Representing the artist that would otherwise not have a voice

Category: Music Marketing

Taylor Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me Do’: A Complete Timeline

Last week was a big one for Taylor Swift. From swiping her social media accounts clean on Aug. 18 to shattering records across the board with her newest single “Look What You Made Me Do,” the evolving pop star’s road to Reputation has been a mix of suspense, excitement, and controversy.

With such a jam-packed 10-day period for one superstar — and the potential for another No. 1 Taylor Swift hit — Billboard wanted to lay out everything that’s happened with Swift in the midst of her latest release. Find a complete timeline below.

August 18: Taylor Swift wipes her social media accounts clean, with all photos and posts on her Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr deleted. The singer also deletes the avatar picture and header for her Twitter and Facebook pages, which she later replaces with promotional pictures for Reputation.

It’s also on this day that a visit to her official website reveals a blank, black screen in place of her usual promotional and tour information. Fans note that it was exactly three years ago on this date that Swift released her single “Shake It Off” and announced the release of her fifth album 1989, igniting further speculation that new music was on the way.

August 21-23: Over the span of three consecutive days, Swift begins posting ominous short video clips of snakes to her social media accounts, with none of the posts offering more information with a caption. Fans immediately find the snakes to be an allusion to the Kardashian-Swift feud that became public on National Snake Day (July 17) last year. The initial post included only an image of a snake-like tail, the second featuring a coiled snake body, and the third finally revealing the animal’s face.

August 23: After more than a week of mysterious signals, Swift officially announces that the first single from her upcoming album will be released the following night, simultaneously announcing the official release date to be Nov. 10. Her Instagram posts reveal the grungy cover art for her album.

August 24: Kim Kardashian seemingly blocks the snake emoji from her Instagram accounts as Swift’s impending release triggered snake-filled comments on her tweets and Instagram posts.

August 25:  “Look What You Made Me Do,” the first single off of Reputation, is released along with an animated lyric music video. The lyric video, which parodies the animation style of the opening credits for Ryan Murphy’s FX anthology Feud: Bette and Joan, breaks the record for the most-watched lyric video within 24 hours of its release. The video breaks the record previously held by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay for “Something Like This,” with an initial 19 million views. The video has now amassed more than 48 million views at press time.

August 27: Swift debuts the official music video for “Look What You Made Me Do” on the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, which was immediately released on YouTube after its premiere. Following the popularity of the earlier-released lyric video, the music video breaks the record for the most watched music video within 24 hours of its release, garnering 43.2 million views in its first day — surpassing Adele’s 27.7 million with her “Hello” video. The visual has since been watched almost 60 million times as of press time.

August 28: Since its release, the single lands itself at No. 77 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (dated Sept. 9) after only 3 days of air-play. However, it’s predicted to soar to No. 1on next week’s Hot 100.


Music Industry Will Hit $41 Billion By 2030

A Goldman Sachs analyst forecasted that streaming will account for $34 billion of the total revenues.

The global recorded music industry will grow into a nearly $41 billion behemoth by 2030, thanks largely to the growth of streaming, according to Goldman Sachs analyst Lisa Yang and her team.

The Goldman Sachs analyst further predicts that streaming will account for $34 billion of that, of which $28 billion will come from paid subscription while $6 billion will come from ad-supported streaming services. She predicts that another $4 billon will come from performance rights, synchronization will be $500 million, physical and downloads $700 million and other come in at $1.2 billion.

The report further states that thanks to the explosion of streaming, the Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment should carry hefty valuations. Both companies are themselves not listed in the stock market, but the shares of their parents, respectively Vivendi and Sony. Corp., are publicly traded.

Looking at the Universal Music Group, Yang assigns a valuation of 19.5 billion euros, which according to the OandA website, converts to $23.3 billion; while she says that her estimates for Sony Music Entertainment’s performance suggests a valuation of 2.16 trillion yen or $19.8 billion.

Looking at UMG, Yang breaks out her estimates for that company, which helped derive its valuation. In the Goldman Sachs report, she estimates UMG’s revenue at 12.6 billion euros  ($15.05 billion) by 2030 (that’s twice its current level), of which 1.58 billion euros ($1.89 billion) will be from publishing; 9.3 billion euros ($11.11 billion) from streaming; 1.1 billion euros $1.3 billion) from artist services and music licensing; 500 million euros ($597 million) from merchandising and 150 million euros ($179.2 million) from physical and download sales.

In 2016, U.S. recorded music sales were up by double digits for the first time in nearly 20 years to 11.4 percent with $7.65 billion in revenue, according to the RIAA. That was up from $6.87 million in 2015. Although the music business showed signs of a recovery at the half-year mark, the 2016 year-end results show more significant growth, led by streaming revenue. This was the first time since 1998 that the U.S industry experienced a double digit increase in overall revenue.

How Streaming IS Changing the Sound of Pop Music

In 2015 the U.S. music industry made more money from streaming than from CDs or digital downloads. Streaming platforms now boast more than 100 million paying subscribers worldwide. And the popularity of these services continues to rise, with more than one trillion plays logged last year alone. The times, they are a-changin’.

