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How to Become a Famous Singer (Even If You’re Not the Best Singer)

In the world of music, there is a strange dissociation between what the public thinks will make it big or who has what it takes to make it to the top compared to which artists actually become superstars. The idea is only those with the greatest musical ability or the absolute best voices can make a living as vocalists, but that simply isn’t the case. It’s a nice idea but it’s not necessarily how things go…and while this upsets some people, it can work in your favor if you learn how to play the game.

If you are looking to be a Singer, you should go through years of vocal lessons. But don’t think that if you don’t have the best voice (technically speaking), you don’t have a shot at succeeding. You will need the following six things and you’ll also need to truly believe you have what is required to become what’s missing from the music world, and then to fill that void.

The following half-dozen factors will all play important roles in regards to becoming a famous Singer…even if you’re not the best one out there.

1. A Voice

A lot of people assume that in order to be a professional Singer, you need to have a top-notch, powerhouse voice that can break windows and blow the roof off of any building you’re performing in. This would certainly be nice, but it’s not necessary, and, in fact, there are times when it’s not even the best option.

The world already has a Mariah Carey, an Adele, a Christina Aguilera, and hundreds of other professionally-trained near-perfect vocalists, and while I’m not suggesting you don’t need to learn how to sing, it’s not necessarily about having the “best” singing voice — it’s about making your voice work for you.

Look at some of the biggest vocalists in the music industry — Katy Perry, Kesha, Rihanna…the list goes on and on — none of these people are the best Singers who have ever come along, but they are some of the greatest and most successful pop superstars of all time. They may not have the range, but they know what they are doing, and they know what songs work for them, how to carry them, and how to command a room. They were chosen by A&R people and executives at record labels, despite some of their vocal shortcomings, and there’s nothing to say you can’t earn this attention as well.

You should take vocal lessons and practice regularly, but not every tune requires the highest of highs or the longest notes, especially if you’re looking to make rock, pop, electronic, or hip-hop music.

2. A Name

When you pick your name as a Singer, think long and hard before you finalize a decision, because once you do, you’re going to need to stick with it for some time. Your name should be something that stands out and is immediately memorable. It should be the sort of name that sells music, but which can also be used for many other purposes because you never know if you’ll end up becoming the next major star in the music world who branches out to other fields.

Your name is your brand, and while it might not be worth millions just yet, you should prepare for such a future. You want to make it a powerful, valuable one.

Some people are lucky enough to go by their given names —Kesha, Beyoncé, Adele — while others opt to choose something new. Sometimes it’s close to their real name — Rihanna’s real first name is Robyn and Katy Perry’s real last name is Hudson — and sometimes it’s something completely fabricated. Lady Gaga is not, unsurprisingly, her birth name.

No matter what you go with, it’s better if it’s short, unlike anything else out there, uncommon, and not taken. Look online, especially on social media platforms, to see if anyone has already been using your name or something close to it. If this is the case, you might want to find a way to claim it for yourself (perhaps they don’t need it any longer) or find something else. If you’re not already a stunning vocalist, your name can help define you as a star before anyone has even heard you. (Think Ke$ha or Lady Gaga before they blew up).

The world already has a Mariah Carey, an Adele, a Christina Aguilera, and hundreds of other professionally-trained near-perfect vocalists, and while I’m not suggesting you don’t need to learn how to sing, it’s not necessarily about having the “best” singing voice — it’s about making your voice work for you.

3. A Look

Have you ever been at a music festival or a concert and seen somebody walking by and immediately thought, “That person is a musician!” Was it their hair? Their clothing? Perhaps tattoos and accessories? Think about what made them stand out, and what makes the musicians who top the charts and release the art you love to consume immediately recognizable, and then think about how you can emulate this, but in your own way.

As a musician looking to make it big, you should have a “look.” What this means differs from person to person, as it should. Maybe you’ll have a unique haircut or color. (Think Hayley Williams from Paramore when the band first made it big). Maybe you will stick to wearing one color or a certain kind of garment. Perhaps a certain style works well for you.

Don’t work too hard overthinking this, because if you do, people will be able to tell right away, and the whole thing will come off as phony. This is especially true if your look is doing a bit of hiding your limited vocal range.

The idea is whatever you choose becomes part of your brand, and it helps people recognize you and remember you. If it seems a bit schticky, it is, but that’s part of the game. Not everyone has this going for them, but it can be helpful, especially for those looking to rise to fame in certain fields. Pop Singers are best-known for using this marketing tactic, but different types of artists can also use it to their benefit.

4. A Style

These days, genre means less to most young music fans than it has in the past. However, it hasn’t completely been done away with (at least not yet). As you start creating, you’ll find your music falling into one genre or another, or perhaps several, and that process is natural. It’s based on what you love and what you spend your time listening to, and you should allow it to happen because it is part of the creative process.

Blending genres and mixing styles in inventive ways is what music is all about. It’s important to help an artist stand out these days, but fitting into a certain category can also help. Being able to describe your music as almost anything, from “rock” to “dubstep-meets-folktronica” is key, at least when you first get started. Not having a chosen genre or a way to describe your tunes isn’t of use to those who might want to work with you, such as record labels, A&R professionals, or booking people, and it makes it difficult for those running stores and streaming platforms.

Balancing standing out and blending in is extremely difficult, but there are ways to do both of those things at the same time, believe it or not! Here’s a little piece of advice — if you’re not the greatest belter in the world, perhaps Broadway and classical genres (such as opera) just aren’t for you…at least not yet.

The road to success is littered with bands and artists who couldn’t keep going for one reason or another, and those who made it did so in part because they were determined and they never quit.

5. A “Thing”

Again, this is a little bit of a schtick, but it can be useful when getting people to pay attention to you. Should it be all about your talent and the music you create? Of course! Yet, this is never the only thing required, so you need to do everything you can to make it in this business.

Your “thing” (there are probably better ways to describe what I’m talking about, but since it’s fairly vague, I’m choosing to stick with “thing”) can be whatever you want, as long as it helps you stand out and furthers your career. Some artists are known for weird fashion choices (Lady Gaga is a good example of this), some are known for wearing masks (Slipknot, Slow Magic), some only want to party all the time (Kesha when she first started, LMFAO always), some groups wear matching outfits or near-matching get-ups (Destiny’s Child), some artists choose not to speak to the media, some are explosive performers, and the list goes on and on.

The idea here, like what I was discussing regarding a look, is there is something identifiable associated with the music, creating a full, wholly-rounded package. This can change, and it doesn’t need to be anything crazy, but maybe there’s a little something special that sets you apart and makes people remember when they saw you live or read about you.

If you have a once-in-a-lifetime voice, it can be your signature, but you might want to consider this item anyway, as every little bit helps in being noticed and remembered.

6. Determination

Whether you are the absolute greatest Singer to ever live or someone who talks into a microphone to get the lyrics out, you are facing an uphill battle when you enter the music industry. It’s a tough game, and no matter what you sound like, look like, or how great a performer you are, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other acts out there who can be compared to you in some way.

I spent a lot of time talking about standing out and being memorable in this article, and those are certainly worthy of discussing…but perhaps the single most important quality you need as a young artist just getting started is determination. You’re going to face a lot of false starts, quite a bit of disappointment, and more rejection than you should ever have to endure, but that’s just part of being in the music business, unfortunately.

Between working several jobs to pay the bills, putting in impossibly long hours to create your art, the rigors of touring, and every other difficulty coming your way, you’ll need to find a way to stay focused and determined. The road to success is littered with bands and artists who couldn’t keep going for one reason or another, and those who made it did so in part because they were determined and they never quit. Are you going to be one of them one day? You’ll never know if you don’t keep trying!

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How to Conduct a Professional Soundcheck

You arrive at the hall, all your gear is onstage, and your band is there, too. From the moment of arrival to the opening song of the concert, there’s much that needs to happen. We want the show to run smoothly, with all the singers and musicians comfortable on the stage, and the audience blissfully receiving our performance. The first step to making this a reality is the soundcheck. As with all the other aspects of your performance, this takes some planning.

To learn how to do a professional soundcheck in a medium or large sized venue, theater or hall I’ll use a common scenario. I’ll assume there’s a full rhythm section — guitars, keys, bass, and drums –with added hand percussion, horns and possibly strings, a vocalist or multiple vocalists, and background vocals. I won’t try to cover every possible detail, but I’ll give you a basic method that can be adapted to many situations and possible instrument combinations.

The goal is always to give the audience as natural a musical experience possible, and to make sure the musicians on stage can hear each other and themselves. As a Concert Producer and Music Director for many hundreds of live music performances, I have distilled the preparation, set-up and sound-checking process into some core principles that are proven to work.

There are three steps to the soundcheck: your planning, your procedures, and your stage monitor adjustments. There’s a logical sequence; once you have it memorized it should be done the same way every time. The time needed will vary by group size and complexity, the challenges presented by the room acoustics, and the competency of the Stage Crew and Mixing Engineers, but it’s generally wise to leave at least a few hours to conduct a proper soundcheck. In some cases, we use an entire day prior to the show, or when possible, the evening before the day of the show is also reserved for soundchecking. Sometimes we must work very quickly and get it all done in an hour or two. Every venue and show is unique and your challenge as a group leader is to make the most of the situation at hand. Always go in with a plan.

Getting Started: Make a Plan

It’s crucial to be as prepared as possible because you can expect to hit some snags along the way. It can be disastrous when there is no plan. Time is always super valuable and we never want to waste it when we are getting ready to perform. Understand that a certain amount of time will need to be devoted to troubleshooting as there are many things which inevitably go wrong. You will be less-stressed if you anticipate the difficulties and leave enough time to troubleshoot effectively as you go.

Following are the suggested components of the plan. If you hit a snag, you can move to the next stage while the problem gets sorted out.

  • Draw a detailed stage plot. Show approximate placement of all performers, microphones, instruments, and amplifiers. Also, indicate general placement of stage monitors and which monitors receive individual monitor mixes.
  • Confirm with technical personnel all equipment that will be available for sound and lights, including backline (amplifiers and drums), risers, monitors, microphones, music stands, etc. and who will be responsible for set up and operation. Check all logistics for transport and loading of equipment not already on-site.
  • Plan staggered arrival times of musicians and set-up of equipment. Usually, the drummer and percussionist should arrive first and set up their equipment. If there are any other large cumbersome instruments, such as multi-keyboard rigs or giant amp stacks, they should also arrive early. Next to arrive are guitarists, horns, vocalists, or any other musicians with relatively easy placement and set-up requirements.

Special note: there should be a “Green Room” area ready by first arrival time for musicians to put their personal belongings, cases, and stage clothes. It should be confirmed in advance that this room will be accessible, heated (or cooled), and clean. There should be light refreshments, snacks, and beverages on hand if possible. There is always some hanging around during downtime for the performers and crew and we want them to be comfortable.

