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Friday, June 20, 2008

Next Step: Funding

I must admit, here in New Zealand, we are pretty lucky. I'm not sure if other countries have anything similar (would love to hear if you do). We have this government department in New Zealand called 'New Zealand On Air' (NZOA) where musicians and bands can apply for funding for creating music videos (and other things including new recordings, albums etc). The whole point is to fund music videos for broadcast on music television shows and music television channels and in turn increase the number of local songs played on commercial radio. So to be eligible for Music Video Funding, the submitted song must exhibit potential for radio and television airplay.

Up until now, whenever we applied to NZOA for funding, we always got turned down - saying the music wasn't "commercial enough". Well, after the 'showcase' for 'Charlie' a month ago, Charlie told me that we should find it easier to get funding now. Apparently he had a word with the top guy there who was very impressed with what he had to say and also with the amount of views the band have received on YouTube.

So now, applications for funding for a music video close in about 2 weeks time, so I will be getting that off first thing Monday morning - will let you know how we get on with that!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Promotion Is The Start - But 'Connecting' Is The Key

Let me give you a scenario: You're out on the town with your mates, checking out a couple of original bands. The first band comes on, they play an hour of cool rocking songs, they finish and head back off the stage. The second band comes on, they also play an hour of some cool songs, they finish up, they come off stage and go mingling with the crowd - one of the members comes up to you, introduces himself, asks if you're having a good night, did you enjoy the music etc.

Tell me something: a week later - which band are you going to remember? The one that went on stage, did their thing and left again; or the one that went on stage, played their songs and then came down and chatted to you? Well, for me, it's definitely the latter. There's something about being approached by someone that's just been on stage and now they are giving their sole attention to you. It makes you feel special and that your opinion matters. Suffice to say, it's one thing to go out and play, but it's quite another to gain, connect with and keep a fan.

You see, promoting your band isn't just about getting people to hear your music and like it. It's also about connecting with those people and keeping them coming back for more. Your fans are going to be your bread and butter... treat them right, look after them, and they will help you promote your band more than you could ever hope. Because one form of promotion that beats all others, is word of mouth. Each of those fans, going and telling each of their friends about you - is the end result you want.

I was reading a while back how Billy Corgan (formerly Smashing Pumpkins)
spends as much as an hour a day on the his MySpace site exchanging messages with his fans. He says "For me, it is a way to connect with my fans on a one-on-one basis in a way that I wasn't able to do before. It's much closer to the feedback that I would get from someone on the street".

So, remember, promotion starts the process - but gaining and connecting with fans is the goal.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Free Downloads To Promote? Or Not...

While the internet does have it's major disadvantages, it's been suggested to me from a couple of people, ways of counteracting the imbalance. The main suggestion regarding giving music away for free.

I'm not for that idea, like I said in my previous post, I think that music is worth something because the artist puts so much into creating and recording it. The suggestion that has been made: record one more track than what you need, don't include it on the album and give it away free. (Thanks to Danny and Richard - both had the same thoughts).

Now doesn't that make more sense?! And as suggested, you call it a 'b-side' demo. You are then a) giving away a track that isn't on the album anyway, it's a track that is created for the sole purpose of giving away; b) it's kind of like a taster for people then... they hear it and think "wow, if this is what is considered b-side then I gotta hear the album". People are going to want to hear more!

I think it's a great idea! And have decided that this is what will happen with the band that I manage. Their second album is due out at the end of the year - so one more song will be recorded for the sole purpose of giving away as a free download. It was also suggested to me that this particular song being given away be a cover song. It just so happens that this band do a killer version of "Somebody Told Me" (by the Killers). The boys aren't too keen on doing a cover, but we'll see what becomes. Either way, be it one of their own or a cover, the free download is sure to grab attention if it's quality material. And from a professional band, what more would you expect.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Beware: The Internet's Dark Side

Yes, the internet has a down side for bands and musicians. Over time, I have thought of the internet as a wicked promotion tool for getting your music out there. I still think that it is, however, it has its down side.

Online is a really hard market to be honest, because it's all too easy for people to sit and listen to your music whenever they want. Sure they love it - but something needs to happen to make them go that step further and PURCHASE it. But then, why are they going to purchase it when they can log on, listen to their favourite tunes whenever they want without having to part with a cent?

