Tori Kelly

*NEW* Artist of the Week: TORI KELLY

The purpose of this blog is to showcase upcoming artists who have either signed with a label or chosen to build their career through a Direct2Fan method.

BIRTH NAME: Victoria Kelly

AGE: 20
ORIGEN: Canyon Lake, California

GENRE: Pop, Soul, R&B
LABEL: Toraay Records (Self-label)

TWITTER: 165,334 followers |
YOUTUBE: 35,452,046 video views |
FACEBOOK: 79,553 likes |
SOUNDCLOUD: 2,006 followers |


I discovered Tori Kelly a couple years ago on Facebook. Someone shared a link to one of her videos and I was very impressed with her vocal skills. She was very tasteful with her runs, and they were very clean. She also had a unique interpretation of her cover songs. Needless to say, I was hooked. Here’s one of my favorite videos of Tori covering “Tomorrow” from the popular musical Annie:

Tori was only 18 when she made that video, and she has continued to grow as an artist and performer. She auditioned for American Idol in Season 9, and although she made it to Hollywood, she wasn’t chosen as one of the Top 24. I think this stands to prove that she has a bigger purpose ahead of her because the girl is clearly talented. You can even see Simon’s hesitancy to downplay her voice when he smirks as he says “I’m gonna say no. I think these three are mad, but there you go.” Her tone is very piercing, but it is very crisp and pure. That is what makes her so unique—and the fact that she has impeccable control over her voice considering her age. Check out her audition!

Tori was only 16 when she auditioned for American Idol, but her performance career began way before then. She was featured on America’s Most Talented Kids when she was  only 11, and she won the competition! Check her out!

Her voice hasn’t changed a bit. Her talent has grown with her every step of the way to Tori starting her own record label to produce her own music—Toraay Records. She produced and released her own EP entitled “Handmade Songs” that she wrote and produced in her bedroom studio. She recently announced her “Fill a Heart” US tour which already has sold out dates in San Francisco, D.C., Philadelphia, and Atlanta! I wish I were there to attend.

Here are a couple more of my favorite videos from Tori—some of which she shares in a duet with Todrick Hall <–my next featured artist! 😉

Beyoncé “Best Thing I Never Had” (Cover) – Tori Kelly and Todrick Hall:

“California King Bed” (Cover) – Tori Kelly and Todrick Hall:

Adele “Someone Like You” (Cover) – Tori Kelly and Luke Edgemon

Stay tuned!

Prayre Finley


laurenbieeber. 22 Aug 2012. Web. 27 Mar 2013.

“Tori Kelly.” 2013.

Strategy: Personality

It’s no surprise we’ve all heard of Justin Timberlake’s re-conquest to American pop-music market. Despite a six-year musical hiatus, his reentry release The 20/20 Experience has been distractingly seamless – all according to plan. Billboard recently published a timeline detailing the entirety of JT’s relevant moves since the start of his egress from music in 2008. Reading through the list, you’ll find entries ranging from Timberlake’s 2009 role in the movie “The Social Network” to his ownership investment in the new MySpace. All of these premeditations have been carried out to maintain one of the most engaging, effective tools an artist has at his disposal – a radiant, intriguing, commanding personality.

In Justin’s case, a six year absence proved to be a non sequitur simply because he never really left the public view. It’s clear that it hasn’t ever been completely about his music, but rather the compelling personality that flowed through it. If there’s anything we can learn from Justin’s years of build-up to The 20/20 Experience, it’s that an artist’s personality, however complex, is imperative to consider as a factor of any professional strategy.


Before a business begins developing its organization, its products, or its distribution and marketing, it’s imperative to analyze what core values the company intends to represent. It is this knowledge that provides the framework for day-to-day operations. [Oftentimes, you’ll find a hint at what these driving characteristics are in a firm’s mission statement – although you’ll equally as often find some bullshit about a promise to “provide the best value to customers” or “offer high quality _____ for the most affordable price.”] For artists, this step requires a bit of introspection. To really benefit from the eclectic and electric personality of creative people, one must really focus on the few distinct traits upon which the others are based. Just like a clever business hinges on real values, the actions artists take can be tailored to really focus on ‘what makes you, you.’ 


One of the most successful entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry – Sean “Puff Daddy/P-Diddy/etc.” Combs – has been quite successful in this respect. He’s targeted a few personal attributes upon which he’s guided his career in entertainment. For Combs, ever since his early 90’s success as a performer and music executive, he’s cultivated a diligent, clever and resultantly affluent disposition. In addition to successful music and clothing brand ventures, Combs has thrived as an actor, performing roles only conducive to his commanding, hard-working, achieving personality.

