​Progressing, Taking to the Next Level

If you look back and read some of our previous posts, we mention how it’s so important to determine your goal. While this is the first step, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what the next step is, the one after that, and so on.

The path varies immensely from artist to artist, but it should always be one that is growing and expanding, rather than staying stagnant or falling behind.

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After you’ve been writing, playing shows, releasing your music, touring a bit, building online and building a fanbase, it is also super important to stop at times to asses which goals you’ve met and the progress that’s been made. This will help you figure out the next step. Just because you made one main goal, doesn’t mean you can’t consistently make new ones! And doing so will only help you achieve more of them.

One of the most challenging things for artists or bands is to stop and see things from an outside perspective. To be able to observe yourself and your product constructively is a very valuable skill. This needs to be done in order to make changes and to asses what’s working and what’s not. It’s also important to asses that everyone (if in a band) is on the same page with goals - that way the band can move forward as a unit.

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If you begin to realize certain songs aren’t going over with your crowds, you’re not seeing any growth online or you feel a lack in enthusiasm from your band mates, maybe it’s time to look at what needs to change for everyone to feel re-inspired again. Some bands change their look with each album cycle, some change genres even, and some just change their haircuts - either way it’s about establishing something new and fresh that keeps yourself and others interested.

Sometimes putting yourself in front of different crowds can re-inspire you or take your music to the next level. Try playing a venue that is out of your comfort zone, put together a new type of live show or relating more to your audience between songs. Utilize technology and go “live” on a social platform and get feedback on new songs. Take a look at social media numbers & seeing who and what fans are actually coming to shows, returning and engaging with you. Also, maybe asses whether or not you’re taking enough risks - send out some music to some industry folks (Management, booking agents, labels etc.) if that’s a direction you want to go in. Whatever it is - in order to keep growing and achieving your goals, you are going to need to push your comfort zone and challenge yourself!

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Tips:

⁃Try writing a song about something entirely new, or on an instrument you’re not familiar with to get new sounds.

-Try writing one song a week if you really want to up your writing skills.

⁃Don’t stray away from taking a moment to look at things and assess where you’re at - it may be hard in the moment, but in the long run you’ll be glad you did.

⁃If you feel a lull or a feeling of boredom, it may be because it’s time for the next challenge and it’s time to change things up a bit. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new sounds or collaborate with other people. It could actually help push you along further than you’d imagine.

⁃Take polls - ask your audience their thoughts on their favorite songs or shows of yours, see what resonates and why they connect with what they do - then focus more on those aspects of your music and brand.

⁃Writing down your visions helps make them a reality.

⁃Reach out to some dream venues of yours or a favorite touring act that’s coming to town that you want to open for - pitch to the booker why you should open and see what happens.

⁃Make sure your online content is strong and engaging, and that you demonstrate a positive outlook and vibe with your posts, it will bring more positivity.

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Merch (physical and digital)

Before you even consider going on the road touring, you might want to consider asking yourself who are you and what is your product? Aside from your amazing live show, what are you supporting? What is the product you’re selling? If you want to expand your fanbase and your connection to them -  both show goers and fans on social media, you will want to have something to sell that they can buy. Once you start touring it’s going to be a MUST - especially because selling your merch product will help pay and sustain your life on the road. Your merch is so important!

Merch is the music recorded onto CDs, vinyl, or cassettes that represent your brand. It’s download cards, t-shirts with your band or name, buttons, stickers and other thoughtful items with your art and logo. Things that someone who enjoys your music would want to purchase and bring home with them. At shows there will usually always (with the exception of some benefit shows) be a spot for you to sell your merch. If there isn’t, bring a table and make your own! Or at the venue ask someone who works there where you can set up your merch.

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When it comes to creating merch, think about what would make the most sense for your band to sell. Do you have songs and have they been recorded? Putting them into a physical form would probably generate sales! Along with having your music easily accessible for sale in the digital form online (via digital distribution that can be released through Tunecore or CDBaby or http://Bandcamp.com for example). Shirts are another important part of merch displays as people love wearing them and buying new ones. Sometimes even if a person doesn’t know your music but the design is cool and it translates to them, they will buy it! If you have a band logo or image that represents your music, or even a saying, or a drawing, consider putting this on your product. You can screenprint, find local shirt printing companies, or even paint your own that you can sell (suggested price is somewhere between $10 and $20). You can even look into wholesale shirt companies to buy them in bulk at a cheaper price per unit.

*tip: the fashion / merchandise districts in cities often have wholesale t-shirt businesses. They might even work with local screen printers too, that they can put you intouch! Even consider going to thrift stores & getting cheap one-off tees & printing on them.

Think of some clever items that you could sell that wouldn’t be necessarily expected. Sometimes this can generate a lot of interest from people stopping by your merch table. Think: necklaces, bracelets, lighters, scarves, bigger buttons, patches, bags, sunglasses, hats, one of kind jackets etc.

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*Tip: It is also helpful to have some form of merch that everyone can grab for free - in most cases this is either a sticker or a small button. These items don’t cost too much money to make, and everyone loves something free.

