Here’s a question I get every now and again… and again:
“What does ‘Schwilly Family’ mean?”
The short answer is: A “Schwilly” is the ultimate community oriented music super-fan.
A bunch of us used to reek havoc across the midwest music festival scene. ESPECIALLY Hookahville. At some point along the way, someone announced, “We’re a family of Schwillies!”
The name of my business is a tribute to where I came from and, more importantly, a constant reminder of WHY I do it.
When I gave one musician that answer to his question, he proceeded to tell me about how is wife busted out laughing at the name.
Well, that’s ANOTHER great benefit to the Schwilly Family “brand”! It comes with free smiles included 😉 And it’s a HECK of a lot catchier than “Music Marketing This” or “Music Business That”.
Remember: You’re not really building an “audience”. It’s more like you’re starting a club, a group of soon-to-be friends, or found family. Isn’t that a MUCH cooler thing than trying to be part of an “industry”?
The MOST IMPORTANT element of a “brand” is a feeling of belonging to an EXCLUSIVE group of people you respect and appreciate.
A LOT of people told me I was crazy for using “Schwilly Family” as my brand. And the truth is, it’s NOT for everybody. And it’s not meant to be.
It’s for YOU.
And I KNOW that being “Schwilly” has become a part of your identity and a badge you wear with pride. That, my friend, is what creates a TRULY great “brand”.
The fact that outsiders have no idea what it refers to is irrelevant. Because creating a brand that is MEANINGFUL is much more valuable than creating a brand that is instantly recognizable.
“Apple” certainly didn’t become synonymous with “computers” overnight!
If I had to sum up “branding” in once sentence, I would say: “Branding is NOTHING MORE than figuring out what you’re all about and learning how to express it.”
It can also be summed up (even better) by a quote from Simon Sinek:
“People don’t buy WHAT you do. They buy WHY you do it.”
One of the biggest problems with the educational resources you come across online nowadays is a tendency to overcomplicate things.
Many educators feel that, in order to provide value that equals the price they charge, they must to give you 10 hours of videos, complete with excessive jargon and complicated explanations…
…as if the harder it is for you to learn, the more valuable it is.
I have figured out that I can provide more VALUE in 5 minutes by giving you information in a way that you understand, which you can apply and see RESULTS from on the same day I give it to you.
Pretty much everything we do in the Musicpreneur Apprentice Program contributes to building your “brand”. But you’ll probably never hear me use that word again.
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.
It’s sort of like looking up a very steep hill – there’s a venue you’re hoping to play at, but they have no idea who you are. How do you get their attention?
Having been a venue operator “back in the day,” I’ve received numerous “cold” contacts. Some of them got me to respond positively, and some didn’t. If you condense everything into the most concentrated form, the folks that had a chance of a positive response were the ones who took the time to establish a real, individual relationship. The ones who didn’t make the effort were either politely declined, or ignored completely, depending upon the severity of their conduct.
So…what does all that mean, exactly? Well, speaking for myself:
1) From a marketing standpoint, a cold-contact is you selling me (the booker) a relatively expensive product that I’m not sure I want. The key thing there is “I.” What might sell someone else on your gig is not guaranteed to convince me that it’s a good idea. You need to have some idea of what the individual venue wants. This means that you have to do your homework in some way. If there’s a web resource with booking information, make sure to read through that info, being careful to pay attention to anything that deals with the business side of the show.
2) The initial contact should come from someone who cares intimately about the specific show you’re trying to do. For a lot of independent musicians, this means you, the musician. Lots of emails, social-media messages, and phone calls get ignored. They get ignored even harder when they come from some nameless, faceless person at a booking agency or label. The prime reason for that rejection is because the nameless-faceless doesn’t care enough about your show to do the homework on the venue. They just “shotgun” a whole pile of messages to a whole pile of places after minimal research – and it’s obvious that they’re doing so.
