A Great Live Music Performance Requires More Than Being Rehearsed | DiskMakers

What do Taylor Swift, Jars of Clay, Gloriana, and The Band Perry all have in common? They’ve relied on the expertise of veteran live music performance producer Tom Jackson to help them develop and refine their concert performances. As veteran producer Matt Serletic (Celine Dion, Matchbox 20, Santana, Aerosmith) stated, “Tom makes a major impact… he’s a true creative partner who helps realize the artist’s full performance potential.” And while Tom does work regularly with top acts, he spends much of his time working with up-and-coming bands and solo performers at the early stage of their development.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Tom teach two on stage workshops with bands he had never met before, and both times I was amazed at what just an hour in his hands allowed those bands to do with their live music performance for an audience of musicians and friends. Most musicians never think about the essential live music performance skills that Tom teaches – his methods can be transformational if an artist is willing to open up, listen, and learn.

Live music performance coachingMany musicians focus on perfecting their music, getting a gig, and then playing a pre-determined set, hoping to get a good response. I don’t think many musicians think about how to engage the audience as performance partners. Why do you think that is the case? 
That’s a pretty good question. I think there are multiple reasons why that is the case and they are interrelated. The first is that business people formed the music industry. They focused on selling records and publishing, this is where the money was for them, so they made those activities a priority. As artists earned money from record sales and songwriting, they bought into this model. It’s interesting that an artist may spend six months or more in the studio making a record, but to prepare for a tour that may last much longer, they spend three days in rehearsal. So the product drove the thinking. And if a band wasn’t that good live, so long as the record was selling, things were OK.

The second factor is ignorance. By that I mean that some of the people in charge of the music industry believe that they know what’s good musically. They often do not. For instance, I recently got a call from a senior A&R exec at a label that had just had an artist perform on Saturday Night Live and they bombed. The social networks had blown up, something like 20:1 going on about just how bad the artist performed. They asked me to get on a plane that day to come to LA to work with the artist. Since I was already in Florida working with another artist, I said I could be out there in 3-4 days. The next day I received a call from the artist’s manager and the label president who told me that they were going to help put the live show together. Not too long after that, they posted the artist’s live music performance online, and to put it bluntly, they hadn’t fixed what was wrong in that artist’s live set.

Just because what an artist plays on stage is musically good, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a live performance of that music will make a good show. Knowing what works musically – as the label president and manager did – and knowing what works on stage are two different things. So egos can get in the way of actually understanding what it really takes to do a compelling live show.

The third factor is often the artist. A lot of time, energy and effort go into making a good record. Once it’s done the focus quickly shifts to hitting the road to promote the album. Once that artist hits the stage, their adrenaline is pumping, the band sounds tight, looking around the stage, everyone is really locked in the groove, so it’s natural for the artist to think, “Everything is good.” But most artists never learn to see themselves from the audience perspective, which means it’s very easy to misread the audience response.

I call this “misreading the truth.” If 10-15% of your audience applauds, that does not mean they are fans. Take for instance a major act that has a current radio hit. When they perform it live, since the audience knows that tune, they respond strongly, and the artist thinks, “I’ve made a fan.” But you haven’t. They are responding to the song, not you, as an artist. If you think about how Prince or Springsteen establishes a rapport with the audience, you can see how they purposefully work to engage each member of the audience, and then tell stories to the audience through their songs. The goal should be to engage everyone in the audience, to turn them into fans. Unfortunately, there are a lot of “artistes” who rely on what they may term spontaneity, when in reality they are just winging it. The best live shows are a combination of form and spontaneity during which the artist is in control and always knows exactly where they are headed. They then lead the audience exactly where they want to go.

So can a set be too tight, too scripted, thereby losing a spontaneous feel?
No. Mostly what I see when I start to work with a group is that they are under-rehearsed. They have not arrived at the point where what they do on stage is muscle memory, they don’t have to think about it at all. After you reach that point, you then pour your personality into each show and read the audience to give them a great experience.

For example, say you buy a $99 guitar. And you start off learning three chords, G-C-D. You can now play any number of songs. But when you start off, you are going to be concentrating on just getting your fingers to the right spots and trying to strum in time. You never get to the place where you are thinking, “What tone should I use, what kind of picking pattern would work well on this song?” Think about Vince Gill vs. Eddie Van Halen playing those same three chords. They are going to sound very different from the beginner and from each other. But when we are learning, we all sound the same playing G-C-D.

