Working the Crowd… Offstage

When I was in high school, I interned with a composer who often performed for

young children. Shortly after he finished his show one day, I approached him to ask about loading out his gear — but before I could open my mouth, he leaned in and whispered, “Come back in fifteen minutes. I’m still working.” And indeed he was.

While I watched from the back of the auditorium, my mentor enthusiastically shook hands with the dozens of kids who approached him, even letting some of them touch the instruments. Only after the room had thoroughly cleared out, and after he had greeted and thanked all of the adult organizers as well, did I see him take a deep breath and shift out of performer mode. “Okay, now we can load out,” he told me.

Working the crowd offstage — connecting with an audience, interacting, and relating to fans before and after your show — can be just as important to your long-term career as what you actually do on stage, regardless of whether you’re performing in elementary school auditoriums, music festivals, or underground clubs.

Take care of business ahead of time

While it’s always good practice to have all your show preparations (set lists written, warm ups done, etc.) completed before you arrive at the venue, getting your proverbial ducks in a row up can also help you practice effective audience management.

“I’ve gotten to clubs thinking I’d have time before the show to get the set list together, talk to band mates, and organize chord charts, but the unexpected is always going to happen,” says jazz pop singer and songwriter Avi Wisnia. “Maybe the club isn’t open on time or there are problems with gear. Whatever is going on, the more you can do ahead of time to frontload logistics and business, the more energy you can focus on interacting with your audience — and getting ready to play great music.”

Choose your post-show spot

“If I’m playing at a new venue, I try to do some reconnaissance and check the place out ahead of time,” says Wisnia. “Where is the stage, where am I going to put my merch table, and where would be good for me to hang out and talk with people after my show?”

For Wisnia, the ideal spot to set up merch and designate for a post-show hang is often not in the main performance area — or if it is, off to the side or in the back of the room.

“Part of being in the music industry and going on tour is being respectful of other bands who go on before and after you, so you don’t want to do anything that’s going to take away from other peoples’ performances, or alienate bookers or club owners,” he says.

The more forethought you put into a post-show hang, the better, says Wisnia. “If you pre-plan it, it can seem more like a meet ’n’ greet, rather than a bunch of people standing around haphazardly,” he describes. “It leaves people feeling like they’ve been part of something special.”

Set your audience’s expectations

Part of planning ahead, creating an ideal post-show hang, and generally keeping your audience satisfied is cluing your fans in to your plans ahead of time.

“Send emails and Facebook posts to let people know what to expect from you at the venue,” says Wisnia. “If you’re having a special giveaway that night, let them know, and let them know ahead of time where to find you after you play. The more information you can give, the better.”

Setting expectations early can be even more helpful if you have to make an early exit after your show and won’t have time to connect with your fans. Similarly, if you’re looking to organize a post-show hang at a nearby bar or diner, an early heads up can preempt a large amount of on-the-spot confusion.

Schmooze strategically

“Before he goes on to play, Tony Bennett walks out and greets audience members in the foyer and thanks people profusely for coming to see his show,” says singer and songwriter Eoin Harrington. “Outreach like that is really admirable. It shows appreciation and really creates a bond with audience members. I’m in favor of that approach with more of a human touch, not having the star being tucked away and untouchable.”

Harrington tries to emulate the legendary crooner in his approach to fans at his own shows. “If someone got out of his or her house and drove to come see me play, the least I can do is say hello,” he says. “You don’t have to have a big discussion and get everyone’s life story, but at the same time, you never know what cool conversations could be sparked by introducing yourself to a new fan before you play.”

For many performers, schmoozing post-show can be less stressful than reaching out pre-show. “Once you’re done playing, it’s a musician’s job to get off stage and meet people,” says Wisnia. “You want to keep that connection with fans that you made during the show. The people that come to your show and like the music are also the people that will sign up for your mailing list and buy your albums, so it’s both nice and beneficial to say hello.”