Perfect example, is that earlier today the band got an email that said "ooh I LOVE your music, I have favourited it, and come on every day JUST so I can listen to it, can't wait to hear more!".

Now, that kind of annoys me (remember, I am thinking as a manager/promoter/business person - not as a musician). I'm sitting here thinking to myself - well, these guys have spent a lot of time and money creating and recording these songs and you're too cheap to do anything but favourite it and listen for free!

Seriously, how is that supposed to motivate a musician? I know there are a ton of musicians out there that won't agree with me, and that don't give a damn about the money. That's fine if you don't wish music to be your fulltime career. But if you DO want it to be your fulltime career then you need to treat it like a business, because that's what it is. If you ran a different type of business and provided services for free, or gave away products - I can tell you now, that business wouldn't last very long.

I think musicians deserve to be paid for their efforts and contributions to the artistic community. But I also think that there are too many platforms that allow the exploitation of musicians and what they create. For example: MySpace - do you know the developers make millions of dollars??! What do the artists that provide the music for the community get? ZIP.

It's made me think twice about the internet and exactly how much music to have available. If you're a big, well-known band that can afford to tour - then it's a different story, I think having your songs up for people to listen to can only aid your cause, because if you're touring, chances are you will gain new fans who will pay to come to your shows. But when you're a band that is just starting out and trying to get known, can you expect to make money online from it and tour? That, my friend, is my million dollar question.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Time To Organise A Tour: Where To Begin?

I briefly mentioned it in my last post, but with the band's second album due out at the end of the year, it's time to think about organising a tour - at least of the North Island. Even though the end of the year is 6 months away, the time to start getting it sorted is right now.

Wow, it's going to be a lot of work - a lot of promotion, a lot of organising and a lot of learning. I think that the promotion is going to be the hardest part - how do you market a band in a brand new city? Or rather, half a dozen cities they have never played in. The best thing I can think of there is that it's important to try and get to a couple of those cities and play before the tour. Even if it's just once - just to get the name out there.

I don't know how big a part the internet could play with this - but I think it's a factor in promoting. Try and build the fan base online at least - let's face it, if they hear the music, love it then they might just be keen on coming to a live show.

Over the next 2 days we are going to be compiling a list of the cities/towns we want to visit, after that it's a matter of researching which particular venues would be most suitable. I have been thinking about how we can incorporate our plan - of how to sell out a show - into this tour, so that we end up with packed out venues and no loss of money. The only problem with that is getting those tickets "sold" before the show. Have a read here so that you know what I'm talking about. Will keep you updated as I go.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Merchandise: Extra Income Source

I have spent a lot of time over the past few days working on the online merchandise store for the band's website. I have never really been a big believer in things like that - hence haven't organised this sooner. However, after reading a couple of articles online (I'm always researching and learning from the internet!), I have come to think it's a rather huge income stream opportunity that I've been missing out on.

I was reading an article that said "
For many touring bands the sale of merch is what allows them to eat. Superstar acts can sell as much as $5 per head in merch. Think about that for a moment. If you’re Bon Jovi and you’re playing a stadium that holds 50,000 people and you sell $5 in merch per person, you’ve just made an additional $250,000! OK, you’re not as big as Bon Jovi (yet), but the same kinds of economics can work for you".

Let's just think about it - for a start, if someone buys a t-shirt at a gig, it's generally on impulse. It's something they can take away and reminds them of the wicked night they had, or they may just buy it because it looks pretty damn funky. Either way, for you - it's a sale. At least have the possibility of this income stream by looking into it - even if for now, it's just online.

The best thing about online shops is that they are (generally) free to set up, upload your designs (or some sites have designs you're able to use), set your commission (how much you want to make on it) and link to your shop from your website! How easy is that! You don't need to be a graphic designer and you don't need to know HTML!! (However, any knowledge you have on those subjects certainly helps!). Now, the sites I have tried are: Spreadshirt and CafePress. I have gone with Spreadshirt for several reasons - 1) their items were cheaper, 2) larger product range, 3) more payment options (credit card, money order or paypal), Cafepress had only credit card; and finally 4) I can really customise it (including adding my own header) to make it look and feel like the band's website - with cafepress, you can only customise it that much if you pay a monthly fee. Don't be put off Cafepress though, it's still a great place - and the customer service is brilliant.

