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.

📱 Get App-y! 📱

I’m all giddy typing right now because I know what I’m about to share is going to make your life improve in a snap – and for free! Seriously! I’ve been doing what I’m about to share with you for a few weeks now, and I already feel like life is just…easier.

Finally, the many websites you use as a musician are wising up and getting in the App store. Here are the newest and then some of my favorites that you should download now.

1. Spotify for Artists

Separate from the Spotify music app that you know, you can now access your artist profile directly through your phone. This is great if you want to quickly update your Artist Pick Of The Day based on your mood, or new release, or update your photo, or quickly check your stats. Learn more about Spotify for Artists in my blog post here.

2. Bandinstown Manager

Another brand spankin’ new app for musicians. I think this app is WAY overdue! Now you can mark shows as sold out while on the road, or quickly make any last minute changes to your touring calendar. I’ve used it and have had no issues – they’ve done a great job rolling this one out.

3. BandCamp

This one is beautiful y’all. I logged in and was welcomed with stats, one click away from messaging fans and quickly able to see how my client’s album sales were doing. This app is no joke. In addition to what I just mentioned, you can edit your profile, add new merch, check orders, mark them as shipped and most importantly, message your subscribers. If you’re active on BandCamp, this app will make it easier for you while on the road.

4. MailChimp

Now, this will only apply to you if you are using MailChimp for your newsletter (highly recommended, it’s the most affordable & most reliable one out there – trust me, I’ve tried a lot of them). They’ve had an app for a while now, but because you couldn’t edit the newsletters, I thought it was pretty useless. I never had a situation where I had to urgently pull up a report or check if an email was on the list. But, I have been on the road, and a word needs to be changed in the draft, and the email has to get sent out in 5 minutes. I would either rush and scramble to get to my computer, or I’d have to, unfortunately, let it wait until I could get to a computer (NOT preferred)! So, now that you can edit the emails on your phone and catch those minor mistakes before they go out? I’m all in.

5. Dropbox

Having Dropbox on my phone has been a lifesaver more than once. A venue needs a hi-res photo of the band so they can announce ticket sales that day, the band needs to hear the new track before rehearsal this afternoon, you need to send a link to your poster to print out at Staples…this has ALL happened to me! Dropbox’s app is very organized, clean and easy to find the files I need. So much better than searching through emails and sending attachments. I prefer it over Google Drive – for some reason, load times have been horrendous for me with Drive, but Dropbox – it’s been easy-peasy every single time.

Now, there are MANY more apps out there for musicians that focus on the production/recording end [see here, and here], but I wanted to share with you apps that I’ve used to improve time management, organization, and maintain ease of everyday tasks that I handle for my clients that WORK.

I hope you take the time to check these apps out, and if there are apps that YOU use daily to keep your career in line, let me know! I always want to know what works :).

How do you get started with a VA?

 

Today’s message is all about getting started with a virtual assistant. Most of my clients have never worked with a virtual assistant with intentions of working long term – most work they have hired were temporary workers from Upwork or Fiverr, or one time projects. So, a very common question I get is – how does this work? How do we get started? How do we build this relationship?

After years of working with many clients, I’ve learned a few basic things to start with every new client to make sure boundaries are set, goals are being met, communication is made and the relationship can grow into a strong team!

1) Set up a weekly or bi-monthly check in call with your VA, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. This will keep both of you on top of your goals and together you two can stay on the big picture of your career.

2) Create a shared online workspace. I highly recommend signing up for Asana or Trello – both free – to organize your to-do lists and delegate tasks, included with deadlines. Being online and shared, it makes it easy to communicate with each other and avoid email back and forth overload. If you don’t want to learn a workspace program, utilize a shared document or sheet of your to-do list.

3) Create a shared folder of your most updated assets. Every musician should have a folder from the get-go of their best tracks, photos, bio and links to videos. This way, you aren’t always emailing the assets you want your VA to use for press or festivals, AND he or she doesn’t always have to ask you for it.

4) Password management. Use Lastpass or Dashlane to store your passwords and share safely with your VA. You can even use these sites to store credit cards so that your information is protected.

5) Let them know to speak up. Empower your VA and let them know to speak up if they see a better way of doing things, or have any suggestions. They are working closely in your career and they might see and feel there is a way to streamline a process, find you a connection or save you money!

These 5 tried and true tips are a GREAT way to build a solid trust between you and your VA to handle your career and goals. So go out there, find your team and rock it!

How To Get On Wikipedia ?

Well, I was pondering what to share with you to start the year off right and I thought, why not about something that most of my clients ask about / wonder if they should do this / why it matters / how it can happen…and that’s having a Wikipedia page!

You might be thinking, “wikipedia page? Who cares?! My website and my multiple social media profiles are enough.” Sure, it’s enough for folks to get information about you. But, a wikipedia page can open doors to verification, credibility and online reputation. It gives you a platform that not just anyone can get.

NOTE – not every musician should get a wikipedia page.

If you are starting out, it’s just not going to be possible to start a page. If you’ve been at it for a few years with press, mentions, performances, placements, etc., you have more of a reason to build a page and your chances are very good.

You see, wikipedia requires you to prove that you accomplished some status with your music. I found as long as you can link each sentence in your wikipedia page to a press source or other Wikipedia pages, you should be able to have your own.

