Stacey

How to create a digital press kit with Bandzoogle

It's festival submission time again! Whether you already have a hard copy of your presskit, or you are starting from scratch, it is always a great idea to add a digital press kit page to your website. Sonicbids and ReverbNation provide great options for online presskits already, which you can integrate into your Bandzoogle site easily. Here I'll write about how to create an online presskit through Bandzoogle.

The first step is compiling the information, and add it to the appropriate page features.

  • Write a bio: This is probably the hardest part of creating a press kit, and arguably the most important. A lackluster bio will steer festival directors away from your band. Treat your bio how you would a hit song - hooks. You have to keep your reader interested. We have several help articles on this topic, but we can never stress the importance of a good bio enough. Think of it as a cover letter on your resume.
  • Add sound and video: Create a medley or select tracks you are best known for. Make sure these are high quality versions; our players allow you to set the quality of all tracks from low to uncompressed. You can use an audio player that will create a unique play list for your EPK page, and even customize the player colour in the Options to match your album or website design. If you have a music video or live show footage with a good sound, you can also add it via the YouTube feature. This works great in conjunction with your players, as it will automatically pause other music on your site when played.
  • In the news: Pull together press clippings, blog posts, quotes, awards, nominations, interviews. You can make them available in list form through a text feature, and add download links (for BZ members: search for ADD LINK in your Help section to find out how) for visitors. Try to link to the content within your site; the content may become unavailable on external sites sooner than you notice, and broken links would look unprofessional to A&R reps.
  • Image is everything: Take some high resolution band photos to get started. High res photos are key for your band's professional image since they won't appear blurred or pixelated in print or blog posts.
  • Current affairs: Have a new album coming out? Touring this Summer? Let media know where to find you next, and that you are actively involved in making music. Add an Event feature to show case upcoming and past shows, or a News feature to keep your information fresh.
  • Contact info: This is a good opportunity to use the custom mail form, which allows you to create a list of specific information that is sent to the email address of your choice (like your manager instead of your drummer.)
Creating the layout

Feature titles will help properly label your content and let the visitor know what information they are looking at. I would also recommend titling the page Press Kit and adding it to the main menu, so that it can be found easily. Below are some great examples of Bandzoogle members with really well organized electronic press kits created using internal links, clean layouts and Bandzoogle features. The result is really attractive Press Kit pages that are easy to navigate. Enjoy!



www.maktub.com

www.tylerkealey.com


www.kelseyjillette.com


www.roblutes.com

Posted by Stacey on 01/30/2012 | 14 comments
Melanie

Band Website Love: Carrie Johnson

Every week, we highlight one of our favorite websites on Bandzoogle.

Who: Carrie Johnson
What: In addition to performing as a pop/country crossover artist, Carrie is also a private vocal, guitar and songwriting instructor with over 150 songs in her catalog.
Where: All over the US; currently writing and recording in Hartford and Nashville.
Why her website rocks: Simply laid out and well organized, this site features a very clear navigation, and a great content layout out using columns. The homepage is attractive, with good variety for visitors: great videos, the all important call to action (linking to her Store page), and she engages fans with personal stories in her blog.
Check it out at http://carriejohnsonmusic.com/



Posted by Melanie on 01/27/2012 | 4 comments
Dave Cool

New Year’s Resolutions for Musicians From Bandzoogle & Sonicbids Part 4: Tour Tips

New Year’s Resolutions for Musicians From Bandzoogle & Sonicbids Part 4: Tour Tips

So here’s the final blog post of our New Year’s Resolutions series. Now that you’ve got your budget and funding together and your online presence is looking tight, it’s time to hit the road! But before you do, check out these tips from Bandzoogle and Sonicbids.

Filligar

Oh the places you’ll go: Decide where you’ll play

Before you hit the road, it’s important to map out where you’d like to play. There are a couple of things to consider including your draw in certain regions or cities, how many shows you can afford to play and the location and timing specific festivals or venues that you hope to play.

Draw.

While it’s always great to explore new parts of the country, if you don’t have any fans or connections with bands on the opposite coast, it may make more sense to focus your tour on cities surrounding your hometown. Starting close to home can help build up fans in your region and it’s easier to get back out for extra shows! If you’re ready to hit the road in far off town, think about gig swapping (see below).

Budget.

Now that you have a budget together, it’s important to try to stick to it. That may mean touring in towns where you have friends to crash with (save costs on hotels) or only traveling for 10-days at a time. Get together and talk about the challenges for being on the road, where will you sleep, how much money can you spend on food each day, how will you pay for gas. Once you’ve got a plan, the tour will go much more smoothly.

Special shows.