So no matter who you are, when you are just learning how to perform on stage and engage an audience, you need to rehearse a lot to build up your muscle memory of what works so you don’t even think about how to move, or where to set up and how to read an audience at the end of each song. It has to become second nature. Being on stage has to fit you like a suit, and that happens only by rehearsal and studying what works and why. Only after you get that muscle memory can you start to incorporate spontaneity, in fact, it will flow naturally into your set and set you apart from those that have not learned how to do this.

How important is the introduction to your first few songs in building a rapport with your audience?
It’s huge. I wrote about this recently in an Echoes blog post and said that you need to understand if the audience is “dating” or “married” to you as an artist. When people show up at a concert by U2, Adele, or Beyoncé, they’re married. 17,000 fans know every word to each song and have probably looked at the artist performing online numerous times. When you set foot on stage for the first time in front of a new audience, you are dating. Even if you have a radio hit!

So I always ask the artist, “How do you like to be introduced to someone?” It’s not too much, not too little, but enough to establish that you are inviting the audience into your performance. It’s crucial to pick a song that’s easy to play well, one that you know in your sleep. You don’t want to have to think one bit about what it takes to deliver that song perfectly, just rely on muscle memory. Why? Because the first few minutes of your set should be focused on beginning a relationship with your audience. If you’re musically preoccupied with what you’re doing on stage, you won’t be communicating with the audience. They will decide if they like you based on who you are, not how well you play a lick.

The first six to eight minutes of your show will usually set the stage for the rest of your set. I suggest you pick two strong songs and package them together so you can unwrap them for the audience in a well rehearsed way and with the right endings that let you measure the audience response. That way you can decide which way to go next.

Read more: A Great Live Music Performance Requires More Than Being Rehearsed http://blog.discmakers.com/2013/03/a-great-live-music-performance-requires-more-than-being-rehearsed/#ixzz2Oh8Hd0BK

7 Simple Tips to Help You Promote Your Music on Twitter

iStock 000019453151XSmall 300x228 7 Simple Tips to Help You Promote Your Music on Twitter

If you want to promote your music on Twitter, there’s enough good data out there to inform your social media promotion efforts and help you maximize the effectiveness of each and every tweet.

First, schedule your tweets at peak hours to get them in front of the most eyes. Second, you want to write tweets that encourage action (retweeting, purchasing, replying, etc.)!

We recently attended a webinar by the internet marketing experts at HubSpot called “The Science of Twitter.” It’s full of interesting Twitter stats and best-practices. Many of the most memorable tips fell into the category of I can’t believe I haven’t already made a habit of it!” 

Below are a handful of those common sense tips from HubSpot (but check out the full webinar for more great info).

Promote your music on Twitter: 7 ways to smarten-up your tweets

1. Longer tweets get more clicks. Internet marketers like to tell you to keep things short. But a tweet is only 140 characters, so it’s one of the few cases online where you actually benefit from using all the space you’re allotted.

2. Use more verbs. Less nouns. We’re emotionally stirred by action! So make your tweets sing, screech, punch, and dance.

3. Tweet in the afternoon and evening. After 2pm, Twitter traffic increases fairly dramatically. Maybe folks feel like they’ve got enough work done for the day that they can afford to sneak in 5 minutes on Twitter. So schedule your tweets with those people in mind.

4. Tweet closer to the weekend. As the workweek draws to a close, Twitter traffic soars — with Friday being the busiest day. So your heaviest Twitter activity should be on Thursday and Friday.

5. Ask for the retweet (“pls RT”). A lot of times in life the simplest way to get something is to ask. The same goes for Twitter. People are far more likely to retweet your content if you ask them.

6. Spread tweets out by at least 1 hour. You want to get the most people possible to see your tweets. By spreading out your Twitter activity by at least an hour, you’re increasing the likelihood of different folks seeing your activity. Plus you’re not annoying your followers by cluttering up their news feeds all at once.

7. Try putting the link towards the beginning of the tweet. Sure, 60-80% of your tweets should link to interesting content. But there’s also evidence to suggest that you should place that URL towards the beginning of your tweet. In many A/B tests between similar tweets, the one with the URL up front performed better.

