Friday, May 31, 2013

Sticking to the Fundamentals

I came across a book by Michael Jordan recently. After reading it, I noted that music is similar to sports in that we're competing with ourselves, just as much as we are with "the game". Here are thoughts on being a good "player", whether it's a sports player or a musical instrument player:

A good player or a good team can lose a call to an umpire or referee, but never the whole game. 

A good player may be paused by a bad or iffy call, but the key to good playing is to maintain: stay scrappy, keep moving, look for open passes, look for assists, look for collaborations, keep doing what you do best. 

Keep doing what you've practiced. Keep doing what you've learned. If you keep doing these things, you are a good "player". You might get pushed back by a bad call here or there, but you'll achieve more by sticking to the fundamentals.

Suggested Reading:

Six Giant Steps to Help You Get the Right Start

If you’re green.....or an indie musician just starting out, here's some tips gleaned from recent music marketing experience in the Chicago independent songwriter market. This info is for bands/solo acts looking to be booked at clubs where the required draw is 0-50 people, and the artist/band is developing their online presence. This advice is not for bands that are on record labels, utilize limos or tour internationally, it's for you. However, these tips can help any musician looking to make a start in the online promotional world (Facebook, YouTube, etc.). They may also offer some amusement.

For the sake of this article, bear in mind that being a musician COSTS you in two or more ways:

1. MONEY (actual costs for gear, insurance, recording, repairs, etc.)

2. TIME which you spend learning your craft

3. PEACE OF MIND-- the effort and energy you expend mentally 

4. The unexpected (hint-- prepare for it!)

It's also important to remember that these three things are also the REWARD and benefit of playing music. They're why we all go through all these hoops, challenges, and learning experiences in the first place. For example:

1. MONEY (there is some chance you may be paid for your performances once you're really good!) If you're banking on this for rent money, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself, or else be really committed.

2. TIME spent on music is some of the most enjoyable, fulfilling, creative, fun, invigorating time you will spend in your life, and in the lives of us all

3. HAPPINESS OF MIND-- the relaxation, spirit, rejuvenation  and pleasure from playing and listening to music is unsurpassed for musicians. Unlike a single race car driver winning a race, think of a cook making an amazing meal; the reward is in the process. You don't have to "win"...a driver that did his or her best navigating the territory is just as successful as the winner.

4. The UNEXPECTED -- enjoy it. Luck favors the prepared.

Here's steps 1-6 which can help you to get started on your music marketing journey. (As of 2013...this could change drastically in 3 months!)

1. ReverbNation and Online Profiles: This is the premeir FREE way to showcase your music online. Make a page for your act at You can pay a little extra for additional features, but a free profile is plenty to start with. Include 5-6 songs and 2-3 pictures. 

You will also need to include a bio. Please, no hype, just be simple and accurate. Tell a story. Say anything relevant to your music. Start in the NOW (do not start with "Sam started playing music at age 5--no one cares). If you don't have much experience  talk about your goals and plans for the future. If it's difficult to put your artistic sparkle-dust into words, just ask a writer/editor friend to help. 

Reverbnation is made for independent musicians. This is because your free account gives you webtools such as widgets for websites (a widget is code that you can paste into the HTML of your website and it updates info automatically -- Curious about HTML and websites? see step #5). It also includes mailing list tools to help fans sign up and to send newsletters. Be sure to update your live shows on Reverbnation! 

In summary, this is the easiest way to create an online music resume for your act. It's free and industry people accept Reverbnation as a solid site for showcasing an act for booking, etc.

Reverbnation is a start. There's also these sites:,,,,,,, (yes if you dare), and others.


When updating shows can be a hassle on multiple sites, check out ARTIST DATA.


Naming all those accounts with the same name....try to make the same name for all accounts such as....

:) etc. etc.

This is better than

COST: about 5 hours

2. Quick Sound Bite to Describe Your Act:  Make a short mission statement, slogan, etc. Describe your music quickly…oh wait time is up! The idea is to keep it simple, short and easy to understand.    When someone asks you to describe your music, this is on the tip of your tongue. Think about what your music is about. 


List genres you are similar to. Dig deep. Write anything that comes to mind about your music. Run it by people and see what they think. Examples are:  “Funk/Rock with Major Attitude”…”Blues Music for Rainy Nights”…”Acoustic Instrumental Music for New-Age Living”…”Original Folk Rock with Whiskey-soaked Lyrics”…it could be anything you like as long as it’s accurate, and you love it, as you’ll repeat it a lot. 

