Friday, July 30, 2010

Creative Commons

There has been a stink made recently by ASCAP regarding Creative Commons licensing. I have to tell you that I am an ASCAP member. I get my 6 statements a year from them (4 domestic and 2 foreign distribution checks,) look at the all the numbers, shares and percentages, my eyes roll back in my head and then I move on. Whatever the amount is on the check I must simply accept it for what it is. There is absolutely no way of knowing if the check is the correct amount or not. I do understand that ASCAP takes 12.5% of what they collect for you but really you just get the check and put it in the bank.

What ASCAP said is this: “At this moment, we are facing our biggest challenge ever. Many forces including Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation and technology companies with deep pockets are mobilizing to promote “Copyleft” in order to undermine our “Copyright.” They say they are advocates of consumer rights, but the truth in these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music. Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.”

Again, I am an ASCAP member but let's face facts here. Did ASCAP not get the memo that tons of music has already been "free" on the internet for well over a decade? I am not advocating piracy so jump off that train but what I do advocate is an artist having the right to release music in anyway they see fit. Let's look at what Creative Commons really is.

Traditionally, copyrights are "All Rights Reserved." Under a Creative Commons license you simply have "Some Rights Reserved." Creative Commons has created six different copyright cocktails if you will with 4 basic ingredients. The "core right" in all works under a Creative Commons license is  the right of redistribution for non-commercial purposes. What does that mean to you? If you have music that you want to give away for free but you want to retain commercial rights, your fans can download and share your music without looking over their shoulder for the RIAA. You still retain commercial rights for radio, streaming, film and TV etc..Creative Commons has various levels and degrees of "Some Rights Reserved" including giving your fans the ability to remix your songs and create derivatives of your work as long as you get credit for the original work and the remixes and derivatives then must carry the same type license. Very cool stuff for your fans.

I can't and won't tell you how to approach this but will give my opinion that it is something you should look into. Only you have the right to dictate how your work is consumed. That is as long as your rights are not fractured with a record company or a publisher.Now that is a different blog.

Check out the Creative Commons website here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Vortex

A vortex is defined as:
1. A spiral motion of fluid within a limited area, especially a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it toward its center.
This is how I look at what we bands need to become in the current music business paradigm. With this said, the most important part of what you do, the center if you will, is your music. You can have the greatest looking website, make the most clever videos, be active in social media, have everything in place and do all the right things but why will anyone want to pay attention if they get to your center and you are just not that good. With that established over and over again let's look at this through web presence. 
The Center: Your Website. This is the place you have the most control of what you do and how you present it to the world. This is where all web content and social media roads must lead back to. This is where you want to build and centralize your fan community. I have been in conversations with fan/friends and heard them tell me how they miss the old Gravity Kills message board. It was a place where fans talked about the band and possibly more importantly, became real friends with others that went there. I have 2 fans that became friends to me that actually met on our message board and got married. They are still married and have a family together. Do you think that this couple will ever discount what my band meant to them in the grand scope of their life? I think not. What does this have to do with music? Gravity Kills will forever be part of this couple's life. The community gave these two people a place to start building a relationship with each other simply based on liking the music of the same band. People want to have things in common. You see this daily on your facebook. Create it with your website. 
We can list the other places you know your band has to be i.e. Myspace (yes, you still need to be there,) Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr , Flickr, Youtube, Reverbnation, Band Camp, etc., etc., etc. (in my Yul Brynner, The King and I voice.) These places are respectively the limited space of water or air surrounding your vortex. For social media, 6 years ago Myspace was THE place to be. Then came Facebook. You upload video to Youtube, upload photos to Flickr and on and on. THESE SITES WILL COME AND GO. What will happen to Facebook when the all mighty Google finally figures out how to create a social media platform that blows up Facebook? If that is where all of your social media cards are, your direct line of communication to your fans will die with it. You need to find creative ways to get all of your social media fans back to the center of your vortex as much as possible.
Here is another way of looking at this topic.
Your hometown shows should be the center of your live vortex. This is the place where you can make the most touches with fans and prospective fans. In this case, think of your vortex breathing in fans as well as exhaling your band to other markets. Make your vortex grow one market at a time. The markets should be a reasonable drive from one another. Make it where fans from one market to the next can actually come see you in multiple markets. If you live in the Northwest part of the U.S. you are somewhat fucked. If you live in Providence, Rhode Island well then, you have it made regarding this. You want to create a situation in which the ripple of the initial splash you make in your home market will carry you out. The further you get away from the splash or the center of your vortex, the harder it will be for you to gain attention. If you can make a splash in one market, the ripple can carry you to a second market where that splash can carry you to the next and so on and so on.
Everything you do regarding your music and live shows should always suck people back into your vortex. If you suck enough people in, you might have a shot at really making a long lasting ripple.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

