A few weeks ago I was approached by Stereotribes to ask me if I would be interested in contributing a guest piece on their website. I was of course delighted to be invited to do so but at this time of year I am so busy that I can barely keep my head above water.
I spend virtually every weekend at music festivals, both large and small, from May until the end of September. I would love to review every band I see and every album that comes my way. In addition to my own site I write for three others and the volume of work at this time of year is almost impossible to keep up with. So why then, did I agree to write this piece for Stereotribes? Well it isn’t for the money! I am not being paid for the article and I have had no previous connection whatever with Stereotribes. Put simply I agreed because I believe that Stereotribes is offering musicians a really valuable service.
“We see an explosion of open mic nights; festivals that do not pay performers and venues who expect musicians to play for free.”
Over the past couple of years I have seen crowdfunding efforts for a wide range of projects. I have seen (and supported) a band funding a new van after theirs blew up at the beginning of a European tour. We have all seen crowdfunding appeals attempting to fund medical procedures abroad and I have even seen an appeal to cover funeral costs but I only want to talk about crowdfunding for music projects.
In the past couple of years I have spent a huge amount of time with musicians and the one thing that everyone seems to agree about is that the music industry is broken. We see an explosion of open mic nights; festivals that do not pay performers and venues who expect musicians to play for free. In recent weeks I have seen bands who have resorted to giving away copies of their albums after performances, presumably because they have not been able to sell them and they hope that those who listen will develop a sense of “brand loyalty” to the band.
In recent years social media has become ingrained in every part of our lives we all spend a huge amount of time with our faces glued to a computer, tablet or Smartphone. Technology isn’t going away and the growth of technology in the music industry means that selling music in the traditional way is much more difficult than in the past. The growth of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music means that my son’s generation have no interest in buying CD’s. He streams 99% of his music and buys CD’s, only of his favourite bands, when he has a chance of getting them signed by the band.
We have a world of music at our fingertips and all at a monthly cost that is less than the cost of a CD. Record companies sign fewer bands, and those they do sign get less promotion than ever. The sheer volume of music available at the press of a button means that it is almost impossible to see the woods for the trees. So how on earth do musicians make a living from their art?
Sadly it is difficult and if you have read this far hoping for a revelation that will have the record companies beating a path to your door you are going to be disappointed. You may have heard this before but hard work alone is not enough, you also have to work smarter.
“In a world dominated by social media you need to be connecting with people personally and through social media as well as through your music.”
To illustrate this I will tell you a little story about two artists I know very well who played on the same stage at a festival a couple of hours apart last month. One artist was heading off to his best mates wedding shortly after his set. The other was staying at the festival all weekend. Both went down really well with a large crowd. The first artist, despite his commitment spent time after his set talking to people and selling CD’s, T-shirts etc. The second went for a beer with his mates, no CD’s to sell, no merchandise either. Which one is having the greater success?
In a world dominated by social media you need to be connecting with people personally and through social media as well as through your music. Social media can be massively beneficial to your career. I can’t tell you how many artists have sent me stuff for review without so much as a band bio included with the album or download. When you try to find information there is no website and the Facebook page doesn’t include even basic information on the band, its members or even who to contact if you want to book them for a gig. This is nothing less than professional suicide.
If you use social media you must be active. Create a YouTube channel, put some of your music on it and use your social media accounts and website to expose people to your music. If you are using Twitter and Instagram then post pictures and videos. All research shows that these posts get many more clicks than posts with just links. Use your friends and family to help you to establish a strong social media presence and then keep it up to date. You need to keep your content current and engage your audience.
As a photographer I am a strong believer that you should use great images to promote yourself. You don’t have to pay David Bailey 1000’s for a photo shoot but you do need good shots. A lot of professional photographers will do a shoot and supply a reasonable number of great images for a pretty modest fee. If you can’t afford that then most of us know a talented friend who might do it for free. Don’t use bad images. It hurts your brand. Your art has value; good images reinforce that and portray you as a professional.
So where does crowdfunding come in to all of this? Well in my opinion after you have done all of the above first. I am a huge fan of crowdfunding but if you think that you can roll up to a crowdfunding site post an appeal and expect the pledges to roll in you are a fool. If you are to be successful with a crowdfunding appeal then you need to be properly prepared before you start.
I have seen many crowdfunding appeals fail to meet their target and as a result everyone has wasted their time. So what makes for a good and successful appeal? If you already have a fan base and an engaged community interested in your work then you are already halfway to succeeding. However, musicians are creative people so be creative.
The recent release The Defiant by The Men They Couldn’t Hang was one of the most creative I have ever seen. They offered one off experiences to fans ranging from singing backing vocals on the album to going out for a beer and a curry with the band after a gig. Needless to say the appeal was massively oversubscribed. Incidentally Phil “Swill” Odgers told me in interview that he would recommend crowdfunding to everyone. He found it a massively successful and rewarding experience. Funke and The 2Tone Baby crowdfunded his latest release “Balance” in less than nine hours!
These artists are probably at opposite ends of their careers but what they share is that they have an established and loyal group of fans who are willing to pay for their album in advance. They have a connection with people and as a result people believe in them. When you have this people are willing to spend more because they want to support you.
“It is my belief that by offering a platform specifically for musicians Stereotribes can fill a glaring gap in the market.”
I also believe that choosing the right platform is essential and this is where Stereotribes can really help when it launches next month.
This is a platform designed by musicians for musicians.
Stereotribes understand the music industry and the particular challenges that exist in the sector. They are starting out to support musicians and to help them build the “brand loyalty” that comes from being part of a tribe. They can even help you out with ideas as to the rewards you might consider offering your supporters.
With some crowdfunding platforms it is all too easy for your appeal to get lost in the crowd. It is my belief that by offering a platform specifically for musicians Stereotribes can fill a glaring gap in the market. It may sound over simplified and perhaps obvious, but your success is essential to their success, it is for that reason I think that Stereotribes can help you to achieve your career goals.
Alan Ewart owns and runs his own site at Soundofsummer.org and is a regular contributor at a number of other music sites. You can follow him on Twitter as @soundofmysummer.