Indie Music Tips – In No Apparent Order

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We’ve included many musician’s tips in our e-newsletters. Here they are in case you missed any of them.

30. Know the venue before you record
Recording your show? Touch base with the venue before the gig and do a walk-through. Make note of where electrical outlets are and ask the house manager where you’ll be able to set up. Do your recon mission when the venue is quiet and know what your environmental noise is going to be. Are there air conditioners and buzzing lights? Especially in an acoustic setting, knowing where extraneous noise comes from can help you position microphones to minimize it.

29. Recording with a compressor
The first and most crucial setting on a compressor is the "threshold." This is the point at which the device will begin to reduce the level of the output signal. How much the signal is reduced is determined by the ratio. For instance, at a 2:1 setting, for every 2 dB of increase to the input signal beyond the threshold, the output signal level will increase by 1 dB. Higher ratios result in more dramatic gain reduction.

28. Who To Contact at a Radio Station
It’s important to address your package directly to the person you are trying to reach at the station. In most cases it will be the program director (some stations also have a music director). If the station has a specific show featuring music like yours, go ahead and send that DJ a package as well as they might have some input when the show’s playlists are assembled. Never send your package just addressed to the station.

27. Create a facebook link!
The @ symbol creates a link between your social media profile and that of another person’s. When you’re writing a status update on Facebook and want to add a friend’s name to something you are posting, just include the ‘@’ symbol beforehand. A drop-down menu will appear that allows you to choose from your list of friends and connections, including groups, events, applications, and Pages. The ‘@’ symbol will not be displayed in the published status update or post after you’ve added your tags.

26. Diversify Your Guitar Sound
You wouldn’t play at the same volume and intensity for an entire performance, and you should avoid using the same pickup setting throughout a recording. Guitarists typically have one setting as their secret weapon, but you must have alternate configurations and sounds to complement that. This might involve multiple distortion pedals, switching between neck and bridge pickups, or investing in a multi-effects processor or programmable preamp. However you solve the problem, cultivate a wide sonic palette of sounds for a variety of pickup settings.

25. Believe In Your Product
It’s difficult to look someone in the eye and ask them to buy something you don’t believe is a good deal. The idea is to focus on giving a potential buyer something of value at a fair price. Don’t underestimate the intelligence and intuition of your fans – and remember, nothing is more powerful in sales than the truth. The first step is creating a product that you believe in. Your belief and enthusiasm will shine through.

24. More Music – Less Marketing
Spend less time on marketing and more time making sure you have a product worth marketing. There is more music out there than ever before – everyone you know is a musician, or at least a hobbyist, and consumers are very jaded. Before shotgunning your product and blogging and tweeting about your new release, make sure you have a product that is not only competitive, but stronger than most of the stuff you see and hear, or it’s over before it starts.

23. Before you look for a manager…
Before seeking out a music manager, have most of these items together: no apology recordings of your music; professional photos; a basic website with a custom URL; a mailing list and a place where people can sign up; a social network presence; live performance footage (preferably in front of a crowd); and a well-written bio. Having these materials will get you more gigs, taken more seriously by your peers and fans, and will ultimately help you build a business in music.

22. Use Google Alerts
The best way to make sure you catch every press write-up or album review (or even just fans talking about you online) is to use Google Alerts. With Google Alerts, you’ll receive an email any time Google indexes a new instance or mention of your band or artist name on the web. (You can adjust your settings to specify how often you get emailed.) Use it to track album reviews, press mentions, fans talking about your music, and show reviews.

21. EQ With Mic Placement
The closer a microphone is to the center of the speaker, the more low and high end will be picked up. As the microphone is moved to the outside of the cone, the midrange becomes clearer. The angle of the microphone in relation to the cone can also change the tone of the guitar sound. Angling the microphone 45 degrees outward will reduce the upper midrange frequencies. Angling the microphone 45 degrees inward will increase low midrange frequencies.

20. More isn’t always better.
Having more songs doesn’t necessarily make a better record. While 40-45 minutes is a time bite easily digestible for a listener, 60-70 minutes may not be. At worst, the extra songs could be perceived as filler. You might consider filling the additional space available on a CD with enhanced materials, like a video, photos, wallpaper, or a digital press kit. Adding value by way of extra goodies on the disc can easily outweigh filling up the CD with “B-side” content.

19. Practice Tips.
Someone once said “Practice doesn’t make perfect — perfect practice makes perfect.” Here are a few things to keep in mind. 1) Practice what you don’t know, not what you do know. 2) Set a short-term goal before each practice session so you know how your time will be used before you start. 3) Practice for at least 10 minutes every day. 4) Don’t practice the same thing, in the same order, that you did the day before.

