The one thing you have to understand to get more gigs | Disc Makers


mic2 The one thing you have to understand to get more gigsNot all gigs are created equal: how to get the right gig for you

So you want to play more gigs.

It seems like other artists you know are performing all the time, so surely there must be a secret formula to getting gigs. That, or all the other musicians up on stage are friends with the venue owner or have a manager getting the gigs for them, right?

Maybe. But nine times out of ten the singer up there on stage has no insider information, no manager, and no friendship with the venue owner whatsoever.

So the burning question is….what is the Secret Formula to booking gigs?

I could reel off a few quick bullet points to whet your appetite, but to be honest that wouldn’t help you very much and here’s why: if you came up to me tomorrow and asked me how to get gigs, the first thing I’d say is, “What type of gig do you want?”

You see, not all gigs are created equal. Some gigs will pay well but won’t help you build a following; some gigs will pay next to nothing but will be massive fan builders; and some gigs… well they don’t get you fans or money but can still be valuable if used properly.

Confused?  I don’t blame you.

You see, before you can get gigs you need to understand the type of gigs that are out there and what each one can do for you. Once you understand this, it makes going after gigs a whole lot easier because you can look for a gig that is going to help you with your business (yes, you are a business) and is suitable for where you’re at in this phase of your career.

Have a look at the Gig Matrix below. These are examples of just some of the types of gigs, placed into a matrix that works on a scale of high versus low pay and high versus low fan building.

Gig Matrix 620x650 The one thing you have to understand to get more gigs

Note: This works for any musical genre; you just have to rename the gig slightly. For example, the musical theatre  equivalent of an ‘Open Mic Night’ is doing a community theatre show for free.

Bear in mind that this is not an exact science. The music industry is highly unregulated and I know that some musicians have done very well with ‘low pay/low fans’ gigs like busking if they go on a regular basis, however this is not always the case. To make things even clearer, let’s take a look at each of the areas of the Gig Matrix and find out what the benefits of each category can be for you.

Low Pay/ Low Fan Gigs

If after looking at the Matrix you thought that you would scratch Low Pay/ Low Fan gigs off your list straight away… well, think again. Every gig in the Matrix has its purpose and each is more accessible to you depending on what stage you are at in your music career.

For example, busking and open mic nights are a great way to test out new material or to gain performance practice when you are just starting out, and they are the easiest gigs to obtain; you can busk in most places by obtaining a simple busking licence and open mic nights take pretty much anyone.

In fact, I personally use both of these types of  gigs for this very purpose.  I’m currently working on some new folk material and am playing guitar for the first time (I’m usually a jazz performer and play piano and sing) so when I’ve got my material ready, I’ll hit up an open mic night to take my new songs and skills for a test drive.

Similarly, if you are in musical theatre, the best way to grow your resume is by doing free community shows. You’ll meet people in the industry and can work on your performance skills while you hunt around for new opportunities.

High Pay/ Low Fan Gigs

On the flip side of the Matrix  there are High Pay/ Low Fan gigs. These are what I call ‘Bread and Butter’ gigs because basically, they pay the rent. For contemporary singers, these might be bar/ club cover gigs where the venue pays you to play music their clientele will like, which usually means well known covers.

For me as a jazz musician, these are corporate gigs at some stuffy legal firm’s cocktail client night and I’m there to provide background music and look pretty. Yep seriously. Why else would they hire a band if they just want background music? It’s all for show. This is definitely not the place to pull out my massive ‘Nicola Milan’ banner, set up my merch stand complete with flashing lights and plug my CDs at the end of every set. You’ll be lucky if you get to hand out a few business cards during the break and get a quick thank you from the head honcho.

Use these gigs to fund the Low Pay/High Fan building gigs that we’ll have a look at next… and make the most of the free canapés while you’re there. icon wink The one thing you have to understand to get more gigs

Note: Some musos only want these types of gigs. This is when it’s not so much about building a name for themselves than it is making money as a musician without having to leave their local area (Which is totally fine by the way. I know plenty of very good musicians who make their living this way) — but for those of you who want to make a mark, raise your profile, and reach for what can happen when you do start becoming known (i.e. a higher charge rate, better gigs, a deeper connection with fans, getting your message out there, and all the possibilities that come with being a person of interest) then read on.

Low Pay/ High Fan Gigs

I love/ hate these gigs. I know they are going to be good for my profile but I also know I’m going to run at a loss and as someone who relies solely on income derived from music, the costs involved can bite.

Many support gigs with better known artists will fall under this category (initially at least.) As anything in the music industry, there will be exceptions but when you have no fans apart from your rent-a-crowd mates then you don’t really have much value (in terms of business dollars) to add to a gig and the opportunity to perform with a band that does pull a crowd is a good opportunity for you, because it means you get to play for fans of a similar sounding band. If they like that band, then they may become your fan too. However, it’s not such a good deal for the venue or the band with the bigger name.

The reason is because these type of gigs usually operate on a pay by door sales basis. If you have no fans then your ability to help with the door sales intake is going to be minimal and therefore you shouldn’t expect to be paid for something you didn’t provide. The catch here however, is this: if you are a singer who uses an accompanist or session musicians in your band, then you still have to pay your musicians and you will have to fork out of your own pocket to pay them. It is easier if you have a band dedicated to doing any gig they can to ‘break in’ but for singers, this is frequently not the case.

The good news is that if you make the most of these gigs, you should start building fans from the first gig and it does get easier. That, or you can do a heap of advertising to get people through the door… but that is a topic for another blog post.

The bad news is that every time you want to break into a new market (location) you will have to repeat the support gig process, unless of course you have a major radio hit and venues are clambering over each other to book you… and we all know this is definitely not the norm.

However, playing support gigs is the fastest way to go from zero to fans and get you one step closer to the juicy gigs we’ll have a look at next.

High Fans/ High Pay Gigs

Ah yes, now we reach the realm of the Rich and Somewhat Famous and I can hear you thinking ‘Now we’re talking. Ok Nicola, just tell me how to get heaps of these gigs, really well paying and in front of heaps of fans.’

My answer? “Patience, Grasshopper. They are not YOUR fans… yet.”

I’m not saying this to hold you back by any means because on average, festivals and promoted shows with advertising dollars behind them are hands-down the best way to get your name out there as an artist. The gig in itself would be enough, however most Festivals are accompanied by advertising dollars to spread your name further and have media salivating over the opportunity to get you on their interview list. Yes these are the best gigs to get, but they are also by far the most competitive.

Festivals are expensive to put on and so the Festival Promoter needs to ensure they will attract an excellent turnout each year. They do this by booking artists that they know will draw a crowd, which means that you need to be doing pretty well and have a solid following  to get one of these gigs (that, or be good friends with whoever is in charge.)

Don’t worry, there’s a catch to Festivals which is your secret way in. Create a list of the Festivals that support your type of music in your local area (and beyond if you can afford the travel costs). Most bigger Festivals don’t even accept artist applications so scratch those off initially. Your best bet is to target smaller festivals and then build up from there.

Keep an eye out for contests to play at bigger Festivals but realise the competition is going to be fierce. Some Festivals do offer busking opportunities which you can snap up if you perform solo and acoustic, then make the most of it; get your banner out, play loud and promote, promote, promote!

The other type of show that can sit either under this category in the Gig Matrix or under the Low Pay/Low Fans category is a show that you put on yourself. You hire a venue or agree to a split of the door sales and then it’s your job to book the support acts and get people through the door (this is where that rent-a-crowd friend base comes in handy).

These gigs are great for a reason to promote yourself in the local media and can be decent earners if your door numbers are solid. Do a good job and your rent-a-crowd might actually become true fans and bring more friends along next time.

So let’s go back to the start and revisit our original question: how to get gigs. Now that you can have a think about the type of gig that you want, doesn’t that make it easier to know where to start looking?

My advice is to pick the gig according to what your needs are as an artist. If you are just starting out, go for the Low Pay/Low Fan gigs where you can get some performance practice singing in front of a crowd. That way, if you stuff up, it’s not going to be such a big deal. If you’re past this stage, then have a look at the bands gigging in your local area that sound similar to you and reach out for a support gig.

Whatever the stage you are at in your music career, go for the gig that will benefit you the most… and once you have it, make the most of it.


Author bio: Nicola Milan is a professional singer, songwriter, recording artist and vocal coach. On her website Singer’s Secret, she shares tips on how to improve your singing, gain confidence, and get gigs when you’re just starting out.

Build a superfan base one video at a time | DiscMakers


Engaging with your fans involves “check moves” – opportunities for positive interaction – and online videos are one way to build an audience on YouTube and beyond

build an audience on YouTube

This lesson comes from Ben Sword, founder of Music Marketing Classroom, with an excerpt from the “Superfan Building” module of their training. Click here for the whole shebang.