This was was gleaned from tips on using the 15-second pitch via in her book “Music Success In Nine Weeks”. If you’re stuck, ask band mates, friends and trusted folks to give their humble opinion. As a group, make a list of 20-30 words that describe your music. What if your music was a landscape? Weather? A country? A color? A texture? Then make a list and let people choose the top 5. You may be surprised at the results! 

Some GOOD Examples of “Quick Sound Bites”

Amina Figarova Sextet

Graceful First-Rate Jazz Composer and Pianist

Keiko Matsui

Pianist Fusing Jazz and New Age Undertones

Bettye LaVette

Emotionally and Energetically Charged Soul Singing Maven

Or...create your own

Jane Doe

Riveting Rock and Roll with Attitude and Soul

Joe Smith

Session Bassist for R&B, Rock and More

COST: Time 1-5 hours depending on how much meditating you do, plus sheets of paper and pen.

3. One  Awesome Video: 10 years ago an indie video was a luxury, but today there are fairly affordable high-definition hand-held cameras at your local stores in the Western world. However, with the ability to film anything, anywhere, is crowded with shaky, hand-held video shoots of music acts. Sometimes, this is still capturing the music and readily enjoyed by fans worldwide. However, for booking, promoters, booking agents and venues would love to see your act in a solid live setting with quality camera work. This can mean hiring a friend to work the tripod at a live show, and booking a show specifically to take video of, preferably at a venue with good sound system and lighting. A soundboard mix can help make sure the audio is the best it can be, although be warned a soundboard mix (coming directly from the soundboard) isn’t always accurate to what you’re hearing in the room, especially when amps and drum sets are involved. Most cameras have decent sound microphones on them. If concerned about sound, do web research and ask around which cameras have the best mics on them. 

Another note is that while music videos are awesome, the booking promoters really just want to see your act LIVE and what you look like on stage. So bring you’re a-game, book a show at the venue with the good lights, and have 1 or 2 friends there to shoot some awesome video of your live show. 1-3 songs is plenty. One more note is that when uploading them to YouTube or Vimeo video hosting sites, if you are able to edit the video to add text, please put your website at the end of the video and hold the image for 5 seconds, that way viewers may find themselves to your website (a bonus!).  

Legally speaking, technically “owns” footage that is uploaded, but the ease of sharing with the public and ability for people to find you by searching are major benefits to If you’re concerned, maybe wait to withhold your live video footage from after you’re holding footage of your Japan tour, then maybe there’s a legitimate issue with fans buying the DVD vs. watching it on YouTube. If you’re just trying to get your name out there, is like manna from heaven. Use it wisely with 1 good video! Plus, if you’re doing extra editing, which can be expensive, remember to include that into your overall budget from the start.


Doing it totally DIY? Even if you have to record in a small bar, venue, cafe, etc. just make sure there is good lighting, and the camera is focused on the band. Make sure chairs, mic stands, coats, baristas, etc. are out of the way as much as you can. Also, you do not have to film at a gig. You can film a practice, or a location shoot. Make the mood of the video and the location fit the song.

COST:  $200-600+, depending on how creative you are in outsourcing the camera-people and editors if needed (there are people who love to do this for free or low cost!). 

4. Facing Down Facebook: Create a page and update it once per week or more with news about your band. Make a contest to see how many likes you can obtain, if you feel that you may be judged by the number of likes? It’s true, some people judge a band’s popularity by this silly statistic. What is very serious, is how you can use Facebook to connect with people (who you know and who you want to meet). 

Plus, the Facebook page can include a player so people can hear your music on your Facebook page, fancy that! (google “Ban Profile App”. Basic directions: From the band’s music page click on the down arrow on the far right of the page next to the rectangles that say “Photos” “Likes” “Twitter” and “Events” . Then click the plus sign in one of the rectangles. Then click “find more apps”. Then choose the “Band Profile” App. Follow their prompts. Don’t overestimate Facebook and email, pick up the phone sometime, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve by talking to  people face to face. 

A “Facebook” page is just a way of showing your band is alive and kicking, and sharing your cool news! Remember to keep your main image and square logo image in tune with all your other marketing materials. Good work!