For budding artists, your early adopters are typically your friends, who tend to like you regardless of your music. What’s more, your personality is the first thing new fans will notice when seeing you perform so it’s important to continue showing your colors with anything you do. When considering your own unique attack plan on the music market, be sure to keep in mind – what makes you interesting as a person makes you interesting as an artist! 

Ways to Getting Your Music Heard

As a songwriter, producer, and musician you want your music to be heard by others. You want to grow your fanbase, you want to inspire people and you want to make a good living out of what you love to do: Music. The question is, how to do it? Here are some ways to push you closer to the door of opportunities.

Get A Publisher
A Publisher helps you to promote your music and songs. They are there to help you connect your music with clients wanting to use your music. The publisher can also hire you as a writer for their company. This will lead to growth as a writer and exposure to connections. It is unlikely that you will need a manager for just selling our songs, but the publisher is a critical part of steering your songs into the direction of the right people.

Move to City with a Music Scene
Since the boom and growth of technology this factor is not so much the case it may have been a decade or two ago. We all know the main areas where music is happening and those places include New York City, Los Angeles, Nashville, urban cities and Metropolitan areas. Nashville is a place where songwriters are heavily populated. Some think that there is only country music here, even though that is the main style there, but there are other styles including pop, Gospel, folk, and it produces great songwriting as an art itself. New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta and urban areas are great places to network and have small and large labels and publishers to shop your material and many, many great musicians and artists to play your music and spread the news.

Online & Websites
Don’t wait to get started. Everyone wants their music to be perfect and you should, but don’t wait too long until you have missed the opportunity. Of course you want to spend time improving your work. Have material ready to share along with working on better material. You want to put your material out there so people can hear it, so you can get helpful criticism and grow. That way as you are growing as a musician and writer your fanbase is also growing. Do you have your own website. Get one. Submit and enter your music into competitions and contests. Here are some other online places where you can put your music include: iTunes, Youtube, Reverbnation, Soundcloud, Napster, Pandora, Spotify, Facebook Music profile, Myspace, Tweewoo, Soundclick,, Muxtape, ArtistServer, iSound, Twitter, Ramen Music, Radio 1, AWAL, and Bandcamp.

Websites like Ramen Music, Radio 1, Taxi Music, Blogspot, Elbow Music Blog are great because not only can people learn about your music and hear it, but they can also learn about you. These are all platforms for blogs, interviews, making connections, networking and of course music. Blogspot and Elbow Music Blog are a place where bloggers post about new and recurring topics and artists. It is great to have bloggers about you and your music. It’s a great way to have your name spread around. Ramen Music and other websites like this are great ways to put your music on the site. See how it does and how people like it. On Ramen Music a song every 2 months is chosen to be the best song of that portion of time.  Get your music on the actual radio. This publicity is still and efficient way to increase your buzz. Radio 1 is a radio station based in the UK but is also heard internationally in the US, Canada, and more. Radio 1 and other Radio Stations are great for introducing yourself, advertising your product, and keeping people updated on what things you are working on and releasing. Taxi Music is a company that has been around for quite a while, but one not too many know about. You pay an annual fee and Taxi puts you in contact with big publishers, labels and Film directors to shop your music to them. These are good resources to have to get your music heard and used.

A huge contribution to your success will be networking and building relationships. The important point to get is to build lasting relationships.  When sending you material to companies or people, also send them a personal message. Choose to send your material to people for a reason and not just to get heard, because that reason is a given. Labels, publishers, and A&Rs are very aware that you want your music to be heard and their job is to help you. So, with this fact after honing your product and music be personal when reaching out and focus on that person at that moment. Focus on gaining and building that relationship so that it is long-term. Collaborate with other artists and songwriters. Force yourself to try something different. Share your music with local artists whose work you enjoy. Propose or write songs for them. If they like your work they will automatically spread the word. Check out their material. Listen and give other musicians and writers your helpful feedback and they will in return want to give you theirs. Have a good attitude when going into relationships and not only thinking of what you can get out of it, but also what you can put into it and what others can get out of it.

Most importantly work consistently on your art. Work hard and don’t stop moving. Keep making music and sharing it with those who may want to hear it and with those who can help you climb the ladder you have outlined for yourself. Never give up of this is truly your passion.

