Should You Pay For Plays and Views?

music-promotion

If you are an independent artist, chances are you’ve gotten hit with every promotion scheme out there. You got all excited when you saw a message in your inbox that said, “We want to help promote your music” or something to the effect of, they can get you thousands or millions of new fans..plays…views. Is this a good idea? Yes and No.

First of all, you need to select who you use very carefully. Google the company or person, read reviews, contact other artists they say they’ve promoted for and ask them if they felt the service was worth the money. It is so easy to get sucked into spending hundreds a month without even realizing it. Seems like nothing when you spend $25 here and there, but it sure adds up!

The downside of this is it gives you a false idea of how many true fans you have. Many of them are paid by the company to view your video or play your song for so many seconds or minutes and more to leave a comment. You might end up with one or two real fans from the thousands that come and listen and say great things about you. More likely, they will just rush through it and never come back. Not only that, but many of these sites use bots and fake plays to fulfill the number guarantee! You can tell if they are using bots or fakes by the fact that they guarantee a concrete number of plays. They can’t possibly do that! ditto for likes and views. So don’t expect that if you have millions of ‘fans’ or views on YouTube that you are going to sell out a show or even sell more than a handful of records. The numbers just don’t add up. The other negative to this is that sometimes you give people in the industry a false idea of how many fans you actually have. So great, you look great, seem popular..they decide to sign you to management or a record deal for the song that seems so very popular on your YouTube page. Then they get you signed and they find out they can’t fill a hall because those fans were not real fans, they were bought and paid for. So, do you think they will come to a show without being paid? Not likely. Or they remix your song and put it on iTunes for sale and they sell a few hundred at best. You are then going to be shelved. Period. I believe this is exactly what happen to Marie Digby.

My advice would be, if you are going to put the money into promotion, you need to follow it up with live shows and you need to work your pages and spend money submitting things on sites like Taxi.com, Reverberation.com and MusicXray.com. These are all reputable sites that actually have obtained some good opportunities for artists and songwriters. But don’t simply pay for plays and views and then sit back gloating at the numbers. They truly mean almost nothing! These companies that do this are a dime a dozen. Not saying they are all bad, just not a real value if you do not use it as just a small part of your promotion. If you want to beef it up a bit by using one of these services that’s fine just don’t really expect it to launch you and there are probably much better things that you can spend your money on as a new artist!

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Looking For a Singer

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I am looking for a young singer, between the ages of 13 and 18 who would like an opportunity to be lead singer for an amazingly talented 13 year old guitarist. If you, or anyone you know is interested, please reply here. Must be able to perform live, must be willing to travel between the US and the UK. We will consider male or female at this point. Video audition is necessary. If we are interested, you will receive further instructions.

This opportunity is brought to you by Myself in U.S. (New York and Cleveland),  and Darren Sims of Daz’s Rock 4 Charity, UK

This could be a great chance for some great exposure throughout the UK and the US! If under 18, parent or guardian must be willing to travel with you. You will be responsible for travel and hotel expenses. This is about exposure, not money at this point. But then, on the other hand, we are charging nothing for giving you this help and exposure. Typical artist development/managers will have you sign a contract stating that you will give them 20% of any future monies you make from this exposure. We are not doing that at this point. We happen to have an extremely talented guitarist that we are developing and would like to add a singer. If it is a good fit and the audiences respond well, we then talk about adding you to the development roster. We will then look for other band members and get very serious about this. We have existing gigs already lined up in the UK…with US to follow. We can also work around your schedule if you are good enough, by way of adding other dates that work for you.

Once you are accepted, we will have to get both of you together to see how the chemistry is between you and if you are a good fit together…from there, we are off and running!

Please email me at: MLSArtistDevelopment@gmail.com with your interest. You can also submit video auditions to this email.

Good luck!

