Sure, there are plenty of big-time performers there (Dave Grohl, Snoop Lion, Paramore), but the artists we’re really interested in are the under-dogs, the emerging bands that DIY’ed their way into gigs and music festivals like SXSW.
This is the day-by-day diary of a few of our favorite bands, as told by the bands themselves via social media! Tweets, Instagram pictures and Vines… head out to our >> Storify page << to see them all in one place.
In this guest post, full-time DIY musician Ari Herstand gives you tips on how make a profit while touring. Ari has opened for artists such as Ben Folds, Cake, Joshua Radin, Matt Nathanson and Ron Pope. His songs have been featured on TV shows like One Tree Hill and various Showtime and MTV shows. His latest studio album debuted at #11 on iTunes singer/songwriter charts. He writes an independent music business advice blog, Ari’s Take.
I’ve played over 500 shows in 40 states. I’ve played every possible venue imaginable from arenas and theaters to living rooms and high schools. Every tour I go on is still a combination of all sized venues (well, not quite arenas as consistently as I’d like).
Once I quit working at Starbucks years ago, I made the decision that I would find a way to make a living with my skills and talents that didn’t include knowing the proper amount of foam on a caramel macchiatto. I hit the road and since then I have learned how to make every tour financially successful. Let me say that again. Every tour that I have ever done, after expenses, has been profitable.
It blows my mind that musicians tour and LOSE money. This is totally avoidable, but I hear many musicians just accept this as a reality of the road. Don’t. If you want to be a professional musician, you have to figure out how to actually make money with your music. +Book Your Own Tour: A How-To Guide
Follow these tips on the 8 basics of touring. If you can think of anything else, leave me a comment below!
Every show needs a purpose for the tour. Too many bands think that at every show the CEO of Atlantic Records’ brother will be in the house and he’ll make one phone call and turn them into superstars. That doesn’t happen. So once you accept that this is a business and it’s a slow grow and not a quick dash to play in front of “the right people,” it will change your mentality on the purpose of your tours. +Shows Sell, Events Sellout
The purpose of every show should either be (or a mix of):
a) To help fund the tour (and your lives)
b) To gain exposure and build a fanbase.
Every show I play I still put to this test. For the shows with the biggest amount of exposure (for merch sales), I’m willing to accept a smaller guarantee. The shows that won’t offer much for exposure, merch sales or career advancement, I need a much higher guarantee.
But don’t get into the trap of convincing yourself that every show you’ll sell hundreds in merch and DON’T take free shows from restaurants or friends of your parents promising a big crowd and “you can sell your merch.” This is a trap and it almost never is as worth it as you think it will be. +Our Tour Page Is Totally Full (of Empty Shows)
Play house concerts! These are some of my most profitable shows. If you’re a singer/songwriter it’s much easier. The promo is done by the host and most of the people that come (even just 20) buy lots of merch. Charge the host a guarantee of about $350 (but ask them to charge their guests $15 and if 24 people come they get a free concert). Every tour I include a few of these.
House concerts or living room concerts can be very profitable.
Once you have a tour made up of a healthy balance of (more) money shows and (less) exposure shows then you are ready to begin.
Who to bring on tour
Only bring people on the road who are absolutely necessary for your operation to work while still making a profit. If you can’t afford a sound guy at this stage, well, then don’t bring one. Even if they agree to do it for free, it’s not free. You’re gonna have to feed them, lodge them and once they see all the money coming in from the door or merch they’ll make it uncomfortable enough where you’ll get guilted into throwing them something.
Merch is your #1 income generator on the road. Believe it. Some shows you’ll make next to nothing from the door, but hopefully you’ll be able to leverage those in the house to buy some merch.
Make sure you always have someone manning your merch table from when the doors open to when people leave. If you can’t afford to bring a merch person on the road find a friend in that city (post status on Twitter and Facebook to request help) to run the table in exchange for free entrance to the show (or even a small % of sales). It’s worth it.