  • Several songs should be selected in advance for the soundcheck. Depending on time available, there should be about three or four selections. They should be picked specifically to soundcheck different sections of the band, such as rhythm section, horns and full band with vocals.

Special note: Another consideration for soundcheck song selection might be songs that need rehearsal or have technically difficult sections, such as beginnings, endings, and transitions. Do not expect to play songs in their entirety, however.

Pro Tip: Have a Production Assistant on hand to call the performers to the stage in the order needed.

Every venue and show is unique and your challenge as a group leader is to make the most of the situation at hand. Always go in with a plan.

Procedures For Front-Of-House (Mains)

The term “front of house” is abbreviated as FOH and the Sound Engineer is experienced in mixing the instruments to sound good for the audience. The P.A. speakers aimed at the audience are called “mains,” meaning the main speakers. What the audience hears from the stage will be primarily determined by the quality and suitability of the main speakers and the skillful mixing of the instruments (voice is also an instrument) by the FOH Engineer.

The goal is always to mix the sound from the stage so the audience can experience the music in the most natural way possible. This means the Engineer must first listen carefully to each instrument separately and then use the mixing board to faithfully recreate the sound through the mains. There are many devices and techniques an experienced Engineer knows to use, such as equalization (EQ), reverb, effects (FX), compression, etc. and they must also account for any acoustical anomalies in the hall. Due to the variable acoustics of any room, the sound will be different in different parts of the audience. The Sound Engineer’s job is to make the music sound good in every part of the hall. As the Producer, I walk around the hall during the soundcheck to make sure the sound is good everywhere. If I notice any deficiencies, I alert the Sound Engineer so they can correct if possible.

Let’s Roll

The protocol for soundchecking may vary depending on actual instrumentation, size of hall, time available, and individual preferences. Over time the best way will become apparent; what follows is a general description of how it could work.

Start with putting each instrument into the main speakers only, providing rough stage monitor mix only when absolutely necessary, such as with keyboards not going through an amplifier. Check the sound of each instrument in the hall as you go, and then start to combine them in the mix by having them play together. Pay special attention to levels (volume) first, then adjust the EQ to get proper timbre. The goal is to make each instrument sound as natural as possible. (At this point a little of each instrument could go into the stage monitor mix to make it easier for the musicians to hear each other and check that the monitors are connected and working.) If you have an experienced Engineer, consult with them as you go on what they need to hear.

Here is a sample order of instruments for the soundchecking of the mains:

Drums (Drum Set)

Check each drum/drum microphone separately: bass drum, snare, rack tom(s), floor tom. Then check cymbals: high-hat, overhead(s). Pay close attention to the sound of each microphone and drum. If there is ringing in the drum it may need to be dampened with some tape, the microphone placed differently (or both). The drums should be tuned at this time if they need it. There should be no effects (FX); start with a flat EQ and adjust as needed to make each drum sound the best it can. If FX are desired, they can be added at the end.

After each drum and mic has been placed, adjusted and EQ’d so that it sounds optimal, play kick-drum and snare together in an alternating pattern. The goal is to achieve balance in volume and EQ. Next, have the drummer play fills around the toms. Then have the drummer play a groove with fills on the toms, using the cymbals as well. Have the drummer play at dynamic levels that are likely to occur during the show (this applies to all the instruments). Have the drummer play all around the kit for a while to achieve a balance of all the drums and cymbals that will sound good in the hall.

Note: A proper drum soundcheck usually takes a minimum of a ½ hour, under difficult circumstances an hour or more may be used to soundcheck the drums.

Bass

If using an electric bass it is best to use a direct box as opposed to the direct out from the amplifier, since the sound going to the board will be uncolored by the amp this way. Most direct boxes also give you the option to do a ground lift if there is polarity hum, which is a good thing. Some higher quality amplifiers’ direct out will have a ground lift (polarity switching) and give you a choice of pre or post output for the signal going to the mixing board. I always prefer the pre signal, because I’m looking for the most natural sound of the instrument to use in the mix.

It might also be a good idea to place a microphone at the speaker if there is a channel available for this. There are special techniques for the placement of microphones on speakers. So, if you have the sound from the speaker and the sound directly from the instrument that is good to make a blend. In most cases, the direct input from the bass through the direct box is sufficient. You might also decide you don’t want to use the speaker sound as it will inevitably have some distortion.

If you have an acoustic bass there are different techniques for placing the microphone, usually somewhere near the sound hole facing slightly upwards. If the upright acoustic has an internal or attached pickup element, then the same advice applies as for the electric. You might end up with three channels; one for the instrument’s sound hole, one for the pickup and one for the speaker. Use the one or ones that sound the best to create your mix.

When checking the bass, set the amp first to a reasonable stage volume level as would be used during the performance. Then have the bass player play, using the whole range of the instrument. They could play down in the low register first, then go to the mids, and then up high if they are also a soloist. Adjust the timbre of the amp and set the EQ for the hall. Have the bassist play all techniques that they will use for the show, e.g. slapping, finger-style, or with a pick.

Next, the drummer and the bassist should play a groove together. Level and EQ adjustments can now be made so that the balance is good in the audience and on stage.

Keyboards (Synths), Piano

As with the bass, keyboards should go directly to the board using the keyboard’s “balanced line out,” whether or not they are using an amplifier on stage for a personal monitor. There is no need to place a microphone at the speaker of a keyboard amplifier.

Have the keyboardist play all of the sounds and keyboards they will use. Check for levels, EQ, and distortion. Have them play in all dynamic ranges they will be using in the performance.

For acoustic piano it is best to use 2 condenser microphones placed inside the frame, hovering over the bass and treble registers. It takes some expertise and tweaking of EQ, plus an ideal microphone placement to get a natural sound from the piano in the mix. It is usually necessary to spend some time experimenting to get the best possible sound from a piano. Note: The piano should be professionally tuned on the same day as the show.

Now have the drums and bass play with the keyboardist(s). Use one of the pre-selected songs from the concert.

Special note: Another consideration for soundcheck song selection might be songs that need rehearsal or have technically difficult sections, such as beginnings, endings, and transitions. Do not expect to play songs in their entirety, however.

Guitar(s)

Electric guitars should not use direct boxes. They should play through their amplifier on stage, and the speaker should have a microphone placed on it. As in the studio, sometimes both the front and back of an open-backed speaker may have a microphone placed on it, although in most cases for live settings this isn’t really necessary. One dynamic microphone properly placed diagonally at the edge of the speaker cone should suffice. My favorite for this is the Shure SM-57, though any dynamic microphone will work.

The guitarist should play all of the sounds, levels, or effects that they will be using e.g. clean sound, distortion, wah-wah, chorus/flanger, delays, etc. Each sound should be considered when making the setting at the board, and the player should strive for a balance in output (level) between sounds to make the Sound Engineer’s job easier. As a ready example, the distortion sound shouldn’t be ten times as loud as the clean sound.

Acoustic guitars either have a mic placed at the sound hole or, if they have a pickup, go to a direct box and then into the mixing board. If there is an active powered pickup with EQ on the guitar itself, make sure it has a fresh battery, set the volume at maximum and the EQ flat (no boost or cuts). Once the Engineer has a good sound, you can experiment with enhancements via the guitar pickup controls. It takes some artistry to get the best-amplified sound out of acoustic instruments.

Pro Tip: Be wary of loose jacks and old patch cables, which can create nasty unwanted pops and crackling sounds during a performance. For the same reason, if you need to unplug the cable from the guitar, make sure that the Engineer has the channel muted first.

Horns, Strings, Auxiliary Percussion

Horns (saxophones, trombones, trumpets) should be checked individually and then as a section if they will be playing ensemble passages (playing as a section). Either clip-on microphones or mics on a stand are pointed at the bell. A solo horn can also be checked playing alone and then together with the rhythm section.

Strings are checked in the same way. Usually, overheads are used, or if there is a pickup then the same procedure is followed as for acoustic guitar (direct box).

Percussion follows a similar procedure to the drums, with testing each instrument to be used, or, at least every microphone should be checked for level and EQ. This is usually much quicker than for drums because there are fewer mics. You could also check the percussion earlier in the process together with the drums.

At this point, the whole band should play a song together while the Engineer creates a mix. There is usually a fair amount of stopping and starting while adjustments are made. Effects, such as reverb, delays, choruses, etc. can be added at the board at this time.

Vocals, Background Vocals

Check each vocal mic separately. Set EQ and effects. Pro Tip: FX are like makeup, they are meant to enhance what is there without being too obvious. Adjust vocal monitors on the stage at this time. Make sure that the singers actually sing when they are checking the microphones. Just saying “testing, testing,” as many singers are prone to do, is not enough for the Engineer to apply the correct settings to the microphone channel. They need to sing into the mic exactly as they will be doing during the performance.

Background vocals can be mixed either before or after the lead vocals. If there are multiple vocalists, each one should be assigned a separate mic, and the mic should have the EQ set specifically for the sound of their voice. Then they should sing as a group, and all the levels set to make the best possible blend for the group. Every group has a unique sound, and we want to listen for that, looking for the best way to enhance them in the mix.

In the next section, we will deal with how the stage performers will need to hear each other, using the separate stage monitor mix.

Stage Monitors Mix

First, adjust each mix separately. Start with what the vocalist needs, then go around to each instrument to ask what they want to hear more or less of. Set levels of each instrument in separate mixes according to preferences of each musician. EQ each monitor mix as needed. I prefer to mix monitors “dry,” meaning no reverb or effects added to the signal. Some vocalists like to hear a little reverb on their voice and may ask for that. In most cases the natural reverb from the hall should be enough, so adding effects in the monitors isn’t needed.

Pro Tip: LESS IS MORE! The less each musician can get by with in the monitor the easier it will be for the Mix Engineers to do their job. The bass and drums don’t need to hear everything that goes to the FOH (front of house) for example, they just need to hear each-other and enough vocal or lead instrument for reference so they don’t get lost in the arrangement. As vocalist you may not hear yourself the way you want to, but you have to trust that you are getting over through the mains. The reason for this is that the more sound waves on stage coming from speakers the more standing waves can occur, the harder it gets to hear anything with clarity and (also due to microphone bleed) the harder it is for the FOH Engineer to create a good mix. I’ll say it again: LESS IS MORE!

Troubleshooting and Fine-Tuning

Earlier I mentioned we should expect some problems with the soundcheck and be ready to solve them. By now, we have addressed the major issues, and we need to do some fine-tuning. There will always be difficulties with either the sound in the hall or on the stage and a good Engineer will work quickly to make the proper adjustments so the audience and performers can be most comfortable during the performance. Besides using the sound system to make the music sound wonderful, we want everyone, both on and off the stage, to have an amazingly fun time. Difficulties with the sound or hearing can interfere with this.

