Strategy: Inbound

Patrick…

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I’ve known this character since high school – he’s been one of my best friends of all time. We’ve been through a lot; we’ve spent entire weeks in beach cottages, occasionally leaving the brightly painted, two-room shack to go mini-golfing dressed as formally as our resources would allow. At one point in high school, we spent an entire day excused from classes with school administration defending our actions in fear of impending suspension and a noticeable blemish on our otherwise faultless school behavioral records. Patrick – like all the best artists – kept me on my toes, entertained me, and made every ounce of my participation in the friendship worth each successive moment of time spent.

(thanks buddy. this one goes out to you)

AHEM! There’s a big lesson to take in here! As an artist, you need to be like my good friend Patrick.

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I’ve said it before. Seth Godin has said it before. We know it by now – you’ve got to be something special! You’ve got to have that charm and that little something that can’t be found anywhere else. Patrick has that. He’s incontrovertibly been and will always be that guy. In addition to his unmistakably characteristic personality, he has yet another integral factor of success. He’s got the right kind of actual, physical, not-even-figurative presence.

Keep in mind; I’m not necessarily saying he was always around. That’s actually a mistake many artists make – overdoing it (Yes, there’s a possibility that posting a link to your latest “Work In Progress” on Soundcloud and urging me to forward it to my entire network more than once in an hour could be considered too much.) In fact, Patrick was usually late to arrive and would consistently get himself lost during group outings – requiring that my friends and I take the time to find him whenever he got distracted and wandered off. Instead, he had presence in that I always knew where to find him, he was always there when I needed him, and he was always wholeheartedly down for whatever adventure happened to be on the agenda for the day.

You see; Patrick remains (to this day) rather conveniently unlicensed and thus legally precluded from operating a motor vehicle. This means that whenever a friend or I wanted to see him, we knew where we could find him – his house.

Here’s where some of the teachings lie. As an artist, you should be just like him; be consistently available, always be energetic and excited for even the most mundane trips to CVS for allergy medication, and bring that characteristic personality only when I come to you – when you know it’s what I know I’m getting myself into.

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In marketing terms, this is called your inbound strategy. It’s to be coordinated with your outbound efforts (which include your overt, publicly promotional actions – more on this some day) to contribute to something called Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC. Successfully integrated one’s inbound and outbound communications is like giving a body to a voice. It’s means that behind the shouts of publicity, there’s a stable foundation to back it up. It (most concretely) means that when people are looking for your music, your bio, your pictures, for you, they can do so easily. Seeing as we’re all living and breathing the Internet – yup – this pretty much means social media.

You’ll hear from some people these days how important it is to be “on social media.” Some of these will stress how you should be ubiquitous (everywhere) online so people can find you; I don’t really consider that true. You just need to be where you’re expected to be. This depends a lot on your particular situation, but your portfolio of online personas could include anything from an instagram account to a reddit account. I don’t doubt that you have the clarity to know your fans well enough to know where they hang out online!

While you’re racking your brain – here’s a few tips.

Buy the Domain Name Already.

If you haven’t already…

Even if it’s just for posting songs with a nice Ken Burns slideshow of pictures, YouTube is great to be available on.

Do you have a nice e-mail address?

Do your fans use Pinterest? Be on Pinterest.

Learn to use hootsuite.

MySpace integrates well with a lot of other services these days – give it a thought, but it’s not too necessary. 

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What you say about yourself isn’t nearly as important as what people say about you. Sometimes it’s a good idea to keep quiet and let the dialogue flow. Although content is king, your posts are mini forums for conversation – not a dumping ground or an obligation.

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One last thing. Respond to people.

Quirk

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Seth Godin is considered by many to be a sort of marketing guru. To his credit, he’s certainly positioned himself in that light rather successfully, which, I do suppose, earns him the title to some degree.

Through his quirky efforts, Godin connects himself as a marketer with an idea – it’s good to be weird. In fact, it’s strategic to live in a strange niche. This idea carries enough ambiguity to benefit from some discussion; let’s steal it talk about it.

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Yes. As an artist, step one is to speak your own, quirky voice – to most genuinely and outwardly project your idiosyncratic ramblings as a rallying call to your people. Unique music is integral to becoming and remaining important in somebody’s life. Step two is to continue being quirky with everything that you do; don’t be content with being yourself musically. It may to safe to say you’re a bit of a geek. Seth Godin would say to embrace that fully. You’re doing a great job being yourself with your songs, now carry on that IDGAF creativity to how you share it, how you sell it, how you perform it. The conventions need not apply to you.

