Berklee Today, the journal for alumni of Berklee College of Music, recently gave me the opportunity to explore the relationship between musical training and the skills of entrepreneurs. I interviewed several Berklee alumni who have gone on to create groundbreaking music technology companies serving independent artists.
- Derek Sivers – founder of CD Baby
- Panos Panay – founder of Sonicbids (recently acquired by BackStage)
- Benji Rogers and Jayce Varden – founders of PledgeMusic
- Patrick Faucher and Phil Antoniades of Nimbit (acquired by Presonus last year)
Each of these companies provides tools that help musicians distribute music, raise funds and market themselves, but what struck me was the similarity between direct-to-fan and lean startup practices. Direct-to-fan platforms give artists a strong connection with their super-fans, providing valuable feedback and ongoing engagement. In particular, early-stage pre-release platforms like PledgeMusic show artists what their fans value and how they want to be engaged. By the time the funding cycle is complete the artist knows their customer and has had the opportunity to tweak their offerings. Each person I interviewed described their musical training as fundamental preparation for working in a startup environment.
I recently had the opportunity to create a presentation for Daniel Indart’s Music Entrepreneurship students at the Cornel School of Contemporary Music at Shepherd University in Los Angeles. My presentation: Thinking Different(ly)…The Rare and Valuable Skills of Musicians discussed the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset in today’s music industry. While business and music are diametrically opposed activities, they are complimentary. The life of professional musicians is remarkably like a startup company. We may not think of ourselves in that light, but the similarities are striking. Musicians can learn a great deal by thinking metaphorically and studying lean startup practices. We are uniquely equipped to learn new skills because we understand the process of deep, deliberate practice. This also makes musicians valuable in a continually disrupted economy where innovation, flexibility, and intrinsic motivation trump past work experience and training.
The students were inspiring and I had a great time. You can check out my slides, a list of related resources, and a survey of revenue streams for musicians from the awesome folks at the Future of Music Coalition.
Please be sure to find out more about Daniel Indart and Latin Music Specialists. Daniel is one of the premier authorities on all genres of Latin music, a prolific composer/producer and a wonderful educator. Thanks for inviting me!
As musicians we spend as much time as possible working with our craft but can struggle with the business side of our careers. I think of business as the complete chain of events that brings the music out of our imaginations into the world. Money is fuel, but is only one piece of the equation. Bringing music to life requires the skills and attention of many smart people; musicians, presenters, managers, agents, marketers, labels, publishers and fundraisers. Composers and performers are musical CEOs, managing each step and partnership along the way.
Organizations like Chamber Music America (CMA) are making a huge contribution to classical, jazz, and world music by providing grants and the business education that musicians need. On January 24, 2013, Jeanette Vuocolo, Program Director for CMA Jazz led a well-attended workshop at The Blue Whale jazz club in downtown Los Angeles. Ms. Vuocolo’s presentation focused on the New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble grant application process and featured panelists, Bennie Maupin and Remy La Boeuf.
The New Jazz Works grant, which is made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, provides funding and music business guidance to professional US jazz ensembles of 2-10 musicians in three phases:
1. CORE: Creation and Performance
The creation of a new work, the work’s world premiere, and one additional performance. Both performances must take place within the United States. This phase must be completed within eighteen months.
2. Continued Life
The second phase supports additional concerts, touring, open rehearsals, master classes, clinics, school and community visits, residencies, conference showcasing, promotion, self-presenting and recording. Activities can take place in the US or abroad.
3. Better Business
Phase three supports the ensemble leader, funding business related activities; attending conferences, meeting prospective presenters, taking classes, and working with mentors and consultants.
Both musician-panelists described what they have learned. Besides the opportunity to compose and perform a new extended work, they found that the application process itself was educational, helping them to articulate their goals and musical vision. Both Mr. Maupin and Mr. La Boeuf described the many new opportunities and business relationships that have emerged from their involvement with CMA. The program also encourages musicians to give back to their communities, mentoring others and sharing their experiences in panels and conferences.
For more information and application materials please visit: http://www.chamber-music.org/
A list of music industry related books referenced in my recent seminar at The Royal College of Music – Stockholm, Sweden:
- All You Need to Know About the Music Business (8th edition) – Donald S. Passman
- The Plain and Simple Guide to Music Publishing (2nd Edition) – Randall S. Wixen
- Music, Money and Success (7th edition) – Jeffrey and Todd Brabec
- Appetite for Self-Destruction – Steve Knopper
- Making Music Make Money – Eric Beall
- Anything You Want – Derek Sivers
- How Music Works – David Byrne
- Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music – Angela Beeching
A bucket under every drip…
I recently had the opportunity to research and write a piece for Berklee Today magazine exploring lesser known revenue streams for composers and musicians.
In today’s music industry, tapping every revenue source is key, particularly for independent artists. Thinking like an entrepreneur and getting ahead of the curve with new technologies can create exciting opportunities for distributing and promoting music.
This piece starts with the basics of copyright and the role of rights organizations and jumps into library music and the potential shifts that will be created with the adoption of HTML 5 as the new web standard.
I was was very fortunate to receive input from artist Neara Russell, music publishing administrator Patricia Blair, composer Joel Goodman, and the good folks at ASCAP and SoundExchange. Special thanks as always to my editor Mark Small at Berklee Today!