In case you haven’t noticed, the way we consume music is shifting—and that is impacting artists. (We’ve all seen the pitiful royalty statements and scathing op-eds. And who could forget Taylor Swift’s epic 2015 fallout with Apple Music? But amidst all this talk, no one’s mentioned how the rise of streaming will affect the actual sound of pop music. Streaming will change not only the way pop music is consumed but also the way it’s created. This shift will likely redefine what future hit records sound like. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. There’s always been a close-knit relationship between music, medium, and distribution. For proof, just look to the past.

Built for Radio

In the 1960s, Motown built records for radio. Short songs allowed for the regular interjection of ads, and long intros gave DJs the freedom to talk over tracks. During the 1980s, the dawn of the CD gave way to longer-form content. The length of an average album increased from 40 minutes to well more than an hour. And since it was no longer important to maintain the integrity of vinyl grooves, records started sporting more low end and louder levels. Is it any surprise that hip-hop emerged as a dominant genre during this time? During the 2000s, Apple’s decision to unbundle the album and offer single-track downloads on iTunes shifted the trajectory of the music industry once again. After an album-oriented trend that lasted decades, singles once again became the primary focus.

Along the way, our listening habits evolved too. As on-demand, à-la-carte platforms like iTunes and Spotify emerged, attention spans narrowed. Even I can’t remember the last time I listened to an album from start to finish. Today, music discovery is like mining for gold. We cherry-pick the best songs off albums, curate playlists of our favorite tracks, and ignore the rest. And once we start listening, we’re more impatient than ever. In fact, there’s nearly a 50-percent chance you’ll skip a song before it’s over. Why suffer through a dull bridge, an uninspired outro, or your favorite artist’s “deep cuts?” You’ve got places to be!

Today’s music makers have evolved to serve this ever-changing audience. As long-form content has given way to singles, concept albums have become relics of yesteryear. Albums are now more likely to serve as repositories for singles. And while we may feel nostalgic for iconic albums such as The Dark Side of the Moon, Thriller, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, there isn’t much of an incentive to create their modern-day equivalents.

An Emphasis on Sales

However, throughout the history of the music business, the goal has always remained the same: Encourage listeners to purchase records. The music industry as we know it was built to inspire these one-off transactions, and the traditional pop music-making process evolved to follow suit. Infectious, hook-heavy records were crafted to drive listeners to checkout aisles. The biggest hits seemed inescapable for a month or two, but often disappeared as quickly as they emerged. But as far as the music industry was concerned, this was irrelevant. Once a purchase was made, it didn’t matter whether a record was listened to or not. As long as people bought the CD or downloaded the song, labels were happy.

But streaming has completely changed the game. For the first time, financial success is no longer based on onetime sales, but rather on ongoing play. The more a track is played, the bigger the payout. The implications of this shift are massive. In fact, it’s likely to disrupt the entire music business yet again.

On streaming platforms, flash-in-the-pan tracks that burn bright and fade fast are less lucrative than ever. Current per-stream payouts are nothing to write home about, and these tracks won’t stick around long enough to produce meaningful returns. But payouts will continue to rise, and future plays will be worth much more than they are today. And so the most profitable pop songs will burrow their way into the hearts of listeners, inspiring millions of streams for years to come. In fact, the biggest hits may even increase in value as time goes on.

This shift introduces a powerful new incentive to foster deeper, longer-lasting relationships with listeners. While tracks still need to be hook-laden enough to inspire an immediate connection, they must also be worth listening to hundreds, if not thousands of times. Gone are the days when an artist could stuff an album with filler and rely on the strength of a single to drive sales. Today, there’s nowhere to hide. Songs are evaluated on an individual basis, and their success is determined by merit alone. Artists with the ability to master the long game will win. One-hit-wonders won’t stand a chance.

Loudness War Truce

Evolution in streaming technology will also affect the sound of pop music. For example, most streaming platforms now automatically adjust the volume of different tracks so they play back at an equal level. This seemingly inconsequential feature will likely end a decades-long arms race known as the “loudness war,” where artists and labels compete to release the loudest records. Without any incentive to crush tracks, records will be mixed and mastered at much more conservative levels. And this means they’ll have more punch, impact, and dynamics—and sound better!

But what will the pop hits of the future actually sound like? We can only guess. As terrestrial radio continues to become less relevant, arrangements and song structures will likely become more fluid. New, innovative mediums may even emerge. Who says a recording has to offer the same experience with every play? What if tracks evolved over time? What if, after 100 plays, a bonus verse emerged? As play count becomes a dominant metric for measuring the success of tracks, ideas like these are ripe for exploration.

And the impact of streaming will extend far beyond the music-making process. It will have a profound effect on the way music is marketed and promoted as well. In a world where a sale is no longer the goal, there’s less of a need to build up hype before an album’s release. In fact, some artists are already abandoning traditional album releases entirely. Beyoncé dropped her last two albums without any prior promotion whatsoever. As more listeners adopt streaming platforms, artists will need to find new ways to foster longer-lasting, more consistent levels of engagement with their audience.

If any of this leaves you feeling discouraged or intimidated, keep your chin up. I’m optimistic about the impact streaming will ultimately have on the music industry. I believe it will usher in a new era of artistic innovation, and foster deeper, closer connections between artists and their listeners. And some things will always remain the same. Exceptional artists with something unique and special to say will stay in high demand. Great songs will still rise to the top. But one thing’s for sure—as streaming becomes the dominant platform for music consumption, the sound of pop music will undoubtedly change. Will you change with it?