If you’ve done any research about music marketing, you’ve probably heard a lot of people telling you you need to be on social media “engaging” with your fans. Sounds good, but what does that mean? Good question! The mission of this lesson is explain what engaging means, give you practical steps you can do each day, and help you build an audience on YouTube and beyond in the ultimate quest to take your music promotion to new heights.

The “check move” theory

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure why I needed to bother engaging with fans until I discovered the “check move” theory. This concept tells us that the more positive interactions (or check moves) fans take with an artist, the closer the connection will be, and that will ultimately lead to more support – whether that be financial or with promotion bringing in new fans by word of mouth.

I think this is an especially powerful idea for musicians because it means we don’t have to hammer the fan base with slightly cheesy sales messages all the time, and can just focus on putting out super-duper stuff that they WANT to interact with.

It all starts with “capture”

In other words, get a smart phone and press record a lot, because often you can entertain your gang by just bringing them into your world and making content based around what you’re already doing.

The way this might look for a band on the road is that each member would be documenting the wild ride from their own point of view and posting it to Dropbox, and then your social media dude edits all the best bits for posting. (Of course, if you’re on a budget, the “social media dude” could simply be Bob the crazy drummer who likes playing with the computers).

But for some even that might seem like a little bit too much like hard work, so why not run a competition to have one of your die-hard fans come on the road with you to capture all the cool behind-the-scenes happenings? For an amazing example of this check out Ozzy Osbourne’s Facebook Page.

Seeing your journey from a fan’s point of view will mean they’re in a great position to know what’s going to be interesting and relevant. BOOYARR! You’ve just created a world class digital content strategy and it did not hurt one bit.

So how on earth do you set up a check move?

The mission here is to remove all the head-scratching from your social media marketing by giving you a set of tried and tested posts ready to go, and video is a great way to tell a story through more than just words. And you don’t need to just make a music video every week, there are dozens of ways to create video content that can help you engage with your fans. Don’t believe me? Here are 23 ideas to start with.

    1. Behind the music
      Let people in on your wild ride in the biz. Your first band, first song, first guitar, first love (or maybe not), challenges and setbacks, magic moments, and plans for the future. To do this, get a piece of paper and draw a picture of yourself as a just born baby on the left hand side, then draw a picture of yourself last week on the right. Now fill up the space in the middle with all the epic stuff that’s happened to you during that time. BTW, you don’t have to make a whole movie in one go. Bite-sized pieces will actually work better for holding interest.


    1. Interviews
      Interview every cool person you meet along the way – producers, managers, your crazy bassist, other bands, family, friends, fans, the sound man, tour manager and the driver who never seems to sleep. Here’s a good example to get you started. WARNING: There is a 93% chance this video will make you laugh, so if you’re at work maybe watch it later!

      how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 1

    2. Cribs
      Make a video to show folks around your home town and even your house if that doesn’t feel weird. Travel to important landmarks in your career like where the band got together, or where you performed your first successful stage dive. If you can’t be bothered to actually leave your house, you could do this using Google street view.


    1. Backstage
      Post dressing room shenanigans, the after-show party, and even that particularly tasty treat you got on the rider. And if Jimmy Page shows up and wants to play with you, film yourself getting ready for the gig!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 2
    2. In the studio
      Video yourself during recording sessions. This is an awesome method of keeping fans in touch while you would normally be off the radar.


    1. Live footage from your latest gig
      There is a cool tool called Switch Cam which will turn your whole crowd into one big massive film crew and then you can come back later and make a wicked movie using all those different viewpoints. It’s the future baby!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 3
    2. Tour diary
      Video diary updates when you’re on tour that include where you’re playing, how the shows are going, which band member is starting to make you crazy, what it’s like inside the van, and reviews of the accommodations.


    1. Sound check videos
      You might think this seems a little boring (and honestly I would agree), but folks outside of the biz love learning how things work from your perspective, and these kinds of music videos seem to get a ton of views. There could be interested people who will appreciate the look inside.


    1. Rehearsal footage
      Give your fans a sneak peek of brand new tracks from the practice to build an audience on YouTube ex. 4
    2. Gear heads
      Show people around your gear and how you get your EPIC sounds. “This one goes to 11.”


    1. Music from your past
      Dust off those demos you made when you were a kid or in an early band. I think it’s cool to show people how you got to where you are now musically. Don’t be bashful about it!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 5
    2. Merch!
      Live from the merch booth meeting the fans and the people who run your table.


    1. Song-meanings and inspirations
      Share what you were thinking and feeling when you wrote a song, if that doesn’t feel too to build an audience on YouTube ex. 6
    2. Alternate versions
      Record yourself playing acoustic versions of your more popular songs.


    1. Covers
      Record yourself playing interesting arrangements of music you love. (Don’t forget to get a sync license if you’re doing this!)


    1. Covers by fans
      Post a little “guitar lesson” for one of your most popular songs and then challenge fans to come up with the best cover version on video and post it.


    1. Say thanks
      Make a real personal video to thank fans when you reach important milestones in your career. Jackie Chan did this when he got 50 million Facebook fans. Just look at the way he pops up. Classic!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 7
    2. Making of
      The “making of” your video with director’s commentary, like the extras on a DVD. This would basically be a couple of key players talking about how the whole thing came together.


    1. Answer questions
      Host an “ask me anything event,” online open mic session, or do what Noah Guthrie did and answer Twitter questions on video. It’s a multi-media bonanza!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 8
    2. Outtakes
      Compile outtakes and bloopers from your recording sessions and video shoots.


    1. Chat with a superfan
      Make someone’s day and make a video out of to build an audience on YouTube ex. 9
    2. Shopping
      Go thrift shopping for stage clothes or props and document the whole adventure on video.


  1. Make a music video
    Every cool tune should have some kind of music video, even if it’s real simple. Here’s something I made with no budget in just a few hours. Moving forward, I’ll be making mostly “fans create the footage” music videos because then the check move factor goes through the roof!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 10

Here is your action step

OK so now we’re at the end of this lesson you’ve got two options.

1. Close this page and think, “Hmmm, ain’t that Ben Sword a cool and sexy mofo, he gave me a ton of ideas that I really should use one day and I must buy him lots of beer next time he’s in town. But then, ha ha ha! Look at those funny talking cats dancing on YouTube … what was I doing again?”

Apart from the thing about buying me beers, that ain’t going to do anyone any good, so the only option you should really consider is:

2. Pick one thing from this list, do it right now, and give yourself an hour to complete it. Often work will swell to the amount of time you allocate, so setting a short deadline means you’ll be really action focused and proactive.

Then if you’re feeling brave, do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and for the next 30 days, until you got the habit locked in for the rest of your career. Being that consistent will pretty much guarantee you’ll find an audience at some point. It’s like a law of nature or something.

Sure, what you produce at first might be crappy, and that’s totally cool – in fact that’s what’s supposed to happen. But after a while, making great stuff will be just like eating maple syrup and bacon pancakes with a thick Oreo cookie milkshake (i.e. EASY!)

Good luck, I’m rootin for ya’ and please contact me if you got questions because I’ll be making follow-up lessons.

Ben Sword is the founder of the Music Marketing Classroom, on a mission to help musicians create sustainable careers with a simple four level marketing philosophy. Learn more at

Read more: Build a superfan base one video at a time – Disc Makers

Why indies should still care about radio | Disc Makers

shutterstock 1941665841 Why indies should still care about radio[This article was written by Erica Sinkovic, CD Baby’s Web Product Manager and general music enthusiast.]

Whether you’re an independent artist or signed to an independent label, you’re sure to have a lot on your plate already. Between booking shows, debating merch, planning your next big marketing move, juggling social media-insanity, oh yeah, and writing new material, the last thing you want to add to your plate is a radio campaign. Indies have all but abandoned this once-career-establishing source. Some say it’s because their audience isn’t listening to radio anymore, some say it’s because radio is only for Top 40 major label artists, and others simply don’t have time or resources to even consider it in their marketing mix. I’m here to tell you: don’t abandon radio.

Even though many people, particularly teens, are listening to music via YouTube and other on-demand platforms, discovery tends to happen through other channels. Just two years ago, in 2012, Nielsen reported that 48% of people surveyed discovered music most often through the radio (compared to YouTube’s 7%). Today, in 2014, Nielsen reports that radio listenership is on the rise from 243.7 million in 2013 to 244.4 million weekly listeners in 2014. They cite the localization of stations and their curated content as a key factor to becoming so easily interwoven in peoples’ lives…something to keep in mind come tour time.