To me, the most inspirational thing about the new music business is the ever-expanding range of tools that empower both the creators of content and those who crave the creative creations. There’s a compounding volume of options – startups, gadgets, opportunities. With this variety, there’s a similar growth in the number, size, individuality, and solidarity of countless communities, each interacting with one another in their own ways. Whether it be EDM fanatics endlessly promoting themselves through Soundcloud comments, or local rappers frequently ReverbNation, there’s a channel for all expression – for all art.

Now what?

Whether it’s positively or it’s negatively, people respond to things that are out of the ordinary. We’re programmed as mammals to spot and assess these potential threats. (You probably remember taking a discerning look at that ham sandwich, don’t you?) Considering this, artists can create their own blue ocean, their own uninhabited niche, not just through distinct music, but also through the creative manipulation of the very business upon which music moves.

As always – an example to make my baseless ramblings look like something. Here we have Iggy Pop. In 2012, he released an album and approached the occasion from an interesting angle. Après, an album consisting predominantly of French cover songs, was announced through Vente Privee – a members-only shopping platform normally dedicated to fashion, jewelry, lifestyle, etc. The site functions as an exclusive community of designer brand enthusiasts, organizing its constituency around flash-sales. By releasing an album through a website commonly associated with high-end watches, sunglasses, and food processors, Iggy Pop through a bit of spice into the mix – he successfully bolstered the value-adding properties of his value-communication efforts!

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Just taking a little risk and throwing even the slightest curve ball can have some interesting effects.

During the acclimatization process of my first semester of college in Boston, I encountered a couple creative people giving this concept a shot. Considering all the new music to which I was exposed through the simple contact effect of joining the Berklee community, I’d cultivated a massive list of artists and songs on my phone. To this day, I still check back now and again to familiarize myself with a new genre or artist. One CD, though, found a way to jump the line and hit my ears without waiting patiently as the rest. As the story goes, this CD was given out on the corner of Mass Ave and Boylston Street in connection with a book, which had been produced as a partner to the music. The intent was for the recipient to listen to the music while they read. Pretty. Cool. Idea. Right?

Unfortunately – both kind of sucked. There was value in the creative approach, but absolutely none in the product. I can’t even remember the name of the book at this point. Wow. It was pretty bad.

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So! Lesson learned! Make cool things and don’t just tell me about it. I want to find out, I want to discover it and get a taste of what to expect in the process. Good luck!

*NEW* Artist of the Week: EMELI SANDÉ

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: Emeli Sandé
BIRTH NAME: Adele Emeli Sandé

AGE: 23
ORIGEN: England, UK

GENRE: Soul and R&B
LABEL: Virgin Records, EMI Records, Capitol Records
WEBSITE: http://www.emelisande.com/

FANBASE
TWITTER: 915,032 followers
YOUTUBE: 26,061,731 video views | http://www.youtube.com/user/emelisande/featured
FACEBOOK: 734,443 likes
INSTAGRAM: 163,688 followers

WHY EMELI SANDÉ?

I was introduced to Emeli Sandé by a fellow friend at Berklee. We were eating in a restaurant and she asked me had I heard of the artist that was playing. At the time, I hadn’t, but didn’t think much of it until one of her songs was played again on a TV commercial. I made a mental note to check her out later, but didn’t get around to it until recently. Just by a simple YouTube search, I was led to Sandé’s “Heaven” and fell in love. Check it out!

After listening to “Heaven,” I was intrigued and my search began. I started listening to everything! I wanted to know more about the new Adele or Jessie J from London. Next, I was brought to “Clown.”

I must have played this song five times before I could move on. The lyrics were filled with so much meaning and emotion that I had to keep watching it to make sure I fully understood the message that was being conveyed. Emeli is depicting her experience of getting signed to a label. Something I mentioned with my last artist of the week, Todrick Hall. In this video, it seems as though the decision wasn’t so easy for her. Many of us dream of being offered the opportunity to sign a recording contract with a label, but here, Emeli is clearly showing that the decision wasn’t so easy.

The very purpose of this blog is to discuss the differences of artists who have signed to a label versus those who have chosen to build their career via a Direct2Fan method. Emeli Sandé has experienced both sides, and she seems to have chosen the majors. Perhaps, she was coerced. However, she did say “I’d be patient if I had the time.” What did she mean by that? Is she insinuating that it would take her much longer (if at all) to reach her success goal if she tried to do it on her own without the majors? Well, let’s take a look at her career before she hit the limelight.

