Archive for the ‘ General Tips ’ Category

Making Moves – Building a local following

Building a local fan base has been tough because I didn’t grow up in New York, so I’m kind of starting fresh. Figuring out where to begin has been difficult. I’ve realized though that I have been thinking too big picture. It’s better to focus on smaller fish in the beginning, find exposure to different circles and try to bring people from those circles together.

I recently spit a few bars at a cypher during Barrelhouse Bklyn’s Yo Barrelhouse Raps BBQ. It felt great to introduce myself to such a tight knit group of people. Barrelhouse has, over the past few years, successfully harnessed a Brooklyn based movement of talented rappers, and true hip hop fans, with a lot of positive energy. Here’s a video from the event. I was the lone whitey in attendance, ha…

I’m grateful to have linked up with Barrelhouse and am looking forward to teaming up with them in the future. I’m still working out the details but, if all goes well, Chi Guy will be hosting its first NY shows with Barrelhouse promoting. The first show will be before the end of August.

Like I said in the beginning of the post, I am trying to bring a few different circles together with these concerts to build a solid core of Chi Guy followers. So far the concerts look like me performing (either solo or with a band behind me, The Classical Movement), Scienze and Kris Kasanova (two rappers who I was introduced to by my peoples at Barrelhouse who perform with live instruments behind them), and two electronic/dance DJ sets TBD. The hope is that the hip hop crowd will mix with the DJ crowd well. And who doesn’t like to see hip hop with live instruments?

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Making Moves – Promoting a YouTube Video

I recently posted my most successful YouTube video. Although it hasn’t blown up and been a gigantic viral success, it’s my first video to reach outside of my circle of core fans. In its first four days of being up it has received 160 views and I’m working hard to get more each day.

It has become a core part of hip hop to release free material, oftentimes using instrumentals from popular songs, to promote your own material. So I picked a song that was released last week by Lil Wayne called “6 Foot 7 Foot” that I could tell right off the bat would become a big hit. It’s produced by Bangladesh, the same producer that did “A Millie” with Wayne on The Carter III.

I made the video using iMovie, which came with my MacBook, and photos from my live shows and music video shoots. Using the editing tools available on YouTube and iMovie I added lyrics to the video in the form of blurbs coming out of my mouth, I added title screens to the beginning and end of the vid, and I made it look like I was moving to the music by aligning the pictures to go with the beat.

Some key pointers on how to post a successful YouTube vid and promote it:

1. Keep it short, sweet and entertaining. My video is 1:18 in total and in that time I showcase my lyrics, get my name out there, and link to my other music.

2. Relate your promotional video to something that people are already interested in. Lil Wayne has a huge following already established, so when he releases new material people are going to want to listen to it and talk about it. If you can find the sites where people are talking about related topics and showcase your video there, you might strike a cord with another artist’s fans. For example, I posted my video on http://www.lilwaynehq.com, where there are thousands of people discussing Wayne in very active forums. After one day I got over 30 independent views from that site alone.

3. Get familiar with YouTube’s editing tools. I can’t believe how much extra work you can do after you upload footage to youtube. You can add annotations, add links to your other material and have it all streamlined right into your video.

Making Moves 7 – New Equipment

I have new toys to work with! The studio is definitely coming together with new studio monitor speakers and a microKORG. Soon I will be getting Pro Tools 9 for more advanced recording and mixing than my current program (Garageband). There comes a point in any rappers career when it no longer makes sense to pay someone else an hourly rate for mixing. For me that point is now, as I am making a conscious effort to expand my horizons and properly learn how to mix and master. Until this point I have been either paying someone to mix my music or playing around with the mix without really knowing what I was doing. I have paid people rates ranging from $30-75/hour and they never put as much into the mix as I would like. They have trouble seeing the vision that I am trying to communicate when I tell them the way I want the song to sound, and the effects that I want. More likely they don’t really know what they’re doing.

