Bootstrapping Vs. Crowdfunding

There are always things that will matter to a musician. “Are the songs I write good enough for people to want to hear?  I really want that piece of gear, but I’ll have to sell something to afford it!”  As a DIY artist there are always going to be times to worry about money. Essentially, being a DIY musician or musical artist puts you in the position of being your own boss.  In other words, you are the CEO of your own entrepreneurial venture.  As such, you will need to worry about the finances of the “business,” how to manage the cash in and out, and where the money will come from to start this venture! I wanted to discuss the pros and cons of “bootstrapping” a business, or starting within your means of income and building it up, and “crowdfunding” ideas, which refers to popular internet-based funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.  To discuss the good and bad of both options, it’s important to understand what both options offer and when it’s a best fit to do either option.  If you are a songwriter, recording demos in your bedroom while going to school or working a full-time job, playing a few shows from time to time, and basically just starting out, bootstrapping may be your best option.  If you have a following, play lots of shows, are recording professional albums, and, more importantly, you have a large social media fan base, crowdfunding may be for you.  But let’s break down the two options:


Bootstrapping When you are beginning a career in music, it’s important to have organic growth and let the music take you to a new level.  Bootstrapping means saving up for the things you want to invest in, or downgrading another aspect of life so you can support a new venture. Obviously, you will want things like a web-presence, audio recordings, and merchandise for live shows.  There are many great ways to save money or even do things for free such as using Wordpress for a website, using Reaper as a multitrack recording software solution. There are many great solutions that offer cheap on-demand merchandise orders as well. It’s important to source as many things on the cheap as you can such as used gear and discounted prices for travel.


Crowdfunding When you have a well-established fan base and play shows quite often, crowdfunding can be a great way to help fund different ventures.  With today’s internet connectivity and social media platforms, it is easy to get an idea in front of a global audience, and even ask for their financial backing.  Kickstarter is probably the most widely used, well-known platform on the internet today.  When pertaining to a musician or band, it allows the artist to create a campaign to fund a tour, album, or similar topic.  In return for different pledge amounts, the artist can give specific “rewards” such as copies of the finished product, tickets to a certain event, and even private shows!  It allows the artist to get the up front cost for an album and then pay everyone back in the form of the finished product. The nice thing about Kickstarter is that it is all or nothing funding, meaning that if the goal amount of the project is not met,  the funding does not go through.  There are other great sites such as Indiegogo and Pledgemusic, which is designed specifically with the musical artist in mind.

Either one of these options are viable and make sense if you go about it the best way.  The most important thing to remember is that your career is a business, and you need to be the best CEO you can be.  To get some great ideas on these topics and much more, check out as a great resource.

Digital Marketing: Brand Identity & The DIY Artist

We’ve all been there.  You play a few live shows, you record a single or EP, and decide you want to take this independent artist thing seriously.  You take the experience and products you have and hit the pavement trying to let people know about yourself.  You end up crashing and burning because in the jungle of opportunity, you lose sight of who you are, what you stand for, and how you want to come across to your fans.  Your Facebook page has your professional posts about being a musician, but also your crazy tagged photos of that night out when you may have had one too many.  Your twitter feed becomes a web of retweets and mentions that your username gets lost it.  Your website, if you’ve even made the wise choice to invest in one, is out of date, and doesn’t even offer the information you want, nay, need people to know.  What happened?  Let’s take a look. There are many key points that need to be looked at when digitally marketing your brand to the masses, but we will focus on a few well-known platforms and services that can give you the basic foundation to grow and maintain a fan base in the digital realm.  Obviously, I write this with the presupposition that face-to-face interaction and live shows have the biggest impact on how involved fans are, and how willing they are to “buy in” to you as an artist, but we will focus on how you can gain and grow fans through digital means.  Basically, let’s look at being an independent artist in 2016.  The three main sections we’ll look at are your web presence, digital distribution, and social media interaction.

