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  • Build Your Music Brand Platform Online

    Now, more than ever before, your next fan is more likely to discover you and your music online than they are to find out about you at a show.

    So how do you make sure that you’ve built a strong music brand platform online so that discovery leaves a positive impression?

    How do you make sure that potential fans who discover you online stick around, listen to your music, and check in with you for updates?

    But before we get into how to keep fans coming back for more, there’s something else that’s worth mentioning.

    It isn’t just artist discovery that’s primarily online.

    Album launches and marketing are also mostly on the web now.

    Many performers are opting to go the indie route, releasing their music on their own. But even if you’re hoping to one day get signed, labels are now more likely to take a chance with an artist that already comes with a built-in and engaged audience.

    Whichever road you’re planning to take, however, your online brand platform needs to be strong because it serves as your main channel to promote and distribute your music.

    Let’s make your brand platform give you the most bang for the time you invest into developing it.

    Don’t rely on third-party platforms to promote your business.

    Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter aren’t enough. Even if you have a huge following on one of those social media sites, you need to use it to send people back to your website. They shouldn’t be the main vehicle for your promotion.

    Social media platforms rise and fall quickly (read: Myspace) and if you build your audience via social media, you’re likely to lose them when it loses popularity.

    Your website, on the other hand, will forever be yours to update and control. Unless you neglect updating it, it’s impossible for it to become obsolete, and as your career progresses, the amount of content and usefulness of your site only grows with it.

    Bonus Tip: Your website should have an about page, photos, video and audio clips, your concert schedule, and a contact page at the very least. If you have albums or projects out, they should also have their own pages (and you should also have a discography page). I also personally suggest having a tour blog up on your site so that your fans can get to know you. It also gives them a reason to keep visiting you in between album releases.

    Build an Email List

    Even if you don’t have an album out or you’re not on tour, you should constantly work at building your email list. If you’re planning on launching an album or a tour at any point in your career, it’s never to early to start building up your email list. And when you finally launch your album, that list will be a great tool to help you ensure the success of the release.

    As an incentive to get fans to sign up, you can offer a free mp3 download to those who sign up or even a link to an unlisted video on your Youtube channel.

    As far as the content of your newsletters, offer your subscribers something that they won’t get on your website or blog. Every so often, you should send them exclusive information and offers, links to videos or new music before any one else, and maybe even links to other artists that they might enjoy.

    Bonus Tip: Using your email list for constant self-promotion is a no-no. You want your newsletters to be something your fans look forward to, not something they’re likely to get annoyed by. Create something useful and entertaining for your audience.

    Ask for Reviews

    Use the email list you’re building above to offer fans a free advance copy of your new single or album in exchange for reviews on Amazon. Those reviews will go a long way to getting your music discovered on Amazon by new listeners.

    Bonus Tip: Do this right before you’re getting ready to release an album so that your album launch gets started with a bang.

    When you do use social media, focus on a few channels rather than, well, all of them.

    It’s impossible to manage a consistent and strong brand image across an infinite number of social sites, so pick 3-5 of your favorites and focus on them. Focus on the platforms where your audience can be found and work on building a strong presence.

    It will take time to build up your music brand platform, but once you start to get some momentum, you’ll find it was worth the effort and time. Even if you don’t yet have anything to promote, it’s never too early to start. Once fans start to find you, you’ll have a built in audience ready to hear about your new project. Don’t wait until you’re trying to release an album to launch your artist platform. It will be too much at once.

    Bonus Tip: In addition to providing useful and entertaining content to your fans through your various social media channels, make sure that you give them incentive to head over to your website. Save certain photos, content, and clips for your website only and link back to it from the social media sites you’re using.

    For more tips like this, check out our Album Checklist and Music Branding bundle here.

    September 7, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 946

  • 13 Things No One Told Me About Being A Professional Musician

    I began my career as a professional musician while in high school and I’ve learned more outside of school these past few years than I did in all of my time in school (and I went to school through a Master’s degree).

    Some of the lessons that I’ve learned were much harder than others, but I’m grateful for all of the knowledge I’ve gained throughout my career.

    Despite the fact that no one told me the following about being a professional musician, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned with you.