COST: TIME 1-3+ hours, each week

5. The Calling Cards: The basics include but are not limited to a business card, 4×6 flier and 11×17 poster. For the poster, remember to leave a white space at the bottom for example so you can write show details in for each separate show (so you don’t have to make a new poster for each show). 

Choose one image, one font, one tagline and one color scheme for all of these. If they’re all different, your branding efforts just went poof! Imagine if Coca Cola had a different logo every time you saw a can. How would it stick in your memory? Choose one image and theme and stick with it for all your marketing materials. You CAN change it of course, in due time, but stick with one theme for 3-6 months if you can. That way, every time someone sees a business card, flier or poster it reinforces a central image and name of your group. 

Please do not try to be Picasso—just get the message across! Make it readable first, beautiful work of staggering genius second. As a general rule of thumb, a reader who has never seen your band before should be able to describe what you do after looking at your business card for under 5 seconds. So make your point quick! Ready set go!

COST: $100 or more depending on how many you print. Start small runs, you can always print more.

6. Web Research, Real World Action and Stamina: 

Web research is one of your best tools. Then go to music venues. Go to the library too. Venues tend to book people that attend shows at their venue if they are smaller, more discreet places. Research first, and learn as much as you can before asking questions. Then, ask away! Many questions you have, about just about anything, can be answered with a little focus and GOOGLE. 

Research something for 10 minutes before attacking it, you may be surprised what you learn. Keep in mind some internet info is outdated, or written by people ranting or trying to sell you things. Talk to fellow musicians and venues to really get a handle on your booking/performing scene.

How Web Research relates to Booking:


BOOKING ROCK BOTTOM BASICS...Yep it's after the year 2000. Most venues prefer email. Follow the venue’s instructions exactly. Be accurate with your draw estimate. If you believe you are a match for a club, tell them why in very specific terms but be aware they are trying to fill the club with acts that meet THEIR needs, not the other way around. 

You are providing a service as a live performer.  If they don’t need your service, go where you ARE needed. Contact them every two weeks. 

Real World is your calling. Oh yes, the drama. But are you "calling" people on the phone? The best way to meet your calling, is to start calling! 

COST: 10 minutes to 10 hours, a lifetime of learning

You read this far... so you get BONUS TIPS FOR BOOKING!



Start A Special Booking Email to keep your booking straight. You can create a new booking email while you’re at it when you make this Reverbnation account, and use the new email to make your,, LastFM, Twitter, Bandcamp and Soundcloud accounts also....get the idea? Keep all your online music info in one place. Gmail is the most "modern" email system.


Make your emails look more professional with an email signature. Include your phone number for booking contacts. Also include a brief description of your music/genre if you'd like. A good signature will look something like this

Thank you,

Jane Doe

Gospel Songwriter

Cell 888-555-5555

If you haven't had enough, and if you still want to learn more, and you’re up to the challenge of being an indie musician, contact us for a FREE 20 minute consultation on your online presence.

    Monday, May 13, 2013

    Making the Time

    I enjoyed reading Cari Cole's "The Top 10 Bullshit Excuses" about the music industry and music careers.

    It occurred to me that I haven't posted on my own blog in over 8 months. I could have had a premie by now.  What are our priorities? I often hear people say "I'm too busy". How busy are we though? Too busy to spend 10 minutes practicing? Too busy to take 5 minutes to call an old friend?

    By realizing we are kidding ourselves when we say we are "too busy", we might tap into the truth...that our priorities we act on don't match up with the priorities we think about. Or, conversely that whatever it is we are trying to promise to someone, or make excuses for, simply isn't important to us. Perhaps "too busy" would be better to say "too wrapped up in my ego" or "I have my head up my you-know-what".

    We need to suspend disbelief to be artists, we need to believe in something greater, but that journey has to start with reality. Let's start by being real with ourselves. I am not too busy for life, I have plenty of time for this.

    There is "reality" aka the real world of course. We have bills, we have health, we have families. We have priorities that don't involve music. We also have fear. Fear of failure, fear of not being accepted. This is what really holds us back. We stay in our comfort zones. We do things people praise us for. We don't go out on a limb. We walk the safe path.

    Here's to not only taking the road less traveled by, but doing it to the beat of your own drummer. Take the 10 minutes to practice today. Take the 5 minutes to call an old friend. You'll be glad you did. Not only will you be a better musician, but a better human being.