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music BUSINESS Success Stories

Music LawFree Music

Cash will buy you a comfy bed, but it definitely won't keep you warm at night, whereas a great tune will not only toast your tootsies, it will set your soul free and give you a reason to live.

RIP 2014 Joe Cocker's Grease Band guitarist Henry McCullough 2016


You have to fight robots to see Beyoncé (Michael Rapino, CEO, Live Nation)
This is the music business education you're yearning for.
Challenges and opportunities for live music and events in 2016.

We're leaving eight billion dollars on the table!

We are more like a travel company than a record label. Upsell the VIP package: enhance your experience. Super serve 73 million fans.

There you have America in a nutshell...a land overloaded with information where everyone complains and points to inaccurate facts. Within said podcast Rapino delineates Live Nation's complete business model, tells more about the company's vision than you can get by reading a lifetime of Ben Sisario articles or "Rolling Stone" pieces. He says concerts have changed dramatically in the past 10 years, becoming spectacles rather than just vehicles to sell records. Rapino also delves into why consumers hate Live Nation subsidiary Ticketmaster and how the company has tried to fight overseas bots that buy and scalp most tickets sold online.

Go your own way, and the establishment has to follow you, because of your audience. Once you've got an audience, you can go anywhere.


Bob Lefsetz: Music Moguls "... a businessman puts the money first, and will do whatever it takes to not only generate revenue, but put as much as possible into his own pocket. It also makes me realize I've been a victim of the press, of the penumbra, I'm an end consumer, whereas to know what's really going on you have to go to the heart of the matter. Every successful artist needs a manager. Every artist needs a manager to be successful. A manager is a freewheeling character who believes rules are made to be broken, who sees the world as an opportunity, who is not fearful of standing up to anybody." That's the story of the modern music business. Not the acts eaten up by the public, they're just the product, like Barbie or the Pet Rock. Rather it's the people who foist them upon the world, who convince people to open their wallets, who are the engine of success. You can go to music business college, you can read Don Passman's book, you can be a student of the game yet still be unsuccessful. Because it's not about what you know but who you are.
Music Moguls: Masters of Pop - Money Makers - BBC Documentary 2016


6/21/15 Example: Kudos to Taylor Swift. And applause for Apple. Because admitting when you're wrong is nearly as important as being right.

@cue: Apple will always make sure that artist are paid #iTunes #AppleMusic
@cue: #AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer's free trial period
@cue: We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple

There's plenty of money in music, Taylor Swift is making millions on the road, never mind her endorsement deals. And it's the tunes that are greasing the skids. The tour used to be the ad for the album, now it's vice versa.
The truth is Taylor Swift just demonstrated the power of audience. An indie artist selling out clubs could say the same thing and have no effect. And the way Taylor Swift garnered that audience was through music. Her original tunes, sung straight from the heart, such that she bonded millions of people to her, who believe in her the way they believe in nobody else, take that Apple. That's the power of music. That's the way it used to be done. That's why we revere the sixties. That's why the Grateful Dead can sell out stadiums fifty years on. Or to quote the bard of the Hollywood Hills, "we haven't had that spirit here since 1969."
People will forget Apple didn't want to pay, but they'll always remember Taylor Swift standing up to the company. Apple nipped the problem in the bud, the longer you let the negativity fester, the longer the stink holds. But the truth is efforts like Taylor Swift's are career-defining moments of credibility that are trumpeted for eons, they're what cements artists' careers. It's not only hits, it's identity. Records come and go, people remain. If you stand for something, you're the hook that catches the velcro loop, and we're all loops waiting to be caught.

It comes down to music, and performance.
No stage set, no dancing, no shenanigans are necessary if you've got the material to entrance your audience and make them close their eyes and sing along.

KEY: We want to belong. The amount of money made by selling recordings is bupkes compared to the money to be made on the road.


Selling Experiences


That it's not about the end result, the album, so much as the ongoing relationship you get to have with your favorites. They pay for that. Everyone wants private updates from people whose music changed their life.


The Key to success always was and still is a good manager. Now it's all about the single and the mobile phone. Record reviews are irrelevent. Music is cheap and everyone has more than they want or ever listen to. People don't want your free music cause they already have their youtube and p2p favs on their computer.

The number one piece of advice for you in your musical career is to stay in school. You want to plan for the future. And if you're going to college to get a career, I pity you. Everything you learn will become outdated. Broaden your horizons. Learn about the philosophers, learn how to think, and if you then want a career go to graduate school. As for the "New York Times" writing about everybody dropping out of college to go into tech... First and foremost, those kids drop out of the Ivies... Second, few succeed.

It's a whole new world out there. Driven by data and technology. Andrew Dreskin of Ticketfly spoke after Boyle. He's all about social ticketing. The data is mindblowing. Just like Nate Silver revolutionized polling, geeks are gonna revolutionize ticketing. Dreskin knows where you bought the ticket, how you found out about the gig, Ticketfly is overflowing with data which you can use to sell more tickets. Market the band's essence via video, sell it like a movie with a trailer. Let the fans do the work. They want to go they want their friends to go. Make the audience part of the event.