Especially if you’re on a bill with multiple bands or are playing for hours, most people won’t stay until the end of your set. If they like what they hear (even after one song), but have to take off early and they want your CD, if no one is at the merch table to sell it to them, you just lost a sale. Get a credit card swiper (like Square – it’s free). I nearly doubled my sales with this. +Double Your Income… No Really
Saving on gas
Gas can kill tours. Don’t tour in a larger vehicle than necessary and don’t pull a trailer unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. I know 5 piece bands that can fit all their gear and merch in the back of their van.
Or you can buy a super economical veggie oil bus and drive coast to coast on less than $100 like the rock band Blameshift:
The best way to save on gas is to make sure you’re not driving out of the way. No huge tour routing will ever be perfect, but keep the backtracking to a minimum (if ever).
Don’t get hotels until you’re making serious money. And even then try Priceline “name your own price” (not getting a kickback but I SHOULD) — I get $45 4 star hotels that way. It’s a nice little mid-tour perk to get off of the beer stained couch for a night. Invest in an air mattress and sleeping bag so you can keep your lodging portable and all you’ll require is floorspace.
You must (as a band) make a decision early on if you want this project to be just for fun or for profession. If everyone is on the same page that you want to be a professional outfit then you must act like it. +Double Your Income…No Really
Most venues will give you drink tickets. Don’t ever buy drinks at the bar you’re playing — it’s a waste of money and you don’t need it (BUT always tip your bartender on free drinks).
When you stop to fill up you don’t need the $2 bottle of water or soda. Those add up. Get a water bottle and fill that up.
Saving on food
If you’re out for awhile, go grocery shopping as a band. Buying in bulk obviously saves and if you bring a cooler along, you can spend more on ice and less on Subway.
The road is a mix of saving money and making money (as is life), but it’s magnified when you’re on tour. Always keep coming up with ways to make more money (merch combos, house shows, PLAY COLLEGES, better targeted promo to get more to show up). Don’t tour to just say you’re going on tour. Tour to grow your base WHILE making money.
If you’re still stuck and need more specific ways to get your tours to become even more profitable or want to embark on your big first tour, let’s Get Specific.
And if you have questions or want to share your touring experience, leave us a comment below!
Think you’re the next undiscovered worldwide rock star? Here’s your chance to find out. Hard Rock Cafe is searching for inspiring local bands to compete in Hard Rock Rising 2013, a high-stakes global battle of the bands competition.
Hard Rock Rising is presented by Hard Rock Café, so you know it’s legit. Additionally, the prize package is ridiculous: play a World Tour, make an album and video with Hard Rock Records, and win new gear valued at $10,000. Entering is FREE!
Here’s what Hey Monea!, winner of last year’s Hard Rock Rising, had to say before opening for Bruce Springsteen in London:
“We open the door of our trailer and John Fogerty is right outside being interviewed by a camera crew. There are literally five video cameras following us to the stage and photographers snapping pictures of us and I’m as excited as I’ve ever felt in my life. Wired. Butterflies. Everything. My brain wouldn’t shut off.”
Each band/artist may enter through no more than ONE Hard Rock location—there are 96 participating cafes worldwide!
You or one of your bandmates must live in the same country as that location.
Here’s how it works:
Phase 1: First round winners are determined by fan downloads on participating Hard Rock Facebook pages. One download equals one vote.
Phase 2: Top vote getters play in a series of live competitions and one winner from each location will be crowned by their peers. See locations below.
Phase 3: The 96 winners from Phase 2 will then battle it out in a global download contest on Facebook to gain the most votes.
Phase 4: The Top 25 highest vote-getters will be judged by a panel of celebrity judges and music industry VIPs to select the last band standing, along with two runner-ups.
The first place winner will experience the ultimate rock star treatment — a World Tour to experience cities including Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Chicago and Honolulu, the opportunity to make an album and video with Hard Rock Records, and an insane amount of band gear.
So what are you waiting for? The deadline for entry is January 21.
