Monday, July 9, 2012

Making a Mailing List and Being as Tough as Nails About It

I previously stated that Facebook was the best way to get people to local shows. Excuse me while I hit myself in the head with a 2x4.

Now I apparently had fallen victim to the shiny what I call "Apple" world. Technology is the answer to are getting very very sleepy...log onto Facebook...yes, yes...drink the Koolaid....yes you are getting carpal tunnel have forgotten what sunlight is....yes, yes, yes! You have 10,000 followers on (enter dramatic theme music here) .....FACEEEBOOOKKKK. Hey, we won't talk about their IPO. Neither will they most likely. Anyways.

Facebook is cool. Being friends with people in real life is even cooler.

Text people individually. Email people individiually.

Don't just send a newsletter-- be personal.

This is the JEDI MIND TRICK behind developing a giant and useful email list. It just involves doing it. it sounds so simple. Yet it's kind of like abstract art. You see a painting with a bunch of paint splattered on it and you say, it's so simple, anyone could do that? REALLY? Try it then! (the mailing list not necessarily the painting although you are welcome to try the painting, throwing paint at canvas is really fun)

(by Jackson Pollock)

You would be surprised- and take this from personal experience- how many ambitious and really good musicians get a few emails, lose them, don't go through their emails and ask everyone if they can add them, and basically just don't send out consistent updates about what they are doing. It takes desire, drive and dedication to keep a mailing list and use it. That's funny-- those same qualities make good musicians and good friends. Be thick as thieves and tough as nails.

Have fun.

Helpful links to get started:

Also this book is not quite as cheesy as it looks, and has some good tips on mailing lists.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

7 Must-Haves for Music Marketing

Believe it or not, whether you are beginner or pro, some acts do not have all 7 of these. Let's think of 7 for a lucky rabbit's foot kind of approach to Music Marketing. So let's "hop" in:

1. Contact info including your email and/or phone number on your website, Facebook and/or ReverbNation site. This is not rocket science, yet some acts do not list their real email addresses on their Facebook, Reverbnation or websites. How is someone that wants to book your band, or reach you for a list-minute question going to find you? If you do not want to list your phone number, that's OK. How will someone reach you when they want to do business with you? Please put your REAL email address within your Facebook, Reverbnation or website description of your band.

 2. Offer High Resolution pictures online. High resolution pictures are good for printing. Low-resolution images are good for the web. If your act is booked, or featured, and the Publicist/Promoter needs a high-res image to make a poster, article, blog post, etc. it's your job to make sure they have the right picture at the right time. An easy site to host high-resolution images is Make an account, upload some high resolution pics, and then offer the link on your website, Facebook, Reverbnation, etc. in an easy-to-find way. Add the text: "High resolution images available at this link: _____". The images can also be the images you approve of. This way you control what images are being used to promote your music. If you need good images, use Craigslist to get a college student to do a photo shoot on the cheap. Try to offer at least 3 good images to choose from.

 3. Use the online sites to make a presence. Create a Facebook, Twitter and You Tube Channel. Try to use the same name for each, if possible. Make a Bandcamp, Reverbnation and Sonicbids page. This won't lead to gold at the end of the rainbow, but learn what each site does best and use it when needed. Try to use the same images for each site so people recognize it immediately. There is simply no good way to book your band unless you have a home for your music online. You cannot simply send mp3s to booking agents, and expect to be taken seriously. Present yourself on their terms. They want to see you online, in about 10 seconds. Reverbnation is free to make an account. So is Myspace. Sonicbids costs money but is solid.

Keep in mind there are two purposes to your online sites. A) To present yourself to the industry: promoters, booking contacts, venues, labels, partnerships with other bands, etc. B) To present yourself to fans. Make sure they can find your live show information and product information quickly. BOTH of them should be able to contact you easily-- see #1 again.

