Reasons You Should Never Scrimp On Your Photo Shoot

This is a great article on one of my favorite blogs, www.musicthink.com

Promotional photos are a huge component of a musician’s marketing and branding. It’s necessary to have just the right images to effectively market your music and its message.

However, as an image consultant for recording artists, I see a lot of mistakes made by independent artists when securing promotional photos. This includes:

  • Not budgeting for all the things required for a photo shoot (i.e. wardrobe, stylist, etc.).
  • Waiting until the last minute to try to book the photographer and stylists (allow at least two weeks notice and another two weeks for retouching).
  • Not using the best photographers and team you can get for your money.

Read the entire article

SECURITY FOR WORDPRESS (AND OTHER THINGS)

Recently my Crescentmusic.com site was hacked. It still worked, and no one visiting the site was in danger, but some nefarious degenerate had piggybacked another site onto my server, buried deep in the file structure. I discovered it when my site would not allow me to update things. It took hours and hours to clean. There were thousands of files I had to delete and they had altered some of my system files to hide their activities so it kept coming back after I thought I’d deleted everything. I eventually had to start from scratch – take down the old site, reinstall WordPress, and then recreate the site (luckily all the articles and content were untouched).

Anyway, a participant from one of my wordpress seminars clued me into a free plugin called WORDFENCE recently – Thank you Helen. It scans your site every day and alerts you to any changes to files or plugin/theme updates. You can then ask it to fix it for you by replacing the hacked files with the original ones.

If you have a WordPress site, install Wordfence today and run a complete scan. Be sure to have it scan theme and plugin files (optional check boxes in the setup) since those are common back doors for hackers. Keep your site software (like WordPress, Blogger, etc.), themes and plugins updated because most updates are to fix security holes. Also, it’s a good idea to change your passwords every so often for your site, your ftp and your hosting – and DON’T USE THE SAME PASSWORD FOR EVERYTHING.

This advice goes for other things as well – phone apps, website logins, and even your computer operating system and programs.

And, of course, keep your virus checker up to date, and back everything up regularly (don’t forget your phone). I use CARBONITE for automatic offsite computer backup. Click on this referral link and get backed up TODAY: GET CARBONITE. Using this link will give you 2 months free.

LinkedIn for Musicians and Filmmakers

I started using LinkedIn a lot more lately. I have really really tried to be a regular Facebook user, but alas, after the 10th cute kitten picture, I get frustrated and log off and I LOVE kittens. I realized I was missing so many important posts because they were buried under 10 pages of kittens and deep thought quotes. And if I’m missing other people’s posts, then people were missing mine. If you post something on Wednesday and someone doesn’t look at their wall until Friday, they’ll miss your post. I was getting lost. So I began exploring LinkedIn and already I feel like I’m getting some response.

I’m still learning how to finesse LinkedIn. Just like Facebook, there are strategies, do’s and don’ts, and you have to keep it updated. LinkedIn is geared more for business connections, and not social. They have groups (like forums) you can join in your areas of interest and expertise. The idea is to interact with people and learn from each other.

First I made sure my profile was complete and as good as I could get it. This can take a little time, but is REALLY important to do this BEFORE you start inviting connections. Plus it creates some starting links to people who went to the same school, same industries and region. Then I started inviting people who I know or who know people I know to connect with me. This is really easy using their “People you may know” tab. You can send a direct request to connect with anyone who is 2 generations from you (a friend of a friend).

You can also connect with someone who is in a group that you are in. This is the real power – join the larger industry groups and you will gain access to thousands of people with whom you now have a connection you wouldn’t otherwise have through your circle of colleagues. I’ve tried to be selective – you’re not supposed to try to connect with everyone – I’m inviting mostly people in the music and film industry in my region who might be interested in my services and expertise. I have over 300 connections already and I’ve actually had a few people contact me for quotes and inquiries. And I love hearing from people I’ve known for a while who see my profile and call to say “I didn’t know you did that!” Pretty cool.

