Dave Cool

How to Get a Booking Agent to Book Your Band

How to Get a Booking Agent to Book Your Band

One of the most common questions I was asked by artists during my time as a venue booker was how they could find a booking agent. I inevitably answered that they should just keep playing gigs, grow their fan base, and an agent would find them. But is the answer really that simple? In a word, yes. By far the best way to get a professional booking agent is for bands to book themselves until the point where they are selling out shows on a regular basis on their own.

What does this mean exactly? To put it in numbers, regularly sell-out shows of 100-150 people at around $10 per ticket in your home market. What’s your home market? Your home city, plus maybe 2-3 other nearby cities/towns. If you can sell 100-150 tickets at $10 each in a few cities on a regular basis (once every few months), then you’ll be generating the kind of income that would be interesting to a booking agent, and there's a good chance they’ll come find you at that point. Easy, right?

OK, all kidding aside, I know how hard it can be to get to that point. And I know what you’re thinking: is it really all about the money? Yes and no. Agents are music fans too, however, they aren’t going to work for free. Think about it from their perspective: if you’re not even making $200 per show, why would they work for a % of that revenue? A professional agent makes their living from the commissions of a band’s show revenues, usually around 15%. So if your live show revenue isn’t in the $800+ range, it’s going to be very hard to convince a professional booking agent to get on board with your career.

So what if you’re not selling that many tickets just yet? What can you do to help build your career up to the point where an agent might be interested in working with you? Here are some key areas to focus on:

  • Build a mailing list with 1000+ people, get 1000+ Facebook Fans, and 1000+ Twitter Followers

  • Are there bands out there who have less than 1000 mailing list subscribers, Facebook fans or Twitter followers, but who have a booking agent? I’m sure there are, but once you reach that level, you’re putting yourself a cut above where most bands are at, and then you can start thinking about putting together a team of professionals, including a booking agent. You’ll have a solid following that you can use to generate bodies at live shows, especially if those fans and followers are concentrated in your home market.

    • Work on your live show: rehearse often and pay attention to your set list

    Get your live show to the point where people are going home blown away and talking about you when they leave the venue. So rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse again, then play as many shows as you can. And be sure to build your set list in a way that makes for a great show, not just a series of songs played one after another. In a new documentary film about the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl talked about how when the band first started out they didn’t pay too much attention to their set list. But once the crowds started growing, they spent time developing a solid set list that maximized the song order to put on the best show possible, instead of simply writing song names down a few minutes before the show.

    • Work on your “brand”

    Does your band have a consistent look on stage? You don’t have to dress up in uniforms (although that’s ok too if it’s your thing), but having a cohesive look on stage can go a long way to showing that you’re serious about the visual presentation of your band.

    • Develop a good relationship with venue bookers

    This goes back to my blog post about impressing venue bookers, if you develop solid relationships with bookers, chances are they will talk about you to booking agents. And if an agent hears about your band through a trusted source like a venue booker, it’s as good as gold.

    • Use your website

    If you’re generating some buzz in your local scene, make sure that if an agent does check out your band that you have the right information on your website for them to see. Create a “Book My Band” section on your website, which would be similar to an online press kit, but it would include things like:

    • Statistics about the # of newsletter subscribers you have, Facebook fans and Twitter followers

    • Average attendance for your shows: are you regularly selling out 50-seat venues? 100-seat venues? Put that information somewhere on the page.

    • Mention which markets you play in

    • Have a photo gallery with lots of good quality live pics (any photos that include crowds in packed venues are a bonus)

    • Post good quality live videos (good video quality, good audio quality, packed rooms, minimal talking. Audience sing-a-longs are a bonus!)

    • Stage plot

    • Set list

    • Quotes from media that mention your live show

    • Quotes from venue bookers

    • Quotes from fans about your live shows

    Other than that, you should always blog about your live shows. Talk about the turnout, the crowd reaction, and post plenty of pics and live video whenever you can. All of this will help create the impression that you’re a hard-working band that takes their live shows seriously.

    Should I get my friend/family member/fan to book me?

    One last issue that I’ll address is whether a band should hire a friend, family member or fan to do booking for them. Although it’s tempting to delegate booking, which can be a tedious task that involves a lot of follow-up (and rejection), I think it's best that artists book themselves until they get a professional agent on board.

    The biggest reason for this is that most of the time, a friend/family member/fan is a very temporary solution, so all too often I've seen situations where someone starts booking a tour for a band, but then bails on them halfway through. And if you have reliable friends who will stick through it? I still think it’s better to do it on your own. The more you learn about the industry as an artist, the more informed you’ll be when your career starts to grow. So if you book yourself 200+ shows, including a few tours, you’re going to have a much better understanding of what it takes to be a good booking agent, so you’ll know what to look for when you are at the point in your career when hiring a booking agent becomes a reality.

