During the pandemic, it can be incredibly difficult to make connections and to find work. Millions are unemployed and creatives everywhere have seen massive layoffs. Music makers are not excluded. The work they do for advertising agencies, music libraries, and other musicians has all been crippled by COVID-19.
I was sent this wisdom from my friend Jason Rudd and found it to be poignant and encouraging.
Originally written by Kevin Paez.
Creative people are needed. Don’t believe the nonsense that you are not essential. I would argue that creativity is what gets us out of the current state of the world, in every challenge we face.
Successful creators know from experience that the very limitations and parameters that are given are not defeating, but rather spark and focus the imagination.
In light of that, here are some things that have repeatedly come up for me during the lock down:
Maintain your health. Don’t catch, don’t spread. Move. Sweat. Eat like you are in training for the best phase of your life. Research some dietary improvements, vitamins.
Avoid neglect of your talents and skills. They are more valuable than you are being led to believe.
Practice intellectual hygiene. Deploy Occam’s Razor early and often. It does cut down so much nonsense, so quickly.
Limit your social media engagement. You are not obligated to explain Occam’s Razor to people who are unable to think critically.
Be efficient with your energy. It is very easy to get scattered and distracted from basic life when there is a constant stream of scary news. Brainstorm, make lists, and knock things out one at a time. You don’t have to worry about November while you mop, or garden.
I don’t have to mop the garden til November.
Consume quality media. Not just news sources, but books, radio, podcasts, music, film, and episodic TV. Observe and learn from all the elements, production value, performance, space, settings. Consider everything that must have needed to happen to arrive at the release of works. “It takes a village” doesn’t have much value to a considerable contingent of our current society, but the presence of that foolish mentality will diminish. Prepare yourself to collaborate with every willing participant on the team that will get this ship righted.
Stay in touch. After 22 years of being phone-averse, I have noticed I am suddenly keen to check in on voice calls. Zoom with whomever suits you. Call or text those you are missing, or for whom you have concern today. Seek ideas. Listen carefully. Allow people to thrash, rage, cry. I have noticed there is an abundance of direct honesty going around. Welcome it.
If you’re reading this then you’re trying to really dive into who you are as an artist, why you’re driven to do this in the first place, and what that means for your career, your audience, and your brand.
1: WHAT MAKES YOU WANT TO DO THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Be as descriptive as possible.
Why is this who you are?
Why will you pursue your art no matter what?
What does success look like?
What drives your message?
2: WHAT IS THE CORE OF YOUR MESSAGE AND WHY DOES IT MATTER TO YOU?
What makes your message part of who you are?
Why does it matter to you?
How does it manifest itself in your life?
How does it affect your art at the most basic level? How does it affect your art at the most extreme level?
3: WHY DOES YOUR AUDIENCE NEED TO HEAR YOUR MESSAGE AND WHY DOES IT MATTER TO THEM?
How does it change their life?
How does it make them want to hear more from you?
How does it create a connection between them, their story, and you and yours? Why does that connection matter?
4: HOW DOES YOUR SOUND REFLECT YOUR MESSAGE AND WHY?
What about your sound touches on your message?
What instruments, tones, energies, or vibes best express the feelings behind your writing and message?
What are your influences and why do they affect your message?
What parts of your influences hold the most meaning to you and your audience?
5: KNOWING THESE THINGS, WHO DOES THIS MESSAGE AND SOUND MOST EFFECTIVELY TARGET AND WHAT IS THEIR DEMOGRAPHIC?
Age? Social class? Ethnic background? Successes in life? Failures and struggles? Schooling level? Geographic location?
Why do these things tie back into their connection to your message and your art?
Why does your sound resonate with them? Who else do they listen to?
6: WHAT VISUALS EMBODY YOUR MESSAGE? HOW DO THOSE VISUALS CONNECT WITH YOU? YOUR AUDIENCE?
Movies? TV shows? Artists?
What emotions do those visuals convey to you?
What emotions are conveyed to your audience by them?
Why do these emotions create a connection between you and your audience?
How do these visuals tell a story that aligns with your music?
7. HOW DO ALL OF THESE THINGS COMBINE TO PAINT A COMPREHENSIVE VISION FOR YOURSELF?
If you could make one wish to put yourself in any position in the industry what would that look like?
In a perfect world, how does your audience respond to your music? How does it affect them?
In a perfect world, how much money does this career make for you?
How many live shows are you playing? What do those look like?
How do your sound and visual brand intersect to accurately convey your message and vision on the deepest level?
How does your visual brand affect merchandising? How does your sonic brand affect it?
Now it’s time for self-reflection.
WHERE ARE YOU AT IN YOUR CAREER AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE?
What are your past successes? Past failures?
What have you learned so far? How have you changed and adapted yourself to implement these learnings?