I am also going to be getting into more production. My roommate recently got a Maschine, (~$500 retail) which is an extremely powerful sampling, beat making monster, so I will have access to that. I have tried my hand at producing on a few projects when I really have a vision of a melody in my head and I can just try to translate that into an electronic version. But with the KORG and the new recording software I will have all I need to really see what my producing capabilities are.

Here are my brand spanking new Yamaha HS 80M Powered Monitor Speakers (~$300/speaker). They are shown “floating” on foam pads atop two wooden towers.

The reason why these speakers are going to make such a difference is that they are allow me to mix songs properly. They are reference speakers so when you play something through them you are hearing a reference of the true sound that is meant to be heard. So if the mix sounds good on these speakers, it should sound good on any speakers, theoretically. I will keep everyone posted on the progress of my mixing and mastering skills and what is helpful along the way…

Here is the microKORG in all its glory (~$400 retail).

At first glance, the microKORG looks like your average electric piano with midi capabilites. But once you hook it up to some speakers you start to feel the true power of this instrument. Rather than just being a piano with a few effects you can throw on top, it is an instrument in its own right. Officially it is a midi capable virtual synthesizer/vocorder. After playing around with it for a few days I am beginning to see that I might want to take lessons to learn how to play this thing (do they have microKORG classes??). I will look into it. Not only does it have vocorder capabilities, but the complexity of the effects and the ease of switching between effects makes for an extremely powerful tool. I can see why so many well-established acts use the microKORG as part of their live show. Bands using the KORG include JUSTICE, Chromeo, Devo, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Killers, Le Tigre, The Neptunes, Kings of Leon and many more. It has famously been used by Dr. Dre and many other big name hip hop producers in their arsenals. As far as I’m concerned, sky’s the limit with this instrument. Can’t wait to get more familiar.

The Bitter Truth: Artists Must Sacrifice to Find Success

This is a very well-written, painfully truthful, thought provoking story about the hardships of life as an artist. I found it on Digital Music News and it is written by Paul Resnikoff. He offers some advice for all DIY artists: unless we are prepared to sacrifice the luxuries of a “normal” life, we most certainly will not find success as an artist because it won’t simply come to us. With the vast array of tools available to us through the Internet, and affordable recording options, success may seem just within our reach. Because it is so easy now to look and sound like the big boys, we get comfortable with mediocrity. We get excited when new fans are added on our various social media sites while losing site of the big (money making) picture. “Pretending to pursue a professional career – while actually living the life of a hobbyist,” Resnikoff argues, “is a tragedy.”
Having recently graduated from college last May, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to get a “real job” and have the security that comes with it. Many friends of mine have gotten jobs in finance, accounting, marketing, etc. and they all work long hours that leave absolutely no time for something like music, even as a hobby. All of them tell me the same thing when I say that I am pursuing a career in music: “Stick with it! You don’t want to be where I am!” Your 20’s are your most creative years, and I don’t want to see them pass by as a slave to some company that doesn’t appreciate my talents because of my age. I have faith that I am talented enough to make it, so now it is a matter of getting others to agree. I will fight until I find success or it becomes impossible. I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself later in life if I didn’t give it a full shot.
Here is the Full Article from Digital Music News
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Want Serious Success? Then Start Losing Everything, Right Now…

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What will we be laughing at five years from now?  The notion that somehow, direct-to-fan connectivity means that fans will care or connect.  That somehow, just having a straight fan connection is more important than writing incredible music.  Or, the idea that millions of other artists aren’t getting the same exact memo on direct-to-fan channels.

The idea that skipping a label and giving $50 to Tunecore is what makes a career.  Not even Corey Smith believes that.  Do you?

The numbers are telling a completely different story, over and over again.  So which is better, a fairy tale or a realistic assessment of the terrain?  “I feel like there are a lot of people in my position frankly – in the software space – who just said ‘yeah, you’re going to make it,’ and it’s definitely statistically untrue,” Ian Rogers recently told an artist audience in Santa Barbara.

How untrue?  Rogers himself revealed a stat showing that less than 30,000 artists are actually making a living.  Soon thereafter, the UK-based Musicians’ Union revealed that 87 percent of its members are making less than $25,000 a year.  Earlier this year, Tom Silverman found that roughly a dozen DIY artists (if that) were selling north of 10,000 albums.