Playing festivals or specific venues can help put your band on the map – and it’s a great excuse to build a tour around those dates. Before hitting the road this year, think about what larger gigs you are hoping to book and map out your travels with those dates and locations in mind.

Band tip: When you are looking at venues or festivals you want to play consider what level your band is at. If you haven’t played for more than 100 fans, you may not get booked for a festival like Bonnaroo but there are plenty of other festivals that you could be a great fit for. Also, before submitting to festivals, do your research and think like a booker. Will your sound fit in with the likes of the headliners? Will you be able to draw to that location?

Going on Tour: Tips for getting your band booked

GIRL

So you’ve identified the cities and venues that you want to play and now it’s time to start booking the shows. Here are 5 tips to give yourself the best shot at getting booked:

1. Think at least 4-5 months in advance: Most venues are booked several months in advance, and the more popular a venue, the further in advance you should contact them.

2. Keep it short: When contacting a booking agent, keep it short. Bookers get a ton of emails, so try and keep the email to a couple of paragraphs, and include the following info:

  • Your band name & date you want to book, and any other bands who will be performing

  • Link to music that they can listen to (if linking to your website, make sure your music is easy to find), or simply link to your EPK.

  • Link to a live video, if not already contained in your EPK. Band tip: Unless requested, don’t attach large files to your email. Simply include links to music, photos and videos.

  • Brief promo plan: How are you going to get people out to the show? You don’t have to write a full promo plan, but mention things like a media/publicity campaign/hiring a publicist, or if you have data of how many mailing list subscribers, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers you have in that city. Band tip: Use TweepsMap to find out where your Twitter followers are from, and for Facebook, use your page Insights to see what cities your fans are from.

3. Be honest: Whatever you do, don’t lie about your draw. You’re better off being honest with a booker about what your draw really is rather than stretching the truth and disappointing them.

4. Follow-up: Bookers are very busy people, so be patient. If you didn’t get a response right away, chances are they just haven't had time to check out your music yet. Follow-up to see if your message has been received, but whatever you do, don’t try to rush them or sound annoyed that they haven’t gotten back to you. Be persistent, but always be polite.

5. Team up with a local band: When playing in a new city, it always helps to play with a local band who is known to the venue.

Speaking of teaming up with local bands, let’s talk about gig swapping.

Get Swappy: Gig Swaps

Gig swapping is a fantastic way to build your fan base and help bookers build out a night of music, rather than trying to figure out where to schedule you. Here’s how it works:

Research bands: Check out bands in other cities with similar sounds to your band (aka you’d be great on a bill together). Check out their fanbase on social media and the types of venues they regularly play.

Reach out: Connect with the band to see if they’d be interested in opening for you in your hometown in exchange for an opening slot at their next gig in their town.

Band tip: Not only are you making friends in the industry (being friends with bands is better than competing with them) but you are making it easier for a booking agent to fill their bills.

Fulfill your promise: Make sure you promote your local show so the other band has a chance to play to some new fans and make a great impression. After all, you want the same in return. Get some tips on promoting the show below!

Stay in touch: Beyond gig swapping, you never know when you need to borrow gear or have a place to crash so keep the door open.

Getting the word out: Promoting your tour

Brite Futures

Once your tour is booked, it’s time to start getting the word out. An entire blog post could be dedicated to tour promotion, but here are some key areas to focus on:

Media & Publicity: If you plan on doing your own media and publicity, start doing outreach to media as soon as shows are booked. You can use resources like the Indie Bible or Musician’s Atlas to find newspapers/radio/blogs/podcasts to contact. Services like StoryAmp and StereoGrid can also help you connect with the media. And if you have a budget, you can hire local or regional publicists, but keep in mind that they can charge anywhere from $500 to over $2000 for one campaign.

Newsletter: Send an update to your whole mailing list with the full list of tour dates, then schedule reminders for each city, targeting only mailing list members from those cities.

Blogging: Keep your fans informed on your tour’s progress with stories from the road, show reviews, show previews, etc.

Video: Create video blogs, post live footage from tour, or even promo videos for each show.

Photos: Post photos on your website, Facebook page, and Twitter from shows. Photos from the road, from shows, photos of fans, fan-submitted photos, etc.

Facebook: Again, entire blog posts can be written about Facebook promotion, but be sure to cover the basics:

  • Facebook Events: Create an event for each show and encourage fans to share it with their friends for each city you’re playing on tour.
  • Regular updates on your fan page: Post photos from shows, blog posts, and videos on a regular basis to help create some buzz about your tour.
  • Facebook Ads: Facebook Ads can help create awareness about shows, but don’t blow your budget doing this. Some bands find it helpful, others not as much, so proceed with caution, it can be easy to spend a lot of money.

Twitter: Post regular updates from the road, show reminders, links to blog posts, links to any press you’ve received, photos, links to videos, etc.