    1. Finding the motivation to work as a self-employed, independent musician isn’t always easy. There are some days that you just don’t feel like doing anything, but you need to push through it and sit down to do the work anyway.
    2. How little your the role your actual playing plays on a day to day basis. It isn’t hours of practice and nothing but performances all day, every day. There is so much other work that goes into being a professional. Business stuff. Image stuff. Networking stuff. Promotion stuff. Finance stuff. Contract stuff.
    3. How much time (or money) it actually takes to put out quality content. Creating an excellently produced album isn’t as simple as jumping into a basement recording studio with your high school buddies. While it can be done, it isn’t the best way to do it. And album costs aren’t just the production costs (what it takes to create the album), there are also promotion and distribution costs.
    4. It’s hard. And sometimes you want to quit. Sometimes you wish you had decided to do something else. But then are other times where you laugh at yourself for ever even playing around with the idea of doing something else.
    5. It’s okay to have hobbies. Not all of your free time needs to be spent working on and improving your music. A lot of it should, but not all of it. It’s healthy to get away and do something else every so often.
    6. Depression is a thing. For most artists – whether it be aritst, writer or musician – depression is a thing and if you struggle with it, do something about it. You aren’t alone. And if you need to, you should talk to someone about it.
    7. People can be downright cruel. But they can also be incredibly and surprisingly supportive.
    8. Creativity blocks are real. Oh, so real. It isn’t all free-flowing compositions, inspired improvisation, rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes your playing downright sucks. Sometimes you have a bad day. Sometimes you just don’t feel like writing or practicing. Just try to work through it so that it doesn’t become too many days in a row.
    9. Stick-to-it-ness is one of the best talents you can have.
    10. You aren’t just composing and performing for yourself. A lot of people will tell you this, and in a way, they aren’t wrong. You need to create music that you want to hear first, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore you audience. What I think that really means when you break it down is that if you’re selling out and trying to ride trends, your audience will see you as inauthentic. You need to create the music you want to create and that you enjoy. Something you can put your heart and soul behind. That’s what others enjoy and want to hear. That’s what matters most. But, don’t write and record music for the sake of numbers, do it because you’re trying to reach out and connect with your audience (however many people that may be).
    11. You’ll very likely do a lot of gigs that you really wish you didn’t have to do.
    12. But you’ll also do gigs that are amazing and meet amazing people along the way.
    13. That you cannot afford to stop learning. There is always room for growth.

    So there you have it, thirteen things I’ve learned about being a professional musician. What are your experiences? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

    August 26, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 737

  • How I Earned More in Tips than What the Gig Paid Playing to a Nearly Empty Room

    At some point or another we’ve all had or will have gigs where the room is nearly empty. You can’t win them all. But, how those gigs turn out all depend on how you behave and how you perform despite whatever disappointment you may be feeling.

    So let me start by saying it’s not easy.

    When you’re playing to an empty room, it’s hard to find the energy to put on a good performance. There isn’t an audience to play off of or interact with and so it’s easy to slip into putting on a mediocre show. Especially if they’re not paying attention.

    But here’s why you shouldn’t let that happen.

    A smaller audience gives you the opportunity to connect on a more intimate level with your listeners. Don’t miss out on that opportunity!

    First, I recommend gauging the room before following my suggestions. If the room would rather focus on their meal and not on the music, it might be better to let them do that (if you don’t want the venue manager to be upset with you).

    But if they’re watching you or applauding after you finish songs, make them a part of your performance.

    Let them call out requests in between songs, get a dialogue going with them. It’s an experience they’ll likely remember and a great way to build relationships with your audience.

    Don’t be afraid to talk with those enjoying your music from where you’re playing – just don’t get too carried away and leave too much space between songs.

    Perform as though you’re playing for a large audience. Play like you’re on a stage and not tucked away next to the bar. You never know who’s watching!

    I recently had an experience where I performed in a restaurant to a small crowd. Rather than letting it get the best of me, I decided to make the most of the situation.

    One of the couples sitting near to where I was playing applauded after a song I played and I asked them if there was anything they wanted to hear. They asked me to play something that I really enjoyed playing, which I did, and it opened up to use chatting briefly between songs.

    In turn, this got the attention of some of the other patrons in the room and they began to change seats so that they too could engage with me.

    It ended up being a fun night and in a way, an almost private and personal concert for those that were there. I didn’t do it to earn tips – I did it to create an awesome musical experience for the people that were there. But it did end up in me tripling what I made that night because of the tips I received.

    I am really grateful to have had that experience and for the kindness the people there that night showed me. I am glad that I had the chance to meet them and get to know them.