Wisnia further encourages indie musicians to ask their fans questions about their favorite songs and moments of the show. “Pay attention to the demographic of your audience and what they liked and didn’t like,” he says. “It behooves you to socialize after a show, and you can learn a lot about who your music resonates with.”

Continues at Working the Crowd… Offstage.

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Singing Tips – Don’t Tax Your Voice Before a Vocal Performance

What makes a great vocal performance? There are many answers to that, and they don’t all require being the most technically gifted singer with a five-octave range. Confidence, charisma, and the right repertoire are among the many subjective elements that go into any great performance – live or when recording vocals in a studio – in addition to having chops as a singer.

“‘Synthesis’ is this fancy word we throw around in our college,’” says Daniel Ebbers, Associate Professor of Voice at the Conservatory of Music of the University of the Pacific, “and I do think it’s an important thing. We study all these things individually, but it’s the synthesis, a command of your vocal instrument, a command of the stage, a command of the language and the language you use – all these things synthesized together make a great performance.”

Of course, much of what helps a performer reach the point where all these elements come together is preparation, practice, and experience. A good vocal warm up, and general vocal care, can help ensure your peak performance.

Performance Preparation

When preparing for a performance or studio date, “the obvious thing to do is rest,” recommends Ebbers. “But there are environmental things you might not be aware of or consider an issue, like being in a place where the decibel level is much higher than you think it is. In order to compete with the sound, you have to strain your voice to speak louder to be heard or understood. Many times, people are unaware that they’re in such an environment, because there are so many noisy places in our world, and we’ve come to accept them and adjust. But when you’re a singer, you have to be more aware of these environmental conditions.”

If you’re playing club dates, bars, or parties, the quality of your performance and your vocal health can be severely impacted in the hours leading up to your set by talking and socializing before you get on stage. “Don’t go screaming at a football game or tax your voice before a performance or session, even if it’s two weeks before a session,” says vocalist, studio owner, and producer Jon Marc Weiss. “That can take its toll on your throat and vocal chords and can really mess you up. Keep in mind that you need to keep your voice in tip-top shape so that when you’re called on, you can perform.”

But it’s not just the days and hours leading up to a given night’s performance that you need to consider, especially if you are singing in a stage production or any performance ensemble that requires nightly or continuous performances. “Very often, after a performance there’s a party, a reception or something,” cautions Ebbers, “and many famous singers will say, ‘I’d love to come, but I can’t, it’s not possible.’ It’s all common sense stuff that revolves around rest and awareness of your instrument.

“All instruments are subject to environmental conditions – humidity, heat, all sorts of things. But instrumentalists get to put their instrument in a case and walk away, or put it in a room that’s ideally suited to make it sound good. As vocalists, we have to take our instrument everywhere, and there’s this intersection of our lives and this instrument. So there are all sorts of things you need to pay attention to that other instrumentalists don’t have to. But good health is good singing, and whatever you can do to keep yourself healthy is important. Every person is different, and every voice has it’s own limitations and set of things it can tolerate”

Image of singer via ShutterStock.com.

via Singing Tips – Don’t Tax Your Voice Before a Vocal Performance.

Music Career Killers: Sure Ways to Ruin Your Chances for Success DIY Musician Blog

[This post is excerpted from Music Career Killers! 20 Things That May Be Holding You Back In Your Music Career and How To Fight Back!, a white paper released by Music Marketing Classroom.com. Reprinted with permission.]

Every hour of every day, there’s a talented musician somewhere on the planet who makes the decision to put their artistic side on the back burner in favor of a more stable career. Although they vow they will pursue music in their spare time, just this simple mindset shift could mean that writing songs and playing gigs will always take a back seat to almost everything else in life.

In a way, it hurts too much to do music when you make this decision because it reminds you of all the dreams you had and gives you the feeling of being a failure. Even the most committed musicians can be ground down to nothing after years of playing empty shows and sending out hundreds of demos with no reply. But once you start to recognize the common mistakes you’re making, you will be able to avoid them and get on with the real work of consistently creating music that your fans will appreciate.