Web Presence - When I say web presence, it mainly deals with the website of your band or your artist persona.  This should be a website with a domain name that is easy to remember.  Domain names are easy to purchase with places such as, and  However, there are new services such as Squarespace, that offer website design and hosting on a easy to edit platform that have wonderful and professional looks as well as domain purchasing.  Once this is done, It’s important to remember the things that are important to include on an artist website.  People should be able to listen to and purchase your music.  The landing page can be a simple notification of a CD release or your logo, but it could also be a blog that is updated frequently which contains the latest news that you or your band has released.  It is also good to have a newsletter sign-up, and offer things like discounts on downloads or merchandise for their information.  (You can also do this type of marketing on social media, which we will discuss later.)

Digital Distribution - If you’re reading this blog, you might have noticed an earlier post on digital distribution and the various ways you can do this.  Services such as Tunecore and CD Baby offer ways to get your music on major platforms so you can set your brand among the best of the best.  How many times have you seen a great musician only to ask for their latest recording and they say, “Oh it’s for sale on (hopefully, not a real site!), go check it out!”  Your view of that artist just went down a bit because they are valuing themselves at a lower level than you perceived their craft to be.  It’s better to say, just search me on iTunes or Spotify and check out the music!  Alternatively, as we said before, direct them to your website where you sell your music.  As a side note, selling your music is easy through sites like Squarespace, but any site design will offer the ability to embed code, where you can put a widget of your iTunes album or a Spotify playlist.  It is all quite easy, and gives your brand the credit it deserves.  One more side note with this topic, having your music on as many sites as possible (even stuff like is great for exposure.  Some popular sites include iTunes, Google Play, Amazon MP3, Deezer, Spotify, Rdio, Bandcamp, Noisetrade, and many, many more.  Just do a Google search for digital music distribution, and you’ll find plenty to choose from!

Social Media Interaction - With Social Media Interaction, you need to be on the major platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  Twitter gives you the opportunity to be light and fun in your engagement with fans.  Including pictures on each post really helps your timeline to standout among the other noise on Twitter.  Instagram offers this, as it is based on the picture.  Having separate posts for each social media is encouraged, although sometimes (i.e. album release notification, events and show announcements, etc.) it is worth posting the same thing to every social media platform.  Facebook offers a great way to post event notifications to encourage fans to come to shows, and also can integrate a storefront where people can buy your music.  It’s important as well to remain personal and friendly, as well as professional when using social media as an artist, because these are the relationships you are building with people so that they trust you and become a loyal fan.

Gaining loyal fans is what this is all about.  Overall, what is it that loyal fans do?  That’s right: spend money!  You want to do this as a career, and there are people out there that are willing to invest in you as an artist.  I’ll post a video that I’ve posted before, of independent artist Amanda Palmer.  She is the epitome of an artist thinking outside the box.  Take a look at her TED Talk and hear her story.

The last thing I’ll post is a video of Mike King of Berklee College of Music discussing different aspects of Marketing your music, which deals a lot with digital marketing.  Enjoy!

Free vs. Paid Publishing & Distribution

There is no doubt that every musician has come to a point where the melody, hook, or lyric that they hear in their head makes it to an instrument and/or words on paper.  From that point it may not be the artist’s desire to pursue it further, but there are the few chosen songs that seep from your conscience and onto a magnetic tape or hard drive.  Artists rarely do this for their own personal enjoyment, because they feel that the song they have inside them could be worth something to other people.  It is in our nature to share our passions and gifts and excitements with others.  Sometimes this takes the form of public adoration and praise in front of a screaming crowd, other times it’s a few friends offering their sincere appreciation.  Whatever the reason for making music, there are options and possibilities to let it reach as far as you would like it to.  We are fortunate enough to live in an age where the thought of your music making it available to the entire world, is no longer just a thought.  It is reality. This being said, as a DIY musician there are literally hundreds of options that can fit your specific needs.  To be honest, there are websites that you can record your music and upload it to have someone mix and master it for you before you even think about the steps we’ll discuss here today.  The internet and technology are adding so much value to the music industry by offering avenues for creativity that were, at one time, for the few and privileged.  What we will be focusing on today is the publishing and distribution options available to DIY musicians, mainly dealing with the distribution side of things.