If you’re a hobbyist, then enjoy the considerable fruits that come from musical composition, performance, and direct distribution.  Music is one of the greatest pleasures in life, whether performing, listening, mashing-up, or discussing.  But pretending to pursue a professional career – while actually living the life of a hobbyist – is a tragedy.

So if your statistical chances of making it are close to zero, what’s the better approach?  It’s not a romantic, DIY, Long Tail-inspired game plan.  It’s slogging it out on the road for 200-plus dates a year, sleeping in the van, getting your stuff stolen, finding it again, getting ripped off by the club owner a day later, fighting with your bandmates.

It’s sitting in a room for hours writing incredible music.  And recording, performing and perfecting that music every day.  Even on Thanksgiving.

It’s saying goodbye to comfy nights on the couch with your girlfriend, a round of beers with your buddies, or two-week vacations.  And the same thing goes for the team, which needs to be equally committed to sacrifice and total success.

Why not just get a real job?  It’s also explaining to everyone – including your family – why you’re barely surviving, why your art takes precedence over everything else in your life.  And this is not a modern-day reality: artists have struggled for centuries to make ends meet.  The numbers have always been stacked against musicians, internet or not.

And then, when all of those sacrifices are made, when you cut out all the comforts you think you’re entitled to… then what?  You get a lottery ticket, to possibly become self-sustaining and even wildly successful.

And if your number comes up, what happens then?  If you actually get substantial traction, if you can fill 200 rooms a year, then you’re now ready to work some more – a lot more.  To expand the base, structure partnerships with professionals, distribution partners, management agencies, and even labels.  Because even total control needs to be sacrificed at some point.

Thoughts by Paul Resnikoff, Publisher.  Written while listening to Mozart, Sepultura, Daft Punk, Icepick, and Hatebreed.

Fan Engagement – Creating Behind The Scenes Content

This article I found on Weallmakemusic.com says that it might be worth documenting more aspects of the creative process. Fans want to be as intimate as possible with their favorite artists (without being creepy), and creating content that gives an inside look at the processes of writing, rehearsing, recording in the booth, shooting video, etc. can bring your fans closer than ever. So many artists have only live performances and music videos available and don’t offer more of an inside look at who the artist is behind the scenes. More fan engagement means a stronger bond to you and your music, and can directly translate to more money in your pocket.

Just the other day I was on my facebook and photos from MSTRKRFT’s most recent tour popped up on my feed. There are a bunch of behind the scenes pictures of the backstage chilling, the limo ride to the show, and the post performance tiredness. You wouldn’t believe the feedback that MSTRKRFT got from those behind the scenes photos.

Full Article on Weallmakemusic.com

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Get More Mileage Out of Your Projects By Bringing Your Fans Into Your World

by ADAM SISENWEIN on NOVEMBER 17, 2010 · VIEW COMMENTS

The David Crowder*Band and friends give a behind the scenes look of how they made their latest music video

There’s a very good reason people do things like take pictures, write journals (or, these days, blogs), and collect souvenirs. We want to capture a moment in time and hold on to it, reflect on it later and possibly share it with others, make them feel like they were there.

The David Crowder*Band have just released a great example of how bands should do that, too.

It came time for the group to make a music video for their song “SMS (Shine)” and it soon became clear that it would be a pretty big production. The video would involve a very elaborate stop-motion animation sequence involving many Lite-Brite boards, plastic wrap, and many intricate banners made of tissue paper.

Knowing that making the video would be an experience in and of itself, the band decided to film the entire process, setting up cameras that rolled for hours, capturing the hard and tedious tasks involved with the project. Each band member also filmed interviews that went over what inspired their creative decisions and what the whole process was like.

The end results include not only a music video to promote the single, but the series of making-of videos that promotes pretty much everything David Crowder*Band-related and further showcases their talent and relatability.