As you add connections, you start seeing what you have in common with people you didn’t even know existed. It’s the original social networking site based on the Six Degrees from Kevin Bacon principle. So, for each person in your network, it tells you all the other connections you have in common (like Facebook does), and then you can invite them into your network, and so on and so forth. And, of course, the world often revolves around who you know. Sometimes having gone to the same school opens doors. I had one connection who didn’t even know me ask for a quote on a CD project because we both went to Texas A&M.

Are you a LinkedIn Member? If not, I recommend you at least try it. It’s free. And then please connect with me. I’d love to add you to my professional network. I’ll keep using Facebook. Facebook has its uses, especially when it comes to connecting to your fans. But for business, LinkedIn seems to be the place to be. I see a lot of musicians and filmmakers on there and tons of musician/film oriented groups where people share ideas, and even post requests for songs for licensing deals, films, TV, etc.

Please visit my LinkedIn profile and Connect with me: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dianathornton. Just indicate you are a colleague.

I’d still also love to be your Friend on Facebook. “Like” my Crescent Music Services page and my personal page. Subscribe to my email list to receive the occasional emails I send out. (I still refuse to get a Twitter account.)

Just Google search “how to use LinkedIn for musicians” and you’ll find a ton of videos and how-to’s to help you get started.

 

Icontact Email Service

Get a $50 ACCOUNT CREDIT by using my link

I use Icontact to send out my emails. I switched some years ago when I realized that my emails were getting bounced back more and more. Some of the email servers (yahoo, aol) were “blacklisting” certain other servers and I just happened to be on one of those.

The advantage to email services such as Icontact and Constant Contact is that they are “whitelisted” and usually can get your message through. They also help you format your message so that it doesn’t appear as spam.

But there are tons of other reasons I discovered once I signed up:

  • Nice looking templates
  • database management
  • automatic signup forms for Facebook and my website
  • automatic responder emails, even ecourses.

It is a great communications tool in its own right, so I have stuck with it.

AND recently they have integrated social networking linking for Facebook and Twitter.

Please use my link here to sign up so I can get a few pennies of commission for referring you. According to their site, you will also get a $50 ACCOUNT CREDIT by using my link.

You’re welcome to call me to find out more.

Business card, post card and poster printing services

There are lots of online printers who specialize in business cards, postcards, etc.
  • If you check a bunch, you can usually find a sale going at one of them for the item you need printing. I just got 500 business cards at gotprint for $23 with shipping cause I caught a sale.
  • COUPON CODES: Google “promo codes” for the printer you want to use and you might even find a coupon code for a couple bucks off.
  • I recommend ordering 500 or more – you will find the prices for 250 and 500 are almost the same.
  • watchout for sales tax now – some printers are starting to collect sales tax across state lines due to a new law or having a plant in your state.
I’ve used:
I’ve also seen ads for:
www.nextdayflyers.com – seem to have good prices.

www.uprinting.com – have a cool square card, slim cards, and even specialty shapes (circles, rounded, etc.). Prices seem good too.

www.hotcards.com – claim to be environmental and union
http://www.cdpostershop.com – small quantities at good prices
www.zooprintingtrade.com
www.printrunner.com – try HOWMAG coupon code for first time order, 20%

Elevator Pitch

elevator

You’re at a music conference and you get in the elevator with a major producer you’ve been hoping to get to come to your gig. What do you say???? You only have 30-60 seconds to make a powerful first impression.

Get to the point. Unless you’re in an elevator stuck between floors and you’re waiting for the maintenance crew.

Have a short and a long version. 1 sentence, 5 sentences, long version for at a restaurant.

Use words that are powerful and strong.

Use words that create a visual image in your listeners mind. This will make your message memorable.

What is your desired outcome? You may have different pitches depending on different objectives. For instance do you want to: get them to come to your gig? sign you to their label? invest in your CD? sell them a CD?