HOW TRUE TO YOUR VISION ARE YOU BEING AND HOW IS IT AFFECTING YOUR CAREER?
Are you effectively pursuing every avenue to bring that vision to life? Why? Why not?
What does fully committing to that vision look like to you? Are you doing it?
What is your audience getting out of your vision right now? What would you like them to get out of it?
Is your current artistic product a fully effective conveyance of your vision? Is it exactly what you hear in your head when you imagine your sound?
How true to who you are in the product you’re releasing? How true to who your audience is it?
If it isn’t, what would happen if it was?
If it is, what’s the next step for you as an artist?
HERE IS WHERE TO GO WITH THIS.
Hopefully, this has helped you put your career in perspective on some level. There are like a billion places to go with this but the first place to start is with the areas you are struggling with.
Chances are, if everything is going perfectly you’re not one of the people filling this out. It’s also equally likely that this worksheet has highlighted some areas you need to work on. That’s good. Once you know what the problem area is you can begin to solve it.
First, make music people want to hear. Meeting industry-standard quality is a prerequisite for having an actual career. You can get away with it [not meeting quality standards] at high levels when you have dedicated fans.
If you want to be commercially successful you have to identify an audience and create value for them.
Just because you have a high-end record with top tier production, mixing, and mastering, does NOT mean that it will perform well if marketed poorly or not at all. Targeted marketing is important. Marketing amazing music to the wrong audience is bad marketing.
Figure out your “character” and create a “character profile” for your target audience.
Create content that connects with your “character” and hand-deliver to groups, hashtags, pages, etc, that they live in. Interact with people one on one.
e.g. For a politically conscious synth wave project, because of the political bent, we would regularly take footage of world events, use video editing to make them look extremely retro, and then back them with original synth wave music and attach some kind of existential blurb on top. We used memes that said things that our target character profile agreed with. We would write blog-style posts about issues that our audience deals with.
Brand Identity sample questions
Who are you as a creative? What defines you as an artistic idea?
What has led you to become this way?
What value do you want to get out of your career as an artist?
What value do you want to get out of your own music?
What value do you want your fans to get out of your music?
What unique stories about yourself can you tell that will resonate with people?
What lifestyle would you like to see your music provide for you?
What personality issues do you have that will make it hard for you to have a music career?
What personality traits do you have that will help you succeed in music?
What is your long term mission and vision as an artist?
Who do you want to be 5 years from now? Why?
Target Market sample questions
What does your fan do for a living?
How old are they?
Are they mostly men? Mostly women? Nonbinary?
Where do they live? Why do they live there?
What are their hobbies? What kind of value do these hobbies add to their life?
What do they like to eat? Do they cook at home a lot? Eat out?
Where do they hang out online? What social media platforms?
Who are they fans of on Social Media? Who are they engaging with?
What are their favorite types of entertainment?
What are their favorite shows? Movies?
What other artists are they listening to?
What videogames (if any) do they play?
What political issues are they passionate about?
What do they hate talking about?
What do they love talking about?
What kind of religious values do they have?
What has been a chief circumstantial struggle for them?
What has been a chief personal struggle for them?
What’s the biggest lesson they’ve had to learn about themselves?
What’s the biggest lesson they’ve had to learn about others?
What are their goals in life?
What are the primary roadblocks to those goals?
What do they do that they don’t want anyone to know about?
If your fan was going to tell you a secret, what would it be?
How trustworthy are they to their friends and family?
How successful have their romantic and personal relationships been?
Why have their relationships been the way they are?
Do they do drugs? With what level of seriousness?
To find out more about music coaching services, reach out and book a free consulting session by contacting me.
It’s Hard To Get Ahead In The Music Business, Working With The *Right* Kind Of Industry Expert Will Make All The Difference
(Listen to the episode of The Music Industry Blueprint w/ Rick Barker that inspired this post here starting at 25:42.)
Music business expert Rick Barker notes that the little differences between a music manager and a music career coach are actually vastly important. Notably, a music manager is a big-picture planner, an engineer for success that directs the flow of your progress in the most profitable directions(s) possible. A music career coach is focused on the minutiae of your day-to-day experience as an artist and will give you the tools you need to turn your raw talent, skills, and vision into a polished finished product. Both are almost-always essential to an artist’s success in the music business, yet working with either is not always appropriate depending on your level of achievement.
In this article, you’ll learn how to tell which you need right now.
You’re Ready For A Music Manager If:
1. You’re making money from your music (either for yourself or, potentially, for a label).
Music managers are most often paid through a kind of profit-sharing scheme wherein if (and when) you make money, they get paid. In the past, that created situations where managers worked incredibly hard, yet weren’t paid for their work until after the artist made it big. Because labels are no longer built to make music stars from scratch, managers are no longer responsible for that, either. If you’re not at the point in your career where you are profiting from your music and your fanbase (so your manager gets paid), you’re not ready for a manager.
