3 Ways Musicians Are Wasting Time ⏰

I hope your September is starting out strong, happy, and healthy.  It’s been an interesting last few weeks as I’ve watched major fall tours cancel, leaving my clients’ tours currently up in the air. I don’t know what the outlook will be for live music this fall, but my hope is that people can come out to shows and enjoy live music again. It might be wishful thinking for that to happen this year, but one must hope, right?

For today’s note, I decided to look back at my older blog posts (I’m almost at 100 posts!) and see what could be updated. I was reviewing one on how musicians can waste time on coordinating rehearsals. So, I thought I would revisit that topic and dive into the top 3 things I see what musicians waste time on.

1. Sticking with traditional methods and not investing in online tools
For example: I dread giving out paperwork to bands, promoters, and venues when there is no online signature tool. Most folks don’t have a printer anymore, and most don’t know how to add a signature to a document via their computer. So, without the ease of being able to sign a document online, naturally getting those documents back to me takes much longer than needed.

Find processes in how you run your business and look at where you can streamline them. You might be surprised at the many low-cost, sometimes free options you have to make your business run faster. Have your VA do the research for you to save that step!

2. Doing everything on your to-do list yourself
I love to-do lists, but I understand that I don’t need to do everything on that list myself, or in the same day. If you’re about to tackle a release or a new project, take the 30 minutes to just jot down everything that’s involved, no matter how messy it looks. From there, you can map out who could do those things and also prioritize the tasks that must get done during a certain time frame or before another task can be accomplished.

If you’re creating a list more to put out some current fires in your business, pick 1-3 urgent tasks and make sure to resolve them that day. Save the next important items for tomorrow, or delegate to your VA what they can handle that day, and save the rest for tomorrow. Always just try to do the next right thing for your business.

3. Not investing in support
Both of those time-wasters above involve not using a support person or a team of helpers. If you’re at a point in your business where you are doing more day-to-day work than working on your craft, recording, focusing on the revenue streams for your business, you’re not using your time efficiently. You have to be focused on the parts of your business that only you can do – and that’s not updating inventory in your store, creating a new flyer for your online show, and setting up a release for distribution. 

You don’t need a full-time or a part-time person on staff – sometimes the support you need can be found with a quick job post on Upwork or Fiverr to take it off your hands that week!

These three things will apply not only to any independent musician but any business owner because if you are a thriving independent musician, you are also a business owner. You must think of yourself that way if you want to have success in the industry.

So, utilize your resources and run your successful business!

Cheers,

Publishers: You could be missing out on $$$

I was chatting with a friend this past week and in that conversation, realized – WHOA. There’s only 5 months left of this year! It sure doesn’t feel like it, but the holidays are just around the corner. Has it hit you yet?!?

Anyway, I also had the pleasure of reconnecting with a past client this past week by giving a couple of consult sessions. We dived into the world of distribution, royalty and registrations. It’s not the most fun of things, but it’s oh-so important to songwriters, publishers and performers – especially if you’re all three!

We first looked at PROs and how to register your releases with, in their case, ASCAP.  We pointed out something really important that I knew I wanted to share with you right away once we saw it.

Most artists know you should register for a PRO if you’re a songwriter. But, you also should register as a publisher too!

Why?
When a PRO sends royalties for a performance of your music, half goes to the writer (or writers) and half goes to their respective publishers. Simply, if you want your publishing company to get a share, you should also set up a publishing company with your PRO.

This goes for BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, etc.

What do you need to register your publishing company with a PRO?
What you need is a mailing address, email address, tax ID number (EIN or if you want to register as an individual/sole proprietor, your SSN), and of course the name of your publishing company.

I would hate if you were missing out on $$ as a songwriter, so I hope you find this little tip helpful. 

What questions do you have about song registration? Hit ‘reply’ and let me know and I just might answer it in the next newsletter :).

Cheers,

P.S. Thank you so much for being here and reading my newsletter.

I realize some of you reading are virtual assistants yourself, looking to make musicians your niche, too. My team and I are creating something really special for you, stay tuned! 

It’s easier than you think to create an experience with your music! 🎶

I hope you’re enjoying your summer so far! Things are rockin’ and rollin’ in my world – clients are busy as ever now with live shows coming back and 2022 on the horizon. It’s never a dull moment in my office and there’s always a new challenge on my plate.

This past month I was helping a client create an experience with one of her releases. She wanted to make it more impactful with her fans beyond putting out the single on Spotify. She wanted to share behind the scenes how the track was made.