That's Just Life

I think the hardest thing for the indie musician is simply enduring. As a full time musician with Gravity Kills, I had personal times that were tough but as the band got bigger, it was my job to be at the studio and to be creative. People have asked me what I miss the most about my personal experience in Gravity Kills and I tell them that I miss having the opportunity to be creative and think about music 24 hours a day. Even when times were tough, since it was my job to be creative, I could find solace at the studio and focus. Focusing on music became an escape for me because I had the energy and more than that, the time to focus. As many of you out there, I have to deal with life differently now. I get up in the morning and go to my office and put my agent hat on. I do love what I do but it is not my end all be all passion. You can relate I am sure. I work all day, come home, deal with other things and then attempt to sit down and focus on creating new Gravity material. Some nights are good and some are not so good. The difference for me now is that I need to be extremely focused in shorter amounts of time. Life is not great for me at the moment and that magnifies both my need for music as well as eating an enormous amount of emotional energy that consumes even more of my time. I have had brief moment of brilliance lately but simply want more time. Like anything else that you do, the more you can expose yourself to being creative in a place where you can be constructively creative, the better your results will be. I will endure, just give me time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our Digital Space

I was having dinner with some people from the Oklahoma Film and Music office last week. We got to talking about the comparisons and contrasts between what the internet has done to both the film industry and the music industry. When talking about the internet, it seems one must acknowledge the distinction between the social media phenomenon and the internet as a whole. The person I was talking to made the comment that social media has created what she called her "digital space." She went on to say that as the internet makes it easier to connect and to get information more easily and virtually instantaneously, social media has actually created an insulation for her to all of the things that she does not want to pay attention to. Elaborating more she stated that on facebook she has many friends that she has reconnected to, but only in a way to see a long lost friend's picture of a child or a one time message of "What are you doing these days?" This conversation made it clear to me that the work cut out for a new and virtually unknown band is more daunting than ever. When thinking about facebook in particular, it seems that it is set up entirely to create an insulated personal digital space. Bands can have pages but can't message their fans directly from the profile. Myspace has it set up where a person can block bands from sending friend requests. I get that both are trying to eliminate spam but it certainly makes it much more difficult for a band to go find new fans.

In the old days (all of 15 years ago) you had to be more engaged with mass culture. Part of this was because we had no choice. We found new music on MTV, radio, by reading magazines such as Alternative Press, Paste, even Rolling Stone and Spin. Through music we had common threads between people of all socio-economic backgrounds. Music and Film united us with those we may never ever have anything else in common with. Personal digital space has somewhat eliminated all of that with the exception of celebrity culture. Is all of this happening because with all the information on the internet, we actually now have less time for discovery? Less time to read or listen to something new? Less time to search out new music? Is our personal digital space nothing more than a backlash to the information revolution?