2. You’re making money and/or drawing requests for collaboration, but you want to negotiate stronger contracts.
A music manager is your employee. They work for you, and because their paycheck is directly tied to your profits, they will always aim to connect you with opportunities, other artists, and industry collaborators that will grow your success. As expert negotiators, their job is also to ensure you are treated fairly in any collaboration or contract you engage in and to represent you to shareholders . If you’re not at the point in your career where you are involved (or about to be involved) in contract, collaboration, and other negotiations, you’re not ready for a manager.
3. You know who you are and what you want as an artist, but you need somebody to tell you (and arrange for you to) take actionable steps to get there.
Music managers have a strong entrepreneurial spirit, a knack for understanding how data translates into real-world information about your fanbase, and a close proximity to the music industry. Mostly, they figure out innovative, effective, industry-leading strategies to strengthen your following and increase your profits. This includes spearheading everything from marketing campaigns to new revenue streams like tours and features . A music manager needs data (video views, social media engagement, sales, gig attendance) to do their job, so if you’re not yet established as a business with marketing and revenue-building campaigns, you’re not ready for a manager.
4. You’ve come up against something in your career that you truly cannot navigate.
A music manager is also an excellent problem solver. They have an extensive network of industry contacts and a wealth of knowledge about the music business. When artists reach a point in their careers where they don’t have the connections or the finances to overcome a roadblock, a music manager is there to leverage their connections, knowledge, and oftentimes their checkbook to clear the way . They unlock advancement by using connections and networking. If the challenges you’re facing are things you could solve if you had different or stronger skills, you’re not ready for a manager.
5. You need a big-picture person and you need to upgrade the people in your life.
A music manager, when you have one, will be your big-picture person. Their focus will be to clarify your goals and hold you accountable to your contractual obligations for growth and momentum as a brand. They will be the one who will identify and oversee other team members (lawyers, business manager, agent, etc) so that you can focus on developing your strengths as an artist . If you’re still at the point in your career where you need to hash out the small details — your unique branding and sound — you’re not ready for a manager.
You Need A Music Coach If:
1. You’re willing to invest in yourself.
At some point, a label is going to become willing to invest in you. Before that can happen, though, you’re responsible for investing in yourself and working to develop your career on your own/with the guidance of an industry professional who you directly compensate for their time. Music managers will most often approach you if you are label-ready. If they haven’t, it’s probably because you don’t need a manager; you need a music coach. And if you can’t afford $1000 a year to hire a coach to educate you, then you’re probably in the wrong business.
2. You don’t know how to be a good advocate for yourself or your vision as an artist.
Being your own advocate is about more than just contract negotiation (though it does involve contract negotiation). Overall, it is a process by which you learn to hear, listen to, and respect your inner voice . As a recording artist, you are going to be surrounded by people who are constantly trying to influence you and the direction of your growth. Before you can be successful in such a noisy, cutthroat space, you need to not only acquire leadership and negotiation skills, but also a strong sense of self and vision and the ability to defend them.
3. You aren’t quite sure who you are as a brand or an artist, and you need somebody to teach you how (and support your efforts) to take actionable steps to get there.
Music managers are profit-focused and use data-driven tactics to improve your numbers. Music coaches are security- and strength-focused and use skill-building tactics to help you become more established as a musician and brand. Those tactics include exploring in-industry jobs and gig opportunities, learning about live performances and other direct-networking practices, finding vocal and instrumental coaches, developing better social media marketing and streaming practices, preparing for auditions/interviews/first-impressions, designing a productive daily creative habit, etc . They can do many of the same things that a traditional day-to-day manager might do, without a label deal or royalty contract.
4. You’ve come up against something in your career that you’re unsure how to navigate.
A music coach’s job has some overlap, here, with a music manager’s role in that they both want you to be able to move forward. However, while a manager will expect you to already have all the skills and confidence necessary to solve problems that are solvable (by you), a music coach will be more understanding of your insecurities or weaknesses. Their job is to facilitate breakthroughs — whether skill-based or confidence-based — to enable you to move forward . Oftentimes, that involves “lifting limiting assumptions” or empowering you to recognize your strengths and abilities .
5. You need someone detail-oriented to identify gaps between where you are and where you want to be.
A music coach, when you have one, will be your detailer. Their entire job focus will be to pay attention to the small (potentially underdeveloped) details of your music career with an eye for helping you stay on track toward your larger, long term goals . Sometimes, that even means they’ll help you form and clarify measurable, attainable long term goals. Other times, it means they’ll simply guide you to the next step in your development, where a music manager will become helpful. A music coach’s impact on your career is responsive to where you are now.
