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The Undercurrents Series of Music Business Educational Forums is designed to assist musicians, songwriters, bands and music industry professionals with continued growth and knowledge of the music / entertainment industry.  These forums and the information provided is practical rather than legalistic in its approach and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice in relation to any particular matter.   Undercurrents, Inc. accepts no liability for any errors or omissions.

Building your Website

 

·         HTML Goodies - a great guide to get started with designing Web pages, resources for doing more advanced tasks, and a whole variety of other Web development items http://www.htmlgoodies.com/

 

·         C|NET's Builder.com - an all around reference for Web site creators and designers that makes it easy to take advantage of what amazing things you can do on the Web. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, you can learn something here.http://www.builderau.com.au/

 

·         Web Developer Magazine - lots of resources on various technologies here ranging from HTML to Java    http://www.webdeveloper.com/

 

·         Webreference.com - another big site with lots of juicy information that focuses on everything from beginner to expert site design       http://www.webreference.com/

 

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Web Templates

CD Baby

 

 


 

EPK – Electronic Press Kit

Here are three components that you should include on your website. These are keeping music writers in mind (they need access to your their information quickly, because they are constantly under deadline.)

1. Your Music – album or live tracks
You are a band / musician after all, and nothing speaks for you louder than your music. Make sure you have some music available at your website either streamable or downloadable (if you feel like giving away a free track or two).

2. Biography – and a short sentence about your sound
Bio - Make sure you have a short succinct bio that can be easily located on your site, (in addition to the long form one, the blogs and all of the opinions from each band member – which are fun for your fans but not for music writers who will be looking to get quick information. Make sure this bio is easily cut and past able so writers can drop it into a preview or a column.
Short Sentence – Also include a short summary (like less than 6 words) that sums up your sound for calendar editors.

3. Photos – make them easy to find and download
Thumbnails are great for quick and easy loading but you should always have a few downloadable photos on your site (both in color and black and white) in at least 300 dpi – Create a link that says "click here for a hi res jpeg" that way photo editors can get to them easily – and remember to change your photos a few times a year – so if you play repeat markets you can give the media multiple choices to cover you.

 

 


 

E-Mail Tips


According to the experts, if you want to improve your email marketing results, you must increase the relevance of their messages. Here are their top five tips.

1. Be relevant - use personalization and segmentation
The greatest capability of e-mail marketing technology is segmentation and personalization.  Making emails as relevant as possible to each recipient is the most critical "must do.”  Marketing e-mail messages are competing for attention with an increasing number of messages in the subscriber's inbox.  Those that resonate most, through personalized subject lines, offers, articles, product showcases, and follow-up e-mails based on recipient activity, will be the clear winners.


2. Resolve or minimize deliverability and presentation issues

With a wealth of spam filtering systems and e-mail client software in the marketplace, there is a growing need to send pre-campaign test messages to discover any potential delivery problems before sending the actual message to real recipients, and also to monitor results after each message.  This will help marketers identify ISP blocking, filtering and blacklisting problems.

3. Don't forget blocked images and preview pane users

Marketers must now design their messages to render properly and be easily read (and acted upon) in a world of preview panes and blocked images.  E-mail message templates will need to be designed to deliver maximum information in the top 2 to 4 inches of screen space, and increase their creative use of HTML fonts and colors while relying less on the use of images that ISPs or recipients' email clients are probably blocking.

4. Optimize the beginning of the e-mail relationship
Engage new subscribers immediately with an organized program that includes a welcome message upon confirmation, followed by the current newsletter or promotion, and e-mails offering a set of "best-of" newsletter articles or even an exclusive offer just for newcomers.  It is also important to manage subscribers' expectations from the start by adequately explaining the e-mail program's value proposition, frequency, type of content, and privacy policy.


5. Get on the permission train

Review permission practices across your web sites and at all customer contact points company-wide.  Convert any opt-out address collection to opt-in (for example, don't pre-check permission boxes on subscription forms, mail-in offers, and so on).  Permission-based email is becoming the acknowledged best practice throughout the industry.