What the PROs Have to Offer

PRO’s – Performance Rights Organizations

What are they and what do they do? Because you or your publisher owns the copyright to your music people who want to perform or play it in a public place have to pay you as permission to do so. The job of the PRO’s is to grant services to those apart of its organization. The main service is to have those who perform or play your music pay a licensing fee. The PRO retrieve’s that payment of earnings from all who have played your music, for they also keep up and track the plays. They calculate the amount and divide it between you and any other involved. They deliver your payment or royalties to you. The people for the job are Ascap, BMI, Sesac, and SoundExchange.


ASCAP – American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers

Ascap was founded in 1914 by songwriters, composers and publishers and has been going strong ever since.  It is a “member-run, non-profit organization who exist to protect our fellow members”, it says on its myspace profile. It is the only PRO with members that are the composers and publishers that also elect the Board of Directors.  Its headquarters are in New York, but there are Ascap offices in Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Puerto Rico and London.

Ascap represents artists such as John Denver, Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones,Janis Joplin, Carly Simon, Ashford & Simpson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Lauryn Hill and Dr. Dre, The Ramones, Slayer and Marc Anthony. 

According to it’s website the last count done in February of 2013 they had 450,000 members. Of you were wondering what kind of contract it will be, it is a non-exclusive agreement, meaning…You must register your songs, after joining to receive payment.

Ascap offers its members benefit packages. They include access to many web tools, software and musical websites such as Sheet Music Direct and more, it includes gear, discounted subscriptions, distribution of Playback Magazine, MusicPro Dental, Health and other Insurances, manufacturing, investment services, online education, travel benefits and associations.

Ascap offers an annual, national conference devoted songwriters and composers called I Create Music EXPO, which includes panels, workshops, sessions and concerts. The next expo is a three-day event starting on Thursday, April 18th, 2013.

Getting Paid
When the song has been performed Ascap retrieves the license fee and the royalties are calculated and split between all parties involved including the writer and publisher. This is through Ascap’s system of Title Registration and Cue sheets. On their website it reads, “A writer’s or publisher’s royalty check is determined by multiplying the number of credits they earned for performances of their works during a quarter by the dollar value of a credit for that quarter. For example, if a writer earned 10,000 credits for performances of her works on radio and television in a three-month period and the value of one writer credit was $7.10, the writer’s royalty check would be $71,000 (10,000 X $7.10).”

The figures are completed and the royalties are distributed quarterly, directly to the writer and publisher involved via the writers choice of payment method including, direct deposit or check. Soon the writer is a happily paid writer.

If you have more questions, click HERE for the link to more information on Ascap.

BMI – Broadcasting Music Incorporated

BMI is a non-profit organization and was created by radio executives. According to the website, “BMI was the first to offer representation to songwriters of blues, country, jazz, r&b, gospel, folk, Latin and, ultimately, rock & roll. BMI was founded by radio executives to provide competition in the field of performing rights, to assure royalty payments to writers and publishers of music not represented by the existing performing right organization and to provide an alternative source of licensing for all music users. BMI has been in operation for more than 70 years, is recognized in U.S. copyright law as a licensor of music, and currently represents more than 550,000 copyright owners and their more than 7.5 million musical works.” They have an office in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Nashville.

BMI represents and has represented artists and writers including Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Eminem, Rihanna, Shakira, Maroon 5, Pink, Evanescence, Nickelback, Linkin Park, Death, Sam Cooke, Willie Nelson, Fats Domino, Dolly Parton, Harry Gregson-Williams, John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Richard & Robert Sherman.

It is not exactly a membership, but the writer can join as an affiliate Upon joining, the writer will have to sign a contract. (HERE is a link to their standard contract). It is free to sign up. You electronically submit the forms and you are apart of the team.

Benefits BMI offers benefits including online education, discounted subscriptions, gear, financial services, MusicPro Insurances, software and more.  BMI also offers bonuses such as the Standard Bonus and the Hit song bonus.

Getting Paid 
After registering the work to receive a payment BMI collects the license fees and combines that with the amount of play your song had to pay the writer. If there are 300 plays a quarter then the payment is based upon those 300 plays. After the calculations are completed the writer is either sent a check, usage of their ATM card provided by BMI or the money is received through direct deposit.

Link to FAQ’s HERE

SESAC – (Once known as) Society of European Stage Artists and Composers. It is no longer called by this title, only Sesac itself. A German immigrant formed Sesac in 1930, and its service has lasted and passed the test of time. Their headquarters are in Nashville, TN with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami and London. Sesac is not a non-profit and earns it’s profit by way of receiving an amount of the royalty earnings.