6 Steps to Streaming Success on Spotify

Whether you like it or not, there’s no denying that the music streaming industry is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. With Spotify recently hitting a new milestone of 30 million subscribers, we think it’s a wise decision for all independent artists and labels to strengthen their presence on the service.

To help, we’ve compiled these six super easy action items that we’re confident will make a difference in your success on Spotify. Try them out!

1. “On air, on Spotify”

If your music is “on air” – meaning on the radio, YouTube, SoundCloud, or anywhere else online — it should be available to stream on Spotify. This way, you’re both monetizing your music and encouraging playlist adds and profile follows for continued listening.

2. Verify your profile

By verifying your profile (similarly to Twitter), you have the ability to directly communicate with your fans and be highlighted with Spotify’s check of approval. These profiles not only show off an artist’s discography but also house your tour dates, merchandise, biography, photos, and allow you to toggle over to view your playlists on your user profile. A verified profile allows you to communicate with your fans within Spotify through the Spotify Social and Discover feeds, and in-­client messaging. Every time a new piece of content is released ­(new single, EP, album), your fans get a push notification, and every time you add tracks to your playlist, all followers of that playlist will get notified.

To sign up for a verified page, simply fill out the Spotify Verification Request form.

3. Use Spotify as a promotional channel

Think of Spotify as a social network that allows you to monetize your own content in a creative, promotional way. On Spotify, you can gain a follower base, which in turn becomes a promotional channel­. Your Spotify followers receive notifications about updates to your content and your listening habits. Sharing your Spotify profile across your artist properties and socials will drive fans to follow you on Spotify, and allow you to engage in conversations with your fans.

Here are some practical ways to grow your Spotify followers:

  • Follow artists you like to help your fans discover the music you’re listening to.
  • Create and share your playlists.
  • Share across external social networks and encourage conversation when sharing (i.e. ask your fans which tracks they’re into).
  • Share single tracks and albums you’re listening to, and ask fans which playlists you should follow.
  • Add Spotify links to YouTube and other video descriptions.
  • Add the Spotify Follow Button to your website to allow fans to follow you in an easy single click without leaving your website.

4. Create quality playlists

Similar to how a DJ would curate a mix for a radio station or club, streaming services use playlists as an easy way to share tracks and promote discovery.

Keep these tips in mind when creating your playlists:

  • Ensure your account is never empty, and that you have at ­least 1­2 public playlists available.
  • Focus on one playlist –­ choose one to maintain, and add to consistently.
  • Adding tracks on a regular basis is key. The more frequent the adds and the bigger the playlist, the better. Each time you update your playlist, it will appear in fans’ Discover feeds, and followers of the playlist will be notified.
  • Share it. Actively clicking “share” ensures you reach your fans. You’ll find the “share” button towards the top of each page, or right click (cmd+click on Mac) any title to copy and paste the link to be shared across other social platforms.
  • Share with messages: Include text when you share to help your story stand out.
  • Listen to music from your Spotify account. You’ll appear in the live ticker feed (on the right side of the Spotify client), and you’ll generate stories through Discover.
  • Add themed playlists. Once you’ve grown one playlist, add more niche, smaller playlists around certain events or themes.

5. Put the Spotify Play Button on your website

Spotify provides a quick and easy embeddable code that you can put on your website so that your fans can listen to your playlists and discography. By putting this Spotify Play Button on your website or Tumblr, your fans can listen to your music while continuing to engage with your site.

To get the button: just right click on the playlist, track or album on Spotify and select “Copy Embed Code.” This copies the link to your clipboard. Then, paste the code into your website and the Spotify Play Button will show up on your site.

6. Track your metrics

Next Big Sound provides free up-to-date analytics for artists. When you log in, you can see your growth in followers, streaming data, and the effects of your social media campaigns. You’ll be able to track how all of these best practices grows your streams and revenue.

Apply to see your Spotify data here, and read this overview for a full breakdown of how to use Next Big Sound.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

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Apple buys “Carpool Karaoke” will release new episodes on Apple Music

Apple today has acquired the rights to the insanely popular Carpool Karaoke series that started out as a part of The Late Late Show with James Corden on CBS. While it’s unclear how much Apple has paid for the series, it will release new episodes of it via the Apple Music, reports THR.

For those unfamiliar, Carpool Karaoke is an idea thought up by Corden that sees him drive around in a car with a celebrity or musician and sing along to popular songs. Corden has had celebrities including The Red Hot Chili Peppers, One Direction, Michelle Obama, Stevie Wonder, Justin Bieber, and many more appear.

CBS Television Studios and Fulwell 73 will take the reigns in expanding the show. Fulwell 73 is the production company run by Late Late Show executive producer Ben Winston. In conjunction with Apple, 16 episodes will be produced and streamed weekly on Apple Music. It’s unclear who the host will be at this point, though it is not expected to be Corden. Previously CBS had ordered a primetime special Carpool Karaoke segment, likely hinting at its plans to spin the show off into its own series.

In the past, Eddy Cue has said Apple is not looking to produce its own TV shows, though he noted that he noted the company would work to complement existing services, like Apple Music, with video content. Speaking to THR, Cue said that Apple sees Carpool Karaoke as a fun and unique way to express love for music:

“We love music, and Carpool Karaoke celebrates it in a fun and unique way that is a hit with audiences of all ages. It’s a perfect fit for Apple Music — bringing subscribers exclusive access to their favorite artists and celebrities who come along for the ride.”

