5 Unlikely Connections Every Musician Should Make

5 08:00 AM
Image via sodahead.com
The booking agent, the journalist, and the sound guy are all names that every musician should, and likely already does, have on speed dial. It’s pretty much a known fact in the music industry thatnetworking is key. However, we also need to network outside of our industry, because quite often,we end up connecting with folks who boost our career unexpectedly. Here are five unlikely connections that you should add to your network ASAP!

1. Greek life presidents and student council presidents

The college scene is a glorious place, not only for its booming and active radio scene, but also for its love and promotion of live music. I was involved in Greek life in college and was actually the president of my fraternity for some time, so I had some say in booking bands. (So powerful, huh?) I have to admit that even though I was working in the music industry at the time, it still felt really cool when a band or booking agent knocked on our door to hand-deliver a press kit, EPK flash drive, or demo. When that happened, we usually listened to it as a group and made a decision very quickly on if we could and wanted to fit them into an event.
Fraternities and sororities have operating budgets for live music, and while a lot of Greek organizations are playing up the EDM scene more and more (good for you, DJs!), there still are a lot that want fun cover bands, original groups, or even chill acoustic acts. There were bands in my college town that would simply play homecoming events, spring parties, and other socials and would come out financially set for the entire spring or fall. Not a bad circuit to tap into.
A group of equal power on college campuses are student government organizations or any other large club or group that puts on events. More and more colleges are doing live concerts that bring in major headlining acts and often seek out regional/local opening performers. I currently operate out of a college town, and we often see college-sponsored performances by folks such as Weezer, Ludacris, Lupe Fiasco, Katy Perry, and many others. Some colleges even make a mini-festival out of the event and have stages for local acts. Tap into it!

2. Local arts councils

Do you have one in your town? You might not know it, but you just might. Arts councils are government-funded entities that exist in cities across the US. These councils are a group working in your city that help preserve art and culture. They often put on weekly or monthly events such as art walks or Sunday in the Park concerts.
Not only do these groups put on concerts (which you can tap into), but many do workshops, too. These workshops may be aimed at helping creatives copyright their work or teaching musicians how to get their music into films. Not only could these events help sharpen your work, but it could also be a great opportunity for you to give a talk! I’ve even seen artists partner with their arts councils to give guitar lessons to kids or lead songwriting workshops. It’s a great way to give back to your community, get booked, and learn a thing or two.

3. College student design groups

Want that album art designed but don’t want to hire an ad agency? Or, on the flipside, don’t want to pay Fiverr five bucks and chance getting a less-than-mediocre logo? Look into local student groups! A lot of colleges have design groups in which students are simply looking for work for their portfolios. Yes, you will (sometimes) have to pay them – or at least you should. There are some student-run design firms that may help for free, but hey, help a college student out!
Either way, it’s typically more affordable than hiring a freelance or full-time designer. I’ve tapped into my local university’s design group numerous times for album art campaigns or quick social mediaartwork when my team was overloaded. Always a great outcome!

4. A good mechanic

If you’re like me, you only take your car into the shop if something is blinking, rattling, or just not starting. Therefore, having that “go-to guy” isn’t really an option, but it should be! Having a good personal relationship with a mechanic is great if you’re going on the road before a tour. That way, he can ensure you’re all set for travel and can be the point person if you think something is going wrong with your van.

5. An accountant

This may not be all that unlikely, but if you’re like some of us and up to your knees in 1099-Ks and 1099-MISCs, sometimes a face-to-face meeting is much better than an online provider like TurboTax. Accountants can work with you to ensure you’re getting write-offs for things such as travel or music-based purchases that help your career. There’s likely a long list of write-offs and tax breaks that you’re eligible for without even knowing. So go ahead and find an accountant! Bonus points for ones who have worked with musicians or freelance entertainment folks in the past.
As a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more at wtylerconsulting.com.

Ask a Music Journalist: 4 Things We Never Want to Read in Bios Ever Again

Oct 15, 2014 09:30 AM
BioImage via pcmag.com
A well-written bio is one of the best tools independent musicians have when it comes to making an impression on music journalists and editors. Before we even hear your song samples or are able to attend one of your shows, there’s a good chance we’ve glanced through your press materials. This is your opportunity to place yourself and your art in your chosen framework and tell your storyexactly how you see fit.
Unfortunately, there are many clichés and pitfalls that are easy to fall into that result in turning off the writer or causing him or her to otherwise overlook your band without even hearing a note. We don’t expect you to be a professional writer  or we’d all be out of work – but we do expect you to be a little inventive. (You are a working creative, after all.) With that in mind, here are four things to avoid at all costs when it comes to writing your musician bio.

1. Comparisons

Using a prompt such as, “If Band X and Band Y had a baby…” could be a good at-home exercise to get your writer juices flowing, but it should never be a part of your finished bio. Although some people advocate this style, I’m against it for several reasons. Not only do many comparisons come across as boring and amateurish, but depending on which artists you cite, it may not even be particularly descriptive. For example, how many rock bands out there are influenced by the Beatles? How many pop singers emulate Beyoncé? Also, the writer you pitch may not even like the artists you name and write you off without giving your music a fair shot.
On the other side of that coin, the writer could like the bands in your analogy, but when the songs on your record don’t mirror those artists’ sounds or other qualities enough, they dismiss your bio as false advertising. This same tip counts for sentences like, “Sounds like Band X on steroids,” “on acid,” or any other substance that is supposed to give us the impression of an “edge.” In any case,comparisons stick even though artists change. Your next record could turn out sounding completely different than your current material, so make sure to not pigeonhole yourself.