I have done this before for albums, taking months of work and content creation – but this was the first time I worked on a condensed version for a single. I thought it was a genius idea and enjoyed putting it together. On the first day of release, we saw a great reaction and generated income for my client – without any hands-on work (after it was published).

Here are some tips that helped made our experience successful!

1 – We decided to delay the release of the music to the streaming and online platforms to create exclusive access. Since the single is not available anywhere else, fans will more likely go for purchasing the experience.

2 – We allowed them to pay what they want. We had a set price for all the content they were getting but allowed them to give more if they felt generous that day! I highly recommend offering this in your store on your items. You’ll be surprised what people will do!

3 – We kept everything digital. Yes, we could have created on demand physical merch or send cards, etc. But, in the end we really wanted this to be something that lived online and could be hands off for both of us. Plus, my client is very environmentally conscious so the fact that no mailings had to be done to give her fans an experience was a plus.

4 – Everything was hosted on her site – no funnel programs, no special tools. We simply created a product and linked it to a password-protected page. We didn’t need any expensive programs or gadgets to pull off the experience!

Care to take a peek at what we created? Visit my client’s insider access product here! Get some inspiration for your next release and how you can give your fans a little something more – staying connected in any form is so important right now with live events still slowly coming back!

Cheers to your next release,

What’s in a Band Agreement (And Why You Need One!)

This year is FLYING for me. Maybe it’s because things are opening up again nationwide and internationally but things are moving and grooving, and it’s just making these months fly!

With new shows and tours coming together, my world has become about agreements recently for my clients and their band members (I prefer to use the term agreements over contracts). These documents have become so important for these groups. What’s helpful about them is that they spell out the details of the event, dates, times, what’s expected, and most importantly, terms of payment! You won’t get asked over and over again, “When do I get my check?”, “Do I get reimbursed for this Uber?”, or “Who’s paying for this meal?”

Maybe you already have your agreements created, maybe you don’t. That’s okay, you’re here now and I want to share with you some of the top things to include in your agreements that maybe you didn’t think about beyond date, time, and amount of pay. All of these tips came from REAL situations that I’ve seen happen. Doesn’t make anyone a bad person, just means life can get in the way of commitments and you have to protect yourself, your name, and your business at the end of the day.

Here are 6 things you may be forgetting in your band agreements:

1. How they will be paid: Be sure to specify the way that you will be paying so it’s clear to folks when they will receive their money. With checks, sometimes it can take a few days to process and if you have bills depending on the paycheck, that can cause your bandmates late fees. Which brings me to…

2. Late Fees & Lost Checks. Make sure you state you’re not responsible for any late fees, charges, or lost check fees if you are paying by check. To reissue a check it can cost you, so your bandmates should be aware of that and understand they should be timely with depositing your checks.

3. Lost or stolen instruments or equipment. Sadly, this has happened a few times on tour to a couple of my clients (Be sure to park your tour vans in safe, well-lit areas!). Be sure to make it clear that you’re not responsible for paying for your bandmates stolen or lost instruments even though it was during your tour.

4. Tour and Performance etiquette. This can be touchy, but I’ve seen it included in some high-profile performances. This is if you don’t want someone chugging a beer on stage, cursing on stage, or jumping in the crowds, etc. It can also be having no phones 5 minutes before showtime or making sure phones are silent during the show. 

5. Recording ownership, publishing rights, copyright, writing credits. Sometimes you have times where you are recording new music or during rehearsal, you write a new melody to your songs. Make sure you clarify who gets the rights and percentages to the band if it’s picked up by publishing.

6. Terms if the band member has to leave the tour early. This happens more often than you might think. Life can hit hard and band and personnel sometimes have to leave the road. Make sure the protocol is clear in how they should leave. They can’t just be gone one morning. Request communication and replacement options if applicable.

I hope this proves helpful in navigating agreements with your bandmates. I’ve never heard anyone regretting putting agreements in place with their band members, so be sure to start doing it today.

Keep making your great music

Enhance Your Single Release With On Demand Merch

To make up for the lack of live shows, 2020 was a big year for online streaming. The growth as the number of paid subscriptions increased by 24% in early 2020, and lots of music was released during the pandemic. Many of my clients started pouring out singles and releasing them throughout the year – so we got to working on how we could make these releases a fun experience for the fans – beyond just listening to it on Spotify or Apple.

One strategy was using the on-demand printing service, Printful, to create merch specifically around a single release for a limited time. The major artists do this all the time – they get you hyped up about a new release and create unique merch around it. However, you don’t always want to invest in 100s of items, so using the on-demand services is ideal. There are some things I learned along the way. Here are the pros and cons of using on-demand printing that I feel are most important to understand, whether for a release or in general.