 

Don’t Be A Song Hoarder

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Let me give you a scenario. You get picked up by a legit music exec. They tell you they love this one song you wrote, it’s a definite hit. They want to sign you or manage you based on that song. Then they tell you that they want 20% of the writing royalties, and a good portion of the publishing rights, etc etc..you start thinking…’hmmm the song is a hit, they said so! Why should I give it to them and let them take a big percentage of MY work? I will sell it myself and keep all the money.’ Or, ‘ My songs are too good to give away any of it, I want to keep it all. You pay me….I wrote it, why should you get writing credit and publishing royalties, you will make more than I will!’  Sound familiar?

This is one of the reasons that some very talented songwriters miss out on one of the best opportunities of their lives. Do you think you can sell your song on iTunes or any other site and make what you could with major funding behind you? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the Indie movement, but the reality is, very few can sell enough on their own. That’s why the Indie labels are thriving! Indie or Major, it’s still a label and it still has the funding that you don’t. It takes LOTS of money to make a song sell big, no matter how good the song is. It takes huge amounts of advertising and professional PR work. There is simply no way you can sell your songs in the volume that a label or company can. That is fact. There are always exceptions to every rule though, so you could chance that you might be that exception and hold onto that song. Chances are, you will be sitting with that hit on your computer for the next ten years, never having it realize its full potential. This is what A&R complain about with artists, one of their biggest mistakes. Don’t hoard those songs. Giving away 30% of multi millions is a lot better than  keeping 100% of a few hundred. Get it? If it’s a legitimate source that has strong interest in your song, give up the percentages of your rights! It’s the difference between selling and not selling. Those words are straight out of the mouth of some very well known record execs. I’m giving you important, useful information here. Don’t be stingy and afraid of giving up some of your rights if you really want to see that song become the hit you know it is. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from succeeding. Do your research and use some common sense. Also, get a great entertainment attorney..but that’s another story for another time. Wrote those songs to sell them, not to hoard them. No one will know about them if you won’t let them get out there big, and they won’t get out there big if you won’t give the publishing rights up. It’s that simple. 
Why do you think labels are so picky on who they choose to put their money into? Or what songs they pick to push? Because it takes A LOT OF MONEY to get a song going, no matter how great a song it is. So, unless you have a million of your own money to publicize your song and pay for radio plays and buy your way up the charts, well..your song will go nowhere beyond a few hundred or thousand sales online. Whether you know it or not..the more you pay, the more your song gets spun on radio. It’s not as simple as a few people liking it and playing it 20 times a day. That’s not how it works at all (again, another topic for another day)..but just remember, giving up some rights to your songs is the best thing you can do for yourself, your career and your music. 

Join ASCAP or BMI

clef.jpgIf you are writing or co-writing your own songs, and have at least one available to the public. Whether you’ve performed them on CD or online on a YouTube video , sold them or had them played on radio or have a sheet music available, you are eligible to join ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) or BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.). Which company you choose is a personal choice. I would recommend researching the benefits of both before you choosing. You can only belong to one society at a time. I believe with BMI you must sign a 2 year contract. I would check that. They both have their pros and cons.

The importance of belonging to one of these groups is that it is the only way you can be sure you will be PAID if your music gets published, sold and played. These companies keep track of your copyrighted material and collect your royalties for you. They will give you reports of how many copies were sold or how many times your song has been played on the radio, and they issue you a check for your work. ASCAP and BMI are the only two highly recognized groups out there that do this, so don’t fall for any other company. Do your research!  There is a one time application fee with ASCAP of $50.oo but they do not charge any annual dues or fees.

As an example of what these performing right companies do for you, I am attaching a link to the BMI Contract here http://www.bmi.com/forms/affiliation/bmi_writer_kit.pdf I am also including links to both ASCAP and BMI pages where you can join:

http://www.ascap.com/join/

http://www.bmi.com/join

Again, I highly recommend researching both to see which society is a better fit for you and what you are doing.

