes have to embrace fans in unexpected places and follow the saying “beggars can’t be choosers” in order to make a living at our craft, we cannot abandon our core identity. If you don’t believe in what you are presenting – and if it doesn’t square with your principles and the type of music that truly inspires you – you’re not going to enjoy your job. If you don’t understand or openly dislike your fans – who are ready, willing and able to love you – your disdain will come through in your music, your marketing materials and your professional and personal interactions, and no one – not even those fans you don’t like – will want to invest energy or money in you. (And if any of what I have just said rings true to you, it’s time to take a step back and either make an effort to get to know and appreciate your fans or rethink your passion for music.)
So, certainly, listen to your fans and create music, products and experiences that speak directly to them. But always stay true to your mission statement and be the authentic “You”-brand you that you claim to be.
Silence the noise. You hear some version of this statement all the time: “You have to stand out above the noise in order to get your music heard.” But most people don’t understand what this statement really means and attempt to sing more loudly and more often than everyone else, believing that is what will get them ahead and set them apart from the hordes of talented professional musicians vying for attention in an intensely-packed market. They update their status messages 20 times per day, record a new song every week, send out lengthy newsletters, book three shows per week and indiscriminately email everyone they think might listen to them, cover their story or advance their careers.
While staying active and diligently working hard at your craft through practice, recording and live shows are certainly essential to developing as an artist, standing out and rising above the din is really more about subtraction than addition. Too much noise prevents people from hearing your true voice. We live in an environment where, thanks to the magic of technology, we are always being bombarded by information, even when we are in the comfort of our own homes. Remember that if you feel frantic and overwhelmed as you try to scream above all the other bands out there, your audience is experiencing the same – or even greater – system overload. Pare down your interactions, the language of your emails, the music and videos you release and get really selective about your communication; focus on writing and releasing the best and brightest songs and using the most succinct and meaningful language to promote yourself and communicate to fans. And remember to remove the noise from your own life as well every once in a while by seeking out some solitude, so you can hear your own thoughts, the sound of your own voice and plan your next move.
Know how and when to promote yourself. You may have an amazing band with even more amazing songs. But if no one knows about it, you are not going to have much success moving your career forward. A lot of musicians put their songs up online, sit back and wait for that glorious ‘90s-style moment of “discovery” when an A&R rep or a label head will appear out of the darkness of a tiny bar or coffee shop, tell them they are the future of music and save them from the stormy sea of promotion and business management, finally freeing up all their time to write and perform.
That kind of help is not coming. And even when some help comes, you have to educate yourself about PR and marketing so you can be your own life raft and reach out to others about booking shows, buying your music or becoming a champion for your band. Taking control of your own voice and becoming skilful at self promotion is the only way to build a sustainable career, even if you eventually seek or get support from outside forces. Remember that everything you do to promote yourself should stem from your mission statement (which of course stems from your relationship to your music), so get clear on that first. From there, you can steadily build out the other elements of your press kit, such as your bios, testimonials and press clips.
There is a very fine line between bragging and promoting, and you have to learn how to walk along it. Just remember, it is always better to push your brand than not. You will learn – often through trial, error and the responses you get – when you have gone too far … or not far enough.
Developing your own voice and brand as an artist is an on-going process that will continue for as long as you make music. But if you are fully present in each moment and aspect of your career, it will emerge naturally and help you navigate each challenge and triumph.
Julia L. Rogers is the Editor in Chief of MusicianCoaching.com. She is a classically-trained musician, published author, journalist and a contributing music writer at Bitch magazine. She also writes about business strategy, social media and emerging technology for corporate clients, including The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and American Express. She was previously a grant writer and development/marketing strategist for several New York City-based non-profit Arts organizations and has written business development materials and produced online media for a variety of small technology companies. As a songwriter, cellist, bassist, singer and pianist, Julia plays out regularly in New York City in various original projects. She has been working with MusicianCoaching.com since 2009.