    What about you? Have you ever had any musical experiences that could have gone poorly but you managed to turn them around? I’d love to hear about your music experiences – both the good, the bad, and the ugly – in the comments!

    August 5, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 694

  • “Automating” Your Gigs

    Getting ready for shows can be stressful – especially when their big or important events.

    There are a lot of different things that go into preparing for a gig. There’s practicing your parts. Making sure you have all the equipment you need. Having the right clothes and shoes to change into. Making sure that you have the directions to the venue and that you know where to go once you arrive.

    Sometimes, depending on the gig, you also need to do things like create a setlist, make sure you have your playlists loaded onto your MP3 player or laptop and that they’re charged, that you have sounds setup on your keyboard, or presets ready on your effects pedal or board.

    In a way, it’s a lot like packing for a trip each time you go to a gig. But it’s a lot more stressful.

    So how do you make the process of getting ready to go out and perform less stressful?

    You automate as many of the tasks required of you in advance.

    Automating is “converting (a process or faculty) to a largely automatic operation.”

    This means, the more you standardize the things you need to do prior to a gig, the more automatic they’ll become and the less you have to worry about forgetting something.

    So what are some of the things you can do to automate your gigs?

    1. You can create a set list that you only need to make minor changes to depending on the venue, the length of your sets and so on. This does several things to help make gig prep stress-free. It not only allows you to keep books with essential charts, notes, and lyrics for other musicians, but it also ensures that you perform your best stuff. As you perform, pay attention to the songs your audience likes to hear and begin tailoring your setlist to fit their preferences. You can always make small changes or add new songs, but why change something that works?

    2. Pack your music equipment in ready-to-go bags and place them in locations that enable you to load in and out more quickly. I have a bag with the cables and equipment I need for track gigs ready and accessible. I know that if I have a gig, I can just grab that bag and that I don’t have to worry about searching around for cables each time an opportunity comes up. I also keep a mic cable in a bag with my wireless so that I have it if needed.

    3. Create a standard rider and contract so that you have it available to you when gig opportunities present themselves. Why spend the time creating a new one each and every time you are contacted for a show? Of course, like all else, these need to be tailored, but if you have the bulk of it ready, the time you need to spend on it is greatly reduced.

    The above three suggestions are just some of the ways you can “automate” your gigs and make the process less stressful.

    If you have any methods for automating your performances, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

    July 27, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 756

  • Madalyn Sklar’s Twitter Smarter Podcast

    Each month we try to share a website or resource to help you improve either your music playing or music business and this month I’d like to share Madalyn Sklar’s Twitter Smarter Podcast.

    If you’re struggling with social media marketing strategies, or just what to do with your Twitter in general, then this is definitely a great resource for you to check out. Madeline offers a ton of really great information that she’s tried out herself, and she does an excellent job presenting it in a clear way.

    This resource is great for anyone looking to improve their Twitter strategies; it isn’t just for musicians. So if you need help with Twitter, regardless of what you do, this is definitely something you should check out.

    She’s also interviewed a ton of industry leaders from a variety of backgrounds including Smart Passive Income’s Pat Flynn, Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s, and tons more.

    Check out the podcast.

    Did you miss last month’s resource? Read about it here.

    PS > We’d love to hear about your favorite resources for music or on the music business. Feel free to let us know what you enjoy using in the comments below!

    July 22, 2015 • Resources • Views: 720

  • I’m a Musician, Do I Really Need to Go to College?

    In the US, college is often something that we feel we have to do. Regardless of what our future vocation may be, college is the next mandatory step after college. And a rather expensive one at that.

    For many majors, that’s very likely be true, but as a musician, one might argue that a college degree isn’t totally necessary.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think that obtaining your university diploma is an incredible accomplish and an even more incredible experience. It’s absolutely something that you can be proud of doing.
    + College Audition Tips for Saxophonists
    + College Auditions and Applications

    Despite this, however, if your goal is to be a musician, college might not be as necessary as you think. If your goal is to get out and play, no one is going to ask you to see your diploma. They might not even ask you where you went to school. If you’re talented and professional and you do a good job on the gig, that’s all that matters.

    If you plan on being a musician, you don’t need to go to college, especially at the price it costs and the estimated salary you’ll be earning unless you hit it “big.” For most musicians, college is an unnecessary expense.

    But as someone who has been working in the music industry for nearly a decade (part of which was while I was at university), I’ve seen it become increasingly harder for musicians to support themselves making a full-time living in music. As unfortunate as it is, it might not hurt to have something to fall back on until your career in music takes off.