    Posted by Dave Cool on 05/31/2011 | 31 comments
    Dave Cool

    Bandzoogle Member Spotlight: Elyse and the Aftermath

    Bandzoogle Member Spotlight: Elyse and the Aftermath

       

    Bandzoogle Member since: 2010

    Website: www.elyseandtheaftermath.com

    Genre: Rock / Alternative / Indie Pop

    From: Los Angeles, CA

    Bandzoogle member Elyse Haren is a one-woman army and the music behind the Aftermath. Elyse decided to make music, in an instant, at a Fleetwood Mac concert; she’s played a number of parts in and after college including waitress, insurance assistant, music teacher and nanny for Saudi Royalty. She’s toured over 2000 miles, including performances at SXSW three years in a row, is endorsed by several companies and has licensed several of her songs. Currently Elyse is raising money for her new EP through PledgeMusic, with 5% of any money raised after the target is reached going to the Keep a Breast Foundation: www.keep-a-breast.org    

    1. How do you drive traffic to your website?

    I try to update a lot and that seems to drive people there and link to my website from Twitter and Facebook.

    2. What is your favorite Bandzoogle feature?

    I love how easy it is to edit and update your pages so quickly… and instantly see how something looks. It saves lots of time, so I can spend more time connect to the people who come through my website and social networks.

    3. What do you think is the most effective promotional tool for your career?

    Authenticity… there is no substitute for authenticity.

    4. What area of your music career generates the most income for you? Music sales? Live shows? Licensing? Other?

    I would say licensing is the most lucrative for us.

    5. What’s one of your favorite career highlights so far?

    Playing with Pop icons Berlin on New Year’s Eve… getting to ring in the new year on stage is the best way to start the year off right.

    6. You’ve played SXSW three times, how did you find those experiences?

    SXSW is complete inspiration. Austin is like the oxygen you breathe to get ready to take on the music industry. Every year, I come back with a new sense of hope for the future of music. Meeting the other great bands from across the country and the world and hanging out with the people of Austin is the best perk. They know how to make you never want to leave.

    7. You have endorsements from Sennheiser Microphones, Get’m Get’m Guitar Straps, D’Addario Strings, Planet Waves Cables, MAC Cosmetics, and Daisy Rock Guitars. How did you go about getting those endorsements?

    It started with Sennheiser. I just love, love their mics and we played a SXSW party sponsored by them and we got an endorsement. Also I met the owners of Daisy Rock guitars in the car rental line at the Austin airport.

    8. Why did you decide to fan-fund your next EP?

    I decided to use Pledge Music to fund the new EP because I knew couldn’t raise the funds alone after giving everything I had to make the first album.

    9. You’ve created quite the epic trailer video for your fan-funding campaign, how did that come together?

    Haha thanks! The spy idea came to me as a joke. I was looking at a few different trailers in iMovie and the spy theme made me laugh. I mean I am on a mission :) So, I dressed up as “Agent Aftermath” and started shooting myself. It all came together in one night on my laptop.

    10. Why did you choose the PledgeMusic platform for your fan-funding campaign?

    Pledge Music is such a great organization. The owners are so involved and motivated in seeing each project succeed and when you throw in raising money for charity… I was hooked.

    11.How did you decide on the Keep a Breast Foundation as the charity you’ll donate a % of money raised after your fan-funding target is reached?

    I chose the Keep a Breast Foundation because of their dedication to all forms of cancer education and prevention. Then when I heard about their new Non Toxic Revolution- a movement dedicated to eradicating all cancer causing synthetic chemicals from our foods and household products.

    12. Final question: you were once a nanny for Saudi Royalty, please tell us that story!

    What a crazy temporary summer job it was working for a Saudi Royal Family at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (hotel where Pretty Woman was filmed). I was hired to be a companion for two of their girls ages 10 and 12. It was an intense experience. I had to learn so many customs quickly! I couldn’t ride in the elevator at the same time as the father, I had to walk behind everyone in the family and we spent most of the time at restaurants, shopping on Rodeo drive and sight-seeing. My favorite memory was showing the two daughters the movie, E.T.

    *****

    To find out more about Elyse’s EP fund raising campaign on PledgeMusic, visit the project page: www.pledgemusic.com/projects/elyse

    PledgeMusic is a great tool for artists and bands looking to raise money for a new release, a tour or making a video. According to their statistics, 77% of campaigns hit their targets and over 90% of those exceed them by 25% or more. And although you do not have to include a charity in your campaign, 89% of campaigns do include a charity element, which they find helps the overall success of the campaign. PledgeMusic can suggest a charity for you, or you can work with any registered charity of your choice.

    And maybe our favorite part about PledgeMusic? Founder and CEO Benji Rogers is a proud Bandzoogle member! You can check out his website here: http://marwoodmusic.com

    Posted by Dave Cool on 05/27/2011 | 7 comments
    Dave Cool

    Why Bands Shouldn’t Give Away (ALL) their Music for Free

    Why Bands Shouldn’t Give Away (ALL) their Music for Free

    There’s a lot of talk in the music industry about the diminishing value of recorded music and how bands should look for other ways to make money. The argument for giving away your music is that you should simply want to have your music heard, and since people can generally find music online for free, then why bother putting a price tag on it? Live shows, merchandise, licensing, and subscriptions are just some of the ways that bands are encouraged to generate revenue. However, should artists just give up selling their music? Are we to believe that nobody buys music anymore? I’m not so sure that’s the case.