Contact fans individually: Last but not least, reach out to people on your mailing list, your Facebook Fans, and Twitter followers individually with short reminders about the upcoming show in their city. Even if you just do a little bit every day, it all adds up, and this personal touch will no doubt bring a lot of those people through the door.

This is just a quick overview of some of the promo you can do for your tour, but the bottom line is that you’re going to have to hustle and work hard every day, doing whatever you can to get people out to your shows. It’s a lot of work, but the thrill of packed shows and connecting with new fans will make it all worthwhile.


Another blog series has come and gone but we hope you have found some tips and tricks to making 2012 the best year yet for you and your band. And of course, we are always looking to share more tips so leave your questions and comments below. Here’s to 2012!

Posted by Dave Cool on 01/26/2012 | 0 comments
David Dufresne

Spotify: Millions of DJs

Spotify

Spotify: Millions of DJs

As a music fan, the growing number of free and subscription based streaming services can be a dream come true. Install Spotify (or Rdio, Mog, Slacker, Rhapsody, Deezer, etc.) on your computer, your mobile phone, your internet-enabled stereo, and you have instant access to pretty much all the music that’s out there. Build playlists, see what your friends are listening to, those services have become a great tool to discover and enjoy music. Amazing.

From the artists that create this abundance of music, there’s been a very mixed reaction. I strongly suggest you read this 2011 recap by Bandzoogle friend and Nashville music marketing genius Charles Alexander. In it, he links to many articles and posts about Spotify that give you a good sense of why so many are worried or pissed off about it. You can also read the comments section to any post about Spotify on Hypebot, or Digital Music News and you’ll see that very graphic language is often used.

The short version ?

  • The revenue that labels and artists get is pocket change (even established artists).
  • Indie artists and labels are treated somewhat unfairly vs. majors
  • There is a lack of transparency in reporting (so you can’t know by who and where and how much a certain song was streamed, and how much royalties this means, and who gets it).

All valid concerns (especially the third one, if you ask me). So I’ve been discussing the topic with many musician friends and many Bandzoogle members that aren’t sure what to think. Should I make my tracks available on those services ? Is it going to cannibalize my music sales ?

My answer to the first question is “Yes, I think you should embrace it”. My answer to the second question is “Maybe, maybe not. So focus on other parts of your business and view it as an opportunity to grow those revenue lines”.

Here’s what I mean...

You can look at Spotify as an alternative to fans buying your music. “My fans stream my tunes on demand, for free or almost-free, so they’ll stop buying my records. Man, this sucks. Hard.”

And, from that point-of-view, absolutely, it sucks.

But what I tell my artist friends is: Instead, you should look at Spotify as “a tool that enables millions of radio DJs to add your songs to their radio show (audience = 1)".

If you’ve ever had the happy experience of learning that a DJ at a radio station in your town, or somewhere else, really loves your new single and has played it many times, it’s an amazing feeling, isn’t it ? You haven’t made any money here, but you know that getting this exposure opens the door to getting more fans interested in you as an artist, your music, you next gig, etc.

There are flaws in my argument, but, usage of streaming services will only keep growing, and through streaming services, fans and potential fans can discover and enjoy your music as much as they want, for almost free, at their fingertips. That’s a good thing. (And by the way, my opinion on private file-sharing is somewhat similar...). Get over the fact that streaming won’t ever pay you in any meaningful way, and focus on the opportunities it opens up.

Your job, as a serious artist, is to then find ways to reach those listeners, engage them, and figure out ways to monetize them as fans of your art (and not just “consumers of your shrink-wrapped product”).

This is where your creativity as an artist needs to kick in. We’ll post more soon about innovative ways to engage and monetize your fans (and music sales are still a huge part of it), but you can get ideas from this list that the Future of Music Coalition put together a while ago. I’m personally super excited by everything around fan-funding and patronage and, if your tracks aren’t available where people might discover them, you might be missing out on future financial backers and patrons of your art.


Addendum:

The day after I started writing this, the main business news item is “Kodak Files For Bankruptcy Protection”. Apparently, this huge, established, dominant company was not able to foresee and adapt to huge shifts in how people create images, and in what services and products they are willing to pay for. Makes you think, doesn't it.


Question: What do you think of Spotify? Do you have your music available on Spotify? Why or why not?

Posted by David Dufresne on 01/23/2012 | 5 comments
Dave Cool

New Year’s Resolutions for Musicians from Bandzoogle & Sonicbids Part 3: Your Online Presence

New Year’s Resolutions for Musicians from Bandzoogle & Sonicbids Part 3: Your Online Presence

It’s that time of the week again – time to get a dose of tips and tricks to making 2012 the year for your band. This week we are covering your online presence. Between content, your site, your EPK and social media – there’s PLENTY to talk about. Dave Cool at Bandzoogle teamed up with Sonicbids to bring you the best and brightest. Have question or comments? Leave them below!