    Remember that if you choose to go to college, your major doesn’t have to be in music. In fact, studying something like business and marketing could be incredibly beneficial to your music career. A lot of the skills you’ll learn in those classes are ones that you can apply to your music business.

    You can, of course, choose to major in music if you wish, but your career options can be limited once you graduate if you take that path. If you can’t imagine doing anything other than music after school, then by all means pursue your dreams. I, myself, majored in music, so who am I to stop you?

    But if you’re open to the possibility of expanding your skill sets and broadening your knowledge, considering another a major (with a minor in music, perhaps), might be something to think about.

    If it happens that you need to take another job after college, or you decide to take another job to help support your music career, that option is more likely to be open to you if you study another field.

    You should also consider the possibility that your career will be in music, but not in the way that you expected it to be. Perhaps you end up working at a music-related company such as an instrument manufacturer, an instrument sales shop, a record label, or an artist management firm. Some of those options might not be available to you if you don’t have a degree, and so, it’s definitely important to take that into consideration.

    That being said, there’s always the argument that it isn’t good to spend hours away from your craft at a job that isn’t music. Every hour should be spent practicing, writing, and hustling to get gigs to give your career its best chance.

    I’ve had experience with both ends of the spectrum. My husband and I are both musicians with extraordinarily different education backgrounds. My husband dropped out of high school to go to a music conservatory and is a successful musician without any sort of diploma. I am on the completely opposite end of the spectrum because I have a Master’s degree (in music). For me, personally, I found going to college valuable but my husband didn’t. We are both professional musicians, we both work regularly and neither of us regret the paths that we took to get to this point. It’s a decision that only you can make.

    As I mentioned, I understand both sides of the argument. Neither route is easy and it’s a very personal decision. One that no one else can make for you. It’s all about what your financial and personal needs are, your goals, and how much you’re willing to sacrifice to have a music career.

    Reasons Why You Should Go to College if You Want to Be a Musician:

    • A few more years of training
    • Developing other skills and discovering new interests (GE courses)
    • A backup plan just in case performance doesn’t work out you’ll have the qualifications to get another job to help support your music
    • Networking; to meet other talented, up and coming musicians your age
    • Burn-out is a real thing and you risk leaving yourself without any other option if music doesn’t work out for you
    • The experience
    • You’re interested in working in the music industry as something other than a performer

    Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Go to College if You Want to Be a Musician:

    • Procrastinating (literally “buying” yourself more time – surprisingly a huge reason people go)
      fear – real life after school can be intimidating
    • Because you need a diploma – you really don’t if you are certain you only want to pursue music full-time
    • You’re already working successfully as a musician and you would have to stop working to take time off for college (in that case, you can do it online or come back to it later)
    • Most colleges don’t provide you with the proper tools for actually working in the music industry (business, networking, playing in diverse genres, legal stuff like copyrights, etc.)

    Further Reading: http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/a-little-music-industry-career-advice.html

    Why did you/didn’t you go to college? Or, why do you want to/not want to go to college? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, but please keep the conversation civil!

    July 13, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1089

  • On Being Professional VS Being an Amateur

    I recently read an incredibly interesting article by James Clear on the difference between being a professional as opposed to being an amateur.

    While the article is geared towards writers, the article can be applied to anyone who has a career as a creator (consultants, musicians, artists, etc.).

    There are a lot of ways to define the difference between someone who is an amateur and someone who is a professional – whether or not they’re doing it full time, for one – but I think the way that James Clear breaks it down is really interesting.

    A professional is someone who sits down and creates or works, whatever you want to call it, every single day even when no one expects it of them. It isn’t about whether or not you’re motivated or inspired to do the work, it’s about sitting down and doing it anyway.

    In the writing industry, I’ve often heard it said that inspiration comes out of sitting down and putting in the time. It comes from sitting down and spending hours in front of the keyboard even when it’s the last thing we want to do. You cannot expect to find inspiration if you’re not already in front of the keyboard trying to turn over the stones under which it’s hiding.

    And I agree.

    It’s in my daily practice that I am inspired to write new songs, to push my playing further, and to improve the work that I do as a musician. It may be harder some days than others to get my sax out of the case to get to work, but it’s really only getting started that’s difficult.

    If I wait for the motivation to play or the inspiration to write to come and find me, I might wait a long time. And that’s a lot of potential practice or writing hours that I’m missing out on. It’s a lot of skill at my craft that I won’t develop which prevents me from having those inspiring breakthroughs.