Play a few different sections of songs featuring different soloists, tempos, dynamic levels and instrument combinations. If there is more than one group performing on your equipment, be sure to memorize your amplifier settings so that you can adjust it back to where it was if it was changed. Some adjustments will need to be made in FOH when the hall is full of people, due to the dampening effect of the audience, but major adjustments should not need to be made on stage.

At this point, you should be ready to relax and have a great fun show!

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How to Lead a Team at Your First Record Label, Music Tech Startup, or Other Music Company

Whether you’re launching your first record label, music tech startup, or recording studio, starting a new business is an exciting but stressful experience — like playing the trombone while riding a unicycle. Even more so if you’ve never done it before. Knowing a lot about the music industry and the business model you’re planning to implement is one thing; executing it is an entirely different thing.

Of all the aspects people discuss when starting a new music industry company, if the business model is sound and you’re doing all the legal and commercial formalities, I’m of a strong opinion it’s the team you choose to help you do everything else that will make or break the company.

Realistically, if you have wild plans for business growth or world domination, it’s your employees who will hopefully end up helping you manage and run the company. They’ll know the good, the bad and the ugly, they’ll have gone through multiple business decisions and pivots with you and that, alongside the skills learned during the process, is incredibly valuable. Obviously, the first step to success in the music business is employing the right people with the right skills within your budget. This is true even for those just out of college who may be operating more on a “passion project” than a “get paid” level. But when you’ve found the right group of people — whether they’re volunteer staff, friends, or full-on employees — how do you get the very best out of them?

I’ve been managing the team at Music Gateway for three years and we’ve been going for a little over five years. We’re out of the start-up phase but not quite sunning it up in the Bahamas and a lot of our staff, like with most start-up companies in the music industry, started as inexperienced music industry lovers who loved the concept of Music Gateway and had a burning desire to be a part of something groundbreaking. Now they’ve perfected their crafts and formed impressive roles as true professionals in their fields who are helping us expand the company and provide more and more to our members month on month.

It has not always been a smooth ride and there are definitely things we’ve learned during the journey. So, if you’re stepping into that bold music start-up management position, here are some top tips from my team to keep everyone motivated, happy and get the best out of people throughout the adventure!

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” — Jim Rohn

Clear Direction

Every single person in the team said that they think it’s important for “clear goals to be set” and that “as important as it is for someone to communicate positives and barriers to a manager, it’s as important for the manager to communicate the importance in value of the project.”

“Obviously someone needs to know how to do something, but it’s the ‘why’ that will really get them to do it to the best of their ability. Feeling responsible for the bigger picture is a huge motivator.”

This is not just on a project-by-project basis but for personal and professional growth, too. One of the Music Gateway team stressed their “appreciation for evaluation meetings with management from time to time to go over how [the manager] feels [they’re] doing or what [the] progress and next steps look like.” As a manager, this makes sense and is an attitude you want to encourage. Anyone who’s working towards a career needs guidance and an evaluation of their journey to check they’re on the right track for their goals and an opportunity to really feel listened to and valued. Self-appraisals work really well for start-ups. It gives staff an opportunity to SWOT analyze themselves before you give feedback and really engage in the process and think about what they’re doing to drive forward both personally and professionally, which is always good for the overall business.

“Whilst it may seem like not a big deal on a case by case basis, if there is constant change happening and no clear direction then it creates a culture of demotivation. I find generally people want to perform well and enjoy striving for a goal so if there are no clear goals it can be demotivating and confusing. Equally, it can be a big slap in the face if every time you get close to achieving a target, the target changes because of company direction.”

Ask your team this…
Do you know exactly what your role is in the company? Do you know what you’re achieving each day? How is your role driving the company forward? Do you know where you see yourself in five years time? Is this company helping you achieve personal goals even if in five years time you’re doing it somewhere else?

These are questions that both management and the individual should be asking themselves, working together to achieve company and personal growth.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” — Ernest Hemingway

Trust

The majority of the team mentioned trust in their top three qualities they liked in a manager. I couldn’t agree more with Hemingway on this one! Trust is so important but you have to set the boundary as the manager. How annoying is it to have someone not trust you to do your job? And equally, how annoying is it when you’ve given someone a task, not being able to trust them to do it? This is where you have to be on the same page as your team. One member acknowledged in their analysis of trust that: “This also relies on staff being open and honest with any barriers and coming to managers if there are any issues, but this is how the trust is built.”

You need to believe in them:
“In the basic sense, I like to know that my managers trust me to get the work done and get it done to a high standard. I think empowering your employees is the most important thing and there’s nothing worse than your employer doubting or questioning your abilities.”

You need to know them:
“If an employee is struggling, it’s not always internal — there could be external or personal factors that are affecting their progress. It’s not necessarily management’s job to fix these issues but it is important to be aware of them. If you show compassion and understanding towards an employee’s personal growth it’s highly likely that you will reinforce their trust in you and their loyalty to the company will be a lot stronger.”

From the off, I find that targets and reporting give people the opportunity to do things their own way with a clear goal of when things need to be done by or what is expected of them. The hardest thing as a manager is not being positive someone’s going to hit their target and wanting to intervene before the deadline is given but there are two things here, which should stop you. The first is if you keep helping, they’ll never learn and you’ll never know whether they’re right for the job. The other is, if you have an open door policy, they should be coming to you for help, which makes the process easier for everyone.

Ask yourself this…
Are you assigning tasks to the best person rather than the best role for the job? Are you constantly wondering if someone’s going to deliver on time? Are you finding yourself setting mini goals for targets to encourage someone to get things done?

To start off with, open up a conversation with the person you’re starting to mistrust but if you’re finding that you’re feeling this way time and time again with someone, it might be time to be harsh with yourself. In the world of music startups, unfortunately, there’s no room for stragglers.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” — Bill Gates

Feedback

It’s ironic really that this was one of the top three things mentioned by the team as I partly asked them for the purpose of this feature, but mostly because I was interested in seeing what they liked and disliked about the way we were currently working together. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, eh?

“If I could do something better or I’m not pulling my weight, tell me! I work because I want a career and in order to grow your career you have to grow as a person and you can’t do that if people aren’t pulling you up on your errors. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be shouted at and have managers throw things at me Steve Jobs style, but a polite notice about performance and how it can be improved is always appreciated. Equally, if you’ve just smashed something out of the park then it’s SO important to praise. Even if it’s part of their role and it’s expected of them, positive reinforcement is possibly the best form of motivation.”

“I’d say as a manager it’s important not to put someone on the spot when addressing an issue. If, as the manager, you know the answer before you ask the question I’d rather you didn’t play dumb and ask: ‘Has this task been done?’ only to hear the staff member say it’s not been done and just feel guilty. It does no favors for morale. Instead please be direct that you know there is an issue present and ask how the staff member would like to resolve it, that gets the staff member to acknowledge the issue, discuss why it’s happened and then present a solution, rather than feel like they’re just being told off like a school kid.”

“Recognition and awareness of an individual’s skills and what tasks would be best suited to them are so important. It’s also appreciated if a manager tells their employee what they think their skills are. All this helps boost motivation, confidence, and efficiency.”

Ask yourself this…
Is your feedback constructive? Does it yield positive results? Is it something that those you manage want?

Feedback is important and one of the most valuable things a manager can give so making sure it’s done clearly and at the right time makes all the difference.

The Top Takeaway

Interestingly, not one of the suggestions raised in this feature is about business strategy or logistical engineering. What makes someone a good leader isn’t defined by how good you are at your own workload, or what music industry knowledge you can share or what tips you have to streamline processes although the list is not inexhaustible and I’m certain these are helpful qualities. Quite clearly, what marks the sign of a great manager at any music company — big, small, established, just getting started — is the relationship you have with your staff. Understandably, this can at times be quite time-consuming. I found like with most things in life, this is harder to do well during times of stress as you have a burning desire to put your head down and get on with what you need to do. However, as a manager or a leader you have to keep your head up and looking around at the team so you don’t miss any opportunities to encourage, motivate, feedback and direct.

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Five Music Industry Internships That Will Look Great on Your Resume

There is a lot of talk about whether internships should be paid or remain largely unpaid and no matter where you land when it comes to that debate (both sides do have their points), it’s impossible to ignore how valuable internships can be, especially for students, both in high school and in college.

Internships are a fantastic way for young people to make connections, gain essential real-world experience, and find out what they actually want to do with their lives. Sometimes, students will have no idea and internships are a fairly low-risk way for them to try new things and see if they can’t discover something they love. Other times, a young person might think they want to work in a certain industry or secure a specific job but after an internship, they might realize it’s not for them (or perhaps learn it’s even better than they’d hoped, if we’re being optimistic).

They can be tough to land, as competition is fierce, and not everyone can make them work based on schedules, travel, and a need to bring in cash to pay the bills, but if you can, try to pack in as many internships as possible during your time as a student because after that, it’s nearly impossible to grab any more and applying for and getting a job is much more difficult.

There are tons of music industry internships out there but the majority of them fit into certain categories. There are certainly other options out there but these are the main ones you’ll find when it comes to the music business.

1. Record Label Internships

The music industry has changed considerably over the past decade or so, and while many up-and-coming artists know it’s not all about securing a major label recording contract, the biggest and best-known record companies in the business still attract the best talent in every sense, including when it comes to internships.

A quick search for music industry-related internships shows many labels do have postings online and positions to be filled, so it’s not as if they aren’t available. Having said this, everybody wants to have a record label internship on their resume and many college students are hoping their hard work in the office will land them a highly-coveted job at Warner Brothers, Universal, Sony, or any of their affiliates or sub-labels. That’s a tough future to secure but an internship at a label is worth fighting for!

Many of the biggest labels have a number of slots open and what you’ll actually be doing at these companies varies widely. (There’s a chance you might not even know until you get there!) Position descriptions I’ve read online posted by Universal Music Group, Atlantic Records, and BedRoc Records — some of the most successful record labels in the business today — didn’t get too specific, so while having the name on your resume is certainly a good thing, I can’t promise what kind of experience you’ll actually garner during these opportunities.

The music industry has changed considerably over the past decade or so, and while many up-and-coming artists know it’s not all about securing a major label recording contract, the biggest and best-known record companies in the business still attract the best talent in every sense, including when it comes to internships.

2. Recording Studio Internships

First thing’s first when it comes to recording studio internships — don’t start thinking if you can land a role at one of them, you’ll automatically be granted free studio time. That’s not how it works and if you’re only looking for these types of jobs and internships in order to record your album for cheap or free, you’re probably in for a rude awakening. It’s not that such perks don’t exist, but they’re not going to find you on the first day so please only apply to these openings if you’re truly interested in learning the ins and outs of working at a recording studio.