The standalone Carpool Karaoke series will stream to Apple Music subscribers with new episodes becoming available every week. In the past, Corden’s Carpool Karaoke clips have garnered tens of millions of views a piece.

Apple is also still working on its Planet of The Apps TV show, which is expected to become available sometime in 2017.

Here’s some fun segments:

Adele Carpool Karaoke

Chris Martin Carpool Karaoke

Stevie Wonder Carpool Karaoke

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

Click to Subscribe to our Newsletter

Why German Producer TheFatRat Walks From Label

Right now, all over the world, boys and girls are hunched excitedly over laptops, unzipping fresh cracked versions of Ableton or FL Studio or Reason, their fingers itching to crank out the next festival anthem. Their minds are whirring with the possibilities. What if they get one million plays on Soundcloud? What if Tiesto likes their track? What if Ultra Music called them with a contract?

It would all be so cool, but one German independent producer wants them to ask themselves another thing. If Ultra Music did come calling, what if they said “no?”

“There are incredible opportunities today for artists,” Christian Büttner says. He’s been making music professionally for 12 years, mostly as a ghost producer, but in the last 18 months, he’s switched his focus to building under his own moniker, TheFatRat

Even though he recently took time off to be with his newborn daughter, he’s amassed more than 183,000 followers on Soundcloud and tens of millions of plays. Now that baby girl is old enough to travel, he’s setting up his first North American tour.

He’s making a career in music work, and he’s doing it all without a deal.

“The all-mighty internet is full of blogs, communities, YouTube channels, forums and a million more things,” Büttner says. “They all can help you to get your music heard, but it’s often difficult for big record labels to use those opportunities.”

Büttner has learned to leverage these sources without the trouble of red-tape and licensing complications. If a 15-year-old boy with a wildly successful YouTube gaming channel wants to use his song, The Fat Rat can give the green light without any hang-ups. Deals like that expose his wildly energetic and genre-blending electro to millions of viewers in an instant. He’s also free to sell his music to app and game developers, and when he strikes such deals, he reaps 100 percent of the profits.

And that brings up another point of contention. Artists who are signed to labels barely see revenue from Spotify or other streaming services, mostly because of contractual fine print. Büttner has learned to be a shrewd business man. These labels are looking out for their bottom line, not his baby girl.

“In some of the deals that were offered to me, I had a base split of 25 percent,” Büttner explains. “When I did the math, I found out that I would effectively end up with not even 7.5 percent of the worldwide streaming revenue. When you sign such a deal you have to generate 130 million plays to make the same money as an independent artist with 10 million plays.”

He also advises independents to take the time to connect with their audience on social media, comment sections, whatever way they can. Without a label to answer to, your fans run the show, and a relationship with them is what makes or breaks your career.

“You want to create an emotional connection with your audience, and you can connect much better to people if you listen to them,” he says. “That way you learn what they are interested in and where exactly you can reach them.”

The independent life ain’t for everyone. It takes a lot of finesse to handle a label-less career. It takes incredible self-motivation and determination. It takes strategy and acumen, and not least of all skills and creative vision. Your first taste of success is addictive, but even as things get better, they don’t necessarily get easier.

Büttner says one of his greatest hurdles is staying focused. He’s an enthusiastic guy. He wants to stay open to as many opportunities as possible, but you’ve got to learn to draw the line somewhere, choose the projects and opportunities that best align with his professional and personal goals as well as his creative voice. Still, if you’ve got the chops, the time and money management skills, and the attention span to handle the ups and downs, it’s a creative lifestyle unlike any other.

“(It’s) creative freedom,” he says. “It’s such an amazing feeling when you sit in your studio, freaking out to the song that you are creating while you can be 100% sure that the song will be released and your fans will hear it. And you don’t have to explain to the whole record company why you are doing a trap song with full orchestra while your last song was chiptune mixed with glitch hop.”

It’s not that TheFatRat would never sign a deal. He just has to be sure it’s the right one. He’s come too far to just hand over his life, and with a big tour looming and growing opportunities on the rise, it’s hard to imagine if that deal will come. There really is no clear road to success for an independent artist. You’ve got to figure it out for yourself, take a page from Jimminy Cricket and let your conscience be your guide. Büttner is doing a good job, but even he says to take his own advice with a grain of salt.

“Don’t look too much on what others do and what is considered ‘best practice,’” he says. “Instead, ask yourself the basic question, ‘who might enjoy my music, and how do I reach those people?’ You’ll probably come up with answers that you never thought of before – and more than anything else, focus on your music.”

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

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Album Sales Sink to Historic Lows — But People Are Listening More Than Ever

It’s the worst year (so far) for music sales since the 1991 debut of SoundScan (now Nielsen Music). Album sales, including track-equivalent albums (TEA, whereby 10 track sales equal one album unit) are down 16.9 percent in the rst half of this year. But sales figures no longer tell the whole story of the record business.

First, let’s bottom-line those disappearing sales. Album units overall fell 13.6 percent, with 100.3 million total sales. The compact disc continued to crumble, losing 11.6 percent and moving 50 million. Digital album sales fell to 43.8 million, from 53.7 million in the first half of last year.