Content is King: Using Content Marketing to Promote Your Music

One great way to promote your music is through content marketing. Content marketing is defined as “encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases, and subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action.”

OK, that was painful to read. Content marketing is a huge buzz phrase in business, and there are thousands upon thousands of articles online about the subject, most of which might as well be written in *Klingon (*nerd alert). But here is why content marketing is important for promoting your music:

  • The content you create can help add value to your music
  • The content you create can help build a connection to your audience
  • The content you create can help drive people to your website, where they can get to know your music better, sign-up to your mailing list, or buy something from you

OK, so what exactly is this “content”? It can be a lot of things, like:

  • Blog posts
  • Video (live videos, cover song videos, official music videos, etc.)
  • Podcasts
  • Photos (official photos, live photos, photos from the road, photos of fans, fan-submitted photos, etc.)
  • Q & A sessions with your fans (online chat, Ustream live Q & A, etc.)
  • Polls
  • Contests

But the most important content that you need to have? MUSIC. All other content is irrelevant if you don’t have great music to back it up.

Band tip: The content can be anything you want, and there’s no limit to the creativity you can put into it, but the most important thing is that it shows your authentic personality and who you are as an artist. This will help create a stronger connection with your fans.

Where should you post your content?

As much as possible, you should post content on your own website. If you’re blogging, blog on your website. If you upload videos to YouTube or Vimeo, make sure to embed them onto your site and drive people there. Why? Here are a few reasons taken from Bandzoogle founder Chris Vinson’s blog post “3 Reasons to Drive Fans to Your Band Website”:

No Distractions

Unlike with social networking sites, on your website there are no ads to distract your fans, and there also aren't dozens of other links vying for their attention.

No Design Limits

With your own website, you don't have any design limits or restrictions. Your website gives you the opportunity to make a deeper connection with your fans, without the limits of the one-size-fits-all social networks.

Better Buying Experience

Social networking sales tools force fans to interact within a tiny widget, or redirect them to another website altogether to complete the transaction. Having your own store on your own site allows you to give your fans a seamless buying experience, and full control over what that experience is.

Social media?

Shouldn’t social media be part of a content plan? We’re going to talk about social media later in the blog post, but for the purposes of content marketing, for the most part you’re going to use your social media profiles to give people a taste of your content and then drive people to your website.

New Year, New Website?

Delaney Gibson

The New Year is a good time to think about refreshing your website. If you’re using Bandzoogle, it takes only a few seconds to change your template or create a custom design to give your website a new look. If you’re working with a designer, talk to them about options to refresh the look of your site. If you’re releasing a new album in 2012, you can work with your designer to customize your website to match the design/branding of your new album to give it a new look that way.

Here are some other ways you can give your website a quick refresh:

  • Update calendar: Do you have all of your confirmed 2012 gigs added to your calendar?
  • Add photos: Do you have new photos or ones that you didn’t get a chance to post last year? How about hiring a photographer for a new photo shoot?
  • Add videos: Do you have any videos that you could embed on your site? Maybe some live footage? Or how about a 2012 message for your fans, giving them a glimpse of what they can expect from your band this upcoming year.
  • Update latest news: have any news to start 2012? How about a preview of what you’ve got planned for the year?
  • New blog post: If you haven’t started blogging yet, it’s as good a time as any to start. If you already have a blog, get a new post up there so your fans know you’re hitting the ground running in 2012.
  • Update your bio: Is your bio still current? Did anything significant happen in your career last year that you could add to your bio? Band Tip: 5 Key Elements to a Solid Bio
  • Update press kit: Make sure you have your latest press articles, awards, an updated bio, latest photos and updated gig calendar for your press kit.
  • Change the music: How about putting different or new songs on your site that fans can listen to? You do have music on your site, right?

Keep it fresh. Update your EPK

Now that you have all your content on one glorious looking website, it’s time to update your EPK. While websites are more fan-focused, EPKs allow bookers to find exactly what they need to know about your band for booking purposes (i.e. what you sound like, where you’ve played, what your “look” is). With a new year, it’s important to make sure that your EPK reflects your most up-to-date information.

Think: Music, Photos, Discography, Bios, Videos, Press, and Calendar dates.

Not only should your EPK include an updated bio and discography but tracks from your latest EP and a filled out calendar that shows bookers exactly when you are available AND where you’ve played in the past. When you put tracks on your EPK, put your single first! Be sure to update your photos with your latest press pics, and your press section if you’ve been written up recently. Nothing says a band doesn’t care like an outdated and empty EPK.

