Category Archives: Strategies

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The Art of the Niche Music Video

I had the pleasure of working with Matthew Myers on the soon-to-be-released Just Dance Kids 3 video game. As I got to know him and his music, I was blown away by the response to his highly targeted YouTube videos. This recent comment from darksilver1200 sums it up perfectly:

“I feel sorry for all NON-otaku fans. They just don’t understand what it means to love anime and gaming with every fiber of your entire being and soul. I on the other hand, am a full blood otaku through and through. I love all anime, games, and others of this sort. LeetStreet boys, actually, if you listen to the lyrics of the song, have meaning deep down in the otaku heart.”

I’m a gamer and anime fan myself, yet half of the references are over my head! I asked Matt if he would be so kind as to explain how he pulls this stuff off, and the result is this guest post. -Brian.

Making music videos has changed my life. In 2007, I wrote a catchy song about my love of anime and video game fandom. I hired a freelance animator and the music video we created for “Yuri The Only One” was a runaway hit in 2008. It has since garnered over 1.5 million YouTube views, been played at festivals worldwide, enabled my band to headline events across North America as a musical guest, sold out of an album print run, and generated tens of thousands of digital sales.

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The Weekly Batch

Musicians are expected to be everywhere these days. We’re interacting on social networks, following up on blog comments, keeping our profiles on countless music sites up to date, and checking our stats and analytics with a variety of online tools. It’s enough to make a lifelong indie yearn for a label – one with a marketing department!

Most of these items don’t need to be addressed daily, but they do need to be performed on a regular basis. Tasks that have to be done on a given day, I schedule. Everything else is relegated to The Weekly Batch™ (note: not actually trademarked). I tackle the entire list as a single to-do item on Friday afternoons, when I find it hard to do much of anything else.

Here’s my latest iteration:

1. File Maintenance

  • Archive completed projects to my FTP server
  • Empty my downloads folder
  • Clean out my Dropbox

2. Mailing List

Export new email addresses from Bandcamp, Earbits, Jango (now called Radio Airplay), ReverbNation, and NoiseTrade, and import them to FanBridge.

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Social Media & Email Management for Musicians

Engaging with fans is fun and rewarding. It can also be an addictive time suck.

If you check your email, Facebook, and Twitter first thing in the morning, you’re doing it wrong!

Better to start your day creating something worth tweeting about. As a self-confessed productivity junkie, I’ve tried dozens of approaches. This one stuck.

What follows is a step-by-step guide to social media and email management, in the form of a daily routine. It assumes you are on Facebook and Twitter, but can easily be expanded to other networks. All tools mentioned are free unless stated otherwise.

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First we need to figure out when to post your content. Because the half-life of a tweet is so short, Twitter requires the most frequent updates. SocialBro determines your best time to tweet by analyzing when your followers are online and when you get the most retweets, with several glorious charts downloadable as a PDF.

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Next Steps to Music Licensing

I’m excited to bring you a follow-up to one of the most popular articles on this site, by friend and music licensing veteran Helen Austin. -Brian

My music career has advanced significantly in the two years since I first wrote about film and TV placement. As more and more licensing opportunities become available to indie artists, I’m often asked for advice. It’s nice to have an article to direct people to, but it’s long overdue for an update.

With that in mind, here are my new four steps to film and TV placement:

Step 1 : Expand the Groundwork

Your foundation will always be the music. I still write as much as I can, but sometimes get sidetracked into recording and producing. There’s no point in having stacks of manuscript paper and lyrics just sitting on my desk!

I participate in songwriting challenges like February Album Writing Month and The 50/90 Challenge. They force me to write on a regular schedule, and provide quality feedback. My last album and much of my next two albums (one regular, one for kids) have come out of this material.

Step 2 : Refine Your Team

I now write exclusively for pigFactory. This was a big step, and one I didn’t take lightly. I made the decision after a few years of really enjoying our relationship. It didn’t hurt that every time I mentioned them to anyone, I was told how great they are – including my lawyer who checked the contract. Just after signing on the dotted line, they got my song “Happy” on a huge European Nivea commercial, so it turned out to be a very good idea.

