Achieve Success In The Music Business No Matter Where You Live

Hopefully you have read my previous article on moving to Los Angeles to further your music career (click here to read it; hopefully it will help you with any irrational thoughts you may be having). Back in 2001, times were a lot different. The online music marketplace was still taking off, but generally people still bought CDs.  Many up and coming artists and producers were promoting themselves by manufacturing cds, putting together an press kit and mailing it off to record labels, publishers, film supervisors, etc. Getting a record deal was often the ultimate goal. By getting a following from performing at local shows, musicians could start to sell tickets, cd’s and merchandise to earn a little revenue.

Fast forward to now, and the music industry has drastically changed. Even though many record labels suffered catastrophic losses, things are a lot better for the indie musician, as long as you utilize the online tools available.

iTunes

If you have an album, it should be available on iTunes (as well as the other main marketplaces such as Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Play, etc). To make your music available on iTunes and these other, you’ll have to sign up with a company that has digital mp3 distribution in place. There are quite a few companies that offer this. I’ll recommend either CdBaby.net or Tunecore.com.  

CdBaby

If you are not selling too many downloads, you might be better off with CdBaby. Their pricing starts at $49 for an album and $12.95 to release a single song (although, you’ll have to add $5 to that price so they include a UPC barcode number which you will need). From sales, you’ll earn 91%. Once you sign up, you won’t have to pay any other fees, you can sell your music on the major mp3 retailers for years to come. Another advantage of CD baby is the opportunity to sell physical cd’s and vinyl records (there are old school people out there that still buy them, mind you it’s a very limited niche market). You basically set your price and they will deduct $4 from your final price. I’ve sold many cd’s through CdBaby over the years, and I highly recommend them. They always pay on time (and conveniently through paypal if you choose). I also like that fact that you don’t have to pay any other fees yearly. Your music is will always be available.

TuneCore

TuneCore could benefit your situation if you are selling a high volume of mp3′s. Their pricing is as follows: it’s $29.99 for an album the first year ($49.99 every year afterwards, think of it as a renewal fee). For a single, it’s $9.99 the first year and $9.99 every year afterwards. This is where you can benefit from the pricing structure: you keep 100% of your sales. If you sell 1 or 10,000 units, it will cost you the same yearly fee to keep your songs listed. If you would have sold 10,000 units through CdBaby, you would have paid $900 in commissions.

Online Promotion

Once you get your music listed, it’s time to promote it. Thankfully, there are many social media outlets that you can use, totally free. Youtube is a must. Start your channel and begin to build an audience (check out this article for great tips). Get out there anyway you can. Utilize Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and popular music forums in that cater to your style of music. Being active online is a key to building your following and selling more downloads.

Popular socal networking websites

Royalty Free Libraries

I’ll always recommend that you submit your music for sale on royalty free music placement companies. I’ve had many sales and decent placements this way. Most will split the profits with you 50/50. It’s great because you can get your music out there on feature films, commercials, online videos and more. If you sign up with a music performance agency (Ascap, Bmi, Socan, etc), you can earn extra revenue from royalties. You never now, you might land on song on a commercial that goes national and suddenly your making excellent money. If you don’t submit to these places, you are limiting your chances for extra income and exposure. A few of the popular ones to check out are Pond5.com, Revostock.com and AudioMicro.com (there are many, many more. You can submit to as many as you like).  Never, under any circumstances pay for an opportunity to place your music. There are companies such as Taxi.com or MusicXray.com that prey on unsuspecting musicians.  They charge a fee to thousands of hopeful singers, musicians, and songwriters  for the opportunity to submit their song for consideration on an upcoming project. They might place a song here and there, but it’s like winning the lotto; your chances are not good. Keep away from scams and use reputable companies that don’t charge you anything upfront.

Crowd Funding

If you have a large network of family, friends and fans, you can look into raising funds for your next project by crowd funding. You can set up an account at IndieGogo.com or KickStarter.com (it worked for Amanda Palmer, she raised over 1 million bucks! For someone starting out, you may be able to raise a few thousand dollars, which can really help you in completing your album.


Indiegogo kickstarter crowdfunding

Submit To DJ/Record Pools

If your music is in the genre of Dance, Hip Hop or R&B, you might want to submit your music to DJ/Record pools (do a search online, you’ll find many). A DJ pool is an organization where DJ’s pay a monthly fee to get their hands on the latest music before it is released on radio. Record labels usually provide these dj pools with cds or mp3s of the latest single they would like to either test out in the clubs or promote. They’ll include at least the radio version of the song, the instrumental version and an accapella version (djs love to mix and remix, so give them what they want). The djs will then play the song at their gig (most of these record pools deal with only working djs) and then they will report back to the head of the organization. They’ll provide valuable feedback such as how it sounds, how the crowd responded, and if they will play it again. Many songs have become hits from the club circuit. Back in 2004, one of my songs that I was promoted charted on many DJ club charts in New York, Miami, LA and other big cities. It was exciting to see my song reaching #4 on a club chart (with Eminem as #5). I could never compete with a big major label artist on radio, but through DJ/record pools, I had a good chance.  Another great thing that happened is that my song started to pop up on quite a few radio stations across the country (eventually it got to parts of Brazil and Germany, where I now have a small but passionate following).

Live Shows

If you are in a rock band, it’s still a good idea to get out there, perform weekly gigs and build your following the old fashioned way. But generally, your time could be better spent by focussing on your music (making it the best it can be) and promoting it online through the methods we discussed.

(Here I am performing live at Canada’s Wonderland to a crowd of 15,000 people. It was a show featuring a few local and international art its. It was televised too. Afterwards family and friends helped me set up a small table where I sold a good number of cds.)

Performing at canadas wonderland

In this photo I’m performing at Toronto’s CNE. It was a great gig I managed to land, as part of a larger show. Over 50,000 people in attendance. As you can see, I was flaunting my abs (I guess I was a bit of a douchebag).

Performing at the toronto cne

Forget Radio

I’m not going to get into the politics of radio. As an independent musician, you simply cannot compete with the the amount of money the major labels throw at radio promotion. On average, they will spend half a million dollars to break a single on national radio. Since 5 media companies own and operate most of the radio stations in the US, how do you think your chances would fair at getting your song played with littler or no budget? If you can get really popular and have one of your songs go viral, then radio will follow. Ryan Macklemore and Lewis had such a big viral hit with “Thriftshop” that they hired a major label for their radio promotion campaign.

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