What is a parent to do with a 18 year old who wants a Music Degree from College?

From The Lefsetz Letter 8.06.12

Question: As the mother of an 18 year would-be rock star, I was thrilled (until 5 minutes ago) that my son (who had previously expressed interest in blowing off college to “work on his music”) is heading off to be a freshman in the music conservatory at Purchase College next week. I'm worried that you wouldn't include studying Studio Composition in your advice of “So stay in college. Earn a professional degree”. And since I think so highly of you, I decided to do what I've never done until now which is to bother you with an email. What IS your opinion on Bachelor of Music degrees? Useless or useful?

Many thanks,
Alice Tamkin

Reply From: Bob Lefsetz
Subject: Re: Reality

1. If he actually learns to read, write/compose, he's ahead of the game.

2. If he wants to be a rock star, give up. But only he'll learn this. A few do make it… I don't know your kid, but if he's talented, self-confident, perseveres and can work every angle, leave him alone in the dark and he'll find his way home, he's got a chance…otherwise he'll just be disillusioned.

3. Life is long. I'd go to a traditional college and one always has time to go broke playing music.

4. As for music education being a way to make money…at least he's studying something real, as opposed to marketing, but it's very tough out there.

It is not my job to give you hope. I am not a website or an app promising you success if you just pay me a few bucks (hopefully every month!) The entertainment business is littered with scoundrels trying to make a profit off your hopes and dreams. I am not one of them. And I know you hate me for it. At least those not giving kudos.

I saw that movie “Milk,” wherein Harvey's political opponent said he wasn't worried about Harvey beating him, because Harvey didn't give people the one thing they needed, HOPE!

I am not running for office.

What do I know?

There will be entertainment in the future. There will be musicians, visual artists and dancers. But despite more people participating, looking for our attention, ever fewer gain mass appeal.

And it's all right if you're plying the niches. As long as you don't harbor a fantasy of crossing over, as long as you're happy.

And if you're happy playing in your bedroom and never selling a thing, that's fine with me too.

But my inbox is inundated with acts with websites and videos and iTunes downloads hungry for attention and a helping hand to make it. I ask you to align your dreams with your effort. Being successful is more than talent, more than practice, it's first and foremost a personality issue. Can you befriend people and have them work to your advantage? Madonna excelled at this! Not that you have to be manipulative and dishonest, but it helps!

As for help… If you read me and get a few tips, that's great. But success comes down to you. And in the arts, it's extremely elusive.

I'd love to have you prove me wrong! I'd love to have something I say sucked ultimately triumph in a new incarnation down the road.

But this hasn't happened yet. Because it's easier to look in the mirror and perform affirmations, saying you're good enough and deserve success, and quite another to actually achieve it.

-----public comments--------

My name is Ed Toth. I play the drums for the Doobie Brothers. I went to the University of Miami graduating with a Bachelor of Music in 1994. Does this matter? Ultimately I think it does. The ultimate question to your son is....what does he want to do? For me it was always about playing music for a living. PERIOD!!!! Nothing less would be tolerated.
I started young and began putting in my 10,000 hours. Upon graduating high school I realized there was no way I was going to college because my family couldn't afford it. So I stuck around southeastern Connecticut (where I was born and raised) and worked various jobs (record store, hospital janitor, marine supply warehouse) so I could play at night in a cover band. We played a lot. It became part of my 10,000 hours. In 1990 with really no money saved, I applied to a few schools to see if I could get in. I got in the one I wanted to get into. The University Of Miami. Realizing I could apply for financial aid as an independent, (I was 20 years old at this point) I locked down enough to pay for one semester. I landed in Miami on my 21st birthday with a suitcase full of clothes, a suitcase full of "stuff", and only 100 bucks in my pocket. I didn't even bring drums (!) and I was going to music school! The pattern of finding loans and grants (and waiting tables) continued one semester at a time, until I managed (with a hefty loan bill) to graduate in 94.
In 1996, I had moved to Boston and was working for Borders Books and Music, playing music here and there but ultimately being frustrated. I ended up at a gig by small time independent band called Vertical Horizon and while I was there I ran into a cat named Jason Sutter who I knew from my Miami days. He told me that VH was looking for a drummer. I auditioned and got the gig. We went on to tour the country, sign to a major, record a multi platinum album called Everything You Want, and had a #1 hit with the title track. We did award shows, countless interviews, endless touring, made videos and even squeezed out a really good follow up before being dumped by our incredibly confused label. Did I enjoy it? Hell yeah. But ultimately none of that stuff mattered. I was playing music for a living.
During that period I was often asked "how did you know you'd made it?" My answer was always the same. The day I quit my retail job to make music full time (and for less money mind you) was the day that I made it. Everything I listed above after "getting the gig" was just bonus stuff for me. Ultimately, I wasn't happy in VH and I left. Shortly after making this decision I was approached by Doobie drummer Mike Hossack, who was a Vertical Horizon fan, to audition for the drum chair vacated by the premature death of his drumming partner Keith Knudsen. I have been doing that gig for 8 years now. When I'm not doing that, I play around Nashville, I play jazz with my Dad and have a fun band with a friend named Tim Bradshaw (from David Gray's band) called Cooper ( No more award shows, no more radio station visits, no more videos. And I couldn't be happier.
All of the as a result of running into an old college buddy at a gig. Would it have happened for me otherwise? I'd like to think so. But this is the way it did happen. Does the degree matter? It's different for everyone. For me it does. I use the skills I learned studying on a daily basis. More importantly, the relationships I have with people from that time helped get me where I am. I've often wondered what would have happened if I stuck to my original plan which was to graduate high school and move to L.A. But why waste time wondering what if? I live in a modest house, drive a Honda Civic, my kids go to public schools, and I can go places without anyone having a clue who I am or what I do. And that is all fine with me because....I do what I've wanted to do since I was 4 years old. I play music. ~ET