So... second album is up and coming [check], website updated [check], merchandise store open [check], must be time to start organising a tour...? It's June now, album release is due for near the end of the year... yep, it's about time to get on to that! How the hell do you put together a tour? Well... stick around... we can all learn together. I will log here every step we make, and fill you in on how each step goes. What a ride!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Playing Devil's Advocate

I got an interesting phone call this morning. You might remember that I was one of the main organisers of a local outdoor music event here - the other organiser being our (ex) sound man. If you haven't read about that drama, you can catch up on it here. I think I left out a lot of the info on the business side of things though - but long story short, it's an event that he had put on himself the two years previously and it was very mediocre. It didn't get any commercial radio support and there were no well-known bands headlining, and the audience attendance was around about 800 max. Earlier this year we put the event on together - I contacted the commercial radio stations and built a good relationship with them, they sponsored the event and turned up on the day, we had one of the biggest bands in NZ headlining it and the turnout was an awesome 3,000 approx! Much better than the event over the previous couple of years. But at the end of the day, I got no recognition for my input and services and his company took all the credit. My company was listed as a 'sponsor', when in the beginning it was agreed that the event would be held "in association" with my company.

Anyways, our ex sound guy called me this morning - I hadn't heard from him since we decided to stop using him a couple of months ago - and asked if I would like to be involved in the event again next year. I have initially said yes, but am thinking twice about it as there's a few pro's and con's.

I think it's great to put a big successful event like that on your CV (especially organising it 2 years in a row), it's also good to remain as involved in your local music scene as possible - especially with having big bands headlining, it's always great to meet them and you never know what contacts you might make out of it. So those are the pro's.

The con's at this stage, really revolve around the drama of last time. However, I'm pretty sure if I make it known up front that I want my company to have more recognition for this, then maybe it won't be so bad. The band I manage won't be playing this time - which means it will take time away from my work with them. Let's face it, putting on a big event like this takes a lot of your time up. And the band are looking to have their album finished and ready for release by the end of the year... sooo... album release AND major outdoor event to organise. Is it possible? Or am I better to concentrate on one thing at a time?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Your Personality Type

Today is the day I have finally set some serious time aside to work on the marketing plan. I have so many idea's and things that I have started, but not carried on, because I get another great idea and start working on that... therefore, I end up with a lot of great idea's but none of them seem to end up getting finished!

It's actually part of my personality type apparently, if you know anything about them, I am an ENFP. Check out what your personality type is by clicking here. It's a great way to discover and understand different aspects of your personality and it may help you organise yourself a little better like it has for me.

Carl Jung's theory of psychological types says each person is "wired" with different tendencies and preferences. Some of us are extraverted while others are introverted, some are "thinkers" while others are "feelers", and so on. When reading about your personality type, it's like reading a biography of yourself.

I think being aware of your personality type is a big help when you're working on projects as it will help you to recognise what motivates you. So I think it's definitely something worth checking out.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Being On The Same Page

It's a hard industry already without managing a band that just aren't 'on the same page'. I have been trying to organise a photo session with a local photographer that is willing to offer her services for free as she loves the band and is happy to help us out. We desperately need some promo photo's of the guys as a trio.

The only problem is, that I have the lead singer who is always ready and motivated to get things done but the other two band members just aren't the same. I have been trying to organise the photo shoot - but the bassist hasn't returned texts, calls or emails regarding when he will come over for it (he lives about an hour away). After a week of trying to organise a time - he sent a text saying that he doesn't know when he can get over (no, he doesn't work fulltime). So I am left, having to contact this photographer and tell her that, at this stage, I can't sort out a time or date - but will as soon as I can. I hate mucking people around - but it's also the fact that I find it hard to promote a band with no really good promo shots!