If you haven’t gotten radio play on Public Broadcasting yet and haven’t sold any songs to publishing companies or had your songs purchased for commercials, TV, etc…there are still some online radio stations that work with ASCAP and BMI and pay artist royalties for spinning your songs. Some will charge YOU for the exposure..I don’t like those companies. Stay away from them. If an online radio station offers to play your songs, and it is free, let them! It doesn’t hurt to ask though if they pay royalties. There are not many online (that are not major broadcasting companies) that actually pay royalties, but search because I know there are at least a handful that claim they do. If they are paying, they will be pickier about what they will play so don’t expect them to give you a quick “yes” if they give you a yes at all. Once you get yourself to the point where your stuff is being professionally produced and sounding great, and you have joined one of the above societies, you will see your opportunities begin to grow.

A Note About Your Songs

musicalnotesIf you are writing your own material you need to get it copyrighted. In order to copy right your songs, the easiest way to do it is to go directly to the US government site which is http://copyright.gov/.eco/ . this is important. You do not want to send your music to anyone to review until you have done this. Once you register your song, it is considered copyrighted even if you haven’t received your certificate in the mail. Unless you are notified that the copyright has been rejected. If you are sure your music is all original and lyrics too, then you can consider it done. I suggest that you buy a small, fireproof box specifically to store your copyright certificates for each song when you receive the first one. It’s a good place to store them if you are writing lots of material. The bonus is, you always know where they are and they are protected in case of a fire.

One word of caution. The government site is not super user friendly. It can be a bit confusing, so don’t sit down to do it until you can concentrate. When you go to the page above that I have linked, you find links to the type of document or recording you are registering. If you are unsure, there will be links where you can read what each one actually means. Stay calm,  it’s simple enough and a lot cheaper than using a lawyer or legal zoom.com which you can do if you like, but it can cost you hundreds to use a lawyer and you can do it yourself for between $55 and $85 on the government site. Here is the link to the costs http://copyright.gov/about/fees.html I believe this is much more sensible unless you are using OPM (other people’s money), or have your own to waste and don’t want to bother putting in the time. It’s very rewarding to create your own account and start receiving those certificates in the mail!

Once you have copyrighted those songs, then get going promoting them and yourself! You will have many things to think about now. Do you want to keep all of your songs for yourself, or do you want to sell them to other artists? Many music artists start out by carving a career in writing for others and growing to writing for major artists. I will list here some sites that you can market your songs on, whether for your own purpose or for the attention of A&R from labels who might be looking to purchase material for their signed artists.

Now, these sites are not always free, some are charged per song, some per year for a broader range of songs, some have membership fees. I will list them here:

My favorite and most recommended site if you are very serious is http://www.taxi.com taxi logo I recommend this site because I actually know heads of A&R at major labels that really do scout this site for new talent and new songs. It is not cheap, around a few hundred to join for the year. Worth every penny. You could score a publishing deal here if your material is good enough. You might even get yourself some major label attention. Hands down best site for music artists on the web!

My next favorite site is https://www.musicxray.com musicxray this site is free to join but they do charge a fee for uploading songs. It is a minimal fee and worth it. Not only can you then submit your music but you can also have it reviewed on site and get some free publicity from it! They will do their own picks of great songs and tweet about them, etc. I do know artists who have gotten deals on this site. I also know artists who have gotten their music picked for commercials from this site as well.

There are many others including, Spotify, Last.fm, Youtube, Twitter Music, Reverberation (which I think is a fabulous tool..more on that in another issue). Facebook, Bandsintown, Soundcloud, Soundcloud, Wix Music, Reddit Music, Myspace Music (which is not big anymore in my opinion but worth putting stuff on). Feel free to comment below and throw out any other sites I have missed that you feel are worthy of mention and why.

As soon as you copyright your songs you can also sell them yourself on iTunes and Amazon or CD Baby. Word of caution…don’t expect many sales other than your closest friends and family if you are an unknown. Doesn’t hurt to put them up, but until you have done tons of marketing on yourself don’t expect to go check and find you’ve sold hundreds of copies.

