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As the economy soured, many traditional and often trusted methods of raising money for ventures went south along with it. This was especially true for those in the music industry. Subsequently, the method known as crowdfunding came about. Before we go further, for those not in the know we will explain what crowdfunding is. And then we’ll go into how artists and musicians can utilize it to their advantage.
Crowdfunding is basically a collaboration of various individuals or groups, usually by way of the internet, in which people get together and pool resources – almost always in a financial manner – to support either a cause or venture. That could be by way of aid for people affected by disaster, someone starting up a business or in this case, someone looking to make it in the music industry.
The music business can be extremely brutal for those first starting out. Heck, even some established artists have had to resort to certain measures after being cut or terminated by their current labels. But thanks to the infinite reach of the internet a budding musician has a much better chance of receiving crowdfunding than ever before. There are even musician networks out there with the express purpose of helping budding artists out by way of crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding is achieved by a number of methods. The aforementioned musician networks, social media like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to name a few are channels through which crowdfunding has been achieved. However, the musician or artist receiving the funding has to carry through on their end to make it worthwhile. This is especially important because there may be more than one occasion when they are in need of crowdfunding.
At the same time, when you are soliciting pledges you have to strike a balance between asking for more in monetary value than you are delivering, and not going so low as to make it almost not worth your while. It is essential that artists and musicians seeking crowdfunding have a clearly planned budget. While it is true that you don’t want to gouge your investors and donors, you also don’t want to be left holding the bag if you fall short of your crowdfunding goals.
And this part cannot be overemphasized. You must give as good as you get to your crowdfunding participants. One thing is for sure though; if you are just starting out and finding yourself struggling with your budding music career, then by all means consider crowdfunding. It may provide just the solution you need to get yourself up and running in the industry.
Ever since Tim Ferris published his book “The 4-Hour Work Week”, it has been setting a blaze throughout the working world. I’ve read the book myself and find it fantastic! Of course, my search is to find ways for the musician (freelancer/entrepreneur from the get-go) to use the principles of the 4-hour work week.
Here are a few articles that will help you maximize your time when you’re NOT playing music in order for you to have more time to play music and enjoy life.
When you first begin your business it is important to have a record label marketing plan. This will keep you focused and on task. Many new businesses especially musicians and artists start without a plan. This is setting you up for failure and is one of the biggest reasons for the high failure rate of start up businesses. An agenda will help you get organized and take each action one step at a time. Once you are organized you can set goals for your business and see which promotional methods are working best for you.
Try to test these methods and use as many as possible for the best results.
Record Label Marketing Plan: Contact any friends and acquaintances that need entertainment, Weddings are a big draw, personal parties a close second. When you first start out you will need to make yourself known. You can start small with discount gigs to friends and acquaintances. In this way you will be making yourself and your band popular throughout the local area. Try to get some testimonials from happy clients. Next try for the local clubs. These will be one night stands at first and then as you become well known you can get longer contracts.
Record Label Marketing Plan: Place an ad in your local paper. This should be a quarter page, if you can afford it, so that you can get noticed. You will be able to get some gigs from private parties like this. Sometimes local clubs can also hire you like this. Look for wanted ads in the newspaper to get more work.
Create your own website. Now it is time to have an online presence. This will help you advertise cheaply and effectively. Website promotions will help you to get local work and sell your recordings. You can allow downloads of a couple of your most popular works to stimulate buying.
Record label marketing plan: Get some recording contracts. This is the old fashioned way to spring board your music career into fame and fortune. It still works and is the way to go if you want success. At this stage you might want to hire a promotions manager. They will guide you through contract signing and hiring legal help if needs be. They will also go out and get contracts for you. Now you will be on your way to success in your music career.
A record label is basically a brand name connecting musicians to customers. Ideally, the label establishes a good enough reputation that when people see an artist or band signed by that particular label, they know it’s going to be a track they’ll enjoy, and they buy the product without a second thought (and never regret it). If you want to start an independent record label, however, having good taste in music is not enough; you need to be a good businessperson.
Think ahead. Although many successful record labels started off with someone winging it, there are many that fail for that very same reason: poor planning.Creating a record label is a business and a full time job. Consider the following before you start one:
Cash flow. Do you have enough money to pay for manufacturing? What about promotional materials? It’ll be a while before you get any money back from records selling (if they sell at all). You might need a grant or a loan to hold you over. Some labels raise extra funds by putting on club nights or gigs. It’s recommended that you don’t quit your day job.
