I saw a discussion on Facebook the other day. A bunch of musicians were discussing whether it’s better to release singles, or to wait and release a full CD. The answer is, of course, there is no pat answer. It depends.

But one of the musicians brought up the following points about releasing singles.

  • Too many releases could get annoying
  • People would take some of the songs for granted since there’s no expectation or anticipation.
  • It’s too predictable and doesn’t build interest/wet the appetite of potential fans.

Who Is Your Favorite Musical Artist?

I know a married couple that goes to Bruce Springsteen concerts, every chance they get. They fly to different cities to see him. Recently, when he was on his book tour, the woman couldn’t make it to see him in Seattle, where she lives. So, she went to Portland to have a chance to meet him.

Maybe you have a band that you love as much. It might be an indie, or underground band, and not somebody huge. Whoever it is, would you mind if they put out a single every month? Or would you want to wait 8 months or a year, for a full CD? How often would you like to be contacted by them? Is once a month good? Maybe once a week? Or would you like to see their living room, watch them record, know what they had for dinner, have an online Q & A with them, watch them play scrabble on the tour bus?

The answer is of course, that it depends. But most superfans like to be contacted more, rather than less.

One Superfan Is Worth How Many Lukewarm Fans?

A superfan will share your music. A superfan will like, comment on and/or share almost every Facebook post, watch every YouTube video, and read every tweet. They will buy nearly everything you put out. They are invested in you.

A lukewarm fan will like a few of your Facebook posts, but they probably won’t share them. They’ll say, “Nice job!”, or leave a smiley face. Maybe 10% of them will buy your CD when it comes out.

Although the percentages may not be exactly 80/20, that old rule applies. A minority of your fans will be responsible for the majority of your success.  So, you should be set up to please your superfans, not your lukewarm fans. And you should be doing things that turn your lukewarm fans into superfans.

Who Should You Nurture?

Nurture your superfans. Give them as much content as they want (if you can). Don’t worry about the rest, too much.

I run an internet business (unrelated to music). I have an email list of several thousand folks. Whenever I get an email from one of them, especially a complaint, I check a couple of things right away.

  1. How long have they been on my email list?
  2. Have they ever bought anything from me?

If they’ve bought something from me, I know they’re invested. We have a relationship. They’ve demonstrated their commitment. I take their concern seriously, and address it as quickly as possible. If they’ve been on my email list for a couple of years, but haven’t bought anything, I take what they say with a grain of salt. The chances are., if they haven’t bought anything from me, or interacted with me in a memorable way, my message hasn’t resonated with them.

Here’s my point. If you try to please everyone, you won’t please many. You’ll move away from what you’re passionate about, and then everyone loses. If you do more of what you’re passionate about, you will attract those that resonate with it. Then, what do you do about people who aren’t quite into what you do? Well, don’t worry about them. They’re not who you should focus on.

You Need Regular Fans, Too

Not every fan is going to be a super-fan. While super-fans will probably be responsible for maybe half of your success, you need regular fans too. You might have an email list of 10,000 people, and only 500 of them are super-fans. But the 9,500 that are left, will make up the rest of your success.

My suggestion is to do your best to convert regular fans into super-fans. Beyond that, just keep engaging with them. The least of your worries should be contacting folks too much. If they aren’t that interested, they’ll remove yourself from their list. If you lose people, it won’t be the dedicated fans, it will be the lukewarm ones.

How Often Should I Contact People Who Like My Music?

One of the ways you can avoid over-contacting people is to have different channels that you create content for at different intervals. You can tweet 4 times a day, post to your Facebook fan page 4 times a day, send to your email list once a week, and post a YouTube video every two weeks (I’m just picking numbers out of a hat — it’s not a suggested schedule).

If somebody wants less contact than once/week, they’re not that interested. If that’s all they can handle, they can sign up for email. If they’re a super fan, they may want to be involved in all your doings.

But at a bare minimum, I’d suggest contact once a week. It doesn’t always have to be a new piece of music. You can talk about writing, what song you’re working on, the recording process, your journey as a musician, a cause you find important, or your cat. Less than once a week, and people will lose track of you, and forget who you are.