 


 

Promote on the Internet

 

The Internet is an incredible promotional tool for independent musicians. You can get radio play, grow a fan base, create a distribution channel, manufacture and sell CDs all online. You can use the Internet to create an amazing amount of exposure for your music. Wouldn't it be great if literally thousands of people heard your music every day? What if you could use your web site to sell 50, 100, 200 CDs or more every month? Guess what? It doesn't take a brain-surgeon to make it happen, but it does take a lot of hard work – and you need to know what you're doing.

Cutting Through the Hype - First, let's cut through the hype. If you want to be successful promoting and distributing your music online, it's going to take time and hard work. Like anything else of real value, you'll get out of it what you put into it. But here's the cool thing: your music career will be in your hands. Once you have the information you need, your future will not be dependent on somebody else doing their job, it will be dependent on you doing yours. How refreshing would that be? You career won't be at the mercy of a record label, some A&R person, or an agent who may or may not have your best interest in mind. If your music is quality music, deserving of an audience, you can find that audience online.

Use the Internet to Advance Your Music Career - You can use the Internet to create a LOT of exposure for your music. YES, you can use the Internet to bring in additional income to invest right back into your music business. But can the Internet actually advance your career? The answer, in short, is also, YES!

Thousands of people could be hearing your music every single day. Live365.com broadcast currently generates hundreds of thousands of listening hours per month. That translates into sales! And that's just one, single, web site. There are many more great places to promote, sell, and distribute your music on the Internet.

Hundreds of people could be buying your CDs . Wouldn't it be nice to sell 5-10 CDs a week from your web site? What about a 50-100 per month? Success at that level takes a lot of work, but it is possible if you have the determination.

Contacts:  Imagine all the contacts you'll get when your music really starts getting out there. As a direct result of your time online you’ll be able to gain possible distribution overseas as well as a publishing agreement. You may be approached about gig opportunities all across the U.S. from people who found your music online.

Who Needs a Record Deal?   Many musicians look desperately to be signed by a major record label. Perhaps you, yourself have aspirations of "making it big" in the music business. But let me tell you something. You don't need a major label deal to have a successful music career. If you are seeking fame in the music business, then yes, you need the backing of big money. But, if you're just wanting to do music full-time and be the quintessential artist, that's something you can do all on your own, and the Internet can help you reach that goal.

So, create massive exposure for your music online, sell a lot more CDs and use the Internet to both generate income and advance your music career.


 

E-Mail Promotion

 

  • Start an E-mail List

  • ALL CAPS SEND THE MESSAGE THAT YOU’RE SHOUTING

  • Add a form on your website for fans to add their name to your e-mail promotion list

  • Pimp Your List – Get new names at every show

                        Your email list should be out on a table while you are playing.

  • Use a List-Serve

  • Use the BCC: field – not To: or CC:

  • A Free Alternative: Do a Mail Merge

  • Put hyper-links in your e-mail

  • Some graphics take time to download– be careful

  • Plan ahead for promotion dates

  • Don’t overdo it

  • Always place an opt-out message for unsubscribing

  • Be aware that some services such as AOL may not accept bulk e-mails

  • DO NOT SPAM

 

Blogs / Bulletin Boards / Group Postings

 

  • Join free groups by establishing a username and password.

  • Keep your group list in one place

  • Plan ahead for post dates

  • Bump your posts – renew for higher listings

  • Be professional

  • Form your own group

 

 

 

Some helpful site for groups / blogs and bulletin boards

 

  • Facebook groups

  • Yahoo groups

  • MySpace groups

  • Google groups

 

Some helpful Bulletin Boards

  • MySpace.com

  • Garageband.com

  • Purevolume.com

 

 

Web
promotion, site, sales, email

How to Sell CDs from your Website and Still Keep Your Fans Happy
There are a number of great ways to sell CDs online. If you're looking for a great business and don't want to fulfill orders yourself, CDBaby is the best service out there for independent music. They are, by far, my favorite independent music website. But if you're want to maximize your profits, then keep CD sales it in-house and sign up with Paypal.