News this past week stressed the seismic music industry shifts of the past decade as experts analyzed why the Yahoo! Music service is booming and explored Sony’s increase in market share and its implications on the hotly-contested EMI deal. Also, Metallica members talked about their struggles to stay afloat in the current business climate.
Yahoo! Music Thriving Under the Radar
Yahoo! Music is enjoying 27 million monthly U.S. visitors despite massive industry changes; yet, this success seems to be escaping the attention of artists and music executives, according to a recent article on Billboard.biz. While the company got some negative media coverage recently when it lost some major executives, Ken Fuchs, the president overseeing sports, entertainment, music and other verticals claimed the recent changes will not affect Yahoo! Music.
And to which factors does he attribute the success of the service? Fuchs stated that it is a combination of brand alignment, the availability of robust emerging artist services, mobile services and the company’s focus on breaking original ground: “[The recent staff change] certainly doesn’t affect our mission and our ability to continue to build on creating a great voice on breaking news and original programs.” He added that Yahoo! is “ramping up in video programming,” which includes interviews, video series and live and on-demand concerts.
In April, the site enjoyed 171 million unique visitors in the United States, declared a report from comScore. And Fuchs said that its popularity has been building excitement among music fans both on and offline, which has helped the service direct traffic around its diverse offerings, or, as Fuchs stated, “the water-cooler events that create conversation and create context for that conversation. It could be a big concert. It could be breaking news.”
Major artists account for a lot of the traffic. Whitney Houston’s funeral was among the top 10 live streaming events in Yahoo’s history. And the Clinton Foundation Concert, which saw performances by Lady Gaga, Bono and Usher had more than one million live streams at the time of broadcast and has garnered well over 20 million video streams and 13 million content interactions since it aired. The popularity of these events has brought brands like Nissan and Unilever into the fold to sponsor genre-specific major events with big artists.
However, Fuchs stressed the growing popularity of Yahoo! Music can also be good for emerging and independent artists, because the focus of the service is always on “music discovery:” “We try to do it in a fairly intimate way, through strong editorial, access to artists and, more and more, original programming and live performances that create a very unique canvas to perform and interact with their fan bases.”
Yahoo! has also introduced several products across its different platforms that could significantly add to the strength of its music service. One is the Yahoo! “Social Bar,” a social media interaction tool that has been downloaded by over 68 million and sees about 40 million monthly users. The “IntoNow” mobile app could also help Yahoo! better serve music fans and artists by informing Yahoo! of music listeners’ preferences. It tracks the shows people watch and delivers this information to Yahoo! so they can shape their programming. Fuchs said it works similarly to Shazam and SoundHound: “You can be watching a football game or CNN or a live concert and it will understand and pick up the signal regardless of what’s coming out of you TV and drop into an experience where you can get more information, you can interact with friends around that show … It allows the user to get deeper, especially around big events like concerts or sporting events or the Grammys.”
Above all, Fuchs continues to hope that Yahoo! Music will continue to grow by giving consumers what they want musically: “We believe in being able to extend our experiences across screens and scale. So whether it’s a concert with the National and Bob Wier that’s fully available across all screens, or it’s the Clinton concert or breaing news, we don’t really care where you’re accessing it from, we want you to be able to access it.”
Sony vs. Universal: Who Will Win the War for Top Tracks?
Although the spotlight is currently on the EMI deal, with many industry analysts and critics scrutinizing the fairness of Sony Entertainment’s and Universal Music Group (UMG)’s takeovers of two divisions, no one seemed to notice Billboard.biz’s report that Sony overtook Universal in U.S. market-share rankings over a month ago until this past week. And the experts at Billboard stated this is because those in the music industry fretting over the potential deal might be picking the wrong battle.
Sony surpassed UMG in year-to-date album market share including track equivalents in the first week in March. It also held the #1 spot during the month, only relinquishing control in the final week of the first quarter, ending April 1. Recent figures from Nielsen SoundScan reported that UMG’s market share for music albums is 30.35 percent, vs. Sony’s 29.14 percent, which contradicted numbers from SounScan, which reported the two companies were even closer, at 29.98 and 29.36 percent, respectively.