4. Name your email attachments with clear names. When you do finally get a big gig, and you need to send the Promoter, Venue, Publicist, etc. your sacred promtoional materials, such as pictures, press releases, posters, etc. PLEASE label the files clearly. What is easier to find "joesession454738_edit.jpg" or "BlueFace Band Promo Image for 6.7.12 Show at Viper Music.jpg". Help people out who may be searching for your informaiton on their crowded C drive. Also try mentioning your genre in press releases. What is easier for the music critic to understand: "The Pillow Band Press Release.pdf" or "Rock.Pop 4.3.12 The Pillow Band at Good Theater Press Release.pdf"? It doesn't have to be long, but please make it clear.

 5. Don't tell a club you will bring 300 people and bring 5. This is common sense but be honest about your draw. Ask the promoter: "How can I bring in more people? May I ask your advice?" Promoters, if they have time, want to help you bring more people to their club. Be honest. You will get more opportunities when you approach your goals with honesty. Ask for help. When you're in over your head, know it. Pull back and redouble efforts. It's OK to say NO.

 6. Get really good at your instrument. You would be suprised how many decent, perfectly good musicians become frustrated when they have to jump through all these hoops in #1-5 to not be treated like the "great" and "phenomenal" musicians that spent millions of hours studying, expanding and honing in on what they do.

7. Have one really good video online. We don't need to see 15 live shows with shaky camera work. Drop $200-500 on a professionally shot live performance video. This is NOT a music video. It's a live video of your act performing in a studio. Use the sound board recording. Point people, industry contact and fans to this video.

More Tips About Promoting Online...

As this can get very in-depth, you may want to read "The Zen of Social Media Marketing". If you are not big on reading, see #6 and hire a Publicist. Chances are though, you will have to do hours and hours of research on online promotion to get to the point of having a Publicist. That's just the way it is. Think of online sites as your own magazine, where you can put any information and pictures you want about your act. Then, play shows to get people to go look at the magazine. While they are leafin through, they may find out about products they want to buy, or an event they want to come see. Kind of like what you do when you're reading a magazine. It's all fodder. Make lots of it. Keep in mind what the goals of your act are. Once you know your goals, make lots and lots of content.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yellow Music is On the Rise: Stop the Trend Now Before it's Too Late

On the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic (which was yesterday) it seems fitting to write about one of the biggest potential disasters of the new music century.

Let me tell you about my morning.

I awake to check my email and whatsoever should appear but eight tiny reindeer..oh wait, no that was something different. I did have more than 8 emails though. At least one of them was the mailing list update from "that band"-- the one I saw once, and I was like, OK, I'll sign up on the list-- or maybe it was even one of those bands that I emailed about booking and just PUT me on the list-- but I think I signed up. So it's OK that I got the email.

It's NOT OK what the email said. The email was all about how their music was going to enhance my life in some way. After listing 4 things I could get or buy from them, their whole reason for contacting me (what, no dinner and a movie first?), the email, closed with the following testament to absurdity: "Treat yourself to something fun, you deserve it."

First off, good god, is what they are offering truly fun? Do I really deserve it? Regardless of the subjective nature of these claims, it is advertising and art all in one, after all, I found them absurd for an entirely other reason.

In fact, so absurd that I had to go make a pot of coffee while I mull all this over.

It's clear they are trying to sell something. [Is it four scoops or five full teaspoons these days for my four-cup maker]? It's clear that that is why they are contacting me. It's great advertising in a way. It's a nice, sunny email inviting me to buy their vintage soft-t's. It's clear they have a marketing budget. Just like Leo Burnett, wherefore art thou.

So, you could say, here's a band, and they are really advertising their product they are doing everything "right". [I opted for four scoops and then 1 heaping tablespoon then we'll see how strong this coffee is...I turned the machine "on" and it starts to percolate...]

Point being, I'm really gonna need some coffee for all this when I lay it on you. In fact, you might need some coffee too.

Come into my world briefly, look from behind the glass. Ok, now break the glass because we're all in the same world. The same way we all have different professions that deal with different things, we are all exposed to different amounts of this or that. I have been exposed to, that I consider to be, toxic levels of music promotion. Like radiation, in parts per million, waaaaaaaay over normal levels. It's toxic, baby, call in the EPA.