Music Career Killer #1: Not working on your music every day

You can spend your whole life learning music marketing and still fail if you don’t have great music to promote, but you can suck at marketing and still do well if your music is on point. The ideal, though, is to find that perfect balance between marketing and music creation.

Commit to working on your music skills for an hour a day, and do your marketing in any additional time that you can spare. It can help to make this into a little game, so every once in a while go back three months in time on your YouTube channel and see the kinds of songs you were writing then. Over that time period, you can really start to notice an improvement if you work on your music and songwriting daily.

Music Career Killer #4: Not selling anything

So many musicians drop the ball at this stage: they produce great music, but then feel bad and don’t ask people to take the next step to buy something. Or they do try and sell, but because they don’t feel comfortable, they get nervous and do a poor job of it.

So if you don’t currently have anything for sale on your website, then don’t do anything else until you do. It can be as simple as a $5 per month subscription to get a song of the week delivered to their inbox.

Music Career Killer #8: Not taking at least one marketing action everyday

I’ve mentioned the importance of daily progress with your music, but just as important is the power of doing one thing per day that will get your music out into the world and in front of a targeted, interested fan. See, music marketing is like trying to push a car with your bare hands. At first it seems like it won’t budge, but then you start to get a little movement and before you know it, you’re going at a steady and predictable pace. Once in a while, you’ll come across a hill where you can sit back and let things roll, all you have to do is steer. But if you just start to push for five seconds then stop for a few days, then come back and try again for five minutes, you will never build up enough momentum and it will never get easy.

One of the biggest challenges that faces the modern DIY musician is consistency, because things will come up in your life that seem more fun or more important than working on your marketing.

But a little bit of focus on one really cool project can work like magic – all you need to do is remember why it’s important and why you decided to start learning music marketing in the first place. For me, it’s being able to work for myself and staying out of the rat race. I find that idea always allows me to refocus on what’s important.

Music Career Killer #12: Boring your fans and playing it safe

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this happen. You go to a show and see a band rocking out some amazing tunes, but each time you see them, they just continue to play the same old set over and over again. The bottom line is that one set of good songs does not make a career.

Make sure you write something new everyday, and the gems will come by default. You’ll be showing people considering an investment into your music (a fan, a record company) that you are making a commitment to being consistently productive now and in the future.

Music Career Killer #13: Playing every crap gig you get offered

When you first start out you might as well play every show that comes along because this is valuable experience, and can even save you some money on the practice room. This becomes a career killer, though, when you continue to play every bad show that comes along in the hopes that it might just convert one new fan.

Playing to empty rooms with no pay not only sucks, but it’s also like a cancer to your career because it will destroy your enthusiasm. Next time you get offered a bad show, turn it down and spend the evening connecting working toward getting a killer show. One really good gig is worth a hundred empty venues.

Music Career Killer #20: Getting jealous of other musicians

Nobody feels great about getting jealous, but it’s natural right? You work your tail off for months to try and get hits to your site, and then you see another musician getting featured in the press and you know that in one day they are going to get more hits than you got in the last three months. I’m sure you may have felt something like this at some point.

But if you just make a little mindset shift, you can get a new perspective on the success of others. When you see another musician doing something cool like getting played on the radio, getting signed, or getting press, think to yourself, “Cool, that means I have the opportunity to do the same thing, because this guy has just uncovered another opportunity for me to market my own music.”

If you go as far as to track other musicians who have a similar fan base to your own using Google Alerts, you can get daily updates offering new opportunities for you to connect with people who will be open to what you do because they just featured something similar. This follow up approach is something I call the “slip stream,” because you get to ride on the wave of the work done by other musicians and PR companies and it can take a lot of the guess work out of your marketing.

Shoot For The Tipping Point

There comes a time in the life of every successful musician, when you have added so much value to the world that suddenly your Twitter and Facebook numbers are going up everyday, and your website traffic is increasing by itself.