Band tip: While your EPK should display most of the information a booker needs, do include the links to your website and social media sites as well (I can’t tell you how many times people post a broken Facebook link or just don’t fill it in). You don’t want to make a promoter work hard to get the full picture of your band since they only have limited time to review bands.

Get social: Your Social Media Strategy.

We started off this post talking about content for a reason. You need a strong stream of cool content to best make use of your social media platforms. Whether you’ve been avoiding social media or you’ve just let it slip for a while, here are some tips to killing it online this year.

Decide which platforms to use.

It seems every day there is a new social networking site out there, and while the experts can tell you that you can’t miss out on any social site, you need to think about two things; your fans and your time. Think realistically about where you fans are interacting regularly and then go there. Don’t force your fans to join another platform just to keep up with you. Time is something else to consider. Every social media platform demands your time and attention. If you know you won’t be able to blog at least once a week, opt for other platforms that may be less demanding.

Who is responsible for what?

If you’re in a band, there may be plenty of people who want to be on social media sites. Decide as a team if everyone will have to participate on each platform or if one or two bandmates are responsible for updating your sites with the latest tour information, or respond to fans on Facebook. It’s totally up to you as a band what will work best, but do make sure at least one person is in charge of the platforms so you don’t drop the ball.

Band tip: Think about your network. If you have a friend who is really into social media or likes taking photos regularly, ask them if they can help as well.

What are you saying?

Each social networking site is good for sharing different things. Facebook is great to post videos, pictures, updates and interact with fans directly. And getting a sweet Facebook app makes it easy to share your music directly. Twitter is a good platform for sharing updates quickly and simply, but to gain a good following on Twitter often requires spending serious time tweeting (here are some tips). YouTube is the perfect platform for posting videos from your shows or posting vlogs for your fans while you’re in the studio or on the road. Instagram (only for iPhones right now) is fun way to post interesting photos of what your up to and it can be synched to your Facebook or Twitter making your life easier. Google+ is relatively new on the scene but it is getting attention for its “Hang out” capability that can let you have real-time conversations with fans or share music live. Whichever platform you are on, think about who your audience is and the best way to talk to them (whether it’s with photos, quick silly updates or more lengthy news about your latest release).

Band tip: When you are setting up accounts on different social media platforms, make sure your name is close to your band name to make it easier for fans to find you. Also, be sure to add buttons to your website so fans can go back and forth between the site and platform. As a reminder, social networks come and go, but your website will always be yours. Make sure that you are updating content on your website regularly as well.

So what do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Posted by Dave Cool on 01/19/2012 | 0 comments
Dave Cool

Musician – Act Like a Business?

This blog post by Peter Spellman originally appeared on his blog "Music Career Juice". Peter is the Director of Career Development at Berklee College of Music, and the author of several books about the music industry including "The Self-Promoting Musician" and "Indie Business Power".

Musicians are often told they have to act like a "business" to succeed. In this post, Peter proposes a completely different way to see your career. Enjoy!

Musician – Act Like a Business?

We’ve heard it before. A musician must “act like a business” or risk an impoverished existence. I appreciate the thought: Without ceaseless attention to things like planning, budgeting, organizing and marketing a music career will more often careen off course, and be thrown onto the rocks of good intentions. Granted.

But “act like a business?”

Why aim so low?

The metaphors we live by are telling.

Businesses aren’t exactly models of success. Most new businesses (7 out of 10) fail within seven years. The majority of businesses are poorly run with “management incompetence” being the primary reason for all those failures. It doesn’t take much insight to see that most businesses practice mediocrity rather than greatness. “Business” also tends to have its own set of values – values a business owner/family member would never practice at home.

So telling musicians to act like a business is like telling them to lower their standards or to “aim low”, and a lot of musicians justifiably chafe at this suggestion.

I propose a different metaphor:

Musicians should see themselves as expressive Energy Grids.

Think about it:

  • Grids generate energy: Musicians generate energy through relationship-building, practicing their craft, and expressing their art;

  • Grids transform energy: Musicians transform their energy through sharing their talent with audiences; and then multiplying that talent through collaborative projects (1 + 1 = 10 – synergy);

  • Grids distribute energy: Musicians distribute their energy in multiple directions through multiple creative activities.

And in order for an energy grid to do its work it must be grounded – that is, connected to the dirt, rocks, water, etc. of earth. So to, optimal health comes from a practiced awareness of our inter-connection with the eco-system we inhabit.

In my book, "Indie Business Power", I refer to managing one’s business as “conducting energy”. Conducting. Conduction. Electricity. Energy. See the relationship?

