The sell-off rights to merchandise aren’t well known to all musicians. However, it is something you should be aware of before you start to work with a merchandiser.
What are sell-off rights?
This simply means that the merchandiser doesn’t have the right to manufacture more merchandise right before the contract is over. They can only sell what is left in stock. Most merchandiser will ask to sell it through retail outlets as it won’t be sold on concerts. The artist will get royalties of these pieces that get sold. There should be no question in that. Before you take this step, there are a few things you, as an artist, need to ask for.
Buy it Yourself
Before the merchandiser sells your merchandise after your contract has ended, he or she should give you the chance to buy the rest of your merchandise back. If you have merchandise that you only sold online, it could be a good idea to start selling that merchandise at concerts too. It gives your fans the chance of having that one shirt they couldn’t order.
If you don’t buy the rest of your merchandise, the merchandiser will get a sell-off period. This can be anywhere within 6 months to a year. Just make sure that the sell-off rights are non-exclusive, so that if you work with another merchandiser you won’t get in trouble. And, the merchandiser cannot stockpile the merchandise. This means that they can’t manufacture more merchandise right before the end of the term. If you’re making an agreement, try to get this in the contract. Ask that they only manufacture a specific amount of merchandise so that this doesn’t happen.
Distress Sales or Dumping
Ask them to put this in the contract too. This means that merchandisers cannot sell your merchandise at very low prices just to get rid of the stock.
If you do get a sell-off rights agreement, they should ask you by the end of the term if you want to buy the remaining stock. If not, you ask them to get rid of the merchandise. With this meaning, destroying it. Or you ask them to donate it to charity.
The following includes sections from a blog written by Music Fibre – an online music industry directory and blog posting tips, tutorials and useful information for anyone working in the music industry. In this blog, they have delved into the world of Smart Links. This may be something you are already familiar with, or you may never have heard of them; either way, this blog will tell you what they are, why you need them and how you can use them to drive more sales of your music.
What Are Smart Links For Music And Why Should I Use Them?
The internet has made the world a very small place. Even if you are making beats in your bedroom or recording from your mates shed, your fans can be anywhere in the world.
Smart links will help you make sure that when they find your music, they are taken to the right music download or streaming site and can shop in the right language and currency. A smart link can offer your fans a choice of store or you can automatically direct them based on their location or device (e.g you may wish to send iPhone users directly to iTunes.)
It’s not just about making sure the shopping experience is good for your customers, it’s also an opportunity to track and monitor your fans. You can find out which stores they like best, find out where in the world your fans are and keep track of your marketing. The advanced analytics that smart links offer let you see exactly how your fans are discovering your music. If you have ever wanted to know if your Facebook campaign is working or if you should stick to Twitter, this will help you find out.
How Smart Links Can Save You Time
Smart Links save a huge amount of time. To get started you simply enter one link to your music in one store. The smart link provider will scan other stores for the same release and you then decide which stores to show on your landing page. When promoting your music you simply share one link instead of having to enter details for Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, Beatport etc.
What Do Smart Links Look Like?
Help For Bands is aware of the ins and outs of Smart Links because Horus Music use them for their marketing campaigns. These are created for the artist to post and makes it easier for fans to access the artist’s music.
They also make it easier for publications to talk about the artist and their music. By having a smart link ready to go, a publication will find it easier to integrate into anything they write. Overall, it makes it much easier for anyone to listen to an artist’s music on their preferred platform. The easier the process is, the more likely someone is to listen to the music on offer.
Below, you can see an image that shows how the smart links work in the Soundplate Records website:
Want To Create Your Own Smart Links?
There are several providers that can help you create smart links for your music. These include SmartURL, LinkRedirector, LinkFire and Hive amongst others. The best part is, they are free to use! If you want to make it easier for fans to listen to your music, Smart Links are the way forwards!
You can see the original blog post by Music Fibre here: http://musicfibre.com/smart-links-music-101/
We have all heard it…
“You guys are definitely going to make it”
“You’ve got something special”
“Your music is so original”
So after years of lugging your instruments around the country, playing show after show for hardly any reward and a crowd which thins out when its too far for your friends to make it, its understandable to think to yourself “Why haven’t I/we made it?”.
From experience of being in bands which have been on the cusp of something really great it became quite clear that in the music industry there is something that most musicians forget or don’t quite understand (and rightly so as music creation should be the prime focus for any up and coming artists).
Your music is a BRAND… and imagery and branding matters.
What is a Brand?
A brand is a set of marketing and communication methods that help to distinguish a company from competitors and create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.
In a market where musicians and labels are fighting to be heard, you need to create content that makes your music stand out from the crowd.