I can understand Alice's angst, about her son. My unsolicited opinion, is that whilst the benefits of the actual music degree are debatable, time spent at college studying music, can be highly beneficial. It may not immediately be apparent, but may become so. As you know, you have time at college, in a more or less friendly environment, to scheme and plot your plan of attack. Meanwhile, you're learning valuable skills. I finished school at the end of 1972, and decided to take a year off and become a rock star. I sang in a few bands, and formed my own. We went nowhere. I had been accepted into university, so to please my parents, and lick my wounds at my unsuccessful attempts at rock stardom, I enrolled in an arts degree, including some music subjects. Whilst at university, I wrote a lot of songs, did many busking and solo gigs, saw as many shows as possible, and plotted and schemed. At university, I met important collaborators, who formed part of Men At Work. It still took a further four years to cut through and make a mark with my band, but those years at university were crucial to what happened after. I believe that talent and tenacity are key ingredients for lasting success, but what's the rush, stay at school for a while, enjoy yourself. As you pointed out, life is long. ~ Colin Hay

I sincerely hope that his goal is NOT as stated: "to be a rock star". That is as shallow goal as I can think of. To learn skills...musical chops, song writing, musical arranging recording studio craft, and the all important personal skills that make future peers want to work with you...these are valid reasons for schooling. The goal should be to become a great musician, a great communicator. And you should have something to say...literally with words as well as in that much more subtle way with the notes you play. If you can really move people, the star shit will take care of itself.
None of the "rock stars" I've built instruments for over the years got into it to be rock stars. They did it for a love of the music and a love for the audiences that they bond with when playing. Stardom, for them, is a side effect of excellence in art and craft. It's not that they don't enjoy some of what comes with, companionship, etc., but when they get home off the road, they still pick up their guitars or sit at the piano for the basic joy of the music itself. ~ Rick Turner

Bachelor of Music degrees can be a good way to get a general musical education, but in themselves they are almost totally useless. I went all the way to Ph.D (studying the history of rock music mostly, which is simultaneously hilarious, awesome and sad) and I make a living today mostly as a freelance guitarist/singer around Toronto. Nobody cares that I went to school. But I did learn how to think through musical problems, and I can read music decently the odd time that it is demanded. Hey, I'll be able to play Beck's next album!
Colleges are in the business of making money like everyone else, and they will take as many students as they can. Almost all of those students do not have a realistic chance of making a living in music, even in the formerly safe province of music teaching, a job increasingly akin to stagecoach driving. The supply simply outstrips the demand. ~ Mike Daley

To the worried mother:
Ignore the iresponsible advice this guy just fed you. SUNY PURCHASE is a fine performing arts school; the best undergraduate program for music in the SUNY system. Getting a higher degree at the best possible professional school wil give him skills that will further whatever goals he winds up having. It will change his life in ways that otherwise would not be available to him.
I went to CalArts (BFA) and SUNY STONYBROOK (MA); both for music composition. I was an award winning composer for twenty years until I decided to teach. I currently am a public school music teacher (NYC). I am an excellent teacher, and never went into music education degree program. You can become a music teacher without it. DONT WORRY. He may wind up taking some Education classes to become certified (I beleieve its 12 credits or so in NYS). THERE ARE NO MUSIC ED REQUIREMENTS TO BECOME CERTIFIED. THANK GOD.... What a waste! If your son is passionate enough, his enthusiasm will be his best friend. TRUST ME. His life may not be an easy path, granted, but its the life of a musician. And there is nothing more fullfilling than dedicating one's life to music. Feel feel to contact me for advice. ~Ivan Salinas






1) $$$
2013 The SF MusicTech Summit brings together visionaries in the evolving music/business/technology ecosystem, along with the best and brightest developers, entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, journalists, musicians, and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce. We meet to do business and discuss, in a proactive, conducive to dealmaking environment.

2) Spotify and other streaming services get own chart

3) On-demand music gets own chart":

YouTube is not included in the streaming chart yet. That's the music business, always an ostrich. YouTube dominates. It makes up 55% of online streaming. Streaming ALREADY dominates. According to Nielsen, in the U.S. 26% of people streamed as opposed to the 17% who listened to purchased files 2011.