Business is just one component of the multi-dimensional musician. Business can provide tools and strategies for organizing and expanding our work. But musicians (really, all creative workers) shouldn’t just act like a business. That’s too low a target. They are expressive grids – generating, transforming and distributing energy continually.

Your thoughts?

Posted by Dave Cool on 01/17/2012 | 19 comments
Stacey

Band Website Love: Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue

Every week, we highlight one of our favorite websites on Bandzoogle.

Who: Gal Holiday and the Honkey Tonk Revue
What: Pure American roots country music
Where: New Orleans
Why her website rocks: Too many things to list!  First, Gal has a great custom design that complements her album cover. Everything is clearly laid out and easy to find -- especially the textbook example of how to make a perfect "about us" page.  Finally, Gal keeps the site fresh with short updates from her social networks, as well as meatier articles in the blog, fan submitted photos and more.
Check it out at http://galholiday.com



Posted by Stacey on 01/13/2012 | 3 comments
Dave Cool

New Year’s Resolutions for Musicians from Bandzoogle & Sonicbids Part 2: Fan-Funding & Merch

New Year’s Resolutions for Musicians from Bandzoogle & Sonicbids Part 2: Fan-Funding & Merch

If you’re following along with our New Year’s Resolutions blog series (and we hope you are!), by now you have thought about your expenses for the year. Before you start interviewing for a 3rd job, we bring you two ways to make some additional money this year: merch and fan-funding. Merch sales are an easy way to collect some extra gas money on tour, and to put aside for bigger project. Fan-funding campaigns can be a great way to connect with your fans and fund larger projects like you next record or covering costs to get your band overseas.

Get Your Merch On: Generating Revenue from Merchandise

Audioblood shirt

It’s no secret that a great way to generate income for your band is to sell merchandise. As the saying goes, merchandise can’t be downloaded, and many bands find they can make more money from merchandise sales than anything else, especially while on the road. Here are some tips to putting together a merchandise strategy for your band:

Step 1: What merch to make?

T-shirts? Hats? Pins? Stickers? Posters? The possibilities are almost endless. Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding what merch to make:

Ask your fans

Why not ask your fans what merch they would like? Use your mailing list, Facebook and Twitter profiles as market research. After all, they’re the most likely to buy the merch.

Make merch for different fans (and different prices)

Not all of your fans are going to want to spend $20+ on merch, so try and have a few options available at different prices. For example, if you get some stickers, pins and shirts made, you could quickly have a wide selection of merch, combined with some music options like download cards, CDs and maybe vinyls too. Some of your biggest fans might want one of everything, more casual fans might just want to show some support by getting a few pins or a digital download card. And with more options, you can bundle items together at special prices, which also helps to sell more merch, because let’s face it, people always love a good deal.

Step 2: Budget

Ugh, back to this. But it’s important to know ahead of time how much it’s going to cost. A few questions to ask yourself when determining the amount of money you’re going to spend on creating merch:

What’s your draw at local shows?

If you’re only drawing 20 people to your local shows, and you’re not playing that often, chances are you’re not going to need 1000 shirts. It’s better to start small, see what sells, and then make more when needed.

Are you touring this year?

Will you be going on tour this year? If so, how many shows will you be playing on that tour? Try to take a look at your year ahead and be realistic about the amount of people who will be at your shows.

Do you get a lot of traffic to your website?

You’ll of course be selling your merchandise on your website, so take a look at your online strategy. Will you be blogging a lot this year? Will you be active on social media? Do you have a strategy to drive fans to your website?

Will you be hiring a designer?

Many bands have members who are multidisciplinary artists that can also help with visual design, but for those bands that don’t, remember to save room in the budget for a designer.

Step 3: Getting Your Merch Made

Once you’ve decided what merch you’re going to make, it’s time to find a supplier. You can research local suppliers, or if you’ve seen other bands in your local scene with nice merch, ask them where they got it made. You can also go with online merch suppliers like JakPrints, who offer lots of different merchandise options, and who can also help you find a designer.

Speaking of designers, you’ll want to find someone who can really capture the look/feel that you want for your band. Again, ask around with other bands to get a referral, or do an online search for designers. If you have a big enough fan base, you can also try holding a design contest to tap into the skill & creativity of your fans, or use a service like 99designs.com.

Step 4: Selling Your Merch

Once you have your merch in hand, it’s time to start selling it:

Sell merch at live shows:

Essentials for your merch table:

  • Signage: Your band name, list of merch items & prices displayed clearly

  • Cashbox with change (don’t rely on the venue for this)

  • Inventory sheets to track your sales

  • Pens/markers (for mailing list, signing autographs)

  • Mailing list sign-up: Email addresses are still the most reliable way to stay in touch with your fans, and the best way to convert fans to paying customers. So get those email addresses anyway you can, even offer a free sticker/pin in return, it will be a great long-term investment for your band.