18. Stagger your releases.
Consider whether it’s better to release two songs every 8 or 12 weeks than to wait a year for one release. This 1) keeps your fan base happy by giving them a constant supply of new music; 2) provides increased exposure for every song; and 3) at the end of your creative cycle, the songs can then be put into an album that can be released in a CD format. Then your album has lots of advanced publicity thanks to numerous single releases.

17. Simplicity is key.
There’s a saying in marketing: “The confused mind always says no.” If you’re playing a show, don’t tell people to see Joe to buy a CD, then Cindy to buy a T-Shirt, and then Jamal to sign up for the mailing list. Have a signup form at your merch booth, where you sell your merch and CDs. Send everyone there. “Don’t forget to stop by and see Janet for CDs and T-shirts.” Mention this more than once.

16. The Standing-Out Strategy
The competition for attention in music publications and websites is overwhelming. Instead of focusing on music media, think in terms of audiences. Put your music where it will stand out from the crowd. If your music speaks to hobbyists or enthusiasts of say, sailing (for instance), targeting the people that like that kind of activity – via specialized publications or websites, is a great way to stand out. By putting your music where there usually isn’t any, it will get noticed.

15. Always write a set list
A lot of musicians do it on the fly, and if that works for you that’s fine. However, we’ve all seen (or been guilty of) doing the band huddle. The song ends and everyone turns to each other to figure out what to play next. This can present a very unprofessional image as well as ruin the flow of a show. By having your set list ready everyone can transition right to the next song without losing the crowd’s interest or energy.

14. How good do your home recordings need to be?
It’s important to strive for the best quality in every recording you make, but don’t beat yourself up trying to create the next Sgt. Peppers in your home studio. Consider what the next step up the ladder is for your career. It may be that recording a basic demo is exactly what’s needed to attract the attention you need. You can always invest more later on as your recording knowledge and skills expand.

13. Write it down.
It’s been proven that by simply writing down your goals you are ten times more likely to achieve them. Still, only three percent of people have their long-term goals written down. In any aspect of your personal or professional life, setting goals is an empowering way to set the stage for success. Taking the time to quantify and write out your goals can help you pave the way to achieve the career you’ve imagined, whether music is a hobby or a full-time vocation.

12. Find the “sweet spot.”
When preparing to record an acoustic guitar, cover one ear and use the other like a microphone, moving around the surfaces of the guitar at a distance of about 18 inches. You’ll hear the tone vary quite a bit. Move closer in and farther back to find the spot that offers a good combination of warmth and richness in the lower range, while maintaining the sparkle and shimmer. When you find this “sweet spot,” get your mic placed as close to it as possible.

11. Build a deep product catalog.
The formula is simple: more products to sell equals more sales revenue opportunity. So sell ALL your CDs; don’t let any titles go out of print. Fans at your gigs may buy more than one disc if you blew them away. Offer shirts (various designs if possible), hoodies, posters, etc. Once the fan is at your table, you can upsell them on multiple items. Sure, inventory costs money, but you don’t need to produce large quantities, and they can quickly pay for themselves.

10. Harness your fan power.
Need help with your website? Someone to call media or radio? Ask! A fan may have, or know someone who has, the skills you need. Announce what you’re looking for gigs. Keep a record of where fans live so you can tap into those in markets when you tour. Fanpower is a force that can help advance your career and create grassroots awareness to help sell CDs, book gigs, bring people to your website, get press, and get you to the next level.

9. Networking: The Business Card Exchange
When it’s time to exchange business cards, be prepared – don’t fumble through a pocket full of all the cards you’ve collected that day, or one of yours that doesn’t have scribbled notes on it. Have your business cards in your left pocket, and everyone else’s cards in your right pocket. Always have a pen available and take notes from your conversations. When you say, “I will call you next week and set an appointment,” make a note of what you’ve said and follow through.

8. Stay focused online.
Between your official band site, social networking sites, and online stores – you need a strategy. If you have the resources to maintain multiple sites and pages, make sure your message is consistent. If you find yourself neglecting some of your pages or sites, you may be better off paring back to the ones you can manage.

7. Build a quality email list
The most obvious thing you can do to build a fan base is collect email addresses at gigs. But remember: it’s not the size of the list, but the quality. Don’t steal names, coerce, or guilt people to sign up just to boost its size. Collect names from people who truly enjoyed your show and build a list of real fans.