Singles Vs. CDs Or EPs

A lot goes into the decision of whether to release music as singles, or wait until there’s enough fro a CD or EP. Personally, I lean toward releasing singles, and then when you get enough, do a CD. Singles give you a chance to engage more often. Maybe, once you get enough tracks for a CD, you can do some live versions and remixes for the CD, and add a couple of tracks that you don’t release as singles.

Also, if you don’t have a big backlog of recorded material, singles can be a way of getting started delivering music to fans, without waiting months for a larger project.

Of course, I record at home, on a computer. When you’re recording a full band in the studio, it’s going to be much more economical to do a bunch of songs at once. It means you’ll probably only have to set up and mic the drum set once, for instance. You can still release the songs as single though, if you want.

 

For some artists, stage banter is just a box they check.

“Oh, I’m between songs. I need to say something…”

And so they proceed to yak about whatever. Maybe it’s about what the next song means to them, or something. Who knows. You only get about 10% of it, because they do at least one of the following things:

They might speak very quietly, getting lost in audience chatter or other goings-on.

They might drop the mic down to their chest, or for bonus points, their navel. Their speech sounds very thin and distant as a result. (And even quieter.)

They might mumble.

They might prattle away at high speed.

They might use 50 words to convey a 10 word concept.

Very quickly, they start to lose the crowd. The audience’s attention drifts away, like a canoe filled with restless river otters. Nobody can figure out precisely what’s going on, so the focus on the stage drops away. The energy level craters.

As near as I can tell, the trouble comes from not realizing that the entire time you’re on stage, you’re performing – or rather, that’s what’s expected. If you stop performing, the emotional connection between you and the “folks” starts to get scratchy and intermittent.

The audience wants to be lead on a journey, and they will go where the band takes them…but only for as long as they feel like the leaders know where they’re going. If you seem to be meandering aimlessly, the spectators unconsciously dismiss you from your space at the front of the pack.

The solution?

If you’re going to talk, make the talking actually feel like part of the show. It should be obvious to the crowd that you are still asking for their attention.

1) Make an effort to get your speech to “concert level.” You don’t have to be annoyingly loud, but the overall volume should be comparable to your singing voice. This helps to telegraph that, yes, the performance is still happening.

2) To aid in the above, use the mic as you normally would. Park it in front of your mouth, where the element will receive your voice at the highest relative level possible. This will help your speech to be crisp, intelligible, and also tonally rich – all things that signal that you’re still in the captain’s chair.

3) Form your words deliberately and precisely. Especially in an acoustically challenging environment, talking like you have marbles in your mouth makes you incomprehensible. Incomprehensible people don’t hold the attention of audiences very well.

4) Slow down. Not painfully slow – that’s just as bad – but leave a touch of space between words and sentences. Running everything together is rather like mumbling.

5) Get your message across in as few words as possible. I’m not saying that you can’t go on a five minute monologue if that’s what you want to do, but I am asking that every word in that monologue actually be necessary. Rambling might feel to you like you’re saying a lot, but it’s actually a momentum killer that conveys very little.

If your stage banter actually feels like part of the show, it enhances the experience. If it feels like some weird afterthought, it will get treated in accordance with that perception.

Musicians can be the targets of a LOT of harsh words.

It sucks when coming from strangers. But it cuts EXTRA deep when they come from “supposed” friends.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

“Are you enjoying your hobby?”

“Honestly, I think your band sucks and I’d rather be dead than caught on a stage with you.” 

“You’ll never make money doing that. When are you going to get a REAL job?”

“You’re just a singer. Not a REAL musician. Besides, you’re only a woman so you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You can’t fill a phone both with people that want to hear YOUR music!”

“You’re a musician, right? Can I get some weed from you?”

“Where are you playing next? So I can NOT be there.”

“Your music sucks!”

“You look like Muhammed Ali’s retarded cousin when you rap!”

“Gosh you’re so talented! Why don’t you put on some makeup, you know, fix yourself up a little, lose some weight and do some songs people actually know?”