As a booker, I got lots of emails from the nameless-faceless crowd that were clearly all from the same “Los Angeles Pop-Punk-Metal-Crossover Band Generator” template, and that blatantly ignored booking information that was publicly available. For a while, I answered those emails, only to get into crushingly tiresome conversations where the nameless-faceless tried to negotiate on various aspects of the (again) publicly available information. I eventually realized what a waste of time it was, and just deleted the emails.
3) Related to the above, be sure that however you make the initial contact, make clear that the venue’s business needs, as they’ve outlined, are understood by you. Failing to make this clear can cause you to be de-prioritized, especially if the venue does have booking information available You want to avoid creating a request that requires the information to be spoon-fed to you. The entire point of putting those whys and wherefores in a public place was so that it wouldn’t have to be endlessly discussed in a million emails and phone calls.
(Now, of course, if the venue doesn’t have that information available, you’ll probably have to ask them about it during the initial contact. There’s nothing wrong with that – just make sure that you ask BEFORE pitching anything.)
4) When making your pitch, focus intently upon what is truly actionable in terms of creating a profitable event for the venue. This is something of a ruthless process, because a lot of standard sales-pitch elements simply don’t apply. For example:
Who you’ve shared the stage with doesn’t matter. Plenty of bands who had no business being on stage with anyone else have talked their way onto shows with decent acts. I’ve been witness to it. Besides, the general public doesn’t care that you’ve been on deck with [someone they may or may not care about]. They (and the venue) do care about whether they like you, and are willing to come out and see YOU.
Where you’ve played doesn’t matter. It matters even less than who you’ve played with. It’s not a measure of meaningful exposure at all. You might have played a 1000 seat auditorium, but only 50 people were in attendance. And again, the show-going public doesn’t give a hoot. The biggest, hottest promoter in town could run giant ads through all the local media outlets, proclaiming that [Your Band] has played [Somewhere Else], and the reaction from the public will be “Who?” and “So?”
The number of Insta-Face-Twitter-Verbnation followers you have is almost completely irrelevant. How many of those people are local? How many will buy a ticket to your show, on the night in question, at that venue? How many are actually engaged?
An example of what IS actionable is evidence of people clamoring for you to do a show in their town. If you can show a venue some sort of real proof that you have an engaged, dedicated audience in their area that can at least half-fill the room, that’s a powerful tool.
Another example of what’s actionable is you being friends with some local bands that have a track-record of doing well at that venue, or at places similar to it. That leads into the “Zen” approach…
…which is “cold contacting” a venue without cold contacting them at all. Rather, you make friends with a band that has a good relationship with the room. They are the ones who are known as being a money-maker for the place, and as cool people. They get booked, they get you on the bill by leveraging their reputation, and then (very crucially), you come in, treat everybody beautifully, and help increase the size of the crowd. Everybody wins, and the venue gets to know you.
The point is that you have to create a relationship with someone, somehow. It involves time and effort, but the potential payoff can certainly be worth it.
A while back, one of our Schwilly Family members, Adam Price, wrote me an e-mail to tell me how he is making a living playing music in nursing homes. I thought it would be a great idea to share with you all, so I interviewed Adam to find out how he got started and where it has led him. I know you’ll get some great information out of his answers!
Thank you very much, Adam, for sharing this idea with us and taking the time out to answer my questions. Let’s start at the beginning. Why did you start playing in nursing homes?
Actually, life threw me a curve ball. I was a marketing consultant working 18 to 20 hours a day and it nearly killed me. I had no time for music or for anything else except the business. After a time, I fell ill and was sent to the hospital. While I was there in the hospital, I realized that at least I would be able to get out, but many of the people there had only one way out and that was in a box. These are people who have built our local cities, business people, doctors, white and blue color workers, and many of them were lonely and didn’t have anyone.
While I was in the hospital, I LOVED seeing a new face. Being in isolation is extremely hard and lonely . . . and that is my WHY. The joy I give to the people in the nursing home is the joy I get out of playing my music to them.
What did you do to get started?
When I first started, I got in touch with the homes and quickly found out I needed to ask for their “Activities Director.” Many homes have more than one, but I speak to one and go from there. I needed to be ready to answer questions such as:
Where are you from?