One last word of caution on ALL of this…DO NOT put any song on any site on the internet if it is not produced and I mean produced well. Not something you have recorded in your house unless you really know how to make it sound professional. If you think today’s A&R reps will listen to a raw unproduced song, no..not unless you are already connected. Many of them today can’t hear it with vision. Sort of like a person who cannot walk into a house that is in horrible shape and see what it can be when it’s all fixed up. Same thing..there are more people who cannot see what it could be, can’t get past the clutter, or the smell, or the broken windows. You get my point? Don’t chance putting up something that sounds less than completely professional because you can’t take it back and you don’t get a second chance with labels and A&R. Once they hear it and aren’t impressed they won’t visit it again! It’s a different story if they have already picked you up and then want you to send other ‘ideas’ for songs. Not the same thing, don’t mix them up. Be professional and polished, you won’t regret it. I will get to an issue on producers who are willing to work with unsigned artists for reasonable prices. Also in a future issue, how to become a member of ASCAP or BMI.

Go write those hits!!!!

 

On To More Productive Things

Let’s start talking about some great things you can do to help yourself. First, if you are not out performing yet, start singing or playing for people. Anyone and everyone who will listen. Have a party at your house with yourself as the entertainment. Ask your friends to give you feedback. Second, get yourself a wide full length mirror and use it every single day. Sing or play in front of it (even if you are just playing an instrument and are not the lead in the group, this helps because you still need presence to be kept as part of a band that’s going somewhere) every single day. Next, go to youtube and look up your favorite artists/bands, watch them perform live. Not the professional videos but the live videos of them performing. Try to take notes on what they do that seems to grab you. What gives them a special presence, how do they move and hold their mic? Not that you want to be just like them, because believe me, you want your own presence! But, it will give you ideas of  the things that work and appeal to people. Then go back to your mirror and let it rip. Start trying to make that same connection with yourself as the audience. Notice things like..do I look awkward or uncomfortable? Am I moving freely or am I actually moving too much? You get the idea. Pretend that person in the mirror is someone in the front row of the audience and make eye contact! Reach out to them.

You can also practice moving/dancing while singing. Make a small space for yourself and figure out how you are going to thrill people if you get stuck on a little two by two foot platform. Then try a bigger space. Figure out how you are going to move across a large area to get to your audience on each side of a large stage without being mundane or repetitive. These things are very very important when it comes to your appeal. You need to be able to engage people and you never ever want to be boring. Don’t just stand or sit up there and sing or play. Connect, connect, connect.

Some good extra things for you to do would be to look into a performance coach. I realize that can be difficult depending on your location. Not to mention a good vocal coach who won’t be hung up on training you classically singing songs you hate. You need a pop or rock coach. I’m not saying classical training is bad. But when it comes to Pop and rock, if you’ve been trained too heavily classically, it becomes quite hard for you to make the switch and come off with the natural kind of edge that today’s music is famous for. I know so many classically trained singers who just can’t sound ‘cool’ you know? They are just way too stiff. Now, vocal training is a whole other topic of areas that need addressing. But let me give you one trick. In order to gain breath support and be able to belt or get yourself out there while performing, while using the proper body parts…lie down on the floor, on your back. Load your abdomen up with big books. Now sing. Sing as loud as you can and don’t let those books fall off. This will teach you control and breath support. It’s fun. Try it! Not only is it fun, it works.

I will be back tomorrow with some great resources online. Go practice!! Eventually, we will have contests here and feature new artists that are working it well. Should be fun!

Maria

 

How American Idol Changed The Music Industry

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Although American Idol is in it’s final season, it has changed the music industry forever. I believe for the worse for artists. Let’s look at why, and why you need to know this.