    The topic became front and center for me recently after I spent a considerable amount of time following indie artists from all over North America on Twitter. I was shocked at how many bands would automatically send me a direct message with a link to download their entire album for free. I didn't sign up to their mailing list, I didn’t have to buy other merchandise in a bundled package offer, I simply followed them on Twitter and received a free album of music. I couldn’t help but think: too much, too soon?

    I started following the artists out of curiosity, but I don’t know who they are yet, what their personalities are like, etc. It was simply a first step in the relationship, and they’ve already given away what could be their most valued asset: their music. There is a hint of desperation to it, but that’s understandable, because with so many other artists out there, how do you compete? How do you get your music heard? Well, why not give away your music for free to anyone and everyone you can?

    Here’s another way to look at it, keeping with the example on Twitter:

    One artist sent me a direct message thanking me for following them. The message was hilarious. The artist obviously has a great sense of humour, so I already know something about them that gives me a better sense of who they are as a person. They also included a link, but it was to their website where I could hear their music, not download it for free or buy it, but simply hear it. And because the link took me to their website, it increased the chances of having me see their latest blog posts, watch some videos, to sign-up to the mailing list or even shop in their store. Although I did go to the site, I just listened to a few tracks, one of which I found kind of catchy, and moved on.

    Fast forward to a few weeks later. The artist tweets something I find funny, I tweet back, and they respond to me right away. Awesome, they’re engaged with their fans, I was impressed. A few weeks after that, I tweet something, the artist responds to my tweet with a personalized joke that had me laughing out loud at my computer. The artist is paying attention to their fans’ tweets as well, now I’m really impressed. I went back to the artist’s website, saw that they had a new EP for sale, and bought it for $5.

    So what happened here? The artist took time to develop a relationship with me. Once I knew the artist better, once they had made a deeper connection with me by making me laugh and responding to me personally a few times, they no longer felt like just another one of the thousands of other artists out there. They stood out from the pack because they took time to get to know me and I felt like I was a part of their world. Now I wanted to support their career. Could I have bought a t-shirt or a hat? Maybe, but I didn’t want to buy any new clothes, and I didn’t need a new mug or trinket. Could I have bought a ticket to their show next time they passed through Montreal? Possibly, but I wanted to show support in the moment, and given their geographic location, a show here was unlikely. The simplest way for me to show support was to buy their music, which is what I did. And what if they had simply given me their EP for free like the other artists? They would have $5 less in their bank account today.

    But Aren’t Music Sales Tanking?

    Let’s take a quick look at the numbers:

    • Digital distributor TuneCore boasts over 45 million in music sales through their service
    • CD Baby reported music sales of almost $40 million in 2010 alone
    • Our very own Bandzoogle members recently crossed $4,000,000 in music and merchandise sales.

    Are CD sales down? Yes. Are they non-existent? No. Are digital sales flattening out? Perhaps. Are they non-existent? You get the idea. People still spend money on music when they perceive that music to be valuable. And this is the key to selling any product or service: creating value.

    Note: There are those who will argue that TuneCore’s sales are skewed because they have several former major label artists selling in their catalogue, or that CD Baby’s album sales actually went down while new album additions went up. I don’t want to turn this into a debate about their numbers. The reason I’ve included them is that they simply illustrate that there are obviously still some people out there buying music.

    Note #2: Here’s a nice article detailing how paid single tracks are still the dominant force in digital music revenue: http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2011/05/digital-radio-paid-musicians-36-million-more-than-paid-subcriptions-last-year.html

    How to Create Value

    So if the key to selling your music is to create value for it, how can you go about doing that? Here are some ideas to get you started:


    • Develop a relationship with your fans

    One of the most important ways to create value for your music is to create a deeper connection with your fans. Every day take time to respond to fan e-mails, tweets, questions on Facebook, etc. Don’t just promote yourself and your music, have a conversation with your fans. Make them laugh, ask them questions, find out more about them, make them feel like they’re part of your world and that you’re a part of theirs. Take time to develop a relationship with your fans and they’ll want to support your career, which can of course include buying your music.

    • Generate lots of content

    Blog regularly, post video blogs, music videos, etc. If you generate content on a regular basis, you’ll give people a better sense of your personality and show that you’re an active artist. And if a fan responds to a blog post or video blog, respond as soon as you can; never leave them hanging.

    • Be genuine, be your unique self

    The key to fan engagement is being your true self. Make sure to bring out your personality and you’ll attract like-minded people who you can have a genuinely deeper connection with.

    • Use emotion

    People respond to emotion. Make people laugh, make them cry, inspire them, and they are more likely to respond and feel a deeper sense of connection to you as an artist. Use your lyrics, your personality, make engaging videos, well-written blog posts and show your emotions. You never know when somebody will really connect with how you‘re feeling.