Here’s the list of participating Hard Rock Cafe locations. If you see a city that’s close to you, click on it and read the details and full rules. It won’t cost you a dime, so don’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime! Enter today!
Just participating in Hard Rock Calling could mean new fans, new friends and a lot of local publicity for you and your band. Here’s what some of last year’s participants had to say:
“This is a brilliant platform for amateur bands like us to get recognized. Thank you for the opportunity and we hope you will continue this competition for years to come.”
“Cheers to ReverbNation and to Hard Rock Cafe for putting on such a vast competition that puts local talent in the spotlight.”
“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to participate and perform in this competition. We would also like to again thank everyone involved from ReverbNation and Hard Rock for their help and support in enabling us to participate. More venues should support original music as this competition did. Allowing bands to showcase their own music and style is something we need more of!”
“It was an awesome and innovative experience for us. Looking forward to more associations like these. Helps us to know the true caliber of our music.”
It’s that time of year again. After collectively listening to hundreds of records and attending what seemed like another hundred concerts, we’ve asked the ReverbNation staffers to share their favorite albums and songs released in 2012. What we got in return is a very diverse selection with indie favorites, top 40 sweethearts, dubstep beat droppers, classic rockers, R&B breakout star, and others.
Take a look at our picks, and feel free to let us know who topped YOUR 2012 list in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter!
Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, The Weeknd, Father John Misty
In alphabetical order:
Andrew. billing| rookie dubstep dj | edm fan | customer satisfaction extraordinaire
Dubstep’s US popularity is clear, as American hip hop artists Cypress Hill released a collaborative EP with dubstep producer Rusko (above) in Summer 2012.
Honorable mentions: Thousand Foot Krutch – Be Somebody (Most likely to bring tears to my eyes); Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars – Safe & Sound (Best rendition); SONS – Doubt (Best re-release); Capital Lights – Coldfront Heatstroke (Best wordplay).
Glenn.product | “everyday i’m grafflin” is his motto | promises to beat jed in chili cook-off… one day soon
Josh Tillman’s (aka Father John Misty) ‘Fear Fun’ was released following Tillman’s departure from Fleet Foxes
Reverb Live NYC. Hailing from all across the east coast, this diverse group of business savvy music-lovers is a big supporter of live music and wanted to share with you some of the epic shows that topped their list this year.
Honorable mentions: Beach House – Bloom; Daniel Rossen – Silent Hour/Golden Mile; DIIV – Oshin; Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance; Tamaryn – Tender New Signs.
Now it’s your turn! We want to learn a little bit about you. What were your favorite albums and songs of 2012? Which Reverb employee has a similar music taste to yours? Leave your answers in the comments below!
With more than a few members of the ‘Nation finding themselves behind on their holiday shopping this year, we decided to lend our readers a hand with their wintertime rush by creating this list. For rankings, we polled trusted music authorities like this year’s high school talent show finalists and the host of the Bollywood Bonanza on the local college radio station.
Use it to build your own wish list, or share it with family, friends and fans to inspire gift ideas and spread the word about what you want this year! Happy holidays, and good hunting:
5. More Exposure – You’d think this wish is a no-brainer, but according to our data exposure barely beat the Amp Capo (honorable mention) out for the #5 spot on our list. Perhaps it’s so obvious that it was taken for granted, but when we tallied the final results, exposure was cemented as one of those classic gifts that keeps giving.
4. More Fans – Musicians across the board wanted more fans, citing the rush of hearing huge crowds singing their songs back to them and more money at the door as lead contributing factors. Fans may not be this year’s Tickle-Me Elmo, but just like presents and pumpkin pie, they’re sure to satisfy just about anyone this time of year.