Think about the tribe first! The label's tribe is the stockholders, not the music listeners. Do not associate your interests with theirs. If it doesn't bring people closer, if it doesn't satiate and inspire your fans, forget about it.

The best label ever was run by Mo Ostin. Warner Brothers. Mo specialized in finding true artists and letting them do their thing. This is positively scary to business people, but this is the key to long term success. Finding someone who can already play, who's performed gigs, who's got an audience. That's a better strategy than starting from scratch. Which is why the Warner catalog is so valuable today and Arista's is not. Clive made stars, through smoke and mirrors, via publicity and promotion, engaging the best songwriters to prop up the image. But mostly it was image. The tracks were successes, but the performers were empty vessels.

But the Dead and Prince and Neil Young... They're still working today. Their songs are being played on the radio. They had it to begin with. Might have taken them some time to find their way, but there was no development by the label, no coaching, no cowriting, they were on their own road of discovery. If you're getting no reaction, you're not doing it right. That's today's test. Not whether a middle man will sign you, but whether the audience believes in you, wants to hear more.

Leveraging the internet to fortify a creative career.
What are the best things artists can do online to sustain themselves financially and creatively? There's definitely an art to understanding how to reach your audience and what will keep them engaged.

The old paradigm is dead, the one that began in the 1990 SoundScan era. Where your project was front-loaded, where you amped up the publicity to get a good first week number, to get retailers to stock the CD. And if you got a high number, you were on your way, if not, and you were an established act, you were dead.
In 2012 recording income is no longer the primary revenue stream. It's just a piece of the pie. Albums are advertisements for the tour. If you're playing to everybody, you're wasting your time. Don't worry about either pleasing or offending everybody, just think about satiating your core. You want to be on Spotify.
Because you want to have a chance for your music to be discovered. Where your fans can get satisfied.

1. Focus on the music.
2. Don't front-load your publicity.
3. The recordings are an advertisement for what else you have to sell. By putting out a great album, you cement its future business. There may not be stories in the mainstream press, but your fans know.
4. Short term thinking is dead. Don't think about this tour, but the two or three after it.
5. Ignore the news cycle.
6. America likes to forgive, assuming your only offense is lousy music, great stuff can change people's impression instantly.

It's a new game.

Remember to read all these links just below also!!

It all comes down to the artist. The artist leads the way. We're in a great era for artistry. We'll calculate winners and losers further down the road. But right now, people are taking chances, they're following their muse, knowing it's possible to directly connect with their audience on the Internet. Executives might say the lunatics have taken over the asylum. I'd say the artist has rightfully reclaimed his place at the top of the pyramid. ~ Lefsetz

1. You must have constant contact with your fans. It must be a dialog. It's not that they forget you if you're absent, it's that they're overwhelmed with the detritus of life. We live in the opposite of the seventies rock star paradigm world. It's not about coming down from the mountaintop every two or three years with tablets, otherwise known as a ten to twelve track LP/CD/album. Now you're the village minstrel. You may not live in the center of town, but you've got to walk through every day. At least every other day. Sure, you can take a vacation, assuming you come back, assuming your audience knows you'll walk amongst them soon. The era of just putting up a Website and believing people will find you are done. If for no other reason that most artist Websites have been updated so sporadically that most people rarely go there anymore.

Allen's degree in marketing from the U. of Pennsylvania helped him craft the careful strategy behind his success. "I always liken music to a new product, and with any new product, you want to create as (few) barriers to entry as possible," he says. "That really was the foundation of the philosophy." - He debuted a musicvideo for his first single, "No Interruption," on YouTube, racking up more than 1.4 million views. Less than two weeks later, a video for his single "No Faith in Brooklyn" was posted a few hours before his EP went live on iTunes, priced at $4.99. George says the strategy aims to upsell listeners who might buy a single track for $1.29, and then realize it's only a few dollars more to get the entire eight-song EP.

2. You must cross-post. This incredible performance is not available on YouTube, at least I couldn't easily find it. That's where people go for video clips. To only host your clips on your site is to try to make it by only exhibiting your videos on your home television set in the 80s. They needed to be on MTV! YouTube is the new MTV. And since everything is available, the key is to make your fans stick. You don't do that by infrequency of interaction.

3. It must be you. Do you have someone else type on your BlackBerry/iPhone? Do you print out your e-mails? Then why in hell can't you do your own Tweeting, your own posting.

Maybe we make music freely available, like FarmVille, and upsell thereafter. Maybe we need a music game that gets everybody to pay attention. That allows them to win free concert tickets and visits from band members. Only one site triumphs online. There's one Amazon, one iTunes, one Facebook and one Twitter. There will be one online music hub. Foster competition to create it. Once we get everybody playing in this sphere, we can then expose people to new acts. They'll already be there, they'll already be paying attention.

4. Monetization. Don't think about records and concerts, think about access, think about elation, think about rewards. Maybe you let everybody come to hear the album of the new act streamed at Staples Center for free, but they pay for pizza and beer. Think party. Sure, you might be able to hear the album right thereafter online, but you won't have the experience of hanging with your friends! And never diminish virtual goods. It's a gold mine waiting to be tapped. We didn't know we wanted Groupon. We don't know we want music served in a whole new way. But we do.