I’m not here to tell you “drop everything and focus all of your time and money on radio.” I’m here to tell you that radio is not dead, DJs are still the tastemakers in every town, and radio still has the power to bring artists of all genres to the next level in their careers, at every level.

In my experience of working with incredible artists, labels and distribution companies, I’ve seen the difference that radio can make – taking unknowns to globally recognized names (yes, there are many more millions of people listening internationally). Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Childish Gambino, Robert DeLong, these are artists that Glassnote Records took way up the charts in both airplay and sales by focusing much of their efforts on radio in every single market (touring also being a major factor). You can’t turn on a college radio station or satellite radio channel without hearing Arcade Fire (#1 on Billboard), Grizzly Bear (#7 on Billboard), First Aid Kit (#12 on Billboard Independent), Passion Pit (#4 on Billboard) and so on.

Don’t give up on radio because there are millions of people still listening, still trusting and still anxiously awaiting the next “new thing.”

How do you get your music on the radio?

Depends on your resources.

1. Radio marketing services such as Pirate! or The Syndicate. Some publicists offer this service in varying degrees as well, but relationships are key here.

2. Radio mailing services offered through boutique distribution companies for an additional fee (single or album-based).

3. Print out a one-sheet, get a box of promos, and start looking up key stations (Will you be touring there? Do you have sales there? Is there an influential tastemaker station there?) to mail or digitally deliver your music to.

* Helpful hint #1: your one-sheet should tell readers immediately why they should care to listen to your music.

* Helpful hint #2: if you want to confirm that someone has listened to your music, pick up the phone and call them.

Have you gotten your music on the radio as an independent artist? Did you hire a promoter, or handle the radio promotion yourself? Let us know in the comments section below.

Do traditional tours still make sense for independent artists? | DiscMakers

shutterstock 180210833 Do traditional tours still make sense for independent artists?

[This article is written by guest contributor Jason Schellhardt, writer for the live entertainment concierge service Rukkus.]

Few things in the music industry are more romanticized than the image of the battle-tested road warrior. The old rock and roll narrative suggests that being a musician means going out on tour for months at a time, hitting any and every market along the way.

This used to be the most effective way to build a fanbase outside of your local scene, but like most other things in the music industry, the internet has changed that. Booking cross-country tours no longer makes sense for newer independent artists.

The advantages of social media have been well documented as it pertains to independent musicians. It has provided an unprecedented connection between artists, fans, media, labels and so on. Artists can record a track at home, post it on their SoundCloud account and share it via Twitter or Facebook without any other means of production or distribution.

While this has been a major coup for the independent artist, there is another major advantage to new media that is often overlooked. While it is great to know who is listening to your music or following your band, it is just as important to know where these people are.

Brett is a D.C.-based indie-pop band with a unique perspective on this issue. Though Brett is a fairly new band, all of its members have had experience touring the country in previous projects. They have seen the pros and cons to the lengthy, expensive traditional tour and the more cost-effective, targeted approach.

In an interview with DMVicious last year, guitarist Kevin Bayly and vocalist Mick Coogan explained how traditional tour schedules have become somewhat counterproductive for new artists.

“The whole concept of promoting your band by hopping in a van and touring the country is ridiculous. It’s backwards now. It used to be that way,” said Bayly. “We did that when we were younger, that’s how you had to get out there and meet people. Now it’s all online. It’s cheaper and you end up playing quality shows instead of Duluth, MN, on a Tuesday.”

“For the next year we plan on hitting [D.C.], New York City and Los Angeles. Those are the most important markets for us,” added Coogan.

By paying careful attention to the band’s online presence, Brett has pared down its most important markets and focused its attention squarely on audiences that have shown that they are receptive to the band.

The pros to this approach far outweigh the cons for a newer band looking to establish itself. Once a band has built a following online and in its targeted markets, national tours make a lot more sense. But, until then it is most often a massive drain on the band’s resources.

Here are a few geo-specific strategies to help you target your band’s prefered markets:

1. Build a strong social media presence and pay attention to every single one of your followers. This one sounds like a no brainer, but it is an invaluable resource. Figure out where your followers are located and if there is any obvious trend among them. If you notice a handful of fans in the same region, you are probably onto something.

2. Maintain your website and monitor the analytic data. Similar to the social media idea, using Google Analytics, or similar tools, to monitor your web traffic can tell you where each view is coming from. Many young bands forego their own websites in favor of maintaining their Facebook and Twitter accounts, but they are all equally important.

3. Keep track of any media coverage you may get. Another major factor in your band’s web presence is the amount of coverage you are getting from online media. Keep track of any blog or website that posts your music and find out if they target a specific geographic location. You can set up a Google Alert to make this easy to track.

4. Develop relationships with media in areas you intend to target. In addition to the last item, you should seek out blogs that are prominent in certain markets and try to arrange coverage for your band. This step would be most helpful once you have established a couple of areas you intend to target.

5. Pay attention to similar artists. Imitation is an age old tradition in the music industry. Find a more established band that is similar to your own, and look at the markets where they have had success. Chances are, you could find some success there as well.

Every band is different, and what works for some may not work for others, but this geo-specific strategy is a great jumping off point for any band looking to expand its audience beyond the hometown crowd.

If nothing else, this strategy will keep you from burning a ton of money and playing empty rooms in “Duluth, MN, on a Tuesday.”

Why social media sites aren’t always the best places to hold a contest | DiscMakers

Chris Bolton

Champions Cup Icon Band ContestHolding a contest online is a great way to engage your audience and make new fans. But, I think a lot of artists go about it the wrong way. A lot of contests happen exclusively on social media, and this is a missed opportunity. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use social media to promote your contest—you should—but you want to make sure that ‘the act’ of actually signing up for your contest happens on your website. You need to lure your friends and fans from the seductive world of social media and get them to visit your artist website. Why? Well, let me tell you . . .


On your website, you can capture emails instead of likes
You’ve seen the stats. With Facebook’s constant algorithm updates, only a tiny fraction of your Facebook fans actually see your posts. Facebook has become a pay-to-play game. So how do you connect with your fans without paying Facebook your hard-earned dough? Simple: get your fans signed up to your email list and you can chat with them anytime you like—for free. Next time you hold a contest, ask your fans to sign up to your email list and leave a comment on your blog to enter. Forget about getting people to like your Facebook post or Facebook page to enter; an email address is worth far more.


Asking more of your fans means deeper engagement

A ‘tweet,’ ‘like,’ or ‘comment’ on a social media site takes almost no time and thought. Fact is, you want people to actually think about what you are doing. You want them to listen to your music and show up at your next concert. So asking for a little more time is OK. In exchange for this attention you might have to give away something better than a cassette recording of your last practice. And That’s OK. Sweeten the prize. You’ll be rewarded for it. Throw in a date with your bass player, a bottle of champagne, or a song on your next album named after the winner.

Traffic on your website is the best kind of traffic

Where do you want your fans to hang out? Mark Zuckerberg’s website or your own? Seems obvious right? It’s always better to have fans on your website where they can buy stuff and communicate with you directly. So don’t bother directing people to a social media site to find out about your contest. Instead, direct them from social media websites to your own. Not only that, in addition to entering your contest, some people will probably spend some time checking out your concert calendar, your blog, your videos, and whatever else you have on your site.

On your website, you’re the center of attention

Social media websites are attention deficit playgrounds. Thousands of things are always going on at once. I’m surprised people manage to concentrate long enough to comment on a post or hold a conversation. On your website (assuming you haven’t plastered your website with ads) there is only one thing for visitors to pay attention to: YOU. You’re in the driver’s seat and you don’t have to worry about competing with advertisers and Upworthy posts. On your website, your fans can read about your contest, focus on the rules, and signup without being distracted by alerts, ads, and messages.

So for your next online contest, whether you’re giving away a t-shirt or a date with your bass player, make it happen on your site and reap the rewards.

Sustain your music career – nine insights to help you do it | DiscMakers

The Nadas have built a 20-year career in music playing shows, catering to their fans, and treating the business end of their band like a business


The Nadas career in music is built on touring

Mike Butterworth and Jason Walsmith in front of ‘Meatloaf,’ their tour bus.

It’s been twenty years since Mike Butterworth and Jason Walsmith met in college and forged a partnership that has withstood many tests. Since then, their Des Moines, Iowa-based band, The Nadas, have felt the exhilaration of performing for 15,000 people at a sold out arena shows to playing hole-in-wall bars for a handful of folks. Through playing hundreds of shows and releasing 11 records of (mostly) original material, the duo has learned what works when building a sustained career in music and an audience that spans one-third of the country. They recorded and produced their 2013 album, Lovejoy Revival, in a local warehouse. I spoke with Nadas co-founder Mike Butterworth (guitar/vocals) and dug up nine nuggets of wisdom that have helped the band not only survive, but thrive for two decades. 