Like any drug, it started easy at first. I thought it was a "good idea". I got my website together, I thought about video, I hauled ass to book shows, I scraped together events, I emailed bands back and forth tirelessly, I scouted the web for venues, I listened to advice, I tried to paint that picture...I tried to approach it like an entrepreneur. It all seemed so shiny, the world of social media and I read the book "The Zen of Social Media Marketing" and I wrote press releases, and I got a MailChimp account, and I tried to make messages for my email list, I made Facebook invites, I racked my brain thinking of ways to get people to shows.

What at first seemed like a GIFT or a BONUS from all this effort-- which would be increased exposure for my music soon had the tables turned. Like a drug that seems to get you through the day, then ends up having you steal from mama's wallet to get a fix, music promotion had become a life-sucking entity.

Why? Because it took up all my time allotted for music. I wasn't getting better as a player. I wasn't writing new songs. I wasn't using music the way it had always worked for me. I wasn't creating as an artist at the highest level of my ability.

I had become a jukebox of my own music. A Jehovah's Witness of my own medicine.

Well, great god almighty I am free at last.

Notice that at the top of this site it says "Music Journalism". It doesn't say Music Publicity. Music Publicity is like that email, trying to get you to buy something.

Music Journalism is the real facts, the stories, some of them painted in such a way that it's not just the facts but a story about life of artists in a context. That's what's interesting.

But back to the Titanic for a moment. The crash occurred in the era of "Yellow Journalism". Let me tell you what that was. There were two big newspapers and both of them were competing for people's attention. Before Internet this was the main way to get info. It was like Mac vs. PC on a large scale, or VHS vs. Beta. These two papers were competing so to get people's attention they started running stories and headlines with the rule of "if it bleeds it leads". Man Dies In Fire! Girl Strangled by Dog! Boat Collapses and Kills Many! Point being, it was no longer stories with the facts about life in all it's realms, but the most gory, shocking news of the day-- because that's what sold papers.

(Most of American media still uses this technique but that's another essay). This type of Journalism was called "Yellow Journalism".

Well, I'd like to introduce a catch phrase today. I'm a blog writer, so you heard it hear first. "Yellow Music". It's when you stop getting the stories and the facts and the broad perspective from your music and you just go for the guts and blood of your sales pitch. I think it's a problem. I think it's prevalent. We're so deep into it we don't even see it.

Of course you should promote your music, of course that's professional, of course that's the next level, and so on.....but really?

The captains of the Titanic were plagued by something called "water glear" in the North Atlantic. Mariner air temperatures and reports for the month of April in 1912 showed this. It works similar to a mirage in a desert. Air temperature versus water temperature creates the mirage. The iceberg didn't appear until it was too late because the crew couldn't see it.

Allow me, with all due respect to the dead, to use this as a metaphor.

How do you see the mirage in your music? It's hip today to actually have a mirage in front of your music, and in fact, there's many resources that teach you how to cultivate it. The mirage of it being so great, so wonderful, so necessary to necessary to are getting sleepy....oh, but buy something it's fun, and you deserve it.

Click! That was my mouse as I buy a $4.99 MP3 package and then a vintage soft-tee.

Creating that mirage...that's hard work. It's a lot of work to create that mirage.

Everything might be going great, you might be "unsinkable" you might be selling like gangbusters...putting those other papers out of business.

Yet I think the mission of music and of journalism gets lost with "Yellow Journalism" and "Yellow Music".

I'm going to do something truly revolutionary today. I'm not going to promote my music at all today. I'm going to play it. I'm going to develop as a musician and work on my craft.

Oh, and by the way, I finally got the cup of coffee out. It's a little strong, but just about right.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Future Laureates: Bio

With a successful presence at SXSW 2012, plus airplay on 140 college and community radio stations, The Future Laureates are celebrating with unabashed energy and triumph. Offering positive punk-rock energy with folk/pop musicianship, their sonic champagne is frothing and bubbling with the release of their third album, “Fortress Sessions”. It is seriously full of fun.