Despite the on-going battle for market share between the two major labels, critics continue to focus on the EMI merger, which still has an uncertain outcome, as no final decisions have yet been made by trade commissions. They have failed to notice the race between Sony and UMG for top spots on the charts, which many feel could provide important insights into the future of the label system.
Billboard stated that whether Sony or UMG will ultimately grab more market share likely depends on album release schedules. Many analysts are banking on Adam Lambert’s “Tresspassing” to put Sony over the top, even though that album has not had as many weekly scans as other #1s before it. Sony has some big releases coming up, including albums from One Direction, Usher, Kenny Chesney and R. Kelly. And these releases, on paper, look stronger than the releases on the UMG side, who will only have Justin Bieber’s “Believe” and Maroon 5’s “Overexposed,” both going on sale in June.
However, analysts at Billboard noted that which company wins the market share for albums has become less of a focus than which has put out the most popular individual tracks. And a look at the popularity of albums has seen Sony on top almost every single week this year so far. But UMG has been the winner when it comes to individual tracks through this past week: 32.66 percent vs. Sony’s 25.89 percent. If Sony wants to win the war, it will have to keep a steady schedule of strong individual track releases.
Metallica: Touring to Stay Afloat
The dissolution of the former business models within the music industry as it makes way for new income streams has seen even big bands like Metallica working harder for a buck, according to an article in Rolling Stone, reported by Classic Rock magazine.
Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett stated that, while the band used to be able to take a few years off after a big album release and accompanying tour, thanks to dwindling music sales and royalties, members now have to be on tour almost constantly to stay afloat: “The cycles of taking two years off don’t exist anymore. We were able to do that because we had record royalties coming In consistently. Now you put out an album and you have a windfall maybe once or twice. But it’s not the way it used to be – a cheque every three months.”
He said that he believes Metallica and other big and small artists have had to get more creative than ever in the past few years when determining different income streams that will pay for future projects and necessary growth as musicians. All Metallica’s recent merchandise sales on the road together paid for their new recording studio. And even though Hammett and his band mates calculated that they will likely only break even at the big Orion Music Festival in June, they are optimistic about future opportunities: “We basically take funds from wherever we can. This is a real luxury, but great things come out of this.”
MING (a.k.a. Aaron Albano) is a New York City-based DJ, producer, remixer and owner of Hood Famous Music, Habitat Music and co-owner of Afire Music. Starting at the age of nine, he trained as a classical and jazz guitarist and played in hair metal bands throughout high school. Because of his passion for production and interest in building a solid career in the music industry, he decided to pursue a degree in electrical engineering with a focus on audio at the University of Miami. While in college, he continued to fine-tune his production and DJ’ing skills and upon graduation, looking for a way to fund the development of his home studio, MING found work in the burgeoning Internet industry. During this time, MING met renowned musician and DJ FS and together they formed the duo Ming+FS, a collaboration which went onto produce four studio albums and over 30 singles. Eventually, he founded the record label Hood Famous Music. As an artist, MING is managed by Stephanie Lafera at Atom Empire, which counts huge artists such as Lady Gaga among its talent.
MING talked to me about his multi-faceted experience in the music business and delivered some “sound” advice for artists looking to market themselves, hone their craft, grow their fan bases, achieve balance and build long-lasting careers.
How did you first get into the music industry?
I have basically been involved in music since I was nine. I was a classically- and jazz-trained guitar player. I always wanted to be in the music business. I played in an all-star hair metal band coming out of high school and thought I was going to make it big. That’s when hair metal got killed by grunge.
My parents were great, you know, those Jewish parents from the suburbs who wanted me to have something to fall back on. And I was really good at math and science and interested in designing recording consoles. So, I went to school at the University of Miami for electrical engineering with an emphasis in audio. Because electrical engineering is a very serious course of study, it really gave me the view that everything in life has a process. And it’s not just about the dream, rather about whether or not you can live the reality of the dream. For example, if you want to build websites, you learn how to build websites. You don’t just talk about building them. You get the books, learn the code, etc. It was the same sort of thing for me when it came to production.