1) Organic growth is long-term growth

How did the band come together?
I was a year behind Jason in college but had been playing in rock bands in high school, so when I got to college at Iowa State University, the first thing I wanted to figure out wasn’t my class schedule but who I was going to play music with. A mutual friend introduced me to Jason, who at that time was in a campus band. I auditioned and was asked to join, but before I could go to my first rehearsal, the rest of the guys in the band left school, so only Jason and I were left.

he Nadas career in music started with Lovejoy Revival

The Nada’s 11th CD, Lovejoy Revival (2013).
We picked up our acoustics and started doing an acoustic duo thing. We started getting gigs right away at coffee shops and frat parties around the campus, and that started us on the path of growing our audience organically, one or two fans at a time. That’s been the cornerstone of our success throughout the years. Fast forward a few years and we found that we were able to build our whole career on focusing on the current student, having them become fans, graduate, and then go out in the world. 

We discovered that, almost anywhere we toured, there were between 10 and 100 people who knew us from college and brought their friends to that show in the new town. It was 100% organic growth. The only market we had any help in was Chicago. There was an indie radio station in the northwest suburbs there called “The Bear” and they found out about our music and started playing it, so the first time we showed up to play in Chicago, there was a crowd of people to see us.

2) Steady communication with a call-to-action is key

You were a top draw in your college town. After each class graduated, how did you keep in touch as they spread across the Midwest? 
The Nadas circa 1990s
We had a website, but before we put together our first email list, we had an actual paper mailing list and every month we’d create a newsletter and we would write articles about what we were doing, we would snap pictures of each other and then put it all together and print it up, We’d print and fold them up, hand-write the addresses, put a stamp on, and then drive them over to the post office. It grew to the point where that mailing list was so large that it cost us a couple of thousand dollars every time we wanted to print and send out the newsletter. Soon the band had a computer database and mailing labels to save time. After a while, we also started to put a little order form inside asking fans, “Do you want a record?” and that really ended up paying for itself, because quite often people would send the order form back to us with a check enclosed.

People really looked forward to getting these newsletters and kept them around. For instance, we’d head out of town to play a show and after the show someone would invite us over to their house for an after hours get together and there would be that newsletter hanging on a magnet on the fridge. So we knew it was working.

3) If something works, repeat the formula

How else did you grow your audience?
We decided to go to the next college town over from Ames and start all over again, just playing a club, but we weren’t starting out with zero fans, because a few people had heard of us and our existing fans would tell their buddies in that new town about us. Eventually, we built a circuit through the Midwest of these towns that all had colleges and we would hit each city every month, over and over, and in time, that built up a loyal audience that would come out to support us.


The Nadas career in music continues

The Nadas have teamed up with World Bicycle Relief to help provide bicycles to women in emerging countries.

Now the circuit stretches from Colorado to Chicago, and from Minneapolis to Kansas City. There’s probably a total of 30 markets in that region, so we would make that circuit, but we’d also make time to take a week and do a swing down into Texas, or down to Arizona, or we’d set up a trip to go all the way out to California, and then return through Arizona. We even made a trip to Florida and another one to Maine. All of this we did driving, and all from our home base here in Iowa. We saved up enough to purchase a 40-foot tour bus, a 1985 Eagle. We named her “Meatloaf” because evidently he rented it when it was new and the marquee sign on the front still had his name on it. 

4) Build relationships with bookers and other bands

As your fans spread out across this region, did you develop relationships with club bookers so you weren’t just picking up the phone cold each time?
We were eventually able to say to a club owner with confidence that we had so many people in that area and many of them would come out to a show, so that helped us establish ourselves with the venues. Around that time we also started to work with booking agent Eric Roberts at Hello Booking in Minneapolis to help us out with making the calls to club bookers and in managing our calendar. He’s been with us now for more than fifteen years.

We also learned to work closely with other bands and really, we wouldn’t have had the success we have had without the help of a number of other bands. For example, in the Colorado area, which is still one of our strongest regions, we had been going out there for a couple of years and beating it down, and it just wasn’t going that well. Maybe there’d be 10 at one show and 25 at the next one, and it was costing us money to be there. So we got to the point where we said, let’s give it one more try and see if we can’t do better, and if we can’t, we’ll have to write off Colorado and head east to build Ohio, which is the same distance away.

The Nadas

Club gigs continue to form the backbone of the band’s touring schedule.


So we went to Colorado and we played with a friend’s band called Hello Dave from Chicago, they already had a couple hundred fans that they drew. Well, the very next time we came back to Colorado, we had a couple hundred people who showed up for our gig there. It took sharing a show for us to be exposed to enough new people to get our base started there. Now, when we go out there, we play theaters to audiences of around 500.

5) Treat the business like a business

Are the live shows the primary way you guys support yourselves?
Yes, we decided from the start to run the band as close to a regular business as we could. We decided to pay the players a set amount for each show. We set aside money for expenses and agreed we weren’t going to use credit cards to finance the band or get any loans. We take the money we make and cover all of our costs and if there’s anything left over, Jason and I split that. While it’s not enough to completely support ourselves, we’ve gotten to the point where we have a salary and we supplement that income with other things we each do.

6) Understand your fans

As you enter your 20th year as a band, have you retained some of the fans from your early days?
It’s great, because we kept hitting the same circuit, and a lot of it was college towns, we did that circuit the four years we were in college, then repeated it over the following eight years, so we had triple the time to build our audience throughout the region we were touring. This ended up giving us a roughly 10- to 15-year age range between our younger and older fans. Then, about five years ago we started noticing that some of the audience who used to come to shows and maybe have quite a few drinks dance on the table, they were now showing up to our daytime outdoor summer shows with children. And then the other wave of people who started coming to shows were the parents of some of our original college-age fans. So now, the age range at one of our summer shows is one to sixty five-plus!

7) Be willing to supplement your income

You’ve built your business model around touring the circuit you created while in college. What other revenue streams have you developed?
Jason and I also do a number of acoustic shows, just the two of us and our acoustic guitars, which brings in a little money without any overhead. He’s developed a clientele for high-end photography in addition to our music and I have a home remodeling business that I run, which has the unique feature of employing a bunch of working musicians who all need some supplemental income. I have seven musicians who work either full or part time with me. I have an open-door policy, so any time any of them have a gig or a record to make, they can get the time off.

8) Plug into social media with a plan

How have your fan engagement efforts evolved from the kitchen table and hand addressing newsletters?
The Nadas year in reviewWe’re plugged into social media, but our philosophy is that it’s not enough to just be active on those platforms. You need to do something to really engage your “friends,” so we like to have contests and giveaways regularly. In 2009, we decided to release a new song each month of the year, which ended up becoming Almanac, an album that was a sort of musical snapshot of that year. Our most recent fan engagement effort, which is also our most successful one to date, is we are making a 20-year greatest hits recording and we’re putting the word “hits” in quotes because they’re not actual chart hits, and we are re recording fan favorites the way we play them now.

We’re shooting for releasing it this spring. We did a Facebook campaign and asked our fans the simple question, “What songs do you want to hear on this upcoming CD?” And we got 18,000 views and nearly 300 comments, so we went through and tallied up all the votes and that’s exactly what the record will be. So the fans really curated our greatest hits release. 300 people took the time to pick their favorite song and one super fan even went so far as to suggest all 20, to come up with a playlist of their favorites.

9) Nurture your fan base if you want to succeed long-term

Looking back over your career, what advice would you give to an up and coming band about building their career from the business perspective?
Your fans are what’s going to allow you to have any longevity in your music career. So take care of your fans, respect your fans, give the fans what they want as long as it’s not selling out your artistic vision.

Put yourself out there and never stop working. Play your heart out at every show even if there is only a drunk guy passed out at the bar and a bartender that wants to go home. That scenario actually happened to us in Oklahoma but someone remembered the band because a few years later, we got a booking to return there and earned five grand for playing a private show. Every time you play, no matter how many people are there, you make an impact and you don’t know what the ripple effect may be down the road. So honor your fans and listen to what they say as you build your career. Go and play everywhere they invite you to play.

Visit The Nadas online.

Check out The Nadas video channel on YouTube. review of Lovejoy Revival

Keith Hatschek is a regular contributor to Disc Makers Echoes blog and directs the Music Management Program at University of the Pacific. He’s also written two music industry books, How to Get a Job in the Music Industry and The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets from the Pros.