Or one of my personal favs:

“Dude! If I hear another self-promotion about your shytty band I’m gonna fyck you up! Yes, I watched your videos and you can’t sing worth shyt! You give Utah a bad name and image, the only reason you’re ranked on ReverbNation is because ALL YOU DO is sit home and are an internet slut, do you play anywhere besides Fats?? Mishell is too nice to say no. I am going to message every bluesman in town and let them know you’re a fraud and if it weren’t for the internet you’d be unheard of! Every time I log in I get raped by 10,000 of your posts! SHUT THE FUCJ UP BEFORE I POST PUBLIC HOW SHYTTY YOU REALLY ARE STICK TO ART YOU TONE DEF FRAUD!”

My standard, practical advice normally consists of “Haters are a sign of success” and, “That’s the beauty of the internet, you can block those people”.

But the other night, during office hours for the Musicpreneur Apprentice Program we dove a bit deeper and I shared some advice that I’m sure you could use as well.

It comes from a book I recommend called The Four Agreements (by Don Miguel Ruiz). It’s a practical guide to personal freedom and inner peace, based on Ancient Toltec Wisdom. 

There are 4 agreements you can make that will give you immunity to such cutting remarks. Fortunately, you make these agreements with yourself, so there ARE within reach:

Be Impeccable With Your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using your words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and action of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama, With just this one agreement you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to when you are sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.

Of course I, myself, have not yet perfected these agreements. But anytime I feel down, I review them to see if I am breaking one of them. It always turns out that I am. I now have the tools to undo the damage that is done to my psyche by harsh words from others, AND from myself. And I want YOU to have these tools at your disposal as well 😉

Can YOU make these agreements with yourself? I believe that you can!

For more wisdom, advice and inspiration for independent musicians, subscribe to my email list using the link, wherever it may be.

If you know any musicians that have been on the receiving end of such harsh words, which by my calculation would be EVERY musician you know, please share this with them. That’s all for today 😉

Onward!

In the entertainment business, think of yourself as a spider. Your web is your life. It shelters you. If you have a poorly constructed web, when the rain comes, you will be washed out. It feeds you.

A spider with no web, catches no flies and thus, will starve to death. Spiders weave their webs with purpose to attain certain goals for themselves. They do not build webs for other spiders.

Think of your web as the network you build.

A strong web has strong anchor points. The professional contacts that you make, and relationships you forge with them, are your anchor points. Strong anchor points are developed by conducting yourself and your business as professionally as you can at all times.

The intersecting strands of your web represent your fan base. These strands are equally as important as the anchor points. With a larger fan base comes bigger and better opportunities with greater frequency, which allows you to continue to grow your network.

Spiders never stop maintaining and building their webs. Don’t make the mistake of trying to cheat or shortcut in this area though. By purchasing likes, follows, views, etc. for your social media pages you are only tarnishing your credibility. It’s not difficult for those anchor points, that you are working so hard to gain, to figure out. It only takes a few clicks of the mouse.

A good example is a Facebook page with 10,000 likes and a corresponding YouTube channel with minimal views, or a Twitter account with 25,000 followers and a Spotify profile with minimal plays.

Your REAL credibility lies in your ability to put REAL bodies in REAL venues on a consistent basis. In short, it’s better to have 1000 real fans than 10,000 fakes. After all, you can’t market your music or your merchandise to fake fans.

And, while it may look good to a few venues when you are starting out, word will quickly spread among talent buyers and other industry professionals (Yes they do talk to each other, they call that networking) that you are the artist with the bogus fan base, who can’t draw a stick figure.

Guess who is not getting invited back?

What you need is a fan base comprised of legitimate and highly targeted real people. Furthermore, you can’t just try to sell to these people constantly. You must interact with them and get to know them first. Be easily accessible, open a line of communication, and treat them like friends.

You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

You should be using your social channels to attract and entertain people, and to direct them to your website. Why?…

Because your website should be geared at getting them to sign up for your email list, which you should also be pitching at your shows, on all of your social channels, and even on your videos. Yes, the age old email list is still one of the most effective marketing tools that you have at your disposal.

Think about it, your email list is your direct link, that only you control, to engage and market to your targeted audience on a personal level.

Also, consider this, if someone is interested enough in you (and or) your music to grant you access to their inbox, the potential for future sales to that person is considerably higher than say the average person scrolling through their news feed. They are essentially giving you permission to directly contact and market to them.