When I graduated, I moved back to New York and wanted to focus on production. The money I was making money in the Internet business went right into my home studio. I was playing in a bunch of different bands when I met Fred – FS – through some other friends and eventually joined his band, Millis. I heard some of the hip hop he was producing on the side, and said, “Wow. This sounds like British trip hop. We should make some music together. I bet I can get this signed.” So, we made a bunch of tracks and totally by chance, I found myself meeting with a label to talk about working on their website (this was in the early days of the Web). To show themlabel that I understood the music they were doing, I played them some of the music Fred and I had been producing, and they signed it on the spot. I was really just trying to get the Web gig. But that was the start of our electronic music career.
From there, we did a bunch of singles deals. That first project was with Brooklyn Music Limited (BML). We did some stuff for Ubiquity in San Francisco, then a few singles for Om Records which led to a three-album deal.
People often talk about the deals they do. And our deal with Om was probably really bad. This is a point that I try to drive home to people: Putting out your own record is all fine and good if you understand the business – if you have your social marketing down, have good networks and a good fan base, if you understand business and can manage money. You know what it’s like to run a record label, a touring business and a merch business. There’s a lot to understand. And most young musicians at 22 do not know how to do all that. They play to 50 people in their home town, have 100 Twitter followers, 50 people following them on Facebook and think people know who they are. From a global business perspective, you’re basically invisible at that point. So, if you look at doing deals with labels – be they good or bad – as promotion, you get the marketing power that a label has behind you. You may do a record and get absolutely nothing for it, or get stuck in a deal where you do two or three records basically for free. But if you gain the followers and fans and are able to have a live touring career, then you actually have a real career.
I’m always telling young musicians that it’s not enough to make your own record and put it out on your own label. You haven’t been put through the system, and you haven’t been validated by fans or the other people who are going to help sell your records. You’re an army of one. Some of these deals you do in the beginning won’t be good. Make sure the deals you do in the beginning are short term or limited to a certain number of years. But it’s valuable to do records on larger labels and have other people validate your music.
How many deals did you wind up doing with Ming+FS?
We had a lot of singles deals and that three-album deal with Om. Then, we had a one-album deal with Spun Records, which is defunct. So, we did a total of four full-length albums, probably about 20-30 12” records and lots of remixing for other labels. Since then, I’ve done a ton of stuff.
So, you did all that stuff as Ming+FS, and now you have a music licensing company, your own label and are managed by the same management company as Lady Gaga. All of that is pretty phenomenal.
Then, of course, you’re also a DJ. I don’t get to talk to DJs that often, and I’m kind of an outsider when it comes to electronic music. Can you speak a little bit about what it’s taken for you to become a regularly-working DJ?
When I started DJ’ing in college, I didn’t have any of my production equipment. I sold all my production equipment when I went off to school. And I started DJ’ing because I wanted to get back into it. The electronic music community was really tight, and there was no such thing as being a touring DJ. You played your local parties, traded mixtapes. There were a few people like Josh Wink, Frankie Bones, Adam X, Heather Heart who were big in the early days. But you never saw yourself as being a famous DJ in the same way you would see yourself as being a famous rock star. So, it was really for the love of the music. And when you were making electronic music back in those days, you didn’t really bring all your gear out with you. You played the records you made to support the music you were making.
I think the distinction for me is that there are some DJs that just play records – other people’s music – to be a DJ. And that’s really never what I was about. I was always a producer first and playing other records that helped support the music that I was making, so when I put out music, I could surround my music with other records that would help rock a party and keep people interested in dancing. Being a DJ for me was always about promoting my own music.
To make a living being a DJ, you start out hand to mouth. You play any local party you can, throw your own parties, do promotion so you can open up for other DJs. You go on the road taking the terrible slot so a couple years later, you have a following and can actually make money being a DJ. I think this goes for any part of the music world: You have to really be willing to put it all on the line.