CONS
1. Limited items – You are limited to the merchandise that the on-demand printer can offer. That can sometimes be frustrating if you’d like to offer something unique. 

2. Profit Margins – You may have to increase the cost of your items to your customers in order to make a decent profit margin, but you have total control on how much you want to make.

3. Return management – It can sometimes be trickier since you’re depending on a third party to process a refund to you in order to refund a customer if there’s an issue. That’s why it’s important to have a clear return policy on your store site that benefits you. Most of the time though, the on-demand printer will want to work with you because they only make money when you do!

PROS
1. No Bulk Orders – The obvious one here is you don’t need to place orders of 100s of items to be able to offer merch in your store. So, you don’t have to worry about having boxes of merch that doesn’t sell sitting in your closet.

2. Inventory Management – You don’t have to worry if you will sell out of an item because it’s all on-demand. Plus you save the headache of having to count and keep track of what was sold / not sold.

3. Design Experimentation – You’re able to explore as many designs as you want, and in turn offer that to your followers. However, I do recommend having a limit of items. You don’t want to overwhelm your shoppers!

4. Fulfillment is a breeze – Never go to a post office again or deal with packing up envelopes of shirts. You can even customize your products and packaging with your branding with Printful, so there’s no sign that it’s coming from a third party.

It’s been really fun to be able to play with new merch items for my clients’ stores without having to invest in boxes of merch. We’ve learned that some things sell really well, and some things do not. So, go ahead and head over to Printful (or another on-demand printing service) and see what merch items you can create today!

Getting Google Verified

One of my favorite things is to figure something out with a client and then be able to share that tip with the rest of my clients, and you! And that thing this past month was claiming their Knowledge Panel.

What’s a Knowledge Panel?
Knowledge panels are information boxes that appear on Google when you search for entities (people, places, organizations, things) that are in the Knowledge Graph. They are meant to help you get a quick snapshot of information on the topic you are googling. It looks a little something like this 👇

Now, my client came to me saying, “How can we remove XY and Z! It’s not correct, it’s not relevant!”. Which is when I noticed the button at the bottom of the panel saying “Claim this knowledge panel”. I thought this had to be the way to edit this panel since there’s no dedicated person or any person on the side of support that could just change it for us. 

We worked on being able to claim the panel. Once we were successful, boom, we were able to request edits to be made to the panel! Now, of course, the changes could take months, but it does assure us that we have *more* control than before with what is shared with the world when they search for my client.

So, what are you waiting for! Claim your knowledge panel today. It’s quick and painless, full instructions here.

Musicians Adapting To COVID

Wow – I think we all have recently been reflecting on the fact that it’s been an entire year already since the COVID virus essentially hit the nation. I remember shopping for masks back then, seeing they wouldn’t arrive until June, and me not ordering because I thought it’d be over by then. Boy, we were all wrong! So much has happened in the past year. I hope for you it hasn’t been too rocky. 

I’m very grateful that I was able to continue helping my clients despite COVID impacting the live show and touring industry. For some of my clients, touring and performances was easily over half of their incomes, so needless to say, they had to adapt to what was happening and fast.

I thought I would share a little into what my clients pivoted to this past year without being able to tour – maybe there’s some things in there that you haven’t tapped into that could help you keep your business and fanbase healthy.

Online Streaming. I’ve always advocated for live stream concerts (check out my blog post on how my client made $400 in one hour via live stream!) because I saw the value of fans watching and feeling like it was an intimate experience. But with COVID, this industry EXPLODED. I have an old-school client who had done 1, maybe 2 live steam concerts in his career. This past year, he has converted his living room into a world class recording “studio”. He’s set up to go live anytime, and has converted many of his to-be in person concerts into streaming concerts, keeping his performance schedule busy. He also started a weekly concert series, bringing on guests from around the world. His fans are really enjoying it, and I know my client is too.

Focus on Releasing Music. Clients were always releasing music – but with COVID and everyone at home, it felt like the singles and albums were just pouring out. Without the ability to tour, releasing singles in a drip form allows them to keep in communication with their fanbase continuously! Look at Taylor Swift. No tours and she released 2 full albums.

E-Commerce. With new music pouring out, it was only natural to also be pushing out new merch, not just new designs but also new products like facemasks! It also gave clients a chance to look at what was working, and what was not, to clean up their online offerings.