The Hook. This is what that literally snags your listener’s interest and makes them want to know more. This is the phrase or words that strike a chord in your listener.

Write down what you do. Try writing it at least 10-20 different ways. Don’t edit yourself at all. You will edit later. This first step is for generating ideas. Don’t hold back. Ideas can be goofy, serious, wild, funny, or conservative. It doesn’t matter. The goal is to get at many ideas as possible down on paper.

Write a very short story that illustrates what you do for people. If necessary, the story can be long. You will boil it down later. Paint a picture with words.

Write down your objective or goal.

Record yourself. You’ll be shocked by how stupid you sound when you’re not prepared.

Let it sit. Come back to what you’ve written with fresh eyes and ears the next day or later on in the same day.

Highlight the good stuff. Listen and read through what you’ve recorded and written. Then either highlight or circle the phrases that hook you with clear, powerful, and visual words. Obviously not all the words will fall into these categories. You still need connector words, but you want them to be as few as possible.

Be sure your words are full of confidence. Avoid words like “I hope” or “I think” or “you should.” Use active verbs.

Avoid cliches and other empty phrases like “we really rock”.

Be ready to compare yourself to other performers. Don’t say we don’t sound like anyone else, we are totally original. I like to define myself with “mixed with”, such as “Joan Jett mixed with Bob Dylan”.

Don’t go into the story of how you were formed or your history unless it’s super interesting or significant. For example, if you know the person you’re pitching to is into animal rescue and your band got it’s first gig at a charity event for animal rescue, you might mention that. Or, if you played at Carnegie Hall, that might be worth mentioning.

So, know your audience and choose specific information that is important for them to know in your 30 seconds.

You might not even get to the why and the how. It might be for a later conversation.

Put the best pieces together. Again you’ll want to write down several versions of this much tighter pitch.

Do a final edit cutting as many unnecessary words as possible. Rearrange words and phrases until it sounds just right. Again, the goal is 30-60 seconds maximum.

Dress Rehearsal. Run it by as many people as you can get to listen to you. Get feedback from colleagues, clients you trust, friends and family.

Avoid uhs and umms. Look them straight in the eye.

Get in an elevator with a friend and see just how it works in a real world setting.

Take your final version and write it down on an index card or in your PDA. Memorize and practice it until it just slides off your tongue naturally.

Be on the listen for phrases that you think could make your elevator pitch better and tweak it as you go.

The same pitch should be in your promo materials as well.

Prepare to answer questions with quick answers.

One last tip – don’t hit all the floor buttons just to give yourself more time.

GETTING THE WORD OUT – grassroots ideas to promote yourself and your music

Compiled from multiple sources on the internet, my experience, books, etc.