Sesac represents (and represented) many great artists and composers such as Paul Shaffer, Bob Dylan, Shirley Caeser, Cassandra Wilson, Neil Diamond and more.

With Sesac there is no membership like that of Ascap. You can submit an application online and it will be reviewed. In contrast to BMI, you have to be accepted as an affiliate and it is completed at no cost.

Sesac offers benefits consisting of educational courses, discounted studio sessions, CD manufactures, distributions, Rental cars, subscriptions, insurances and more.

Getting Paid 
After registering your work, with all the proper information and song form, you can set up the receiving of your payment from the options: check or direct deposit. The songs and performances are track using cue sheets. Once those cue sheets are submitted and the royalty amount is calculated you then receive your payment.

Link to FAQ’s HERE 


SoundExchange is the newest and smallest of them all; created in 2003. It is a non-profit. Their headquarters are in Washington D.C. They have 74 employees, over 43,000 members and represents over 5,000 labels. The revenue of 2012 amounted to 20,958,592.  Revealed in 2013, $462 million total year-end royalty payments were distributed. “SoundExchange administers the statutory license, (A statutory royalty is a royalty based on a “statutory rate” set by Congress and appearing in the Copyright Act. These “statutory” royalties schemes allow a third party to use a work without the express consent of the copyright owner under certain conditions and according to specific requirements, in exchange for payment of royalties at a rate determined by the Copyright Royalty Board), which allows services to stream artistic content while paying a fixed rate for each play. SoundExchange collects and distributes royalties for the featured artist and the sound recording copyright owner when content is played on a non-interactive digital source,” reads their website. SoundExchange does not cover royalties for songwriting, publishing and composition. SoundExchange’s Board of Directors is a balanced representation of all parts of the music industry. “Major and independent labels, recording artists, artist representatives, and interested coalitions all have a seat at the SoundExchange table.”

SoundExchange represents artists and writers including the Foo Fighters, Cephas and Wiggins, Beck, Tower of Power, Kristine W., Garbage, Common, Queen of the Stone and more.

The membership cost is free and you can submit forms to join. Very Simple.

SoundExchange offers discounted equipment and discounted conference passes. You can also be apart of SoundExchange as well as one of the other PROs.

Getting Paid 
SoundExchange distributes money quarterly (March, June, September, and December). To receive a payment from SoundExchange, you must have accumulated at least $10 ($100 for a paper check) in royalties. Until you have reached this amount, SoundExchange will hold your royalties until you ensue enough royalties. They are keeping track of your songs and keeping the track information updated with Metadata When you receive a payment, through direct deposit or check from SoundExchange, you will also receive a statement that will detail the money you have earned for each track that has been played by various service providers.

Link to FAQ’s HERE 

Difference between SoungExchange and other PRO’s.
On the website in their “Top Ten reasons artists don’t register with SoundExchange” it reads, “Our friends at ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC pay songwriters and publishers. SoundExchange compensates performers and copyright owners for the sound recording itself. If you’re both the performer and the songwriter, you get paid twice. Either way, all performers who also write music should be signed up with either ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, and ALSO with SoundExchange. They’re two separate sources of money and are not in conflict.” This pretty much sums up the difference. You are encouraged to join SoundExchange and a party of the other PRO’s because they deal with different types of royalties. Do your research before deciding to join, but they all have great things to offer.

US Album Cover Picture

*NEW* Artist of the Week: US

The purpose of this blog is to showcase upcoming artists who have either signed with a label or chosen to build their career through a Direct2Fan method.

BIRTH NAMES: Carissa Rae and Michael Alvarado

ORIGEN: Los Angeles, CA

GENRE: Pop, Acoustic, and Soul

TWITTER: 5,580 followers |
YOUTUBE: 8,97,335 video views |
FACEBOOK: 6,481 likes |


I discovered US from one of my friends here at Berklee Valencia. We were working on a project in her room and suddenly she started playing a cover of Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been?” I really liked it, so I asked her who the artist was. She told me it was a duo named US in which the male counterpart was playing all the instruments. This got me interested. Here’s the video:

As much as I love their rendition of the song, I was quite dissatisfied with their name choice. I couldn’t find them on my own. I had to ask my friend to send me the link to their video. Perhaps this is a strategy they have discussed and agreed upon, but I don’t like it. It made it very difficult for me to research them as a group. All of my research had to be conducted by individually researching Carissa Rae and Michael Alvarado who were already established singer-songwriters before they got engaged and became a duo.

