2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

It’s interesting to me that for all the industry insider perspective I post, it’s the gear reviews that seem to get the most traction.  Comments anyone?

Happy, successful 2014 everyone!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Top 7 Reasons Artists Strongly Resist Social Media | Bandzoogle

This is an excerpt from Ariel Hyatt’s new book Cyber PR® for Musicians: Tools, Tricks, And Tactics For Building Your Social Media House. The book aims to demystify and harness the full potential of social media for musicians. You can find out more about the book here as well as follow Ariel on Twitter at @cyberpr

Top 7 Reasons Artists Strongly Resist Social Media

1. “I don’t want to be pushy and over-hype-y like all those other artists that I hate.”

I know, talking about yourself is icky. But having people respond to you is wonderful. My advice is: when you use social media, take the spotlight off yourself and shine it on others (the people in your community, fans, and friends). This is a theme that will run throughout this book.

Share things. Don’t even think of marketing yourself or your music for a few months until you get the hang of it. After you do, use it to gently lead people to your newsletter sign-up, your website, and to help yourself with Google rankings. Keep this in mind: According to a 2012 study by Socialnomics.net, 78 percent of people trust peer recommendations (i.e. the “Like” button on Facebook) for products and services that they buy. Only 14 percent trust TV, radio, and print advertising. In other words, you need to be an artist that peers are recommending.

2. “Promoting my music on social media won’t put any money in my pocket. I’ve tried it, and it just creates more work for me.”

Social media and ROI (return on investment) are hard to tie together. Social media use most likely won’t directly put money in your pocket in the short term. But, when used in connection with traditional marketing, and as part of a master plan, social media is integral in reinforcing relationships between you and your fans. Down the line, that can lead them to a point of purchase, particularly if you know how to ask. Google rankings and your email newsletter list will be two vital components to putting money in your pocket, and social media can help you strengthen both of them.

3. “Social media and marketing take too much time.

I only want to be ‘an artist’ playing my music.” Being successful does (and will) take hard work and always has. Here are a few personal questions to consider: How much time are you willing to commit to learning new skills and tools? If the answer is, “None. I just want to play,” that’s okay. I have worked with many artists who are pushing and forcing themselves to “succeed” without looking at what success really means to them. My friend, Derek Sivers (the founder of CD Baby), wrote the most powerful blog post I have ever read on the artist dilemma when it comes to success vs. creativity. This just might convince you to think making music for profit may not be for you. In it he says:

“When someone creates something that is really important, powerful, and valuable to them, it’s hard to imagine that it’s not important, powerful, and valuable to others.… But money only comes from doing something valuable to others.… If you stop expecting your art to be valuable to anyone but you, your conflicted mind can finally be at peace. Do it only because you love it, and it honestly doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.… You’ll probably be happier with your art because of this change in mindset. Ironically, others may appreciate it more too, though you honestly won’t care. Stop expecting it to be valuable to others. Accept it as personal and precious to only you. Get your money elsewhere.”

In my philosophy, there’s an in-between value that Derek does not assign, and it’s not so black and white. That value is: How you touch and inspire people along your journey of sharing your art may not have a high financial value at all. It may be deeply satisfying for you to take 10, 50, or 200 friends along your creative journey.

4. “Social media isn’t ‘real’ media. It has no impact on the ‘real’ world.”

Citizen journalists are the new influencers. They include bloggers, podcasters, Internet radio stations, and people with large followings on social media sites. If you doubt their influence, take a good, long look at traditional media these days: approximately once every minute, TV news broadcasts direct you to their Twitter and Facebook pages. Many of them have a permanent graphic on the screen with Facebook and Twitter feeds (think of 24-hour news channels like CNN or MSNBC). The “real” media is constantly telling viewers to go to social media and contribute. And note: There are over 200 million blogs online. I’ll bet my life that one or two of them may just want to write about you.

5. “Social media is just for young people. I’m not in ‘that’ generation.” 

Think again: The average age of Twitter users is split pretty evenly over every age demographic. In fact, the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is 55- to 65-year-old women. Why? Because grandma is signing up to look at photos of little Johnny and then realizing that all of her friends and family are actively engaged and … that’s FUN!

6. “Status updates on Facebook and tweets on Twitter are stupid. Who cares about what everyone is doing all the time?”

Many artists are wary of Twitter and Facebook updates because they don’t feel that people want to know their random or personal thoughts. And they don’t want to “waste their time” using them. Also, many artists feel that social networking sites are made for promotional use (only). When we all came to the party with the first ever social network (the now all-but-dead Myspace), that was indeed the case. In fact the goal on Myspace was: hype, hype, hype, promote, and add, add, add as many friends as possible. Rack up the plays by any means necessary, or you wouldn’t get that club booker to pay, give you the gig, or get that record label to sign you! There were very few personal thoughts or “status updates” in the Myspace mix. Twitter and Facebook are community-building and sharing platforms as opposed to promotional tools, so it confuses artists when it comes to what they are supposed to be contributing.

7. “I don’t want my fans to see my personal life.”

The empowering thing about social media is you can show only what you want to show; not everything is so personal. Here are a few ideas to start with: movies you like, books you read, and other artists you love and respect, and why.