  1. Send out press releases frequently. The press need a story. Just releasing a CD is not a news item. Do you have an interesting story that will get their attention? What are the songs on your CD about? What’s the theme? What’s the message you are trying to communicate through your music?
  2. Website and online press kit – be sure to include press quality photos, schedule, bio, press releases, mp3s, gig pics, fan blog, re KEEP IT UPDATED!! MAKE IT WORTH THE VISIT. [Websites are a tool, not a means  it is useless if people don’t know it’s there.]
  3. Submit your schedule to every free listing everywhere you can no matter how obscure or far away. Compile a “listings” email list and bookmarks.
  4. College radio – Approach a local college or alternative radio station or community access cable TV station with a programming idea, like a live songwriter showcase. Other musicians will want to be a part of your show, and you’ll build an audience for your own music, and theirs.
  5. radio interviews (also give some complimentary tickets to this radio stations to give out)
  6. Give copies of your CD away to public radio and TV stations for their fund drive premiums.
  7. Upload a band video (Youtube, Revver, Metacafe, Google and many more)
  8. Organize, publicize, and perform at charity events for your favorite causes. Charity does wonders for publicity outreach. Find something you believe in and offer to play at their event or donate proceeds to their cause. Not only does it get you out there and give you a story angle, but it feels good to help out.
  9. Hook up with a not-for-profit and have a plug for them on your CD cover. It helps bring attention to a cause you believe in. It also makes you look like a good guy with public radio station program directors.
  10. Record a PSA using your music for a cause and send to radio stations.
  11. Connect with local film students / universities / independent filmmakers – they may use you as a project and you get a video out of it.
  12. Lead songwriting or performing workshops in the schools (these are usually paying gigs, and all the parents hear your name).
  13. Cross promotions with other businesses. Hitch a ride on the marketing of another company.
  14. Submit your music to satellite radio. They have several unsigned channels and are always looking for new music.
  15. Conferences – showcase, attend, learn
  16. e-mail list of fans. Keep them informed. Do an ezine.
  17. Use text messaging to communicate with your fans. You can do this for free from your computer with regular email – get permission from the person (incoming messages still incur the cost to the receiver), then get their cell number and company. The email address is their cell number @ the company specific extension (0000000000@messaging.sprintpcs.com). Look up the part after the @ on the cell phone company website, or www.livejournal.com lists many. Create a separate text message address field in your database for your email lists to do mass texting. KEEP THE MESSAGES SHORT – 160 characters. If you don’t know the service, Teleflip.com figures out which provider. 1,000 messages per month for free. You can also try: 10digitphonenumber@teleflip.com.
  18. Follow-up! Every call and mailing sent deserves a follow up. Wait about 1-2 weeks.
  19. Online radio USA4Real.com.
  20. Music licensing Contact music supervisors on TV shows for a start. Send them an inquiry with your information and a link to your music. If you get placed, you can use it for press and it becomes a story!
  21. Send your CDs to magazines for your genre for reviews. Call ahead and find out the right contact, unsolicited packages get lost in the shuffle. Look up specific writers you feel would enjoy your music and find out how to reach them.
  22. Invite web visitors to print and distribute fliers for you. Can also ask fans to print coupons for discounts on recordings and admission fees.
  23. Hotel and Motel Promotions. Research hotels and motels in the areas that you are going to be touring and arrange with the appropriate lodgings to have free copies of your CD put on the pillow of the guests who are staying there. Or, instead of a CD, a Free Ticket to your show. You might lose the price of admission, but they might buy a CD.
  24. Farmer’s Markets – offer to play for free. Like having your own mini jazz fest.
  25. Gig sharing – you get the benefit of several bands promoting the gig as well as their fans sticking around for your music.
  26. Play as many shows as possible free and otherwise.
  27. Business Cards. Name of the band, contact info, email, website address, description of music / band. KEEP WITH YOU ALL THE TIME.
  28. Postcards. Not just for mailing – leave the around, hand them out.
  29. Flyers: Handbills or quartersheets are the best.
  30. Bag-stuffer. Many retail businesses stuff a flier or discount coupon into your bag along with your purchase. Offer to put the store’s message on one side and your message on the other. You pay for printing the whole thing.
  31. Sponsor an award or special ceremony. Is there a distinguished person in your community who you’d like to honor? Or is there an anniversary, special date in history or cause you’d like to recognize? If so, plan an event around that theme and make a party out of it.
  32. Sponsor a college or community radio show that features your style of music.