    • Bundled options

    Always offer buying options for everyone from a hardcore fan to someone who just wants to show a little bit of support for your career. From the single song download, to a personalized signed CD, to a bundled option with other merchandise, make sure there are plenty of options for the different level of fan.

    • Release great music

    And last, but certainly not least, the most important thing you can do to create value for your music is to only put out great music. If you have 15 new songs, and even you would consider 4 or 5 of those songs as “filler”, scrap those songs. Only release the songs that are great. Only release the songs that will have a chance of standing out from the thousands of other songs out there. Focus your energies on fewer songs and do as much as you can with them: music videos, live videos, making-of videos, blog about the songs, etc. Make sure they are front and centre on your website and online press kit. These are the songs that are going to help you stand out from other bands, and these are the songs that fans will gladly pay money for.

    It’s About Strategy

    I’m not saying that you should never give away your music. Giving away an exclusive track or an exclusive live EP to get people to sign-up to your mailing list can be great ways to build your fan list. All I’m saying is don’t give away ALL of your music, especially if you’re not getting anything tangible in exchange. Make sure to have a strategy behind the giveaways and always get something in return whenever you give away even just one song. Get an e-mail address, get some information about the fan (where they live, their birthday, etc.), get a “like” on Facebook, or a re-tweet on Twitter.

    There is Always Demand for Quality

    There are indeed many, many artists out there, and the perception is that there’s more supply than demand, which is the argument for why the price of music has gone down. That might be true in some ways, but there is always a demand for quality music and for quality relationships. And people will spend money on quality. Developing quality relationships with your fans might take more time, but the return on that investment of time is exponential. And if you take the time to focus on getting to know your fans and putting out great content on a regular basis, you’ll create value for yourself as an artist, and in turn, for your music. And when people perceive value, they will spend money on it, and music is no different.  

    Posted by Dave Cool on 05/24/2011 | 22 comments
    Dave Cool

    Your Email is an Unwelcome French Kiss from an Ugly Stranger

    This is a guest blog post by Rick Goetz. Rick is an entertainment professional with deep roots in the music industry. Throughout his music career he’s been a major label A&R representative, a music supervisor, an artist manager, a reality show producer, a bass player and the head of a digital record label. Rick writes a lot of great posts on his blog Musician Coaching, and this is one that I found especially useful for artists. E-mailing is something we do many times a day, everyday, and sometimes our e-mails are never answered. Rick sheds some light on proper e-mail etiquette and some of the common mistakes people make when sending e-mails to gatekeepers in the industry. Enjoy!

    Your Email is an Unwelcome French Kiss from an Ugly Stranger

    (And the Other Top 4 Reasons Your Email Isn’t Being Returned)

    I am a big believer in doing as much legwork on your own as you possibly can before reaching out to music industry executives. That being said- there comes a time in every artist’s career where they are going to have to approach someone in the industry to get to that proverbial next level. Let me assure you that there is a right way of doing this … and several wrong ways of doing this. Sadly, many artists repeatedly write emails that go right into the trash because of very basic mistakes that can be easily avoided.

    Obviously the first and most basic rule of the approach is “Don’t approach someone with a cold email if you can avoid it;” knowing someone who knows the person you are trying to get in touch with can help a great deal. However, I realize that going in with a strong referral isn’t always an option. Consider the top 5 suggestions below when you’re putting together your next cold email.

    1) Form Letters

    Sure, you may be able to get your message out to hundreds or even thousands of people. But if people feel like you are sending them a form letter (don’t confuse this with a newsletter – that’s a whole other blog post) about a specific need or a desired business relationship, then it’s over. No one likes to feel like they are just a name on a list. And speaking of names on a list, sending an email to yourself and cc-ing rather than bcc-ing everyone won’t win you any favors from people who hold positions where both bot-generated and musician-generated spam mail comes with the territory.

    It is perfectly acceptable to cut and paste part of a letter to a certain type of executive, but at least take the time to customize the first few sentences and address them by name. Also, let the person you are contacting know specifically why you are contacting them. What makes you think you are a good fit for what they do and why? Let’s just say you are looking to approach a blogger. Saying something like, “I just read your story on this other artist and I really like the way it was written. I thought that since you liked what they do you might appreciate my new single…” is much more likely to get a response than a press release about your new product addressed to no one in particular.

    2) Poor Presentation

    This is so common it boggles the mind. I often get emails from people in which their names are not obvious from the email address and not included in the “from” field by their email program. On top of that, they don’t bother to introduce themselves or put any kind of signature indicating who they are or where they are from. From my vantage point, I am getting a message from SlappyMcJellyPants@Yahoo.com. The rest of the email had better be stellar (or at least very funny) for me to consider responding.

    *As a side note, I’m damn easy to get a hold of. I am in the business of selling music marketing services so it is part of my job to be as reachable as possible. That said, it isn’t hard to tell from presentation who is taking their career and image seriously and who is not. If there are people out there who are having trouble getting a hold of me, then they can forget about people who are really difficult to contact cold like A&R people, Music Supervisors and music journalists.*

    Another huge issue in presentation is spelling and grammar. Look, I’m no grammar Nazi and I would be completely lost without spell check, but reaching out to a stranger for help and then sending them what looks more like a text to your girlfriend is probably not a great idea. This all might sound silly, but I have found a huge correlation between the way people present themselves on email and how together their career is, and I respond to emails in order of the likelihood that I am dealing with someone who is serious (and willing to work!)