First the why. It has changed the music industry forever because pre this show, the way an artist got signed was by having a talent and pursuing a record label that was willing to develop this talent. The label would put their money into your development and take an artist pre-groomed, if you will. They would take a raw talent and turn it into something that their marketing dollars would sky rocket to the top. They usually made their money back plus much more if they pegged the artist right (via A&R work). This environment made it much more likely that an exceptionally talented artist who had no money and no private financial backing could make it big. Fast forward to after the success of the American Idol show…the record execs realized that they had enough talent to last every year just by contestants that were on the show each season. It didn’t even matter so much if they won, it was the fact that these contestants had automatic national exposure and millions of fans! So, why would they now put their own dollars into developing a no one into a huge star? The show was doing it for them. All they had to do was go offer deals to the most likable in the bunch based on fan reaction, and/or winners. Sounds great for artists right? Wrong. What do you think the odds are of an artist landing a spot on the show? Cattle calls of thousands in every state and the picking of talent, in the very beginning is done not by vocal ability, but by TV producers who are using a specific prototype..certain, look, gender,etc. This weeds out thousands and thousands of talented contestants and artists simply based on silly TV criteria for that season. They may be looking for all ‘plain jane’ looking females one season..so even if you are drop dead super model gorgeous with an amazing voice, you will not be picked by the first ‘judges’ at the original non televised  audition because you look too spectacular! Sounds crazy right? But it’s true. The vocal ability doesn’t even come into play if you don’t make it past the criteria of the producers physically, or what they are looking for that season. Sound unfair? It is. It’s a TV show, it goes for ratings. Just so happens the major record labels profit from it.

Now for the ‘Why you need to know this’. You need to know that labels are no longer actively seeking talent that needs development. They want that work done for them by the time they pick the artist up. What does that mean for the artist? You need MONEY to make it. There are some exceptions, like if you have some amazing copyrighted songs that will be huge radio hits and an A&R comes across the song and thinks the song alone is worth the development. BUT if that’s not the case, then you need money…money to hire song writers to help you make those songs if you can’t do it yourself. You need to make a presence on the internet and have a built up fan base. They want to know that you can sell concert tickets, even if it’s small venues. If you don’t have a big online fan base then you will have to pay for lots of youtube views and Facebook likes. Oh but as an added risk, if you buy your way to lots of internet fans and don’t have fans that are likely to show up for a show or buy your songs on iTunes this could be an epic fail and cause you to be shelved if a label does pick you up. But, the likes of Justin Beiber and Ke$ha, did in fact buy their original youtube and myspace plays to get the attention of record labels. It’s just something that must be done. This can cause hundreds to thousands a month to purchase. No one on their own can receive that many youtube views, no matter how good they are. It has to start somewhere. I know this, because I’ve worked with people and seen what it takes. Once you get to a certain point in your views, you can then get to some bigger areas online that will hook the young people. But now, you’re talking marketing skills. Some have it, some don’t and most music artists are more concerned with writing their music and playing it or singing it, than they are spending hours in front of a computer trying to get likes on Facebook. Hence, you have to hire someone to do this for you. Many young artists end up having to use their parents money to get this whole thing going as they do not make enough to cover the start up costs. Trying to find a private investor in the music business is as difficult as trying to get signed by a label with no presence or fan base or performing experience. Now this takes money. You need a band when you go out and do shows. Try to find really good musicians willing to go do shows for nothing for the experience. This might work if you are starting as a group, but not as a solo artist needing a band.

I’m not telling you all of this to instill a sense of doom. You CAN make it in the music business, but the playing field has changed and if you are not motivated enough (or lucky enough to not have to work a job) to put huge hours and money into your own development, you will go nowhere. I am telling you this to save you the energy of even thinking about becoming a Pop star unless you are so driven to do it that nothing will stop you. If you are the type of artist that wants it, but wants it handed to them, this is not the industry climate for you. You will work your butt off for it. You will spend hours making friends on social media, on making small talk with people you don’t even know just to get a push. You will have to spend every single night trying to book yourself out somewhere, even if it’s a local coffee shop or open mic night. You will NOT get paid for any of this, and you will might even have to pay for the opportunity. You will have to be committed to practicing and writing every free minute. You will either have to pay studio fees or you will have to spend hour upon hour teaching yourself how to make your own recordings that sound not passable but great! There are programs out there. You will have to pay to solicit your songs on certain sites..more on that in another issue. What I am trying to say is, this is it! It’s on you. Want notice? Don’t count on shows like American Idol. Work, work, work and more work. If you are lucky enough to make a legitimate connection give them everything they ask for and MORE. Prove your dedication. American Idol has made the industry a place where only the extremely driven survive. Be driven.