You Can’t Afford A Producer? | Brian Charles

Post by Brian Charles of Zippah Studio

In this age of DIY budgets, it often turns out that bands are quick to decide that they can save money by opting to not use a producer. This probably stems from the basic fact that many people don’t know what a producer actually does. A producer? Isn’t he the guy who sits in the back of the control room and barks commands like “print it”, and “rolling”? Or maybe he’s the guy who’s made it his mission to make you sound like him…brand you with his sonic imprint…whether you like it – or not. Well these are actual stereotypes that I have heard artists mention when talking about their awful experiences (horror stories) related to working with a producer. I believe these stereotypes stem from reality in some capacity, because of the many inexperienced people who dared to call themselves a “producer”. Making decisions based on their ego, or adopting an aggressive attitude to prevent his motives from being challenged. Honestly, these are the things that recording horror stories are made from and you should know, that an experienced producer not only knows how to avoid these horror stories, but also knows how to help you realize your vision.

An experienced producer will pay for himself in many ways…finding ways to keep you within your budget without compromising the quality of the recording as well as maintaining efficiency in the studio are just a couple of ways. A good producer knows how to get everybody working together…sharing momentum. Spending time in the rehearsal space with a producer (pre-production) making crucial decisions “off the clock” before setting foot in the studio can be the difference between staying within budget and going way over it. A good producer strives to keep harmony amongst band members by being the person that all ideas can be communicated to, and in-turn presented with objectivity to the others.

If you think that you’re this person in your band, I’d be willing to bet that not everyone in your band agrees with this (just a hunch). A good producer also strives to get the very best performances out of an artist, and should be armed with techniques to make this happen. Keeping players rotating during the “overdub process” so that the singer isn’t stuck with three days of singing to do at the end of the recording schedule is second nature to a seasoned producer. Your recording should be about the music…this sounds simple, but a good producer knows how to keep the technical part of recording in the background so that you, the artist can concentrate on the music. I’d be willing to bet that your favorite records in the world…the ones that inspired you the most were probably made with a producer. I think that great musical performances are inspired… and capturing and nurturing these performances is best achieved by the deliberate actions of an experienced producer.

Stage Banter and Your Live Show | DiscMaker’s Blog

Your stage banter can contribute to a great live music performance — or a lousy one

Working on the music, the visual, and most of the transitions for a show usually takes up most of a rehearsal time. So when I first started working with artists on their live show, and we’d get to places where the front man needed to introduce the band, tell a story, do a song intro or verbal transition, I’d go along with them when they said, “I’ll talk here,” or “I’ll put some stage banter here.” I didn’t want to waste potentially good rehearsal time on something all of us do every day: talk.

Stage BanterThen I saw those artists onstage.

I found out pretty quickly talking doesn’t come naturally to everybody when they’re standing onstage. In fact, people often revert to clichés we’ve heard a millions times from other bad front people: “This song is about,” “Here’s a little tune I wrote,” “Are you having a good time?” “We’re gonna slow it down a little bit” — or my favorite cover band banter, “We’re gonna do a little Led Zeppelin.” I want them to do a big Led Zeppelin — why is it always “little?”

Sometimes you go to a show and the artist rambles on and on about how he wrote the song, when he wrote the song, where he wrote the song, and what’s going on in the world today. It’s more of a political State of the Union address than an introduction! I want to stand up and scream, “Just play the freaking song already!”

On the other extreme, some artists say “My music speaks for itself.” They barely say two words to the audience in a 60 minute show, and you don’t know any more about them when they leave the stage than when they first got on the stage.

Don’t misunderstand — there’s nothing wrong with lively stage banter, telling a story to set up a song, or playing songs back to back without saying a word. But when speaking from the stage, there are actually some concepts you can learn to keep an audience engaged.

First, you need to know you aren’t trying to accomplish the same thing every time you speak during a show. Let me give you a few examples of why you often need to talk:

1) Introductions. There are two places I recommend introducing the band. A short, quick intro after the first or second song to let them know who you are; and later, near the end of the show, after you’ve won the right to ask for applause, a more in-depth introduction of everyone.

2) Transitions. Just as there are musical transitions, there are verbal transitions. Most of them are short, and these transitions simply help keep the momentum going in the show.

3) Setting up a Song. I work with many artists to set up a song or two in their show with storytelling — what prompted the writing, what it means to them, and so on. A compelling story will help an audience connect emotionally to certain songs.

4) Audience Participation. Audiences like to be a part of your show. There is actually a very effective technique to this. I wish I could go into depth, but it is more complicated than one blog allows! So let me give you a tip on how not to do it. Don’t mumble something into the mic, then hold the mic out to the audience, and expect everyone in the room to join in. Your instructions need to be understood!