To put it into perspective, your band decides its time to send that demo you’ve spent time, money and effort recording in a top notch studio over to the big industry execs. You have asked your mate Steve to craft you a logo in Microsoft Paint and have slapped it onto a low resolution image you found on google images and printed it using your Mom’s printer before you slide it into a plastic cd case you picked up from Tesco’s a week earlier (We’ve all done it).
Your EP arrives at the offices and gets put into a pile of 350 other demos that have been received over the past couple of days.
On average your music will get 20 seconds before its thrown into the rejection pile. SO FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER!
Unfortunately, in the digital age we live in it’s not all about the music – you need to have the “Look”.
What Can You Do to Help Your Imagery and Branding?
- Figure out your target demographic
- Get a Logo professionally designed (either by a friend or a music centric design agency).
- Decide on a colour palette and typographical style to use in all collateral. Consistency is Key.
- Make sure your social media is consistent, keep the imagery the same on all platforms.
- Don’t scrimp on getting your CD artwork created, this is one of the only things that is a physical representation of your music. So make sure you are super happy with the artwork and the print.
- If you are ready to submit your music to agencies, labels, publishers etc then get a professionally designed press pack! You will no doubt stand out from the 100’s of CV like word documents that they receive, standing you in good stead for your music to spend a little bit more time in the cd player…
- Buy a domain and GET A PERSONALISED EMAIL ADDRESS! There is nothing worse than receiving an email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Get professional photos taken.
- Finally, I know I keep banging on about it but CONSISTENCY IS KEY!
Written by Alex and Adam from music industry design company, Archetype.
Alex and Adam are musicians themselves, having spent 10 years in a band together. They now focus on delivering high quality branding to musicians, labels, management agencies and other companies/people in the music industry. From their experience as a band, they realised just how important imagery and branding is to an artist’s success. Both of them want to pass on some wise words of advice!
Pay-to-Play gigs are becoming less and less common (thankfully!) but they do still exist. Essentially they are deals made between the gig promoter and the unsigned band/artist wanting to play at the gig. The band/artist pays the promoter and also pay to sell tickets for the gig and all the money goes back to the promoter – the band/artist only gets money after they reach a certain level or once the promoter has covered a certain amount of costs. This level often doesn’t get reached, and when bands/artists are already incurring costs in order to play the gig (travel, accommodation, time out from work etc.) having to also pay to actually play there just adds to this!
There are some examples we have heard of where an opening act on a tour paid £2000 PER SHOW and all of this money went back to the promoter, not the act. Another band paid £50,000 to join a major band on a UK tour.
In theory, having the chance to support a major artist on tour is one that we all dream of (except being the major artist yourself, obviously!). You have the chance to perform to a huge number of people who have likely never heard of you so this gives you a chance to get some new fans. Right?
Well, how many times have you been to a gig where you haven’t really been bothered about the support act? Or thought “this act isn’t even in the same genre as the main act”? For example, I went to see Muse perform and Dizzee Rascal was the support act… weird! Bands and artists too often pay for a slot on a tour or at a gig where the audience isn’t even their target audience, so it is highly unlikely they will convert these people into fans of their own and in turn monetise these fans in order to one day make back the money they paid to perform the gig in the first place.
How Can You Get a Gig Otherwise?
There are also competitions that bands and artists pay to compete in as they give them the chance to perform in bigger venues than they may normally have the chance to perform in. For example, the Live and Unsigned Competition in the UK provides this opportunity. Often, acts pay to be in the competition but they aren’t actually ready to be performing such large venues so the opportunity is completely wasted!
No, pay-to-play gigs aren’t all bad. If no band or artist ever benefitted from them then they would’ve stopped doing it and these kinds of gigs would’ve been extinct a long time ago. The truth is, there is a reason promoters and competitions feel they can charge… because they normally provide an opportunity that unsigned acts would never normally be able to get on their own. But there are some questions you need to ask yourself before considering chasing these opportunities. If any of your answers reflect the ones given below then you need to consider whether the gig is worthwhile! :
- How much is the promoter wanting you to pay? Probably more than we can afford or an amount that would take us a long time to make back.
- What type of audience will be at the gig? Does this reflect your target audience? No it doesn’t, the act we are supporting/playing alongside is from a different genre.
- Is the size of the venue reflective of the ones you already perform in/larger than normal but a manageable progression? Is it a lot bigger than you normally play e.g. you normally play to 100 but the venue is 1000? It is a lot bigger than we’re used to, we’d struggle to fill it.
- What are you wanting to get out of the gig? Is it possible to achieve this through performing at this specific gig? I’m not sure what we want to achieve or I’m not sure we can achieve what we want to.