6. Leverage your down time
There are long hours on the road, whether you are traveling from gig to gig or sitting around after sound check. Get out your laptop and get a yourself a wireless card. Then you can update your websites, respond to fan email, book shows, make blog/journal posts, and stay connected with the engine that runs your career rather than sitting around killing time.

5. Maintain the fantasy
You’re a star, living the dream, and people want to live vicariously through the artists they like. When you’re on stage or on the road, they’re right there with you. Don’t break the image by telling people you’re broke and living with your mother. Give them insight into your world, but remember, you’re not just selling music – you’re selling a persona.

4. Consider co-writing
For writers that may have limitations, consider co-writing as a possible path to songwriting success. Creatively, the end result can be much greater than the individual pieces. Some words on a sheet of paper are just that – maybe it’s a nice poem until somebody comes along and puts a really memorable melody to it. Suddenly, you have a great song.

3. Create opportunities for participation
In today’s ultra-connected environment, fans want more than just your album or to see you perform – they want a window into your creative process, and a chance to get involved. That may mean letting fans choose the photo that goes on an album cover or letting fans sing on your album or contribute a solo. Be creative and get your fans involved.

2. Don’t schedule your release party!
It’s best to not set your release date until your CDs are in hand. If you are going to publicize your album in the traditional press or do a radio campaign, set the official release date at least 8-12 weeks after you’ve received your copies to give yourself plenty of time to get the album delivered to the press and your online retail locations.

1. Protect your ears!
People who are exposed to 90-120 dB sound levels for various time periods are at risk for hearing loss, which includes people in the music industry (musicians, sound crews, recording engineers, nightclub employees) and people outside the music industry (loud-music listeners, spectators at sporting events, construction workers, motorcycle drivers, regular airline travelers). People often have high-frequency hearing loss but refuse to wear conventional hearing protection because they need to hear more clearly.

22 thoughts on “Indie Music Tips – In No Apparent Order

  1. EVERYTHING SAID IS VITAL FOR EVERY MUSICIAN THANKSYOU TO EVERYONE THAT ADDED POINTERS TO THESE FOOT NOTES,THEY WILL BE USED.

  2. I’ve been working in the music biz in some way or another for many years and I must say that list was very informative especially for newly forming bands. I can’t tell you how many bands I’ve been in that were clueless to these kinds organizational thoughts. This is a tough business (97% failure rate) and it ain’t getting any easier. To all you guys out there in bands —- If you and your bandmates aren’t on the same page and constantly working on the show in this kind of fashion, well your competition is, so you can forget about it and think of what you’d like to do for your day job.
    I also thought your tips on compression and mic placement were concise and very useful, as well as fundamental knowledge for any novice recording engineer.

  3. This great information. Thank for shining the light on the pathway to success. The indie artist needs this.
    Request permission to use info on @ Howcee Productions Gospel Blog Talk Radio Gospel Music and The Media today.

  4. Great advice for douchebangs with trust funds who believe in the business model for society. Not great for artists try to transcend that whole nonsense.

  5. Great little article!
    ALSO…get your music listed on a TON of music libraries, they’ll make you money thru licensing, and get you into Film and TV shows.
    It works for me!
    Here’s the BEST site for finding music libraries, and ALSO what the composers think of them!
    http://www.musiclibraryreport.com

    My advice? Work hard, work hard, work hard…and then WORK HARDER!!!

    Gayle

  6. Thanks once again to Echoes for more wonderful info….im starting off in the business after releasing my debut album 10 months ago and ive found lots of good pointers and answers here. In relation to websites i have designed my own [a lot of work over 2 to 3 weeks] using the blank page option given at http://www.wix.com click on create, then blank page. Its a lot of work but im delighted with the results see them for yourself at http://www.fintanbrady.com

    1. Etymotics (www.etymotic.com) makes an inexpensive but high quality earplug that filters acoustic pressure (i.e., sound volume) evenly across the audible spectrum, so you still hear all the music — just at less dangerous levels. Very good for loud rock concerts, mowing lawns, etc. They’re particularly suitable for lengthy rehearsals in small studio spaces. I also use them all the time on airplanes. Using them in your 20s can mean you’ll hear your grandkids when they phone in your 80s…and tell you they really like the Beatles!

    2. Well on the subject of hearing loss, it occurs when you get a ticket that seats you up front, possible hair blowing, eye blinking and a urge to dance wildly. It’s all good… it’s only Rock & Roll but I like it yes I do.

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