Stage Fright! Overcoming Music Performance Anxiety

The club is packed, the crowd is stoked, your sound check went beautifully, and you’ve already sold thirty CDs before playing a single note. Everything is going perfectly — so why do you feel like you want to throw up?

Whether you call it stage fright, stage fear, pre-show jitters, or performance anxiety, getting nervous before a show is entirely normal amongst musicians, athletes, and all types of performers. Symptoms can range from the annoying to the incapacitating, and even a small amount of music performance anxiety can transform a gig from a wonderful experience to a painful ordeal. Luckily, there are quite a few resources and strategies to help you amp up the joy of performing and overcome stage fright.

Understand your nerves and think long term

“When musicians get nervous before performing, there are three different things happening,” says Dr. Noa Kageyama, a sport and performance psychologist at the Juilliard School. “There’s the physical response, which can be things like dry mouth, butterflies in the stomach, or a sped up heart rate, and that’s usually disturbing in itself.

via Stage Fright! Overcoming Music Performance Anxiety.

Building Professional Relationships Around the World

Technology is having profound effects on the fundamentals of our society.  While some of this isn’t so good for the music industry, there are aspects that do benefit musicians.

Recording on your patio!

Recording on your patio!

Composers can write entire scores on their laptops, and people use websites such as SoundCloud to share their music across the whole world. Working in a remote fashion, bands have been able to record songs across entirely different continents! With the advent of cloud-based data transfer, online collaboration with studios and producers around the world is becoming more common.

As this trend progresses, we are seeing more artists working with remote mixing and mastering studios. As a staff member of Digital Bear Entertainment, a mixing studio in Cambridge MA, I have noticed that it is becoming less common for clients to be present in the studio while we work on their music. Of course, we welcome the Artist to come in, but are finding that even if that particular client lives fairly close by, they do not always come in. This means that regardless of where the client lives, the vast majority of communication takes place over telephone and emails. Distance no longer matters.  Mixing this way is a lot simpler and more productive than it may seem.

Initially, I think both we, and our clients, were squeamish about this loss of face-time.  After all, music is such a personal connection.  Yet, music is really all about making that personal connection in a way that spans time and space.  Using technology to our advantage, we have found that we are able to span time and space, and maintain that connection!

There are some side benefits of working this way too. Streamlining the studio workflow can save a lot of time spent in the studio. As we all know in this industry: time is money and any reasonable cost cutting is helpful! Time and money is also saved when you factor travel into consideration, and it is possible to have a record mixed or mastered without taking time off your day job.

Perhaps one of the most important benefits of working with a remote studio is getting the right people to helm your project.  Not only are the talents of individuals no longer locked to their location, but the political influence they can bring to your career is available even if you are nowhere near them.  We certainly get involved with our clients beyond just the mixing; providing management consulting and career development that you can’t get wherever you may be.

The Points North: I Saw Across the Sound

The Points North are a band local to my studio in Jamaica Plain (Boston) MA. In fact, I met songwriter/guitarist Chris Alspach when he made a cappuccino for me at City Feed, my local organic market/cafe. Point: you never know who you’re going to meet where, and how they can help your career in music. In any case, we got to talking and he told me about TPN. We’ve been in touch off/on since. Now The Points North are about to release a new album, I Saw Across the Sound. When they emailed me an advanced copy, naturally I wanted to hear it.

The Points North are an acoustic trio comprised of Christopher Alspach (Lead vocals, octave mandolin, nylon string guitar), Regina Peterson (Irish and silver flutes, reed organ, vocals), Dylan Clark (Drums, vocals) on GrindingTapes Records. They describe themselves as “play[ing] minimalist folk that can best be described as a soundtrack to the harsh yet strangely nostalgic New England winter” and I think that sums it up as best I’ve heard any band do.

I Saw Across the Sound contains 12 tracks, which you know I think is a few too many. They are, nonetheless, haunting and beautiful; evoking a quiet passion that you have to listen to hear. Too often music like this is intended to be background to daily life, to be “ambient”. This music is “old school” like Dark Side of the Moon, demands to be the sole focus of your attention, or you’ll miss the whole thing. Chris’ lyrics make you search your soul for that quiet place where your real truths live, if only you’d look there.

Go, now, get your headphones, set aside an hour to do nothing but listen.

The joy of producing

There are moments when you really remember why you do this shit. Of course, there’s a lot of BS in this business, probably in any business. But, when it all comes together, it’s something! I mean, it doesn’t even have to be a big thing. In fact, maybe even better when it’s not.

Yesterday, I went to the rehearsal space of one my my bands, The Motion Sick. We’re working on their upcoming EP for Naked Ear Records. Many of their songs I’ve heard them play at shows, but two in particular were new to me, and largely to them as well. They are good songs, but each needed to be solidified. I sat in that tiny room (thank god for ear plugs – and not the foamies either) for at least an hour while they played, saying nothing. Then, with a few suggestions and supportive comments to the drummer and lead guitar player, the songs were transformed.

I rarely dictate. I think it is a sign of insecurity in a producer. It’s the client’s music and they hire you to help them maximize it. I have very definite opinions, and I offer them. But, in the end, it’s best when they try my ideas, and see for themselves that they really bolster what they were already doing (or trying to do).

Yesterday’s rehearsal was like that. Just a few careful remarks, and it all fell into place. They guys knew it too. It just felt right. I was beaming ear to ear! I love this job.