    Lastly on the presentation front: Saying you have talent is meaningless. Executives hear this all day long. The best thing you can do to get someone’s attention is to make a concentrated effort on your pitch prior to crafting any email and running it by friends and peers that can be honest with you. What turns my head is not when people talk about their talent, but when they describe the achievements that they have earned with their talent. Are you drawing well or playing with more established artists? Are you working with anyone who has great credits? Did you win a local contest? Do you have a ton of social media followers and an obvious dialogue with fans online? Do you have a mailing list with a ton of people on it? These are the things that will get people’s attention.

    3) Lack of Research

    You can much more easily begin a personal relationship with someone when you have specifics about their job function and their professional history. With blogs, Linkedin and any of the other resources available online these days there is no excuse not to have a good understanding of what people have done in the past and on which projects they have worked. Knowing these things can go a long way in adding a personal touch to the email you are sending someone. I am always flattered that people took the time to read about me before reaching out. Admittedly I’m usually annoyed when people don’t bother to read anything and just ask for help without knowing who I am or what I do. And in my case, all that information is provided in a link right next to the contact link. I get intoxicated calls on my Google Voicemail at 3am on a Sunday from people wanting a record deal (from me … even though I don’t run a label) or want me to manage them (I don’t manage artists). My favorite call to date was someone asking for Jay-Z’s phone number (which I still don’t have) and then offering me 50% of the guaranteed collaboration that would result from me giving it to him.

    Beyond the research on any one individual though it is important that you also research understand the mindset of a person who is the gatekeeper (Music supervisors, A&R people, Publishers, major journalists etc.) of big opportunities. Firstly, they can’t possibly return all the correspondences or listen to all of the music they get. Secondly – and this is especially true with big organizations – virtually no one executive makes 100% of the decision about a song getting placed in a movie, getting a major write up in a big magazine or getting someone signed to a record label or publisher. Damn near every executive these days has a boss, a client or someone else who guards the purse strings to contend with before pulling the trigger on a decision that could really help your career as an artist. The second part of the job is important to note also, because the easiest part of a gatekeeper’s job is getting in a steady flow of music to pick from. The hardest part of a gatekeeper’s job is keeping a gatekeeper job. It’s easy to think of these people as people who sit around listening to music all day on a pedestal and then giving a Ceasar-esque thumbs up or thumbs down. The politics and juggling involved with keeping everyone happy internally and making sure your external relationships are sound in case you are out of a gig (there is a high turnover rate with creative jobs like this) are almost full-time jobs in and of themselves. Long story short, like these people or hate them, it’s important to know before you approach them that they are often pretty stressed out.

    4) Unreasonable Expectations

    The next time you go out on a first date… or hell, the next time you encounter someone attractive from a distance, you should briskly walk up to them, say “Hello my name is _____,” and while heading towards them at an uncomfortable pace (preferably without letting them reply to your hello), you should attempt to French kiss them. This is actually best done when starting with your tongue fully extended from a distance of 20 yards or more at a full sprint.

    * Editor’s note: Actually, don’t try this. I am not responsible for the whiplash, broken jaw or harassment suits that may follow if you do*

    Now you might be thinking, “Wow that was unexpected/inappropriate/ scary…” Yes, indeed. It is. What is my point? Well, my point is that bluntly asking for a huge favor, a contract, a partnership, a record deal or any other lasting business relationship from a stranger in a first email is equally inappropriate (although admittedly it is considerably less creepy). I can’t tell you how many emails I get without any information, background or even someone’s name that say something to the effect of “Help! I am really talented and I need you to manage me.” Not that I manage people, but if I did, would I want to partner with someone who was willing to blindly decide that I was the one to guide their career without having met me or had a phone call? Boundaries, people!

    Those are some extreme examples obviously, but the real point is, take your time to get to know someone and what they do. Breaking the ice with an email never instantly leads to a partially executed contract on your doorstep. It’s supposed to lead to building a relationship and getting someone to take you seriously enough to give your material their time and attention.

    5) Undefined Goals

    Vague emails are really hard to respond to. A very common request I get (and I’m sorry, I know I reference this a great deal) is about “getting to the next level”. Do I understand in a general way what it means? Sure. Do I know specifically what people mean by that and what they need or if I am a good fit for getting these people to said next level? No, I don’t have a clue.

    Before asking someone else, make sure that you have clearly defined your goals. Many people respond with knee-jerk responses like, “I want a publishing deal,” or “I need a booking agent.” It’s important to break down these wants into what most people actually mean. What people forget is that for every brilliant partnership, there are plenty of lousy ones. And many of the lousy ones result from people not taking the time to really think through their needs and desires.