5) Pitching Merch. Again, this needs to be after you’ve won the right to ask your audience to buy something. Hopefully, because your show is so awesome, you’ve given them a reason why they should buy — now, you tell them how and where to get it. Be clear. Not salesy — but clear.

These are just a few of the most common places artists need to speak to their audience — certainly by no means all of them. But ask yourself as you prepare — is this a quick transition, am I setting up a song with a story, am I introducing the band here, trying to inspire people — what am I trying to do verbally?
It’s like a meal. Even if you’re a gifted cook, you still probably wouldn’t cook a 5-course meal every night. One night you cook a 5-course meal for friends and family because you have the time and are trying to accomplish an atmosphere conducive to relaxing, talking, entertaining (storytelling).

The next night you only have an hour between work and going out to see a play. You don’t cook a 5-course meal. You just get a fast food meal pickup (transition).

Maybe you are meeting people for the first time. You might meet them for coffee or a quick lunch just to introduce yourself (introduction).

You’re hosting a beach party, so you start a big bonfire and barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers, fill ice chests with cold drinks, and the focus is on the fun not the food (audience participation).

That’s the way it needs to be with talking to your audience. Know why you’re talking, when it’s appropriate to do it, and what you’re trying to accomplish. If you have the gift of gab it would be wrong to serve your audience a 5-course meal every song. But even if speaking makes you nervous, you can’t let everyone go hungry!

Either way, recognize what you are trying to accomplish, work it out, woodshed it, and bring it to rehearsal. Verbal communication between human beings is an important part of life… and your show. So whether you’re naturally comfortable speaking to a crowd or not, it’s important to develop those verbal skills onstage, which can go a long way towards keeping your audience captivated and engaged.

Read more: Stage Banter and Your Live Music Show -Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2013/03/stage-banter-and-your-live-show/#ixzz2O2pIaxwS

Are You Ready to Work With a Music Publicist? | DiscMakers

Whatever your instrument or genre, as an independent musician, I bet you’ve probably spent time gazing at the arts section of your local newspaper or favorite music magazine and wondered, “How can I get there?” While talent, hard work, business chops, persistence, and luck have a great deal to do with it, there’s another tool that can help — a good publicist.Ready to work with a music publicist?

Basically, a publicist helps make people aware of your work, serving as your media advocate, cheerleader, advisor, and liaison. Publicists work to get their artist clients featured or reviewed in newspapers and blogs, TV shows, and magazines, helping to attract attention and create buzz on a local, national, or even international level. A PR (public relations) expert can also help an artist craft longer term strategies for publicizing their latest release or tour, and can take the lead on putting those strategies into action.

Hiring a publicist often isn’t cheap, and finding a skilled music publicist to work with — one who understands and digs your music and has availability to work with you — can be tricky as well. Plus, in the ever-evolving world of arts coverage in the media, both print and online, there are few hard and fast rules or guarantees when it comes to seeking coverage or launching a PR campaign for your latest project.

When stars align, though, a strong artist/publicist alliance at the right time can give your career a boost and be well worth the investment of energy and funds needed to make the partnership happen. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Know when to look for a publicist
One of the best indicators that it’s time to look for a music publicist is, well, having something cool to publicize. “If you have the prospect of touring and playing a good deal of exciting shows, that can be a good time to start,” says Matt Merewitz, founder of Fully Altered Media in New York City. “Even if you’re just getting the word out to local media, having press support on tour can help you build your fan base and get people to your shows.” Other apropos can include releasing an album, performing in a particularly noteworthy one-off concert, hosting a benefit for a good cause, landing an opening slot for a major act, or beyond.

On a larger scale, there’s no hard science about when in a career artists and bands should start working with a music publicist — though as Big Hassle’s Jim Walsh describes with a laugh, “depending on your goals, whenever you can afford one is a good time to have one.” Having booking agents and management in place before hiring a publicist is a good benchmark of career preparedness, Walsh continues, though he points out that having a publicist on your team at the right time early in a career can itself be the sparkplug that elevates you to such a level of success.

If you feel that the time may be right to approach a publicist, don’t call someone two weeks before your album drops and expect to results. Even after you and a publicist decide to work together, it can take weeks or months to write up press releases and bio materials, plan a strategy, assemble a mailing, whip your web and social media presences into shape, and get your PR campaign underway.

“Artists should start looking five to six months away from when they want to release an album,” says Merewitz. “For some publicists and publicity firms who are in demand and very busy, you might have to reserve their time eight months or even a year out.”