Here’s how to get started if you’re ready for a wikipedia page.

1) Sign up for Wikipedia. You can sign up yourself and create your own profile, but if you can, have someone else like a VA, family or friend sign up in order to write the article for you. Better yet, see if you know anyone who has a profile who regularly contributes. If you’ve submitted on wikipedia before successfully, you have more credibility to add more articles.

If you are signing up for the first time and just getting started, walk through their tutorials, make slight contributions if you can to other articles, and get comfortable. I also recommend creating a fake name so it’s not so transparent that you are submitting an article for yourself.

2) Write out your article. Your existing biography is a good place to start – but cut down the fluff. Wikipedia does not care about your ‘sultry voice’ or ‘outstanding performance’. They want the cut and dry facts – with proof!

For example, take this existing sentence from an artist bio:

As a performer, she’s dazzled audiences from Davies Symphony Hall,  to thousands at outdoor festivals, and the prestigious and intimate singer-songwriter circuit in Nashville. 

To put that into wikipedia, you’ll want to rewrite it as:

She has performed at Davies Symphony Hall, the Outdoor Music Festival, Summer Music Festival 2016 and at venues like Nashville Shows and Nashville Concert House.

PLUS you are going to want to be able to link to either another wikipedia page or news source saying that you performed at those places.

If you can’t prove it with an outside source other than your existing bio, leave it out.

BUT there are exceptions. I found that for your intro sentence, such as:

Artist Name is an American singer-songwriter.

You can link that to your bio as a source. It’s when you start linking yourself to venues, festivals, organizations and other people where another source is needed besides a site run by you.

3) Add your discography, videos and other credits.

In addition to your intro and career paragraphs, you’ll want to then add your discography – this includes singles, EPs, full albums, remixes and videos.

You can also add other fun facts if you’d like, such as where you studied, other talents (acting, teaching, etc.) as long as you can prove it!

4. Add your ‘Infobox’. This is that little box to the right with your name, image and overview. In wikipedia, it’s under Templates>Infobox Musical Artist.

You will have to add your image to WikiCommons before you can link to it in your Infobox. I strongly recommend using a live or action photo, not a promo shot, and be sure you have permission from your photographer to upload it to Wikipedia.

5. Establish your page. Once published, be sure to add categories to your page so it can be listed with similar articles (or artists in this case). Also, if there is another wikipedia page you can add your name to, such as a producer’s page, an awards page, etc., add your name. The more your page is linked to in others, the better.

It may seem intimidating, but I promise, if you take some time to sit with your bio and make it just how Wikipedia likes it, you can have a page up and running within a day.

As a bonus, it will come up in Google search almost instantly, you can link to it when you’re trying to get verified on Twitter, and now you’ve got something to distinguish yourself from other artists online.

Even if you aren’t quite there yet in your career, stash this away for when you are ready and you’ll hit the ground running getting your own wiki page up.

 

Collect royalties every time you perform.

Today’s topic is something I’ve been meaning to write about since the beginning of the year (better late than never, right?). If you’re recording and performing, you most likely are associated with one of the 3 big publishers – ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. (If you’re not, you should be. Sign up now!)

With that membership, you have access to earning royalties for plays on radio, TV, and what we’re mostly going to talk about today, LIVE. The catch is – you are responsible for reporting it. If you’re not reporting it, you’re losing royalty payments for performances of your music! And no one likes the sound of that.

I get it – if you perform a lot, it’s overwhelming, it takes time to get all the info, then you have to meet deadlines – but look, this only helps you in the long run so you wan to make it part of your routine. Whether you are doing it on your own or if you’ve hired someone to do it for you, here are some things that will speed up and make the entire process less painful for you.

Here’s what each PRO needs to know when reporting the shows:
Artist Name
Headline/Support *SESAC and ASCAP only
Submitted By (Name, Phone, Email) *SESAC only
Date of Show
Venue Name
City, ST
Address
Venue Capacity
Paid Admission?
Tickets sold in advance?
Time of Show
Length of Show
Setlist **

**If you perform the same setlist often, build the setlist beforehand and then you are able to select that setlist when you are reporting each show. Also, most of them let you duplicate an existing reported show which is helpful when you are reporting a month long tour (trust me!).

To make it less overwhelming when it’s time to report, build a spreadsheet and then fill it out every week, 2 weeks, month – this depends on your tour schedule. This way, it takes minutes at a time, and not hours on end.

Note: there are deadlines! Below are direct links to each PRO’s deadlines:

ASCAP: http://www.ascap.com/members/onstage/onstage-faqs.aspx
SESAC: https://www.sesac.com/writerspublishers/howwepay/generalInfo.aspx
BMI: http://www.bmi.com/special/bmi_live

My advice? Get caught up now and then just make it a habit to report each month. This way, you will never miss a deadline.

Last piece of insight I have. As you may know, live venues are required to pay a fee to the PROs if music is publicly performed there. There’s some exceptions, but very limited. Keep in mind, smaller venues may be operating unaware of this requirement so if you’re unable to find that venue in the PRO Venue Database, check with them ahead of time. You wouldn’t want to accidentally draw a big target to the venue. Ideally, try to focus on booking shows where they have their licenses in place so that everyone benefits. 🙂

I hope if you are performing you found this helpful, and that you’ll start reporting your performances!