Useful and reliable resources for self-managed indies.
Over the last couple of years facilitating the I Manage My Music workshops the three areas that people struggle with most tend to be:
1. DIY releasing an album/EP
2. DIY Distro
3. DIY Social Media
4. Music Business and Tax Laws
As I’m not a specialist in any of these areas I have accessed some resources that I believe are useful and reliable. Of course our industry is always changing and so a lot of this information continues to change – nothing here is gospel.
1. DIY releasing an Album or EP
The I Manage My Music community has been growing over the last couple of years and we often share new insights or tools on our Facebook page. A past participant recently shared this excellent visual diagram on how to monitor a release stage by stage. Ariel Hyatt has dedicated a good portion of her life to helping independent artist get their music out there to a bigger audience. Her step by step guide is a well worth a read and her interview with Seth Godin is essential viewing.
We have a great service in Australia for servicing your latest single or full EP or Album release to radio called AMRAP’s AIRIT. Personally, when servicing a new song to radio, I like to do a lot of research myself. Jump online and go and check out the specialist programs on your local community broadcasters like (click on these links and it will take you straight to their programs listing) Triple R PBS FBi Edge Radio RTR 4ZZZ Radio Adelaide and of course our national broadcaster Triple J and Radio National. There’s local ABC and a million more community broadcasters well worth investigating but time spent looking at specialist programs that suit your style of music means two things:
1. When you send them your music it’s targeted to your genre or style.
2. You can start to build your own relationships with broadcasters.
REMEMBER community radio broadcasters do it for LOVE not money. Most of them are not playlisted so you have an excellent chance of getting your music a spin.
2. DIY Distro
I guess the major question for indies these days is do I need to distribute my music physically? That is, do I need my music in all of the record stores around Australia? The general feeling amongst most musicians is that unless you are touring A LOT or getting slammed on Triple J or have a super vibe around your music on a national level, then having your album in Sanity or JB Hi-Fi isn’t essential.
Let’s face it, our grandparents are silver surfers these days. Most people google your name, find your site and buy direct. Itunes is important, particularly if you are using streaming services like Spotify but I think BANDCAMP is the king. Why? Because you get heaps more money. I’d be directing people to my Bandcamp over Itunes but giving them both options is a good idea. Check out this AWESOME diagram below on how Sufjan Stevens released an EP on Bandcamp. There’s also a follow up interview with him here on the Bandcamp blog.
If you’re still unsure about what a streaming service actually is, here’s a great article looking at what we have available to us in Australia, and each of their pros and cons.
So what’s essential?
1. Find a digital aggregator. Most indies use Tunecore but there are plenty of other services and new ones that could be better. Like I said this is not advice, just me sharing what we have talked about at our workshops. They’ll upload your song, Album or EP to iTunes, Amazon and streaming services like Spotify and Rdio. This will get your music distributed to most places in the world!
2. Open a Bandcamp account and link from your website store to your Bandcamp page. You can also sell physical merchandise through bandcamp. It just means a trip down to the post office once or twice a week to send off your albums, tees e.t.c
3. Compile a list of the great independent record stores in Australia who have survived because they cater to a niche market and stock quality music. See what they stock and if your music fits the bill. Then touch base and see if they might be interested in stocking a small amount of your CD’s or Vinyl. They’re all over this fair country, here’s a helpful list of retailers who also take part in Record Store Day each year. They love vinyl and limited releases AND like community broadcasters they do it for the LOVE.
3. DIY Social Media
1. The most important social media is your own website. Even something simple like One Sheet or you can build a simple site with a bit of help from someone with basic design skills using Squarespace WHY? Because you OWN it. Not Facebook or Twitter or Myspace. It’s your site it only changes up when you want it to and you can focus people toward your music, shows or recent news items. When people first search your name, you want your website to be the first thing that turns up in their SEO.
2. MOST IMPORTANT ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE IS HAVING YOUR OWN MAILING LIST. Whether that’s Mail Chimp who offer their service for free initially or paid services like Aweber having a professional newsletter – a way for people who dig your music to subscribe to you – is super important. WHY? Because the cheapest, most direct marketing is straight to someones inbox. They’ve signed up because they like you so it’s not a hard sell.
3. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
To be honest I get a little tired of all the Social Media carry on. I reckon find one or two platforms that you dig – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and keep them fresh. Facebook is good for a conversation, remember how sites used to have fan forums? Well Facebook is kind of that now right? Some people are amazing on Twitter, people with big personalities who really like putting themselves out there seem to thrive. But my favourite is Instagram because a picture says a thousand words.
Stats and Tracking your success
1. If you want to keep up to date with who is talking about your music and when Google Alerts is a fantastic free service. Anytime your name is mentioned an email comes direct to your inbox with the link or news story. You can then engage with supporters, bloggers and tastemakers and start building a relationship, just a thank you via FB or Twitter is a nice way to acknowledge people who have taken the time to listen to your music.
2. Tweet Deck is also great for tracking who is talking about you on Facebook and Twitter.
3. A good mailing list application as mentioned above will have stats showing you how many people are opening your mail and clicking through to your links. You can get a good idea of what newsletters are connecting and why.
4. Hype Machine lists all of the blogs and peeps talking about you right now!
4. Music Business and Tax Laws
1. A wonderful online resource for indies in Australia can be found at AMIN where they outline what to look for in standard licensing and distro deals as well as providing information on Tax Returns and what you can claim.
2. Music Arts Law Australia also have some sample agreements worth checking out before you do business.
3. Want to tour overseas? Make sure to check in with Sounds Australia first.
And lastly make sure to have a look at my recent blog on applying for music grants, I break it down step by step we also run workshops regularly so if you’d like to come along and hear from some amazing artists and industry specialists you can book in for our next one.
It’s a lot of work huh? But we owe it to ourselves as small business practitioners – whether we are managed or not – to understand the business of the industry we are working in. As overwhelming as it can feel, you’re starting by reading this article. Good on ya!