Here’s an example of a great merch table setup that shows great signage, mailing list sign-up and bundling options: What’s Your Merch Setup (Grassrootsy Blog).

*Note: Accepting credit card payments at shows can increase your sales dramatically, as not everyone carries cash with them. Services like Square-up or Indie Pool (for Canadian bands) can turn your iPhone into a credit card swiper. Another option is to get an actual credit card swiper, which is available from CD Baby.

Band Tip: And remember, always mention your merch while on stage! A few polite reminders to the crowd can really help drive sales.

Sell merch online

To sell your merch online, first and foremost, start with your own website. If you have a website on Bandzoogle, you can setup your own merch store in just a few minutes (with no % taken from your sales). If your website is hosted elsewhere, or if you want extra features like inventory management, and integration with a fulfillment partner, there are services like Topspin and Nimbit that have widgets that you can embed to sell merch through your site. Whichever way you decide to setup your online store, be sure to read the Do’s and Don’t of a website store page for some great tips on how to improve your online store.

For selling merch on Facebook, again, services like Topspin or Nimbit offer apps to setup a store on your Facebook fan page, and Topspin even offers an option to sell on YouTube.

Note: If you don’t want to carry an inventory at all or pay for merchandise upfront, another option for selling merch online is to use a service like Zazzle, which creates custom merch on-demand, whenever orders are placed.

Get Your Fans Moving: Generating Funds from Followers

Walk the Moon

Fan-funding blew up in 2011 and it's about time! After putting in time at meet & greets, on social media sites and at shows, chances are you have a strong following of supportive and loyal fans. Fan-funded programs allow you to connect with those fans and give them unique content in exchange for monetary support for upcoming projects (like say, helping pay for that tour bus you're going to need to get you to SXSW or covering costs to mix your latest record). We've found that fan-funded campaigns, like those on PledgeMusic (it's a fan-funding site that is exclusive to musicians), can be a great way to finance your art and create an even stronger bonds with fans. But before you put a campaign together, talk as a band through these steps:

Plan it out: Sure, bands always need money whether it's for your tour, a new music video or rent. But fan-funded campaigns work best when you have one important project you are looking to fund. Think about your year ahead. Is there something you're hoping to accomplish this year? Pick one project and plan a campaign to help cover costs. Band tip: Fan-funding campaigns can also come in handy when shit hits the fan, like your bus breaking down or gear gets stolen.

Make a goal: Naturally, the more money you have to create, the better. However, with fan-funded projects it's important to set a realistic goal so that fans can understand how much they should donate and clearly see how their contribution helped! Be thoughtful and estimate out how much you'd need to fulfill your project. Also be conscientious of your fan base. If you have 100 fans on Facebook, think about how much they could realistic donate. Band tip: Another reason why we like PledgeMusic is that they don't show the specific number of your goal AND they let you raise money beyond that goal.

Get creative: As part of these campaigns each time a fan donates a specific dollar amount they'll receive something from the band. Most bands give away a free track for a small donation and charge more for exclusive gifts or experiences (dinner with the band, a concert at the fans home, etc). Talk as a band and come up with some fun and creative ways you can share something with your fans that won't cost you tons of money. And as a bonus, it's exclusive experiences that fans will be talking about forever.

Spread the word & content: Once you create your campaign, you're going to have to spread the word to your fans and friends. Be sure to continue to promote the campaign regularly so your fans know where and how to help. Also, think about creating content during the campaign to let fans know you are paying attention and give them the scoop on your project. Band tip: If you will use the funds for your next record, show footage of you recording or post pictures at the studio.

Fan-funding campaigns have proven to be successful but it's important to think ahead and set realistic goals for your band. For more information you can go to sites like PledgeMusic.com to get the scoop on how to get started.

Alright, take the next week to talk about your merch plan for 2012 and decide if you are in need of a fan-funded program. Next week we’ll get you the scoop on refreshing and rebooting your online status in 2012. As always, if you have questions or comments, let us know in the comments section below!

Posted by Dave Cool on 01/12/2012 | 0 comments
Dave Cool

Musician Website Quick Fix #4: Make it easy to listen to your music

Musician Website Quick Fix #4: Make it easy to listen to your music

Another quick improvement you can make to your website is to make it easy for people to listen to your music. First time visitors should be able to sample your music in one, easy, and obvious click. Sound like common sense? Well, I can honestly tell you that from 4 years of booking bands at a music venue, I had essentially given up going to band websites to hear music and simply used profiles at Myspace or Bandcamp pages instead. It was often difficult to find full songs to listen to on artist websites, and with limited time, I went to the one place I knew I could hear music easily.