For Carole King, Songwriting Is A 'Natural' Talent
King, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, has written for everyone from Little Eva to Aretha Franklin to James Taylor. Her 1971 solo album Tapestry spent 15 weeks at the top of the charts, and stayed on the charts for more than six years. But King was just 15 when she and three classmates formed a vocal quartet called the Co-Sines at James Madison High School. At night, she attended disc jockey Alan Freed's concerts — a veritable "who's who" of rock 'n' roll performers — and later set up a meeting with Freed, an internationally known rock promoter she thought could help her break into the songwriting business. Freed told her to look up the names of record companies in the phone book.

Scientists are Rock Stars Mindshare Labs turns into regularly showcases interactive artwork at events.

The Web is where you make fans, the gig is where you convert them, where you charge them. Permission marketing, the relationship with the fan, once you've got a fan, once they've found you, you've then got permission to contact them. Your tribe is people who would be DISAPPOINTED if they didn't hear from you! A relationship must be nurtured, and CONTINUED! Once you've got the relationship, you must KEEP IT UP! The old model was limited product pushed down people's throats. Today's model is endless product available to those who want it. How do you build that relationship? How do you get people interested? By doing something great. Seth unleashed his book, "Unleashing the Ideavirus", online, for free, a decade ago, and gained fans that way. He didn't compile an e-mail list and spam people, he focused on the work. And then using the distribution platform of the Web, he allowed people to pull it, for free!

I think that when there is someone who delivers something truly great people are more open to it than ever as long as you can find a way to get them to hear it.


As my evidence I offer a young kid I recently started working with named Joe Pug. We self-released his debut EP in May, mainly just intending to shop it. In the six months since then, however .he has proceeded to sell out his first two headlining shows in Chicago, pick up a major booking agent (Monterey International), taped a set for NPR's Mountain Stage, picked up radio play on Morning Becomes Eclectic, XM, Sirus and NPR, sold over 2000 copies of the EP, toured with Susan Tedeschi, Rhett Miller, Joe Ely, Robert Randolph and featured in Paste with a slot on their CD sampler. (one of the rare unpaid slots, at that)
Obviously there is the standard issue PR push, but I think the real success we've had with Joe came from something completely unique that we did. I started with the knowledge (or, some might say, assumption) that with Joe's songs especially the "single" Hymn #101, if people heard it, they would love it. There are so few great songs being written that I knew people would connect immediately. So how to cut through the white noise? With no label, no PR firm, and no money to speak of?
We decided to put an offer up on Joe's website and myspace. We told any fan that if they knew anyone who might be interested in Joe's music that they could send us an email and we send them as many copies of a two-song sampler CD as they wanted. Free. We even cover the postage. To keep costs down, we invested in a cd publishing system that burns and prints them robotically. Each CD has two songs, contact info, myspace, and a reminder that the full cd was at iTunes. If someone lived near a place where a show was scheduled, we printed that show info on there as well. People requested as few as 2 and as many as 50. We sent all of them. Requests continued to pour in, and the more we sent out the faster the new requests came in. We're at the point now where we get about 15 a day. Joe writes a thank you in each and every one. And almost instantly, sales took off. Attendance jumped noticeably and myspace/website action began a steady upward arc. More importantly, we built an incredible database of his most hardcore fans. And after receiving a mailbox full of cd's for free, they are willing to do anything to help forward the cause.


And it is the ultimate in target have people who already like your music passing it on to their friends, whose tastes they presumably know.
To some degree this is contrary to most of my "music 2.0" instincts, but I believe in this case they physical connection is crucial. A package in the mail, with a handwritten letter from the artist creates a connection that a download never could. It's not the cheapest avenue on earth, but compared to what a mid-level PR firm charges it's a goddamn bargain.

In return we treat them like gold. Whenever there are extra guestlist spots in a city an email goes out to the people in that area who helped pass them out. We are planning a private house show for those in Chicago who have helped.

Of course, before I get lost in self-congratulation, I'll add that this particular formula only works if you truly have songs that connect with people. In all the marketing speak I think a whole lot of people lose sight of that. Anyway, thought that you might find this interesting. If you want to check out the actual offer it's on and his myspace is

Yrs. long windedly-


Who Is The Leader Of The Tribe?

Bob Lefsetz

What got fuxxed up in the nineties was that the label became the tribe leader, the label made the decisions. The leader of the tribe is the act. Everything flows from the act. As Jim Guerinot told me, it's the act's name on the marquee. If an act has a feeling in its gut, that feeling has to be obeyed. Jim can always get a new client, whereas a misstep by a musician usually ends his career.
The label doesn't need your record to make it. It just needs a record to make it. The label head's priorities may be completely different from the act's. The label executive may be coming up on a contract renewal. He may be angling for a bonus. What's expedient for the label may be positively awful for the act. If your deal doesn't give you a modicum of control, you're at the mercy of the label's whims. Sure, you could go on strike, but now you can't even work on the road, the label gets a piece of that too via the 360 deal.
Furthermore, a label doesn't know how to work the road, never mind merch. A label specializes in selling music. In an era where more people steal it than pay for it, where it's almost impossible to get exposed and there's a thin line between getting the word out and overexposure, which negatively impacts your longevity. So, sign with a label at your peril. Or insist on a lot of control.
In any event, although the act is the true leader, the Mafia Don, the manager is the consigliere. You must be able to trust your manager. You must be able to get his attention. You must share mutual interests. But the act must have the last word.