Here are some of the results I encountered while attempting to find US (the music duo):

Universidad de Sevilla
United States references
Pronoun references
Toys ‘R’ Us..

Needless to say, I wasn’t looking for any of those things. None of those things even referred to music. The only thing that lead me to their official fan pages was their own website, which of course was not “” It doesn’t seem as though they have acquired a manager yet, but if I were their manager, the first thing I’d suggest is a name change. There’s a thin line between creativity and feasibility.

As previously mentioned, Carissa Rae and Michael Alvarado began their careers as individual singer-songwriters. Alvarado was based in the Carolinas and Rae was based in California. They have shown what the best of love stories can turn out to be by their brave attempt to start their life together in Los Angeles as a talented duo. They got engaged Thanksgiving 2011 and have been performing together as duo all over the US gradually building a fanbase they hope will support their upcoming album.

US has a unique way of rearranging songs into unsuspecting genres. They recently began a new YouTube series “Studio Sessions” that showcases them recording their covers in their home-based studio. Check out their folk version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”:

Here’s my favorite video of Us depicting their longing for each other while attempting to sustain a long distance relationship.

US “Missin You Like Crazy”:

US has not signed to a label yet. In fact, I am not convinced that they want to. They launched a project on kickstarter last year to raise money for their album, and they promised their fans an album comprised of “real music from [their] hearts.” Perhaps they feel as though a label may hinder their artist creativity. They haven’t said much more about their feelings on this, but I am sure time will tell.

It’s obvious that Michael Alvarado and Carissa Rae are madly in love. Their chemistry is adorable and they make great music together. I am anxious to follow the growth of their music career, but they seem as though they will be perfectly content as long as they have each other. Stay tuned!

Prayre Finley


“Carissa Rae & Michael Alvarado Form ‘Us’; Preparing Debut Album as a Duo.” Web. 16 Mar 2013.

“Us.” Tumblr. Web. 16 Mar 2013.

Strategy: Artist Marketing Plan

Last week, I critiqued the “artists are businesses” mantra without mentioning the several business practices that musicians could benefit from by adopting. Artists are human, but they’re impresarios – entrepreneurs. As such, they’re central in an organization of efforts towards a certain goal. For this week, I’ll address Philip Kotler’s marketing equation – C-C-D-V-T-P – by applying the considerations to the development of an artist’s marketing plan and we’ll begin to see what makes a good value proposition in music and how straightforward it is when you don’t over think it.



“Create, Communicate, and Deliver Value to a Target at a Profit.” It’s quite stunningly vague. The idiosyncrasy of studying marketing is that you know it all already – you’ve been a target since you developed the capacity to express preference. What you may not know are the steps to take to be effective. So let’s break this down.



Philip Kotler offers that the first stage of marketing introduces the business of Product Management. The Create step requires an analysis and capture of core, driving values through building a specific product [or a service.] These fundamental characteristics are different to each consumer and depend on individual responses to objective product features. For example, a metal detector, objectively, is nothing more than the components that comprise its design and functionality just like a song is no more than the words and music that form its composition. However, to own a metal detector may be a bold first step to incalculable riches, an Indiana Jonesian sense of adventure, or simply a surefire conversation starter. The painstaking development of this product allows for a variety of interpretations – it allows for customers to design their own value from an offering. How empowering! In this same way, a well crafted song maintains the potential to appeal differently to multiple people through a memorable guitar fill, subtle background vocals, spellbindingly metaphoric lyricism, groove, etc.  What you offer creatively as an artist is central; it fits that Create is step one. Before distracting yourself with anything else, be the creative, fanatical mad scientist you are.



Kotler continues by offering Brand Management as the business created during the second step of the marketing chain. In one way or another, you have to prove your worth. Enter: artist brand. An artist’s brand is not a hair style, a drink, or a car; these are simply some possible external manifestations. A modern brand is a personality and a devotion to it. Remaining authentic to your own artist persona creates a history and equity of music that fans hold on to and bring with them to friends. When a family decides on a restaurant, they’re considering past experiences and recommendations in the same way a music fan chooses a concert. I’ve talked quite a bit about branding in the past, so I’ll spare the excessive gospel now – make a statement and make sure it’s true. If there’s anything you need to be sure of, it’s who you are. 



According to Kotler, targeting isn’t so much about targeting anymore. That is to say consumers have gotten a lot more bargaining power than they had in the past and don’t necessarily fancy being pointed at and categorized. It’s no longer about who shouts the loudest, but who communicates. The business of Customer Management is now based on creating an open environment for people to share their opinions and it’s up to an artist to facilitate the conversation. Being available and receptive benefits R&D teams at Proctor and Gamble just as much as it benefits Chunk! No Captain Chunk’s Bertrand Poncet. 