Before we dive into distribution, just a quick thought and a little advice on the subject of publishing.  The word publishing in music is often confusing as the original term derives from the time period where publishers made money from sheet music of certain artists rather than the recordings.  Nowadays, publishers take their connections and apply it to the recordings, live performance, and synchronization of the material.  This means that a publisher is someone who owns the copyright of the specific song (recording, sheet music, lyrics, etc...), and maximize the use and collection of money from that use.  In essence, it’s much like a record label does by offering the marketing and distribution for an artist, the publisher offers the utmost play and pay for each song.  That being said, integrated into many DIY solutions are the publishing tools needed to help maximize income from recordings, however it is always worth seeing if there is a good deal out there!

Distribution Distribution is exactly as it sounds: the distributing of your product to your fans.  In the past this was done a few different ways.  Radio and vinyl record/tape/CD were your two main ways to get your music heard.  So you had to play shows to get a fan base and sell more records, but how do you get people in other states to hear you?  That’s where radio came in, because it offered the opportunity for others miles and miles away to hear what you were doing in the local VFW hall on a Tuesday night to the 3 people who were there.  If the fans responded, or if someone heard potential from that, you had the opportunity to move up and start doing more shows and recording more music for a label that, in turn, sent your recordings out to other markets in other areas, sometimes countries, and therefore you made more money. Thus, the rock star was born! Now, that is a quick snapshot of how it worked with distribution, and honestly it speaks nothing to the hard work and tireless effort that goes into being an artist (or rock star!).

Today, the landscape is totally different.  I, a married man with a full-time job (outside of music) and very little budget to do so, am able to record, publish, and distribute my music world-wide.  It is crazy to think that this is possible now.  It is extremely easy to do so, too!  What we’ll discuss are the options for doing this.

First, the free:

There are plenty of free avenues for people to get their music out there, but here are three of the most popular and wide-reaching options:

SoundCloud - SoundCloud offers a website, although web-based community is a better description, that gives it’s users the ability to upload their music and have it shared via all types of social media. Users can create their own playlists and some SoundCloud users have even built a large following of other users who appreciate their ability to curate playlists.  I, as an online contest to my followers, had users submit what song they would like to hear me cover and in what genre. I ended up covering Kris Kross’s “Jump” in a bluegrass style, and uploaded it to SoundCloud, where I would not make any money from it, for copyright and licensing purposes.  It has been added to hundreds of playlists, has over 20k likes, and has been downloaded over 100 times.  It has reached far beyond my initial following of fans, into the community of soundcloud users.  Very nice and easy, although, as I stated before, I make no money from this, but it is a great marketing tool to further your fanbase. Noisetrade - This is another option I have tried, and offers a great amount of exposure, but with a great twist for emerging and unsigned artists.  The added benefit with Noisetrade is the draw of customer metric tracking.  Noisetrade works like a portal that you upload your content to.  It can be searched and found within Noisetrade, but can also offer widgets to embed on your own website, Facebook, or Twitter page.  For a fan to download the content on that site, they have to enter their email address and post code.  It then emails a download link and they download for free.  However, it does not stop there because after they have entered their details, it prompts a “tip” or basically a donation that can be made in trade for the music.  It is not required, but the opportunity is there.  Most people see this as a great way to post special versions of songs such as acoustic versions or live versions, not found anywhere else.  However, a few artists are posting most, if not all, of their content on the site as a way to say thank you to the fans for their support.  By doing this, it seems that fans would be willing to tip a bit of money towards the artist for the music. Bandcamp - Bandcamp is the most comprehensive, free service for posting your music online and having the most flexibility.  Much like Noisetrade, you upload the content and it can be searched within Bandcamp, but can also be embedded.  However, the big difference with Bandcamp is the ability to set a price for your music, as well as making it free.  Some still choose to offer it for free with donations available, but it’s nice to have the flexibility.  Bandcamp is extremely popular with unsigned bands because, just like noisetrade, you can get fanbase metrics and information to help guide your next release.  Bandcamp does offer a paid version which gives you more metrics and more capabilities, but the free version is quite nice! This brings us to the PAID options:

Just like the free options, paid services are popping up all over the internet.  Here are the three services that I’ve found as a simple, far-reaching option for distributing your music digitally.

Ditto Music - Ditto is a service started by two friends that felt the process of submitting songs to services like iTunes and Spotify were too long and difficult for unsigned artists who are touring and spending day after day trying to make a living doing what they love.  So they started a company that offers the submission of content to these larger aggregate sites that gives extreme exposure and ease of download for current and future fans.  Ditto’s prices are quite small compared to other sites, but there’s not a lot extra you get with the basic price of digital distribution.  Easy access to songs and easy payment.  But what about customer metrics and fan data? Most emerging artists want this data to be able to mold their future offerings, and its limited with Ditto.  However, they do offer things that other sites do not offer such as Record Label establishment, Marketing help, and ringtone sales.  It is a sleek and easy site and they have a good stable of artists that use their services as of now.  The price does have to be paid every year to continue your content’s inclusion on the aggregate sites, but it is still a fairly low cost. CD Baby - This is a service that I used for my first EP release.  I had no issues with it, it was fast and simple, gave me great information on customers, fast payments, and loads of add-ons.  They offer a flat rate to include your music on major services (iTunes, Amazon MP3, GooglePlay, Spotify, Rdio, etc...), and it is a low fee at that.  They do take more on the backend, meaning they take a larger percentage, 9 percent, than most other companies.  Ditto, and others, do not charge a backend fee, just a flat rate per year.  CD Baby has some great affiliates that I took advantage of with some great discounts such as Discmakers for my physical CD copies (that I do not order anymore, because who needs them!), and HostBaby, their web hosting service geared towards solo artists and bands.  I actually, just recently, realized my content was still on there, and took it down, as I was no longer licensed for some of the songs I covered on my EP.  So it’s nice to have something that has options, especially within it’s own website, to offer to up-and-coming artists. Tunecore - This is a great option for any artist of any size fan base because the cost is low, and the information is easy to access.  I recently ventured into using Tunecore for an artist I help produce.  It was extremely simple, and the options given are great.  Tunecore allows you to purchase, for a one-time low fee, the opportunity to automatically be updated into any digital stores that become available to them.  When TIDAL became a new service, and was picked up on Tunecore, the artist was immediately added into their repertoire of songs.  There’s also iTunes and Spotify information that’s reported each month, giving the artist a bird's-eye view of their plays and downloads through each service.  Again, this helps with future marketing and so on.  Tunecore also allows you the ability to use your account within Tunecore to pay for other services or add-ons that they offer.  At the time of researching the other two, I did not see that option, but it could be available.

All in all, there are some great options to get your music out there, if not free, then for a very small price.  So let those creative juices flow, record some music and start building a fanbase!  Good luck to you all!