I always ask young musicians, “If I gave you $50,000 today, would you put that $50,000 into what you’re doing? Would you put it behind the record we just made? Would you put it into a publicist? What would you do with that money?” Often people say, “I’d buy myself a house” or something like that. My answer to that is, “Well, then, you haven’t made good music yet.” It’s not until you’re willing to put the money behind your music that other people will put money behind your music.
That’s the thing about the music business: You have to spend a lot of money in order to make money.
There’s no doubt about that.
As a guy who played in hair metal bands – which by the way is a new revelation for me about you – how is promotion of that kind of thing different from the electronic scene? You just said if you’re an aspiring DJ, you should play any way and anywhere you can and do a lot of promotion and pound the pavement.
I don’t think it’s that much different. I think the difference for me, being a New Yorker, is that I’ll play New York a lot less than I’ll play other places. Being local to New York can make it overly convenient for promoters not to book you or pay you. And if you want to get paid, it’s better to go somewhere else and become a named person so people want to pay you for what you did.
In the first half of my Ming+FS career, New York promoters would rarely want to book or pay us. It wasn’t until we broke nationally that all those same guys were trying to cut deals to get better rates for us in New York City. When you’re a New York DJ playing across the country, it means something. Being from New York City carries a lot of weight when you’re playing in Iowa. I really exploited my locale and the rest of the country’s perception of New York City as a hot spot. No one from New York cares if you’re from Ohio and come to New York to play a show: “Yo, Ohio hip hop.” Nobody cares. You’re fooling yourself if you think you’re going to bring Iowa’s next rap star to New York City. The only way you’re going to break as that person is to become big in your area so people can’t ignore you anymore. Certain areas just don’t have credibility. If you’re doing hip hop and are from Atlanta, L.A., New York or Chicago there’s cachet there.
I think people need to be honest about what it is they’re bringing with them, who they are as a musician and what their marketable aspects are – what they bring to the table.
The other thing about being a DJ that’s really important and a little different from being in a rock band is, when you’re in a rock band playing only your original music, you’re locked into playing the music that you’ve written and the songs you may cover. A rock band might play a couple covers to extend their repertoire and help the audiences see a connection between the bands they’re covering and their own music. If you’re Jet, you might do a David Bowie cover, because you want people to see your band in that artistic light. Or, if you’re Green Day and want everyone to know that you were influenced by the Sex Pistols, you do a Sex Pistols cover.
In the dance community, you play your tracks, but you have to do a lot of other people’s music. And you also have to play music that makes people have a good time, because they’re not just there to see you. It’s a bi-directional community. As a DJ you can’t say, “I’m on stage and I’m a god, so everybody look at me.” It’s more, “I’m on stage providing an opportunity for people to have a really good time.” And every once in a while, I have connection points with the crowd through my own songs or other big songs I’m playing. And I share those points with the crowd, saying, “We’re doing this together.” I learned how to read the crowd and say, “Oh, this song didn’t work for these people. Maybe I should go this other direction.” I’m reading the crowd constantly and trying to figure out where the particular sweet point is, so I can bring them up to a certain level and then bring them back down again. And I don’t want to wear people out, so I can’t keep playing the same types of songs over and over again. I have to keep it diverse enough so people’s ears get a sonic break from each track I play. It’s like conducting a large audience of people that are also the musicians, whether they know it or not.
Rock bands could probably take a cue from that if they had the repertoire to be that flexible.
I think really good rock bands do do that. You might laugh at this, but there is a similarity between a hair metal band and a DJ. The hair metal bands love the big, in-your face tunes. And then for a hair metal band, the ballad is like a DJ putting on a track that brings the energy down. It gives their audience a moment to breathe. It gives someone’s girlfriend a moment to relate to a song, so both men and women can feel connected to what you’re doing. So, a good band can rock out, but also be sensitive. And in a lot of ways, that dichotomy is also sort of like what you find on country records.