 

 

So You Want To Be A Star

If you’re like many young, talented singers and bands out there, you really want to make it big. Let’s make sure we have all the ducks in a row. First of all, if you are a solo artist do you play an instrument? If not, can you write? And by write I mean, pop friendly lyrics, melodies and hooks? Do you know the basic rules of writing music for radio friendly songs? We will get into that later. But if you are going out there solo, your chances of landing a record deal if you don’t have either of these skills are going to be slim. If you don’t play an instrument or write, then you had better find yourself a fantastic writer and have a contract with them so that you have some good original material that you have rights to.

First things first. First thing you need to do is be realistic about your looks. Sounds awful doesn’t it? It’s an unfortunate truth in the industry. You don’t  have to look like a model or be  a beauty queen..but you do need to have a “look”. Something about you that stands out. In the music business  it is sometimes referred to as the “it factor”. No one really can explain what it is, but it definitely exists. Please be realistic about whether you have this or not as it will save you lots of wasted time and money. How do you tell if you have it? Do all eyes seem to move to you when you walk into a room? Are you photogenic? Do you find children are drawn to you? Do you seem to catch peoples’ attention and admiration easily? These are all very good signs that you have that it thing! This is extremely important in the industry. You don’t have to be the best looking in the room, but you need to shine. You must have something about you that draws attention and know how to work that to your advantage. If you are a band, does the lead singer and lead guitarist have the it factor?

Okay, so you’ve determined that you do indeed have that it thing. Next…can you sing? Seriously, can you really sing live without being auto tuned to death? If you’re a band can your lead singer really sing?  If you’re not sure about the answer to this, then maybe you need to give this career choice some thought. It’s a very difficult business even when you’re very talented. Make it as easy as possible for yourself and be sure the talent is there. If it is, you will know it because everyone who hears you will be full of praise…unsolicited praise. If you can carry a good tune and have a good ear, you can train yourself to sing well with a proper coach. Don’t give up unless you really just can’t sing. For the purpose of this site, we are going to assume that you are a talented singer. There are so many subjects we need to get into but we will save that for later.

So, you’ve got the it factor and you can sing, write and/or play and instrument. If you’re looking to be a pop or rock star are you 30 years old or under? It used to be that 20 years old was the cut off for a pop artist breaking out, but thanks to shows like American Idol and The Voice, that is changing a bit (That’s probably one of the few pluses to those shows in my opinion) again, a topic for another time. So if you’re not trying to do Country or Classical music, I say 25 or 26 is about the oldest you will break out, minus a miracle. If you’re still a teenager, you’re in great shape! Now people might not always like what I say but years of experience in promoting  has taught me very well.

You’ve got it all! You’ve established that you have all it takes to be a pop star! But wait..there is one very very important last ingredient…DRIVE. Do you have the drive? Do you want it so bad that you will do whatever it takes, for however long it takes to get where you believe you should be? Will you sit on social media promoting yourself into the wee hours of the night? Will you make writing songs your priority every day? Will you spend hours in front of a mirror practicing your moves and performance? Will you practice boring scales and exercises and research new ways to improve your skills? If you simply want others to do all the work and feel you have the talent so it should just be handed to you…quit now. Even the best of the best must work at their craft. Drive is the most important ingredient. If you don’t have it no one can do it for you. You will not make it. Prove you not only want it, but deserve it. You deserve it because your whole being is wrapped up in this career. No matter how good you get, you can always get better or find other ways to market yourself in other areas. Write not just what you need to but more and more and more. Have a catalog. Spend hours researching the sites and tools that can help you. Nurture your admirers and fans. Even if you only have a handful. Cultivate those relationships. Put yourself out there for them, not for you. Drive is all of these things wrapped up together. If you’re more concerned with spending time with your boyfriend or girlfriend or worried you are missing out on things with your friends and would rather just have fun…well, honestly, this is not the business for you.

We’ve established all of the biggies! You’ve got the “it factor” you’ve got the talent, you’re the right age, you can play an instrument or write your own music and you’ve got the drive to propel yourself further. You want to be a star. Go for it!!