Vinyl sales continued to move up and to the right, growing 11.4 percent, to 6.2 million. New album releases have been most affected by the continued contraction, falling 20.2 percent overall, to 44.1 million units. Catalog albums fell “just” 7.7 percent, to 56.2 million.

Track sales also dropped, to 404.3 million units from 531.6 million units. Current track sales are leading the descent; songs released in the last 18 months saw sales fall nearly 40 percent. Catalog, again, saw a much smaller dip, down 6.4 percent to 236.6 million units.

Listeners streamed 208.9 billion songs (which translates to 139.2 million album units) between January and now (July 6), an increase of 58.7 percent. Of that 208.9 billion, 113.6 billion were audio-only, versus 95.3 billion video streams (defined as a music video view on YouTube, Vevo, Tidal and Apple Music — of which the latter two contribute a very small piece). It’s the first time audio has surpassed lower-paying video streams.

What’s that all mean?

Billboard estimates total U.S. revenue at $1.98 billion so far this year, versus $1.82 billion last year, an corresponding 8.9 percent increase. However, the rate that Billboard uses to estimate the revenue generated by streaming ($0.0063 per song), which is clearly a central part of the revenue estimate, has been disputed as too high by some indie labels.

Drake is clearly the year’s winner so far. The rapper’s newest album, Views, sold 2.61 million total units — 1.3 million album sales; 317,000 track- equivalent albums and 979,000 stream-equivalent albums (SEA, whereby 1,500 streams equal one album unit).

Drake has the year’s best-selling digital album, at 1.4 million units moved. David Bowie’s  Vinyl record, Blackstar, sold nearly 57,000 LPs, making it the year’s best-selling vinyl album.  Flo Rida’s “My House,” with 1.95 million track sales, is the best-selling song of the year and just one of 16 total songs to sell over a million so far (27 had hit that mark by this time last year — six of those had tipped 2 million). The year’s top 200 tracks have scanned 83.8 million units in total.

The most common place for people to purchase albums and songs was, unsurprisingly, at digital retailers, which captured 43.7 percent of the album market (and which, obviously, saw overall sales decline by 18.4 percent, to 43.8 million album units). Surprisingly, “non- traditional” CD retailers, like Amazon and supermarkets, saw an 8.3 percent growth in sales.

Executives that Billboard spoke to at the end of 2015 pointed, in no shock, to streaming as the main culprit in the sales cull, particularly song sales. And streaming is booming.

For the year, total album consumption — which includes TEA, SEA and overall album units — totaled 279.9 million units in the first half of 2016, up 8.9 percent, clearly driven by streaming.

About the Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters

The Foundation for Musicians and Songwriters is an IRS 501c3 Public Charity that is dedicated to helping Musicians and Songwriters develop their careers in the Music Industry.  We do so without taking a penny or rights from the artist we represent.

To Subscribe to our Music News Updates, Click Here

Click to Subscribe to our Newsletter

5 Ways to Build a Fanbase

Every Musician knows that fans are what drive their business.  Building a Fanbase of loyal followers is critical to obtaining success in the Modern Music Industry.  Of course, building a fanbase is not easy!  It takes a lot of work and dedication to create a audience of people that are loyal.

Why Build a Fanbase

Before diving into the 5 Ways to Build a Fanbase, we thought it would be good to get into some of the reasons why it is as important, if not more important, to build fans than it is to practice your music.  Seriously?  Is this a joke?  We can hear you ask these questions through the internet 🙂

Seriously, think about this point for a minute.  We all see some really BAD! musicians make it all of the time while many great artist never make it out of the local Bar Scene. What’s up with that?

Don’t take our word for it.  Here’s a video for you guys’s and gal’s to ponder.  This is a video of Britney Spears live in a couple of different concerts.  The fun part of this video is they isolated her wireless mic signal.  Curious what her voice sounds like without any processing?  Before watching this, keep in mind that Britney Spears is one of the top grossing female artist…

The Music Industry from a Social Perspective

Now that we have your ears bleeding from the Britney Spears video, we thought this infographic highlights some other interesting points.


The Music Industry As Seen From the Social Web

We thought it was interesting to see that Britney has more followers on Twitter than the President of the United States, which is impressive considering the number of the musicians out there that have incredible talent that have not been discovered.

Talent does not Equal Success

Have we hit the point home with you?  Talent does not equal success!  If not, maybe this may help.

Britney Spears Gross IncomeAccording to the Huffington Post Article, Britney Spears Net Worth is a staggering $46 million.

“Britney’s $46 million net worth saw a nice boost in 2014, most likely due to her Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood. And the steady and huge paychecks from Britney’s gig entertaining tourists are set to get even bigger.

With the combined income of $475,000 for each show (just under Celine Dion’s per-show earnings of $476,000 for her residency) and her other business ventures, including her fragrances and a new lingerie line, TMZ reported that Britney earns around $1 million each week.”

Who among us wouldn’t like to earn $475,000 for every show?  That is especially a compelling question when the average working musician makes about $35,000 per year.

How did Britney get to this point?  You guessed it, she has a loyal Fanbase!

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The Steps to Building a Fanbase Starts with Awareness

Awareness refers to any marketing initiative designed to provide visibility to your product. Awareness takes a number of different forms, but is most effective when you are targeting a community that is more predisposed to already liking similar things.