    When you say, “I need a publishing deal,” do you mean, “I would like…” (‘cause really, people – we need food, water, shelter and good health; lighten up). Don’t you really mean, “I want someone to help me get my music placed in film and TV and arrange collaborations and co-writes with other artists I like and respect”? Maybe it means something else to you. But whatever it means to you, write it out for yourself. Be specific without making a plan that hinges on the participation of a person or a business to which you don’t have access.

    Of course, it need not apply to only publishing deals; it can be for whichever goals you have for yourself. One of the most encouraging things you can do in the eyes of a gatekeeper is to demonstrate that with or without their help, you are making progress in getting where you want to go.

    I realize I am no longer a gatekeeper but I certainly sat behind a desk where dreams went to die for many years. Still – if you would like to check out a more current A&R person’s vantage point on the approach check out my interview with Jason Jordan VP of A&R at Hollywood Records – here.  

    Posted by Dave Cool on 05/19/2011 | 6 comments
    Dave Cool

    5 Ways to Lose Fans on Twitter

    Most artists and bands now use Twitter to promote their music and connect with their fans. But like with all promotional tools, there are certain things you should avoid doing. I’ve searched through literally thousands of artist accounts on Twitter and noticed some alarming trends. Here’s a quick Top 5 things that could cause you to lose your fans on Twitter:

     

    5 Ways to Lose Fans on Twitter

    1. Don’t respond

    Twitter isn’t just to talk at people, it’s meant to be a conversation, so don’t ever leave a fan hanging. If they’ve asked you a question or commented on something you’ve said, respond as soon as you can.

    2. Only promote yourself 

    If your entire Twitter feed is made up of tweets like:

    “Come to my show tonight!”

    “Buy my album!”

    “Check out my music!”

    Chances are, your fans are going to tune out. Yes, you need to let people know if you’re playing a show, or where to buy your music, but not all of the time. Instead, focus on connecting with people by responding to their tweets, asking questions, or by talking about things that interest you. You never know how those little things in life will help you to connect with your fans and strengthen your relationship with them.

    3. Use the same content on Twitter as on Facebook

    Although there is inevitably going to be some cross over, make sure that you are putting out some different content on Twitter than you are on Facebook. If it’s always the exact same, then why should people follow you on Twitter? And if you’ve synced your Twitter & Facebook accounts, use something like selective tweets so that only some of the content goes to both accounts. Take advantage of the possibility of longer updates on Facebook and use Twitter for more frequent updates and constant fan interaction.

    4. Tweet too much

    If you’re updating your Twitter feed every 2 minutes with mundane details about your daily life, chances are, people are going to stop following you. A handful of updates everyday is enough, so if you start tweeting several dozen times per day and start losing followers, it might be time to scale back a little bit. 

    5. Rarely Tweet

    And last but not least, if you’re not active on Twitter, then don’t expect your fans to keep following you. You’ll need to constantly keep in touch with your fans to hold onto them and to grow your following. Even updating your feed just once a day will help to give fans a reason to stay in touch with you on Twitter.

    Posted by Dave Cool on 05/17/2011 | 8 comments
    Dave Cool

    In the studio? Don’t shut out your fans!

    Photo: Elida Arrizza

    Hello Zooglers! This is my first “official” post as blogger-in-residence here at Bandzoogle. I’ve been a big fan of Bandzoogle for many years and I've always felt that Chris created the most powerful website builder around. And the fact that the company was founded here in my hometown of Montreal is a great source of pride. So it's an honour to be part of the team and I look forward to hearing your feedback on my blog posts. And if there are ever any topics you want to see covered, please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at dcool{at}bandzoogle{dot}com. In this post I take a look at the studio experience and how you can get your fans involved in the process.


    Going into the studio to record new music is one of the most exciting times for a band. But all too often when musicians go into the studio, they disappear into their creative bubble and shut everyone else out. Although it’s understandable that you might want to avoid distractions while in the studio, you shouldn’t disappear completely.

    With so much competition for people’s attention, bands need to keep in regular contact with their fans just to maintain that fan base. And for fans, it’s all about access. Fans want to get an inside look at your career and feel like they’re part of the experience. From an artist’s perspective, the more access you can give, the stronger your relationship to the fan, the more they'll talk about you and your music. And being in the studio is a great opportunity to strengthen the relationship with your fans.

    So what can you do to enhance fan engagement and create a buzz while in studio? Here are a few ideas:

    Social Media

    • Live tweeting

    Announce to your fans that you’ll be live tweeting certain recording sessions. Post pictures, give live feedback on takes, good and bad.

    • Post updates on Facebook

    Post updates on Facebook, including a few pictures from the day, funny stories, etc.

    Your Website

    Social media is quick and easy, but you should try to bring fans to your website whenever possible. This way they can find out more about who you are as an artist, sign up to your mailing list, and maybe shop at your online store while they’re there. Here are a few ways to attract fans to your website while in the studio:

    • Blog

    Post a daily blog talking about each recording session. Use the flexibility and space that a blog affords you by posting in-depth reviews of each session along with lots of pictures.