Sending Demos = Don’t Do This!!!

Dear Musicians,

Below you’ll find an email, presented without [much] editing, from one of your colleagues.  PLEASE DON’T EVER DO THIS! Unfortunately, this email is a great example of many I get daily.  I have not singled this group out for any reason other than they are one of many examples.  Worse than this email, are the constant tweets I get that attempt to get my interest in 140 characters!

Guys!  Read the email.  I have no idea what to do with it!  It never tells me what they want from me.  I do a lot of things: from production to management.  They haven’t asked me for anything.  You’ve got to send a question!  That question directs my understanding of what you need, or hope for from me as an industry professional.  Do you want me to produce your album?  Do you want me to manage your career?

Even more importantly, the lack of question shows me that you haven’t taken the time to learn what I do.  I am not a label.  I don’t do booking.  I don’t do windows (literally or the OS).  Why would I engage with anyone who doesn’t know what they need and hasn’t figured out that I am the guy to help them with it?

As it stands, emails and tweets like this simple say to me “Hey, we exist.”  To which I reply, “Yup.”


Good Day,

This email is in reference to submission for Blue-Shakespeare’s new Single “Ecstasy”
About Blue-Shakespeare
Rap and hip hop lovers looking for an artist who brings out the true essence of the genre should look no further than breakthrough artist Blue-Shakespeare, who mixes lyrical genius, a lot of old school style and a dash of new school together to create a thrilling style that has local critics buzzing.   Born on the island of Haiti in 1985, Blue-Shakespeare grew up in Spring Valley, NY with an innate love of words as an art form. Beginning with poetry, he soon graduated to writing his own rap songs at the tender age of five years. Blue-Shakespeare lists Jay-Z as his main influence, with Nas, KRS-1, Rakim, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. as close contenders.   Blue-Shakespeare hit the scene with his debut album, called Pre-Cum: The Mixtape, a 19-track album in 2012. Just two years later, Blue-Shakespeare is set to reveal the fruits of two years in the studio, releasing the Poetic Justice EP in Summer 2014, with the Fertile mixtape to follow in Fall 2014.   Blue-Shakespeare has already released four singles; Millions and Aroma from Poetic Justice EP, with Last Supper and Feel My Pain from Fertile Mixtapes. Check out Blue-Shakespeare’s music on SoundCloud and YouTube today and discover what the fuss is about!
Elansio Cesaire is better known as rapper Blue-Shakespeare, who has been performing since the age of 21 in NY clubs and venues. He is well regarded for his ability to tap into the lyricism of the 1990s, delivering powerful stories with witty punchlines to listeners. For more information, please visit his website.


25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry fool |

They Call It Music Crowdfunding1 300x242 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry fool

[This article was written by guest contributor  of the Launch and Release Blog.]

Asking for money sucks. Maybe you fear rejection or maybe you worry that you’ll look desperate, greedy, incompetent or rude.

It’s a lot like being a middle schooler trying to hold hands or put an arm around your date while at the movies.

Asking for money often raises internal doubts like:

* Will I seem greedy?

* Will it negatively affect our relationship?

* Do they trust me?

* Will they understand why or buy into my vision?

* Will I look like an a—hole?

These are legitimate questions and they can arise in a variety of circumstances in life.But when you are going to run a music crowdfunding project, you cannot afford to have these questions dogging you because self doubt and fear will betray your efforts in some subtle and many not-so-subtle ways.

Thus, it is CRUCIAL that you are WELL PREPARED to ask for money for your crowdfunding project. If you’re not, you run the potential risk of sabotaging your own efforts which (newsflash!) isn’t really a great thing to do.There are tons of resources to help you prepare to ask for something you want – just google “how to get what you want.” It shouldn’t take you more than a page or two of results to get a good grasp.

A few of my favorite blog posts are The Art of Asking by Sarah Peck and How To Get Everything You Want by Dave Kerpen. And spending 15 minutes watching the TED Talk Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking will certainly be worthwhile.

How to get what you want crib sheet

 * Be grounded, centered and certain in WHY you are asking (Purpose and Mission)

* Be kind and make sure that saying yes may also be in the other person’s best interest

* Practice asking so that you are confident and know what you’ll say

* Directly and clearly ask for what you want

* Say Thank You

Once you’ve done all your homework, you will be significantly more prepared. But as you actually execute your music crowdfunding project, there remain many more potential pitfalls when you are asking.

I’m going to give you the top 25 ways musicians screw up when asking for money during their music crowdfunding campaign.

Make these mistakes and you could end up looking like a money hungry fool.

Going through the list should help you solidify the language you use in your project and when asking individuals.

Do this homework ahead of time because these mistakes will actually bleed over into your video, project description and project updates if you aren’t careful.



All These People Will Give Me Money 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry foolI honestly can’t imagine needing to write much about this.


Whether you are quoting Sarah Peck from her article, Nora Roberts, Tony Robbins or anybody else with a pulse, they’ll say: If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

Obviously, you need to ask. But also beware the stealthy cousins of Not Asking such as:

2) The Non-ask Ask

The non-ask Ask is usually due to fear or perhaps forgetfulness.

It is where you talk about your project, your purpose and your mission with your music crowdfunding campaign. You talk about what the funds will be used for and how the result will affect your life. You talk about how great it is to have supportive people in your life…

And then you stop short, not asking the person or audience to become a backer.


Don’t forget this!!

Another infamous cousin of not asking is:

3) Thinking You Shouldn’t Have To Ask

This is functionally equivalent to the Non-ask Ask but is rooted in ego and pride instead of fear or uncertainty.

It is particularly likely to happen with people you are close to and care the most about because you feel like they should know what’s going on with you and that they should give their support automatically because of how close you are with them.

But the truth is that even these people will need to be asked directly.

While some people may volunteer support for your project, others who really care about you may be too busy or may not realize the importance of your campaign.

Or maybe they’re just not thinking clearly and they become a victim of the Bystander Effect where they assume everybody else will do it so they don’t have to.

Don’t hope for mind readers.



These mistakes are big ones because they can severely decrease the chance of a person saying yes to your request.

They usually happen because you don’t completely understand your purpose and passion OR because you try to copy all of the other disingenuous marketing drivel out there which you are used to seeing in the media and from other musicians who don’t know what they are doing.

Overcoming these mistakes is as simple as preparing yourself. You must truly know what you and your project are all about and what you are specifically asking for.

It also requires that you care enough about the other person to only want their “YES” if it is also right for them.

4) Being Phony or Employing Bullshit Hype

Ask Willy To Back Your Project 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry foolThis Forbes business blog post, Get What You Want By Asking, looks at the genetic makeup of a good Ask: Connection, Vulnerability, Timing and Honesty.

Dave Kerpen supports the notion of being Authentic, Transparent and Vulnerable.

Once you start reading about Asking, you’ll see this all over the place because it works.

You cannot bullshit your way to crowdfunding success. To demonstrate that point, see this Kickstarter and thisKickstarter.

No bullshit hype… Heart hype is essential. ~ Danielle LaPorte

You must understand your purpose and passion and communicate on a trusting, person-to-person level. It’s the same way you’d talk to your best friend.

Don’t try to be all I’m-a-superstar-you-are-an-adoring-fan (unless you are actually a superstar I suppose).

It doesn’t work in music crowdfunding because music and music crowdfunding are both much more personal than your typical internet-based product or marketplace.

5) Being Uncertain of Your Desire

Are you doing this because it seems like it might help you “get somewhere?”

Or are you doing this because you have a fire burning behind your artistic vision that you must see through?

Back to Sarah Peck, she is right…

You need to know you want it!

Want as in “you need it with your very soul…”

Not simply “it would be nice…”

Want as in “you would do whatever it takes to help your mom cover that life-saving medical treatment…”

Not “oh look at that sweet pair of shoes, I want those…”

I have seen many failed music Kickstarters where it’s closer to the later.

6) Not Having Dealt With Your Fear of Asking

Fear is a very powerful psychological factor in our actions and choices… So much so that you can go pay $49 for an online course to Overcome Fear!

If you haven’t dealt with your fear of asking in general, then you may end up betraying your own efforts.

It’s not that you have to be completely fearless. You may always have a little bit of discomfort when asking people to back your music crowdfunding project.

You simply need to have a holistic understanding of your mission and purpose so that you understand and can justify your need to ask people for money.

Because if you are fearful, chances are good that either you don’t really think you need it or you don’t really believe in what you are doing.

If you feel like you’ve got your Purpose covered and you know you want it and you’re still having trouble, head on over here for some music Kickstarter advice on how to slam the door on your fear of asking for money!