The key lies in building relationships and trust from your subscribers and your ability to consistently deliver the relative content they want to consume. Ask questions in your emails and when people respond, follow up. Make your correspondence as personal as possible. Make them feel like they are included in your journey and not just being sold to. It will go a long way in developing trust and interest in your BRAND, if the people on your list feel like they are a part of your life, your family; As opposed to cattle being funneled into the barn for milking.

All of the social media platforms are constantly changing the rules on who sees what you post, when, and how often. You spend countless hours, days, weeks, even years building an audience for your page. Then, in order to reach all of that audience, the platform wants you to pay to advertise to your own following. You may own the page or account, but THEY own the network and THEY make the rules.

This is why it is so important to build your own network. One where YOU make the rules. If you’re a spider, the people on your email list are your flies. Ultimately, the spiders who weave the tightest webs with the strongest anchors catch the most flies.

Nope, that’s not a typo… Branding is a topic I’ll cover in a later article.

Ask The Captain: Episode II – Monetizing Your Email List

Posted by Carlos Castillo on Thursday, March 10, 2016

Facebook Live is a pretty cool thing.

Today, I used it to facilitate my first group Q&A with my subscribers in our Secret Facebook Group.

I think it turned out pretty sweet. But I’ll let you be the judge;)

If you’re not a subscriber, go ahead and enter your email address on the right side of this page to join our community!

In this inspiring TEDx Talk, our very own Shannon Curtis talks about what she’s learned through her work as a songwriter and performer about the connections we make with one another. It’s a lesson that began in living rooms and backyards all over the country, and culminated in a viral Facebook video watched by millions around the world.

Henry J. Kaiser uttered the quote that is the title of this article, and when I read that line, it struck a nerve.

It struck a nerve because I’ve been very guilty of “talking over” my work. Humility is a good thing. Not overpromising is a very good thing. At the same time, though, there’s a point where preemptive, overblown self-deprecation (and the tendency to explain everything to death in the wrong context) runs a person over. The opportunity to show someone that you know what you’re doing gets lost in all the noise you’re making.

And I’ve been behind mixing consoles on several occasions where musicians fell into this trap.

One of the most plainly visible examples is when, without irony, a musician tells the audience that the music being presented is bad. It seems like an embrace of one’s own limitations, and there’s nothing wrong with owning a total miscue, but there’s a problem with claiming – as a matter of regular course, and with a palpable sense that you mean what you say – that your art is crap:

The danger is that somebody might believe you.

The audience hears you say, “Sorry that this sucks so much,” and they subconsciously start to look for all the flaws they can find. Eventually, they find them, and start to agree. They end up pushing themselves away from what you’re doing, and with your help!

To channel Seth Godin for a moment: The vast majority of people in the world probably aren’t going to like your music, so why would you encourage everyone else to ALSO not like your music?

There are some acts out there who ironically claim that their tunes are just awful. There are blues musicians who have a whole schtick about how their guitar is always broke and their dog taught them how to sing…but it’s very recognizably a schtick. An act. Ironic. It’s easily recognizable that the players actually think that what they’re providing is quality entertainment. Their true confidence in what they’re doing is blindingly obvious. They aren’t overshadowing their own work with the commentary.

There’s also a more technical side.

I’ve been to shows where bands who have worked like CRAZY on their songs and their show end up getting in their own way. There are of course, many examples of how this can happen, but the one that stands out the most to me is that of being over-oriented to one part of the show at the expense of the whole thing.

For instance, some years ago a touring band came through my regular gig. They had decent songs and knew how to do the “small-time tour thing.” The stumbling block, though, was that the drummer seemed to believe that “energy” was all that mattered to the presentation. As such, the dude was hitting everything (especially the cymbals) as hard as was possible for him.

It looked great. VERY rock. The guy could have been on an enormous stage with a huge audience out in the seats. The visual aspect was certainly convincing.

But he OBLITERATED the actual music. All the carefully crafted lyrics, all the punch of the guitars, all the real emotional connection was lost in a storm of percussion. The music was trying to talk, but the “spectacle” was too loud. The flavors have to be in balance, or the holistic effect gets lost.

If your art is speaking to people, let it have its say.