Industry Liabilities

The concept of legal issues within the entertainment industry has never been as prevalent as it is in today’s generation.  There have been countless legal battles and controversial contracts that have been discussed and debated in the public arena.  I’m going to outline just a few in the past few years that have made headlines, and discuss the legal implications. Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams v. Family of Marvin Gaye This lawsuit alleged that Thicke and Williams stole the idea of the song “Blurred Lines,” a 2013 mega-hit, from Marvin Gaye’s song, “Got To Give It Up.”  While Thicke was not involved in the creation of the music, as he and co-artist T.I. are featured on the song and therefore received royalties from it, they were included in the lawsuit. Pharrell Williams, during the trial, stated he was influenced by Gaye’s music as a child, the song had no direct influence in the making of “Blurred Lines” and therefore permission was not sought after to Gaye’s family and owners of the original track.  However, the ruling resulted in the favor of Gaye’s family, and a back royalty was paid to them and created news headlines worldwide.  This type of ruling was crucial to other lawsuits being introduced with the same type of outcomes.  One significant suit filed shortly after the “Blurred Lines” trial, was Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne suing Sam Smith for his song, “Stay With Me” due to its extremely similar structure and sound as “I Won’t Back Down,” one of Petty’s biggest hits.  All of this points to the sad fact that this type of suit will happen again and again as time goes on.  But where is the line going to be drawn?  I would argue that the correct thing to do is to be as careful as possible and always seek permission to do anything before releasing music.  The only problem I see is that we are already encroaching on a generation that will only be influenced by other ideas, due to the large amount of information and technology.  I believe the song “Blurred Lines” was similar, but not copyright infringement worthy, and should have been given a more fair trial result.

Snoop Dogg v. Pabst Brewing Co. Snoop Dogg, in 2011, signed a deal to be the brand ambassador for Blast by Colt 45, a new fruity drink that the Pabst Brewing Company was venturing into.  The deal stated that either within the three years of the deal, or within 2 years of the end of the deal, if the company sells the brand, Snoop Dogg would receive 10% of the sale price.  Although his deal gave him $250,000 up front, and $20,000 for every 10th mention of the beverage on social media, TV, or live at a concert, the sale would award Snoop Dogg 70 million based on the widely reported sale price of 700 million.  This seems to be a case that will be easily solved once all of the facts are presented.  Snoop Dogg’s contract seems to clearly state the stipulations of a sale within the term stated, and therefore, as long as the sale facts are confirmed, Snoop Dogg should see a payment for the sale of the brewing company.

American Federation of Musicians v. Hollywood This legal issue began by a complaint being filed on behalf of the AFM to six major Hollywood studios including Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney, and Warner Brothers on May 26, 2015.  The complaint sites a breach of contract where the AFM and the six major studios signed an agreement in 2010 to license and protect the soundtracks placed and used within films. “The period covered by the 2010 Agreement ranged from April 14, 2010 through April 4, 2015. Under its terms, and all previous such agreements since 1960, the film producers agreed ‘all music sound track already recorded, or which will be recorded prior to the expiration of this Agreement, will not be used at any time for any purpose whatsoever except to accompany the picture for which the music sound track was originally prepared’” (Prins 2015).  Since then, AFM has identified that all six studios have breached the contract by re-using certain music within other films, normally originally used with other films that previous licensing was cleared.  The issue isn’t large, and usually contains just seconds of music, but this still violates the original agreement with the AFM and the six major studios.  This can have a huge effect on films in the future, and by my opinion will open the door for use of smaller independent artists for music that enjoys exposure over monetary compensation.

References Guardian Music. (2015, June 9). Snoop Dogg Lawsuit Aims to Take a Bite Out of Pabst Brewing Co’s $700m Sale. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Knopper, S. (2015, March 12). “Blurred Lines” Lawsuit: 5 Major Music Industry Implications. Retrieved November 26, 2015, from

Musicians Take On The Big Six Hollywood Studios For Breach Of Agreement. (2015, May 29). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