They’ve established connections with fans over shared interests. The bleakness of current events or dynamics of interpersonal relationships faced by college-age crowds (most of them singing along) can’t be downtrodden as the pure sunshine of radio-ready pop comes through in every millisecond. Soaring harmonies glide through serious matters of the head and heart, along with major jamming by guitar, bass, drums - and ukulele.

2011’s “Rethink the Recession” led to reviews of “Kingston Blues,” the EP’s single, as “a fresh and fun melody led by a lively rhythm, brisk percussion, and warm, spirited vocals.” ( and “…it’s not just a gimmicky thing; he jams the livin’ crap outta that uke!” ( The same year, the album won licensing deals with a variety of shows on MTV, Showtime, and Discovery Networks via Tinderbox music.

Touring has brought together even more fans through numerous Midwest and East Coast journeys as well as hometown venues including Chicago’s House of Blues, DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel, and the Congress Theater for the 3rd and 4th annual Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festivals. They’ve shared crowds with Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Drive-By Truckers, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Hellogoodbye, Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, and Dawes.

Through it all, they keep it smart, fun and rhythmic.

In 2012, The Future Laureates have added “the fifth Beatle” with Chicago’s CAUDog Records. Working with accomplished producer Ellis Clark (Nikki Sudden with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Kim Thayil of Soundgarden), the recent album is their strongest effort to date. “We’ve treated it as a separate entity and process than our live shows, with additional organ, piano, horns, percussion, and most notably, violin,” says Danny Surico, primary songwriter for The Future Laureates.

“Fortress Sessions” sees TFL’s three founding members (Danny Surico (guitar/vocals), James Hyde (bass/vocals) and Matthew Daigler (ukulele/vocals) polish 12 gems with an unprecedented level of honesty about the songwriting and arrangements. Also contributing are special guests Ellis Clark on keys and organ, Mike Scheiman on guitar, Aaron Apter on drums and percussion, and Kristina Priceman on violin. The album gained its unique title from the band’s practice space and songwriting hub, a coach house fondly nicknamed "The Fortress" tucked away in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood.
Following their SXSW appearances in Austin, TX this March, the band is gearing up for its Chicago album release show in May 2012. This summer adds some hot festivals followed by an East Coast Fall Tour to promote the new album. Spontaneous, professional and passionate, TFL is dedicated to bringing their latest effort to radio and online distribution. Most importantly, they’re bringing it to the fans that keep dancing and singing along.

OnAxis Does Social Media Campaigns for Facebook & Twitter-- so you don't have to!

First things first. You might be familiar with Helen Keller. Well, I am not a miracle worker. I am not a "Publicist" of the days of yore with a big black metal desk and lots of "press contacts" I obtained through smoking cigars or doing coke on the bathroom floors with rock stars before it all ended badly. Strangely enough, especially for me, the mere mention of the "P-word" brings all kinds of requests from the trenches of musicians' egos. Apparently, I will single-handedly be able to bring Jesus into their living room with my "press contacts".

In fact, I have no press contacts to give you. Pick your heart up off the floor-- and really check out what I am about to tell you. Social media is the new black. It's so black, that people in New York are wearing it now, and people in Indiana will be wearing it in 2045. Besides giving me a chance to feel bad about making fun of Indiana perhaps too gratuitously, the metaphor ends there as it's not a trend, it's not a "dot com" that's gonna burst, it's not the housing market that's gonna tank, it's very real that the online thing is the exact same thing as what "press contacts" used to be.

People everywhere, from every angle, soon, will start telling you little bits and pieces which you can put together's the latest:

Myspace is dead. God, it was great while it was in its heyday. And yes, if you're Rhianna, or Estelle, it's probably relevant, but please, don't worry about it any longer. Sniff, sniff...

Facebook is the new coffee bar. Get in there, make some friends, start some conversations. By the way, the metaphor of Facebook being like a cafe isn't mine, alas, it belongs to the author of "The Zen of Social Media Marketing".

Twitter is not rocket science. Yes, it got a bad name when Ashton started using it and John Mayer, or a celebrity of note, started telling people about pooping-- actually Ashton uses it for cool fundraisers connecting with his thousands of followers and John Mayer, he probably didn't mention pooping- but at some point people failed to understand Twitter. Do I just get on it, and tell people when I burp?