Business plan. Independent record labels can take off without a business plan, but you’ll need one eventually, so why not write one now, when it’ll benefit your business the most? You’ll definitely need one if you want to apply for grants or loans, and it’s a good idea to have one if you ask people to invest in your business.
Licenses and forms. Think about how you want to structure your business: sole proprietorship? partnership? corporation? Get a business license and file appropriate tax forms. Register with any relevant organizations (e.g. Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society). You may also need a retail license if you’re selling records directly to the public.
If you decide to work with a partner or partners, ideally you will want to work with people you can rely on, trust, share and receive information with and most importantly people you can get along with. Working with friends is great but remember and remind them it has to be as professional and timely as possible, especially in the beginning stages because this is where a company can fall apart and end altogether. Having fun is always great for the job setting but there has to be a line in the sand which all parties cannot cross.
Office space. You can get by with just a post office box and a business phone number, or you could establish a complete office, if you have the funds. You can build your own studio or pay for studio time somewhere else.
Choose a name. Brainstorm 5-10 good names that you feel will fit your business. You need to tell people who you are and the type of music you produce. In short your business name should say it all. The reason for choosing a number of names for your record label is that if one is taken you can still fall back on the others and not have to waste time rethinking your names.
Go to a domain name registry and see if any if these names are already taken. Try for .com and .net as these are the most popular and visitors will be familiar with them. This quick check will let you know if anyone has the names already online and will help you with your ultimate choice.
Consult local government (the State Registrar in the US) to check if any offline businesses have these names. This will ensure that you are the sole user and nobody can infringe on your rights. It also stops you from any unpleasant lawsuits later on if people contend your rights to use a business name.
Select one unique name. Choose the best name from among the ones that you are left with. Remember it needs to be one that is appropriate for your business and music. Register a domain name for your upcoming website. It is important to do this quickly before it gets taken by someone else. When you register your domain name, always get both .com and .net so that nobody can have a similar name to you and leech off your marketing efforts.
Register the name with the appropriate authorities. This will make sure that this is exclusively your own business name and will protect your rights. You may need to file for a DBA (doing business as) license so you can identify with your label’s name when conducting business (accepting and making payments, for example).
Design a logo. You might also want to print stickers, posters, stationary, business cards, etc.
Corner your market. Choose and study your genre. Sit down, either alone or with your partner(s) and think of the style(s) you want your record label to be. It would be best if you picked a style that you are very familiar with and have extensive knowledge about. Musicians don’t like being forced into a box, but choosing and sticking with a particular genre helps a record label know their market (who buys that genre) and build contacts with people who deal with that genre (record shop owners, DJs, journalists, etc.). Research your genre, and find out what it’s missing. Observe and predict trends. You need to fill a niche. Talk to local promoters, studio owners, music shops, distributors, journalists, and anyone who can offer insight about what’s hot and what’s not. Who is your target audience? How old are they? What are they buying? This is also good research for a business plan.
Find talent. Scour the local band scene and find bands who you think will earn your label a good reputation in your genre. You can’t compete with the big record labels, so you want to go for interesting records that slip under their radar but will be a hit with your specific market. After you find a band you feel is a great fit for your label, talk with the band or the band manager and offer a contract signing them to your label. The key word here is “sign”. That means you should have a contract for every artist, drawn up by a qualified lawyer. If a track or an artist gets big and you don’t have a contract, things can turn ugly, and your label might get the short end of the stick. Some labels don’t do contracts if there are one or two singles at stake, but insist on contracts when there’s an album deal on the table. 
Record in a studio. If the artist doesn’t have a recording and you don’t have a studio, shop around. Look for an engineer who has experience in your genre and an owner you can work with. You might be paying for some or all of the studio time. Ask about lower rates if you block book time for two or three projects. It’s a good idea to have a producer there (you or a musician you trust) to make sure everything turns out well (and your money isn’t wasted). It can cost $150+/hour. If you pay for a portion or all of the recording, then you can withhold earnings from the band until you make back all the money you put into the recording, and you have more of a say in how the album sounds. This needs to go in the contract, though.
Promote the music. Your goal here is to do everything you can to chart locally. Make enough copies of the music to promote it as follows:
Contact local college radio stations – push to get your music played.