If your answers are the opposite to those above and you feel confident and happy about going ahead, then good for you! Grab it with both hands and milk the opportunity.
As with anything you do with your career, do your research. Whey up your options and make sure you are knowledgeable about what you are entering into before taking the leap. Otherwise it is very easy to get scammed and taken advantage of!
Influencers are individuals or companies in the industry that are considered tastemakers. They look out for new music and blog/tweet/post/discuss and basically talk about what they think of this music or at least give it some exposure. They are (usually) trusted names in the blogosphere or across social media and people look to them for guidance on what music to listen to. If you get picked up by an influencer, this can obviously do you some favours!
The first influencers were the fanzines of the 1980s such as The Sounds, NME and Melody Maker. Music fans found new music from printed publications such as these. Now, in the digital age, most of this has moved online in the form of blogs and social media. But, contrary to popular belief, being an influencer doesn’t necessarily mean having a large number of followers, it’s to do with having an engaged and relevant audience that interact and appreciate the opinions of influencers.
Accounts on SoundCloud
Accounts that repost songs from new artists are an example of a modern day influencer. There are many accounts that do this but the key is to find the ones that aren’t too spammy. On some accounts, all they do is repost and you can see that even though these accounts may have a large number of followers, there actually isn’t that much engagement with the reposts because people just get bored of seeing them being posted all the time. The accounts worth targeting are the ones who are more selective of what they repost and therefore have a higher engagement rate. Even if they have a lot less followers than other accounts, if the engagement is there then it is a lot more worthwhile to try to contact these accounts and negotiate a repost. This article gives you an in-depth analysis on SoundCloud reposts and their value.
People on Twitter and Facebook
Connect with those who post about the music industry and about new music are another example. Direct message these accounts and see if you can get a dedicated post. Analyse who they talk about and see if you can figure out where they are finding these bands. If you can present yourself in a similar way to what they’re interested in, you’re more likely to get exposure.
Some are dedicated to music are another obvious influencer. Digital Music News posted the Top 20 Most Influential Music Blogs, all of which have a loyal and active following. A lot of blogs are genre specific or have a certain type of audience or feel about them. Most also focus on the particular country in which they are based so check where they are from beforehand… there’s no point approaching a blog in Australia if you’re in the UK (unless they’re posting about artists internationally).
Research into what you think is most relevant to you and target these blogs for exposure. A good way of doing this is to find out who the specific writers are behind the blogs and reach out to them individually via social media or email rather than the general blog accounts. Your message is probably more likely to be read and considered.
When reaching out to anyone in the industry, you need to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity. You could get some A&R attention if you manage to get exposure from an influencer, so if you are not ready to receive that attention then it’s a waste of all that effort and it will take a long time for you to be featured again. By then, the momentum will have passed. Check out the blog I did for Music Gateway on what you must prepare before approaching anyone in the industry.
It is obvious that building a fan base is essential when making a career for yourself in the music industry. To monetise your fan base you need a pretty established following (not a large following!) of people you interact with. For example, if you have a following of 10,000 on Facebook / Twitter but no one likes, shares or comments then these aren’t fans you can monetise. If you have a following of 1000 and you get a good amount of interaction then there is potential here. So, if you want to make money from fan relationships, you need content for them to interact with.
Once there is interaction, you can start introducing ways of earning money. Before you can ask fans to part with their hard earned cash you need products to sell:
Make some noise about any and every gig you have coming up (see part two: live performances). This can encourage your current fans to buy a ticket and help to bring in new audience members. These could later become fans who pay for more gigs and other offerings. And if it’s a free event that’s fine too. Okay, they won’t directly provide a revenue stream, but you can increase your fandom and build loyalty.
Get in the studio and make some music! Get physical CDs you could sell at your next gig. Distribute your music online to streaming sites and download sites. Set a release date and make a fuss over it to increase excitement over your new music.
T-shirts, key-rings, artwork, whatever you can think of. This is for artists with fans who’re willing to buy, so don’t go investing until you know it’ll get sold. It’s hard enough to make money as a musician without throwing away what you earn!
Now you’ve got the basic products, you need a way of selling them. Asking fans to join a mailing list will help you understand who are the most enthusiastic about what you’re doing. You can then alert these fans when you have a new gig or music and / or merch available. You will be directly selling products to your most likely of customers.
Why not also start a subscription fan club for your most loyal of fans. Charge a small amount for entry to the fan club and in return provide them with exclusives. This could be news from you, direct interaction, and gigs/releases announced before anyone else. Basically like a VIP mailing list.
You can use both or either of these to talk about extra developments with the 3 basic products. For example, send over sneak peeks of merch / artwork designs. Sell VIP live experiences where they can meet you for a chat before the gig. Set competitions where the first 5 people to buy your album get a free ticket to your next gig etc.