3. Vantare Platinum Plus Tour Bus – Just like the pony you asked for every year as a child, the world’s most expensive tour bus really puts the ‘wish’ in this year’s wish list. Blowing up the blogosphere with its Inca marble, antique bronze, and pearlized Italian leather interior, this $2.5M tour bus will ensure you never want to stop touring. We hope you’ve been real good boys and girls this year…
2. Buzz – Elusive and mysterious, few musicians are able to obtain this heady mix of recognition & momentum. Buzz has the power to supercharge an artist’s career, but is difficult to create and even harder to maintain. Given its promotional power and its rarity, it’s no surprise buzz ranked near the top of our list, bested only by the most overwhelmingly cited wish…
1. ReverbNation Gift Cards – This year’s winner beat the competition handily for the #1 spot, and it’s easy to see why. A Promote It Gift Card from ReverbNation allows musicians to promote their music on top websites like MTV, Facebook & Pandora, driving exposure where people go to discover new music. Not only does Promote It help musicians get new fans from around the world, but sustained promotion builds buzz previously out of the reach of all but the most successful artists. ReverbNation’s Promote It Gift Cards start at just $10 and give artists everything they’re wishing for this holiday season! Except for the tour bus; but with promotion like this, 2013 just might be the year they can finally afford one.
Lucky for you, you can get this holiday season’s #1 gift for musicians right here! Whether you’re a fan or a musician, giving or receiving a gift card is simple:
You’ll be taken to your custom gift card purchase page. Simply copy the URL from your browser’s address bar and email the link to anyone buying you a gift this year.
If you’re a fan, find your favorite band’s ReverbNation profile page by entering their name in the search bar at the top of ReverbNation.com or navigating to their page directly. Click on the gift card ad in the right column to navigate to that artist’s custom gift card purchase page. There, just complete the form to customize your gift and schedule delivery.
This holiday season, treat a musician (or yourself!) to a gift that’s sure to please with Promote It Gift Cards from ReverbNation!
This guest post from Mark Knight explores ‘Customer Relationship Management’ (CRM) to show how the principles can help independent artists promote their music more effectively. As founder of Right Chord Music, a management and consultancy business, Mark calls upon his 12 years of experience working as a music marketing consultant to brands like Coca-Cola, Nokia & T-Mobile, plus his seven years as an artist manager for independent artists.
In the business world, a whole industry has been established around ‘customer relationship management’ or CRM. Fancy acronym, but what’s it really mean and how does it apply to you and your music career? In basic terms, CRM is a plan to understand and manage a brand’s relationship with customers. Using technology, this can get pretty complex, but really CRM efforts all stem from three goals:
Identify, attract and win new customers
Retain existing customers
Re-invigorate relationships with former customers
It doesn’t take a genius to realise there are clear parallels between the value of CRM for a brand or business and CRM for a band or artist. In order to have a successful music career (“business”) you need to have fans (“customers”). And those fans won’t come unless you work hard for it. Below are some details on just what I mean, but first I want you to keep in mind two widely accepted business principles:
Pareto’s 80:20 rule suggests80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.
Winning new business from existing customers is cheaper than winning new business from new customers.
Okay, that said, here is how a musician or a band can apply the 3 CRM goals to their music career to develop better relationships with their fans:
1. Identify, attract and win new fans and supporters
Most independent artists don’t have money to spend on ‘push’ advertising or PR to reach a mass audience. Your best chance of success lies in ‘pull’ marketing where you supply your fans with compelling content and they promote you to their networks. Your ultimate audience is not your ‘Friends;’ it’s the ‘Friends of your friends.’ If you can burst out of your network into each of theirs, your potential audience will suddenly rocket. So encourage and incentivise them to share your posts. Reverb Tip: Online tools like Band Profile on Facebook and Promote It have built-in abilities for social expansion.
Remember the second principle: It’s cheaper to win new business from existing customers, than win new business from new customers. So use your existing ‘Friends’ as advocates.
2. Successfully retain existing fans and supporters
On social media: Sometimes it’s important to remind yourself why you are growing a fanbase on Facebook or Twitter. Many bands seem to spend all their waking hours collecting new ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers’ but never interact with any of them.