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7 Steps to Finding a Music Publisher

Back by popular demand, I’m proud to present another guest post by friend and music licensing veteran Helen Austin. -Brian

I’ve had songs with several publishers, from large instrumental libraries to publishers promising me Coke ads. I now write exclusively for pigFactory and get songs regularly placed in ads and on TV and movies (click here for a list of my placements).

I get quite a few emails asking me either how to find a publisher or how to know if someone who has contacted them is legitimate, so I assembled this list of ideas to explore:

1. Is your music ready?

This is so important. You need to critically listen to your music and ask yourself if it can realisitically be placed. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to include your music in a playlist with other successful music in your genre to see how it flows, both in sound quality and writing. If it sticks out like a sore thumb, focus on getting your music to a place where is stands the best chance of getting placements. You only get one chance to make a first impression!

2. Educate yourself!

It’s natural to get excited by the first publisher you encounter, but you could end up learning the hard way if you sign an agreement before learning the rules. It’s far better, if a little painful, to educate yourself in the field of publishing first. I recommend reading The New Songwriter’s Guide to Music Publishing by Randy Poe. It’s a lot to take in, but well worth your time. There are many other great books out there including Robin Fredrick’s Shortcut books – a great education in writing.

3. Google is your friend.

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How I Got 96 Album Cover Designs for $145 (and why I’ll never do it again)

Quality graphic design is expensive. I paid $500 just to license the cover image for my last album, plus $600 for the rest of the design. That’s fine every couple of years, but now that I’m releasing songs individually, I need a cover design every month or two. I decided to give 99designs a try, and the results far exceeded my expectations. For $145, I got 96 custom designs from 33 different designers. Sure, some were amateur, but a solid half were usable, and a handful were excellent.

Sound too good to be true? Yes, it does. In fact, I hesitated to write this article. More on that later.

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Contrary to what you might expect, 99designs doesn’t have an in-house design team. They host a design contest on your behalf, in which anyone can participate. As with any contest, there are winners and losers. That’s right – only the winner gets paid, though you can buy extra designs by selecting multiple winners. In my case, 95 of the 96 designs were done “on spec” i.e. for free. And you thought the music industry was cutthroat.

It takes all of five minutes to launch your own contest:

  1. Choose what you want designed. Prices start at $95 for a Twitter background, all the way up to $495 for a web site. “Print & Packaging Design” starts at $195, but since I only needed one image for digital release, I selected the “Other Graphic Design” category, starting at $145.
  2. Write the design brief. This is where you spell out to the designers exactly what you’re looking for (see mine here). I made it clear that my contest wasn’t intended to be a one-off gig, but the start of a working partnership. Perhaps that’s why I got so many entries.
  3. Set your price. There are three tiers to choose from: gold, silver, and bronze ($595, $295, and $145 respectively in the “Other Graphic Design” category). You can also name your own price, as long as it’s above the bronze package minimum. Presumably, the more money you offer, the better designers you’ll attract.
  4. Choose your preferences. Several other options are available. You can make the contest blind, so that only you can view the entries. You can guarantee the contest, ensuring designers that the prize money will be awarded. If you don’t, you’re free to back out at any time for a full refund. Finally, you can pay extra for a shorter than 7-day contest, or for extra visibility on the site.

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Prescreen Your Future Fans with Twitter

Two months ago, I began implementing Ariel Hyatt and Carla Lynne Hall’s strategy to increase my Twitter following, as laid out in their book Musician’s Roadmap to Facebook and Twitter. The basic idea is to follow potential fans in the hope that they will follow back. I discovered that the more selective I am in choosing who to follow, the more likely I am to connect with people who may become genuine fans. I’ll share my process and results below.

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Optimize your profile. Every potential follower will first scan your profile to figure out who you are and why you followed them, and decide whether or not to follow back based on what they see. Be sure to include a short “elevator pitch” that accurately describes your sound, a link to your site, and a reference to a related band or two. I describe my music as “electronic indie piano pop for fans of The Postal Service, Depeche Mode, and Owl City.”

Follow related bands’ followers. In my case, that means finding the official profile of The Postal Service, Depeche Mode, or Owl City and following their followers. With any luck, they’ll click through to my profile, spot my reference to the related band, follow back, and maybe even take a listen.

But I don’t just follow anyone! I prescreen each potential fan to ensure they meet the following criteria:

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