Make a first impression: Music to listen to, not only purchase

Keep in mind that a lot of your traffic is from people who aren't your fans yet. Maybe they’ve heard about you. Maybe one of their friends posted your website somewhere. Maybe you’re opening for a band they like and they want to decide if you’re worth showing up early for. Think of them by putting your best track right there, at the top of your homepage in high bitrate glory (good sound quality). A good video? Even better. That way you’re grabbing their viewing as well as their listening attention.

All too often music pages only have music for sale that at best offer 30-60 second sample clips. Sometimes there is only music available to purchase with no music samples at all, or worse yet, only links to external sites to purchase music, with no music available on the site whatsoever. You should definitely have your music for sale on your website, but make sure to also have at least 1 or 2 songs people can listen to, from start to finish, so they can get a good taste of what your music is all about.

Make it clear where to listen to your music

Once your music is available to listen to on your site, make it very easy for people to find it. Again, best thing to do would be to have a music player right on your homepage. You can also use a site-wide music player that can continue to play while people surf the different sections of your site. Once they start listening, having a “playlist” of your best songs that keeps playing is definitely better that forcing them to hit “play” for each track (because chances are, they won’t).

Speaking of the different sections of your website, “Music” should be in the main menu of your website. Again, this sounds like common sense, but there are still too many websites that either try to be fancy with sections like “Experience” or “Discover”, or have the music buried within another section of the site like “Media” or “Press”. You might only have that person’s attention for a minute (maybe less), so make it clear right on the main menu where they can find your music.

Your website is your hub, give people every reason to stay

Your website is your hub, and you should have everything available on it, including full songs to listen to. If your fans can listen to your songs on Facebook, Myspace, music blogs, etc., then they should be able to listen to them right on your website, which is where you really want fans to spend their time.

This way, they can stick around, listen to your music, look at your photos, read your blog posts, and hopefully sign-up to your newsletter or shop in your online store. If you don’t have any music for them to listen to while they’re on your site, they might leave and go to your Facebook page (or your rarely updated Myspace page), or worse, just leave your site and move onto something else entirely to pass the time (like watching an epic battle between a puppy and a robot).


Do you have your music available to listen to on your website? Is it easy to find? We’re always looking for nice websites, feel free to post your links in the comments below to show off how you display your music on your site.


Previous Website Quick Fix posts:

Musician Website Quick Fix #3: Focus on one Call-to-Action

Musician Website Quick Fix #2: Lose the Intro Page

Musician Website Quick Fix #1: Turn off auto-start music

Posted by Dave Cool on 01/11/2012 | 14 comments
Allison

Using ID3 tags to help promote your band website

Digital audio files contain information that helps you identify the Song title, Artist name, Album name, Year, Genre and URL. Arguably, this is just as important as adding email signatures when it comes to driving traffic to your site. This information is called an ID3 tag, and simply means "IDentify an mp3". Once entered into the track, this information will be displayed on your computer or portable device when you play the song.

Some programs like iTunes or Windows Media Player will pull this information from the Internet if not specified, but they are not always accurate, and they usually don’t specify a URL (unless it is a podcast, which would be taken from your RSS feed in iTunes.) Specifying ID3 tags is always a good idea to help direct visitors to your website in any way you can.

This is also important so that your heavy metal genre mp3 doesn’t end up shuffled amongst children’s music, polka, and other incorrectly/untagged files in the listeners music folder. And maybe most importantly, so that anyone who happens to fall upon your mp3 (a well meaning fan who sends your tracks to their well meaning friends; another well meaning fan who sells their iPod to a friend who gets the iPod jacked while on the bus one night coming home from your awesome show... you get the point), can find out where this great track came from, and how to get more of your music. Your Bandzoogle website, of course! Which is where they can also find out about your next show, maybe buy a t-shirt from your store, and while they’re at it, leave a happy guest book post or blog comment about how great you are.

It's easy to add this information to your mp3 files. Here are the steps from your computer (PC):

Open the folder containing your audio files.


Right click the audio file and select Properties:


In the new pop-up window select the “Details” tab. This is where you will enter all your track information or make updates to it, then click OK.

Here are the steps from iTunes:

Open iTunes, right click on a song and select “Get Info”. Click the “Info” tab and fill in the track info. Then click OK.

Now when you play your song in iTunes, other audio players, and portable devices the track information will be available to the listener.

You can also add an image to your songs in iTunes. In iTunes right click on a song, click “Get Info”, then the Artwork tab where you can upload the album artwork. Next time you sync your portable device, the artwork will be added. If you use the Bandzoogle Album feature, an album artwork upload option is available. When a fan purchases the album, the artwork would be zipped into the file and can be added to your iTunes song or album.

Posted by Allison on 01/09/2012 | 5 comments