Approach the right people
Merewitz advises looking at artists whom you admire and want to emulate — especially when it comes to how they do business. “If you’re a jazz pianist and really like how Brad Mehldau or Chick Corea is presented publicly, try approaching their teams, or if you’re an indie artist and your favorite groups are working with publicity firms like Big Hassle, Girlie Action, or Biz3, try approaching them,” he says. “A lot of times, artist websites have links to a publicist or manager, or if you just Google the artist with the term ‘press release’ or ‘310’ or ‘212’ area codes, you’ll find out who their PR reps are.”

If searching that way doesn’t get you the results you need, simply Googling “rock publicity” or “indie publicist” can give you a host of names, Merewitz advises. “Ask them for previous press reports from other clients and contact those past clients,” he continues. “Ask if they liked working with the publicist and what results they were able to get. What were they not able to get that you were really looking for? Information like that can help you make an informed decision about whether or not someone is right for you to work with.”

When you do approach publicists, keep your initial outreach brief, professional, and focused, says Walsh. “Just send a short email with a couple sentences introducing yourself and give links to photos, bio, and music,” he says. “Then just write a couple paragraphs about what you’re looking for. It’s pretty straightforward.”

Know what to look for – and what to avoid
So you’ve been in touch with a number of publicists — how do you decide which is the right one? Among other things, Merewitz recommends making sure that anyone you hire is as passionate about music as you are. “One indicator of a good publicist is someone who is enthusiastically checking out music that’s not even by their own clients,” he says. “If they’re out their checking out stuff with the eagerness of a teenager, that’s a positive sign that they’re in it for the right reasons, and not just for a paycheck.”

As with any business, there are going to be a small number of hucksters out there, or people who call themselves publicists but have neither the experience nor the skills to give your project the visibility out need. Doing a little due diligence before handing over a check can help you avoid unnecessary pain and disappointment down the line — and asking for references or checking in with previous clients is a must.

“If someone is rude or dismissive on initial contact, be wary of that,” says Walsh. “Also be wary of publicists who seem to take a lot of clients on at a given time. They may not have the time to give each one the amount of love that they need. That’s a common issue with publicists that are successful — they may want to help and honestly think that they can, but might just have too much on their plates to do it.”

Budget realistically
To cut straight to the chase — hiring a publicist can require a significant financial investment. “A good publicist is going to charge a minimum base rate of $800 or $1,000 per month, and that can go up to $4,000 or $6,000 per month depending on what firm it is,” says Merewitz. “Firms charging fees on the higher end often have a staff with multiple publicists working on the same project at the same time — that’s more for bands that are at another level, artists who happen to be independently wealthy, or people who have an investor who is willing to give them a shot in the arm,” he continues. “Some of those firms can get that kind of dough out of people because they also represent world-famous, A-list artists. They already have relationships with most major media in the world and can trade on those names to get coverage for their lesser-known artists. It’s a leverage game.”

If you’re working out cost with a publicist, don’t be afraid to say what you can afford and negotiate. “Sometimes I work out deals where bands pay smaller monthly fees over a year-long period, which can be more manageable,” says Merewitz. “That also means that my artists have me available to help them not just with album releases, but with tour dates as well.”

When budgeting for publicity, it’s important to understand that campaigns can take three months, or often significantly longer, says Walsh — especially when you’re trying to break an act. “It’s not like when Beyoncé does something big and everybody covers it at the same time,” he says. “Things happen more slowly over a longer period of time.”

One final note on budgeting — be sure to ask any potential publicist about extra costs that would end up being billed back to you. Mailing hundreds of CDs and press kits out to potential reviewers can cost a chunk when it comes both to printing and postage, for example, so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into up front.

Set realistic expectations
Much as every rock band may want to be on the cover of Rolling Stone, it’s important to realize that, even with the best of publicists and most compelling of albums, such placement can be a long shot. “You have to be realistic about what’s going to happen and a good publicist will guide a client in that respect,” says Walsh. “Try to have clear goals and understanding about what you’re trying to achieve.”

“One of the big things artists have to realize is that there aren’t too many shots left for big publicity hits that can really break an artist,” says Merewitz. “Everything these days is more in the realm of small, incremental gains. If you hire a publicist for a campaign and get two or three reviews, a magazine profile, and two blog mentions, that may feel like a disappointment, but you have to understand that that’s the way the market is.”

Before you sign any papers or hand over any checks, be sure to have a heart to heart with your publicist so you can fully understand what kind of results to expect; having similar discussions with other artists similar to you in style and career path can also give you a good idea of what to expect when it comes to scope and scale of PR success.