Working with the right people at the right time is essential to your success in the music business. A music coach’s job is to help you get from wherever you are now to wherever you want to be, while a music manager’s job is to turn you from a modest success into a very profitable one. For many artists, working with a music coach is an often-overlooked but incredibly important step in developing their potential as a recording artist. If you want to max out your chances of succeeding in the music business, consider the above-listed conditions of your current career. Working with a music coach, not a music manager, will give you the tools to develop the mindset and strategies necessary to be successful.
To find out more about music coaching services, reach out, and book a free consulting session by contacting me.
Advice Inspired By The Music Industry Blueprint Podcast With Rick Barker
(Listen to the episode of The Music Industry Blueprint Podcast with Rick Barker that inspired this post here]
You may expect that the best promo hacks for musicians are more or less the most expensive advertising techniques. Yet, at the end of the day, relationships are your greatest tool for growing your listener base and selling your back end products.
Promo hacks are the underground actions you can take to ensure your above-ground popularity is authentic and your reach is real.
Keep reading to learn the 10 best promo hacks for musicians.
1. Use Social Media To Build Relationships
The original intent of every social media platform was facilitating relationship-building. If you find which platform(s) your potential listeners is/are on, then speak the language they’re already speaking to participate in the conversations they’re already having. You’ll gain a more interactive, profitable audience than you could otherwise buy.
2. Manage Your Expectations About Your Organic Reach
Just because someone has 1,000,000 followers doesn’t mean that 1,000,000 people see their posts. Social media platforms only show people what they want to see, so your chances of reaching any particular listener diminish every time they don’t look at or engage with something you post.
3. But Ads, Not Followers
Artists overestimate the impact of follower numbers, believing followers are a more organic fan base than ad-targeted listeners. These are known as vanity metrics. Buying ads to broaden your reach isn’t shameful; your social media marketing goal should be to get people to sign up for your email list. Well-targeted ads can do that just fine by offering something of value.
4. Use Your Email List To Cater To Your Custom Audience
Your email list is your reach; everyone on it gets your emails. Whether or not they open them depends on good relationship-building. You should regularly reengage people with emails that give them something — a connection, story, or coupon — instead of ignoring them until it’s time to buy something.
5. Build Segmented Email Lists To Have Targeted Email Conversations With People
Meet your people where they’re at by having different conversations with them depending on the strength of your relationship with them. New fans need onboarding support, already-on boarded fans need to be courted to maintain the strength and authenticity of your relationship, strongly-connected fans need to be empowered to make purchases.
6. Develop an “all buyers” email list and use it to build a lookalike audience of purchase-prone listeners
There’s an ad-targeting tool on Facebook for building email-list-based “lookalike” audiences. Create a segmented list of people who have purchased from you, then use it to create a lookalike audience and target ads selling back end products to people who share interests and purchasing habits with your paying audience.
7. Market first, advertise second
Marketing is the practice of storytelling and relationship-building. Advertising is selling something. Many artists jump into trying to sell to people before they build relationships with them. Try to never make a point (like “buy my album!”) without telling a story, and never tell a story without making a point.
8. Learn From People Who Are Good At Marketing And Re-Engagement
Learn from other successful marketers. Create a “no” email address and use it to almost-but-not-fully make purchases through online stores (especially other artists’ stores). This will be an email account that you will use for testing without cluttering up your main inbox. You’ll receive (and can mimic the best practices of) the different targeted emails they send to strengthen relationships with and re-engage distracted members of their audience.
9. Follow the 31-Second-Rule To Train Your Audience
Music is a time-based business: if someone watches your video for 31 seconds, you make money on streams. Post short (30-40 second) videos and use Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to see who watches for 31 seconds, then increase the length of the videos shown to longer-watching populations to identify listeners likely to make purchases. Think small pieces of content and work up to longer-form content.
10. Keep Your Google Ads Campaigns Going for $1/Day
Google’s machine-learning algorithms are built so that the longer an ad campaign runs, the more you can learn about the audience who sees and engages with it. Leave your ad campaigns running — even if it’s only for $1/day — to max out your understanding of your fan base.
Let me know in the comments if you are already utilizing any of these hacks and how they are working for you.
Everything you need to know, for sure, when it’s the right time to hire a music producer and what to expect once you have.
[This is the final entry of my Beginner’s Guide To Hiring A Music Producer. Read Part 1 here.]
Having read Part 1 of my Beginner’s Guide to Hiring A Music Producer, you likely have made up your mind about hiring a music producer, but aren’t sure when to do it. You may already have a few ideas about which producers or production companies you would want to work with. But you don’t want to seek out a relationship with a music producer too early and risk wasting the money and the opportunity to do so if it turns out that you’re not ready. So now what?
Moving forward, it’s your responsibility to decide at what point you feel ready to have a music producer involved with your music and your creative processes. Just because you contact a music producer, though, does not mean they will agree. A good music producer should tell you if your music, brand identity, or career are insufficiently developed, from their perspective, to justify forming a partnership.