That’s what a DJ needs to do: rock hard, but also play a tune that will clear the dance floor and not worry they’re clearing the dance floor. They need to give people a moment to breathe, get a drink and talk to each other. And then they need to be able to bring everyone back out and reconnect. And if you’re skilled enough to do that, you’ll be able to be have a career as a DJ. I’ve been a professional DJ since ’96, so it’s been almost 16 years.
Most people don’t even get to the point in music where they say, “We broke national.” So, I can’t imagine you didn’t have some idea of where you were in the marketplace. During your career as a producer, DJ, and everything else you’ve done, were there specific branding decisions above and beyond which music you played, who you played with and where you played?
I managed Ming+FS for about half the time we were together, before we had a manager. I always had an aesthetic and a concept for Ming+FS: I knew if I pushed it the right way, we would give the media something to play with. For us, it was the combination of hip hop and drum and bass. Nobody in America was really doing those two things at once. We were the first artists to be able to take the double-time feel of drum and bass – which was the new and exciting art form – and hip hop – which we both had grown up with and fuse those two things together.
And this was a time when magazines were still king. It wasn’t blogs, etc. We really gave the media something to work with in terms of having a point of view. I was very political and spoke out about a lot of stuff. I did most of our interviews, so I always really thought ahead of time about my talking points for interviews. I always tried to give much more than what was in our bio that our publicist had sent.
Also, we tried to connect with the areas we were going to and not just compare every place we had been to the next place. Each place was special. For example, Lawrence, Kansas was the first city to have a gay mayor. So, there was a really interesting pocket of culture in a city that most people in New York didn’t identify with as being culturally significant.
The first place we broke in the States was Seattle. We got to Seattle, and it was like we were rock stars. From Seattle, we grew it to Portland, then San Francisco. Being from New York and on a San Francisco-based label helped greatly, because we were covering the East coast, and they were covering the West coast.
Then, we worked the mid-states. We did everything from raves, to clubs, hip hop venues, tours – you name it. We did stickers and a couple of mixtapes that ended up being classic mixtapes for the time. I got other companies to give us money to sponsor those mixtapes and put their branding on it. We got 10,000 mixtapes made by the clothing label 33 Degrees. At that time, copying CDs was big. So, we put out 30,000-40,000 copies of our CDs. They got copied again and again, and hundreds of thousands of CDs later, we were national.
We had our own label to fill in releases, so we would take boxes of records and mixtapes and throw them into the crowd in the middle of a show. We gave away so much free stuff. And I learned that from being a promoter. If you give something to someone for free when they’re walking in the door, the show will already have a good vibe to it. We took that mentality with Ming+FS as well.
From a visual branding standpoint, we had a look to match our sound. We were careful about the artwork we selected.
We also had a street team that we built in every town where we toured. We would give the street team free product. We would give them first look at the shows and reduced admission. We did all kinds of stuff.
You’re back out as an artist now. What is your take on marketing and promotion in the modern market now that the landscape has changed?
I’m speaking with blogs on a regular basis. I do a ton of promotion on several social media platforms. I put out releases on my label to mix with those I’m putting out on other labels, so I constantly have new products coming out. I have new singles all the time. The old format was to put out full albums, but I think that format is dead for a while. So, I’m putting out singles and EPs and plan to stay focused on that for the next few years until I see we’ve reached a critical mass where people want a full body of work from me again.
I’m also doing a lot of remixing for other artists. Some of it’s paid and some of it’s free. I’m doing a podcast on a monthly basis and do live video streams from my studio. I was writing for Electronic Musician magazine for a while doing tech blog pieces and also a video blog on different production techniques.
I’m out doing tour dates again and opening up for other artists. I’m doing local dates and national dates. I recently played for 4,000 people opening up for Bass Nectar followed by a show in Brooklyn for 400 people.
And how does social media and your website play into your strategy?