In other words, whenever you are writing, practicing, recording, touring, or undertaking any big creative project, document it somehow: take pictures, record video, write about the events. Create a path that allows your fans into your process. Logistically, the edited result of your extra works may become exclusives for fans of your Facebook page or e-mail list, while there are also bonus materials to entice potential new fans.

Your music and work is an extension of who you are. Your fans may feel a closeness and attachment when they hardly even know you as a person. For a musician to share an experience with their fans regarding their creative process is something very special, and can be even more insightful than only a song or music video.

Different Deals that Major Labels Offer

This article I found on Tunecore’s blog lays out the details of different deals that labels may offer you. Even though I am a major proponent of remaining independent, and I probably wouldn’t sign one of these deals right now if it was offered to me, it is useful to know about them so you know what you could be up against. If you know what kind of deals they offer you might be able to work out a more beneficial deal when it comes to the time. For instance, I might want to work out just a distribution and radio deal with a label and work out some percentages that make more sense than the label owning the fruit of my labors for the next ten years.

The Full Article on Tunecore’s Blog

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Key Takeaways:

Deals, Deals, Deals

By George Howard, Read more articles at Artists House Music

The Royalty Deal Type 1: The Copyright Ownership Deal

The most common type of deal that artists were offered emerged from the era when artists needed the label to pay for the creation of their recordings.  In a pre-ProTools era it was inconceivable for an artist to make a competitive recording on his or her own dime.  Similarly, artists were reliant on labels for distribution and promotion.

Grant of Rights – The artists thus trade the rights to their master recordings in exchange for the funds needed to create a recording, and for the promotional dollars and expertise the labels offer.  Remember, the labels control the copyrights to the versions of the songs they release on the album (as signified by the (p) copyright mark); the writers maintain ownership of the songs used on the record (as signified by the ©), and license the songs to the label via a mechanical license agreement.

Term – Up until the early nineties (and, to a degree, continuing today) the vast majority of these exchanges were perpetual.  Meaning, the artists assigned the copyright to the versions of the songs (not the songs themselves) the label release to the label…forever.

The Royalty Deal Type 2: The Term Deal

One deviation from the above emerged simultaneous to the popularization of ProTools.  As artists began to be able to record high-quality masters at greatly reduced costs, the value exchange between artist and label became strained.  Artists no longer needed the labels’ money to record, and while they still needed the labels’ promotional money and expertise, the artists became increasingly unwilling to part with masters they themselves had funded.

This dynamic led to far more so-called licensing or term deals.  In these types of deals, the artist grants the label the rights to exclusively exploit the recordings for a set period of time.  At the end of the term, the rights to the recordings revert back to the artist.  The artist may then re-license them, sell them, or exploit them herself.

This deal is obviously an attractive deal for many artists, as, beyond the financial implications, it also represents a sort of moral victory for the artist who is reluctant to forever part with his or her work. The caveat, of course, is that these deals tend to have little or no advances associated with them. Beyond these differences, the Term Deals operate essentially in the same manner as the Copyright Ownership Deals outlined above; that is, there are clauses for royalty, territory, number of options, etc.

The 360 Deal

While the license deals may have represented a move towards a more balanced label/artist relationship, the 360 deal represents a decisive shift back towards labels as acquirers of all rights.

The 360 deal is a Copyright Ownership deal where the label has rights in not only the master recordings, but also in ancillary rights that artists typically kept sacrosanct; such as, merchandise, revenue from touring, and publishing.

The labels’ argument is that as a result of their exploitation of the artist’s master(s), they increase the value of the artists merch, ticket sales, and publishing, and, thus, should participate in the revenue from these elements.

The problem with this argument is that few if any labels have competencies in the area of merch or tickets.  With respect to publishing, there are a host of conflict of interest issues with respect to a single entity controlling both the master and publishing rights of an artist’s work (these are not insurmountable, and there are benefits, at times, to a “one-stop” publishing/master relationship, but such situations are not without their challenges/potential for conflict).

These 360 Deals have become de rigueur amongst the majors; if you want a major label deal, this is what you will be offered. All other deal elements are consistent with the above with respect to term, territory, and royalty.