    • Photo Galleries

    Post extensive photo galleries on your website from each recording session.

    • Video blog

    Same concept as the blog, but you can make it more visual by filming throughout the recording sessions and including some of that footage in a video blog review from each session.

    • Live streaming

    Take video to the next level by setting up a live stream of the recording sessions on your website so fans can see in real-time what your recording process is like.

    • Post rough tracks

    Every so often, post a rough take of a song on your website and even ask for feedback on it. This will not only drive fans to your site, but also give you some valuable insight into whether a song is connecting with people or not.


    Have a contest

    Being in studio provides a great opportunity to take fan engagement even further by having contests where you offer fans a chance to participate in the recording process. Try making the contest exclusive to your mailing list subscribers. This will not only help increase the number of subscribers, but also reward fans who are already on your list, something you should look to do as often as possible.

    Here are a few ideas for contests where fans could participate in the studio:

    • Invite fans to visit the studio during a recording session where they can take photos/video with the band, then take them out to dinner afterwards
    • If you need group back-up vocals or hand clapping for a particular song, instead of inviting a bunch of your friends to help out, invite a few of your fans to come into the studio and actually be on the album
    • Invite fans to sit-in on an exclusive listening session in the studio once the album is complete, and then throw an after-party to celebrate. Guaranteed your fans will post pics on Facebook and Twitter of their experience.

    These are just some ideas to get you started. But by allowing your fans to be a part of your life in the studio, you also become a part of their lives. And guess what? People like to talk about their lives. So these are the fans that are going to do the best kind of marketing for you, which is word-of-mouth marketing. They’re going to talk about you on Twitter, Facebook and to their friends and family.

    So the next time you’re planning on recording a new album, consider giving your fans as much access as possible during such a unique and interesting experience like being in the studio. You’ll reap the benefits of creating a more loyal and dedicated fan base, and no doubt gain some new fans in the process too.

    Posted by Dave Cool on 05/12/2011 | 9 comments
    David Dufresne

    New Zoogler on the team. The name is Cool. Dave Cool.

    Dave Cool

    Top 10 Facts About Dave Cool

    1. Yes, that’s his real name. He is the third Dave on the Bandzoogle team. Davids are way cool.
    2. We’ve just hired him as the new Bandzoogle Blogger-in-residence.
    3. That’s exciting for us and for you, because this means more fresh and regular content on here; tips, interviews, opinion, etc., on top of our regular blogging. We are all going to keep blogging as well, not just Dave.
    4. Dave has already written some very well received guest posts for us. See here and here.
    5. Many know Dave from an excellent documentary movie he directed and self-produced, called What Is Indie ? A Look into the World of Independent Musicians.
    6. He has a long list of experiences working with musicians, venues, labels, etc. He knows lots of people and lots of people know him. And they all like him a lot.
    7. Dave currently acts as Director of Member Services for the Canadian Independent Recording Artists Association (CIRAA).
    8. He is also an advisor with Montreal-based label Ambrosia Records.
    9. He’s a unbelievably nice guy and we’re damn proud to have brought him on board. This may sound like opinion (vs. fact). But no, it’s a fact-checked fact.
    10. Dave has lots of ideas for blog posts and interviews, but he’s open to suggestions and requests (topics, advice, interviews, etc.). You can leave suggestions here in the comments or reach him at his shiny new e-mail address: dcool - at - bandzoogle - dotcom

    Welcome to The Zoogle, Dave !



    Posted by David Dufresne on 05/09/2011 | 6 comments
    David Dufresne

    Finding Your “Hit Zone” (and why it matters)

    Eric Galen Music 180

    This is a guest post by Eric Galen, with whom I had a good chat last week at the ASCAP Expo in L.A. Eric founded Music180.com in 2008, a new artist development platform that connects aspiring artists, producers and songwriters directly to elite music industry professionals and unique opportunities (think of it as a matchmaking service between aspiring artists and established pros form all sides of the music industry). The service provides music pros new revenue opportunities and a trusted industry-wide networking platform. He recently published this post on Music180's corporate blog, and I think it provides great advice for songwriters and performers that are trying to create successful hit songs and find commercial success.

    Finding Your “Hit Zone” (and why it matters)

    Hits break artists and build careers. They are the ever-important “real estate” of the music business. Nothing is more essential to an artist, songwriter, manager, label or publisher than hits. A hit starts with a great song, which is then recorded the right way with the right production team, and released to the public and promoted effectively – then it’s up to listeners to decide whether the track is hit material.

    As Universal Music Publishing’s Tom Sturges notes, “every hit is a miracle.” However, hits aren’t totally random – it’s not like the Swedish gold-sequin-clad God of Hits randomly strikes songwriters with his magical Hit Lightning Bolt – some songwriters are clearly better at summoning hits than others. Some songwriters who seem to be able to write hit after hit, while others struggle for just one life changing music miracle.

    Some songwriters’ ongoing success can be attributed to their position atop the industry as established hit-makers (i.e., they are invited to write for established artists and can easily get their songs heard by decision makers), but much of their mojo lies in the ability to write songs that quickly connect with a significant segment of the listening market. These writers are often said to have their “ears to the ground,” and understand what the audience wants to hear.