Aside from meeting your preferred music producer’s standards for collaboration, no one condition makes it the “best time” to hire one.
Appropriate timing depends on what you have already accomplished and what you want to accomplish after hiring a music producer.
The best time to hire a music producer also depends on what they’re offering to do for you/your music and whether they offer any unique value additive services. In addition to their involvement with your music, music producers are also closely involved with your brand and business. There are standard production packages, skills, and tasks that you should always expect any music producer to offer you.
The right music producer for you may also provide other non-standard services that would benefit you where you are in your brand and career development.
How You’ll Know It’s The Right Time To Hire A Music Producer:
The question of when you should hire a music producer has no single, straightforward answer. Many artists hesitate to hire a music producer early in their careers, fearing that they will not retain enough control of their developing identity and/or cannot justify the expense. Others wait to consider hiring a music producer until the time is “right” and figure they will know when that is when they get there.
Though self-production at every stage of your career may sound appealing, when it comes to figuring out the number of responsibilities you should take upon yourself during the production process, less is more.
Delegating responsibility for processes outside your area of expertise is a time-tested and fully proven habit of successful artists in the music industry.
Except for artists who do every part of the writing, composition, recording, and mixing processes exceptionally well (think Dave Grohl), almost everyone can benefit from collaborating with a good music producer. If you have some combination of the following accomplishments and goals, you very likely will see significant benefits from hiring a music producer.
1. Goals You Have Already Accomplished:
You have a solid brand identity and have established some effective ways to communicate your identity to your audience; you have a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, and at least one other social media platform dedicated to promoting your music and targeting your fan base .
You have a website and maintain an email list with at least 500 subscribers .
You are regularly performing paying gigs at live venues and have developed a strong setlist, have some consistent visual stage arrangements, and can effectively engage/involve/respond to the audience during the show 
You have already performed at least one (profitable) house show .
Your music demonstrably resonates with a large (and growing) number of listeners .
Your music is earning sufficient profits to offset the cost of working with your preferred music producer or production company .
2. Goals You Have For Working With A Music Producer:
You are in a position to license music internationally, want to enter into a sub-publishing deal with a foreign publisher, or are being offered a co-publishing deal by a third party publisher .
You have exhausted your opportunities to meet new collaborators on your own .
Your music is generating significant enough revenue that you need help collecting it .
What Will Happen When You Hire A Music Producer:
The standard service packages and offerings of a music producer or production company are designed to make your music as good for your listeners, by the standards of your genre, as possible. These are things you can and should fully expect your music producer — whether you work with me or otherwise — to do:
What Other Value-Additive Services Should You Ask For From A Music Producer:
In addition to the above-described services, some music producers offer supplemental brand, business, and professional development services. These can be immeasurably beneficial to both newer and more seasoned artists. The artists who benefit most from the availability of these kinds of extra services are whose music has not been significantly or sufficiently marketed, those who have not previously received (effective) customized branding and marketing support, and/or those who are looking for an all-inclusive production experience that supports more than just the sound of their music.
For example: here, I provide additional services to define a fan avatar (ideal fan), a niche audience, an authentic brand persona and design aesthetic, and a comprehensive fan-building strategy. I also offer sync licensing assistance and mindset coaching. Generally speaking, this package of additional available services refines and clarifies the marketing goals for both your music and your brand, establishing a strong link between the two and making sure that all musical decisions reinforce the success of the brand and all branding decisions reinforce the success of the music.
Where other music producers view brand identity and marketing as secondary to the literal production processes, I view it as a kind of feedback loop that has the potential to exponentially increase your success as an artist.
Your experience working with a standard music producer vs a standard-plus-extras music producer will be characterized by a fundamental difference in their attitude and philosophy about your success. A standard music producer will maintain a laser-like focus on your music and expect that your brand and business development will already be sufficient for success.
A standard-plus-extras music producer (like me), will aim to provide as much value-per-dollar to you as possible to maximize your project’s potential for success (if the latter experience sounds like a good fit for you, book a free consulting session through my contact page.
Did you find this post helpful? What other topics and kinds of content do you want to read more about? Let me know in the comments!
Everything you need to know about why, how, and when to get started collaborating with the right music producer for you.
If you have reservations about hiring a music producer (or hiring one again), you’re not alone. Losing any amount of creative, visionary, or organizational control is unappealing to most artists. At-home recording equipment and online self-distribution platforms promise to provide everything you need for a stellar DIY production, as long as you are willing to do the work. Hiring a music producer is pointless if you really can make your music sound how you want, put it out, and get people to hear it on your own.
The thing is, self-production offers no substitutes for (the right) music producer’s skills, insight, and industry connections. Hiring a music producer is not a de facto act of giving up control. Nor is it a lazy or financially predatory pay-your-way path to success. Rather, it is a way to delegate responsibility, get expert recording and distribution input, and tap into an otherwise inaccessible professional network of audio and mastering engineers and label representatives.