Get your story straight
A publicist’s job largely boils down to selling you to the media — so giving some thought to your own personal story can help your publicist do his or her job. “If you have a compelling human interest angle, that can really help,” says Walsh. “You need your publicist to have a story to tell for the music to get written about — it’s not just about the music. That’s really important.”

Merewitz echoes the sentiment, citing Melody Gardot as a great example. “She got hit by a car and focused on music as a key to her recovery,” he says. “It’s an overnight PR success story.”

If you’re not sure where to begin thinking about your own story, Merewitz recommends a few jumping-off points. “Who have you played with? What pop gigs have you had? What kind of sideman and mentorship have you had? Have you studied with anybody notable? What circles and cliques do you run in? These all make for different angles that your publicist can work, and sometimes those angles can be strong ones.”

Stay in touch
“When a publicist and client work together, they develop a mutual alliance of trust, and it’s important to keep the communication lines open,” says Merewitz. “Don’t avoid each other. A definite sign that a publicist is not pulling his or her weight is when he or she is unresponsiveness to a client. If a publicist doesn’t get back to you within a day, chances are that person is either overworked or not getting the kind of results they want and is shirking the responsibility of talking to the artist.”

From the client’s side, responsiveness is equally important — sometimes press opportunities come through hours before a frantic journalist’s deadline, so if you wait three days to return that call from your publicist, the window for coverage may be gone.

While staying in touch is important, Walsh warns against overdoing it. “I’ve had clients who get in their own way,” he says. “They soak up my time by talking about nothing when I could be pitching them to journalists or doing something more productive. It’s important to avoid micromanaging, to not to trip yourself up, and to trust your publicist to do a good job. That can be difficult sometimes,” he adds.

Different publicists have different preferred ways of communicating their progress and results, so be sure to check in early on so you know what to expect. “It’s normal for publicists to provide reports every couple weeks, though some do it weekly,” says Walsh. For his part, Merewitz often prefers “a less formal and more conversation-based form of reporting back to clients,” which he feels allows him to deliver more nuanced updates. Regardless, make sure that you’re comfortable with the reporting structure that you agree on, and don’t be afraid to negotiate a reporting schedule that keeps you feeling thoroughly informed.

Read more: Are You Ready to Work With a Music Publicist? -Disc Makers’ Echoes http://blog.discmakers.com/2013/03/are-you-ready-to-work-with-a-music-publicist/#ixzz2O2noUzUf

Social Media Marketing – Redefining “Return on Investment”

In business, return on investment – or ROI – traditionally translates to “How much money did we make on that promotion or venture?” This doesn’t translate so neatly to a social media marketing campaign, or your general social media efforts, because at its heart, social media is a conversation tool, not a sales tool.SocialThermometer-300x300

Because of this, many musicians, entrepreneurs, and even well-established brands find themselves struggling with the concept of spending hard-earned (and limited) funds on any sort of social media marketing strategy. It’s understandable. If you invest $1,000 into a promotion, wouldn’t you like to know that you’ll be able to draw a direct line to the resulting revenues that are made from album sales, ticket sales, merch sales, etc.?

It would be nice, but the truth is you probably won’t be able to. The purpose of social media is not, in and of itself, to increase sales. Social media is a suite of tools that can be used to engage with a target market. It exists to help people, bands, and brands reach out to existing and potential fans to:

  • Have conversations
  • Build trust
  • Increase visibility and influence

So the question becomes: “If social media has no direct relationship to sales, how do I measure its ROI?” It will help if you start by defining realistic expectations of your social media marketing campaigns so you can effectively measure the ROI of your social media efforts.

Market research
As an emerging musician, understanding who your fans are can help you on every level. From putting together a content strategy, to creating a product line, to planning a tour, and even the set list for each show, understanding exactly who your fans are, where they live, what they are interested in, and what drives them can help you take the guess work out of how you present the public face of your act.

Whether you are focusing your marketing on a local, national, or even global scale, social media has the power to do just this and should be considered as a critical focal point of any social media campaign.

What is your ROI here?
A better understanding of your target market helping to you create a more direct path to a successful, sustainable fan base.

There are several things you can examine that will help you to better identify your fans:

1. Demographics (age, location)
Understanding the age and location of your fans will help you to book shows more effectively and develop products (e.g., merch, formats for your music) that are most appropriate for your fan base.