You can also read How To Ask for What You Want which points out that “Asking for help makes the relationship stronger.”

7) Lacking Genuine Concern for the Person You are Asking

Music Crowdfunding = asking for help.


There is nothing wrong with that. It’s actually good because the people that do help are interested in the outcome of the project; they benefit from it.

But before you run off asking for help, spend a little time focussing on the ideas of gratitude towards and caring for those whom you’ll approach.


Because people are more likely to GIVE help when they know they’re likely to GET help.

Check out the 11:40 mark of this Simon Sinek video.

He describes how the Marines build the relationships and social fabric necessary when sending soldiers into battle who must be willing to kill or to be killed for their fellow soldiers. Pretty intense stuff.

He points out that those who think they can do it on their own or who aren’t team players slowly get ostracized during training and that they aren’t able to accomplish their individual goals until they help the team accomplish its goal.

Now obviously, music crowdfunding isn’t life and death.

But there are subtle ways to screw this up like when you put out the vibe that you’ll achieve your goal because of how awesome you are, how awesome the music is, how awesome the players are or how much you’ve achieved in the past.

On the flip side, don’t pander. This isn’t a contest to see who can gush on and on about how supportive your fans are and how you couldn’t do it without them and how everybody is awesome and how much you love them and blah blah blah. (Even though it’s true.)

The way to show that you care is to be certain that pledging to your campaign is right for the person you are talking to.

Don’t EXPECT them to back you. Don’t COERCE or FORCE them into backing you. Don’t GUILT them into backing you.

Show them the opportunity in front of them and let them make their decision.

8) Expecting People to Jump on Your Music Crowdfunding Bandwagon

Give Me Your Damn Money 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry foolOne of the most annoying lines ever in a music crowdfunding video is, “And that’s where YOU come in…”


People don’t come into the equation just because you need money.

They come into the equation because you are developing your artistry, your vision, and your project in a way that will benefit them.

You should be thinking about people from the very beginning because without them, your music is the same as silence. (If nobody is around to hear it, does a singer make a sound when their mouth opens?)

This isn’t anything new to you but just be mindful of what you say and how you say it as it is counterproductive to simply assume people into backing you.

9) Asking Clumsily

This results from simple laziness and is not justifiable given all of the other work you will be putting into your music crowdfunding project.

Read #5 of 9 Surefire Ways to Get What You Want: “Practice until you’re an expert, and keep practicing.”

The first several times you present your story and ask for help are going to be awkward. There is no way around it so don’t worry about it.

You will need practice to find a smooth and flowing narrative that succinctly accounts for all of the necessary considerations. This is why professional sales people go through extensive training and often times work from a script ~ so they don’t miss things or screw it up!

Find a trusted friend who is willing to invest some time and practice going through what you’re going to say.

I would recommend practicing at least five times. (Five is arbitrary but you should be getting the hang of it by then.)

When you think you’re good and comfortable, ask your friend to start pushing you out of your comfort zone with non-receptive body language or snarky comments.

This will give you a big leg up when you start talking to people during your project.

10) Playing the Victim Card

You aren’t likely to start your campaign in victim mode where you feel sorry for yourself because raising money is sooooo difficult.

But if things become difficult, it can be tempting to place the blame on things outside of your control including other people.

This might make you feel better but it sure as heck isn’t going to actually make things better.

And if you start leading with negative feelings about how things are going, you are not likely at all to get backers.

People will be backing you because of purpose, mission and vision.

If you act like the victim, it ends up sounding like whining and an uninspired cash grab.

11) Focusing More On Your Need Than On Your Mission

This is another area which can subtly shift people’s perception of your project to cold grab for cash.

Obviously, you have a need that you are addressing with your music crowdfunding project.

But you can’t afford to focus on it because people don’t give due to needs.

The non-profit world knows this all-too-well. Many, many organizations make the mistake of thinking that because their motives are worthy, people will respond to their need.

Experience has shown this to be untrue again and again.

A catch phrase at many successful organizations: Money follows Mission.

It’s a fact that you need to internalize before you start talking to people.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still talk about what you’ll spend the money on. You just can’t present your costs as a primary motivator because it won’t motivate anyone!

12) Boring People With Your Laundry List of Credentials

Music Crowdfunding Laundry List 300x288 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry foolThis is the sneaky step-brother of Bullshit Hype but instead of exaggerating or using an innocent little white lie, everything you say is actually true…

It’s just that it’s either boring to hear or the listener doesn’t really think it’s important to their decision.

As musicians, you are trained to do this from early on in your profession. Go pick up the local What’s Happening This Weekend and read through the press releases for local bands or their CD releases:

“We’ve opened for…”

“Produced by the legendary Bob McSchmee who has also produced The Awesomest Band Ever…”

“Featuring the lead guitar player from the hugely successful group The Guitars So Hot They’re On Fire…”

But honestly, most people start tuning out before too long if you lead with this, especially when it comes to music crowdfunding.

Instead, they want to hear about mission, purpose and what the project means to your life because that’s what drives 90% of music crowdfunding contributions. Hell, maybe it’s even 100%.

When a person starts showing interest and asking you more about the project, feel free to gush. But don’t make the mistake of leading or even trying to convince with your laundry list.


This is probably the most common mistake that we see in campaigns and generally results from a misunderstanding of music crowdfunding mechanics.

Remember, 75% of music crowdfunding projects are for under $10,000 and they typically have 100-200 backers.

Where are these backers most likely to come from: your pool of existing relationships (friends, family, fans) or strangers who have never encountered you?

It’s not that you can’t turn strangers into fans… you can. But during a crowdfunding campaign, this is a little bit like a sales person cold calling prospects out of the yellow pages ~ EXTREMELY DIFFICULT with a low conversion rate.

Your strategy with the highest probability of success focuses on existing relationships.

And without going into detail, the bottom line for dealing with these folks comes straight from Simon Sinek:

People don’t buy what you do, they buy Why you do it.

The best way to communicate your Why, which is your purpose and mission, is to think about talking to many individuals instead of one, big crowd.

13) Ignoring Individuals and Focussing On “The Crowd”

Big mistake, killer even!

There is no better way to establish a connection with someone than by being completely personal.

So you cannot think of “the crowd” like it’s a gym full of people who you are going to give a speech to.

Instead, take a cue from the politicians. (I can’t believe I’m saying that!)

Talk to people on both an individual basis AND to all of them at once.

If you only talk to all of them at once, your chances of making a personal connection fall dramatically.

In The Psychology of Persuasion (one of the most widely read psychology books of all time, especially in the business world), Dr. Robert Cialdini talks about the Bystander Effect and how, the more people there are in a crowd, the less likely each individual is to act.

You’ve probably heard stories of experiments on this where researchers will set up a fake “mugging” in a busy place like Times Square just to see if anybody will help the victim. And, amazingly enough, nobody helps even though there are hundreds or even a thousand people around.

Cialdini has a simple solution to this: when he needs help, he approaches an individual directly.

For example, if he were in a crowd and fell down in cardiac arrest, he would make eye contact with a single individual, point to them and say “you, get a doctor please.” (You know, if he could talk during cardiac arrest.)

And guess what?

The chances of that person helping out go from nearly zero to nearly 100%.

The mechanics of music crowdfunding work the same way, maybe not from 0 to 100, but even a modest doubling of the probability of receiving help makes a huge, measurable difference.

So, do the work of talking to one person at a time.

Yes, you should still deploy communication to your email list and through social media. But this is your secondary task and should still focus on the same things you talk to people about individually.

Your first objective is to reach out to individuals. It is literally the difference between a successful campaign and a failed one.

14) Trying to “Go Viral”

Viral Crowdfunding Video1 300x225 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry foolThe holy grail of any marketing effort is to “go viral.”

You end up getting untold amounts of exposure for free which usually results in lots and lots of new, paying customers.

So, why wouldn’t you try to “go viral?”

Simple: the probability of success is soooooo low that it’s a waste of your most precious resource: time.

Crowdfunding typically lasts for around a month. This is a limited amount of time to contact all of the individuals whom you need to (remember the last point?).

You cannot afford to be wasting time screwing around trying to “go viral.” This results in lots of unfocused, non-productive effort… oh, and two more things.

One, have you ever actually seen a music crowdfunding project go viral? I have not. Even the biggest ones like Amanda Palmer were primarily funded through relationships which were already in place when the campaign started.

Two, remember all that stuff up above about “how you ask?” When you try to “go viral,” you will inevitably confuse the issue and water down your purpose and mission.

P.S. If you want to shoot for going viral after your campaign is over, have at it. Just don’t try it during your campaign. Given the low likelihood of success, the trade off just isn’t worth it.