I have 24k+ people following my MING page on Facebook and am also in the process of building my Twitter presence. I do a lot of music promotion through SoundCloud. And we have a mailing list where we send out music to blogs for free and a contest I use Headliner.fm a little bit. I basically dabble in all sorts of social media.
What I try to do is maintain my message and let people discover me, but also talk about the music that turns me on. I found out that with social media, when you give away things for free but also talk about other bands and musicians, you help turn the camera back around onto you.
It sounds like you’ve positioned yourself not only as an artist, but also as a tastemaker.
Do you have any other parting words of advice for people who want to have a successful career in production, DJ’ing, or both?
I think they’re separate. But, as with anything, you always need to be working to get better at your craft. Try to work with as many people as possible. Have a point of view and a unique sound. Bring something new to the table.
And learn how to collaborate. Just because you can do everything by yourself now doesn’t mean you should. I still collaborate with a ton of people. If I do work with another band, I’m getting access to their audience. This audience is going to find out who I am because that artist is going to mention what I’ve done with them. The more people you can collaborate with, the better you will be as a musician, and the larger your fan base will be.
The other thing is to be honest with the music you’re making. It’s okay to make music that is not successful. But if you want to make music that you’re going to make your money from, you have to find the line between art and commerce and be able to ride that line comfortably. You have to be able to carve out a career where you’re making money from the art that you make. Otherwise, you can call yourself a professional musician, but you’re really just a hobbyist with an addiction.
The following article is a guest post by Julia L. Rogers. Julia helps me behind the scenes at MusicianCoaching.com. She is a classically-trained musician, a published author and a contributing music writer at Bitch magazine. Julia plays out regularly in New York City in various original projects. She also writes about business strategy, social media and emerging technology for corporate clients ranging from the Huffington Post to American Express (and writes artist and band bios!).
As an artist or band, you’re going to be repeatedly forced to explain yourself. And if you are incapable of communicating – in words – who you are, what you sound like and why someone should care, you’re not going to go very far. In short, you’re going to need to write a bio.
The most important thing to remember is that your artist bio is not a rambling autobiography or the introduction to your future memoirs: Your bio is a professional sales tool. But many new or emerging DIY artists cannot necessarily afford to pay a high-quality professional bio writer and are tasked with writing their own. When you sit down to write your bio, you need to know that it is just a small part of a much bigger picture: your marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy must communicate what you have to offer to your fans. And you need to show your value in terms your fans can understand.
If you want to be taken seriously as an artist, you have to have promotional material. And your bio is one of the most critical components – if not the most critical component of your press kit. (Sorry, but no one cares about your music if you can’t introduce yourself properly.) Your bio represents your first opportunity to spark interest in someone who will be a champion for your music. Besides communicating essential information about you, a well-written bio portrays you as a professional that has some understanding of the business you’re in – music. And when you take some time to thoughtfully craft it, you convey to your fans, to press, media and labels that you are serious about making music your career.
The following are some tips for writing a riveting bio that will make people want embrace you and your music.
- Clearly define your mission statement. Before you even think about writing a bio, you have to have a firm grasp of your story and of what your music sounds like. This concise description of your music and who you are as an artist or band should not exceed a couple sentences; in fact, some of the most effective band mission statements are phrases of about 5-10 words. Think about your mission statement the same way you’d think about an “elevator pitch” in the business world (and as a serious artist, your career isa business!) – how you would describe your band if you got into an elevator with someone who asked, “What’s your band like?” or “What kind of music do you play?” and had only a few-floors’ ride to explain yourself.If you don’t already have a mission statement, and the prospect of summing yourself up briefly terrifies you, think about what your devoted fans might say about your music. Who do you sound like? Which qualities set you apart from other bands within your genre? You can even enlist the help of your fans with a fun survey via email that asks them to describe you and what your music means to them. Because the best band bios highlight a band’s individuality in a language that speaks directly to fans and potential fans, having a mission statement that provides an unobscured view into what others say about you and the music you create – and not just into your own perception of why others should love your music – will most effectively speak to those that read your bio. If you use this statement as a powerful intro, you’ll have a better chance of captivating others and propelling them into the subsequent sentences and paragraphs.