No, silly. Please, try it. It's not rocket science. Spend 10 minutes.


Similar to Helen Keller, if people can't see you, or hear you, your career is going to travel about as fast as snail hog-tied to a corpse. Therefore...let me lay it out for you.

First, and foremost, let me say a little somethin-somethin for the Publicists out there that DO have press contacts and do make it happen, and do get people in the press. I hope you enjoy your job. I'm sure your clients enjoy the publicity.

However--my bold statement that social media is TAKING THE PLACE of press contacts is a "zorro" mark on the wall of music marketing that will serve to become more apparent with "the writing on the wall" as it were. So let's go with that wall theory.

(Put the Pink Floyd record away, can listen to it later)!

1. Every publication that you want to be written up in has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Most of the staff, editors and journalists have accounts as well. Are you friends with them or following them?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Matthew Morgan & The Lost Brigade

Matthew Morgan and the Lost Brigade is a hard-working band that has made its mark on the Chicago music scene, and is now pushing into the Midwest. With the diversity of banjo and mandolin alongside a female rocker that has shared the stage with Joan Jett, this band blends hopeful and upbeat rock with the deep reality of folk roots. Neil Young, Paul Simon and R.E.M. are among influences for the five-piece outfit that is poised to take on new musical territory with its follow-up to 2011’s Red Silhouettes.

With songwriting led by Matthew Morgan, the group rotates as backing musicians and a full-fledged collaboration. Morgan is a visual artist and musician, as is bassist Kavin Lahvic. This connection to Chicago’s Wicker Park art scene is another factor that sets the group apart, as MMLB carved a niche with well-attended shows at local art galleries including Chicago’s renowned Flat Iron Gallery.

MMLB is as “intense as whiskey with all the flavors of fine wine. Bombastic, upbeat pop/folk grabs audiences by the hand. It’s a sweet slow dance…” (OnAxis Music). With each show, responses from fans of both music and art have been overwhelmingly positive. CAUDog Records of Chicago, IL recognizes the band’s solid reputation and is partnering to produce and release the group’s first professional EP, expected in Fall of 2012.

The group began carving a niche in 2009 as previous members of Black Bottle Junction, who joined as recruits to support Morgan’s album project. The home-spun DIY album shines with quirk and charm, as acoustic guitars are paired with distorted electric guitar, accordion, driving drum beats, banjo, bells, keyboards and atmospheric gems which work together in surprising ways.

2011’s Red Silhouettes nods to stories from Civil War letters and victories from personal battles. Morgan (lead vocals, guitars) was diagnosed with a rare disease which he fought against and won. He now brings his zest for life and pursuing dreams to the fullest to the table. The experience gave Matt “a better idea of how important life is and how lazy we are when we think we have all the time in the world to do things."

The band is not a group of hobbyists. “I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little kid,” says Matt. The band met through a wide variety of means, from chance encounters to friends that “forgot” to mention they were wildly talented. Each member brings strength to the band adding harmonies, multi-instrumentalist skills and a plethora of life experiences. Their energetic live shows are a sonic feast. MMLB satiates the hunger for honest roots music mixed with fresh, fun creative rock. Matthew Morgan and the Lost Brigade make music we're glad to find.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

OnAxis Music is Alive

Here's our latest bio for Matthew Morgan & The Lost Brigade...

Matthew Morgan and the Lost Brigade are folk music with flair. Bombastic, upbeat pop/folk grabs audiences by the hand. It’s a sweet slow dance when they dip into country roots. When the 5-piece connects with rock, MMLB is an intelligent, barreling good time: a bottle of whiskey with all the flavors of fine wine.

Distorted electric guitar, accordion, driving drum beats, banjo, acoustic guitar, bells—you are surprised by music as creative as it is easy to like. Relating to life issues and overcoming adversity, this band of champions gives power, strength, good vibes and fills the rock spectrum taking cues from R.E.M., Paul Simon and Neil Young.