I get a lot of musicians asking me about what they should do next or what they are missing from their band operations. I figured that it might be a good idea if I put a basic blueprint together of things you should have down to effectively pursue your career in music. This is not the “end all be all”, but it is definitely a good foundation.
I figured it would be a good idea to do a timeline from recording to touring for an album…
1.) Partnership or Business Agreement
Something which most bands fail to do is to set up a partnership or business agreement.
There are some great sites out there where you can print out legal forms, while sites like LegalZoom are a great way to fill them out online. Then, set up a business account and company credit card in your band’s name, and run everything through the business to get write-offs. Definitely talk to an accountant to make sure it is all set up right. This way you can write-off so many of your expenses!
2.) Social Media
Social Media is highly important for anyone in the music biz today. Some of the first things you need to do is set up your social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and perhaps a slew of others. OneSheet has a great list of different music-related social media sites.
You will need to draw up your band logo and take some early photos to fill out the pages. It’s super important that every site you have on the internet has the same design and color scheme, preferably the band logo or the upcoming album layout. You have to consider your band as a new startup company, and you want what your fans see to be cohesive and consistent (i.e. professional) everywhere.
Recording is super important! Don’t hesitate to talk with different studios and meet with the sound engineer early, so you can see if you have a rapport. You can also go the DIY route if you have someone in the band that is really good with Pro Tools or other equivalent software.
Still, no matter what you do, I highly suggest you have an outside studio do the mixing after you record, and another place to master. Having talked with a number of great engineers around the world, they ALL agree to have another set of ears mix it from the recording.
4.) Distribution: Music
The great thing about the Digital Age is how you can push your music across the globe for super cheap! Tunecore and 101 Distribution are great sites that allow you to digitally and physically distribute your album to the masses for $50 per album! These sites will get you on all the major outlets: iTunes, Amazon (both MP3 and physical), Rhapsody, Spotify, Google Music, and a bunch more — and you can be up and live within 24 hours of submitting your album!
Another thing you absolutely should do is give your album away for free! Bandcamp is perfect for this. Not only can you give your fans your music in any format, but you can collect e-mail addresses and locations as a sort of “market research” on where your fanbase is coming from (major businesses pay for that kind of research). I have worked with many bands that fought me on the “give it away for free” model — but, later on, every single one of them came back and thanked me for doing it that way.
The reason? It actually increases sales you would never have had! What most artists don’t understand is when you reach a greater number of people, you have a greater potential to make more die-hard fans. Fans who absolutely love what you are doing, fans who will come to your shows, buy your merch — and even buy the physical CD that they previously downloaded for free!
5.) Distribution: Merch
The other part of distribution that most don’t do is to get a real legit apparel site! You can use sites like Big Cartel, where they will handle the front end (taking orders, keeping inventory, etc.), but you will have to do all the shipping and stocking.
If you don’t want to handle all of that work, you can also create a site on Zazzle. With Zazzle, all you have to do is put your logo or artwork on the site and they’ll print it onto a plethora of merch items whenever someone places an order. The advantage of sites like Zazzle is you can have endless types of merch without having to pay a dime and reach a global market — but it’s best to save up the money to mass-print your own merch while on tour, so you can keep a greater percentage of sales without skyrocketing prices for your fans.
6.) Online Video
A lot of musicians do this well, but others don’t. Whether you are in the studio, recording, on tour, or just fucking around — turn it into video.
Find a friend or someone in your band who can do edit video footage and put it on YouTube! Remember to make sure it looks incredible because you don’t know who is going to see it. Don’t use video with 3 people in the audience, and don’t use shitty quality video — this is your brand!
Also, make sure to also upload all your full-length songs onto YouTube with album covers as the “video” footage — seriously, you need to be on YouTube! To put it in perspective: YouTube gets 379 million views per month of music alone! That is 3 times more than all other music sites on the web combined!
7.) Touring or Booking Agent
If you want to make it in today’s industry, you have to tour!
We recently spoke with John of Warbringer and he said they have done over 700 shows. So if you want to succeed in any way, you have to tour religiously. Your best bet is to find an incredible booking agent, and have them get you on as many tours as possible. Accept as many tours as you possibly can — and make sure you have albums, shirts, and creative merch items like flash drives or beer coolers to sell on tour and make more money. (see how this all weaves together?)
Most of the things above are things you can DIY as a band and figure out on your most.
But the two things you must have at some point is a booking agent (see previous point) and a great publicist. It is important that you have someone that understands design elements, has connections to all the blogs and media sites, and will work their ass off to get you interviews and press. A great publicist will know how to get you exposure!