Paypal offers a great service to small businesses. Customers don't have to be members of Paypal to order from you. You can get a Premiere/Business account for free, and your fees are as low as 1.9% + 30 cents per order. That's pretty dang good! Best of all, you can personalize every order!

Mind you, it's not easy to for the average band to learn how to maintain orders, which again is one of the big advantages of CDBaby over Paypal. You have keep careful records, respond to orders, and of course, take orders to the post office. It's a bit of a hassle.

Below are four quick tips that do wonders for keeping fans happy:
Email a reponse when you receive the order. This lets your fans know there's someone behind the order and who to contact with probs. And when they see an email from the band, they'll be much more forgiving if there are any potential problems.

Email customers AFTER you mail the order. We tour a lot and admittedly, I sometimes get lazy (like this week). So I like to tell our fans before they order that it takes 1-2 weeks for orders to arrive. But when a week or so goes by, fans will start to worry whether you got their order. You can alleviate their worries by sending a quick email as soon as the order is completed.

Double check every order before it goes out. We have multiple CDs and a couple times I've screwed up orders. It really sucks and is costly. Don't let it happen to you.

Email a follow-up in a week or two. This is a great way to show off your awesome customer service. When you email them, offer a free bonus, like an MP3 to add an extra level of excitement in your fan's mind. This will fuel their passion for your music and will ignite a lot of great word-of-mouth promotion.
Those are the essentials for selling CDs from your website. But if you want to really feed the fire for your music, scribble a quick thank you note to your fan. Then add it to the order. It takes only 10 seconds and will win you a diehard fan for life!


Up Your CD Sales Next Week: 13 Ways to Have a Sale
I found a great article by The E-zine Queen on improving your ezine sales. Course it easily translates into improving your CD sales.

"Up Your Income Next Week: 13 Ways to Have a SALE"
by Alexandria K. Brown, "The E-zine Queen"

Nothing gets people buying products or programs like a special promotion in your e-zine. Now, I know right now you're thinking, "I can't have a sale on my products or services. That's sooo cheesy!"

Au contraire, mon frere. It's all how you position it. Here are 13 ideas to consider. Choose one that would work for your business and give it a try.

IMPORTANT: You'll need to put some type of time limit on the offer to encourage folks to buy now and not later. It's also better if you explain to your readers WHY you're having the sale. You're not Wal-Mart and you can't just drop prices whenever you feel like it. Instead, give your prospects a reason. (Even a funny one -- see tip 13!)
Editor's Note: People are always more likely to buy something from you if you can give a reason. And oddly enough, the reason is less important than the fact that you are giving one! Because for some strange reason people read the word because and think they have a valid reason. (case in point)

1. Close-out sale. Have inventory you want to get rid of?
Making room for other products or new versions of products?
Then offer the current version at a significant discount.

2. "Scratch and dent" sale. Have any books, tapes, or CDs
that were returned to you by customers? Offer them at a
hearty discount for people who don't mind if they're a bit
worn.

3. Half price sale. Lop 50 percent off all your goods, or
select just one.

4. Coupon sale. Allow customers to enter a coupon or promo
code to get a discount. (If you have a decent shopping cart
program you should be able to set this up in seconds.)

5. Free shipping sale. Offer free shipping for a limited
time. Or, upgrade folks to express shipping at no extra
cost.

6. "We'll finance it" sale. Offer a payment plan - this
works great for higher priced items and programs. (Again,
if you have a decent shopping cart program, you should be
able to set up timed, automatic billing.)

7. Free 30-day trial. Get their credit card information at
the time of order, but don't charge them until the month is
up. Another variation is the 30 day trial for $1.

8. Pre-publication sale. Start taking orders before your
product is even ready. (Seeing orders come in is also a
great incentive for you to finally finish creating that
product!)