What Hiring A Music Producer Will Do For You:
A music producer’s job is to get your music into the homes, hearts, and music libraries of the largest number of listeners possible. A contract with the right producer will yield the best possible (most profitable, most efficient, and most honest-to-your-brand) outcome of your creative process, including the best use of your time and energy. A music producer will give direction and criticism on each stage of your writing, composing, recording, and mixing processes. As a part of a fully collaborative relationship with an artist, the right music producer will:
Clarify And Protect Your Artistic Vision. A music producer is an ally for your music. They will seek to understand your vision and use it to inform their efforts to compose/write music and communicate with recording engineers. This will ensure that your recordings will always sound like you, but sound better than you ever imagined.
Find Ways To Make Your Vision (And Your Music) Profitable. It isn’t enough to just make good music; your music must find an audience who wants to hear and buy it. A music producer will tailor your production to target a demographic or niche, thereby ensuring that your music resonates with an audience. This will ultimately create financially exploitable recordings.
Expedite Your Creative Process. A music producer holds everyone involved in the creative process responsible for their contributions. Hiring a music producer will push your writing, composition, and recording processes to stay on track, build momentum, and adhere to a final checklist of deliverables. This will ensure that production is efficient and exceeds expectations.
Bring Fresh Ears To Your Project. A music producer’s perspective and intuition are indispensable. Not only will they have a wealth of ideas about what will and won’t help your music gain traction with your target audience, but they also will have an instinct for guiding production in the right direction — even if it is unexpected.
Advocate For Your Success. Hiring a music producer gives you access to all of their excitement, energy, industry-awareness, and connections. A music producer will be a tireless advocate for your music and a driving force behind your success. They will build you up while breaking down communication- and connectivity-barriers that are holding you back.
Best Practices For Hiring A Music Producer:
This is not a passive process; music producers are unlikely to contact artists first. Take an active role in identifying and soliciting music producers who represent music you like, that is like yours. The right music producer will already work with your audience and you’ll already generally agree with their decisions and appreciate their taste.
How To Find A Music Producer: It is often unclear how artists who are just getting started, have never worked with a music producer before, or who have previously had negative production experiences can find the right music producer for them. As a starting point, find out who was involved with the music you think is well-produced. You can also ask anyone whose music you admire for recommendations; the worst thing that happens is they don’t respond.
What To Look For In A Music Producer: When considering hiring a music producer, keep in mind their: musical influences (as apparent in their productions), relevant skills (including as an instrumentalist, editor, recording coach, and mixer), and personality (especially whether or not they seem trustworthy). You should also examine the style and genre-focus of their work to ensure they align with your own. You should feel empowered to ask questions about all of their qualifications and reserve the right not to hire someone if they aren’t the best fit for your music.
How To Contact A Music Producer: E-mail is the best medium for soliciting a music producer. Include demos of your music, when possible, and be brief, professional, and confident. Be honest about what you want to achieve by working with a music producer in general, and also specifically by collaborating with them. Also, give an honest representation of what have already achieved as well as your time frame and financial situation.
What To Pay A Music Producer: When negotiating a budget and/or royalty split, keep in mind that producers can charge anywhere from $300-$15,000 per song. The contractual costs of working with a specific music producer depend on their track record and client-type (whether they tend to work with independent artists, major labels, music publishers, or film companies). A typical royalty rate is 3 percent or “points,” meaning that they make 3 cents to every dollar your music earns from mechanical royalties and streaming.
By the end of this week, I want you to revisit your favorite tracks and albums from other artists and critically assess their production. Start taking steps to notice when and whether you agree with all of the decisions made concerning the writing, composition, arrangement, and mixing. Consider what you would have wanted to be done differently if it had been your track, and start keeping note of the production elements that are most important to you and the production choices that gel most with what you want for your music.
As an artist, you want to be recognized as an expert creator, someone whose music is unique and valuable. You want your music to fit so well into your listeners’ lives that they come to you — and keep coming back to you — when they want to feel inspired, entertained, or seen. The production of your music is a big deal. It ultimately determines whether or not the best and biggest potential audience hears the most authentic and impactful version of your music. As such, it is no wonder that sharing control of that process is an intimidating prospect.
The truth is, by hiring a music producer, you’ll gain more control over the quality of your music, the visibility of your brand, and the financial competency of your business. With that (relatively) simple, yet consequential, step, you’ll see your good music transformed into high-quality records that are demonstrably more popular than before.
Keep an eye out for part 2 of my Beginner’s Guide To Hiring A Music Producer (focusing on how you will know you’re ready to hire a music producer, what you should expect a music producer like me to do once you’ve hired them, and what most contracts won’t cover), coming soon!