So, that really annoys me at the moment. I just feel that we are not all on the same page. The lead singer and I are moving to another city - it's an hour away from where we are now, but how are they going to practice on a regular basis? Or if we end up organising gigs on a regular basis - how will that work? Now you're probably thinking "it's only an hour away, what's the problem". Ok, the problem is that our drummer (lead singer's brother) doesn't have the money to drive to that city on a regular basis. He works fulltime and could easily transfer to that city - but he won't. He has no ties or commitments where he currently lives... and there is no reason he couldn't move. The move we are making will only benefit the band as it's the biggest city in New Zealand... but I'm starting to think there's a lack of commitment from the drummer and bassist. Let's face it - to get anywhere in this industry take solid hard work, time and commitment. If you don't put in all those three ingredients, then you're wasting your time.

I'm starting to wonder if starting afresh in a new city isn't the only thing that should start afresh. How about a new band too?!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Theory: How To Sell Out A Show

I am back, and have been chatting with the lead singer about playing live and the options we have. He came up with this great idea - now, from everything I have heard, in theory it looks like it could work and it could work well. Important to note, that we haven't tried it yet obviously, but it's definitely got potential. Check it out and see what you think:

How To Sell Out A Show

  • Firstly, print 600 tickets (or maximum capacity of venue) that will cost $5 to purchase.
  • You then get people along by going out and selling them a ticket however, not many people will be interested in buying a ticket to see a band they have never heard of. So you then offer them a ticket (or a couple of tickets) for free. Be sure to tell them "look, there's only 40 tickets left, how bout I give you tickets for you and a couple of mates free!". This way (although you don't have only 40 tickets left) you are giving that person the idea that it's going to be a great night out because a) it's nearly sold out already; and b) they are getting in free! This will encourage and make it successful before it actually is. And let's face it, people love to get something for nothing. But ensure that you are only giving these tickets to people that are really keen to go.
  • An added idea for getting the tickets out to people is to pass on 50 or so to local radio stations to give away, and possibly other media outlets. The whole point of this is to make the even look successful before it actually is! If people think a venue is selling out - it encourages them to go... they don't want to miss out.
  • You then get the venue to pay you $350 (if not more) for costs (based on getting half those tickets/heads along). Let's face it - they will be on the make with a (near) full bar, and you shouldn't have to fork out money and let the show cost you. So the venue gets full, sells drinks and makes more money on the bar, and you (the band) gets an audience, thus gaining exposure and starting your following.
  • On the night, put a $5 door charge on for extra's who didn't get a ticket. If the venue is pumping, but you're not at capacity - you will always get people off the street wanting to join the party.
  • Now I suggest you do this as a once off to help build a profile in each city.
  • No advertising is needed as tickets are given away to get the numbers along. However, posters can be put up though for general awareness, also get it into all the local gig guides - including local radio.
Hope this helps - I happen to think it's got great potential for a band just starting out! A big ups to the lead singer for this idea... I think he has a hidden talent for marketing!! haha

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Well I thought I would follow up with where I'm at today. I have to say, it's not much better than yesterday unfortunately. My way of thinking right now seems pretty narrow and I am trying to broaden that. I have had a discussion with the lead singer of the band this morning and we both have very different views on this - but I do understand where he's coming from.

Basically, he is saying that unless we have a major marketing campaign backing us, then playing live is pointless - nobody knows you, nobody is going to pay to see you. Let's face it - that's how the big guys do it - saturate the airwaves with your tracks. However, major campaign = money, and that is something we just don't have at this stage after investing in the studio gear to record these albums. I, on the other hand think that playing live is where it's at. I'm not saying it's as good as a major marketing campaign, but I think it's the next best thing. The part that I am not sure about is this - no matter how much you promote a gig, how can you expect people to come along and pay $5 to come and see a band that they have never heard of before? Simple: you can't. Therefore, you need it to be free entry. Now, if it's free entry - then how do you cover costs?? i.e promoting, PA (if the venue doesn't supply) etc.

Is it just a matter of playing live and letting it cost you money until you build up a small fan base in that area? Or is there a better, smarter alternative to this? Do you get other bands involved and make a night of it? What if there is no other band that would be willing to play for free? Let's face it, if you're a band that is doing really well locally, and have a fan base, then you're probably past playing shows without getting some reward. Especially if you're that good.