- Skip birth and childhood. Unless you are currently a child prodigy, if the “history” / “experience” section of your bio starts with any version of “I was born …” and goes on to include, “Then I played ‘Earthquake McGoon’ in the Louis Pasteur Elementary School production of Lil’ Abner …” you must regroup. Even if you believe to your core that your music career was launched when you played a singing tomato in your first-grade class’ play about the food groups, stick to relaying experience that directly relates to your current band / solo project and the type of music you play. Additionally, if you are in the process of writing your bio and find yourself having to type some version of the sentence, “Unfortunately, the band split due to artistic differences, and she left to pursue other projects” one or more times, you should probably backtrack and edit yourself.Another major sign of an amateur-circuit band bio is that it contains a series of mini bios that relay each band member’s age, influences, years of experience, former bands, etc. Make sure your audience knows the names and key roles of each of your band members and stop there. You’re not trying to sell your band on the talents of pieces of the whole.
- Highlight personal stories and anecdotes. While your band bio does need to be professional, it also needs to tell an interesting story. If you look at a random sample of band and artist bios on Facebook, you’ll notice that most of them are dull, predictable and follow a standard formula. They will likely include the following statements in some form: “The Nantucket F**kers will rock you as you have never been rocked before;” “Candy Kandy has loved to sing from a very young age;” “The members of Bobbi Kennedy and the Politicians met in high school and have been playing together ever since.” (Fake band names have been created to protect thousands of guilty parties, and apologies to any real persons accidentally named.) Musically-inclined people meet and end up playing together all the time, so if that is the most revolutionary event in your band’s saga, you need to realize that it’s already been played out thousands of times. Most band “meet cutes” are not very interesting to anyone outside the band, and most “how he/she got started” artist stories would sound exactly the same devoid of personal, unique and potentially funny details.Start your bio with your mission statement – your opportunity to tell your audience what to expect and enrapture them enough to get them to keep reading – and then make sure all the particulars that follow about your history and playing experience could not belong to anyone but you. There are a lot of talented, hard-working musicians out there; thus, without traces of your inimitable personality, your musical aptitude and your many years of study and practice alone are not necessarily going to make for an extraordinary narrative.
- Use your long-form bio sparingly. Your long-form (long) bio is best kept to no more than 750 words. (And it really should be about 500 words.) Your short-form (short) bio should be about 250 words. As a rule of thumb, your short bio is just your long bio stripped of a detailed history, focusing heavily on your mission statement and current projects like recently-released music, collaborations, etc. When you’re determining where to use each bio on your website, social media pages, and in your press and promotional materials, keep in mind that people in general have very short attention spans. You should definitely include both your short and your long bio (in different but inter-linked places) on your official website. But most of the time, your short bio will suffice for your social media pages and even when you’re sending out music and information to the press (especially unsolicited). Those that want more from you will ask, and then you can send them the long bio. Plus, one of the purposes of your Facebook page and other social medial pages is to redirect fans to your website, where they will be able to read the finer points about you and your music, merch, etc.
- Plan to update all your bios often. When you are an active, engaged artist your story is dynamic and always unfolding. And your band bio is a way to inform others what is happening now. Thus, you need to keep your short and long bios up to date. If you experience a big milestone – if you land a big show, get management, book a tour, sign on with a label or celebrate any other major success – you need to revise your bio immediately. However, you should be revisiting your bio at least once per month, even if all that happened to you was that everyone showed up to rehearsal on time and none of you got the swine flu that was going around. A well-crafted bio is a forward-looking document that reflects where you are now and your plans for the immediate future. If you don’t update it frequently, others will think you’ve become inactive.
Above all, remember that your band bio needs to have a positive tone, be straightforwardly enlightening and filled with positive comments – and even second-party quotes — about you. The narrative has to be interesting enough to get the reader to not just listen to your music, but take action and a vested interest in your success.