2. Non-descriptives

The idea with your bio materials is to make your music stand out among a crowd of other artists competing for the same attention, so make sure you actually tell us something about yourself. Stating that your band is comprised of “four down-home American guys and gals who came together to play music” does nothing if not blend you into the background. We’ve already gathered this much information just by virtue of receiving your press kit. Another typical non-descriptive is stating that your music can’t be described. Trust us, it can be. Visual artists often include an artistic statement that encompases their aesthetic and technique, and it could be helpful to think of your bio in the same way. These few paragraphs are not the place to be hesitant. Be confident in what you have to say about your music.

3. Missing names

This one could really be filed under “Things We Don’t See in Bios.” Stage names add to the fun and aesthetics of many artists, but journalists typically want to know a little more about you. This isn’t to say you can’t create an air of mystery, and unlike Facebook’s recent demands that users display their legal name on their profiles, we’re not demanding anything. We just want to have a better idea of who is behind the music, and link together any previous or additional creative projects you might have had a part in. There are some instances where musicians purposely obscure their identities because their daily life demands a little extra separation between their art and career or family. That’s totally okay, but keep in mind that the higher your artistic profile raises, the more people will want to know about you as well.

4. Making mountains out of molehills (and missing the mountain entirely)

This cliché most often occurs when people aren’t really sure how to tell their own story. After all, they’re busy living it and making music. Plus, writing about yourself is hard for anyone. (Ask my editors how long I’ve taken to turn in some of my own bios.) Sometimes this results in the focus of the bio turning into a “non-story.” For example, I once received a pitch about a band whose biggest claim to fame, according to their press kit, was that their friends and family raised some money and surprised them with a tour van. That’s a very sweet and generous thing to do, of course, but the only thing it told me about the band was that they have a very thoughtful circle of people around them. Did the group turn around and write an album about friendship or road travel as a result of the gift? No. Did they meet a label executive at a rest stop on the way to an out-of-town gig and get signedfor a new album? I don’t know, but I probably wouldn’t bet on it. Make your story relevant to your artistic expression – whether factual or outlandish.
Artist bios are definitely hard to write, but a good one can work to your advantage in more ways than you know. Your life may seem boring and ordinary to you, but someone else may see things a little differently. Don’t resort to clichés if you get stuck while writing. Instead, try asking your friends or coworkers what they think is the most interesting thing about you. It might sound like an awkward way to start a conversation, but outside perspectives could be very valuable in helping you frame yourself and your music, and tell your story.
Jamie Ludwig is a veteran music writer and editor who has worked in various facets of the music industry. She is currently the editorial director of ChicagoMusic.org, a not-for-profit website focused on regional and touring music of all genres; a contributor to Noisey (Vice) and Wondering Sound, among other titles; and has spoken on a number of industry panels.

17 Things Local Bands/Artists Just Don’t Get

1. Trashing other bands in your scene isn’t hurting their rep. It’s hurting yours.
2. Acting disinterested with folded arms at the back of the room at other bands’ shows does not make you cool. Singing along at the front of the stage does.
3. Looking like a rock star isn’t as important as sounding like one.
4. Image is actually important. Cargo shorts are for dads at a barbecue. Not for musicians on stage.
5. Being respectful and friendly will take you much further than being superior and entitled.
6. Going to other bands’ shows is THE most important thing you can do to support your scene.
7. Your scene’s gatekeepers are friends with each other. Get in with one and you’ll get in with them all. If you piss one off, prepare to be blacklisted.
8. You don’t need press to pack a show. You need a strong work ethic
9. Physical promotional materials are still incredibly important. Get out into the world and put up some posters and hand out some flyers. Don’t spend all of your time on Facebook.
10. Facebook is dying. If your entire promotional plan relies on it, you’re doomed.
11. You need to conquer your hometown before you can hit the road. If no one cares about you locally, what makes you think people will care about you anywhere else?
12. Touring means nothing unless people actually show up to your shows. Do not tour unless you know how you’re going to get a crowd at every show.
13. Playing around town all the time weakens your draw. Spread out your shows so you can promote one big show every 6-8 weeks.
14. HOWEVER, when you’re starting off, you need to play out everywhere and anywhere all the time to get practice. Record every show. Once YOU love listening to your live set (and non-friends and non-family tell you they love your band) then you can book real shows and charge a cover.
15. If you suck, you do not deserve to be paid. Get good first. Then you can start charging.
16. No one in the industry cares about how good your music is. They care about how successful you have become on your own.
17. Go out of your way to help others in your scene. It will eventually come back around.
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take.  Follow him on Twitter: @aristake
Photo from Flickr by Grenade used with the Creative Commons License.