You can read the full article here:
Interesting, valuable, content is the heart of communication with fans and followers. Using social media effectively requires planning and commitment. Here are a few tips to get you going:
Develop an Integrated Strategy
Be realistic about the time you can commit to online communication. Find the right partners to help you. Develop your approach from the Big Ideas that make you unique; the ‘Why’ of you as an artist. Connect your online and offline strategies.
Understand the Tools
Each social media platform and channel (and there are many) has a unique flavor. Your blog is a personal command post, Twitter is a cocktail party, Facebook is like a neighborhood pub, and so forth. Determine where your fans hang out and develop a plan that uses between 2 and 10 different platforms. Don’t overwhelm yourself at first, but make sure you understand how each platform works; it’s strengths and weaknesses. Tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck allow you to manage several communication channels in one dashboard and send Tweets and status updates to multiple services with one click. You can also delay posting times so that you can ‘pre-publish’ outbound communications.
Share Your Passions
So how do you create all this content? Be real, have fun and share your passions. Get a little outrageous and controversial. Your music generates a slew of byproducts that can help you build a community of active fans. If you are a guitar player in search of the ultimate tone, talk about your rig. If you are a foodie that samples every regional cuisine when you’re on the road, share the love. Keep it interesting and surprising. Mix it up; short, long, funny, informational, photos, writing, podcasts, & video.
Listen to Your Audience
Make time every day to listen to your fans. Comment on other blogs. Ask followers what is important to them. Use Google Alerts and Twitter Search to keep track of what people are saying. Google Reader is my tool of choice for following multiple blogs. Most importantly make time every day to thank your fans personally; for a comment, a purchase, for following your blog, Twitter or Facebook feed. If you are a musician you are a fan too. Ask yourself, what would you like to hear from the artists you admire? Make a list and try those things out with your fans.
Create a Publishing Schedule
This seems like a lot of work, right? Well, it is but you can streamline your time management in a number of ways. Set up a regular publishing schedule. Break it down into daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly activities. Tweets and status updates every day; blog posts 3 to 7 times a week; email newsletters monthly, etc. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. You can take one central thing that defines who you are and extrapolate all sorts of shorter pieces of content. For example: the record you just recorded or a tour; you can talk about the songs, the players, the recording process, pictures, videos, and on and on. If you document everything you are doing with pictures, down and dirty videos and recordings you will find that have more content than you know what to do with. Content Rules by marketing gurus Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman is a great book filled with specific ideas and approaches. Music marketing veteran Michael Brandvold has written a great post on managing social media overload. Check it out and add your comments.
Set Goals, Measure & Tweak
Before you jump in, ask yourself why you are doing this and, specifically what do you hope to accomplish? Are you looking for more Facebook followers, email addresses, blog subscriptions, page views, download sales? It takes takes time to get a viral loop spinning. Review your stats and measurements at least once a month to see what’s working, and make adjustments.
And of course, the most important thing is to create extraordinary music.
I hope this helps to get you started developing social media content. Have fun! Please share your successes and tips here. What’s working for you?
Interesting post by Bob Baker today.
The tools and the channels have changed dramatically but artists have always been self-employed and struggled to balance the pursuit of their craft with the economic realities of survival. More of my thoughts to follow…
From today’s Digital Music News:
Are Music Consumers Stepping On Us?
That was the question posed on Thursday by NPD analyst Russ Crupnick at Digital Music Forum East in Manhattan.
“Consumers are flipping us the bird,” Crupnick declared while trotting through slide-after-slide of distressing data. Exhibit A? Crupnick listed a litany of concessions and pro-consumer offers from this industry over the past ten years – all of which have produced few substantive revenue returns. These include:
- liberal licensing
- disabled DRM
“These are great things we’ve done for consumers, but what have they done for us?” Crupnick posed. Well, the answer is very little, and Crupnick’s stats proved it. Over the past 5 years alone, Crupnick noted that the population of buying music fans declined by 20 million, and per-capita spending has dropped by 40 percent. Meanwhile, just 5 percent of US consumers are using subscription services, including free trials. “We’re being too liberal,” the analyst continued. “We need to demand more from consumers.”
But there’s a funny twist: among the buyers that remain, a majority are only buying CDs. In fact, Crupnick noted that 55% of paying music fans are solely purchasing CDs, down from 80% percent in 2006. Just last week at New Music Seminar in Los Angeles, Tommy Silverman reported that two-thirds of all album purchases are physical.
And what about the superfan, won’t that save us? Well, Crupnick popped that balloon quickly by noting that superfans are also buying less. But, their percentage of overall purchases is increasing as more casual fans leave the building. “Fewer and fewer people are buying music, so the percentage of buying by uberfans increases,” Crupnick noted.
“I can’t comprehend the logic of “demanding more from consumers.” Show me a good product manager who agrees with that reasoning.
It is hard to compete with free but that’s the reality today for any media business. Consumers have unprecedented choice and an enormous sense of entitlement. If you want to succeed in the marketplace you have to get real about that.
Also, the recording industry was a ridiculous bubble economy for over 20 years. Now it is leveling out and that is painful. The industry will be smaller in the future, more personalized, and consumer driven.
Things will continue to shake out for awhile.
Join the discussion here…
Check out these two excellent podcasts in preparation for the upcoming Rethink Music conference coming up this April in Boston.