On all of the sites I searched for, I was only able to find one internship connected to a recording studio (at least at the time and in the locale I selected), so that suggests these companies probably aren’t as on the ball about posting their internship needs as other companies…or perhaps some of them don’t even need to look for an Intern at all.

If you want to work at a recording studio for the summer (just a suggestion), you should absolutely start your search online on popular job boards, but you will probably need to be more proactive. Reach out to studios in your area via email or on social media and ask if they have such opportunities available (after looking at their websites), or ask if you can help them in some way. Speak to Engineers, Mixers, Recording Studio Managers, and Producers to see if they know of any opportunities or if they can help create one. Even if nothing comes out of your attempts, it doesn’t hurt to try, to take the initiative, and you might make some valuable contacts in the process.

3. Magazine & Blog Internships

Internships at blogs, magazines, and in similar fields are at the intersection of media and the music industry and they can help you one day find a job in either world. Writing about music requires a lot more than just a love of music (though it is, of course, paramount), and you’ll need to be able to prove you can actually string words together in order to even be considered. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to find some places that will allow you to write before you even apply.

As someone just starting out, I’d suggest beginning at the very bottom and working your way up. When you first try writing about new bands and reviewing albums and singles, it should be about gaining experience and knowledge of the industry, which will one day help you secure an internship, or perhaps even a job. Try starting your own blog or perhaps write for smaller outlets online that are in need of content. You shouldn’t expect to make any money at first, but if you can publish on a few different platforms, you may have a very good shot at eventually interning at a company people actually know, which will look great on your resume.

A quick search on a number of highly-trafficked internship posting sites showed brands like Fuse and Bandsintown are looking for Interns to start soon and those two are only a few of the many that require such help. If this is a road you want to travel down, know once you have completed one or two of these internships, you can begin freelancing as a Music Writer…if you’re not offered a job after your time at each company is through.

Depending on the company you end up securing an internship with, you could either be fetching coffee and stuffing envelopes or actually reaching out to media to see if you can get them to write about the musicians that have hired those who brought you on.

4. PR Internships

Public relations firms (or simply PR firms, which you should probably know before you apply for anything) are always looking for Interns, no matter what field they focus on. Music publicity is a notoriously difficult industry, though it can come with some awesome and extremely fun perks, especially if you’re new to the game. You’ll work long hours for little or no pay, the work will probably be menial (at least when you begin), and you might have to spend a lot of time on campaigns you may not actually care about…but that’s the PR world for you.

Depending on the company you end up securing an internship with, you could either be fetching coffee and stuffing envelopes or actually reaching out to media to see if you can get them to write about the musicians that have hired those who brought you on. Hopefully, at least by the end of your time at a music PR internship, you’ll have learned what the industry is all about and you’ll have gained some meaningful experience and you may know whether or not you want to pursue work as a Publicist later on.

As an Intern, you will likely get to enjoy some of the coolest benefits of working in PR, such as connecting with top-tier media in the field, working directly with musicians (some of whom might be brand new and unknown, though depending on the company you’re interning for, they may have clients who are already stars), and plenty of concerts.

When I searched for these types of internships in the NYC area (where I am based), I found several offered by companies I was familiar with (such as Stunt Company and Gramophone Media), who reach out to me with awesome clients all the time so it’s good to see there are plenty of reputable PR firms looking for young talent to help them out.

5. Social Media Internships

Whether you apply directly for a music industry internship or one in another field, chances are social media may play some sort of role. Social media has become an important part of how so many companies operate and run and now everybody needs to not only have a presence on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, they need to excel at it, especially those working in the entertainment fields.

Those in charge have learned over the years that the nuances of what works and what doesn’t on social media can be difficult to master and now they often rely on Social Media Managers to help guide them, if not actually do the work themselves. When I went searching for music industry-related internships across various online job boards, I came across a number focused solely on social media and the descriptions of plenty of others (including those with the words “marketing” and “PR,” especially) all made mention of it as well.

While youth can sometimes be a disadvantage when it comes to getting a job or being accepted into an internship, this is one time when it can actually play in your favor. Clean up your profiles, learn a few best practices, and show these companies you can better their social media presences and make their content go viral, which is what everyone under the age of thirty is expected to be able to do these days.

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The Best Budget-Friendly Music Promotion Strategies to Get New Fans for Your Music

When you’re a musician, especially one who has no major support and is funding your art out of your own pockets, things are really, really tough, and you need to do everything you can to save every cent whenever possible. However expensive you think this life is…it’s probably worse. You’ll be spending money on everything from instruments to studio time to having merchandise made (including your CDs), and, at least in the beginning, you’ll probably be shelling out more money to hit the road and play live than you’ll be making.

In addition to all those investments that must be made, you need to actually get your music out there, and promotion doesn’t come cheap. You can easily shell out thousands on Publicists, Radio Promoters, and advertising, and none of those efforts come with a guarantee.

If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on music promotion (or any money), here are five options you have that might help you get the word out to the masses that you and your music have arrived. Music promotion can be one of the most expensive parts of being an independent musician but it doesn’t have to be — if you’re willing to put in the work yourself!

Pitch The Media

This is the first option many people think of and it can be one of the most effective so I think it deserves to be ranked first. Reaching out to the media is tricky, time-intensive, and it doesn’t always play out how you’d like, but if things go well — even if you only end up getting a fraction of what you were looking for when you first started pitching — it will likely have been worth the effort.

Before you reach out to Bloggers, Journalists, Podcasters and the like, do your research! These people receive hundreds of messages a day from Managers, Publicists, record label staff and artists themselves begging for even a moment of attention (if not also a write-up) so you’re going to need to do this right. If you send someone an unprofessional, rude, incomplete, tired, or simply uninteresting email the chances you’ll get what you want out of the interaction (the chances you’ll get anything out of the interaction at all, to be honest), aren’t great.

Don’t just start sending messages or reaching out to people via social without thinking, writing, rewriting, and potentially even having someone edit what you’ve done. Think of a strategy, of a hook, and of what makes you, your music, and your story, so special. Everyone wants to believe their new song is great enough to be written about on its own, but there’s a lot of awesome music right now, and you’ll want something else that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Do this right, and you could start to see your profile rise and your music gain traction. Do this wrong and you will likely ruin relationships with important tastemakers who won’t want to hear from you again, even if you’re the best thing to come along in years.

Don’t just start sending messages or reaching out to people via social without thinking, writing, rewriting, and potentially even having someone edit what you’ve done. Think of a strategy, of a hook, and of what makes you, your music, and your story, so special.

Streaming Playlisting

Blogs and websites that discover new acts and report on the music world are still important, but playlists on streaming platforms have pretty much taken over the role of uncovering great new acts, which media outlets used to do almost entirely on their own.

Streaming has become king in the music industry and like it or not, everything revolves around platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Napster, Tidal, and Pandora. These companies have pushed the business to new places, have helped it turn from the brink of destruction, and they are also helping break new names and create stars all the time. Artists used to need traditional media to become household names and break records, but these days, it’s all about making it big on streaming.

There are plenty of stories about one artist or another appearing on an important playlist and immediately making money thanks to increased play counts, purchases, merchandise sales, and especially touring. A proper placement on a streaming playlist can change everything, or at least set you on your way to something exciting.

Not all playlists are created equal, and while some are the biggest in the world and are followed by millions, most playlists only have a devoted fan base of a much smaller sum. Since the people who put these together aren’t pitched as hard as the top items, go after these playlists first. Form a relationship with the curator and see if they’ll feature your music. Once you’ve secured placement, you can go after the bigger ones, either with the same song or with your next release.

It’s possible those who rule the biggest playlists may have already heard of you, as they check out lesser-known playlists all the time. If not, at least you can say you’ve been featured before, which shows initiative and that at least one other curator believes in you and what you’re doing. There are plenty of companies offering this type of pitching, but it usually comes at a price. If you don’t have the money to hire an agency at the moment, you can try going it on your own, but just like reaching out to the media, you’ll need to do your research first to ensure you are doing so correctly.

Radio!

While it might not be nearly as powerful as it once was as a medium, radio still matters, and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t paying close enough attention to the music industry. If you’re a rising act, your options when it comes to potentially being played on the radio are limited, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing out there for you.

Sure, you won’t be played on the local Top 40 station (which tends to be the most popular in any given city), but there are surely other radio options out there worth reaching out to! Look at the stations in your area and see if any of them have a time when they highlight local acts. Perhaps there’s a DJ who is known for slipping up-and-coming artists into their playlists?

Local stations are probably easier to approach when you’re just getting started, but after a while, you can go regional, and then national, though you likely want to stick to smaller shows or stations which cater to your genre, or which are known for breaking new bands. You have the best chance of grabbing their attention before any others.

College radio is also another fantastic option and one which might be your best bet. Students do most of the curating in these instances and they are always interested in learning more, hearing more, and being the first to highlight someone who might blow up one day. There are still many college radio stations, and you can reach out to all of them on your own…since you probably don’t want to pay for a Promoter to do so for you just yet (though again, those do exist).

Not all playlists are created equal, and while some are the biggest in the world and are followed by millions, most playlists only have a devoted fan base of a much smaller sum. Since the people who put these together aren’t pitched as hard as the top items, go after these playlists first.

Go Viral

This is perhaps pie-in-the-sky, but it’s worth mentioning in this article. Everyone these days wants to go viral, some for vanity reasons, while others have legitimate career aspirations that can be tied to the kind of attention that comes with going viral, even once.

There are countless ways to go viral as a musician, and this is part of what makes it so difficult. There isn’t just one way to make it happen. You need to be clever, creative, do something nobody has done before, and capture something difficult to put into words, but which people want to see or hear over and over again. It can be a song about something funny or relevant, a music video, or perhaps just a tweet. No matter how you do it, going viral can help you build your social following, send people to your pages on streaming services, and potentially even rocket you onto charts and make you a star.

It may seem superficial but there are real benefits that come with going viral these days…as long as it’s for the right reasons. Not all attention is good attention but most of it is, especially when you’re just getting started.

Social Media Advertising

You should already be active on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and potentially other social media platforms, but just because you’re constantly tweeting and posting, it doesn’t mean you’re building a fan base as fast as you could be. Whenever you have something new to share, be it a song, a video, an album, tour dates, or special news, you should have a full plan when it comes to promoting it. But if you want to tip the scales in your favor and reach those who may never have heard of you before (as opposed to only hitting those who have already identified themselves as fans by following you), you should think about investing some money in social media advertising.

To get started, you may only need to spend a few dollars on any of the platforms I mentioned, and they make it fairly simple to decide who you’d like to reach. You’ll quickly see there are nearly countless options when it comes to groups of people, geographic locations, interests, and so on, and you’ll find out how easy it might be to overspend on this form of music promotion (but that’s part of what makes it great).