Advice Inspired By The Music Industry Blueprint Podcast With Rick Barker
(Listen to the full episode of The Music Industry Blueprint with Rick Barker that inspired this post here.)
There have never been more or better opportunities for success in the music industry, so if you’re feeling stuck, it’s likely because the industry is evolving in ways you’re not. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you won’t recognize success until it happens to you. There are infinite ways to not be successful. Even among people who get signed by a label, only one in twenty-five will put out an album.
If you sit around and wait for it to come to you when you’re not looking for it, it won’t. Apply the following tools and it just might.
1. Be Willing To Try Things Differently
The bottom line is: your lack of progress is proof that you aren’t doing enough of the right things. Whether what you are doing is too little, too much, or flawed, you need to be willing to try something different. That is especially true if it means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
The industry is always changing, so you must change with it. That is not to say that you should make random or unproven changes to your business practices. Rather, you should adjust your behaviors by design; some approaches, attitudes, and behaviors are known contributors to success.
2. Stop Looking For Shortcuts To Success
About overnight success: it is a mirage. Nobody stumbles into success. The goal of being plucked from obscurity and placed at the top of the Billboard charts is wildly unattainable.
In today’s music industry, labels are not designed to make you successful. They are not there to build you from scratch or to find fans for you. They are amplifiers, giving you the reach to make you *more* successful. Calling an artist a sensation makes a better story. But that mythology belies the work you must do to get your music in front of people who want to hear it.
3. Be More Business-Like
Creatives often hate calling what they’re doing a business. They’re making art, moving people, and giving voice to the human experience, which is far from business-like. People sometimes acknowledge that they’re building a brand, but then resist seeing that as more than picking colors and logos to complement their organic self.
The thing is, approaching what you’re doing with a business mindset makes you more likely to recognize what is and isn’t working for you. A plan, target market, and marketing strategy create metrics to determine which actions and behaviors are moving you forward and which are holding you back.
4. Decide Where You Want To Go And How You’ll Get There
You need to know where you want to go and how long it will take you to get there. The key to that first part is to be specific about how you will identify and measure what success is to you. The key to the second part is to be patient and pragmatic; expecting overnight success will set you up to see failure even in incremental progress.
Combining those elements will establish a plan to recognize what success will be at each point in your professional development journey. Good business strategy will look different at different stages of your experience.
5. Know Who Your People Are And Know Your Role In Their Lives
Good business is not just about making good music. Rather, it is about making sure your music has an audience and asking what (more) you can do to max out your engagement with them.
Your fans give you a career. Your music and your brand are about them. It’s your song, but it’s their story. It’s your brand, but they have to feel connected to who you are. Maintain a “one-to-many” strategic focus; work to find ways to make people feel like you are reaching out to them as an individual even though you are speaking to the larger group.
6. Meet Your People Where They’re At
Expend as much effort engaging your audience as you do making music. Youtube is the #1 platform for music discovery. But you should still develop a consistent,*specific* presence on each of the most industry-impacting social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube). Each one speaks a different language to a different user base.
Don’t just cross-post and/or the only post when you want something; you’ll alienate your people by seeming like a lazy opportunist. It’s a cutthroat industry with crowded, noisy engagement platforms. Your branding has to be on point and you must actively seek out, build, and maintain attachment.
7. Look At The Right Numbers
Targeting a large audience and having a lot of low-resonance followers isn’t the best plan. Vanity metrics (follower/subscriber numbers) are less important than engagement (the percent of followers that like, share, comment).
It is a better business strategy to target a small community well than it is to appeal a little bit to everyone.
Even if you change or bridge genres, your genre should always be music that resonates with your people.
Your audience engagement levels will forecast your ability to sell albums, concert tickets, and merchandise, and a paying audience is a huge metric (and predictor) for success.
8. Praise The Process, Not The Person
It’s tempting to think that the road to success would be shorter and smoother if you knew people at the top of the industry who could help you cut corners. But success is more about who you know at your level.
If you don’t have high-quality metrics, demos, or bookings, don’t try to skip steps by throwing your music at the head of a label. Focus on networking with the people who can help you increase your engagement and monetization, get better recordings, and gain access to stages where the next-level people will see you when you’re ready for them.
9. You Are The Architect Of Your Own Success
Fans give you a career, connections give you opportunities, and labels polish you and put you on a stage, yet your success ultimately hinges on your work ethic. There’s no substitute, not even money, for having a plan or for the networking you do to connect with fans and industry professionals.
There’s also no substitute for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether that involves admitting that your music and/or branding is missing the mark or relocating to a music hub where you’ll have to compete for the stage, you ultimately create the conditions that enable your success.
10. Develop Your Strengths And Delegate To Compensate For Your Weaknesses
Many music industry creatives don’t have the time or energy to develop their strengths into selling points; they do too much. Then they stall out when they come up against problems that they lack the skills to solve and pour all their effort into doing things that they aren’t uniquely good at doing.