Do you have insurance and tax forms for payment?
How much do you charge?
Do you have a criminal background check?
What type of music do you play?
Very early on when I first started, there was no payment for such gigs, only a $10 or $20 gift certificate or perhaps some money for gas. This is where some artists might think, “Oh, there is no money in nursing home gigs,” but over time I built a reputable name for myself as a professional entertainer who specializes in aged care and senior concerts.
After about 2 years of building up my name, I told them I couldn’t keep going without payment. When I set up a price range of $80 to $100 for an hour show, they were happy to oblige since their residents were already relying on my shows.
I also approached local businesses and got sponsorship from those who wanted nursing homes as their clients. Music was the perfect gift for the business to give to the residents and their business cards were left with the homes: A win-win situation for both (and for me).
Sure sounds like it. So, let’s get down to specifics. How often do you play? How long is a normal set? What is your audience like? How much do you get paid now?
I play 10 shows a week at nursing homes, mostly on weekdays. This is now a full-time income for me and makes up the bread and butter for my music career in between gigging on the weekends.
Typically a show goes for 1 hour and fits in with the nursing home schedule which is usually from 10:30 to 11:30 in the morning or 1:30 to 2:30 in the afternoon.
In a nursing home, typically you’ll have anywhere from 20 to 50 residents attend, but if you’re new, don’t expect too many to come. But over time, as they grow to like you and your music, they don’t want to miss your shows.
But it really varies. I’ve sung for a room with three elderly citizens in it (two of them dozing off to sleep but waking up to clap at the end of each song—hilarious!), and I’ve also sung for a room of 200+ seniors in local clubs where morning tea shows are held and attended by all the nursing homes in the areas.
At the moment, my rates are as follows:
Weekday shows – 10 am to 4 pm – $80 / hour
Saturday shows – 10 am to 4 pm – $100 / hour
Sunday shows – 10 am to 4 pm – $150 / hours
The important thing is to have a rate card ready, but DON’T talk turkey until after they’ve at least heard you play or you will shoot yourself in the foot and possibly close the doors before they even open.
I did shows for free to a very little ($30) for the first year or so to get booked solid, then I told them I needed to up the ante to $50 / show for the following six months. After that I increased prices slow to get to where I am now.
Great! Now, tell us what kinds of adjustments you need to make in your show when you play in a nursing home.
You really need to think about repertoire and how you can get the residents (especially the high-dementia patients) out of themselves and reacting to the music you’re playing.
It is important to remember that it’s not about you or you music in the homes. It’s all about how skilled you are at holding their attention, interacting with them and making them come alive. If you do this, you’ll gain a place in the hearts of the nursing home activities directors and the managers as someone who is therapeutic to their residents, and you’ll NEVER be without paid work.
As far as volume goes, always ask the activities director if the volume is OK. I crank the volume up at some places but others need it at a whisper. But you will find that residents with hearing aids will cover their ears, not necessarily because you are a bad singer but because the loudness hurts their ears.
As for pace, do a mix of slow older songs (Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Englebert Humperdinck) and then mix it up with some faster rock ‘n roll and country rock—anything with a good beat they’ll like once you connect with them.
For interaction, do singalong songs such as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. Look up singalong songs on Google and you’ll find tons of them. The key is to ask the residents what their favorite songs are. You’ll get golden nuggets of songs you’ve never heard of before, but when you learn the song and sing it for them the next time, their families and staff will be amazed at how they “wake up” to their favorite songs.
That must be an amazing feeling to see that. Another question: have you been able to book other shows as a result of playing in a nursing home?
YES . . . Weddings, 60th to 100th birthdays (mind you, 100th birthdays play BIG TIME, like $1,000s for a couple of hours), engagement parties, special event days, etc . . . All of these facilities have staff and the residents have family members who have seen you play.
You can also take CDs/DVDs to sell at these places and they will buy them by the bucket load at some of them. At others not so many, but it all adds up.
Great ideas! I know that the Senior Center here in town has music for their lunch hour and many different holiday celebrations. I imagine that is similar to the morning tea shows you mentioned before.