If you only want to try it out, why not invest $25 and see if your stream or play count rises or if you collect any new followers? Have a show in a certain city? Promote a tweet to only those in the area! It doesn’t need to cost you a lot to do at least a small amount of advertising on social media.

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9 Songwriting Tips for Writing Better Songs

Being a Songwriter is easy but being a really good one is difficult. You can be great in your own eyes — that’s a form of success — but when many writers, Producers, and artists are talking about being “successful” in their craft, they mean they want to be able to make a living making their art, which is incredibly tough.

So, how does one become a professional Songwriter? I could write a dozen articles about what classes to take, how to know if you’re a Songwriter or Lyricist, what schools are best, and the many, many ways different people have made it to the top, but let’s start at the beginning. If you have any hope of one day being a professional Songwriter, you’ll first need to make yourself into a great Songwriter, so here are some songwriting tips to help you get where you’re trying to go.

1. Write Every Day

If you want to be truly great at anything, whether it be singing, playing an instrument, or even writing songs, you need to do it constantly. If you’re happy with it being just a hobby, that’s perfectly fine and you can work on penning new tunes whenever you like. But if you want to one day become very successful as someone who writes songs, you need to practice every single day.

This may sound like it won’t be a big hassle. If you have started thinking about being a professional Songwriter, chances are you already love the work, but when I say every day, I mean every day. It can’t be “often” and it can’t be “whenever you find the time to do so,” it needs to be a priority, and that’s where things can get tough.

Everyone is busy and everyone has a million things to do and it’s easy to see the day slip away before everything is completed. This is something, however, that can’t fall by the wayside…and if it does, you’ll likely see your chances of becoming a professional Songwriter fall as well. There will be times when you need to limit your songwriting time but you should be thinking about lyrics and melodies and actually putting pen to paper every single day.

2. Write With A Partner

Many Songwriters pick up the hobby on their own and that’s understandable, as the songs people typically start their careers (or what will turn into careers) with are about their own lives and what they are experiencing. Penning tracks solo is perfectly fine and you’ll probably spend a lot of time doing exactly that but there are a lot of benefits that come with pairing up and writing with another person.

You’ll find you can learn a lot by sitting down with another musician and working on a song together, especially if you’ve never done so. Working with one other Songwriter is usually how most acts enter the world of co-writing, and it’s a solid first step, as larger groups (which we will discuss next) can be intimidating to those who have only ever expressed their feelings musically alone. Start getting used to working through words, melodies, and even emotions in front of others, as that’s a big part of being a creative professional in the music world.

The act of creating songs is messy, unpredictable, and doesn’t always go in a linear order, even if the person holding the pen would like it to.

3. Find A Songwriting Group

Writing a song with one person is great but what about several people? Writing groups can be a completely different experience from spending some time with a single other artist and in some ways, it’s wonderful, while in other ways, it can be terrifying.

Being completely open about topics like love and loss in front of a crowd, especially when your thoughts aren’t fully-formed, are in their roughest states, and when you don’t know everyone well (or even at all) is bizarre, and not everyone can do it. If you can muster the courage and at least try it once, (which I highly suggest) you may find it to be an eye-opening endeavor and one that changes you as a Songwriter and makes you grow.

Others in the group may have completely different ways of going about starting a song, finishing one, working through an issue, and they may have insights you’ve never heard of or considered. These writing groups, which can be meetups, classes, or even writing camps arranged by established performers, record labels, performance rights organizations and the like, are known to churn out some of the biggest hits of the day, and they’re wonderful for young talents who someday want to be chart-toppers.

4. Quantity Matters

When you’re pouring your heart and soul into a piece of music, it can be difficult to step away from it and decide it’s done. It can be just as hard to move on to another track when one isn’t complete, especially if it’s only a half-formed thought or perhaps even less. There is the desire to finish what one started before attempting something else, and while this impulse is good to indulge in a number of circumstances, songwriting isn’t usually one of them.

The act of creating songs is messy, unpredictable, and doesn’t always go in a linear order, even if the person holding the pen would like it to. It is okay to walk away from one item to begin another or perhaps even to return to something that was left behind before. Some artists go back to tunes they started years ago, while others can bang out a smash in just a few minutes.

No matter what happens, just keep going. If it feels right to leave something alone for a little while and return at another time when your mind is refreshed, do it! Many artists will write dozens or hundreds of songs for every album and though many of those aren’t anywhere near completed, it can sometimes take that much work just to get a few gems.

5. Schedule Time To Write

Saying you will write every single day is one thing, but do you have the diligence to actually do so? The best way to ensure you will work on your craft day after day after day is to schedule time to do so and try and make it something you can’t get out of.

It’s easy to see the day disappear before you had time to write a single lyric if you don’t have a block of time set aside to write, so please don’t think you can just squeeze it in whenever you find the time. If there’s a certain part of the day when you usually focus on other hobbies, when you watch TV, or when you’re wasting time on the internet, block it off in your calendar as songwriting time. You can start with 15 or 30 minutes and go from there, depending on how you work and how things are going (as well as how serious you about making this craft your profession).

6. Keep Notes

Great ideas will come to you at all times of the day and night and you need to save them as quickly as you can or they will disappear as fast as they appeared out of seemingly nowhere. You may be absolutely sure you’ll remember that one awesome word, rhyme, melody, or sentence, but chances are you won’t and you’ll be kicking yourself when it’s gone.

Inspiration comes from everywhere and you should do your best to save every bit of it, as you never know what will end up being a part of the next amazing hook you put together, which could wind up being the smash that makes you a star. I’d suggest keeping an actual paper notebook and pen on you, though it’s not always possible. Try and have one whenever you can and when you can’t, your phone will do. In fact, your mobile device is much better for recording melodies and rhythms, though lyrics always feel better when they pour out of the tip of a pen, don’t they?

Many artists will write dozens or hundreds of songs for every album and though many of those aren’t anywhere near completed, it can sometimes take that much work just to get a few gems.

7. Get Feedback

Songwriting, like any art form, can be incredibly difficult for the artist, as just when they feel they’ve done the best work they can and they’ve created something everyone will love, they put it out into the world and…it turns out they’re wrong. How is a Songwriter supposed to know if what they’ve crafted actually works? That question can be very important to those who are about to shell out big bucks to record something in a studio and it’s worth discussing even if the person penning the track isn’t the one who will be performing it.

Before something is one hundred percent complete, share it with others to see what they think. You should have some kind of recording that will convey the emotion and power of the song and when you spread it around, try and have different people listen. Ask other Songwriters (ones who do so for a living and have landed some hit singles, if possible) to give it a play and see what they think but also feel free to send it to people who aren’t writers, but fans. Great songwriting should resonate with many different types of people and if you can connect with one person but not another, that might give some insight into what’s playing well and what isn’t.

8. Learn The Technical Basics

You don’t need to do this first (otherwise I would have placed this item at the top of the page), but at some point, before you even consider becoming a full-time professional Songwriter, you will need to learn everything there is to know about the industry from an academic standpoint. If you don’t, you may find your career is limited by your lack of knowledge and you don’t want to end up in an embarrassing situation because you don’t understand a term people studying the art of songwriting grasp on day one.

If you’re going to school for songwriting, you’ll go over the basics (and then some) in an introductory class but if you’re going about this on your own, you’ll need to dedicate some time to teaching yourself. Look up the lingo used in the business, every songwriting term you can find, what every job connected to creating a track does (Producers, Mixers, Engineers, etc.), as well as the business of songwriting. You can’t know too much, but if you go into a songwriting session not knowing phrases like “split,” “performance rights organization,” “A&R,” or “hook,” people are sure to look at you funny and perhaps not take you seriously.

9. Try Different Things!

You may think you know what you’re best at when it comes to songwriting and you may be right but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment. Try new things! Try every new thing you can and then mix them all up and try even more new things!

Blend styles, write in different voices, pen tunes from different perspectives, work with new people who are on the other end of the industry, play around with forms, melodies, rhythms, and structures, and then go back to what you’re most comfortable with…only to switch things up again later. Write a song and rewrite it for different genres and beats, mix up notes and move verses.

There is no right or wrong here, especially if you’re doing so on your own time. You may find you actually love crafting country songs when you thought you’d be a Pop Songwriter or perhaps your poppy lyrics actually work great with guitar riffs, meaning you may be behind the next crossover alternative smash. Some of the oddest collaborations in music history have worked beautifully and these days, those who rise in the ranks and make it to the top of the charts in one genre often find themselves partnering with Songwriters and musicians working in other styles.

Trying something new and foreign is always good for you, as even if you go right back to what you were already doing, you’ve likely learned something new and you have a new experience.

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How to Start or Join a Band That Has a Chance at Making It

You’ve been playing your instrument for a little while now, taking lessons or perhaps teaching yourself to play. Maybe you’ve tried writing songs or composing your own music. You’ve gained the basic skills on your instrument or voice and the next stage is getting together with a band. You want to jam out with your friends and maybe get on stage to play for a live audience. You know your music is good enough and you want others to hear it. It’s also the best way to increase your musical skills even more. Whether you want to start your own band or join an existing one, you should have a strategy. Whether you decide to start a group or join one, the goals are the same: play music with others and get in front of an audience.

Schools often have ensembles you can join and some schools will even support you in starting your own. While this is a great opportunity to learn–why schools exist–it may not give you the musical freedom you want. Still, I’d recommend getting involved with performing at your school if possible; it’s an easy way to learn and gain useful experience. It might also help you find other musicians and form a group to play outside of a school setting. Many famous musicians started their first bands with their classmates while still in school.

For musicians looking to form or join a band, I can offer some practical advice which should be useful.

Practice, Practice, Practice

There is an old joke about a man on the street in New York City who asks a stranger: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The stranger answers: “Practice.” As old (and corny) as this joke is, there’s a crucial truth contained in it. Your success playing in a group will depend on your musical skills, talents, and abilities. The best way to develop all these is through daily practice.

Let’s get more specific. I don’t mean to say you should practice a lot. You can waste a lot of time with practicing the wrong things. Of course, the basics of technique, music theory as it pertains to your instrument, and perhaps reading and improvising deserve rigorous attention. It helps to have a good Teacher or program of study to accelerate your learning and avoid pitfalls. You don’t need to spend hours every day to make meaningful progress. What’s most important is that you should be practicing the right things.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his excellent book Outliers: The Story Of Success (Little, Brown and Co., 2008) explains the “10,000 Hours” theory, using the Beatles as an example. The core of this idea is that it takes that long doing something to master it. Applying this to our topic, I would say—beyond the basics—you should be practicing what you want to be the best at. If you want to be a great soloist, you should be spending time every day soloing and jamming. If you want to write songs, you should be writing every single day. Put your most focused practicing efforts into whatever you want to excel at. You will need to do it a lot if you want to be really good at it. To be good at playing in a group, you need to spend a lot of time playing in a group.