9. VIP discount. Give a special offer to a certain group.
Show your e-zine subscribers, your clients, your speaking
audiences, etc. that they're special.

10. Buy one get one free! Yes, this can even work for
information products and services. The purchaser can give
the extra copy to a colleague as a gift, or two people can
split the cost and essentially get your product or service
at half price.

11. Special bonus. Give something extra if people purchase
before a certain date. (This is a great strategy to up your
sales without cutting your prices.)

12. Package discount. Offer a big discount if they order
all your products/services or a select combination
thereof.

13. Birthday sale. Or any fun occasion... Valentine's day,
your anniversary, groundhog day, your dog just had puppies,
your kid just lost his first tooth -- have fun with it!


Internet forums and discussion boards have become a valuable medium for establishing an online presence, building a reputation, networking with peers, and getting feedback on relevant topics and ideas. With that said, there are many forums and discussion boards on the Internet specific to music artists, musicians, and songwriters. These music forums are packed with wisdom that thriving artists can leverage for their professional development advantage. By becoming actively involved in music forum communities, artists can find themselves absorbing an abundance of music industry knowledge that can help in furthering their respective career agendas.

Registration at music forum communities is generally free, however, the more prominent and private communities charge nominal fees for memberships. To find the right forum community for you, we suggest you go to a popular search engine like Google (www.google.com) or Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) and perform a search on "music forums". Browse the search engine results one by one, and keep in mind that each forum community has its own mission, theme, guidelines, and attitude. After visiting a few music forum communities, you will quickly learn that not all music forums are the same. Taking your time in finding the right community is key because you will want time spent to be an investment and not a waste. To help you find the right music forums for your needs, Artistopia offers the below suggestions. Note that at the end of each suggestion below, an explanation is provided on how it applies to the development and maturing process of an artist in the music industry.

1. Carefully select a forum community you can settle into for the long haul. Take your time researching them by reading existing posts, and making sure conversations, and music styles, meet your learning goals and objectives before making your selection. Relation to professional development: Finding the right music company or business that will develop you thoroughly is key to helping you mature in the business properly. Always know that haste makes waste.

2. Focus on building a well-respected reputation within the forum community. A reputation in any forum community is earned by a member's cumulative interactions and contributions over time, and not within a few posts. Keep your reputation untarnished because repairing any damage done to it is always twice as hard as building it in the first place. Relation to professional development: Your reputation as an artist in the music industry is your integrity, and tarnishing it could lead to alienation and possible ousting. Wounded lions drag the rest of the pride down.

3. Keep your posts clean, respectful, and productive no matter what direction the conversation or message thread takes. It will be tough to contain yourself at times, but learn to exercise patience and calculated response tactics. Misunderstandings often happen in forums, and when they do, you will need to know when to respond and when not to. Relation to professional development: Being an artist in a multi-billion dollar music industry is a job and not a party. Learn to be professional at all times and costs.

4. Be careful not to offend senior members and administrators. Forums tend to foster loyalty amongst the members, so measure each word in your posts and focus on being productive, not destructive. Egos and arrogance need not apply because no one knows it all. Smooth over the senior members with wit and intelligence, and you will receive a warm welcome. Relation to professional development: Simple, offend the wrong music professional and it could mean your career. Be open to constructive criticism and always yearn to learn from all those around you.

5. Use the forums to "subtly" promote your personal website or Artistopia profile, which will give you more exposure (brand name building) and help drive your overall numbers (song downloads, profile views, etc.). Most forum administrators frown upon direct promotions and blatant advertising, but they will allow you to represent the website you are from. Always consider yourself a visitor and respect the guidelines set forth because administrators will ban without hesitation. Relation to professional development: Identify and exercise all marketing opportunities that will promote your artistic talent without igniting a turf war. Know your boundaries and how far you can push it by thinking with your head, and not with your heart.