“At a profit.” Seems a little chilly, doesn’t it? Implies that everything we do is designed to, when all is said and done, earn more than what was lost. I’d say this is pretty true when you loosen the interpretation of profit to include a few alternative payments – fulfillment, release, satisfaction, etc. Finding one of these in return is specifically part of the equation. Create music, be an icon, be one with your fans – but remember to love what it is that you do! 

Strategy: Authenticity

Dangers in product partnerships 

The Chill

Without providing any specifics, there has recently been a growing trend of misuse surrounding the word authenticity and its applicability to artist branding. Increasingly often, music business professionals are throwing this word around without feeling the substance of its meaning.

I’m mainly talking about people taking the concept of an artist is a business too far, pairing them up with brands as if they were no different from a car manufacturer or software developer. Art – arguably the core of our business – is exceptionally human in its nature. It’s effectiveness [and thus, it’s profitability] hinges the intangible responses of real people. There’s a remarkable intangibility present in the biz since people all have distinct emotions; music is particularly non-categorical. 

Nevertheless, the cold grip of business has seeped its way invasively into the personal space of artistic expression. Continuing, most people have the capacity to see this contaminant immediately. This is the chill. It’s easy to feel and nearly impossible to avoid unless you take a second look at how you approach artistry and branding.

Please test yourself – watch this.

This is Taylor Swift’s particularly cumbersome attempt to appear excited about her brand partnership with Diet Coke. A board room of suits spent some amount of time with a whiteboard and some coffee mixing and matching target markets and brainstorming where more logos could possibly be squeezed. Draw a few conclusions for yourself – what did this accomplish for either Coca-Cola or Swift?

Branding doesn’t need to be cold; it doesn’t need to be unnatural. In fact, the objective of a brand alliance [a cross-collateralization of constituencies, resources, etc.] is within reach without the need of a focus group or a contract. 

Not All Is Lost
Sigur Ros 

This documentary Heima [an Icelandic word meaning “Home”] chronicles the story of Sigur Ros’s return to Iceland, their home country, to perform a series of free surprise concerts. The film clearly convey’s the source of the band’s success both domestically and as an internationally renowned indie act. Internally, Sigur Ros truly is authentic in their approach to creating music. None of the four members concerns himself with fame or money, instead they collectively form a band driven by creativity and a love for music. They’ve developed a position based on their pride and connection with the culture of their country, refusing to alter their actions to appeal to target marketsIn doing so, they’ve achieved one of the greatest brand partnerships imaginable; one with the entire nation of Iceland

The main objective of a brand partnership – a symbiotic win-win – is present here, minus the chill.

The Lesson Here Being…

False authenticity  [much like that originating from the more outdated, misguided conference rooms across the music industry] creates awkwardness and chill while simply staying devoted to natural human passions creates much more desirable outcomes. An artist that ignores the temptation to treat him or herself as a business instead of, perhaps, a commercially conscientious artist will maintain a certain competitive edge in the days to come as people become more and more fed up with corporate conjecture. It’s clear to me to which artists I resonate most – with which artists I feel most connected. Conclusively, I can say that Drake doesn’t make me want to drink Sprite, and The Dropkick Murphy’s do make me miss Boston.

I suppose I can also say that Run DMC makes Adidas look pretty cool.

The Songwriters’ Life-long Partner

The Songwriter
Every songwriter’s goal for their song is to get it heard, sung or played, featured (for example in a film, commercial or on television) or all of the above.  Some writers want to perform their own work and others write for other artists to perform their work. Some do both. Apart from being an artist, songwriting is a great way to still be creative and make a living. In ways it may be better than only performing, because the more successful the song is the better the pay is in comparison to performing. One musical partner the songwriter will learn to appreciate is their publisher.

The Publisher                                                                                                      MP

There are three types of publishers called the administrator, independent and major. They all do the same job, but on different levels and they all take a commission or percentage of your earnings. The administrator tends to not help with the creative process and does not invest money in the beginning or advances. The independents do invest and target to the average successful songwriter. The major has the most money to invest, but will take a very large commission (which is relatively fair), but the rate can be high and difficult to negotiate.

What they do and why they are needed? The publisher’s main job is to promote your songs, sell your songs, and make sure you get paid for when those songs are used. They keep track of the song and track every place it gets played and guarantees the delivery of your royalties.