Once you’ve got a few physical merch items to sell, consider making an online merch store so people can order products online and have them shipped when there not able to make it to your shows. This is not difficult to set up!

*Tip: Squarespace.com offers great sites that you can customize and add a commerce section to. Facebook also offers a section on Music Pages and there are also a lot of other independent companies where you can sell merch. Once you have a site displaying your products, making posts about your online store can generate more sales and interest. Making one of kind or limited edition merch items can also get people excited to buy something that is unique and rare!

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Helpful Tips:

-cost of a one color design t-shirt run of 32-40 shirts could cost you between $250-300. Sometimes there’s an additional screen fee for t-shirts added in the cost or on top of costs usually running $15-30

-cost of vinyl could run 200 LPs for close to $2000 & cost of 100 tapes could cost close to $200

-Some suggested for sale pricing (depending on design & cost to make): Buttons ($1-$5), Stickers (free or $1-5), CDS ($5-15), Tapes ($5-10), Vinyl ($20-30), 7” ($5-10), One of kind items $25-100 (like a jacket or bag), patches ($1-5)

⁃Keep your merch in line with your image, colors, and sound

⁃Keep an inventory of your merch so you know what you have and if you’ll need more

⁃Make note of the most popular items, and restock once it gets low

⁃When you’re setting up merch at a show, keep in mind other bands have merch too, so don’t take up all the space!

⁃Don’t be afraid to push your merch - at the end of the day, merch is what fuels and funds a lot of bands

⁃Don’t always go the cheapest way out if you don’t have to - invest in quality shirts and items, and people will be more likely interested

⁃Charge more than what it costs you to make the merch

⁃Keep the merch organized and know where everything is, where each size shirt is, so it makes selling quicker and easier

⁃Don’t leave vinyl in a hot car! They WILL warp

⁃If your vinyl does warp, consider making arts and crafts with it that you can sell (clocks, bowls, hats, be creative!)

http://www.printrunner.com & http://www.stickerguy.com are great and cheap for quality stickers in bulk of various sizes and shapes

-http://www.halfpricebuttons.com offers great custom button

-http://www.hollywooddisc.com offers great pricing on CD manufacturing

-http://www.rainborecords.com for vinyl

-Bringing your own lights or lamps for your merch display is always a good idea! (wireless is always easier)

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Intro to Imaging (on stage & off)

In this day and age of music, things are constantly evolving and moving fast. It’s happening so quick that it can be hard to catch up with social media sites and all the new music avenues constantly popping up. It can be overwhelming to some artists, especially for those who are just comfortable being songwriters that would rather perform than brand and market themselves. Either way you can’t afford to just get up on stage and play your song. You have to give people an experience—you can’t afford to be shy about your music or your message - you have to get it out there and stick out of the crowd!

Artists today have to create their own path and have a very clear vision. One must re-invent themselves constantly in order to keep up. As hard and as challenging as the world of music can seem, it can also be looked at positively to those who adapt and move with it like a chameleon. It’s an opportunity to make your own career whatever direction you want and find your own nitch. 

Your perspective is important. It is helpful for one to look at his or her art as a “brand.” Although things are not how they were in the 60’s, 90’s, or even ten years ago, one thing has stayed the same: people still go to live shows. Live music will never go away! With the pressure of these new times, artists and bands should be creative because they have to be more than just a band or artist playing their instruments. Be conscious of how you’re presenting yourself on stage, off stage and online. Pictures, content and activity are important as they help with momentum. Keep the engagement with your crowd and audience as it is a necessity!

When it comes time to play live, make sure that your band looks like a band! Be yourself, but put some extra time and care into how you present yourself. Audiences want to connect with you so please show you care. If you’re performing later on in the night you want to make sure that the crowd sticks around to see you.

When it comes time to do photo shoots or posts, keep your goals in mind. Think about the moment someone hears your song… what might they envision you to look like? If they see you at a club at your merch table before your show, what might they imagine your music to sound like?

Live Show Tips

- Put thought into what you’re wearing and have fun with it! Don’t just wear your everyday clothes. Set yourself apart.

- Make eye contact and open up in an authentic way (this may take time).

- Acknowledge the audience, say hello! You don’t have to do it after every song but at least twice during your set - let them know that you see them.

Press Photos / Video Tips

- No matter what genre, in photoshoots try to do at least one photo where you make direct eye contact.

- Make sure the camera you are using takes good, clear photos! No one wants to see a blurry press shot!

- If you’re a new artist or band make sure you’re featured or present in the content so people can connect. Of course there’s exceptions... if you wear masks or if it’s an animation, etc.

- If you come up with a particular way you or your bandmates dress that is signature to you and your music, you may want make sure it’s always carried over to your videos & photos.

In conclusion: By putting care into how you present yourself and by wearing your art just as much as you sing it, people will want to stick around and experience it. When your music and your look go hand in hand it is easy for an audience to instantly connect with you. Think about the artists you’re inspired by… how do they look and present themselves? How does their sound match their look? Be yourself, be clear and simple, and the right people will resonate with you!

(photo credit: Concretegrey & Carissa Johnson)     

(photo credit: Concretegrey & Carissa Johnson)