How Can We Help? – 6/28/13

Wanna get your DIY music promotions questions answered and promote your music?

Do you have questions about promoting your music or building a fanbase? Leave it in the comments and we promise to get back to you or even write a post featuring you that answers your question. If we think your question would benefit our readers we’ll post a YouTube video of your song on top of a post that answers your question. No matter what, you will get an answer this week as long as you leave an email address (so we can let you know when we answer your question) and a YouTube URL for your video.

All we ask in return is that if we answer your question, please help us spread the word about our book, Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The New Music Business.


Let’s Get This Straight – DIY Means Decide It Yourself Not Do It Yourself


Across the Internet and in the zines of yesterdecade, there have constantly been cries of “sellout.” According to a recent study, the kids of today don’t care who sold out, who’s punk or what’s the score any longer. But what every music fan does care about are the artists they love being tainted by the influences of A&R douches looking to shape our favorite acts and turn them into something they are not. I can vividly recall when two bands I was managing at the time, Man Overboard and Transit, signed to Rise Records and the comments on PropertyOfZack and AbsolutePunk were cries of how the bands’ would be influenced by Rise and would soon sound like Miss May I or Attack Attack!, with swooped haircuts and deep-V T-shirts (and proved wrong by both band’s existence in the subsequent years).

Music fans have grown to understand that musicians need to make a buck nearly any way they can, though they don’t want to see the musicians they love betray the characteristics they fell in love with just to make a buck. With that said, the tears shed on Reddit over whether acts are DIY or not seems kind of silly to me. I have long believed that DIY’s message got crossed a long time go and since I just spent the last 4 years of my life writing a 700 page book with DIY in the title, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it.

What really matters to music fans is when the musicians we love stop being in control of their decisions and succumb to the pressures of success, making music they think they should make, instead of the music they enjoy making. They get told to dress a certain way, work with a producer who slicks up their sound too much, enlist song co-writers or do branding that makes fans cringe. After all, would you rather your favorite musician sitting around silk-screening T-shirts and stuffing envelopes or writing more songs for you to enjoy?

The most ridiculous of these cries seems to come from those who can’t stand Macklemore (note: despite all the praise I am about to give him, I am no fanboy, in fact his music is a light form of torture for me) success and claim he is not DIY, despite the fact he runs his own label, fulfills his own merch, and his booking agent is also his manager— making him far more Do It Yourself than anyone else in the pop charts in the last 50 years. Macklemore has become the ultimate example of this stupid outrage as many people claim he isn’t DIY because clearly he doesn’t do every job all on his own.

But what he does do is make the decisions himself. There is no record label pressure, since he owns his own record label. He fulfills his own merch from a trailer, and connects with fans personally.  If you endure any sort of small success there isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with the demand you receive to do it all yourself. It’s astounding that anyone with three #1 singles would be doing anything like this (I imagine he has since delegated these jobs to others), with the demands that get placed on their time. Even with those demands it is stunning someone would do all of this, but does that even matter?

What matters to most of us music fans is that the musicians we love remain uncorrupted and continue to make the decisions themselves. Dave Grohl’s amazing SXSW speech made a great point that musicians do the best work when they are left alone to do as they will. As long as musicians don’t get corrupted and continue to make music we love and keep us from cringing, we stay happy. Does it really matter that they didn’t form the plastic for the CDs they sell, cut the vinyl with a lathe themselves or deliver the packages themselves instead of using the postal service? What’s important is that they keep making the decisions themselves and have their musical output and image be a decision that is their own expression. This is why I say it is time to drop Do It Yourself from being the meaning of DIY and start chanting Decide It Yourself.

More and more we see musicians being tagged as part of DIY culture and saying they aren’t a part of the ridiculous influences of the major label system, making the decisions to do things their own way. What makes this distinction important is that we are in a time in music where musicians can rise to the top of the pop charts without being corrupted by ridiculous influences to do the things as part of a system that homogenizes all culture to the boring norms that are common in pop music. Throughout the years some groups have eluded this influence whether it was The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, or The Clash.

The chance for musicians to do this and rise to the top is more available now than it ever has been. Let’s not stifle this growth by imposing ridiculous titles on DIY that don’t matter. Instead let’s celebrate artists are making their art their own way and music fans responding to it. Instead of succumbing to temptations, like getting famous and listening to the A&R guy who would tell someone like Macklemore to not release a gay pride song because it could alienate a homophobic hip hop community and about 40 percent of this country. We now have a song changing minds and a unique voice pushing a culture forward, because he gets to make this decision himself.

Let’s celebrate the fact that we live in a time where musicians are successful without a team of people trying to fit them into demographics and that once again those who innovate can succeed instead of only those who emulate the cookie cutter models established in marketing dial sessions. Let’s celebrate that musicians can decide how they want to handle their career — even if it involves with getting in bed with a corporate giant or two. Many of them have the power of their fanbase to say no, when they get pressured to do something they don’t want to.