What does that mean to a Musician or Songwriter?  Building Awareness means finding fans that may like your music and letting them know you exist.  It is critically important for an emerging musician to get to know the types of fans that will connect with their music.   Look for and seek out bands, songs, etc. that are similar to what you do and research the demographic of their fans.  What type of person likes the type of music you create?

There is a fanbase for everything on the worldwide web.  Doesn’t matter what you do, there is someone out there that likes it.

There are 3 Quick Steps to Identify Fan Demographics:
  • Find artist:  Look for Artist that are ahead of you in the success curve…not the superstars backed by the Major Labels.  If you don’t know any, read the online blogs that are well known for seeking out and writing honest reviews of artist such as Pitchfork.   YouTube is another great place to research music.  Don’t limit your search to a local area.  Looking nationwide and even worldwide can make a huge difference in the audience you market to.
  • Social Networks:  Review the artist social networks and research the fans that are making comments, forwarding their tweets, etc.  The engaged fans that actively promote a musician is one that is passionate about them.  Finding out what motivates them is important to find fans like them for your band.
  • Bloggers: People who write articles on their blogs about artist are critical to the success of a band.  Bloggers can easily have a reach and following greater than Billboard and Rolling Stone magazine combined.  There is a search engine conveniently called the Blog Search Engine that makes it easy to search for a topic that returns blog results.

Awareness Continued: Demographic and Psychographic Overview

Traditionally, demographics have been the bread and butter of analytical information for marketers. Demographic information is the information that one typically sees on a census like age, ethnicity, gender, geographic information, marriage status, whether you have kids or not, and so on. While some of this information is helpful for music marketers—particularly geographic information, as it pertains to routing a tour—demographic information can be a lot less helpful than psychographic information.

Profile of Today

Psychographics is the study of interests, values, attitudes, and lifestyles. Fans of music can live anywhere, can be married or unmarried, can be of any age, and can have a range of income, and as such, it’s important to identify other shared characteristics that are less tangible—those traits that are not identified on a census—to properly target the correct market.

In many cases, the fans of bands mirror their favorite bands’ traits in many ways. Core fans of Morrissey might be more likely to be vegan, fans of Nine Inch Nails might be more focused on technology, fans of Phish might be more focused on a casual dress style, and so on. These psychographic bonds, or shared interests, between the fans and the band is a critical point to determine early on in any marketing campaign. It helps to dictate the high-level marketing campaign focus, including branding, images, communication strategy, and product offerings.

Ideally, a marketer integrates both the useful demographic information as well as the psychographic information, but it is important to note that psychographics often function completely outside of demographics.

The Second Step in Building a Fanbase is Acquisition

Once you have the attention of a prospective fan, it is a marketing best-practice to obtain some form of permission-based contact. From an online standpoint, collecting an email address from someone who has listened to one of your songs is a form of acquisition. From a social standpoint, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Instagram friends, and YouTube subscribers can be considered permission-based contacts as well. Physical forms of acquisition include capturing the address of a fan, or collecting a phone number.

Collecting permission-based contacts allows musicians to continue a relationship with their new fan after the initial awareness phase. It’s important to note that the different forms of permission-based contacts result in different monetization opportunities down the line. Email marketing, for example, usually converts at a higher rate than social-based contacts.

One of the best ways to do this is to provide something FREE to the potential fan in exchange for their email address.  The Acquisition stage is far too early to ask for money.  Imagine the process being like a date.  The first step, Awareness, is like glancing at each other across the room in a bar.  The Second stage is walking up and talking with them…hoping to say the right things and get their phone number… This is the Acquisition stage for a band.  Now that they know you exist, you want to get just enough interest in what you do to get them to provide you with an email.  Giving something of perceived value away for FREE is the best way to do this.  Could be a song, but could also be something personal like a signed photo of the band or a recipe on how to make a killer Margarita.  Anything that has a minimal cost to the band, but enough perceived value for the potential fan that they would be willing to part with some personal information.

The Third Step is Building an Online Presence

The third Step may actually be the second or even the first step, but we want to make sure and include this in series.  It is important that your band and music is represented positively and professionally.  When a potential fan searches for you on the internet they need to find you!  It is critical that a Musician’s website, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. sites have a consistent design and present a professional image.

There are several sites that provide a variety of services to bands.  The most popular are Bandcamp and Topspin for general hosting of band websites.  Both of these services charge fees.

Bandcamp will host a site for free; however, they take money off the top for sales — 15% for digital sales and 10% for merchandise sales.  They have tiered pricing.  When sales are $5K or greater in digital sales the commission decreases from 15% to 10% (

Topspin charges a fee to host a site.  The pricing starts at $9.99 per month for basic services, $49.99 per month for presages and other marketing services and $99 per moth for Enterprise services that support split commission payouts (  Topspin also charges percentage of sales as well that average 15-20%.

Here’s a video that provides a good overview of the Topspin services:

Other options

Something that many of you may be thinking is why not use a Facebook page to build our fans?  They are free…Right?  We highly recommend that you use Facebook to build Awareness and Engage with Fans, but it should not be your primary site.

The reason using a site you do not directly control is because they frequently change their terms and conditions that limit access to your own fans.  A good example of a social network that hurt many musicians when the tides of the internet changed is MySpace.  Remember those guys?  Bands, Record Companies, etc. invested major money and time building custom MySpace websites and developing fans only to see it all disappear practically overnight.