    Like James Clear says, it isn’t easy to sit down and work or practice when you don’t feel like it but you’ll never regret the time you spend working on important things for your career.

    To sum up his article, he presents three tips to becoming a pro. In essence, they are to decide what you’re good at and what you want to pursue, to setup a schedule to work at them, and to stick to that schedule for an entire week.

    Why one week? Because at the end of the week you get to take what you learned and what you worked on and modify your work goals for the next week. It’s like a reset button that you hit so that your work schedule aligns with your goals as they evolve with your ability and place in the music world.

    You can read the original article by James Clear here.

    What are your thoughts about what it takes to be a professional? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

    July 6, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 697

  • Most Popular Music Advice Articles | 6 Month Update

    Today I’d like to share the most popular music advice articles and music business tips on Teen Jazz the past six months.

    We work hard to bring you the most relevant music advice and reviews and here are the ten articles that you liked best so far.

    1. 10 Popular Music Business Books // We try to read and review some of the most popular music business books to help you decide which you’d like to add to your reading list.
    2. 33 Content Marketing Ideas for Musicians // Content marketing is a really great way to work on your artist branding and to keep the content on your music website fresh.
    3. 10 Simple Tips to Get Motivated for Musicians // Looking for some motivation? Here is a roundup of tips to help you get started.
    4. College Audition Preparation for Saxophonists // Preparing for your college music auditions can be stressful, so we asked one of the saxophone instructors at Cal State Long Beach to help ease the process for you by writing a detailed post on the process.
    5. Three Little Words – “What’s Your Fee?” // Teen Jazz Artist Adam Larson wrote this incredible post for us on what to charge for a gig. What’s your fee?
    6. Learn Jazz Lingo and Slang // Want to learn a fun bit of jazz history? Try picking up some of these words and phrases!
    7. A Beginner’s Guide to Playing “Outside” // Ready to take your improvisation to the next level by learning how to play outside the changes? Teen Jazz Artist Sean Winter wrote us this detailed post to help you learn how to play outside.
    8. Saxophone Playing Tips and Practice Suggestions // A broad collection of tips for saxophone players on everything from articulation to breathing.
    9. What Songs Should I Learn for Jam Sessions? // We worked with several contributors to create this pretty thorough list of songs to learn for jam sessions.
    10. A List of Summer Jazz Camps // Your favorite post was our list of summer jazz camps! Totally understandable since summer jazz camps are awesome. They’re a great learning experience for musicians of all ages!

    This check-in was a huge change from some of our previous roundups. In the past, our interviews with artists like Mindi Abair and Greg Adams were the most popular.

    Either way, thank you all for your support and for reading our posts!

    Best of luck in all of your musical endeavours!

    PS. If you’d like to see an article that you’ve written in this list at the end of this year, find out how to become a contributor here.

    June 8, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 783

  • 9 Articles from Writers that All Independent Musicians Should Read

    In the past, I’ve discussed how I think reading about and studying industries with business models similar to that of music can be extremely beneficial. One of my favorite industries to study is that of independent authors.
    Much like musicians, authors deal with product releases and marketing, tours, motivation when working as a freelancer or independent author, etc. They can certainly relate to many other day-to-day decisions and worries that musicians face.
    Here are a few articles written by authors about writing, book releases and more. Just change the words “book” to “album” and “writing” to “practicing.”
    Chuck Wendig
    Kameron Hurley
    Russell Blake 
    Joanna Penn
    The Write Life
    What about you? Do you have any articles from other industries that can be applied to music? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

    April 27, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 881

  • 5 Great Online Music Tools

    Today’s featured online music tools aren’t all necessarily tools but some cool things we found around the web. Check them out below. Let us know what you think in the comments!

    5 Great Online Music Tools

    + Sellbox // Sell your music directly to your fans from your website. Using either Dropbox or Google Drive, you can sell digital files directly! Learn more about Sellbox here or watch the video below.

    + 49 Ways to Get Free Music Promotion // This is a really great resource from Music Think Tank. Check out their ideas for free music promotion.
    + Artiphon // Now your phone can be an instrument! You can sign up to learn more here.

    + Incident Gtar // Learn to play guitar with a fretboard that lights up and directs you on where to put your fingers. Learn more here.
    + Album Collector // For the hardcore music fan. Looking to complete your album collection? Here’s a fun way to do it.

    April 13, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 889