The Internet has made a flat enough playing field that musicians who connect with fans and do honest art and can rise to the top without having to enlist influences of those who seek to change them. Let’s champion this great new era of music and leave behind the negative, unrealistic expectation that you need to do everything yourself to be a great artist. Instead, let’s be happy these artists now have enough power to make the decisions themselves and the power is in their hands instead of bald guys in suits who think they know how to best connect with us as music fans.

(note: credit should go to Derek Sivers for coining Decide It Yourself being what DIY means in this great FREE ebook)


Mention Changes Pricing Plan Adds $6.99 A Month Plan

02-Mention-Logo-v1-300x245In just a few short days Google Reader will die, meaning the key functionality of Google Alerts will go away with it. Because of this we’ve praised the cool social monitoring and Google Alerts alternative Mention. The service does a far better job finding who is writing about you across the web than Google Alerts ever did, but their high entry price was always a concern. That has changed as they have added a $6.99 plan that allows for 5 search terms per month. Sadly they have downgraded their free plan to only two search terms per month. Read more about how we use their service here and rejoice that you can probably spend a few dollars less a month managing your alerts and targeting other groups.


Radar Music Videos Allows You To Submit A Budget And Have Directors Submit Treatments

3625810_300It can often be troublesome to find the right director for your music video. Radar Music Videos allows you to post your needs for a music video and directors who would be interested in working with you can post treatments where you can then choose which video suits you best? If that weren’t awesome enough, you can also browse directors who have posted briefs about their past work and find directors whose body of work seems like it would be good for you to work with. Pretty awesome right?


Interview With Director Alex Henery (Basement, Title Fight, Man Overboard)

I first met Alex Henery when I was working with Man Overboard. Not only did he come off as one of the most humble, fun and nice people you will meet, he is also super talented. Just do a search for his now defunct band Basement (who I was lucky enough to mix and master a record for) and you’ll find blogs, tweets and tumbls of kids being near suicidal that they have broken up after just two LPs and you will see his talent extends far past what he is doing right now, which is make a lot of videos for some great bands. In the above playlist you can watch a handful of videos he has made for groups like Man Overboard, Daylight and Turnover. In the below interview you can get to know him better and gain TONS of great tips on making a video.

So how did you get into making music videos?

I had always loved filming and capturing things on my parents video camera, I first started filming my friends in comedy skits and then when Jackass came out we all just tried to imitate that. The first music video I did was for Basement right when the demo came out, we knew of a carpet warehouse in my hometown that had gone out of business so we decided to shoot a video there. All our friends showed up and trashed the place whilst we pretended to play, there are no amps, there is a broom for the cymbals, it was a total joke but we had a lot of fun.

I had never planned on doing music videos, I knew I would try and do a real one eventually but I had always preferred the documentary side of videography. It wasn’t until Man Overboard asked me to do a video for ‘Somethings Weird’ that I flew to America and jumped in the van to capture their full U.S tour with New Found Glory and filmed my first ever music video. I owe them so much for having faith in me to do it, because that was the start of my career in the music industry.

What are some of your favorite videos made by others?

I have a blog that I post videos that inspire me and that features some of my favorite video pieces. Videos for bands like Radiohead, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Blur, Beastie Boys are all videos that stuck with me since I was a kid. Back in the 90′s and early 2000′s, music videos were big budget projects with the significance of MTV. So they would be shooting with cinema quality 16mm/35mm cameras, and that cinematic quality is near impossible to re-create with digital. I think that is something very special and gave the videos real character and personality.

When a band comes to you to do a video and you want to work with them what happens next? Do you generally come up with an idea or do they? 

It depends, sometimes the band will already have an idea or a full treatment for what they want, but that is very rare. Most of the time the bands want me to come up with something and then we develop the ideas together. I like the band being involved in the making of video, because that’s when we get the best results when everyone is on board and is comfortable with what we are shooting. I want the band to be as excited as I am about shooting.

You’re also a musician who was in a great band (Basement) but I see no music videos directed by you for your own band aside from some live videos and documentaries, is that a conscious choice?

Yeah I had always been very nervous about making a video for our band, myself and Fisher (ed. - bandmate in Basement) had agreed we didn’t want a video unless we had a great idea. And eventually we just ran out of time and never made one. I definitely regret not making a video, but I am glad we never put out a mediocre one just for the sake of releasing something. As I said before I always felt documentary style videos were my strong point and so that was something I began to explore through Basement and I was so happy to see the videos get such a great response from people.

You’ve done a couple of tour documentaries, what is some good advice for bands who would want to do this themselves?