There is no way to reconnect with the fans that are lost if a social site changes their policies or goes out of business.  Those artist have to start building again from ground zero.  Same holds true with Facebook.  They keep most of the information about followers private and charge page operators to connect with their own followers.  Further, even when an artist pays to Boost a Post, there is no guarantee that their fans will ever see it.  Facebook uses an algorithm that promotes based on $$ spent.  One can hope a post makes it into a fans newsfeed, but there is zero guarantee that it will.

Cash Music

Cash Music is a non-profit company based in Oregon.  They have build a very powerful music marketing platform that is funded by investors, not musicians.  The platform is 100% free for musicians.  What is the catch? It takes some IT skills to setup.  Bandcamp, Topspin and other similar services do the backend legwork to create stock website templates, integration with Amazon for image hosting, commerce collisions, etc.  Cash Music provides the conduit to these services, but the Artist using their platform has to set everything up on their own.  Amazon S3, for example, is where files are stored for the sites.  The users have to sign up with Amazon and create an S3 account.  The good news is that anyone with an Amazon account can sign up for S3 for free.  They do charge fees for data traffic, but it is minimal.  Cash Music is a bit more technical to setup, but it will scale with an artist from a small band to a huge worldwide fanbase without any problems and it is free!  We believe it is well worth the time it takes to get the sites configured than to pay 10-20%+ of sales to a third-party.  That money can be used to make the next album.


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The Fourth Step is Engagement

Once a band has the permission and the means to reach out to fans, the next step is to properly engage with them. Engagement can take various forms, including email newsletters, social posts, text messages, direct mailings, and much more. Proper engagement is a key factor relating to the final step of marketing: monetization.

Fans love being connected with musicians they love.  The best way to do that is to give them a peak inside the lives of the band.  Writing posts that let fans know what you are doing, what city you are in, who you had dinner with, etc. will get a lot of traffic.  However, the best way to engage fans is through video.  Live broadcasts from Back stage using Google Hangouts, Twitter Periscope, etc. is a great way to get them engaged.

Fans, of course, have to know you are going to be live on video. This is where the emails come in handy.  Send them an update letting them know you will be live at a certain date and time (include the timezone).  You could even ask them to sign up for the event using free services such as Eventbrite.  This strategy goes back to the FREE exchange we mentioned earlier.  Tell them about an event they will be interested then ask them to give up something personal to get access to it.  Eventbrite can be used to collect more demographic details about your subscribers that can help with marketing efforts down the road.  The final step would be to send a notice to the Event subscribers letting them know a Live event is starting, but to also send a note via email and post to all social feeds (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc) announcing the event is going to start.

Engaging fans through various channels and providing them something FREE or exclusive will keep them engaged long term.

The Fifth Step is Monetization

Alright, we are almost through this post on 5 Key Ways to Build a Fanbase!  Monetization is the last, but most exciting step in the process.  This is when you can actually start making money!

Once you have made fans aware of you, captured their contact information, and been engaging with them, you have made it to the end of the “conversion funnel” — monetization. A common trait among new musicians is to attempt to monetize prior to having the previous three marketing pillars buttoned up. Of course, without fans with whom you can communicate properly, monetization is not going to be effective.  The VERY IMPORTANT point is NOT to try to get Fans to pay for anything until all of the above steps are in place.  If we think about the dating example we mentioned earlier, Monetization is the point dating moves to a marriage.  This process takes time to develop before the Fan is ready to commit to your band.  Rush it and you will likely put off the new fan and disengage them.

When Fans are engaged they will stay that way as long as you keep them engaged.  People are naturally fickle.  They will divert their attention elsewhere if you don’t continually communicate with the.  The key is to provide them with  communication that isn’t always asking for money.  When you drop in money making opportunities in-between times of routine updates it increases the probability they will convert.   For example, when you hold a concert email everyone in the area letting them know.  Offering a VIP gift of some sort helps.  Create an interesting product and then offer it as an exclusive for fans.  Customized lighters, coffee cups, mouse pads, gold plated sculls with the band logo, etc. can all be created easily now days.  Hold online concerts and charge a discounted fee for loyal customers to watch the event.  Live streaming is much easier now days with YouTube and Facebook live available.

Another good monetization step is to follow how the major record labels do business.  They promote an album before it is out.  Then they drop a song, making of video or something to peak interest, they will then release a single ahead of the record release, they will then offer preorder opportunities to fans giving them a few extra tracks or something, and finally they drop the release.  The more excitement that can be built before a release the more sales one will get at the release.  Preorders also give a good idea of the demographics of the fans that are buying the album.


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“Melody is the Key” to Creating a Song that Connects with Fans

Keith Urban Photo

Keith Urban was specifically promoting his new album, Ripcord, when he spoke to USA Today earlier this month, but he could have easily been talking about country music as a whole. “Melody is key,” he told music journalist Bob Doerschuk. “How many songs do we sing along to where we don’t even know the words? Melody pulls us in.”