This information is quite easily obtained online, as most social media platforms give you at least basic analytics that include demographics. However, if you’re looking for a more robust set of tools, there are dedicated analytics services available such as Next Big Sound and Hootsuite that allow you to drill down deeper into your target market to get to know them better.

2. Psychographics (attitudes, interests, values)
Understanding the interests, values, and attitude of your fan base is the key to creating a consistent, compelling content strategy, which is critical to building your band’s visibility, relevance, and influence online.

Finding this information online may take a bit more digging. The most obvious and direct way to find this information is to simply ask your fans by way of a survey. Two inexpensive survey options are Survey Monkey and Poll Daddy, which can be shared through all social platforms as well as your blog and newsletter.

Of course, another way to find this information is to take a sample of your fan base and explore their social media habits:

  • What pages have they “liked” on Facebook?
  • What topics are they tweeting about?
  • Do they like sharing photos?
  • What is the subject matter of the content that they are sharing online (personal, tech, entertainment, religious, political, etc.)?

This may take time, but doing a survey as well as taking a sample and diving in further can help you identify key psychographics that were previously hidden to you.

3. What time (of the day AND day of the week) your fans are actually online
Critical to building engagement is understanding exactly when your fans (or target fans) are actually online to maximize your efforts and make sure they’re receiving your message. There are too many studies that show conflicting data regarding when you should post, tweet, or email, and that is because each market is different. You need to know when YOUR fans are online, not when “the average person” is online.

There are services available, such as SocialBro and Crowdbooster, that can analyze your posts, tweets, etc., and tell you exactly which times are the most likely for your content to be engaged with.

Capturing “super fans” via a mailing list
Once you have identified your fans, the next logical step is to find a way to capture their email addresses so that they can be marketed to directly for things like new product releases, tours, and whatever exclusive offerings you can come up with.

This is done most effectively by capturing your fans through a mailing list, which is ultimately the ONLY way to achieve direct interaction with your fans because, remember, your fans have to be online in order for your posts to be engaging. Online posts are often missed, but a direct email will be waiting for your fans in their own personal inbox.

This action of capturing fans is a fantastic way to frame a social media management campaign as it can give you a tangible number to focus on – building your list is a growth percentage number that actually matters.

What is the ROI of a social media campaign that focuses on building mailing list subscribers?
In short, it’s the ’80/20 rule.’ This economics concept, which states that 80% of the world’s wealth comes from 20% of the world’s population, can be translated to the music business – 80% of a musician’s revenue will come from the top 20% most loyal fans.

Whether these percentages are exactly correct or not isn’t the point. What IS the point is that if you can find and capture your most loyal fans, you have a way to directly interact with and sell to those who are likely to make up the majority of your overall revenue.

There are almost too many email management services to name, but Fanbridge, Reverbnation, and Mail Chimp are all great options for musicians looking to build a mailing list and start a newsletter.

Each of the above services all offer something called an “e-for-m” widget (email for media) that allows you to offer your fans some piece of media, be it a song, video, PDF, etc., in exchange for an email address.

This widget can be embedded into your website, blog, Facebook fan page, and anywhere else that allows you to use HTML embed code (similar to a YouTube video). The trick to effectively capture your super fans is to:

1. Offer something exclusive and worthwhile. Email can be a very personal thing since it goes with people everywhere they go. Fans need to feel like they are truly getting something of value in return for giving their email address away.

2. Maintain an active newsletter. This means that once per month, you should have a newsletter that is sent out with a personal message, exclusive content, and one specific call to action. (NOTE: For a newsletter, more is NOT better. Unless you have content to support your outreach, sending out a newsletter too frequently can result in a large number of unsubscribes).

Engagement and chatter
If the fundamental purpose of social media is to be a conversation tool (not a sales tool), than an obvious frame for a social media campaign should be just that… measuring the level of conversations that take place because of the campaign.

These conversations can be broken down into separate categories: engagement and chatter. Engagement is the internal conversations taking place between you and your fans. Chatter is the external conversations started by others (bloggers, podcasters, fans, etc.) about you.

What is the ROI of a social media campaign that focuses on chatter/ engagement?
While this type of analysis is a bit more abstract than others that have specific, tangible results you can analyze, this campaign will give you a boost in overall visibility and influence within your niche. It is this influence and visibility (aka credibility) that is often the missing piece of the puzzle that opens doors to new opportunities that can help you take your career to the next level.