Similar to publishing companies are performance rights organizations (PRO’s) (AscapBMISesac and SoundExchange, a non-profit PRO). You ask, “What is the difference between a publishing company and a performance rights organization?” They both do similar jobs, but the main difference is that the PRO’s only collect your licensing fees and provide you with the performance royalties (live performances, radio play, etc.). The publishing company does this, but with the mechanical royalties (from CD’s, downloads, etc.). The publisher can also shop your song to artists, labels and organizations, invests in your artistry while just starting out, and can provide you with sheet music (depending on your contract with them).

How to reach the Publisher
The best way to find the best publisher for you is to research what publishers focus in what genre. Research the songs that you love and write similar to and research who their publisher is. Keep in mind the location you desire to be in and where the publisher is located.  Decide, which type of publisher you would like (administrator, independent or major). Discover what you want to gain and why you will choose who you choose. Once you have chosen send them an email expressing interest and along with that some sample songs for them to ponder on. Always, follow-up.

Working for the Publisher
Publishers normally hire a writer as a contracted staff writer, which produces a “work for hire”. It can be beneficial for the writer depending on their preference or copyright ownership and income from the works. The negative fact about “work for hire” is that the songs belong to the company and not the writer due to them working for the company. The writer will be paid a fee for the works created.


Can you publish your own music?  
You sure can publish your songs. The process may not be as easy as collaborating with a publishing company, but it can be worthwhile to start your own publishing company. Many Independent artists publish their own music. You can keep track of your music played through companies such as CD Baby and iTunes. There are also publishing companies that work specifically for independent artists, such as Kobalt and Imagem which will still take a commission, but will be doing the hard work for you. TAXI is a company that, “helps independent artists, songwriters and composers get record, publishing and Film/TV deals,” according to their website. They charge an annual fee for the services, but it seem very reliable and beneficial. Another way to start it is through a performance rights organization, for example BMI offers rates for registering a publishing company. The rates are under $300 for an individual and for a corporation. Being your own publisher has become very popular and the rate of those doing it has definitely increased through the years. So have faith and have the courage to set your own rules if that’s what you desire.


Lianne La Havas Cover Picture

*NEW* Artist of the Week: LIANNE LA HAVAS

The purpose of this blog is to showcase upcoming artists who have either signed with a label or chosen to build their career through a Direct2Fan method.

ARTIST/GROUP: Lianne La Havas
BIRTH NAME: Lianne Charlotte Barnes

AGE: 23
ORIGEN: London, England

GENRE: Folk and Soul
LABEL: Warner Bros. Records

TWITTER: 48,262 followers |
YOUTUBE: 5,447,073 video views |
FACEBOOK: 99,951 likes |
SOUNDCLOUD: 58,582 followers |
LAST.FM: 1,162,709 scrobbles |


I discovered Lianne La Havas in one of my classes here at Berklee Valencia–International Music Business Seminar. Professor Graham Ball presented several artists to the class for us to propose and assume their success rate based on selected videos. Here’s the video he showed us:

This performance launched La Havas into stardom. She had already signed with Warner Bros. Records in 2010, and she had already released two EP’s “Lost & Found” and “Forget.” Therefore, after her debut on Later… with Jools Holland (an influential British music show) in October 2011, her career began to climb with astounding turn outs at her proceeding shows that were previously booked for showcasing her EP’s and promoting her anticipated album release.

I’ll be honest. At first, I wasn’t really paying attention in class because my phone was distracting me. However, the mere sound of Lianne La Havas’ voice immediately captured my attention with exquisite tone and intriguing lyrics.

La Havas was raised with Jazz and R&B influences from her Greek father and Jamaican mother who favored artists such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and Mary J. Blidge. Erykah Badu is one of her all time favorite artists. Interestingly, La Havas was studying art in college. She did not intend on making a career out of music until a friend from The BRIT School invited her to accompany them at a gig. There, she was introduced to Paloma Faith, and she eventually quit art school to pursue a music career. Then, she toured as a background singer for Faith, performed with other bands, put her music up on MySpace, and eventually found a management team that led her to producer Brit Matt Hales (Aqualung) who co-wrote several of her songs and produced her album Is Your Love Big Enough?.

Here are my favorite songs from her debut album Is Your Love Big Enough?:

Lianne La Havas “Forget”:

Lianne La Havas “Is Your Love Big Enough”:

Lianne La Havas “Gone”:

According to the Billboard charts, La Havas’ album ranked #23 for Adult R&B Airplay, #7 for Folk Albums, #1 for Heatseekers Albums, and #4 in the U.K. She recently began her tour in the UK, and she’ll be touring in the USA as well in March and April! I’m bummed that I won’t be able to see her live on April 13th in Atlanta, but hopefully she’ll return again with an even bigger fanbase and more tunes!