2. The Key

It's the music, stupid. Radio stations don't buy music. Fans do. Don't worry about appealing to gatekeepers, worry about appealing to fans.
I once heard a Widespread Panic song on Sirius, but generally speaking the band's music is never played on the radio. It tends to be long, it stretches out, the vocals are not Top Forty friendly. But the audience loves it. A core audience that keeps the band working year after year, long after Top Forty wonders are through scrounging around for TV guest appearances and are contemplating entering the family business. Hell, the audience treasures live Widespread Panic music more than the recorded stuff!
In other words, forget about the rules. Just focus on how you can turn someone not on the payroll, not related to you, on to your music. Because if they're turned on, they'll tell people. If nobody wants to tell anybody about your music, give up or change it or be resigned to a marginal "career". Doesn't matter if you like it, doesn't matter if the label likes it, doesn't matter if MTV likes it, it only matters if independent sources like it. A turntable hit generates no career. Your mother can't buy enough albums to keep you in business. Sure, catchy infects people, but to truly get people talking, spreading the word, you must sound unique, unlike anybody else. People want music to call their own. If you provide this, they'll tell everybody about it, you'll have a career.

3. The Format

Deliver what the fan wants. Which is always more music. An album may be good, but not if there's only one every four years. Let people record you live, sell live files. You're giving people the tools to build your career. Don't limit them, enable them!
Fans will support you. Buy CDs even though they've already stolen the files.
If you get really big, you can sell CDs with books, special packages, but that's way down the road. First, just make tunes that people want to hear. A good number of them. Don't worry about defects, your imperfections make you lovable. Pro Tools and Auto-Tune have removed the soul from music. Stop trying for perfection, no one can relate to that. No one's that good-looking, no one hits every note perfectly. One false note may be enough to endear you to fans.

4. Tools For Spreading The Word - You don't solicit, you make tools available. You deliver widgets, you utilize Eventful.

If you're beating your fans over the head to spread the word you're doing it wrong. Sure, it's okay to manage your fans' efforts, in the beginning anyway. Even better is when a fan takes up the reins himself. This fan will listen to you, won't cross you, he wants access. But by coming up with his own ideas, he gains credibility. You can't control everybody. Give up on that. Inspire people. With your music. With your accessibility. Let them take you to places unknown. You're nothing without them. You don't have to accede to their every wish. Give up some control. You've got none in today's online world anyway.

5. Establish Community

You've got to have a forum online. And a place for fans to meet live. Maybe a sign where all your diehard fans can meet before the show. You want that party in the parking lot, but in the Internet era, you can own it, utilize it to your own advantage. Maybe inspire people to bring instruments and cover your songs, play their own in the parking lot. You've got to make people feel like they belong. We all want to belong, it's human nature. We can't connect to the overhyped priorities, but we can relate to what's just starting out, that we own.

6. Play Live

Anywhere and everywhere at first.

Do not play with anybody else unless you share an audience.

You may open for a superstar, but no one's going to care about you, you're wasting your time, your agent just doesn't know what else to do, your label is forcing you. Better off to drive around in a van and play clubs. If you're good, people will talk about you and your career will grow. If your career isn't growing, and you're working 24/7, face it, people don't want you.

It's best to open for no one. To own the show yourself, if possible.

Better to create your own gig than open for someone with incompatible music.

You're just going to piss off your fans if they want to see you and not the headliner. As for the reverse... You'll be lucky if people even show up to hear you, and many will probably talk while you're playing or boo.

7. Make It Affordable

Value. Not only is it the mantra of 2008/9, it's the key to all success.

Toyota knows value. As does Lexus. You want people to believe they got a bargain, more than they paid for. If you're going after every last dollar, you aren't going to have a career when the radio hits dry up. Look at the Dave Matthews Band. Phenomenal road business, tickets closer to fifty dollars than a hundred. You can take a friend, expose someone to your favorite act's music.

A gig should not be a show, it should be an experience, a celebration of your music. If people don't feel involved, you fuxxed up.

Unless your gig is about production, don't focus on it. No one ever said I liked the concert because the production was great, even though the music sucked. But I've heard the reverse zillions of times. We are not in the TV business. Our product enters the ears. Focus on what is heard. Have a great sound system. Practice really hard. Have great tunes. You don't need a backdrop, you don't need a light show, all of that is superfluous.

Online Event Registration Tools
Eventbrite -
Ticket Leap -
Anyvite -

I'm categorically against them. But if you must do them, make sure it's clear that your fans own you, not the corporation/sponsor. You can't do anything your fan wouldn't. You can never kiss butt. You can say sponsorship kept tickets cheap. But not if you're hawking the product from the stage, not if you've got banners on stage. Not if you're flying around in a private jet.