This is the point at which enthusiastic fans start to become like your automatic promotion machine, and if you give up before this ever happens you will never know what it feels like.

Having reached “The Tipping Point” you can scale back your music promotion a little bit, and focus much more on the creative process.

Diligently promoting your music on a regular basis for an extended period of time will bring you great rewards, especially if you keep these killers in mind and stay on your toes.

As Bon Jovi once said…

“Oh you got to KEEP THE FAITH!!!”

via Music Career Killers: Sure Ways to Ruin Your Chances for Success DIY Musician Blog.

Indie Band New Years Resolutions via Christie Leigh

THE 9-STEP NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION FOR INDIE MUSICIANS

We all commit to starting over once the New Year rolls around. It is entirely possible we ate too much, did not exercise enough or spent way too much money in 2012. Once the calendar year ends on the 31st of December though we have a clean slate, that fresh start and brighter future is known as 2013.

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An artist who has not yet made it may be looking beyond the money and health related promises and use 2013 as a time to advance in their career. If you are such an artist it may be wise to consider on one or all the New Year’s resolutions below.

1. You will need money to fund your project, consider fundraising, taking out a loan or asking for help from friends, family or those close to you.

2. Learn all you can about the people who will purchase your product. Pay close attention to their buying habits, wants and needs. The goal is to cater to them so they can in turn support you. Obviously you will not be able to study them firsthand during one of your performances. A good alternative is to attend an artist show that happens to fall in the same genre as you.

3. People come to your show to be entertained not just to hear your music. Think about ways to make your live performances bigger and better to sustain the attention of your audience.

4. Follow the three P’s- Promote Yourself, Protect Yourself and Play Live and your career is sure to take off

5. Do not let fear control your destiny! Stop being terrified of what others will think of you! Never say it is too hard to accomplish!  Put these feelings behind you and let artistic expressions take over!

6. Any profession will tell you the more skills you have the more valuable you are. Artists are no different, you will need to take the time to learn new programs and acquire new talents in the new year to prove your worth.

7. If you are a negative person, negativity will follow you around but if you rise above and choose to be positive then things will start going your way.

8. Make a plan, a real plan and write it down. This piece of paper or file on your computer should contain all your business and marketing goals for the next year. You will need to show how you intend to get there by supplying estimated facts based on research you conduct throughout the year.

9. Social networking is a valuable tool bestowed on us in the last ten years. It has enabled us to connect with thousands of people in a matter of minutes. Many artists’ careers have been established and maintained using these services. Being online and meeting people online is becoming more and more important but the need for face to face interaction and networking is just as important to advance in your career.

Written by SARAH OLIVE

via My CD Release, Gig Opportunities and Indie Band New Years Resolutions.

Four Keys to a Product Release PR Campaign – Employ a Winning Digital Strategy

For any product release, including a physical item such as a book, tech product,

how-to video, CD, etc., an effective digital publicity campaign can be critical to your success. In any public relations effort, by maintaining consistency across all the digital channels you employ – including social media, the blogosphere, and your mailing list – you will not only promote your upcoming product, but the efforts in your pre- and post-release strategy can help build a stronger brand, grow your relevance and influence within your target market, and help to ensure the success of future product releases and promotions.

When it comes time to plan a PR campaign for an upcoming product release, there are several factors that need to be considered and properly executed. Let’s explore four of the more important assignments of a successful product release.

• Create a consistent content strategy

• Promote a strong brand

• Inform and excite your existing customer base

• Connect with niche influencers to generate a buzz with new customers

1. Create a consistent content strategy

The term “consistent” has two important meanings here. The first relates to the delivery of your content, the second to the perception of your brand (see #2).

Be it email newsletters or announcements made to your mailing list subscribers, videos posted to YouTube, photos posted to Instagram and Pinterest, or articles posted to your blog, planning your content so it is delivered with consistent frequency will help to build a regularly engaged customer base.

Knowing when to engage with your digital channels is important, and each has a time of day and week that is the most effective. According to a Buddy Media study published on Mashable.com, Facebook and Twitter posts are most engaged with on Saturdays and Sundays.