Negotiations: Different Views and Tactics

As independent artists we sometimes have pivotal career moments that require us to be bold in our business skills.  Often times this comes in the form of negotiation and the ability to discern ways to leverage our abilities for professional gain.  I’ve compiled a few great videos to help with the topic a bit more.  Enjoy! Negotiation Fundamentals – Lisa Gates In this video, Lisa Gates gives a walkthrough of the foundational elements of an effective negotiation.  She does a great job of outlining the preparation of the negotiation and the negotiation itself.  Gates also gives positive understanding to negotiation itself by referring to it as mutual benefit negotiation.  Obvious preparation should happen, but the first step of the actual negotiation should be to establish a connection, which can be as simple as small talk.  Getting the conversation started by talking about things that the bargaining partner enjoys or is excited about.  Next it’s best to practice active listening which means paraphrasing what you hear and asking diagnostic questions.  This can expand the resolutions that you and your bargaining partner can have.  And finally, framing your request or your expectations for the outcome of the negotiation.  Gates also examines the use of anchoring which is the tactic of creating a reference point around which a negotiation will revolve.  Overall, Gates does a fine job of explaining a clear and concise approach to effective mutual benefit negotiation.

Strategic Negotiation – Mike Figliuolo Mike Figliuolo gives great insight to strategic negotiation techniques.  His video through is broken down into four areas of focus for a strategic negotiation.  He starts by explaining out to assess the situation. This includes trying to understand what type of negotiating you would like to engage in as well as considering the emotions and relationships that you are involving in the discussion.  Even though it is not specifically positioned as BATNA, this is part of the negotiation preparation that Figliuolo walks through.  BATNA is also touched on in the second section of his video which is gathering data.  This is rooted in understanding the deal structure and each player and position.  Then Figliuolo talks about making the deal and measuring and adjusting what has happened with the negotiation.  But the main aspect of his video is to be prepared with what type of negotiator and techniques you would like to use for the specific negotiation.

Managing Conflict – Fred Kofman Fred Kofman outlines a wonderful way to manage conflict, especially in the context of a discussion and negotiation. He speaks about understanding one another and then negotiating and making a commitment.  One of the ways that Kofman expands on conflict management is the act of listening in a disarming way.  This is a great way to handle dirty tricks and tactics during a negotiation.  When someone wants to start throwing insults it’s a good idea to make them feel heard and understood.  With this technique, you can create a common ground that both parties are able to work from and understand.

The Best Way to Finance Your Career

One of the hardest aspects of an artist’s career is sound oversight regarding their financial decisions.  The DIY artist has so many things to worry about when it comes to their career, it is hard to stack on top of that, the saving and correct use of money.  All too often we heard of artists mishandling their money and making decisions that ultimately are to the detriment of the artist’s career.  I’ve had the opportunity to watch a few videos that have given great insight to this area of expertise. First, as I blogged before, Amanda Palmer gave a TED talk not too long ago, and it dealt with the artist who shouldn’t be ashamed to ask the fans for their help.  It doesn’t always have to be money, but if you aren’t bringing in money, as long as it takes the place of another need you have, it is just as good as money!  Please refer to my earlier blog post, and take the time to watch the video below.

Second, I recently watched a video from Artists House Music on the topic of starting and financing a record label.  The man in the video, Syd Butler is the founder of French Kiss Records and he speaks towards the many different types of financing he’s sought as an independent label.  Although it was filmed at a time when the bigger things that an artist could do were tour and sell merch, it still has at the heart of it, the idea is that the artist should be shouldering a large amount of the work and the label should be the distribution machine.  Today, the playing field is leveled for independent artists when it comes to distribution, because digital distribution has taken over as the mainstream medium, and anyone has access to CD Baby, Tunecore, or Ditto to offer worldwide digital distribution.  You can watch the video below, but the best thing to take from this is the hard work ethic that is needed for a musician, touring or not.

As an independent artist with a DIY attitude it is always important to implement a strong financial foundation, which starts with how you approach managing your career as a whole.  If you can be responsible for your marketing and personal brand these days with social media and internet technology, it seems that half of the battle is over with the management of your career.  However, if you can be smart to organize for financial statements, use basic budgeting software and track your spending, you will find that you become smarter with purchases and save enough money to finance touring or recording, therefore making your career marketable to bigger labels.  This doesn’t have to be your end game, just as Amanda Palmer suggests, but it can put you into a position to control your future, not let chance take the driver’s seat.  Be smart, make smart decisions, and be in control.