The bottom line is that you need to put in the time to improve your skills and build on your talents. There really aren’t any shortcuts for this part of becoming a great musician. The work you put in is at least as important as any natural talent you may be lucky to have.

There is an old joke about a man on the street in New York City who asks a stranger: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The stranger answers: “Practice.” As old (and corny) as this joke is, there’s a crucial truth contained in it. Your success playing in a group will depend on your musical skills, talents, and abilities.

Let’s JAM!

This brings us back to our original question. How can I start or join a group?

There are a few questions you might ask yourself before embarking on this journey. The first question is: what style of music do you want to play? If you want to play rock music, pop, or hip-hop, that is important to declare right at the outset. If you are looking to play classical chamber music, that would also be crucial information. There are many sub-genres and it wouldn’t hurt to be specific about where your primary musical style interests lie.

This doesn’t mean you should limit yourself to playing some narrow sub-genre of music, although you could. To increase your opportunities, it might be smart to remain open to other styles of music. You might discover some style of music you didn’t know you even liked. Playing different styles of music outside of your favorite style is also a good way to learn new things.

Depending on the kinds of musicians in your area, you can afford to be more or less choosy in the style of music you wish to play. At the very least, be able to describe your musical interests to other musicians that you meet. If you can be up-front about the kind of music you want to play, that will help you to find other, like-minded players. It will also help you avoid wasting time trying to play music that doesn’t interest you. Ideally, you will be excited about the music you choose to play.

Start Here: Next Steps

There are some concrete next steps you might consider to find your future bandmates.

  • Write an ad. This is a bit like a personal ad, where you mention your group playing goals in the context of style preference, plus any other goals you have relative to playing in a group. For example, how much time do you have available to rehearse? Is your main goal to play out in front of audiences? If so, in what kind of settings? The trick is to say just enough to be clear, without adding a lot of detail that might not be too relevant. Also, the style of your ad can go a long way to getting the responses you want. Do you come across as friendly and business-like? Nobody wants to play with someone who seems flaky, so avoid being too quirky, though a little personality can be attractive. You might also mention your realistic level of skill or experience. Place your ad on platforms where people in your vicinity will be able to see it.
  • Play at open-mic jam sessions. Every city and town has bars and other venues that open their stage to aspiring musicians on off nights. Typically, on a Monday or a Tuesday, there should be multiple sessions going on where musicians can go to sit in with a house band and jam. This is an excellent opportunity to strut your stuff and connect with other local musicians looking to form a band. If you play well and get along with others on a social basis, hanging out at these open mics is a great way to generate interest. It’s a long-standing tradition to connect with other local musicians in this way.
  • Respond to an ad. Check local listings on sites such as Craigslist or follow musicians’ groups on other social media sites. You could attend a meetup for musicians in your area. At any given time there will always be groups looking for players. Study the ads carefully and craft your response using a professional tone. Be honest about your skills and your goals. Sometimes there are auditions for bands, and you can also audition to play on cruise ships or at summer resorts. Some, but not all these auditions require you to read music. Screen ads carefully to determine which opportunities are best suited to you.
  • Network, network, network. Build relationships—online and in person—that could lead to playing opportunities. Networking is an art form, which when used effectively can lead to the most amazing opportunities. Make sure that your network knows about your musical ambitions and is aware of your talent.
  • Create an electronic promo kit (EPK). An EPK is a standard of the music industry that musicians and bands use to promote themselves. A proper EPK has a brief artist bio, promo pics, plus audio and/or video recordings. The EPK should clearly state the genre of your music, your experience, and your goals. An EPK can be hosted on your website or social media pages, or at various social platforms designed for the purpose, such as reverbnation.com or sonicbids.com. Having a quality EPK is a great way for other musicians and bands to discover you and you can use it to promote your band for gigs as well.
  • Broaden your skills. If you play an instrument, you could also learn to sing. Every band needs a singer, so musicians who also sing are always in high demand. Some of the best singers are also terrific instrumentalists. You could also learn a second instrument, called a “double.” If you play keys, maybe add the sax as a double. Many guitarists double on electric bass. Having a second or third instrument will make you more valuable to many groups.
  • Own great equipment or have your own rehearsal space. Every band needs a place to practice, and if you play shows, sound gear, and a vehicle to move it around. If you can afford it, owning the gear and transport is a great way to make yourself popular as a player. Even just having really good equipment for your own instrument will be seen as a plus. The more accomplished players tend to have professional gear. This applies to everyone but is especially important for drummers, keyboardists, guitarists, and bassists. A singer should have their own microphone that has been chosen to complement and enhance their voice.
  • Move to another city. This might seem like an odd bit of advice, but realistically, if you live in a very small town, on a tiny island, or far away from a city, your choices of available musicians to play with will likely be fairly limited. There are plenty of (true) stories about now-famous musicians who moved early on in their career to a major city, just to find others to play with, get in a band, or start one. A city known for having lots of musicians might be a great choice and it might even play into where you decide to go for college, if that is in the cards.

These are some tips to enhance your likelihood of success when looking to start or join a band. They aren’t all-inclusive, and there are other strategies you might try, limited only by your imagination. It is helpful to talk to other successful musicians who might offer you further ideas on the best ways to find other musicians to play with. I recommend studying the careers of your favorite musicians to understand how they tackled this issue early on in their own careers. Looking at what they did should give you some additional ideas and inspiration that will help you to move forward with your quest.

You might be a long way from a major tour with your band but the point should be clear. Don’t be a jerk because nobody likes working with a jerk.

Don’t Be A Jerk

This final piece of advice should be self-evident. Nobody likes to work with a jerk, or be around one. The reality of the music business is that we tend to spend a lot of time with the others in our group. Traveling to gigs, eating meals together, waiting backstage for the soundcheck or performance, rehearsing, attending band meetings—there is a lot of downtime in the music business and it can get problematic when band members don’t get along with each other. Small infractions or perceived slights turn into major irritants and tempers can and do flare. This can even put the survival of the band in danger, to state the obvious. We’ve all heard or read about the horror stories that led to the breakup of a successful group. Some bands even travel with a Psychologist whose job is to intervene if an argument gets out of hand. There is a lot of stress involved with performing at a high level every night on a tour. Some major tours have very high expenses and if the band has a falling out, the tour might be affected with a lot of money at stake. I’m not making this up.

You might be a long way from a major tour with your band but the point should be clear. Don’t be a jerk because nobody likes working with a jerk. If you find yourself working with one, your impulse will be to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. And just as in any business, there are a lot of serious jerks in the music business. Whether you are looking to play just for fun, to become a better musician, to make money, or for any other reason, follow my advice in this article and watch your opportunities appear and grow.

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How to Be a Good Singer in 6 Simple Steps

Many people who aim to enter the music industry want to be great singers. It seems like a glamorous lifestyle and many people think it’s easy. It’s just singing, right? Who can’t do that?

Wrong! Singing is something everybody can do, but not everyone can do it well. There are many working musicians who have found something that works for them and many artists actually do something that would be more accurately described as talk-singing, and that’s just fine. There are plenty of ways to make it sound like you’re doing more than you really are or to dress up your fairly basic vocals and make them perfect for the kind of music you’re creating.

The suggestions below on how to be a good singer are really for those who are aiming to be vocalists first. They are good to follow for anyone who will be on stage singing for a crowd, as they certainly will make you sound better, but they are truly meant for those who will be taking on opera, classical, or choral pieces, which require an intense amount of practice and focus, and where outside factors really come into play.

There are a lot of things to consider if you’re looking to be that kind of vocalist but here are half a dozen tips anyone who knows anything about vocal performance will suggest when it comes to becoming a truly good singer.

1. Work with a Professional

I know many people clicking on this article are looking for advice they can use entirely on their own to become better singers and while a lot of the items featured are good for those who are going about this solo, the best piece of advice I can offer is to suggest you start working in person with somebody who really knows what they are doing. Listening to what friends have to say or reading blog posts can be helpful but when it’s time to take the next step, you’re going to need a Vocal Coach of some kind.

When you’re first starting to improve your singing skills, that person might be a Teacher in school or perhaps someone else you know who has been singing for a long time. As you progress and get better and better, and as you want to refine your talents, you’ll need to look for more help, potentially from someone you might need to hire. That can be daunting for a lot of young people, as they may not have the resources to take lessons, and while it isn’t necessarily vital, it is the best way to ensure you’re doing things correctly. It would be a shame to practice and work hard for so long, only to finally meet with someone and find out you’ve been doing things wrong.

If you are looking to sing just for fun or for a band that doesn’t require you to be a stellar vocalist, you can put hiring a professional off for longer than if you want to devote your talents to something much more difficult, such as becoming an Opera Singer or the like.

You should take time to practice breathing (a sentence that sounds funny, but is actually sound advice) before every performance.

2. Breathe!

Breathing properly and in time is key to delivering an on-point vocal performance and it is something you will have to master if you want to be a good singer. Breathing is also, sadly, something many of those just starting out as singers don’t think about nearly enough when really it’s one of the first things that needs to be mastered in order to improve.

Any good Vocal Coach or tutorial will tell you to breathe in from your stomach and not from your chest and this is something you need to imagine doing as you inhale. It might sound strange but once you’ve figured it out and you can feel it, you’ll never be able to go back to the old way of breathing while you’re performing.

You should take time to practice breathing (a sentence that sounds funny but is actually sound advice) before every performance. In fact, if you’re really committed to becoming a great singer and potentially pursuing this as a serious hobby or even a career later on, you should find time every day to practice just breathing properly, studying when to take breaths, for how long, and understanding how long you’ll need to hold a certain amount of air in your lungs.

3. Warm Up

Before you go for a run, especially in a race that matters (but hopefully all the time), you spend a few moments stretching your muscles, don’t you? You lift your legs, push them in ways you don’t normally, and you can sometimes look a bit strange doing so, right? Many people don’t think of singing as using a muscle but you are putting strain on parts of your body so you should take your time and stretch before every performance, just as athletes do.

You’ll need to learn vocal exercises and you’ll probably feel a bit silly doing them when you first begin but know every great vocalist takes part in this tried-and-true ritual and it is absolutely worth your time and initial slight embarrassment, which will disappear after a while. I won’t describe these warm-up exercises here as I could spend an entire article going over the best practices and what noises you should make with your vocal chords but it’s best if you gather this info from a Vocal Teacher, or, if you don’t have one of those of your own, perhaps a YouTube video or an online course.

