Musicians: Are You leaving Money On The Table?

IStock_000003942890XSmallBandzoogle recently attended the TAXI Road Rally, an annual conference exclusively for TAXI members (and free with membership). I was invited to speak on a panel called “Are You Leaving Money on the Table?” along with Tony vanVeen (CEO of AVL, parent company of Disc Makers/CD Baby), Lauren Danzy (Marketing Manager, SoundExchange) and Gooding (Indie Artist/Songwriter).

Moderated by the Founder of TAXI, Michael Laskow, the panel took place in the Grand Ballroom of the hotel in front of over 500 musicians. And although it was only an hour long, a lot of helpful information was shared. Here are some of the highlights:

SoundExchange Has Money for You

SoundExchange is a non-profit performance rights organization that collects statutory royalties from satellite radio (such as SIRIUS XM), Internet radio (like Pandora), cable TV music channels and similar platforms for streaming sound recordings.

So if you’ve released music digitally (which is probably all of you), chances are, SoundExchange has money for you. Please register with them now: http://www.soundexchange.com/performer-owner/performer-srco-home/

I know this sounds like, “Free Money!”, but this is one of those very rare cases where it’s actually true. The artist on the panel, Gooding, told a story of being approached at a conference by an employee of SoundExchange who was sure they had money waiting for him. So he signed up, and lo and behold, he had a payment of several thousand dollars waiting for him. Not too shabby. Sign up now.

Get Those Email Addresses

Moderator Michael Laskow asked me, “What is the most important thing you want to see on the Homepage of an artist’s website?” My answer: A mailing list sign-up.

I must have sounded like a broken record at the TAXI Road Rally. Besides speaking on this panel, I also gave 3 workshops at the conference, and each time I made sure to talk about the importance of collecting emails. Why? Email is still the best way to keep in touch with your fans over the long term. People rarely change email addresses, and are much more likely to see your email than a Facebook update or a Tweet. Email newsletters are also still the best way to convert fans to paying customers. As noted artist manager Emily White has said, an email list “is an artist’s retirement plan”.

So if you don’t have a mailing list sign-up on your website, please read our blog post Musician Website Quick Fix #5: Add a Mailing List Sign-Up.

Offer Lots Of Merch Options

The artist on the panel, Gooding, was described as a “one-man marketing machine”, and I found out why. He is easily one of the most impressive artists I’ve come across. I once wrote a blog post called “5 Common Characteristics of Full-Time Musicians”, and he’s a shining example of what I was talking about.

One point that Gooding made during the panel was to be sure to offer different merch options for your fans. Some fans may only want pins, some will want a CD, others a shirt, and super fans will want everything you have available, including a plush toy. Plush toy? Yes, Gooding has those. Check out his merch options here.

CDs Are Not Dead

If you pay attention to tech-geeks and music industry futurists (like I tend to do), you might think that CDs died several years ago. The reality on the ground for independent musicians in many genres is different.

I told the story of a band I was working with here in Montreal called Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir. They had the opportunity to play 4 showcases at the Montreal International Jazz Festival this past summer, one of the largest festivals in the world. Each band playing the festival is able to leave items to sell at the festival’s merch tent. Irreverend James had released an EP on vinyl and digital download card (but not on CD), so we left stacks of each to be sold at the festival.

Their showcases at the festival went incredibly well and generated a lot of buzz, so we expected to have sold a fair amount of merch as a result. At the end of the festival when I went to settle up and pick up any remaining merch, the salesperson told me, “We had lots of people asking about your band everyday, but they wanted to buy a CD, not a vinyl, and definitely not a download card. You would’ve sold hundreds of CDs if you had some.” Lesson learned.

CDs can be the perfect $10 item that people can take away as a souvenir from a show, and can also be easily signed by the artist. You don’t have to press a thousand CDs and have boxes piled up in your closet, but short runs of 100-200 units are a good idea, especially if you’re touring.

Never Leave Your Fans Hanging

Gooding brought up a great point about fan interaction, which is to never leave your fans hanging. If they email you, email back. If they leave a comment on Facebook, respond, or at least “Like” it. If they reply or ask a question on Twitter, respond back.

And never hide backstage after a show. The days of being a reclusive rock star are over. You need to be at the merch table after the show talking to every fan there. It will strengthen your relationship with them, and at the end of the day, it will lead to more sales.

That crazy picture of a cat hanging from a rope is actually from a slide in a presentation I gave called “Hub & Spokes: The Key to Gaining More Fans & Making More Money Online”, in which I talked about this very concept. As an artist, part of your job is to interact with your fans and create a stronger connection with them. Fans now have access to an unlimited amount of music, so if you leave them hanging, chances are, they can easily find an artist that won’t.

Last But Not Least: You Need Great Music

Tony vanVeen brought up this point to start the panel, and everyone agreed: to generate income for your career, you need great music. Without great music, all the marketing tips/tricks/secrets in the world won’t help build a sustainable career, but a consistent output of great music will at least give you a chance.

Whenever I give a presentation to musicians, I inevitably end with this quote, which is how I’ll end this blog post:

"Focus on the music and the show, the rest is secondary." – Bob Lefsetz

Hypebot contributing writer Dave Cool is the Director of Artist Relations for musician website and marketing platform Bandzoogle. Twitter: @Bandzoogle | @dave_cool

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