Check out her Interview with I Like It A Lot discussing her collaboration with Willy Mason and how she plans to incorporate her visual art talents with her albums:

Here she talks about her encounter with Prince and acquired fan Stevie Wonder!

Lianne La Havas has definitely gained me as a fan. Every time I hear her voice, I am captivated by its mesmerizing tone and quality. Even before I was familiar with her tunes, her melodies attracted my interest like magnets, pressing me to repetitively ask my friends who they were listening to. Each time, they answered: Lianne La Havas. I have never been so excited to buy someone’s album. I am certain her album sales are going to skyrocket once she’s completed her tour, and I’ll be able to say amongst my friends “I bought her album months ago!” Stay tuned!

Prayre Finley


“Artists: Lianne La Havas.” BillboardBiz. Billboard. Web. 27 Feb 2013.

“Lianne La Havas (Bio).” Warner Bros. Records. Warner Bros. Records. Web. 27 Feb 2013.

Artist Strategy: Growing Up

Artist Growth

As a musician, I’m familiar with the mindset. Over the years my own musical tastes have shifted, developed, and broadened with the advent of new influences from particular players or entire genres of music. These influences have shaped my creative capabilities into something more eclectic, more expressive, and more-so me. But as artists, we aren’t ever quite satisfied with who we are creatively; there’s always room to grow.

Growth from the perspective of an artist commercially is more complicated. There are a few additional barriers between point A and point B when a musician, or painter, or filmmaker attempts to expand as a service. Without getting into Porters Five Forces, Clustering, or SWOT analyses, we can agree that, generally, making it isn’t as simple as locking oneself away in a shed and repping real book charts until your chops melt.


One of the most difficult challenges to overcome – the one that most clearly separates professionals and novices in the industry – is the continued expansion of one’s fanbase. The first hundred ‘likes’ may be easy, as they’re often sourced by facebook friends and family out of complicity. The subsequent hundred or two can be earned by playing shows, but the growth regularly stops here. It stops when the same people are coming to your shows and you’ve no more facebook friends to hound. This is the wall that condemned your ska band to high school battle of the bands performances. This is the wall that’s keeping 99% of singer-songwriters off the playlist of my younger sister.

This first few hundred cooperating individuals are what I call an artist’s first sphere of fans – those with whom the artist has personally interacted with in exchange for support. The exponential growth beyond this point and the concept of “blowing up” all come down to an artist’s ability to mobilize these fans to help out. Once the members of an artist’s initial sphere reach out and share to their own personal spheres, that initial hundred becomes a thousand and, with any luck (or talent… right?), more.


I’m going to ask you to really dig deep to remember this next artist. While he’s phased out of the nation’s musical lexicon since his prime, he’s a perfect example of the difference between Nicki Minaj  and Laybelle.


His name is Psy and he used to be a pretty big deal.

Psy’s initial following – his fans in South Korea or the savvy goldminers of YouTube who stumbled across his video for Gangnam Style – were quick to relay his work to their own personal networks. His first sphere expanded to a second sphere, which expanded to a third, etc. – outwards to over a billion YouTube views. It helps that his video was optimized for virality, since without something so damn endearing like a round man dancing like a horse it wouldn’t have merited the share in the first place. Nevertheless, from this example we can learn that without something a bit more tangible than a piece of music, it’s quite hard to turn your ‘likes’ into passionate foot-soldiers.

There are no explicit rules to accomplishing this, though there are a few pre-requisites. Firstly, be very sure of what is it you’re trying to say. Be able to say it without needing to take a breath in the middle. One of my favorite examples comes from a songwriter I worked with back in Boston – Dylan Ewen. He said this about his album:

It’s about real life being a bummer, girls that suck, and porn.  I hope you enjoy it.  I really like Bob Dylan.”

Truly beautiful.

From there, you can set out to create something tangible, whether it be a story, a video, a logo, a t-shirt, anything you can achieve. The second imperative is creativity! Keep in mind, when you give someone a cool thing, chances are they want people to know they have it. If it’s something that they can give away without losing their own, they want to be known as the one who found it and the one who gave it away.

It’s something to consider – while a truly great song can be your ticket, sometimes it takes a little something provocative to get things rolling. Be inspired, be creative, and consider how you can add something tangible to what you do.