4. Drink These Good Beverages Before Singing

I am not here to be your diet coach and I won’t dive too deep into this item but as much as it may suck, what you put into your body throughout the day, and especially shortly before a performance matters and it can affect your voice. The most important thing to keep in mind is you need to drink water. It’s simple to say, and it’s a piece of advice everyone has heard many times before, but water is key, and you should already be finding ways of subbing in other drinks for pure water throughout the day.

In addition to regular water, you can also go for green tea (without caffeine — this is important) or water with a fruity additive like lemon. These two are better for you if warm (not too hot) but regular old water is still the best thing to stick to regularly.

If you want to truly improve your vocal skills and become a great singer, one who might be able to go to school specifically for singing and potentially one day have a career doing so, you’re going to need to sing every day.

5. Stay Away from These Bad Items

Water and tea are the best things for you and your vocal chords, but what are the worst things?

When it comes to foods, you need to stay away from anything with dairy, anything sugary, and especially spicy menu items for hours before a vocal performance. In fact, think ahead and try to avoid these things all day before you sing. You’re welcome to have them after you leave the stage but while you might have a hard time believing it these things truly can affect the sound of your voice and it would be a shame to spend so much time rehearsing just to ruin it thanks to some cheese, right? Okay, it’s not going to destroy your vocals, but these are the best practices for those who are serious about becoming the best performer they possibly can be!

In terms of drinks, anything with caffeine can dry you out, which is exactly the opposite of the water suggestion mentioned above. Teas with caffeine, as well as coffee, are not ideal to drink before you sing, even if it’s just a warm-up.

Also, you’re going to need to stay away from vices like alcohol and smoking. I hate to tell you that you can’t do the things you love and to be a buzzkill, but both of those items will seriously affect your ability to belt a banger and carry a tune. It’s not that you need to completely stay away from smoking and drinking but the hours before warming up and even a full day before any performance of something even slightly challenging, shouldn’t contain either of those.

Many Rock Stars and Pop Singers smoke and drink so there’s the misconception it doesn’t really matter, but many of these people aren’t straining their vocal chords in a daunting manner. If you’re really pushing your talents to the limit and tackling something vocally challenging, alcohol and smoking (and I won’t even get into drugs, which aren’t great for a number of reasons), will ruin your shot.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice

No matter what you are working on being better at — dancing, writing, painting, playing an instrument, or singing — you need to do it all the time. If you’re only singing every few days or even less frequently, that might be enough for you to enjoy the pastime or to be good at your hobby, but you won’t advance very far with that level of activity. If you want to truly improve your vocal skills and become a great singer, one who might be able to go to school specifically for singing and potentially one day have a career doing so, you’re going to need to sing every day.

I’m not saying you need to find a public performance every single day and in fact, it isn’t recommended. You do, however, need to find time every day not only to sing but to do your warm-up exercises (which we already discussed). That means belting Top 40 smashes in the car on your way to school or work isn’t enough. You may think actually singing every day isn’t too much of a challenge, but the real difficulty here is setting aside the time to do it correctly, which is what ends up making it a commitment many people can’t keep.

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What Is Artist Management & How Do You Get a Manager?

You want to get your music to the next level and have decided you need a Manager, or representation. It’s a Catch-22: you need success to get a Manager and you need a Manager to be successful. What steps can you take? What is the best approach to finding solid management for your music career? Every week I hear from some musician or band, asking me if I can help them attract a Manager. Their idea of how and why to find a Manager seems fuzzy at best. Do they even know what they are asking for?

The answer seems to be no. I’ve found most independent musicians lack a clear understanding of what artist management is, who does it, and especially when they actually need a Manager or a management team. Before taking such an important step, every artist should first fully understand what artist management is, what Managers do, and how a Manager can help you at the current stage of your career. There are all kinds of myths and mistaken opinions out there.

Let’s dispel some of these common myths. I’ll describe a few of the different types of Managers, how artists usually find their Managers, and how someone interested in working as Manager might prepare for a career in artist management. I’ll share what every artist needs to know about management and what Managers need to know about artists.

Get Ready For Music Success

One misconception is that somehow having the “right” Manager is a key to certain success. It’s true some Managers can get you noticed quickly by labels or Booking Agents, get you on tours, television, or into the studio to produce an album. But a Manager won’t likely improve the sound of your music or make you a hit with fans. You need to be ready musically to take on a Manager, and Managers tend to seek out musicians with perceived high talent, ability, and potential for success. If the Manager can’t believe in your music and imagine your future success, they wouldn’t want to invest the time and energy into managing you in the first place.

What will make a top-level Manager notice you is your fan base and momentum. This means you may need to be self-managed at the outset of your performing career. I usually recommend this to new artists, since it’s effective and humbling as a way to learn what it takes to manage your music career. Armed with this experience and knowledge, you will be in a better position to find a Manager, and understand what kind of Manager will be the best fit for you. If you are looking for a top-level established management team to take you on, you had better be prepared to convince them your success is imminent and inevitable.

In the end, it isn’t likely a top level Manager will show an interest in a band or artist just starting out, let alone have time to listen to your music or watch your videos. After all, they are inundated with prospects vying for their time. If you really do feel you are ready for the big time, there’s no harm in approaching an established management company. Networking in the industry is the way to find out who these companies are and how to reach them. Some of them only accept submissions from qualified Entertainment Attorneys. Regardless, you should have a good Attorney before approaching any management companies or Managers. You should also have developed a fan base and social media following.

Seeking Management

I usually chuckle inwardly when I see artists and bands advertising for a Manager. If you need to look for a Manager, you probably don’t really need one. Remember a Manager is paid by the artist, so if your band isn’t already earning money, how will you pay the Manager? If you are already working quite a lot and earning money with your music, you will be on the radar of many people in the music industry. The reality is typically that the Managers seek the artists out, not the other way around. This means when you get to the point where you really need a Manager (and can afford one), you will probably be getting offers from Managers to take you on as their client. There are many ways this could happen, for example through a publishing deal which forces you to discuss your trajectory with your Attorney and Accountant. Winning a competition might be another way to get the attention of management companies.

Having an active networking strategy is crucial at this stage. I recommend LinkedIn for this, although not everyone uses it. LinkedIn is the premier business networking platform on the internet, and it is free. If you decide that it’s time to seek a Manager, it’s better to leverage your networking strategy than to advertise. Most people ignore ads of this type. You will have better results through generating referrals from trusted sources in your network.

If you need to look for a Manager, you probably don’t really need one. Remember a Manager is paid by the artist, so if your band isn’t already earning money, how will you pay the Manager? If you are already working quite a lot and earning money with your music, you will be on the radar of many people in the music industry.

Common Questions About Artist Management

When do I need a Manager?

The answer to this will be different for every artist or band. I usually tell people they need management when they get too busy to respond to all the emails and calls inquiring about their music, invitations to perform, opportunities, interviews, etc. If you are unable to keep up with the current workflow related to running your artist career, you might be a good candidate for professional management. A Manager isn’t usually the first person you should look for when launching your music career. You will need a good Accountant and an Attorney before you hire a Manager. If five hundred people show up to every show, you might be ready for a Manager.

What can a Manager do for me?

There are as many different kinds of Managers as there are artists and bands. You should have a good idea what you expect from your Manager. Most management companies are small, privately run organizations. Some Managers work solo. You will need to evaluate your actual needs in order to decide what kind of Manager will be the best fit. A well-established Manager who can get you on major tours and TV shows might be too busy to pay proper attention to your career. Someone just starting out in the business may be able to grow longer term with your band. Think about a potential Manager as if they were an additional member of your band, as you will have to pay them accordingly. Be clear about your goals and let the Manager tell you how to achieve them. If they can’t help you reach your goals, they aren’t the right Manager for you.

What is in a management deal?

A “deal” in this case means a contract and contracts are written to benefit and protect both parties to the agreement. Most Managers will want to sign you for more than one year, as ramping up your career usually takes a lot of work early on to get momentum and they will want to be there with you to benefit later from the work done at the outset. I think it’s reasonable for a Manager to expect a multi-year deal. Two years is a good length for the artist, possibly with an automatic renewal for a third year if stated goals are met. It’s important to have a qualified Music Attorney review any possible management deal to make sure it is legal and your interests are protected. You should also check with your Accountant in advance of making a deal, to make sure that the financial and tax implications are well-understood.

What percentage does a Manager make?

While there are no standards for Manager earnings and ultimately earnings will be based on a negotiated agreement you can expect a Manager to ask for at least 20% of gross revenue from the artist or band. This means you should expect to pay out a fifth of your top-line earnings to the Manager, at minimum. Some Managers take a lot more, based on what they do for the artist. It might seem unreasonable to give up half your earnings, or more, but there could be situations where this is acceptable to an artist. Would you rather have a large slice of a small pie or a smaller slice of a much larger pie? It is also possible to structure a deal with a sliding scale, meaning the higher the earnings, the greater the percentage owed to the Manager. This is a way to incentivize and align the interests of the artist and Manager.

How do I know if a Manager is worth it?

Are you good at handling the business aspects of your performing career? Are you interested in learning about marketing, publishing, and negotiating contracts? Do you have a knack for planning? Do you have a network you can leverage to achieve your goals as a musical artist? Do you have enough time in your day to handle the many details of running a successful music business? Do you enjoy the business side of music? Does it interest you? If you answered yes to some or most of these questions, you might not need a Manager. You might benefit from managing yourself and save some serious cash by doing so.

On the other hand, if you feel anxious or befuddled as you dive into the picayune mundane tasks of day-to-day operations, you might be better served by finding a great Manager to assist you. The Manager should definitely earn their money; what you pay them should be appropriate to the level of service provided. The Manager should be transparent with you about the work they put in, the amount of time devoted to handling your affairs, and the strategies used to reach the goals you’ve set together for the business.

What is the best kind of Manager?

The answer to this question, like the others, is: it depends. I would suggest thinking about the kind of career you envision for yourself and consider carefully the most desirable characteristics of any potential Manager in light of your professional and life goals. Personal style may also be an important consideration. If you want to rise quickly to the top, tour stadiums, and become a pop icon, that could call for a very different type of person than a bluegrass band wanting to attract a small but loyal core following. In the end, the best kind of Manager is one who can give you and your music the attention you deserve and will get you on a solid path to reaching the goals you’ve set out. The Manager should also be honest since you are trusting them with financial matters.

What does a Manager do?

Your Manager is responsible for handling the daily tasks of running your organization: returning phone calls and emails, booking gigs, sending contracts, monitoring social media sites, communicating with your team on important matters, coordinating your travel arrangements, organizing showcases, planning recording sessions or photo and video shoots, and so forth. They should also be involved in the longer-term setting of goals while planning strategy and evaluating progress towards reaching them. They are like an additional band member who works specifically on all matters related to the business. A good Manager has the ability to recognize and uncover the best opportunities, and help you to overcome any obstacles to leveraging those opportunities. Sometimes a Manager gets involved in artistic direction, making informed suggestions about the direction of the music. Or you might rely on their network to get you into the places you need to play, get you on tours, or find a great Producer for your next recording or video.