Engagement will always be most easily tracked through your own social analytics (as mentioned earlier). Chatter is a bit more difficult because this is an external conversation and won’t be tracked by your internal social analytics reports. But not to fret, there is an excellent, free option for you to use!

Google Alerts will track and report any time your name (or any other key word that you set, such as an album name, track name, etc.) pops up on the Internet. Once an alert is created, Google will report any mentions of the targeted keywords back to you via email at your desired frequency (these reports can be sent anywhere from monthly all the way down to real time, sending a new email every time a new mention is indexed by Google).

Framing social media to fit your needs
The options above are not the only ways to frame a social media campaign. The reality is that as long as you understand that social media is simply a conversation tool, and not a sales tool, you can frame a campaign utilizing these tools in any way that makes sense for your own goals and career path.

We would love to hear from all of you below in the form of a comment to discuss how YOU have framed your social media campaigns in order to effectively track ROI.

Read more: Social Media Marketing– Redefine “Return on Investment” – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2013/02/social-media-marketing-redefining-return-on-investment/#ixzz2NMQXreEZ

In The Studio: Tonal Factors Of An Electric Guitar

Here’s an excerpt from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook, available here.

OpenBobbyOGuitarToneJust like most things in life, something that seems so simple on the outside is very intricate on the inside and a pickup is no exception.

Here are the numerous factors that contribute to a pickup’s sound.

The number of turns or winding. This is the number of turns of wire around the bobbin of the pickup. The more turns, the louder the pickup, but the worse the high-frequency response becomes.

The number of turns is measured by the electronic resistance of the wire, which is measured in ohms. The higher the ohms value, the hotter the pickup but the less high-frequency response you’ll have.

Humbucking pickups have more resistance than a single coil because there are more turns of wire, which is why they’re hotter and have less high end.

Type of wire used. The diameter and insulation determines the number of windings that can fit on a bobbin, which will determine the resistance, which determines the output, etc.

Type of winding method used. Nany of the pickups in the early days of the electric guitar were wound by hand, which meant that there were more or less than the required number of windings on the bobbin, and an uneven wind would also affect the capacitance of the pickup, which can cause a peak in the frequency response.

This problem was virtually eliminated when manufacturers switched to machine winding, but while every pickup was now the same, some of the magic that occasionally came from a hand-wound pickup also disappeared.

The type of magnets used. Although Alnico (a blend of aluminum, nickel and cobalt) is the alloy of choice for most pickups, occasionally you’ll find pickups made of other materials such as ceramic or neodymium. This will affect the strength of the magnetic field which we’ll cover next.

The strength of the magnets used. Magnets used for pickups are categorized by strength on a scale of two to five with five being the strongest. A stronger magnet will produce a louder and brighter sound while a weaker one will produce one that’s warmer.

The magnet height. How close the individual magnets are to the strings will determine how loud that string is. On pickups that have adjustable pole pieces that’s not so much of a problem, but on pickups with fixed pole pieces (like a Fender Strat or Tele) that could cause a slight imbalance in the string output.

As an example, prior to the late 1960s, most guitarists used a wound G string, so the fixed height of the magnets on a Strat were different to compensate.

Pickup cover. Metal covers on humbuckers can cause a resonance that results in feedback problems at high volumes. That’s why many of the early rockers removed their pickup covers, and why many guitars and pickups are sold that way today.

Pickup potting. Many pickups are sealed in wax to eliminate vibration induced signals that make a pickup microphonic. The heat from the hot wax can weaken the magnet though, thereby changing the pickup’s sound.

Potentiometers. Although not exactly a part of the pickup itself, the volume and tone pots are part of the electronic circuit along with the pickup and can affect the sound. The higher the resistance of the pot, the more high end will pass.

Fenders use 250k ohm pots, Gibson uses 500k, and many other manufacturers use 1 Meg pots.

There are other factors such as winding direction, magnetic polarity, and the type of bobbins used, but their contribution to the final sound is subtle at best.

Intangible Factors

As if the known factors in building a pickup weren’t enough, consider the many intangible factors as well. For instance, most pickups loose their magnetic strength over time because of environment and electrical interference.

Pickups can become weakened or demagnetized completely by leaning your guitar against an amplifier with large transformers, or even from taking your guitar too close to the train motor of a subway (as happened with Andy Summers of the Police).

Another intangible is the fact that tolerances of just about every component were much looser until the 1990s. While the difference was indeed subtle, add enough components at the edge of their tolerances together and you suddenly get a pickup that sounds different even though it’s made the same.

Go here to acquire The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook.

Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and blog.