Have fun, bring a camera on tour and capture your time on the road. I think it would be cool if more bands did something more than just a montage of video clips with a song over the top. I like it when bands actually talk about how the tour is going, what is going well, what isn’t going so well, I think that gives it a personal element to the visuals and kids are given a real glimpse into what it’s like to be on tour.

What’s a reasonable budget for a band to have that is looking to get exposure by making a music video? 

This all depends on the person you are looking to film the video, however the  shorter amount of time it will take to film the cheaper it will be. If you are a band with a low-budget always look to see if you know anyone in school for film, or a friend that has equipment. If you don’t have the money for a big video, then I would suggest just doing it yourself, it’s fun, you will learn a lot and you will have full control over what you want put of the video.

However if you do have money to spend on a video from what I know of videographers prices, $500-$750 is considered cheap. So definitely look at all your options before you decide to spend the money.

If you were on a budget what is some bare minimum equipment you can get away with making a good video with? 

Honestly if you have an amazing idea for a video it doesn’t matter too much about the equipment, as long as you can capture people’s attention and get them talking I personally don’t think it matters if you filmed it on a RED camera or an iPhone. Now I know that’s a bold statement so here is more practical advice -

Very Low Budget ($40-$100)

A flip cam might be a simple but effective camera to film your video, you can find them on ebay very cheap.

Medium Budget ($300-$500)

Gopro or a Sony Handycam might be good for your video.

Good Budget ($700-$1000)

Start with a DSLR, Canon 60D is an amazing starting camera. Here is a link to a blog that will recommend the best camera for your budget.

Lenses - For a basic set up I would recommend a basic lens like a 24-70mm or 16-35mm and then one prime lens such as a 35mm or 50mm. I have been shooting videos with only 3 lenses and they have been great so far. Look at the company Rokinon for great video lenses, they are a lot cheaper than Canon and Nikon because they don’t have the auto focus technology which you don’t need because that is used for the photography side of DSLR’s. You should never be shooting video with your lens set to auto.

What are the pieces of equipment you use that give a lot of value for very little money?

Everyone needs a monopod, essential cheap piece of kit that will keep your shots steady! You can get one from best buy for $20-$30

Lighting can make a boring shot look incredible, particularly when filming live band shots. Even just going to Home Depot or your local hardware store and spending $50 on some lights will do wonders for your videos.

Check out this blog post that is very informative on small but great pieces of equipment.

Anything you’d like to say before we finish?

I’m not a professional, I am learning every time I edit and every time I shoot. I never went to school for Film or had an internship, I just kept filming and learning and somehow people decided to start giving me money for it. But seriously the most important advice I can give you is that no is just going to give you a job, you have to get out there and start working for free, making videos, get your name out there. Once people see you have a talent they will start looking at your work and might be willing to pay you. Do not be afraid to email people, the worst thing that they can say is no. Get ready for rejection but don’t let it get you down. You have to accept the hard fact that everyone has a camera and you are not special. You have to get out there and prove that you are! Work hard and don’t accept no for an answer, people will put you down, tell you you’re not good enough, but if you stick at it and have a passion for creating great visuals you will succeed.

You can find Alex on Vimeo, Tumblr or his website. Thanks Alex!


Kontor Records Releases Vinyl That Gets Scanned And Played By Your iPhone

 

After seeing their promos CDs get thrown in the trash all the time, dance label Kontor Records decided to get innovative. They began to mail vinyl promo copies where the packaging included a printed turntable with instructions to use an iPhone app that would scan the vinyl and then playback the sounds over their iPhone. Watch the above video to see the genius in action and see why 71% of the people who received this promo went on to check it out.


Better To Be Critiqued Than Just A Critic

muppet criticsIt can be fascinating how much music is out there that seemingly doesn’t deserve the hype. Everyone has their favorites to hate on (DON’T ask me about the new Kanye or Daft Punk record). But at the end of the day, Kanye or whoever else we might hate on, is way ahead of us because they actually did something. They put out an album, video, tour, marketing idea, or whatever else. The took a risk, got feedback, and probably learned something important in the process – unlike those who aren’t producing anything.

It’s much better to be critiqued than be just a critic. Critics don’t sell albums or merch, go on tours, make magazine covers or get groupies for a reason (although you wouldn’t know that by the long list of hecklers from the cheap seats). Rather than complaining or lobbing insults at those who aren’t up to your standards, your energy is better spent making something and getting it out there, as opposed to telling everyone (including yourself) how much better your (unreleased) material is. Sure, the new Empire Of The Sun album might not be your favorite, but better to put out your own tracks and show them how it’s done versus critiquing in the abstract.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t listen to music with a discerning ear. That’s part of what shows you have insight and are paying attention (and it indicates that you’ve learned something about your art). But unapplied knowledge is just that – knowledge. At heart, we’ll all music critics. Just by your own record collection, you’ve made choices about what you value in music and probably what you aspire to. But in order to separate yourself from the armchair quarterbacks, you need to throw some passes in an actual game yourself.