Urban hinted at an essential part of music that’s not easy to verbalize. Defining the outdoorsy lyrical theme in Luke Bryan’s “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” or grasping the reflective production values of Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” are fairly routine. But explaining the arc of a melody is much harder. There’s a reason Martin Mull once said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

Still, if you listen to some of the current top 20 titles on Hot Country Songs — Maren Morris’ “My Church,” Jon Pardi’s “Head Over Boots,” Old Dominion’s “Snapback” or Urban’s “Wasted Time,” for starters — it’s clear that there’s a strong melodic thread running through the genre. There’s no reliable way to measure it, but country is arguably producing great melodies as consistently as any other genre at this moment in time. It’s ironic, because country has long been praised for its lyrical prowess.


“Right now, I feel like country has taken the best of everything, all the melodies and phrasing, and then they’ve just continued to tell great stories,” says Dan + Shay’s Shay Mooney, a co-writer of Rascal Flatts’ aptly titled “I Like the Sound of That.” “A great lyric is awesome, you know, but if it’s not a good melody you’re not going to care what they’re saying.”

Some other genres are struggling with a shortage of melody, based on the discourse during a Country Radio Seminar panel, “From the Outside Looking In: Other Formats Give Their Take on Country,” in February.

iHeartMedia VP urban and urban AC Doc Wynter, programming at a time when rap has injected plenty of spoken-word into his format, said he’s seeking more music that recalls the sound of Smokey Robinson or Luther Vandross, artists whose biggest successes relied on such ultra-melodic titles as “Tears of a Clown” and “Stop to Love.”

“The Weeknd is a savior for us because traditional R&B has just fallen by the wayside,” said Wynter. “We’re hoping that we’re going to encourage more people who want to sing to bring music to our radio station.”

Cumulus corporate PD of rock formats Troy Hanson drew huge laughs during that same CRS panel when he imitated a throaty, modern-rock screech, essentially criticizing the lack of melody in his format. He has become an advocate for injecting adult alternative album rock into his playlists, basically enhancing the singability of his stations.

“We need to find some of these Black Keys and Muse artists of the world and bring them back [to the format],” he said. Melody isn’t restricted to the lead singer. Chris Lane’s hooky song “Fix” gets some of its mojo from Ilya Toshinsky’s signature guitar line, but that title would not be as addictive without its undeniable vocal progression.

Melody “is something just innately wired in us,” suggests Frankie Ballard, whose forthcoming album El Rio kicks off with two ultra-melodic Chris Stapleton compositions. “You can accept that from a flute or from a harp or from a guitar, but, generally speaking, I think people really prefer it from another human voice, probably because that’s what we’re communicating with. That’s what real.”


It’s also mysterious. Glen Campbell, who has Alzheimer’s disease, needed a teleprompter during his final tour to remember the words to “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy,” songs he had sung thousands of times before. But he could still recall the melodies. Why that is, and where that melody comes from, still hasn’t been fully explained.

“I think it comes from Heaven,” Brian Wilson, noted for such indelible melodies as “God Only Knows” and “Good Vibrations,” said a dozen years ago. Wilson treasures his membership in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, in great part because it puts him in a league with another of pop music’s melody studs, Burt Bacharach (“Walk On By,” “The Look of Love”), who likewise can’t cite a source for that aspect of his songwriting talent. “You either have it or you don’t,” he said in 2005.

The process of writing melodies has changed in recent years with the growth and accessibility of recording equipment. Songwriters have historically accompanied themselves on guitar or piano while creating lead lines, but the hip-hop and pop genres began using “loops” — recorded chord progressions that repeat — and pre-recorded tracks to start the writing process. The melody is a late development in that scenario, and the results can be underwhelming if that melody is treated as an afterthought.

“It is important if you’re writing to a track to pause it, bust out an acoustic guitar and test [the song] over just an acoustic guitar,” says Dan + Shay’s Dan Smyers. “If it holds up over that, then it was the right thing. And if not, then you need to go back and rework it.”

Songwriters who create melodies that sit atop of those pre-recorded productions are typically referred to in pop music as “topliners,” a term that likely draws some derision from people who have written melodies the more traditional way. Alternating between tracks and the standard guitar/vocal approach, though, happens frequently among many Nashville songwriters.

“You have to kind of switch between the two,” says Mooney, “because sometimes you’ll be writing on an acoustic guitar, and after the fifth song you’re like, ‘This is all the same stuff that we’ve been doing. It kind of sounds the same.’ But then when you hear a track, it’s like, ‘OK, this is something different,’ and it kind of inspires things in your mind. You’ve got to trick your brain into creativity sometimes.”

Philadelphia soul songwriter/producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff — responsible for such lyrically astute songs as “Love Train,” “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” and “Me and Mrs. Jones” — recognize that their words aren’t nearly as inspiring on a page as they are when attached to a series of notes that enhance the emotions behind them.

“Melody is important,” said Huff following a Warner/Chappell event on May 5 in Nashville. “If you didn’t have the melody, what is it?”

The songwriting community in Nashville hasn’t forgotten the importance of that component. It’s one of the underappreciated reasons for country’s boom in recent years. The words are still widely regarded as the driving force in the genre’s material. But when compared to other genres — particularly modern rock and hip-hop — that have underplayed melody’s importance, country’s consistent devotion to the part the listener is most likely to sing back is key to the genre’s current popularity.

“To me, it’s not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” says Ballard, “if it’s just peanut butter.”

 This article is a reprint.  Written by Tom RolandIt.  It first appeared in Billboard Magazine’s Country Update on May 19, 2016.  

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