Net Profit Share (NPS)/Joint Venture (JV) Deals

On the other end of the spectrum are deals seen with increasing frequency in the indie world, as well as between investors and artists.  These deals, often referred to as JVs, but more accurately described as Net Profit Share deals are typically perceived as more artist friendly than any of the above-mentioned deals.

In these types of deals, the artist typically delivers a finished master to the label.  The label pays a small (if any) advance, and then spends money exploiting the master.

In these deals, the label recoups all expenses associated with this exploitation (remember, in the deals above, recoupment typically tends to be limited to advances and money spent on independent promotion and publicity).  This means that every dollar spent — for postage, manufacturing, advertising, etc. — is all recouped prior to an artist royalty being paid.

Once this money has been recouped, the label splits the profit — on a net basis — with the artist.  Meaning, if the label spent $5000 to exploit the master, and they recouped this $5000 through sales, at the very next record sold, the label would divide the profit after expenses with the artist.  So, if the cost of goods sold on a per-record basis was $3 (for manufacture, marketing, etc.), and the label received $10 from the sale of the label, they would remit $3.50 to the artist and keep $3.50 for themselves.

While these deals do seem more equitable on the surface, it’s important to keep in mind that few records recoup even when limited to advances and costs of independent promotion/publicity, and thus when you factor in all the other costs associated with exploiting records it can be very challenging to recoup all of the costs.

Summary

There are infinite variations to the four principle deals presented above, and future articles will explore in more specific detail the elements associated with each, but understanding the key distinctions will allow you to make better informed decisions, whether you are offering an artist a deal, or being offered a deal.

Musical Mission Statements

I have said before that managing your social media campaigns can be like a full time job and can eat into precious time that would otherwise be devoted to writing performing or connecting with real people. This article on The DIY Musician Blog entitled “Musical Mission Statements, Sanity & You” says KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

I haven’t formally worked on a mission statement before. What I have done is start a campaign called The Classical Movement, which gives praise to and shines light on the period of hip hop that I find most inspiring and what I fell in love with in the beginning. This is a time period between about 1992 – 1997 during which many of my favorite rappers debuted with their smartest, and powerful material. With The Classical Movement I aim to get back to that wittiness and achieve that raw sound that I loved from that period in time. With my material outside of the realm of The Classical Movement I aim to push the boundaries of hip hop by experimenting with different sounds and genres. I also love the idea of the concept album in hip hop. Having a story line really gives the listener a more complete vision of the artist’s vision and allows the artist to express a bigger and more complete thought. So that’s a long version of my mission statement. Working on shortening that, ha.

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Here is the article from The DIY Musician Blog from CD Baby:

Practicing. Writing. Recording. Booking. Web design. Social media. Videos. Marketing. PR.  Driving yourself mad wondering where to shift your focus? Go back to the basics.

Remember your mission statement!

Don’t have a mission statement? Make one. What would it look like? Here are some examples:

1) We are in it to win it. Fame and riches are our first concern.

2) All music that has come before is dead. We must strive to blaze our own path. Uniqueness!

3) Music is only a part of our balanced lives. We make music in order to have fun and improve our sense of well-being.

4) Music is our way of creating positive change on the planet. Social-consciousness!

5) Mystery is key. We must obscure, evade, and sidestep. Through a sense of enigma, we will forge our true connection with an audience.

Why should you state what your mission is upfront?

1) It will ensure that everyone involved in your band, group, or organization is on the same page. Your goals will be aligned, and that united sense of purpose will inspire your collective work ethic and creativity. If you make music on your own and direct your own career, you should still state your mission to keep yourself in check and better understand your goals. The better you understand yourself, the easier it will be to know how to connect with an audience.

2) For sanity’s sake. DIY artists already have enough on their plates. You can’t do it all. You’re going to have to let some opportunities pass you by. You’re going to have to let some responsibilities slip through the cracks. But which ones? Worrying about this can drive you mad. But by remembering your mission statement you can hold each decision up to that light.

-Chris R. at CD Baby


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