Corporations don't give a xxxx about you. They only care about your audience. They want to reach your audience. They're going to use you, emphasis on "use", to extract attention and money from your fans. How do you feel about being used as a customer? How do you feel about being manipulated? Keep this in mind when you tie in with any third party entity.

9. Innovation

The cherry on top.

Examples are the Phish festivals. 100,000 people show up even though most of the country has no idea who you are. Special events are rewards for your fans. They work best when you're on the way up, when rich fat cats can't game the system.

Lollapalooza was a great idea, the original Perry Farrell traveling one. Killed by having Metallica headline. You've got to stay true to your roots. If you don't have an appropriate headliner this year, don't do the festival!

Anything you can dream up that rewards the fans is worth investigating. Don't worry about monetization. It's okay to charge, but know that you're investing in your future.


The above was inspired by Seth Godin's "Tribes". Read it for inspiration. The key is to do it differently, and lead. Railing against P2P, complaining that your music is being stolen, putting FBI stickers on your CDs, none of this enhances your bond with your fans, none of it adds members to your tribe. Think about the tribe first! The label's tribe is the stockholders, not the music listeners. Do not associate your interests with theirs. If it doesn't bring people closer, if it doesn't satiate and inspire your fans, forget about it.

Example. Playing the "American Music Awards". You think you're reaching a whole new audience. But maybe your fans think you're selling out. Don't worry about the untold masses. If they're interested in you, it will only be briefly. If you're good, your fans will spread the word and convert those who might watch the AMAs who are interested.
Just because there's a paycheck involved, that doesn't excuse you. You must think how your fans will react. You must lead the fans. You do this by constantly creating great music, and playing it live. These are the core precepts. Everything else is gravy. If people can't get it by hearing your music, via a recording or live, then you've got to go back into development. Start with a little. Blow on the flame to ignite the kindling. Then put progressively bigger logs on the fire. Once you've got a bonfire going, it won't go out overnight.
This is not how it's been done in the last twenty years. It's been about getting a ton of logs, throwing gasoline on them and then lighting a match. But fire builders will tell you that oftentimes, this strategy doesn't work. It's much harder to get a log to burn than a twig. If a fire starts weak, it can be blown out. It costs a lot to construct a pile of giant logs, just to drag them into place. You're locked into this plan, you usually only have one chance. Whereas if you start off small, you can see what develops and go where your audience leads you.


We are a DIY band through and through. I would love for you to get to know our band a little more.

  • We come from a small town in Ontario called Manotick
  • We have been touring relentlessly for 4 years

For our first american tour, no-one wanted to book us. So, instead of booking shows, we drove as far way from our homes in canada as we could get. We would then show up at venues where a show was going on and tell them we were 2000 miles away from home, had a gig booked down the street but it somehow feel through. "Would you guys mind if we played a short set here tonight?" IT WORKED! We played countless shows this way.
Since we rarely got paid more than a few drinks and sometimes pizza, we needed to make gas money.
We had a laptop with the the tracks to our demo CD. We would go to best buy, get a CD burner and a couple spindles of blank cds. We would burn a hundred demos in the parking lot and then return the CD burner to Best Buy. we would then put the demos in ziplock bags. (hence the name of our first record....record in a bag)
Once we had a stash of demos we would drive to the nearest mall and set up shop in front of Hot Topic (probly the most shameless thing we have done for our band). We would stand there for hours, with discmen and demos asking anyone who would stop to take a listen if they wanted to buy a demo in a bag. We could sell the discs for 5 bucks and still make $4.50 to put towards gas.
We did this for 2 years. Anything to avoid having a real job, right?
In febuary 2009, we released our first full length album for FREE online.
That same month we invented the RESIDENCY TOUR. We took the old concept of playing a residency one day a week at the same bar and made it psyco. We booked 7 residencies for the month, one for each night of the week. Every Sunday of that cold February we played in at the same club in Boston, every monday at Piano's in NYC, Tuesday was Lacolle Quebec, Wednesdays- Hamilton ontario, Thursdays - Toronto, Friday - Ottawa, Saturday - Montreal. Repeat 4 times. 28 shows in a row. over 12,000 miles of crap canadian winter driving in 28 days.
In febuary 2010, we started our own record label to release "record in a bag" in stores in Canada. Although every distributor we talked to said it was impossible, we were finally able to convince one (Arts and Crafts) that we could literally package "record in a bag" in a ziplock bag filled with goodies. So far we have sold over 10,000 copies of it in Canada. With no label support, our first single "Juliette" went top 5 in mainstream Canadian alternative radio.
Things began to take hold in Canada and we soon became privy to the Canadian grant system for touring acts. Still, when they gave us a budget to play a showcase in China, we took the budget and stretched it for all it was worth. We turned it into a 3 week tour deep into china. We recorded a song in mandarin chinese and released it on the internet in China. We were able to return for another tour 6 months later.
We can play our instuments. We play live and we play live alot, hundreds of shows a year, we sweat. We take requests. We play covers we don't know. We play for the audience, as much as eachother, because without them we would still be in back Manotick, working jobs we hated. We play anywhere anytime. It is what we love more than anything.
We listen to good bands (Petty, Roy Orbison, The Clash, Booker T, Paul Butterfield, John Prine). We have a strong conviction that pop music does not have to suck.
We are 4 best friends (2 of the guys are brothers). We intend to do this for a long time. We want to have careers and catalogues that we can be proud of. Personally, i think, our song for the video you talked about is not nearly our stongest. Since then we have written a whole bunch more, and like anything else, they are getting better with practice.
I truly believe we have a few songs on our album that really have heart and are really about things. i'd love for you to listen to our record, because although we are happy with what the video has accomplished creatively and exposure-wise, we are a rock band and the bottom line is that we make songs.