These are all just things that I'm focusing on right now and that are going through my head. I have a couple of idea's that may or may not work, they need work but as soon as I get them in order I will let you know. But I think all these points I have bought up are valid points - especially when it comes to getting attendance at gigs. I think that's a major factor. Then again - there's always the way that Bon Jovi did it, Jon said that at their first gig they played to about 5 people, the next gig at that same place, they played to about 10 people. After that, it started to grow... until they ended up selling out. My question is, that was 20-30 years ago - is that still the way now? Or, again, is there a better, smarter way.

Not Every Day Is A Good Day

The past few days have been very hard. I have been trying to keep focussed and get a marketing plan sorted out. But to be honest, I have found it all very draining. I believe in this with a passion - I know I have one of the hottest bands in New Zealand under me, but my lack of experience in marketing is really starting to show and it's taking it's toll on me - emotionally.

I have been thinking about this next post. I thought about writing one on "how to grow your local fan base", but then I remembered what this blog is all about - and that is: keeping it real. Why write about how to grow a local fan base when I haven't accomplished it yet?! Why search the internet and gather all the information I can find, come up with my own idea's and tell you all about it when I haven't tried it out myself? That's not keeping it real.

So please bear with me in this post as I'm not going through an easy time. I find it very frustrating and I'm just not sure what to do about it or where to go. The hardest part I'm finding is that I bare this all on my own shoulders. It's my sole responsibility and I guess it's wearing me down. I think if I had a person at my side working on it all with me - that could motivate me when I needed it (like now) or inspire me and vice versa then it'd be much easier to keep my head above water.

But sadly at this time, with all the crap we are enduring here locally (yes it still goes on - I heard the band's song that did really well on YouTube was played by one of the local bands at their gig and posted onto YouTube - making full mockery of the band I manage), not only all that, but all the problems with having to pay to play (will explain this in my next post) at venues and needing to organise other bands to play with... well, I'm starting to lose motivation.

But.... I will get through this.... somehow. I will brainstorm over the next 12 hours and let you know what I come up with. I think I need some "me" time to sit where it's quiet and think. I wrote this post to keep you up to date and just let you know where I'm at, and that I haven't forgotten my blog! :)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

How To Contact The Industry Bigwigs

Well I must be doing something right here. Over the past couple of weeks, whenever I contact the 'movers & shakers' in the industry (be it management companies, major record labels or even the bigger indie labels), I seem to get replied to now! Yes that does come as a surprise, because I have been managing this band seriously for a year and previously when I would contact any one of those “types”, I always got the brush off or no reply at all!

A month or so ago I contacted the major US indie label Wind-Up Records. Now, a place like that – they have no contact details on their website, and don’t accept unsolicited CD’s. But it just goes to show, if you know who to contact, are polite, use the correct etiquette and get straight to the point, then a response is more likely. By the way – it is no good being an artist or a band member and trying to contact people like this, ensure you get a representative or look at finding someone to manage your band and do it for you. Anyways, Wind-Up Records replied to me and asked me to send a copy of the album over so they could check it out. Turned out that it wasn’t something they were interested in taking further (unfortunately), but have asked me to keep in touch and send them anything else that I think might interest them. WOOT! BONUS for me! What a great contact to have!!

Yesterday I contacted a couple of well-known band managers here in New Zealand and I heard back from one of them today, which was great. He replied "you're doing a great job with your promo" and gave a few suggestions, which was really helpful. I was happy with that and it was great to hear back from someone like that and receive their advice. Once again, it’s great to have a contact like that. So like my previous post – it’s really all about contacting the destination and asking for directions.

Just three things that I really want to point out, that are so important and will make all the difference if you receive a reply or not – 1) Find out who is the correct person to deal with; 2) Be friendly and polite, and get straight to the point; and 3) Do not contact them if you are a band member – get a management company to represent you – or you are wasting your time.

If this helps even one person out there then it is worth it. Once again, I will keep you updated as I go and you’ll be hearing all the success stories here (there have been a few already - including receiving over 300,000 views in the first 5 days of appearing on YouTube) and the failures as well… along with all the drama’s I encounter along the way! There’s already been way too much of that though – with sabotage from a soundman, a local music forum causing trouble, a reviewer that went to great lengths to bring us down, and a bass player that ditched us 6 days before a big showcase!