Yes, any place or activity where seniors are specifically invited can be a potential gig. I would like to add, though, that it takes a special personality to get along best in this type of venue. You must be someone who GENUINELY cares about senior citizens and their well-being and who likes the crooning songs, old time favorites, and singalongs that they enjoy.
I once got some feedback about a band that said to the audience, “Don’t sing. We are the singers and you should be listening to us.” If you’re one of this type of entertainer and don’t want to hear the residents singing or yelling out of tune back at you, then DON’T DO nursing home shows!
One of the funniest times of a show is when the nursing home staff get involved and dance and try to sing along with me. The residents absolutely LOVE it when the staff they know get involved in a show, and so do I!
Thank you so much, Adam, for the great information. Do you have a website or e-mail address where other musicians might get in touch with you if they have any questions?
With almost 200 shows and multiple music conferences in the past two years, Maddy and I have learned a ton about the current music industry. For those wanting a career as singer-songwriters, here are a two things we think are worth keeping in mind…
PART 1: Making an album is no longer profitable, but we still need to record and release music.
We all know that while royalties and music sales have virtually disappeared, the costs of making a studio album has not. However, the industry still expects us to have a competitive album or demo before taking us seriously. Everyone is presumed capable of recording a high-quality production in their tablets nowadays, and many do. So albums and EPs have become a business card of sorts – a very expensive business card. What’s more, in today’s oversaturated market, fans expect to hear something new from you every 6 months or less. Otherwise, they may forget you exist.
I told someone earlier this week, if I was starting over right now, I would not do a full-length album like we did initially. I would put all my money in a high-quality EP (3 songs) and release them throughout the year as video singles. And then I would use the rest of my money to market those singles. An album no one hears may not actually exist. Concentrate on quality over quantity, and space it out properly.
If you don’t have the patience to release only 3 songs per year (which Maddy and I don’t), then you have to get more creative. Maddy and I write enough material for a new album yearly, and we want our fans to have it. One of the ways we’re tackling this issue is by doing live albums with lots of new material.
Last year we did a live EP at SugarHill Studios with an in-studio audience of friends and family. The response we received was well worth the experiment – especially to the live video footage.
This year, we recorded our first full-length live album at Lucky Run Studios on Feb. 27th, which we are currently mixing. We sold tickets for two separate performances which funded a large chunk of the project, and gave fans a very unique behind-the-scenes look at our work. And after it’s all said and done, we’ll end up with a lot of new material to release as singles every month or so. So far, the project seems like a winner for everyone involved.
PART 2: Most of the money in the industry is being made through licenses and merchandise.
If you want or need to make money making music, you should focus a big part of your efforts (if not all) on getting your music licensed and/or selling merchandise at live shows. For Maddy and I the goal is to become full-time performing artists, so we spend the time we have performing, and learning how to create a live music experience that results in the sale of a CD, t-shirt, etc.
If it sounds like we care more about making money than making music, consider we can’t make as much music if we don’t make money in the process. We work hard at creating a true musical experience for our audiences – which everyone reading this article understands has a huge personal value. If audiences find value in what they experienced, they’ll want to leave our show with something to remember it by. In our case, we keep our profit margins low in the hope that more people take our music home with them.
For those who are not interested in performing as much as we do, our advice would be to focus their efforts on writing, recording, and releasing music for placement in TV shows, movies, video games, apps, etc. With the plethora of media available in today’s market, one can make a reasonable income from this avenue, and the resulting exposure is often better than radio because people are actually watching these shows, playing the games, etc.
I spoke with Jonny Rodgers of the indie band Cincertalk. He has successfully licensed music for films as well as commercials, non-profits, live theater, and dance. He says artists can expect anything from $150 to $50K for a song placement depending on the use.
For example Broadcast or film tends to pay higher fees, but there’s a greater demand for web use or other lesser-paying media. There are a number of large stock music licensing companies like The Music Bed, Marmoset, and Brash Tracks, as well as boutiques music houses like the one Jonny works with thanks to a personal connection. He says if he was starting out in this industry he would join a performance rights organization like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, learn how to run a digital audio workstation, and get a couple of great mics ASAP.