But you don’t have to do everything on your own. There is no shame in delegating tasks to people who will excel at them. The most successful people in the industry focus on doing what they are good at and remain undistracted by what they are not.
Hang In There
Now that we’re at the end of the post, if you feel optimistic and have new ideas about how to steer yourself towards success, that’s great. If that’s not what you’re feeling, if you feel like you’re up against an obstacle that you aren’t sure how to navigate, there is still some good news. You can try doing things differently. You can surround yourself with people whose strengths compensate for your weaknesses.
If that is the level you’re at, I’m the right person for you to know. Reach out and book a free consulting session.
Here are 5 tips on how to edit your music and increase your chances of landing sync. These aren’t steadfast rules, but it’s what has worked for me.
There’s an art in making memorable music that isn’t overly complicated. Not all of the music you license will have dialog over it, but a lot of mine does so I try to keep the lead melodies to a minimum and create a vibe with the rhythm and tonal qualities.
Sound selection is the most important aspect to pull off simplicity. If you are using MIDI instruments, make sure they sound believable and don’t let your mix dominate where vocals reside in the frequency spectrum.
2. Ear Candy
Focus on all the parts in the song that a video editor can cut to while keeping the music engaging. Think of interesting mutes, reversing a section, adding a drum fill before a new phrase, sound FX, and anything quick and rhythmic. These special moments will help drive the picture and tell the story.
These are three different cut down lengths for music editors. Video creators are making different clips for their clients’ needs, but I find most of them are locked into these lengths from the television advertising days and people’s attention spans.
You’re probably thinking what the hell do I need a 7-second version for?
That’s the length of a YouTube commercial and I find that if I create a 7-second version separate from my main music piece it’s easier than trying to cut down from a 15 or 30 to make it work.
What tempo you create your music at is going to decide how easy this is to pull off. 102 beats per minute will get you just about 12 (11.9) beats in 7 seconds.
4. Song Flow
Build bridges between your sections so they tell a story. Think of your music as having a beginning, middle, and ending. The middle is where things tend to linger the longest, so building transitions within the middle part will help it keep flowing. Your Intro and Outro are very important here. Build suspense and hook people fast.
Fades are almost a thing of the past in modern music and in licensing music they are rarely wanted. A stinger is ending your music on the 1 count with a hit. Think crash cymbal, kick, impact, etc.
If you have any questions about this feel free to reach out and book a free consulting session at info [at] kyledevine.com
Hey there songwriters and producers. I want to talk to you about four tips to prepare your music for licensing. These tips are a starting point to be able to approach a music library, music supervisor, or agency. This is a great place to start as your entry into the world of licensing.
1. Make It Sound Expensive
You’re going to want to have your music professionally mixed to be able to compete with all the other songs being licensed. If you want to get 10k for a commercial, it needs to sound and feel like 10k. A great way to check your mixes is to play them against reference tracks. Also, pay attention to the music you hear on ads on YouTube and TV. You’ll start to train your ear that way and see how instruments are placed in the mix.
Mixing is a service that I offer starting at $299 per song with unlimited revisions!
2. Split Sheets
Anyone licensing your music is going to want to know who owns or shares the rights to the A. Sound Recording and B. The Composition.
Make sure you get this taken care of by the end of the songwriting session and that all your bandmates or producer agree on the writing splits for the song.
3. PRO Information
PRO stands for Performing Rights Organization. They are responsible for collecting your performance royalties worldwide. ASCAP, BMI, SESAC are the big 3. I belong to BMI as a writer/publisher and ASCAP as a publisher. You can be a writer for only one major PRO and a publisher with multiple. When royalty is generated for a piece of music there is a writer’s share and a publisher’s share collected. Think of it as two sides to the same coin. A publishing company is a business you start on your behalf (unless you have a publishing deal already) that will collect your share of the publisher’s royalties. ASCAP and BMI allow you to give yourself up to 200 percent of a song’s share as a writer if you don’t have a publishing company setup, which can save you some money in application fees.
I haven’t found an advantage of one over the other, besides customer service. BMI is very slow to respond to requests. Keep in mind that PRO’s do not collect mechanical royalties such as streams from Spotify. Digital distributors like Tunecore and Distrokid offer those services.
4. Stems and Instrumental
It’s good practice to have your stems and instrumental versions of your songs handy so that music supervisors can fit them in around dialogue. Vowel sounds like chants and hums usually work well to leave in the mix, but otherwise, those instruments are going to be holding it down for you. Have your producer or engineer print these for you after the song has been mixed to save for your records. You don’t want to miss a sync opportunity because your producer went on vacation and can’t send you the stems right away.
If you have any questions about this feel free to reach out and book a free consulting session at info [at] kyledevine.com