6. Make full use of the signature functionality in forum communities to brand yourself, especially by putting a slogan, a quote, a banner, or a link that points to your Artistopia profile or personal website. This is permissible at most music forum communities, and is helpful for others in learning more about you when reading your posts. Relation to professional development: Every professional artist is known for a signature of some sort, even if it’s lyrics, beats, looks, or wardrobe amongst many other aspects of branding. Start thinking of yourself as a brand that sells and start establishing your market or niche. Become known for something distinct and keep building on it.

7. Engage the readers by articulating your ideas intelligently, making sure your posts are flawless of grammar and spelling mistakes, leaving out slang terms and not using excessive caps, and ensuring your writing flows smoothly. Readers are quick to place judgements based on your ability to write and communicate your thoughts effectively. Relation to professional development: The music industry is about building your fan base and keeping them. Gain their confidence by displaying the ability to walk the walk and talk the talk, professionally and effectively. Let them know through actions that your position in the industry was earned and not handed to you overnight.

8. Frequent the forums and post messages on regular basis. Appearing often will demonstrate your loyalty to the community, and your resolve to building your name and reputation. More importantly, you will be consistently marketing yourself time and time again. Members that disappear for long periods of time are perceived for not being focused or serious about their agenda in the community. Relation to professional development: Half of the battle to making it in the music industry is keeping your brand afloat and marketable. Being a star is the farthest thing from a walk in the park or a picnic. Stars have to do many performances, appearances, interviews, and anything else that will put them in front of a camera to keeping their brand alive. Absence will deplete your popularity.

9. Network, collaborate, and create as many contacts as possible. Do not be afraid to step out of the forum community box and work in-person on projects with fellow artists, musicians, and songwriters you meet in these forums. More importantly, always fish out and befriend members that you feel will further your agenda. Do not hesitate to share your ideas with other members, because if you don’t you will be isolating yourself. Relation to professional development: The music business is about who you know and being at the right place at the right time. To increase your chances of unearthing opportunities, collaborate with as many peers and professionals as you can. You never know who will open the door for you.

10. Do not spread yourself too thin by participating in more than 2 forum communities. Stay focused on establishing your presence and building a reputation in a few places only. Diligent research up-front will lead to wise decisions on the forums you elect to settle in with. Relation to professional development: Productivity is key, especially when you aren't getting paid. Start small and build your way up. Every single decision you make, no matter how small, will impact your overall progress. Learn the politics of the music business and use them to perfection.

Building a presence in any forum community can challenge the most open-minded socialite mankind can offer. However, by exercising the above suggestions, you can be sure you are not marching in blindly. Exercise each of these suggestions in moderation, be patient as it will take time to build up your reputation, and always act professional so others can respect you. Forums will ultimately teach you people skills and politics.

Once you perfect the above forum tactics, then it is time to move on and fish out real life music circles by attending networking happy hours, conventions and conferences, and any other gatherings that congregate music artists and professionals in one place. Most important is for you to keep in mind that being a music artist in this business is a job and not a party. Good luck and tread safe!


How to post a perfect press kit on your website

Here are three components that you should include on your website. These are keeping music writers in mind in (they need access to your their information quickly, because they are constantly under deadline.)

1. Your Music - album or live tracks

You are a band / musician after all, and nothing speaks for you louder than your music. Make sure you have some music available at your website either streamable or downloadable (if you feel like giving away a free track or two).

2 Biography & A short sentence about your sound

Bio - Make sure you have a short succinct bio that is can be easily located on your site, (in addition to the long form one, the blogs and all of the opinions from each band member - which are fun for your fans but not for music writers who will be looking to get quick information. Make sure this bio is easily cut and past able so writers can drop it into a preview or a column.
Short Sentence - Also include a short summary (like less than 6 words) that sums up your sound for calendar editors.

3. Photos - make them easy to find and download

Thumbnails are great from quick and easy loading but you should always have a
few downloadable photos on your site (both in color and black and white) in at least 300 dpi - Create a link that says click here for a hi res. jpeg that way photo editors can get to them easily - and remember to change your photos a few times a year - so if you play repeat markets you can give the media multiple choices to cover you.


 

 
 

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