“Take ownership of the recording process and get into situations where you are constantly creating great work, for yourself, or others, or both.”
He also cautioned that some of the larger stock licensing companies signs artists and not songs, “so you should make sure your ‘footprint’ as an artist is strong online; good website, Facebook artist page with fans, possibly videos, and just generally compelling work”.
Of course, there are other ways you can make money with your music, but if you want to make a career out of it, it is important to know that these are sustainable options the industry currently affords us.
Both take a lot of work, but for those who take this career choice seriously that won’t be a problem. The days of someone paying for you to make records are almost gone because the sales of records are almost gone. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that if we can figure out how to be artists and entrepreneurs at the same time, we will be the decision-makers of the industry, and we may be entering an unprecedented era of unbridled artistic integrity. People will always need new music. Our hope is that today’s musicians will re-claim the industry and make it their own.
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.
This led me to try an experiment. For a full year, I released one single of my own music once per month.
Here is what I discovered.
1) You Stay Relevant
Assuming you are not god, and can whip out a full album every month, making your fans wait 6 months to a year (or more) between releases is an eternity these days.
Especially when there is so much else going on in the lives of the music fans that we are trying to win over.
By releasing singles, you stay relevant in a music market where releasing music only 1 or 2 times a year is almost the same as releasing nothing at all.
2) You Build A Loyal Fan Base Faster
When you release music, you are essentially opening the up the lines of communication with your fans. The more often that you release music, the faster you and your fans are going to get to know each other.
By releasing singles, you create a loyal fan base faster. A fan base that gets in the habit of getting music from you on a regular basis. They begin to anticipate each release. You win.
3) You Crush Procrastination
By releasing singles you replace procrastination with the sense of purpose that is created from frequent delivery of music.
You can’t sit around and wonder why your career is going nowhere because you have work to do.
4) You Get Paid More Often
Get paid 8 – 12 times per year instead of just once or twice.
If you are willing to put in the time and effort, releasing singles is a great strategy. But how?
How to Release a Singles
Like I mentioned earlier, I released singles as often as possible over the course of a year (once per month on average).
The following is a rough system I’ve developed which has worked pretty well in some areas but, I’m sure, could use some improvement.
I’ve divided the process into 3 parts; Preparations, Distribution and Amplification.
I usually create videos, credits, lyrics, album art, and a blog post up front and have them located in a single folder so when I get to start uploading and filling out album data. Nothing slows you down faster then having to stop everything to dig around for stuff.
Time to upload songs, videos and whatever else for distribution. This should be fairly painless if did your job in the preparation phase.
For my song files, I use Bandcamp as my main store where I try to send the bulk of my traffic on release day. I also used CDBaby for my music distribution to services like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc.
For videos, I just used YouTube. In the past I’ve added videos to other sites like Vimeo and have used use a video distribution service like OneLoad too. Just takes more time and I am only a one man operation. For now, I get enough bang for my buck on YouTube. Really depends on how much time you have and what sort of presence you will have on the other platforms.
Once everything is live on your distribution channels, complete and publish your blog post.
Now that everything is set up it is time to start telling your world via what I’m calling Amplification (could be a better term but it just sounds more musciany don’t you think?
I started by contacting everyone in my email list (if you don’t have one you are screwing yourself).
Then I make my rounds in the social media world as well as reach out to any blogs, radio and podcast contacts that have featured my music in the past.
There’s More Though
That is the gist.
Everything I’ve listed above should give you a pretty good idea of why and how to release a single.
But, if you’re the kind of musician who wants to dig deeper and improve your chances of creating the maximum amount of buzz, adding new fans and selling all the singles you can, check out my free ebook “Sell More Singles.”
“Sell More Singles” contains an in-depth outline of the entire single release process.
How to prepare your files for distribution,
Which services to use to distribute your single on iTunes, Spotify, etc.
Where to promote your single
Sound cool or what?
It is but I am biased. Go check it out for yourself.