Asking for the wrong thing will also adversely affect your efforts. Luckily, simply knowing what you will ask for ahead of time will take care of the possibility that you get off track and go wrong.

15) Confusing the Issue

If you Googled “how to get what you want” earlier and read a few results, then surely you have seen the advice to be clear and specific in what you ask for. And you need to communicate this clear, specific need in a straight forward manner.

This article, 9 Ways to Ask for (and Get) What You Want, takes it a step further by pointing out that piling on extra reasons doesn’t really help:

2. Don’t pile on the reasons.  Speaking of charity donations, research by Dartmouth psychologist Daniel Feiler and colleagues (2012) showed that alumni were more likely to give money to their alma mater when given a single basis for the request. The alumni asked to give for altruistic reasons (to help others) or egoistic reasons (to help them feel good),gave twice as much, on average, as alumni asked to donate for both altruistic and egoistic reasons.  Find one reason to make your request, and give that the biggest play possible in order to ensure that you’ll get a positive response in return.

I often see music crowdfunding projects for a CD tack on a little charity donation, maybe 5 or 10%. Heck, Pledgemusic makes charitable giving part of their platform.

But I don’t think it helps.

If you do a great job of communicating your purpose and mission, then a charitable donation might not hurt. But if you try to use your charitable intentions, honorable as they may be, as a reason to support your project, then your efforts are misplaced.

Start with your Why… and if you ask me, finish with your Why with a ton of Why in the middle.

16) Asking For Too Much

Music Crowdfunding Redneck 300x175 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry foolThis is a mistake that can happen particularly on an individual level.

Yes, you need to be specific and clear about your need. But as we discussed earlier, you need to also have concern for the person you are talking to.

If that person is broke for whatever reason, then asking them for a $100 donation (or maybe even $25) is a real stretch that could come off as pompous.

Some consideration and use of judgement will go a long ways here.

17) Asking For Too Little 

The converse of this is that you don’t want to ask your super supportive, really rich buddy who hit it big importing tea from Manitoba to pledge $20 if he was really thinking about pledging $500!

(Of course, if your buddy is rich but only mildly interested in what you are doing, then maybe $20 is right for him.)

Non-profits understand the natural phenomenon of 80/20 where 80% of the results come from 20% of the occurrences so they’re always on the lookout for big fish donors. You’ll usually see non-profit appeals lead with a very high dollar amount followed by a couple of lower but still high dollar amounts such as “Please consider pledging $2,000 to our very worthy cause” followed by some checkboxes with the amounts of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and Other where you fill in the blank.

Most people will choose other and throw in $10 or $100 but every once in awhile, the person will just throw down a big ol’ chunk of change.

You must keep this option on the table for the backer by not removing it. It is fine if they remove it because it’s right for them but it isn’t fine for you to remove it.


The first type of When-You-Ask mistakes are made when talking to individuals. These mistakes generally arise out of discomfort in asking.

The easiest way to keep yourself from making these mistakes is to do all of the preparation that we’ve already discussed: know your Purpose and Mission and have an authentic concern for the people you are talking to.

18) Thinking You Should Ask About Them First

This is something I am guilty of ALLLLLLL the time! Like when I’m looking for free babysitting or trying to get a free Budweiser.

You think you should show some concern for the person you are talking to before you ask. Call it “buttering them up.”

But at about the 25:30 mark in the Simon Sinek video, he explains how the simple ordering of your request can be the difference between a Yes or a No.

He gives this example of what might happen when emailing someone with a request:

Hi Person,

Haven’t seen you in years. I hope you’re doing well. Congratulations on all you’ve been doing. It’s really amazing! We should grab coffee sometime. If you could do me a favor, I’m in an online contest where I can win a big prize and I was wondering if you’d vote for me. Hope you’re well, talk to you soon.



As Simon points out, reading that email would leave you dismissive or maybe even offended and hitting DELETE!

But what happens when you get the same email with a change of order: request first, pleasantries second?

Hi Person,

I’m hoping you could vote for me in an online contest where I can win a big prize for my work. I haven’t seen you in years. I hope you’re doing well. Congratulations on all you’ve been doing. It’s really amazing! We should grab coffee sometime.



This works better because the person knows what you want and then the pleasantries don’t seem like a thin veil of disguise. Instead, the person can be grateful for them as well as willing to consider the request.

When you put the Ask last, your pleasantries seem really disingenuous and can potentially offend the person you are communicating with, even though you have no intent of offending them in the first place.

Be very careful with this one in both spoken communication and in written. Because of our inherent discomfort with asking, it can sneak up and bite you anytime!

19) Giving Up Too Early #1

He Gave Up 300x199 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry foolThis one is really subtle but it can be a bugger.

Let’s say you’re talking to somebody who is listening intently to your story but they are maintaining a fairly neutral body language and posture so you aren’t sure where they’re at.

You ask them to become a backer of your project.

They pause for a moment.

Perhaps they are trying to find the words to express their admiration that you are taking such a bold risk. Or perhaps they are trying to decide how much to donate. Or perhaps, at precisely the moment you stopped, they just had to swallow and take a breath before they could resume talking.

But you take the slight hesitation as a negative sign and because it’s so unpleasant to be denied, you pipe up: “Or could you just share it with your friends by email or like it on Facebook?”

Mistake made.

This won’t bite you all the time. Some people will have your back.

But some people will decide that instead of being a backer themselves, it would be better for them to share your music crowdfunding project!

But it’s really not better. Check out this excerpt from a post about Social Media and the Bystander Effect:

My friend Brian Solis led a project for the United Nations in 2010 to help increase awareness of Malaria in Africa and also generate $10 donations for bed nets. He found that initially most people shared rather than donated, essentially accomplishing just one of the two goals. In his research to uncover why, he found that people believed that their act of sharing was worth much more than a $10 contribution. He found that people truly thought that their digital influence or social capital equated to tens or even hundreds of individual donations from their connections.

People believe their act of sharing is worth much more than their potential contribution! So they share away and think somebody else will take care of it.

Their intention may be noble but the crappy thing about their thinking is that it’s not true!

Think about it. If everybody just shared but didn’t pledge, well, you’d have a boatload of shares and no pledges!

So the reality is that they are standing there waiting for somebody else to take care of it.

This is very related to what Cialdini wrote about in The Psychology of Persuasion: ask specific people to take specific actions.

20) Not Following Up

A critical part of any sales process is follow-up.

It is so critical that companies spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars training their staff and implementing follow-up procedures. Hell, they probably even spend millions on it! (Even if that’s just the cost of the private jet carting around the CEO and Board of Directors ride while they talk about sales follow-up.)

Commonly held wisdom (which means I don’t have a scientific reference but I hear it all the time) is that you need to ask people up to 7 times before they’ll take the desired action. Sarah Peck says so in The Art of Asking and I know I’ve heard it several other places.

Get comfortable with the idea of asking people multiple times.

If they say NO, obviously you need to respect that and stop asking.

But if you contact somebody during the first three days of your campaign and don’t see them take action nor do they say no, then contact them the 2nd week, the 3rd week, and especially in the closing days.

Heck, sometimes people will say yes but not take action because they get distracted and forget. ASK AGAIN!


There are also a few ways to mess things up by having completely bad timing.

These will all seem obvious but I am constantly surprised at how many people contact us asking for help in the middle of their campaign who are guilty of one of these mistakes.

Usually, these mistakes are made due to lack of planning or misplaced expectations or possibly due to discomfort with asking.

21) Starting too late

Lazy music crowdfunder 298x300 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry foolMany music crowdfunders are guilty of launching a campaign and then waiting to see what happens.

Perhaps they don’t want to ask, perhaps they think they don’t need to ask or perhaps they think they can make up for it later (they have 30 days, right?).

But he who hesitates is lost.

Or at least HAS lost… a golden opportunity.

There are two periods to capitalize on people’s excitement and momentum. The beginning of the campaign is one of them.

We highly advocate that campaigns plan to roll hot right out of the chute and then do the work to make it happen.

I have seen campaigns hit a $10,000 to $15,000 goal in as little as two days!

Get early support from your closest friends and family to generate momentum and social proof and then capitalize on that by continuing to make your appeal for people to become backers.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. You can still be successful at that point but it will be a lot more difficult and, at the very least, you’ll end up raising less overall.

22) Bad Timing: Not asking when you have momentum

This mistake doesn’t seem as bad as the last one but it has the potential to dramatically lower the amount you raise all the same.

I mentioned seeing campaigns hit a $10,000 to $15,000 goal in as little as two days.

But what happens after that can vary dramatically.