Emeli Sandé began her career more behind-the-scenes by writing for artists like Leona Lewis, Susan Boyle, Cheryl Cole, and many more. Therefore, she signed a publishing deal EMI Music Publishing first, then later signed a record deal with Virgin Records. Her album Our Version of Events became the best-selling album of the UK in 2012 earning her the titles “Best British Album” and “Best British Female” at the Brit Awards 2013 (awards previously won by Adele and Jessie J).

Sandé seems very humbled and appreciative of her current success in this interview with Jessie J at the Brit Awards:

As a singer-songwriter, Emeli Sandé has mentioned several times the importance she places on remaining true to herself when writing songs about previous experiences for others to relate to. She wants her audience to connect to her and feel her emotion, and her videos are often an excellent portrayal of just that. Here are a couple more of my favorites:

Emeli Sandé “My Kind of Love”:

Emeli Sandé “Daddy”:

After listening to this song, I realized I had heard of her before my friend formerly introduced me. However, I could not recall where. To me, that is the best kind of exposure. “Daddy” must have been played in so many places that I learned of the song before I even learned of the artist. Now that‘s great marketing and promotion. I’m glad I have learned more about who she is as an artist and singer-songwriter. Her voice is impeccable, and I hope I’ll have the opportunity to meet her one day.

Currently, Sandé is touring US and the UK throughout the summer. I will have returned to the states by her July 3rd concert date in Atlanta, and I’m looking forward to attending what I know will be an amazing concert at The Tabernacle. I have already purchased her album, and I can’t stop listening to it. I can’t imagine how intense her vocals will be during a live performance. If she can convey that much emotion through a studio recording, I am certain she will only magnify the experience with raw emotion and energy in front of a live audience. Stay tuned!

Prayre Finley

Sources:

“Emeli Sandé: About.” Emeli Sandé. Web. 17 Apr 2013. http://www.emelisande.com/about/

“Emeli Sandé.” Wikipedia., 02 Apr 2013. Web. 17 Apr 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emeli_Sandé

Strategy: Something Below the Surface

One great benefit of being a musical artist is that it gives one the opportunity to become a very influential figure in people’s lives. It’s a fulfilling, emotionally driven approach to being a leader. As musicians, we’re in the business of scoring the soundtracks to the scenes of people’s lives – moments that are made so unforgettable thanks to their underscore. I can so vividly recall my first slow dance at my first Homecoming during high school, performed with a girl with whom I’d been infatuated (full disclosure, I’m not shy) – all to the undulating sway of I’ll Be by Edwin McCain. In parallel and contrast, I remember the energizing nature of Eminem’s poetry converting my anticipation to confidence before each lacrosse game; the dilapidated speaker system rattling the further abused green locker that housed it. The music both creates and captures the moment; it’s the ultimate third wheel and the perfect wingman.

Notwithstanding all of the preceding sappiness, I’m really just saying that our connection to musicians can be much more complex than our connections with other shared role models. It all comes down to how compellingly the message is delivered. There are some great opportunities for people who perhaps wouldn’t make it in the film industry or in professional sports – music is an environment for whoever has a voice and for whoever is able to throw it. 

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For the sake of seeking a mainstream example, the below photograph is of the likeness of Ms. Susan Magdalane Boyle. This Scottish pop icon found her fame auditioning for the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. Regardless of any initial chuckles and jokes, there’s “something” about her performance that earned her a bit of attention, as these days she’s a Grammy nominated, platinum recording artist. Her story, however influenced by Syco Records’s marketing efforts, reveals in music the possibilities for a bit of quirk. If there’s passion and a voice, there’s a community of people with whom it’ll click!

I’ll continue along a different vein with one of my father’s personal favorites, Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes. Another example of an unconventional celebrity, Brittany gives one of the most powerful performances around (despite delivering it in perhaps the same outfit she’d buy groceries in.) Though, if there’s anything to observe from Brittany and Susan, it’s that music, emotion, and message reign supreme in the grand scheme of finding an audience. The art itself enough to garner support. They give everything and lack nothing. There’s room in popular music for everyone – those whose careers depend on looks, and those who bring a bit more to the table. 

I’m now going to digress offer an example of a singer who’s really impressed me with just her commitment to her art. I met her during my first week at Berklee and I’ve been around for the past year and a half of her career. She has one of the most passionate devotions to a dream that I’ve ever seen in a performer, and I’m really happy with how things are going for her. Here’s a brief synopsis of her story. Here’s Kate Cameron.