Graph from “Sorry, Marketers, You’re Doing Facebook Wrong” from Mashable.com

From the Mashable post:

“Weekends, when brands post too little, the audience appears primed for interaction, though it varies by industry. For ‘advertising and consulting,’ for example, weekend posts get 69% higher interaction, but only 11% of posts are published on Saturday and Sunday.”

Graph from “Sorry, Marketers, You’re Doing Twitter Wrong” from Mashable.com

One major difference between Facebook and Twitter is that Twitter is most effective when posting between 8 AM – 7 PM, while Facebook is most effective with posts published between 8 PM – 7 AM.

Newsletters have a similar timeframe as Facebook where people are most likely to open an email sent early in the morning, however they are most opened in the middle of the week, as you can see in this graph, courtesy of Mail Chimp.

It is important to note that while all these studies show trends across industries in general, your list and your followers will show their own patterns. These studies are good as a general guideline, but nothing beats data you’ve mined from your past email and social media efforts, and it is critical to amass this information over time and create a product release strategy catered to your audience and their engagement habits.

via Four Keys to a Product Release PR Campaign – Employ a Winning Digital Strategy.

Improve Your Email Marketing in 16 Easy Steps

Email is still one of the best ways to do music promotion for your act. After all, your email mailing list includes folks who want to hear from you, so tell them something! While you’re at it, let’s look at a few things you can do to improve the effectiveness of the email messages you send to your fans.

First, if you have not already set up an email mailing signup form on your website, then I’m going to use the power of my mind to chain you to your computer until you do it. It’s that important. Do it today, people, not tomorrow, or the next day! Your website is a leaky bucket and your music marketing will suffer if you don’t have a way to follow up with your fans directly.

So let’s dig into this. I have personally tested this stuff and have only included the things that have shown positive results.

1. Collect subscribers on every page of your site.

2. Make sure your fans don’t have to scroll down to see your signup form. There will be people who won’t scroll down when they hit your web page which means they will never see your free music offer.

3. Create an irresistible offer for your fans to join your list and make it very clear. Try something like ”Signup to Download 7 FREE TRACKS and our latest music video!” An offer like that will set you apart from everyone else because you’re stacking the value.

4. Test different versions of your free offer to see what your fans respond to the best.

5. Sign up for your own mailing list to get an idea of how your messages are looking from the fans’ point of view. If you start to annoy yourself, then it’s time to rethink your communications.

6. Include a “Forward to a Friend” link in ALL of your emails.

7. Whatever you offer your fans in exchange for their email address, make sure you give it to them on the “Thank You” page, or in the confirmation email. This will build trust right away. If they don’t get what they signed up for within a few minutes you’re dead to them.

8. Good email marketing is like a bank – the more you put in, the more “interest” you will receive.

9. Every morning ask yourself, “What can I do to be cool to my fans today?”

10. Whenever somebody emails you through the contact form on your website, make sure you offer them the chance to join your fan list as well.

11. Go around personally after every show and offer to send enthusiastic people some free music. Then collect their email address so you can keep your promise.

12. Whenever you connect with a new contact in the music industry ask if you can add them to your list. This is like networking on autopilot and having influential music people in your gang can be very powerful as they watch your progress and become fans.

13. In every email you send, let people know what you want them to do next. This is known as a “call to action” and it does not have to be about buying your music. It can be “liking” your Facebook page or listening to your newly recorded tune on YouTube. Every connection with your fans should have a call to action.

14. If your list is large enough, split test the subject lines of your emails to see what your fans respond to the most.

15. To come up with catchy subject lines, go through your own email inbox and look for the emails you always open first. Ask yourself why that is and then use what you learn to make your own subject lines POP!

16. Set up a series of auto-responders to introduce new fans to your musical world. You want to get them engaged in your story and ultimately lead them towards financially supporting your work.

via Improve Your Email Marketing in 16 Easy Steps.