    Finding your Hit Zone is essential if you’re an emerging songwriter, artist or producer, because without it:

    • Most or all of your marketing, online networking and live shows will be useless;
    • You’ll have a hard time building a fan base;
    • You’ll probably only sell your music to your friends and family;
    • You won’t get TV/film licenses;
    • You’ll have a hard time getting signed;
    • And so on...

    Yes, your Hit Zone is that important. It’s the most important thing you can do as an artist to attract fans, make more money and achieve success. It’s like the g-spot: if you haven’t found it, you’re just flailing around and wasting your time.

    So what is the Hit Zone?

    The Hit Zone is that creative space where the three key elements of your Brand (songs, production and image) are Authentic, Unique and Sellable. Everyone’s Hit Zone is different, and no one can tell you where yours is… but some artist development experts can help you find it. This image can help you visualize where you need to be:

    Authentic, Unique and Sellable Creative Space

    1. Be Authentic.

    First and foremost, your songwriting, production and image must all be Authentic (the red circle above, symbolizing your heart). Other helpful descriptions for this aspect are “genuine” and “real.” Now more than ever, potential fans have highly tuned bullshit detectors, and they can intuit when an artist or song lacks authenticity. Few artists can break if they are perceived as being “fake,” and even fewer can sustain a long-term career unless their fans believe they are genuine.

    Every time someone first hears you or your music or sees your picture or video, it’s like a first date: You don’t want to be the weirdo who wears clothes that aren’t natural, talks with a fake accent and tries too hard to act like you’re someone else. This is just as disastrous in music as it is in dating.

    So you should spend some time exploring your answers to these questions:

    • Who am I, at my core?
    • What do I care about?
    • What do I want to say to my audience – what matters to me?
    • What makes each of my favorite writers or artists authentic?

    Your answers don’t need to be grandiose – not everyone will be motivated by world politics or social justice like Bono. Some artists really care about partying, others really care about getting laid, others really care about love and heartache. It doesn’t matter what you want your music is about, as long as it’s Authentic.

    2. Be Unique.

    Once you know what music would be authentic for you (the red circle in the diagram above), then you need to think about what you can create that would also be Unique (see the overlap area of the red and blue circles above).

    Being unique does not mean sharing nothing in common with other artists. Even the most unique artists (for a well-known example, take Lady Gaga) still use many of the same instruments, chord progressions, recording styles, lyrical ideas and other elements as thousands of other artists. You just need to explore elements that you can add to your individual artistic recipe that give your music and image something that will stand out from a crowd. You don’t necessarily need to go for shock value here, just look at those parts of your creativity that are both authentic and unique.

    Consider some of your favorite songwriters or artists and what makes each of them unique. It may be in the voice, production style, instrumentation, image, songs, live performance, or other artistic elements. Sometimes seeing uniqueness in others can help you find your own.

    3. Be Sellable.

    Assuming you want to make money with music, then once you have found the zone of creativity where you are both authentic and unique, you should identify the area of that zone that is also Sellable (the gold area of the diagram above where Authentic, Unique and Sellable all meet). The key is considering what listeners are willing to pay for, and how many listeners are willing to pay (i.e., market size). If you’re only creating music as a hobby, then this third element may be irrelevant to you.

    For example, writing and releasing East African Banjo Funk music may be authentic and unique for you – it might even be artistically fantastic – but the market for this may be so small that you would not be able to generate much money with it. Here you should think about market size, your key audience demographic, and other related concepts that are often alien to creative people but common to business types.

    This is one area where a good producer, publisher, artist development coach or other knowledgeable music business expert can be helpful because their livelihood depends on understanding what people will actually pay for, and how many people will actually pay for it.

    Before you read this and think to yourself, “I’m not a sellout… I’m an authentic artist and I shouldn’t have to think about business crap – that’s for the suits!”, but you would be wrong. First of all, I am absolutely NOT urging you to be a “sellout.” To the contrary, I’m urging you to be authentic, real and genuine – true to your art and your passion. Second, every wise artist and songwriter in this new music business has to consider the business side of music sooner or later; doing so does not make you a suit or a sellout, it makes you a smart artist building a career. So don’t be afraid to explore the “sellable” aspects of your songs, music and image – without it you can’t build a sustainable career.

    * * * * *

    Putting these three elements together, you see that finding your Hit Zone is about progressing through the songwriting, production and image phases of your development (which together constitute your “brand”) while focusing on those elements that are Authentic, Unique and Sellable. By doing so, you will maximize your chance of success, and hopefully avoid wasted time and money pursuing creative paths that will not lead you where you want to go.

    So, Bandzooglers, do you feel like your music has reached that Hit Zone ? Are you even looking for it ? Or maybe your music about something else than "hits" ? Tell us what it's about. For those who have found their Hit Zone, any tips ? How did you make it happen ? Let us know !



    Posted by David Dufresne on 05/04/2011 | 15 comments