Be clear about your goals and let the Manager tell you how to achieve them. If they can’t help you reach your goals, they aren’t the right Manager for you.

Types Of Managers

Whether a company with several dozen employees, or a solitary individual, the kinds of Managers fall along a wide spectrum from one extreme to the other. Managers working solo typically have no more than two or three artists or bands to manage. It’s not realistic to think one individual could manage more than that, with all the day-to-day tasks involved. If you encounter a Manager with more than two or three bands already offering to manage you, proceed with caution. It’s likely they won’t be able to pay enough attention to your real needs on a daily basis. If an individual Manager is experienced and has an opening for you on their roster, it might be a good fit. The most important consideration is whether they will have enough time to devote to managing you.

Along similar lines, you might find someone who is new to artist management and will want to join forces with you for the long term. This type of Manager will grow with your band and should be loyal to you since you will need to train them to manage your affairs. This is also a good reason to be self-managed first, as you will know what your real needs are. Since the Manager is joining your operation at the ground level, they should have another source of income while you are ramping up your operation. In other words, your Manager could have a day job at the outset, as you might not be in a position to pay them much yet.

At the other extreme are companies or management teams with a star-studded roster and a record of high achievements for their artists. Most artist management firms have between six and thirty employees. If you have this kind of company it could be great for your career, but a potential downside is they might be very busy and not able to give you the level of individual attention you would get from a Manager working solo. They will have all the resources and connections to make things happen for you, but it will also be very difficult to get their initial interest, as many bands are competing for their attention.

Who To Trust

In summary, whether or not you need a Manager will depend on the stage of your artistic and business development and there are many types of Managers to choose from. Since you should be prepared to commit to your Manager or management team for a minimum of two to three years, make certain the fit is a good one. Conduct due diligence on your Manager — this means you should check references and perhaps talk to other bands or artists the person has managed — and perhaps check their credit score to make sure you aren’t entering into an agreement with a dishonest or bankrupt individual. Hiring a Manager is like hiring someone for any position; you should have questions to ask them and listen carefully to their answers.

Have your Attorney review any management contract for legality and favorability. It’s standard practice to get a second Attorney to check the work of the first one. It’s worth whatever this costs, to avoid much pain later if the agreements turn out to be faulty in some way. Never sign anything you don’t understand fully, as this is one of the biggest mistakes you could make. There are countless stories of artists who were ripped off by their Managers. You must absolutely be able to trust your Manager with your finances. They should be patient enough to answer your questions and explain everything in the contract fully to you so you can understand it.

View From The Top

Managers in the music business are a special breed, as they must deal with all types of characters. The finicky artist, the demanding venue owner, the indifferent Publicist, late musicians, stingy Promoters, “famous” guests trying to crash the backstage hang — this requires equanimity and a cool temper to avoid going off the deep end. One of the best books ever written about a truly legendary Manager in rock music is Peter Grant: The Man Who Led Zeppelin (Biography by Chris Welch, Omnibus Press, 2003). Grant was famous for his fierce loyalty to his band and for standing up for their rights, even when a gun was pointed in his face by a recalcitrant Promoter. He appears in a few scenes in the film The Song Remains The Same. Anyone wanting to pursue a career in artist management should read this book and see the movie, as it shows the kind of grit and nerves required to succeed.

Compared to rock, management in other styles of music might be less vicious, but the truth remains there is no easy business. If there was, everyone would be doing it. Business, and especially the music business, is not for the faint of heart. Any artist or band who works with a competent and committed Manager should consider themselves lucky. It’s a key ingredient of success. On the other hand, a bad Manager can be extremely harmful in so many ways. When wading into the waters of music management, proceed with extreme caution, and do your homework.

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Learn Production and Performance Skills with These Cheap or Free Online Music Classes

One of the biggest complaints when it comes to going to college is the cost. Sure, there are plenty of other pains associated with higher education — touring campuses, interviews, auditions, applications, essays, scholarships, and ensuring you have all of the proper documentation from what can seem like a million different sources (and all before you even arrive on campus as a student) — but the first thing noted by any incoming learner is the enormous price tag that can come with earning a degree. Those astronomical sums can be even harder to accept when the degree is in a field where people aren’t necessarily known to make healthy salaries, which can be the case with music or any of the arts.

It’s not always all about the piece of paper you receive at the end of four years of study (though they certainly are important), but the education is key. No matter what you want to do in music, you need to learn, and if college simply isn’t working out, if you can’t afford it at the moment, or if you’re looking to either get a head start on your education or supplement what you already know at a fraction of the cost of traditional schooling, why not look into a MOOC?

A MOOC (massive open online course) is a class offered to anybody who wants to sign up on the web, typically on a platform created just for this purpose, and often by an institution already associated with education or a specific field. They sometimes come free, but even those that cost something aren’t nearly as expensive as actually attending a proper college. While the experience certainly isn’t the same, there is a lot to be learned for just a few dollars online (if any at all), if you will only take the time.

Here are several MOOCs offering online music courses that might interest you if you’re thinking about studying something connected to the music industry (or if you already have, but you still want to learn more).

Coursera

Of all the MOOCs and similarly-styled platforms popping up in the past decade or so, Coursera and the following site on this list are among the biggest and the best known, and according to many, the best. Coursera is my personal favorite. I have used it many times to learn about a range of topics and every single experience has been wonderful.

A quick look at the site will show you if there is something to be learned on the internet, chances are it’s available many times over on Coursera. The platform has partnered with dozens of colleges and universities all around the world, and it now boasts a catalog with thousands of classes. Tens of millions of people have taken at least one course with the company.

Coursera has an entire portal dedicated just to music and art, and it’s easy to get lost and salivate at all the options featured. You might head there for one specific thing but with literally hundreds of choices that all sound interesting and will all be worth your time, it’s difficult not to load up and select too many at once.

Many of the classes can be taken for free on Coursera, but not all of them…though don’t worry, the education you receive on this website won’t run you anywhere near what a traditional degree will. Most of the options with a price attached are still offered for under $100, and they come with a certificate of completion at the end. It’s not the same as receiving or even working toward a true college degree, but it’s nice to have. If that’s not what you’re looking for from an organization like Coursera, there are still hundreds of classes you can audit completely for free.

Here is a quick sampling of music-related courses currently being offered on Coursera:

No matter what you want to do in music, you need to learn, and if college simply isn’t working out, if you can’t afford it at the moment, or if you’re looking to either get a head start on your education or supplement what you already know at a fraction of the cost of traditional schooling, why not look into a MOOC?

edX

While Coursera may be my favorite when it comes to free online courses, edX is a very close second. (I have also participated in courses on this site.) edX operates similarly to Coursera, but everything is offered for free, though again, you can add a certificate of completion to the end for just $50. It’s just for you, but at such a low price, why not grab it?

edX also features hundreds or possibly thousands of classes from many of the biggest educational institutions in the world to anybody who wants to take them, and there are many choices when it comes to music. In fact, while some of the musical offerings are simple and for those just getting started in the business, edX also has more than a few for people who could be considered experts, and there is something for everyone in between those two points.

In fact, if there seems to be anything of note that truly separates Coursera from edX (other than a relatively tiny sum of money required for only some of the classes), it’s the fact the latter seems to cater more to those who already know quite a bit about one topic. Many of edX’s music classes are not for those just picking up a guitar for the first time…though don’t be afraid to at least browse all things related to music!

Here are a few of the various music classes currently being offered on edX:

Kadenze

The two organizations I just profiled certainly have a lot of classes in the arts fields, and there’s sure to be plenty to occupy your time, but when it comes to all courses offered on MOOCs, categories like music and other creative pursuits are still lagging. Percentage-wise, they don’t come close to filling as much space as, say, a business endeavor or one focusing on science or tech, and because of this sad fact, Kadenze was created.

Kadenze is a for-profit company aiming to fill the gap left by other MOOCs. The company offers individual classes as well as programs comprised of several different courses put together, with the aim being you’ll really know quite a bit about at least one topic.

Many, if not all, of the courses can be audited for free, but if you want to earn a certificate at the end stating you did well and completed the full program, you’re going to need to open your wallet…and you’ll have to open it much wider than when it came to the previous two MOOCs I described.

Receiving the official certificate of completion from a Kadenze class will run you several hundred dollars, with some going for $300, while others were priced at double this amount. Sure, it’s a fair amount of money, but with the education you’re receiving, it’s still coming at a fair price.

Here are some of the classes posted on Kadenze in the music category:

Udemy

One final MOOC I’ll profile specifically is Udemy, which doesn’t give things away entirely for free…but which also isn’t looking to take all of your hard-earned cash. The classes uploaded to Udemy all run for fairly low prices, typically about $100 or less, though when I looked, the site was having a deal where everything was just $11! Either way, Udemy offerings are typically sold for a tiny amount of money when compared to college-level education, but perhaps it’s enough to keep people committed? When something is free, no matter how great or top-notch it may be, it’s easy to let it fall by the wayside, but if you’ve paid for something, even if it’s just a token sum of money, chances are you’ll stick with it until you’re done.

Udemy courses aren’t offered by colleges and universities, but rather by individuals. Sometimes that’s a good thing, as there are plenty of people out there who know a lot about certain topics (especially music) who aren’t employed by a certified institution but who certainly are worth listening to. On the other hand, it’s possible the person creating and teaching the class might not be the absolute best educator, so keep this fact in mind as you participate.

Here are a number of musical courses offered on Udemy:

One final MOOC I’ll profile specifically is Udemy, which doesn’t give things away entirely for free…but which also isn’t looking to take all of your hard-earned cash. The classes uploaded to Udemy all run for fairly low prices, typically about $100 or less, though when I looked, the site was having a deal where everything was just $11!

Other MOOCs

In addition to the online companies and non-profits I have already written about, there are other options out there working to offer similar forms of education, though they aren’t as well-known and they typically don’t feature nearly as many courses as edX, Udemy, Kadenze, or Coursera…though they may end up having exactly what you want, so browse them!

FutureLearn offers several courses in all things media, though music doesn’t appear to be a highlight, as I was only able to find a handful that would be a fit for those who want to up their understanding of all things music (such as From Notation to Performance: Understanding Musical Scores and Cantonese Opera: From Backstage to the Stage)

A simply-named company called Alison also has a handful of classes, but a brief search for “music” only turned up four items. While the site was filled with ads, it’s still another destination online for free education, so who are we to complain? The options were simple and all about music theory (which is important), with names like Introduction to Music Theory and Music Theory: Instruments and Rhythm, both coming from Yale’s open platform.

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