Facebook uses a system called Edgerank to prioritise the news in your feed. If you don’t interact with you fans you’ll become invisible very quickly. So when a new ‘Like’ or ‘Follower’ arrives, you have work to do. This is important: social media quantity should always go hand in hand with quality. Without engagement those ‘Likes’ quickly become meaningless.
With mailing lists: Mailing lists are another key tool for retaining fans, but only if you use them in a smart way. Lazy mail-outs containing a summary of old news are pointless. Set rules for your mail-outs: “I will only ever contact fans when I can reward them, or offer them something exclusive.” “I will never just repeat news I’ve posted on Facebook.” Reverb Tip: The tool FanReach has made it very easy for emerging artists to grow their fanbase through newsletters. Check it out >>
Always be critical of the communication you send. If it doesn’t genuinely interest or excite you, why would anyone else care? You don’t build relationships by spamming people.
Finally, don’t forget to ‘Surprise’ & ‘Delight’ your fans; it’s a proven brand tactic to retain interest. How about you surprise the next three fans that contact you on Twitter with a free t-shirt or free remix?
Also, you should be able to personally name your biggest fans. Who are the people that engage with you the most on Facebook? Who are the people that come to all of your shows? Who buys your music? By identifying these advocates you can start to create tailored rewards to encourage continued support. You could offer exclusive previews for a select group of top fans.
3. Reinvigorate relationships with former fans and supporters
Make full use of the analytics provided to you by Facebook and YouTube. If you don’t already know, take time to find out (learn more about Facebook Insights and YouTube Analytics):
Do like Capt. Picard: engage.
Find out which 10 Facebook posts had:
The greatest ‘Reach’ in the past three months
The most ‘Engaged Users’
Were the ‘Most talked about’
The highest levels of ‘Virality’
What are your most engaging (based on % of video watched) videos on YouTube?
Next, note down the commonalities to identify what an engaging post looks like. E.g.,
Posted on a Monday morning
Personal, warm friendly style
Contain a question
Include a good quality photo
Contains a video
Once you understand the rules of engagement you can repeat the trick, and hopefully win back some of the people who have switched off in response to your less engaging posts.
Bonus tip: Get organised.
Create a basic Excel database, to collect and manage your relationships. Start with a separate tab for:
Then whenever you come across a new contact, add their key details: Name, Company, Job Title, Email, Phone.
These 3 additional details take this from being a flat database into an active, useful CRM tool:
When: Date last contacted
Why: Reason for last contact
What: Outcome of last contact
Keeping a track of when, why and what ensures you can tailor your response and follow up in the most appropriate way, only sharing information which is relevant to them.
Don’t be afraid to follow up. If someone really has no interest they will tell you so. Don’t assume a non-reply is a no; it is often just a sign they are busy or disorganized. As a blogger I welcome reminders “Have you had a chance to check out our track yet?” Often a reminder will be enough to guarantee you a review (if the music is great).
A little thought and planning can really help improve the effectiveness of your fan communication, so don’t be in a rush to promote until you are ready. How about you? Have you tried any of these goals before? Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below.
You’ve finally decided to finish your album. Congratulations! This is a monumental step in your career. Only problem, you’ve got more creativity than money. Solution? Crowdfund your music! Sites like Kickstarter, PledgeMusic and IndieGoGo are popular amongst musicians.
So then you make a video, come up with prizes, send it out and sit anxiously at the computer waiting for donations from your fans to pour in. Problem is, they don’t. Day after day, you promote on your social media and even send a few messages to your email list (since they haven’t heard from you in a while, they are sure to support, right?), but nothing. What happened? Why didn’t your fans help you out? Why didn’t yours make it when you’ve heard people making thousands of dollars in their campaigns? Truth be told, it takes time and dedication, but more importantly, strategic planning. To get you started, here are 5 key tips to get the money flowing in your crowdfunding campaign:
1. Build a dedicated fanbase beforehand
I want you to be real with me: every time you speak to your fans via social media or your newsletter, is your dialogue consistently, “Retweet this,” “Buy this,” “Come to my show,” “Support me here,”? Me, me, me.