People are much more likely to forgive your failures if you put out something great. In fact, most “failures” go unnoticed because people are looking for something amazing and they tend to ignore the rest. So don’t be afraid to let your experiments be just that. Better to always be producing something new than second-guessing yourself and worrying about critics (or being one yourself). Music critics can serve a very important role – I used to be one, and frankly, it was a great job. But not as good as being the lowliest artist. You probably couldn’t name 5 music journalists off the top of your head if you tried. Without the music to critique, all of them would be out of a job. Believe me when I say I’d rather gargle a box of rusty nails while tap dancing on a lava-soaked dance floor than listen to Kanye or whatever other (IMO) overrated artist, but just as important as what an artist did wrong, is what they did right. Sometimes you can learn just as much or more from your enemies as your friends (which is why I bit the the bullet and downloaded his Unholiness’, ahem, I mean Kanye’s new album). Being a critic is fun and easy (that’s why everyone has an opinion), but hardly as rewarding as doing something yourself. The real difficult job is making art that matters to you and others. That’s why rock stars get treated like, well, you know, rock stars. Better decide which side you’re going to be on.


How Can We Help? 6/20/13

Wanna get your DIY music promotions questions answered and promote your music?

Do you have questions about promoting your music or building a fanbase? Leave it in the comments and we promise to get back to you or even write a post featuring you that answers your question. If we think your question would benefit our readers we’ll post a YouTube video of your song on top of a post that answers your question. No matter what, you will get an answer this week as long as you leave an email address (so we can let you know when we answer your question) and a YouTube URL for your video.

All we ask in return is that if we answer your question, please help us spread the word about our book, Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The New Music Business.


More Ways To Find Blogs That Will Write About Your Music


The following is an excerpt from our book Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The New Music Business. To get a free excerpt or learn more, please head to this website. 

Yesterday, we wrote about using The Hype Machine to use to find blogs to write about your music (you want to read that article before you read this one), but they aren’t the only game in town to find blogs to write about you. The sources we liste below can also help you find blogs who will write about you.

MentionMention is a service much like Google Alerts. If you type similar groups names into Mention, it should give you blogs, Twitter handles and other places where you should be submitting your music, following and interacting with.

Other Blog Aggregators – Although Hype Machine is the most popular blog aggregator and covers most everything you’ll need, there are other good aggregators out there like Elbo.ws. Both of these sites have similar facilities for finding blogs who will write about you. While they all cover similar music, some of them aggregate blogs that the others don’t. If you find yourself having more time to pitch blogs, these services are a great way to find more.

Google Blog Searches – A little-known fact is that Google has a special blog search function. Google Blog Search is another place to find the artist and album of a similar artist and start going deep into the search results. This does take a while: You sometimes need to go back a few pages in the Google search to find usable results.

YouTube Statistics – If you click the bar graph below every YouTube video, you can see a list of the places the video has been embedded. If you go through your targeted musicians’ YouTube videos and click this button, you can often find some blogs, message boards and news sites that will post your video or cover your music.


Use The Hype Machine To Find Blogs That Will Write About Your Music

hype-machine-logo.jpg

The following is an excerpt from our book Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The New Music Business. To get a free excerpt or learn more, please head to this website. 

If you’re like me, you find The Hype Machine to be the greatest thing that ever happened for easily finding music by the acts you like. Aside from being able to easily find tracks by your favorite under-the-radar musicians, it also acts as a great way to find blogs that would potentially write about your music (provided that you’re in the genres covered on their site). Getting blogged about is one of the best ways to get into the good graces of the Internet elite and this is the chart that shows which groups are getting blogged about.

Head over to Hype Machine and the first thing you’ll see on the right hand side is a field to “search blogs.” In this field, you’re going to type a musician that has fans that would like your music. For example, let’s say you sound similar to Madeon (one of my favorite dance producers). Once you type in his name, you’ll be taken to a list of all the times Madeon has been blogged about.

In each example of the search results, there are two links. The small text in blue writing has the name of the blog that blogged about the song and at the end it says, “Posted ___ ago”. Both of these are links to a blog post that mentioned the musician you did a search for. The next thing to do is follow the links and then find the blogger’s contact information and approach them about writing about you. This may be tricky since, despite bloggers’ love of the Internet, they sometimes fail at web page design and make it difficult to find their contact information. Some blogs may have a SoundCloud dropbox, whereas others may have an email listed. Always submit to them in the way they prefer and take note of this when you add them to your contacts database.