Send recordings to independent magazine and newspapers – hope for favorable reviews.
Put on great performances. The members of the audience will go home and tell their friends about your fabulous show. Print your website address on the program so that you can attract your fans to the website and they will buy more. Sell copes at the show. Make note of the songs that your live audience love and record them into a DVD or album of your greatest hits. Sell them from your website and allow a sample to be downloaded from your site.
Make use of MySpace and YouTube to promote the music on a larger scale.
Give away free tickets to your upcoming concert.
You can even pitch the music for televisions shows, commercials, cell phones, video games, but get legal advice before licensing the music.
Press the product. Get the recordings mastered before sending them to a manufacturer, if at all possible. An experienced mastering engineer will know how to make the final product sound like an album rather than a collection of songs, making it more commercially viable. Ask around. Get quotes. The more copies you make, the lower the cost per copy. When choosing packaging, think about how retailers will display them. Ask distributors for advice.
In the US, each release will need a catalog number (usually a 3 letter abbreviation followed by the numbers, i.e. CJK415) and a universal product code (the barcode on the back of the product) to be seriously considered by distributors.
Sell the music to distributors. To get as much product on retail shelves as possible, you’ll need to convince distributors to help.
They will want to see that you’ve established some success on your own (charting locally, selling product on consignment, live shows, mail order and other direct sales methods) before they even consider carrying your music. Here are some questions you will want to have answers for before you even contact a distributor:
Has the artist had any success with established mainstream labels?
Does the artist have a following, if so, how well known are they?
If the artist is unknown, what specific promotion ideas does the label have?
Are there any well known “guest” musicians on the recording?
Does the recording, and artwork meet the standards of the musical genre?
Is there any current airplay on commercial or non-commercial radio?
Will there be independent promotion on the release to retail and to radio?
Has the artist hired a publicist, and/or what is the publicity campaign?
Will the artist be touring in support of their release, and is there a schedule?
Does the label have the financial resources to provide “co-op” advertising, in which the record label and retailer split the cost of media ads?
Does the label have the financial resources to press additional product?
Does the label have a salable “back catalog” of proven sellers?
How much product from the label is already out in the stores?
Does the label have other distributors selling the same product?
What are the next releases from the label, and when are they coming out?
How are sales/downloads of the artist’s release doing on the Internet, and such sites as iTunes.com, cdbaby.com, MySpace.com, Tunecore.com, Ubetoo.com and the artist or band’s own website?
Product is sold to distributors for about 50% of the list price, and is accepted on a negotiable billing schedule of 60 – 120 days per invoice. The label usually pays for shipping charges. Most national distributors require that they are the only distributor of a particular product. You might also be required to pay for advertising on the distributor’s monthly newsletters, and/or update sheets, as well as catalogs (costs subtracted from invoice).
You’ll also need to give them a negotiated number of free copies for promotional purposes, along with “Distributor One Sheets” (fact sheets with promotion and marketing plans and price information) and “P.O.P.”s (Point of Purchase) items, like posters, flyers, cardboard standups etc., for in-store display.
Distributor One Sheets should have the following information on a single sheet: label’s logo and contact information, artist name/logo, catalog # and UPC code (barcode), list price (i.e. $15.98) of each available format, release date (to radio), street date (for retailers, if different from release date), brief artist background description, selling points (discounts, marketing, and promotion plans).
All promotional product need to have the artwork punched, clipped, or drilled” to make sure that they aren’t returned to the distributor as “cleans” (retail product).
Keep your fingers crossed. In the music industry, it’s often hit or miss. Hopefully, the music will connect with your market and sales will take off, but some of your music, sooner or later, will bomb. Try to make it so that the big successes cover the losses, with extra left over to pay for operating expenses (and your own paycheck, so you can keep doing what you love without starving).
If the artists has had success in a particular market already, you can send the recording to distributors before you send it to radio station so that people can buy the records once they hear the music.
Some labels double as the artists’ management.
As you get better known you may start touring the country and even abroad. Just one or two albums can skyrocket you to success. However, never rest on your laurels as your competition is never far behind. It will not take them long to start butchering your work. Keep one step ahead of them by protecting your rights and finding new, unique talent. In this way you will keep a hold on the market.
Money is the biggest issue of any business so make sure you have figured out your money situation.
