Here are some tips to make more progress with your music career this year:
You’re already doing this: Selling digital downloads online
Now add this: Make your music available to stream
Streaming made big headlines in 2014, with debates on whether it compensates artists fairly, or if it causes people to buy less music. It is an evolving sector of the industry, and will continue to grow and change in 2015. My advice? Get amongst it! With Spotify growing steadily (including 15 million paid subscribers), YouTube and Apple will also be big players this year. Services like Distrokid will distribute unlimited amounts of your music to all of these streaming services including Google Play, Rdio and Deezer for just $20 a year.
Already on Spotify? Boost your game by claiming your artist page on spotifyartists.com. There’s also tips on how to monetize your page. Another way to get traction is to reach out to “tastemakers”, users that maintain playlists with 10,000+ listeners. One user, Songpickr, added my man Chris Altmann‘s song “Nothing But Nice Things” to his playlist with over 69,000 followers, earning the track over 25,000 plays.
You’re already doing this:: Selling merch at gigs for cash
Now add this: Sell merch with a credit card reader
People are carrying way less cash on them these days then they used to. Make sure you’re not missing out on potential sales by using a Credit Card reader with your smart phone or tablet at the merch table. There are 4 great options in the USA. In Canada the most popular ones are Square and Intuit. Those options exist in Australia too, along with PayPal Here and iCCPay. Most will send you the reader for free, and take a fee on transactions at around 2.7%.
Already taking credit card payments? Think of new ways to jazz up your merch table this year. A string of Christmas lights, a weird prop that will grab attention, clever signage… get creative!
You’re already doing this: Signing people up to your email newsletter
Now add this: A mobile app to automatically add emails to your list
I trust that you already have an email contact list that you regularly send mailouts to? I can’t stress enough how important this is! If you’ve solely been relying on social media for promotion, it’s about to get a whole lot harder. The latest Facebook changes mean that your stuff will all but disappear from your fans newsfeed unless you pay for it. While it can still be beneficial to pay for advertising on Facebook, you get way more bang for your buck when you hit up your email list. If you have the discipline and are somewhat tech savvy, MailChimp has a free email service. Other affordable options are Bandzoogle (which tie into their band website package) and Campaign Monitor (the one I use).
Most mailing list managers have apps that you can use to automatically collect email addresses at gigs. Have an iPad or smart phone at your merch table and have fans type in their emails, which then adds them instantly to your list. No more trying to decipher your fan’s chicken scratch!
Already using an mailing list app? Boost your email list by enticing fans with a giveaway at shows for everyone who signs up. You could enter them into a draw, offer a discount on merch, or give them a special button or sticker when they join. You should also be looking at your monthly reports to see what sort of content your fans connect with most.
You’re already doing this: Playing fundraisers and benefits
Now do this: Financially support a great cause
As someone in the public eye, you have a great opportunity to spread worthwhile messages. You have a fan base that already supports you by buying your music, and would be very likely to back a cause that you believe in too. Why not set a goal for yourself this year to provide financial support to a charity you believe in? Regular monthly donations are always needed to keep great causes afloat. You could pledge to donate a percentage of album sales, or record a single with all proceeds going to charity.
New studies of brain activity are demonstrating that giving actually makes us healthier. Through neuroimaging, scientists have found that when people donate money, it releases oxytocin (a feel good hormone). When we see images of human suffering, our brains release cortisol (the stress hormone), and compel us to give to feel better. I was shocked to learn that nearly 1 billion people still live without clean water! Closer to home, there are 1200 children in Hamilton, Ontario (where I live) that go without food on weekends when there is no school meal programs. The impact of donating as little as $10 a month can break the cycle of poverty for a generation.
For more inspiration, I recommend you read A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.