Take a look at this Kickstarter’s funding progress (provided by Kicktraq):

Sammus Theory Kickstarter1 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry fool

Monster first day! Okay second day. Then coasting…

That may have been okay with them so it’s not a criticism. But I bet they could’ve kept the pedal down and further increased their fundraising if they had wanted to.

Now take a look at Jay Stolar’s Kickstarter (provided by Kicktraq):

Jay Stolar Kickstarter 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry fool

Big 1st day! Bigger 2nd day!! Even Bigger 3rd day!!!

And, importantly, check out what happened during the last couple of days of the campaign: another ramp-up. There’s quite a few thousand dollars there folks.

The end of your campaign is the 2nd period when you can capitalize on people’s excitement and momentum.

We worked with Jay so I was in on this campaign. And I will admit that he had done so well, it just didn’t seem possible to raise much more money than the $40,000 he had raised through day 27.

But there were three days left… and you can see what happened: he raised another $10,000! (Same thing happened to Carsie Blanton who, after raising $50,000 through the first 3/4′s of her campaign, pulled in another $10,000 over the last few days.)

If you hit your goal but don’t have a plan for the end of your campaign, you will be leaving money on the table.

23)  Giving Up Too Early #2: Giving Up mid-Campaign

Don’t worry about how much of your music crowdfunding campaign has elapsed compared to what percent of your goal you’ve hit.

If you hit the 2/3 mark of your campaign and you’ve only raised 20% of your goal, that doesn’t mean you’ll fail.

So many people make the mistaken assumption that your funding progress should somehow match up with the amount of time that has passed in the campaign.

It’s not true.

I have seen projects make close to 25% or even up to 70% of their total funding in the last few days.

Kickstarter Stats show, “Of the projects that have reached 20% of their funding goal, 81% were successfully funded. Of the projects that have reached 60% of their funding goal, 98% were successfully funded.”

What you need to worry about is being sure that you’ve contacted your friends, family, fans, mailing lists and social media contacts.

Do it as personally as possible (in person, by phone or personal email in that order) especially for those who you have a tight relationship with.

If it helps, think of your campaign as a few mini-campaigns where your JOB is a race to 20%, a race to 50%, a race to 60%…

If you get close to the end and have a long ways to go, it just means that you have a LOT of work to do in a short time…

Also, remember that people are procrastinators in general and that you may have to remind them several times to view your project and pledge before they take action… even if they have meant to all along.

Lesson: believe in yourself and be sure to do the work.


I don’t really know where to put these but they are important so let’s not forget them.

24) Focussing Too Much On Rewards

Kickstarter Rewards Ideas 300x278 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry foolWhenever you ask somebody for something, it’s nice to have something to offer them. It’s called reciprocity and it just feels better.

So naturally, you want to have great Kickstarter reward ideas for your people.

You need to have good rewards but keep in mind that the vast majority of backers will care more about WHY you are doing your project than about WHAT you are giving them.

In other words, people will back you because they believe in your purpose and mission, not due to the rewards you offer.

So when it comes to your video, project description and talking in person, you must give people the information they need: your Why, Purpose, and Mission.

If you gloss over or skip your Why to get to your rewards so you can “demonstrate value” to them,  you’ll be leaving out the most critical information that people need when deciding whether to back a project.

Be sure to put your primary focus on Why and continue to refer back to that throughout your story.

Rewards are necessary and people DO want them, but they very rarely convert backers on their own merits.

25) Not Saying Thank You

When asking for money, you cannot focus on your desire for money in your pocket. You need to have a genuine concern for your relationship with the person you are talking to. That means caring for them as much as for yourself.

If you care genuinely, you will feel compelled to communicate your appreciation and heart-felt gratitude.

If you notice that you’re forgetting or rushing through this step, then you are probably sabotaging your efforts by focussing to much on the outcome and not enough on the relationship.

Take a little time to get grounded. Think about your relationship with the person you’re talking to. Chances are that you are thankful for their presence in your life.

And as a side note, publicly thanking someone on Facebook or Twitter is a good way to make their support of you known publicly and have your project show up in their feed. It won’t help you “hit the jackpot” so to speak, but it will raise awareness and you just never know how those things will turn out.

The Final Word On Asking

You are welcome 239x300 25 music crowdfunding mistakes that can make you look like a money hungry foolIn the words of Maya Angelou, “Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!”

This list gives you a ton of crap to worry about. It takes some preparation and practice to nail it when you ask somebody to pledge to your music crowdfunding project.

But as long as you are very clear on Why you are doing your project and can clearly communicate this to people…

As long as you come to the conversation focussed more on your relationship than on the outcome of the request…

And as long as you ask consistently from the start, through the middle, and to the end of your campaign…

Then you will have the bases covered and the best possible experience when asking people for support.

And remember, you never know who is going to pledge. There will be a few disappointments and there will be many fun surprises. Consider these wise words from Hans York:

With all the folks I had on my list and was sure they would pledge, I was stunned by who really came forward. All in all more folks that I did not expect to pledge did so, and the ones I would have bet my life on did not…

If you’re attached to the outcome you’re doomed. There are so many factors that one impossibly can count in at the beginning. So the best attitude is grateful excitement to launch into an adventure!

If you have yet to launch your music Kickstarter, leave a comment letting us know what freaks you out about your campaign. If you’ve already done one, leave your best pearl of wisdom for those who come after you.

Author bio: Ian Anderson is co-author of 100 Music Kickstarters to Learn From and The Music Crowdfunding System for Intelligent ArtistsYou can find more of his music crowdfunding analysis, tips, and advice at

10 lessons learned from the worst band website in the world |

Chris Bolton

lessons learned from worst-websiteThe Lazer and the Beams website is a sight to behold. Flashing gifs, text marquees that scroll across the screen, head-bobbing cats, mixed fonts, tiled photos–it’s mesmerizingly bad. Luckily, they built a new website with HostBaby that looks totally awesome, but they’ve left the old site up so people can still gawk at — and learn from — the site that was dubbed the “worst band website in the world.”

If your stomach is strong you can view it here:

Once you’ve recovered, here are 10 things we can learn about web design from the worst band website in the world:

1. Where the hell is the nav?

Don’t reinvent the nav bar. As web users we have been trained to look for navigational items in the top third of the screen. We also look for particular words like “About, store, contact,” etc. This makes it easy for us to get the information we need. barely even has a nav. Instead, it has links about halfway down the page that are poorly organized. Keep your navigation simple — your fans will thank you.

2. It’s a rainbow of insanity

A color scheme is important to creating a well designed website. Choose your colors and stick with them: The fewer colors, the easier it will be to keep the look and feel of your site consistent. There are quite a few online tools out there for choosing a color scheme for your site. Here is one of my favorites.

3. This is fonting ridiculous

Using too many type styles will make your site look messy and hard to read. If you do use multiple fonts, make sure to use them in a consistent way. For instance, you could use one font for titles or headers and another for body copy.

4. One website please; hold the animation

Animation often gets in the way of the user experience. Lazer and the Beams is the perfect example. Way too many things are moving and flashing, distracting the visitor. Simple animations on a drop-down menu or when you click on something can be fun, but animations that bombard the visitor whether they like it or not are a bad idea.

5. Why is the background repeating?

Don’t let your background photo “tile”(repeat over and over in the background). Usually this means your image is simply too small to fill the background of you site. When this is the case, use a larger background.

6. The music! Make it stop!

There is nothing more annoying than landing on a website for the first time and getting blasted with music (especially if it’s past midnight and the kids are asleep). Give your fans the power to choose when they want to play your music and which song they want to listen to.  They know how to click the play button themselves. Give them that option.

7. I have no idea what you’re saying

Never sacrifice readability for style. Be careful not to use fonts that are so ornate you can’t read them. Also be careful of putting light text on a dark backgrounds. Definitely don’t let text and images overlap in confusing ways like the Lazer and the Beams site does.

8. Tell me what to do

Every website should have at least one clear “call to action.” You know, like “Sign up to my email list here.” What do you want people to do when they land on your website? Is it listen to your songs, buy an album, leave a comment? Make sure your biggest priorities are reflected on your site with clear calls to action.

9. Think before you link

Lazer and the Beams have some really random links on their website. That’s cool, but is it a good idea? Do you want people to leave your website and go somewhere else? Wouldn’t you rather they stayed on your site and bought some music? Think before you link.

10. “I came. I puked. I left.”

One of the great pioneers of web analytics, Avinash Kaushik, describes a website “bounce” as a visitor who comes to your site, pukes, and then leaves. This is what people do when they see bad website design: they leave in disgust. This is why design is so important: People no longer have the patience for bad design.