  33. Hand out flyers and a pair of tickets to bartenders in Irish pubs for a Celtic show or motorcycle shops for a heavy metal show. Try tattoo parlors, coffee shops, book and record stores, niche clothing stores.
  34. Hold a Contest related to your band or release. Example: guess the origin of your band-s name. To register, people go to local record store outlets, the radio station websites and your website and fill out an entry form. Clues on the band’s name are mailed weekly to radio stations and music press, creating even more of a buzz about the band. Or, Run contests for best posters designs, best videos for your band or homemade commercials for your club, best song remixes or mash-ups. Put a lot of finalists up on the web. Throw a party to announce the winner.
  35. Park a van or truck with a banner on the street across from a show by a similar act or venue.
  36. When you do get a review or feature story published in the press, make copies of it and send it to everyone on your industry contact list, including radio stations, other publications, nightclub owners, booking agents, A&R people. Include press clippings or quotes in mailings that go to your fans, too!
  37. Give Free stuff: Example: At one of our summer festival shows, we distributed free homemade Lemonade to the audience in 95-degree weather, as well as chilled cartons of the refreshment that had been donated by a local juice bottler for all of the industry types present.
  38. Gig at unexpected venues who will promote you to their clientele. Possibilities: art galleries, skate shops, hip clothing stores, leather shops, recreation centers, shopping malls, new age retailers, book stores, etc.
  39. Tie into an already existing event. contact the organizers of already established events and ask if you could help them add a musical element. If you can’t formally get connected to an existing event, consider presenting an unofficial party at a nearby location.
  40. Use eight postage stamps instead of one. Stand out in the junk mail clutter by using way more stamps than anyone else. Stick on several stamps that all add up to 42 cents. Who would fail to open a letter with eight stamps on it?
  41. Arrange for positive picketers to demonstrate in front of a nightclub or record store. gather a group of your supporters outside of an establishment, carrying signs that praise your band or new release. Especially helpful at conferences and areas of town with lots of clubs playing at the same time.
  42. brainstorm. Sit down with a bunch of friends and fans and try to come up with the most ludicrous idea. Think big. Something you probably could Never achieve. And keep writing the ideas down as they come. Open your mind up so you don’t limit yourself to any single idea.
  43. Connect with genre ezines catering to your style of music.
  44. Branding – Get your name out there. Make up some stickers, badges, posters, or anything else you can think of that include your band’s name. Then, leave the stuff anywhere you can. Pass them out at your favorite clubs, leave them on the record shop counter, poster the light posts – go for it. Soon, your name will be familiar to people even if they don’t know why, and when they see your name in the paper advertising an upcoming show, they’ll think “hey…I know that name, I wonder what that’s all about..”
  45. Hand stamp. Here’s a marketing idea from Corey Palmer of the band Monday Conspiracy. Like most club-playing musicians, his band gets booked at venues that stamp the hand of every patron who enters. Most bands don’t give this common ritual a second thought. But not Monday Conspiracy. “We had a stamp made that spells out our web site address,” Corey says. “Before every show, we ask the manager if he or she would mind using our stamp at the door. Most managers say yes, which results in the entire crowd being temporarily branded with our web address.” And the results? “We’ve seen our web traffic jump quite a bit since we started doing this. People are less likely to forget our address with it stamped on their hands.”
  46. Hand out “free” tickets or VIP passes to your next gig. Be sure to clue the door person in to the free admission if you are charging a cover.
  47. e-cards. www.Jukeboxalive.com
  48. Create a band internet radio.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket in one networking site. They are a great idea and worth doing, but they WILL each be replaced by the next popular destination and no one visits them all.

Other Resources:

  • Bob Baker http://www.bob-baker.com/buzz/index.html
    Lots of info and books such as
    Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook: 201 Self-Promotion Ideas for Songwriters, Musicians and Bands
  • www.bardscrier.com lots of great articles
  • Jay Levinson Guerrilla Marketing Attack.
  • How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet
    order or download from: http://www.musicbizacademy.com/bookstore/htpromotemusic.htm
  • Getsigned.com http://www.getsigned.com/promotion.html Has tons of books and info
  • CDbaby.net/tips
  • Jeffrey Lant’s, “The Unabashed Self-Promoter’s Guide: What every man, woman, child and organization in America Needs to Know About Getting Ahead by Exploiting the Media”
  • James Gibson’s, “Getting Noticed: A Musician’s Guide to Publicity and Self-Promotion” (Writer’s Digest Books).