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By some unfortunate astral alignment, my friend Kate became subject to a bit of peer-on-peer denigration early on in our studies at Berklee. For the sake of brevity, she was picking the short straw regularly as the subject of quite a few joking remarks. Despite that vituperation, she’s stayed authentically focused on her music and her craft, and she’s turned the tables. Of all the singer-songwriters that I know, she’s really been the one to improve and to show signs of a very bright future. (For those of you in Boston this summer, she’s got  a 6 gig residency at the Boston Harbor Hotel!)

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For everyone just starting, for anyone out there overly concerned with taking on the biz, consider the success of artists like these. It doesn’t matter how you look, what people think, or even what you’re saying (Jason Mraz’s Geek in the Pink is just uncensored hubris – but it’s great.) If you say something and you say it loud, there’s nothing to stop your crowd from hearing.

*NEW* Artist of the Week: TODRICK HALL

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: Todrick Hall
AGE: 25
ORIGEN: Arlington, Texas

GENRE: R&B, Pop, Hip Hop
LABEL: None
WEBSITE: None

FANBASE
TWITTER: 76,951 followers | https://twitter.com/toddyrockstar
YOUTUBE: 5,447,073 video views | http://www.youtube.com/user/todrickhall
FACEBOOK: 10,000+ friends | Facebook 1Facebook 2

WHY TODRICK HALL?

Todrick Hall has made several appearances as a YouTube sensation and American Idol Season 9 Top 24 Finalist. I don’t remember who introduced me to him, but I do remember being intrigued by his raw talent and skill. I think the first time I saw Todrick Hall was in a video of him leading a flash mob in Target to Beyoncé’s then recently released single “End of Time.” Not only is Todrick an amazing singer and performer, he’s a talented dancer and choreographer as well. Check it out!

This video was such a viral hit that it made its way to Beyoncé herself who then uploaded a video response acknowledging Hall for his amazing video and appreciation. In my opinion, that truly showed Beyoncé’s character and leadership for taking time to show her appreciation for such an adoring fan. Check it out!

Later, Todrick made another appearance in the limelight with his pertinacious attempt to be cast as the newest member on the hit TV show “Glee” where he directly addressed Mr. Ryan Murphy himself (creator and director of the hit TV show). This is my favorite video of his because it truly shows his versatility, range, and dancing abilities too! Todrick Hall is not only an incredible singer, he’s also an amazing dancer and choreographer! You should definitely check it out (if you haven’t already).

Todrick Hall “I Wanna Be on Glee”:

Todrick Hall is not currently signed to a label, but I don’t think he intends to. He doesn’t have an official website, but it seems as if he has resolved to using social media as his main source of communication. I have been following him for quite some time, and he post rather frequently enough to keep your attention. In fact, in 2011 he ran his own campaign to raise $30,000 by January 2012 to have enough money to continue his YouTube series which currently has over 218,000 subscribers. I suppose his campaign went well because he hasn’t stopped posting videos since he started. Check out his original song “Without U” featuring my previous Artist of the Week, Tori Kelly:

I found this song to be very clever and unique enough to show off his incredible writing skills. I even remember hearing it in various stores and restaurants as I was “out-and-about.” That is when I became really shocked to find that he wasn’t even signed to a label yet even after his claim to fame on American Idol. Perhaps he has chosen to build his career as an independent artist, shunning the support of a label to avoid the financial burden of an advance that may compromise his artistry and copyright royalties as a singer-songwriter as well. Do you think he can do it? Do you think this is where the music industry is headed? Todrick clearly seems to be content with his career right now, and he doesn’t appear to be seeking out any help from the majors.

Here’s the video of his audition for American Idol Season 9. I found it to be very clever and catchy, and the judges obviously did too because he received a unanimous vote to be put through to the next round. I can’t believe he wrote this on the plane to his audition! He really is a talented writer and musician. Here’s the video:

Being the clever writer that he is, I found his parody of Beauty and the Beast to be extremely hilarious and entertaining as well. He incorporated a lot of social trending topics and YouTube celebrities in the video, so I hope you find it just as amusing as I did.

Todrick Hall “Beauty and the Beat”:

Well, that’s all the info I have on Todrick Hall right now, but keep an eye out for him. He’s definitely capitalizing on a new music business model of how to sustain yourself as an independent artist without the once necessary backing of a major label. Stay tuned!

Prayre Finley

Sources:

“American Idol (season 9).” Wikipedia. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todrick_Hall

TAXI Music: May Take You to Where You Dream To Be

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Have you heard of them? Well, supposedly they are here to help you get connected with and assist you in shopping your music to publishers, artists, labels, T.V. companies and more!

What is Taxi?

