Conventions & Awards

D.I.Y. Advice For Indie Artists From CMJ Music Panels

Cmj-2011-logoLast week's CMJ 2011 Music Marathan & Film Festival had lots of panels and lots of performances. Here are some nuggets of advice for indie artists from music industry panelists with a focus on social media, relationships with fans and the real meaning of DIY.

CMJ 2011 took place in New York City from October 18 to 21. Industry panels contained insights for all levels of the game including some particularly useful tips for indie artists as recorded by writers for CMJ and Billboard.

Beyond Blogfamous

"Artists feel pressure to churn out content like singles, music videos and remixes in order to keep buzz about themselves alive on the internet — which is exactly the impulse an artist should avoid, the panelists recommended."

"'If you're actually getting that attention [on the web], don't take every opportunity that comes your way,' [Ba Da Bing Records' Ben] Goldberg said, warning artists and publicists not to tire out bloggers and listeners with a high volume of hype. 'Slowly show that you're somebody that will have something to say two months from now, six months from now, a year from now.'"

Making Free Music Pay

"Artist web sites also have an important role, especially in transitioning the casual fan into a paying customer and as a protection for artists who have a large presence on social networks in case Facebook or Twitter 'pulls a Myspace' and becomes largely irrelevant."

"Having free download links only redeemable in the artist's online store draws the fans into an area where they can buy other merchandise within a few clicks, while exclusive giveaways on the artist's web site draws more people off social networks and drives traffic into the band's own territory."

The Age of Influence

"According to [RootMusic's Chris] Wiltsee…instead of trying to attack from all sites at once and trying to manage accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Google +, Spotify, Songkick and more, artist and their management teams are better off focusing their efforts on a few platforms and building a solid presence there…match the artist to the best platform for their audience, and then encourage them to connect as personally as possible to the fans they reach."

Real-Time Global Marketing: Social Entertainment Engagement

"It's important to know your audience, especially since now it's so much easier for artists to connect directly with their fans. The more you understand who you're talking to, how to segment them and where they're from/coming from, the more you'll be able to give them what they want. This will keep them engaged and—ideally—ready to help you."

Perhaps the most useful insight not typically noted was shared at the beginning of The DIY Religion panel by Greenberg Traurig's Steven Beer:

"This is the first time in the history of popular music that the artist can define success on their own instead of the industry defining it. No longer are you successful if you go platinum or gold or win a Grammy. You can actually have your own success idea and form a success plan around that definition of success."

Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. He maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and also blogs at This Business of Blogging. To suggest music services and related topics for review at Hypebot, please contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. I like the ‘Making Free Music Pay’ and ‘The Age of Influence’ bit.
    Have a website – have a bloody good website – and don’t bother with an endless onslaught of social platforms.
    Simplicity and all that.

  2. Thanks for compiling these for all of us who weren’t able to attend CMJ this year, Clyde.
    “Artists feel pressure to churn out content like singles, music videos and remixes in order to keep buzz about themselves alive on the internet — which is exactly the impulse an artist should avoid, the panelists recommended.”
    “‘If you’re actually getting that attention [on the web], don’t take every opportunity that comes your way,’ [Ba Da Bing Records’ Ben] Goldberg said, warning artists and publicists not to tire out bloggers and listeners with a high volume of hype.”
    I partially disagree with this. For artists who haven’t gotten much attention on the web, I think a regular schedule of content production is healthy. Having one big thing every month to talk about isn’t overdoing it in my book.
    And only sending relevant content to bloggers and press decreases potential burnout. If an artist keeps up with a blog, then releases something that would be interesting for the blog’s readers, a simple heads up with be fine.
    I think the point Goldberg was trying to make is don’t endlessly hype things up to listeners and blogs. Be a bit more modest and have something more to say than “check out my amazing new track.”
    Anyone else have an opinion on this?

  3. What the author is saying is that you won’t get huge gains in the number of fans that follow you if you’re constantly producing and mastering tracks, rather than having time to be creative (and picky), spending time to learn new things, become more professional, and produce quality work.
    I have been trying this approach. Avoid drowning your fans with information overload – don’t make following you a chore, or the promiscuous fans will be gone.

  4. Great Post. I was tweeting from the Direct-to-Fan Strategies Panel, which featured execs from Nimbit, PledgeMusic, HelloMusic, Viinyl, and Topspin. Here’s what I took away, hope you find it helpful
    “The old industry focused on retailers as customers, the new music industry is fan-focused, all music is ultimately fan funded” @BenjiKRogers
    “You are now empowered to create a direct emotional connection with fans, but that’s a big responsibility” rick camino @hellomusic
    “build an emotional connection with fans, then give them an opportunity to support you” @cramerbob
    “Spend at least 20 minutes a day on social media engaging your fans” @BenjiKRogers
    “Don’t leave your cds in the van, always have something to sell or the ability to capture a fan email after a gig” @BenjiKRogers
    “Try to find a way to put a product in front of fans, but don’t do it as a sales pitch” Armine Saidi @Viinyl
    “If you’re playing a gig in chicago, don’t email fans in new york” bob moczydlowsky @topspinmedia
    “One of the ways you can engage your fans, and I love this, is ask them questions” @BenjiKRogers
    “Everyone should buy the book marketing secrets of the grateful dead, it’s a direct to fan bible” rob moczydlowsky
    “1 thing every artist should do is hand an email signup list down from the stage & promise the fans a free track for signup” @BenjiKRogers
    “Or hand down cards with promocode cards from the stage, fans want a piece of anything that comes from you on stage”@cramerbob

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