This is why I keep spouting off about creating musical communities with bands. YOU CAN'T DO THIS ALONE. As prospective fans are shrinking into their own digital space, the more bands you have in a community to wake people up with, the more chance you have to pull them into your digital space.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The current economy has really hit the concert and festival business. Not that this is big news to anyone but it is especially weird today considering that tonight I would normally be going to the DFEST VIP party to kick off two days of conferences and live music. Due to the down economy, DFEST founders Tom and Angie Green had to pull the plug on arguably the best thing that had happened to the Oklahoma music scene ever. In the last couple of years the event had come into it's own as a premier music event. Interestingly Tom and Angie took enormous heat publicly for canceling the event.What these haters didn't know was that the Green's had never made any money from putting on the event and on several occasions had been in near personal financial ruin from hosting it.  DFEST was (and hopefully will be in the future) a physical manifestation of what I preach on this blog about the creation of community. They created an epicenter, a place where musicians and industry professionals could come together with common goals and focus on the indie musician and how it pertained to a sustained success. I can only hope a year from now that I am writing about getting ready to go to the event and not about how I will miss it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Fishbowl

I talk to so many bands and artist that seem to think that if they move to New York City, Los Angeles, or Nashville that they will suddenly find the success that was lacking in their home market. I have said this in a previous post but, why the hell does anyone think they are going to set the world on fire in another market when people don't care in their home market? All you are doing is putting yourself in a larger fishbowl where there are fewer gigs because of competition and lesser chance of you gaining traction simply because of the increased numbers of bands that are trying to do the same thing that you are doing. There was a country band that I was booking in in the region (I am in Oklahoma now so that makes some sense) who's singer was really something special. I really mean special. She possessed all the ingredients that it took to really make a go of it and make a career out of it. At their regional gigs, label folks and management types started flying in for shows. You could really feel that an extraordinary situation was brewing. Then one day I get a call and the girl had decided to move to Nashville. I didn't try to talk her out of it because I knew she felt that this was the best move for her and who am I to throw water on the situation. One of the management types had leaned on her to give it all up for a chance at the big time. This girl was not a songwriter but when she got to Nashville she was hooked up with songwriters and advised not to perform live sparingly. The irony here is that the stage was home for her. It was the place that she made a difference and turned heads. The stage was her place of connection to her art and to those who followed her. I will admit that she gave it hell why she was there and did everything she could to make it happen. Unfortunately, nothing ever did. This girl is still living in Nashville but is thinking about moving back to Wichita to join another band.

The thing about Nashville that the Nashville country music industry elite don't want you to know is that yes, it is the country music capital of the world BUT, it is not the country music capital considering the amount of actual country music fans that live there. One interesting statistic I use to back this claim up is...Can you guess what format the number one radio station in Nashville is? NOPE, it is not a country music station. Can you guess what format the number two radio station in Nashville is? NOPE, it is not a country music station. Can you guess what format the number three radio station in Nashville is? NOPE, it is not a country music station. Now, can you guess what format the number four station in Nashville is? NOPE, still not a country music station. According to Arbitron, the top rated country music radio station in Nashville is the fifth highest rated station in the market. Most people who don't live in Nashville have the misconception that the entire city is engulfed by the country music culture and the entire population of the city are all walking around with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban t-shirts on.

I bet you are now wondering "Jeff, since this girl was trying to build a country music fan base in Wichita, what format is the number one radio station in Wichita?" Again, according to Arbitron, I bet you can guess what the number one station is. You are correct, IT IS A COUNTRY MUSIC STATION. In a city that is one third the size of Nashville, there is proportionally a much larger number of people that would be into what she was doing where she was living BEFORE she moved to Music City (cough, cough.)