Tapping into other skills. Some of my clients hold workshops – for music or meditation – as well as sell their own sheet music. This time off from touring and performing allowed them to push out their courses and sheet music when they couldn’t before, opening that door of revenue to them.

Getting Organized. All of our clients took this time to get organized, make those website updates we’ve always wanted to make, update profiles online, etc. etc. It was a good year to catch up on administrative things that were always pushed back when touring / performances were the priority.

Potentially Boost Your Spotify Stream Numbers With This New Feature

I’m writing today because – and I may be late to the party – but Spotify finally enabled Canvas for all artists via the Artist Dashboard. What’s Canvas? Well, you know those short, neat little videos that play during a Spotify stream on a loop on your screen? That’s a Canvas video. For the longest time, you had to ‘apply’ to have it added to your profile, but it always felt like it went into a black hole (which, considering now that it’s enabled for everyone, might have been the case 🤦‍♀️.

So, I’ve circulated the update to my clients and we are editing selected tracks and enabling this feature for all future releases.

Here’s what you need to know if you are looking to add it to your tracks, too.

Where to enable Canvas:

  1. First, you need to be sure you’ve claimed your artist profile at artists.spotify.com. If you haven’t and you’re on the platform, for shame! Jump on it right away. Not only can you do this new Canvas trick, but you can also control your profile picture, biography, links, and look at listener stats as well as pitch your new music to Spotify playlists.
  2. Once enabled and logged in, click on the Music Tab.
  3. If you want to add Canvas to an upcoming release, click on ‘Upcoming’ on the Music tab.
  4. There, you’ll see your upcoming release, with the playlist pitch and the Canvas options enabled. Click on ‘Manage’ under Canvas: Enhance Your Release
  5. Once prompted, click Add by the track you want to add your video to.
  6. Drag and drop your file in and hit save!

What are the required specs?

Below are the overview file requirements:

  1. 9:16 ratio
  2. At least 720px tall
  3. An MP4 or JPEG file
  4. 3s to 8s long (MP4 only)
     

The full details – as well as some great inspiration – can be found on Spotify’s website here: https://canvas.spotify.com/en-us along with a handy video on how to add as well here.

I’m really curious to analyze the stats on tracks with Canvas videos vs ones that don’t for my clients – I’d like to see if it makes a difference. Spotify claims “when listeners see a Canvas, they are more likely to keep streaming (+5% on average vs. control group), share the track (+145%), add to their playlists (+20%), save the track (+1.4%), and visit your profile page (+9%)”. What’s also great is your followers can share the canvas video on socials, like their Instagram story, and it really becomes content for the release.  And personally, a lot of these Canvas videos that have caught my eye led me to check out the official music video – which I hope to accomplish for my clients!
So, give it a go – even a simple loop video could make all the difference – and get creative with your tracks on Spotify!

5 Cool Tools to Try Today 🛠️

Lately, I've been diving into summits, podcasts and I've also signed up to go to CD Baby's DIY Musician Conference (let me know if you'll be there). I am trying to take the rest of the month for research, education and learning what is new out there, what works and what doesn't. I'm not going to lie, it's overload, but it's also exciting to get a spark back in how I can help my clients. On that note, I thought I'd share some recent tools I've found that I know you could use today. Here are five cool tools I'm using now, and I encourage you to check them out!

1. Connecting Twitter + Instagram. If you use Instagram and Twitter on the regular, you need to grab this. One of the setbacks with these two platforms is that they don't talk to each other. If you post on Instagram and then share on Twitter, Twitter doesn't show the photo, rather a link which looks pretty awful. Ideally, you want to share the image, not a link to the image. This nifty applet fixes that and will post an Instagram photo to your Twitter feed as a native photo. Grab it here. Sign up on their website to get updates on all the neat applets rolling out on a regular basis.

2. EditFrame. The developer of this site personally reached out to me and asked me checked it out. As someone who despises opening up iMovie for simple video edit, this site is a great tool if you make a lot of videos - specifically image/audio videos. It's very basic now but the developer is keen on making it bigger and useful tool for musicians as a video editor, and I'm confident more features will start to roll out. Check it out here and if you do use it, definitely let me know your thoughts on it!

3. Metablocks Widgets for Music. I've been looking for access to a widget like this for months, and I'm so excited to have finally found one that I can use. You've probably seen lots of musicians share links to their new album or single, and it's a landing page to link everywhere it is distributed - iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, Google, and more. For the longest time, the one widget that was out there (that I knew of) was stuck in the invite-only mode. So, I jumped on the opportunity to request access to Metablocks version. I recommend using this for your next release so that you have one link to share where your music is - much better than having to manage several links. Access it here.