Founded in 1992 by CEO Michael Laskow, Taxi is a music-based A&R company that aids unsigned artists and composers in reaching their goals of finding record, publishing and film deals. They have the network to connect you with the best and big names you are looking to meet. Taxi is based in Los Angeles California and they have aided many songwriters and composers in receiving big deals.

TAXI member Sylvia Winsby poses with ASCAP V.P. Ralph Murphy and TAXI's CEO Michael Laskow after winning her brand new Taylor Guitar at the 2012 TAXI Road Rally.

TAXI member Sylvia Winsby poses with ASCAP V.P. Ralph Murphy and TAXI’s CEO Michael Laskow after winning her brand new Taylor Guitar at the 2012 TAXI Road Rally.

How to Join and Get Connected

To join Taxi you create an account on the website. You submit the membership fee of $299.95 for the whole year. Once you have done these things you have officially joined. Taxi provides industry listings from labels and companies looking for music. You then send your music to Taxi and they review your music and depending on which listings you use they give you helpful criticism on your songs. Your songs are sent by Taxi, directly to the company whose listing best matches your songs. Companies are more likely to listen to your music when it has been referred by a reliable source.

Taxi keeps in contact with many music companies and those companies reach out to taxi inquiring of new music and writers. They include what type of music they are looking to receive, for example the genre, the style, the theme or mood, for what type of project, being for film, T.V., an artist or what have you. Taxi posts those listings and you the taxi member submit music for the posting and receive feedback and hopefully a deal with that company (an example of a company listing HERE). There is no 100% guarantee that the company will choose your music, but the more you shop your music the more opportunity you will have.

How long does it take to hear back.

From reading a forum on the Taxi website the wait can range from a few days, to 6months, to over a year. The key here is to keep submitting your music, have all types and styles if able and have the patience to wait on a reply from the companies. Hang in there. There have been stories from this forum where people have wanted to quit, but by sticking it out they received contacts and deals from music companies.

 

Perks of Your Membership

Membership – You get an annual membership and a cheaper membership renewal fee.

Large Network  – connections to shop your music. Taxi has such a large number of companies in its database including EMI, ABC, Fox Sports, Columbia Records, Epic Records, Capitol records, CBS, Universal Music, MTV and way more.

The Road Rally, which is a free, three-day convention. There you are involved in many sessions, listening to panels and educated speakers. You can also bring a guest for free with your membership.

Taxi Road Rally Convention 2010

Taxi Road Rally Convention 2010

Feedback – You will get feedback about your music and songs when you submit them to Taxi before they send it to the companies. You are able to use their criticism to make you music better.

An Example of a critique sheet received by a member from Taxi.

An Example of a critique sheet received by a member from Taxi.

Referrals – They offer referrals for companies, lawyers and other information from their friendly and helpful staff.

Opportunity – The chance to submit your music to big names in the industry and have Taxi be a reference for you.

Free Music Business Newsletter – Taxi Meter and Recording Magazine are the two magazines put out by Taxi with industry updates and Taxi interviews and updates.

Money-Back Guarantee – If you aren’t satisfied you will get the full year cost of $299.95 back even after being with Taxi for a full year.

 

 

Is it for you?

Taxi is very proud of their customer service and they strive to be as helpful all around as possible from opportunities to feedback to a kind answer to your question.

Taxi does not take any percentage from your earnings; you get to keep 100% of your percentage. All they receive is the annual $300 membership fee, plus a $5 song submission fee for each song. To renew your membership it is only $199.95.

Don’t worry about having the best material or the best production of your song. The more you work at it, the more you show your music and the more feedback you get then the better you will get as a writer. This may be a good way for you. Go after your dreams. You can also begin your Taxi journey by subscribing to their email listing HERE and get an email from Taxi twice a month giving you industry updates. You can also check out Taxi’s youtube channel with advice, commentary and interviews HERE.

Success Stories

“TAXI is a great concept — it gives credible songwriters everywhere a way to get their songs heard.”
Shane Barrett — Director of A&R, MCA Records, Nashville

“I’ve already signed one TAXI act, and I’m looking at others that have been submitted.”
Tony Ferguson — VP of A&R, Interscope Records, LA

“I’ve signed a lot of deals with TAXI members. And a good percentage of those writers have had their music placed in TV shows and films as a direct result.”
Jim Long — CEO, One Music

“I received a giant BMI check from TV airplay that I probably wouldn’t have earned without TAXI.”
Julie Ann Bailey — TAXI Member

FAQs http://www.taxi.com/songwriting3/index.php?icid=TXINCN0000004B#faqs

Taxi testimonial videos HERE and HERE.

 

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