Be prepared for long hours.
Always set money aside for marketing and promotion.
Establish a particular “sound”, jingle or effect in your recordings, this may sound obvious but it keeps fans listening over and over, whether it be an artist or genre. (think of the auto-tune progression)
Digital recording promises to be the technology which helps us to get rid of the tiresome work of recording long conversations/interviews on tapes and to no longer be burdened with boxes and boxes of 90-minute tapes. Now you can record interviews right onto your computer or your laptop. You can also process our interview recordings/conversations digitally, by adding effects, mixing, and so on, plus edit to literally dozens of “generations” without any loss of quality.
Get a telephone-recording unit, a computer (PC) equipped with a sound card and an audio-editing program, such as FlexiMusic, Goldwave, or Audacity.
Connect your phone to your computer. Plug one end of the phone line into the recording control device and the other end to the telephone. Plug the jack into your computer’s sound card on the back of the computer. Your hardware is now ready to carry out your recordings.
Install your software program that records and saves your digital audio recording. There is a lot of editing software available in the market which fulfills all the requirements for effective recording. You can choose any program of your choice. FlexiMusic Wave Editor is economic shareware and user- friendly software. It is free to use as a trial version. If desired, this can be purchased at an affordable price of $20. After downloading and installing FlexiMusic Wave Editor, you have to adjust the settings to get into your work.
Run the FlexiMusic Wave Editor; Click the File menu, to choose New. A dialog box (create new wave file) will open where you can select the sample rate, channels (stereo & mono) and the bit rate. You can choose the standard values such as sample rate (44100), channels (stereo) and bit rate (16 bit). Then click OK to set these standard values.
Under the Tools menu, choose Record option or use the Record tool button (red disc), to Open the Record Audio dialog box, this will pop up out to the FlexiMusic Wave Editor- Record Audio Window.
From the Recording window, select the source of your audio signal and set the volume for recording.
Windows Volume & Play Controls: On clicking the Recording Source and Volume button, this will open up to the Windows Operating System recording control box. Here you can select the proper channel that is, the means through which you hear the audio such as Stereo mix / CD / Line in / Mixer / Aux / Microphone / Wave / or any other. Now click the Playing devices and volume button to adjust the output play volume of each channel separately.
If the recording is through phone, a dial tone should be heard. Prior to an interview, it is advisable to check the line and your recording program to make sure that everything is set right. Click the Start button on the Record Audio Window.
Adjust volume levels to avoid distortion. You can observe the recording volume going up and down in the vertical white bars that which indicates the Recording Volume level. If you see the color in the bar constantly hitting the top, it indicates to reduce the volume if not your audio will be distorted. If you see the volume levels are too low – moving only at the bottom, then you will need to increase the volume. Simultaneously, you can watch the recording time too.
When your recording is completed, go back to FlexiMusic Wave Editor- Record Audio Window, click the Stop Recording button. At any moment if you need to pause your recording, you can use “Pause” button. Once the recording is completed, click the Stop Recording button. If you are sure that your recordings are perfect, click on the “Done” button to finish the recording.
Save your recordings. Click the File menu and choose Save. This will allow you to put the recorded file in a specific folder. Type the file name in the box against File Name. Consider using a name that which is much easier for you to figure out where the file is. Next, choose a format in which you want your recordings to be such as, Mp3, WMA, Snd, Raw, Au. Use mp3 or WMA files to save space on your hard drive while retaining reasonably good quality and for transmitting your work over the Internet. This also saves lot of time in loading, processing, and converting your audio files.
MP3 Instructions: To open, edit, and save as an Mp3 file you will need to install a separate command line Mp3 encoder/decoder. You can use LameWin32 encoder.
WMA Instructions: To export to a .WMA file, you need to install a separate command line. You can use Windows Media 8 Encoding Utility (it is a WMA command line encoder).
Play back the file in FlexiMusic, or with any audio program, such as Windows Media Player or Winamp, and transcribe the recording if necessary.
Avoid background noise…it’s all around us.
Choose the best sampling settings; when you work with sound on computers, you need to change it to a digital form. Aim for a sampling rate of 44100 Hz, because the more samplings the computer records, the better the sound.
Make sure that the person who faces the interview is well informed that the conversations are being taped because it is offensive to tape the conversation without the knowledge of others.