4. Website Grader. This site is a completely free online tool that grades your site against key metrics like performance, mobile readiness, SEO, and security. It's a great way to do a quick checkup on how your website is doing, and even tells you what you can do to improve your grade. Grade your site in seconds.

5. Online Signature. I'm still at a loss why anybody still does not use online signing tools to lock down contracts and agreements. Stop the goose-chase and get your contracts online! It is a lot easier to get signatures where you need them if someone can access it online. I personally use SignNow.com, but I found Online Signature and suggest that because if you do less than 5 contracts a month, it stays free. Check it out here.

That's it (for now)! Please - let me know if you use these tools and if you love them as much as I do (or not)! And a few months from now, I'll definitely share any new tools I find that are useful and make your day easier.

So you want to set up a Pre-Order…

With the new year, I had a handful of clients do a bit of rebranding, and with that usually means new merch. Unlike before, and reasonably so, most people don’t want to buy a bunch of merch in bulk, only to see it sitting in their closet for months, and then end up giving it away with other purchases.
 
There’s a smarter way to handle selling merch to your followers and fans, and I’m here to share it with you! Below are real strategies I’ve used to create great new merch for my clients that they love (and buy)!
 
For today’s post, I will specifically focus on t-shirt’s, but this could be applied to other types of merch, like bags, glasses, hats, etc. Let’s do this!
 
1. Picking your design – One way to really engage your fans and slap on a slight guarantee that they’ll love it, is to involve your fans into helping you pick your merch design! People love to give their opinion. 🙂 Some guidelines in sending out the options after you’ve narrowed it down with your designer.
 
a. Give options, but not too many. 3-5 design options is more than enough, otherwise, you may not get enough strong feedback on one and will have gotten nowhere with the survey. Keeping the options limited will help find the winning design quicker.
 
b. Allow them to pick one only option. Have your fans pick one, or rank 2 options. Doing ranges of 1-10, for example, will only blur the end results. Keep it clear.
 
c. Ask your email list, but also ask on your socials. Instagram has a great poll feature on their stories option. You can also send them to a survey, which you can create for free at SurveyMonkey.com. Try to get as many people to take your survey as possible!
 

 
2. Setting up the Pre-order – what is the best way to take these pre-orders? I really recommend using Bandcamp if you have a store set up. What I like about it is that you can specify the date you are going to start shipping out (estimate is fine based on when you will order/get the shirts delivered to you) so that it’s clear to customers when they should expect their shirts. Bandcamp is useful in that it will organize your orders and you can even print labels from their back end.
 
If you don’t have a Bandcamp store, you can use your website store (Woocommerce plugin for WordPress users, Bandzoogle store, or Weebly store, etc.) but just be sure to make it clear in the description and title that it is a pre-order so you don’t have customers emailing in confused, wondering where their order is!
 
I have used a Paypal.me link as well to handle pre-orders. The issue is you have to ask them to give their size, color, etc. options afterwards since you can’t have them select that when they pay. It can work, but you might have people purchase without information given on their choice and you’ll find yourself chasing them down for their shirt size.
 
3. Promote the Product – If your budget and timeline allows, order some samples to show off and use as promotion to your fans. People will more likely order something if they get a sneak peek or real look at the item, and if you’re wearing them too! Printful.com does one-off printing and give you a 20% discount and free shipping on 3 different items to see your product beforehand. This is also great if you are trying to decide on a type of shirt or item.
 
4. Pricing Your Merch – When pricing your shirts, be sure to think of all possible hidden fees. Shipping fees from your manufacturer. The packaging itself for the item. Your time going to the post office or printing off labels should also be factored in. Try to get in a range where you feel comfortable with what you are charging for the item and where you get enough back to make it profitable for you.
 
5. Create An Incentive – To up the ante on a pre-order, offer either a special price, free shipping or even better, throw in some extras when you ship the item. Think of bracelets, stickers or any other light item that won’t add extra shipping costs to surprise your early supports of the merch item!
 
6. It Doesn’t Stop At The Post Office – It shouldn’t end at the customer receiving the shirt. Include a handwritten note saying how much you appreciate their support and to share online and tag you (this creates an effect of more people wanting the item, too). Include a coupon code in the package that gives them 10% off any item in your store. Aim to keep the relationship going and strong with your fan after they receive the merch!
 
Using these strategies, I’ve seen 50+ orders in a matter of weeks, fan engagement grow, and lots of shipments out the door! Stay smart in your merchandise endeavors, and it will certainly pay off.