-Menno Versteeg

From: Amanda Palmer
Subject: re-Please Drop Me

My label-dropping game has become very fun. please pray for me.

it's a lesson in how the future of music is working - fans are literally (and i mean that....literally) lining up at the signing table after shows and HANDING me cash, saying "thank you".

i had to EXPLAIN to the so-called "head of digital media" of roadrunner australia WHAT TWITTER WAS. and his brush-off that "it hasn't caught on here yet" was ABSURD because the next day i twittered that i was doing an impromptu gathering in a public park and 12 hours later, 150 underage fans - who couldn't attend the show - showed up to get their records signed.

no manager knew! i didn't even warn or tell her! no agents! no security! no venue! we were in a fucking public park!
life is becoming awesome.

also interesting: i brought a troupe of back-up actors/dancers on the tour (we were only playing 300-1000 seaters) and had no money to pay them, so we passed the hat into the crowd every night. each performer walked from each show with about $200 in cash. the fans TOOK CARE OF THEM. they brought us dinner every night, gave us places to sleep. (i couldn't afford to put up that many people in hotels). all sans label, all using email and twitter. the fans followed the adventure. they LOVED HELPING.

the times they are a-changing f~~king dramatically, when pong-twittering with trent reznor means way more to your fan-base/business than whether or not the record is in f~~king stores (and in my case, it ain't in f~~king stores).

twitter is EVERYTHING: it is a MAINLINE insta-connection with the fans. there is ZERO middleman.
my fans hung out with me all day on twitter today while i unpacked weird tour shit, fan art, gifts and paraphernalia that usually just ends up in my closet or in the trash and took pictures of it for them.


The 10 Most Successful Crowd-Funded Projects From Kickstarter

Kickstarter's First Million-Dollar Project
Not about Musis but the idea of getting others to invest is real.
December 18th, 2010
Okay, it's actually $941,718 — but still, it was raised inside a month and it's now officially Kickstarter's most successful project. Chicago entrepreneur Scott Wilson captured the Kickstarter community with his super-cool, high-end, wearable and durable watch casing for the iPod Nano. The result: an almost-cool mil raised for the TikTok+LunaTik Multi-Touch watch kits, with over 13 thousand backers and a pretty damn impressive crowdfunding success story.

George Harrison

Secrets of Success:

George Harrison grew up in a house without electricity. But it was worse. Heat was one stove, fired by coal, could that have contributed to his cancer?
Talk about your 10,000 hours. There were no hard drives back then. You played live. And if you weren't at least moderately good, you couldn't get the gig. Over time you learn not only how to play, but perform, and they're not the same. I've never seen anybody work the crowd like Paul McCartney. I'd say it's in his DNA, but the point is it's not. He learned it. Through experience. In Hamburg.
And Gladwell's talking about the 10,000 hours it takes to become world class at any cognitive skill. But then he goes further. He talks about love. That genius is love, not ability. Do you love what you do so much that you can't stop talking about it, can't stop practicing, can't stop innovating?
Gladwell uses the example of Wayne Gretzky. Who cried when hockey games ended on TV when he was only two. Who invented shots no one had even contemplated. But I was thinking of Elton John. Elton loves music. I'll never forget reading that they used to open up Tower Records just for him, he'd buy a hundred albums. Elton's still singling out new talent. He trumpeted Ryan Adams...
And then there's Steve Jobs. He loved computers, he loved technology. He may have been unjustly fired from Apple, but he didn't take his money and go home, he began again, with NeXT. Funny how today's culture is different. I'm gonna create an app or a Website, sell it and retire! The geniuses never retire, their insides won't let them.
And when you see a genius at work, you feel something. Those Apple keynotes, you could see that Jobs himself was thrilled, the excitement was contagious.
And I'm sure you've been at a show where the performer was so into it you'll never forget it. When they weren't playing for you so much as themselves, enraptured by the music.
You know the cliche, "Do what you love and the money will follow." That's hogwash. Making money is its own skill. You can love what you're doing and be broke. But you won't be unhappy.
Loving what you do is not enough to succeed. It's just a beginning, it's an ongoing force. It keeps you going when the spotlight's gone, when everybody else tells you to give up.