Think about it, are you motivated to support anyone that constantly talks this way? No one likes a selfish person.
However, if you’ve built an awesome, nurturing relationship with your fans even when you don’t have something to promote, they will be thrilled to support you when you do. The key ingredient to a successful crowdfunding campaign is having a dedicated crop of fans that will truly promote anything you’re doing — we’ve seen that happen in Amanda Palmer’s and Murder By Death’s projects. But if you think you can start building your mailing list the day before you launch your project, you’re wrong.
You need to build your list months or even YEARS before your campaign can really take off! With a dedicated fanbase, you can create a buzz about your upcoming project and have a better chance of making it go viral. It’s what you would do before releasing an album, isn’t it?
Tip: Your email sign-up should be front and center on your website, “above the fold” — meaning, at the top of the site so someone doesn’t have to scroll down to see it. Add your website and sign-up links to all social media and make sure you always have your mailing-list at every show. Reverb Tip: Place your customized fan collector widgets on your site and blog.
2. Explain with your heart
This is your life, your art, your passion, your everything! Do your fans know this? Have you explained how much this means to you and the greater mission you have for your music? Do people know what your message is behind this new material?
People are more motivated to support causes that have a greater mission. It’s important to connect with your fans because they will get behind your project when they see the REAL you.
Tip: Listen to your music and start to ask yourself why. Why do I want this? What does this music mean to me? Why do people need to hear this music? What is my message? Connect to your passion and others will do the same. Bonus Tip: Explain this point in a stellar high-quality video.
Amanda Palmer reached 1,192% of her Kickstarter campaign goal earlier this year. In her video she said that this project is proof that “major-label refugees” can go outside of the label system to fund their work.
3. Arm your tribe
Did you make it easy for your backers to share your campaign? Did you compose easy social media posts for them or provide shortened links to your campaign?
Your fans get a million bits of info thrown at them a day — as much as they love your stuff, I hate to break it to you, they love other people’s stuff too.
Tip: Make your campaign easily shareable by creating tweets, Facebook posts, links, etc. and attach them to your campaign and all your auto responders. Not only will your fan base grow, but so will your contributions.
4. Partner with a pro
Have you looked at the successful campaigns of other artists to see what THEY did? Have you reached out to anyone with successful campaigns for feedback on yours, asked them to be a part of your video or help spread the word?
Just like you offer gifts to your fans, approach a successful campaigner and exchange something valuable.
Tip: Do a collab, feature others in your video, or have them promote your campaign to their list in exchange to promote THEIR music to your audience. When you partner, everyone wins!
5. Connect with media mavens or product pushers
Let’s talk about promotion. Did you offer influential bloggers or websites the exclusive to cover your campaign? Did you try to get major sponsors to feature their products in your campaign rewards in exchange for promotion? You’re a creative person right?
Take that good right-brained resource and get to work on seeing what YOU can offer influencers for their support!
Tip: Start by taking a look at what’s unique about your campaign, how can you position it as something that would be attractive to an influencer? Who are your fans? What’s your demographic? Think what’s juicy about your goods and promote it!
Although creating a campaign can be a lot of work, if you get creative, do a little research, and have a plan, it will be worth it in the end when you have the money for your project and more to invest in your career! Anything worth having is worth working for. Dont forget this: there is a human behind every donation. Treat your audience with value and you’ll get even more in return. Ok, get out there and start planning.
Do you have extra tips on crowdfunding? We’d love to hear it! Please share them in the comments below!
Jo-Ná A. Williams, Esq. can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter. For a FREE copy of her guide “Blueprint: The Insider’s Guide to Empowering Your Career as an Artist and Ditching your 9-5 for Good” Sign up here: http://eepurl.com/iOqe1.
(Legal stuff: this article is for information purposes only. It does NOT replace the advice administered by a licensed attorney in YOUR state based on your specific situation. I know you wouldn’t assume I was your lawyer cause your mama “didn’t raise no fool.” But mine didn’t either, hence the disclaimer!)