So in essence what this girl did is not move to a larger fishbowl, she moved to a fishbowl that was slightly larger with way more fucking fish in it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gig Photos

Band after band puts up performance photos and videos on myspace, facebook, youtube etc.. This is great for those who did not make it to the gig. What about taking photos or video of the band with the people that came to the gig? These are the things that will most engage your fans. Your fans want to see themselves in photos as much as you do plus when you post these type of photos you will be assured that your fans will go to your pages and check them out. They will probably link to them or comment on them where others can find it and in the end drive more people to your media pages. This will show your fans that you actually care that they were at the gig and you know what might happen then? Your fans will really start caring about you and your success.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An Easy Way To Get Your Website Up

Many of you out there don't have a website to centralize your digital efforts from. I know that Myspace and Facebook are free but hopefully from our discussions here, you are starting to understand the importance of having your own website. Take a look at the following video and you might be able to do this without any help. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Story of What Not To Do

I was talking to a club owner today and he was in the middle of canceling a some dates of a band that had been doing very well for him. I asked him why and he told me that the band had told their fans not to drink as much when they come out and see them. I understand wanting your fans to party responsibly but WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU DO THAT? I am not being an asshole here but when broken down to the lowest common denominator, live music is a vehicle for clubs to drive revenue. Do you really think that clubs can make enough money on 15 to 20% of what they make off the door to be profitable and keep the doors open? I will tell you what I tell every band out there. IF THE CLUB OR BUYER LOSES MONEY ON A SHOW, EVERYONE LOSES! What I mean by this is that every night a club loses money on a show, it erodes the confidence that the club has in live music. It shrinks the chance of a club taking a chance on a new act that the club may want to book but is afraid of booking because they might lose money. I am not telling you bands out there not to get as much money for a show as you can. I am telling you to look at your relationship with a club as one of a partnership. Another thing I tell bands is, with all things being equal, the band with the lower money deal will always get the gig. Exercise fiduciary responsibility with your clubs and you will have gigs. Bleed them and not have the big picture in mind and nobody will get the gig...except for the local DJ.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Digital Strategy Part Deux

Thinking about digital strategy makes most musicians want to go to the nearest corner of the room and curl up in the fetal position. We can really break this down into 3 parts which are gaining attention, connecting and monetization.

Part 1: Gaining attention.

First and foremost, as a band you must be good. I am not talking about how your buddies that come to rehearsal and tell you how much you rock and drink your beer. I am talking about doing something that can cut through the clutter. Let's face it. As we have talked about before. The supply side of music has been flooded with more shit that you can possibly sift through. Music is everywhere and is cheap or in most cases, free. Your music is the foundation for everything. With that said, the first place to start in marketing your band in the internet world is your website. I know everyone is saying, "Jeff, Gravity Kills doesn't even have a website so you are full of shit." At the moment we don't but those of you who have been with the band for a long time know that our website was the hub and piazza for our fans. Some bands simply put up their Myspace page and call it a day. Well, we know what happened here, fans moved away from Myspace. Some fans will still follow you there. Some fans will follow you on Facebook. Some will follow on Twitter. Others will check the band out on Youtube and check your photos out on Flickr. My point here is that you must create a presence everywhere but centralize your community. When you are on facebook, myspace, twitter, your blog, etc., make an effort to send people back to your site. DON'T FUCKING ASK THEM TO BUY STUFF AND COME TO YOUR SHOWS. That leads us to the second part...

Part 2: Connecting:

Here is where the time and the real investment from the artist or the band takes place. I pity the bands that only send me bulletins, emails or post on facebook and twitter about where to get their music or begging me to come to a show. There are so many levels of engagement but since we are talking about this in the context of a digital environment, I will keep it there. Because there are a million bands out there simply screaming at people and asking them for money, you can't be one of these bands. If you are in a bar and meet a hot girl, you don't want to ask her to come home and sleep with you right then if you want to have something more than a one night stand with her (not that one night stands with hot girls are bad but you get my point.) The same applies to fans. They want to know you. They want to see that you are willing to invest your time, your soul, your emotions in building a relationship with them.You need to let them into your process. You need to give them a look behind the curtain. If you are creating music that is real and that is honest, you won't need mystique.People want to connect to what they believe in and they respond to honesty. People say on the internet you can be whoever you want to be. Well, this does not apply to bands or artists. Take the time to show them what is behind the music. The more you give a person to connect to, the more likely they are to connect. With social media please remember that is essential you use it to bring people to where? That's right, your website. Now, what happens when you start really connecting to fans?

Part 3 Monetization: (I am imagining the voiceover from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life)

Imagine a place where fans actually come to you and ask when they can buy the next download, CD, when you are playing next etc.? Fans will give you their money if they believe in you. Price is usually not an objection that hardcore fans ever have for purchasing music of a band they love. They will talk about you with others and be your evangelist for their world. Can you imagine that place? Are you good enough and honest enough as an artist for this to happen to you?

I am looking at the broad picture here. We can break all the social media sites down if you all would like?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Formulating a Digital Strategy

In previous post I have talked about having a plan. Make your plan with one thing in mind, YOUR PLAN WILL PROBABLY HAVE TO CHANGE. As technology advances at a more than rapid pace, we all need to be students of what is happened to the business and ponder the possibilities of where it is going. The compact disk as a format has had a pretty good run (nearly 30 years) when compared to the 8 track tape and the cassette. The mp3 has had a run of over 12 years and now many of you don't even own music at all. Services like Pandora, Slacker and other streaming services now satisfy the appetite of millions of music consumers. Where does this leave all of us as far as marketing our music in a way that will actually put any money in the artists pockets? I hear and read complaints from musicians and artists about how keeping up with all of this and maintaining a social media presence eats an enormous amount of time and energy that many feel would be best spent writing and recording music or perfecting their chops on their instruments of choice or honing their production chops. My answer to that is of course, STOP YOUR WHINING! You can't have your cake and eat it too. What I mean is that the internet has eliminated the barriers of entry into the digital music market and gatekeepers such as record labels and terrestrial radio are losing market share daily to indie types like yourselves. If you make great music and can deliver your music in as many places as possible, you don't need the gatekeepers anymore. I am not saying that a record deal is never the answer and that radio can't help you, simply that there are so many outlets for your music now and great music can be heard by millions of people without all of that. The point here is that you really must define what your goals are and question why you are doing what you are doing. If you are on twitter simply to yell at people about your shows or to buy your music, that strategy will fail. Be honest about expectations. Centralize your efforts. Create continuity. The digital world for a band is more about community than marketing. Use every means necessary to not only get your music out but to listen to your fans about what makes them listen, buy music or come to your show. To sum this up, think about where you need to be, why you are there and what your goal and expectations are. Sounds simple. Is it?

Monday, July 5, 2010


That is what has happened to this business. That is why people have stopped buying music in large numbers and why the concert business has gone down the tubes. People have lost trust in artists, record companies, terrestrial radio, magazines and the concert business. Major artists have been caught scalping their own tickets. Record companies are suing their customers over file sharing and attempting to shove music we perceive as being formulated down our throats. Terrestrial radio has become homogenized, predictable and in many cases, is being programmed from a city that you are not in and does not understand you. Music magazine outlets (both print and on-line) have either played it safe or bash good artist for the attempt at credibility. The concert business is over run with huge on-line fees, overpriced tickets, and has conditioned the public to either stay home or purchase late with 2 for 1 or reduced ticket fee shows. There are many of you out there that cry out for something to believe in. That thirst for music that is honest and speaks to you. If you are an artist, songwriter, etc., it is time for you to start listening to what your fans want. Do you listen to your fans? Do you have an honest relationship with your fans? How will you build trust with your fans? The old way doesn't work anymore. Hiding behind the curtain doesn't work anymore. Expose yourself emotionally to those who will listen. Intimacy is a need that needs to be incorporated between you and your audience at every level. If you want to make music for yourself that is fine. If you don't want to expose yourself emotionally to others, well that is completely up to you. If you want others to listen and ultimately support what you do monetarily, then you must give yourself to others. Just like in other parts of your life, trust has to be earned. How bad do you want to earn it is completely up to you.