Making Money from Fan Relationships
These are all just examples. You need to be fully aware of your reach, your budget and the likelihood of building fan relationships. Create campaigns specific to you and never ask for too much! If you are constantly trying to sell to people, they will quickly get bored of you. Provide enough free content to get them interested and then ask for them to buy things every now and again.
When you run a PR company you get a lot of bands asking to check out their music and work with them. We can’t listen to them all so here is how to approach a PR company and get attention.
Methods to Approach a PR Company
If you’re going to get in touch then email is probably the simplest and most accepted way. Up until a few years ago I would have said sending a CD was a good option, but many computers don’t come with CD drives anymore. So any CDs that turn up to our office get put in a box and are left to gather dust. Email also allows you to politely follow up if you’ve not had a response with-in a week or two.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with chasing someone up once or even twice. Any more I’d just take it as a sign that they aren’t interested. Personally I’ll try and reply when I can if someone has taken the time to send a follow up email. So don’t be afraid to do it.
When you do send that email, make sure it’s actually tailored and personalised to the individual you are contacting. It’s worrying how many bands will send out a blanket email and bcc or even cc a ton of different PR companies in saying that they are wanting to work with them.
Randomly messaging someone on Facebook or tweeting a link out of the blue is probably the most irritating. There’s nothing worse than seeing a band tweet 100 different people at once asking them to ‘check out’ their track. Please don’t do it I beg of you. It doesn’t work and everyone will hate you.
Make sure you do your research before you get in touch with a PR company. Discover which other artists and the sort of music they cover first of all. If you’re an indie rock band then contacting a PR company that specialises in heavy metal is a waste of time. The person who gets your email will know you’ve not bothered to do your research. When you do find the PR that you think might be right, then make sure you reference some of the artists they’ve worked with. This is especially important if your band has some things in common with them. We always like to engage with people who are fans of the artists we work with so this will usually get our attention. It also shows you’ve put some thought into things before reaching out.
There’s a minimum period of time we usually work from on an album campaign. For example there’s normally a 2 to 3 month lead-in for a print campaign and around 6 to 8 weeks for online. So if you get in touch and say your album is out next week then your’e already way too late . In some cases we’ve had people get in touch saying their album is already out. Again theres nothing that can be done for you here.
When it comes to getting in touch try and keep these timeframes in mind. Try to outline a rough plan of when you think your potential single/EP/album is coming out, when you might tour and also any other assets you could have for the campaign and when they’ll be ready, such as a music video. The more of this you can put together the more interesting you become to the person you are approaching.
As obvious as this may sound, often bands will get in touch and not include a link to their music. Please include a link to your music and make sure it’s a good quality recording. If you’ve done the hard work and convinced someone to take a listen then you want to impress them. A low quality demo or poor quality video won’t have the same sort of impact as a decent recorded track. It’s our job to send your music to other people so if it doesn’t sound good we’re really not going to want to share it. Try and show us the final version or as close to it as you can.
If the answer is a no then it’s always worth asking for feedback from the PR company you just approached. You won’t necessarily always get it but if you’ve caught them on a good day or maybe you were just really polite over email then they could offer some of their thoughts which you may want to take onboard. It also potentially leaves the door for you to contact them again in the near future.
I’ve had a couple of bands in the past where I suggested that hiring a PR company at this current time wasn’t right as their profile was too small and that they should try and create some initial coverage themselves. A while later the band did just that and came back showing some of the great coverage they’d secured so we’re now working with them on their next single.
Written by Simon Glacken who is the Director at I Like Press.
Since founding in 2009 as enthusiastic champions of the emergent British left-field rock scene, Leeds-based publicists I Like Press have evolved upon their ability to birth new artists into the public consciousness, to create fresh impetus for established musicians worldwide.
Here at Help For Bands, we are always trying to write blogs that musicians of all styles and abilities can relate to. We are also always trying to find international marketing opportunities for our Help For Bands subscribers in our monthly opportunities newsletter.
With this in mind, we thought we would catch up with one of the companies who gave us an international opportunity for our newsletter, and ask his opinion on the importance of building relationships worldwide in the music industry.
Jonas Olsen works in communications, PR and marketing for No Angel Records in Denmark. This means he promotes music daily and scouts for new music for the label. He also works with creative media producers such as directors, editors and ad agencies. Here, he gives his insight into the making international relationships in the industry, and the international marketing advice advice he would give to artists.
Have you ever worked with musicians outside of Denmark?
“We work with musicians from all over the world. Estonia, Canada and the U.S. are just a few examples. This goes not only for musicians but other publishers as well. We don’t believe in borders when it comes to musicians and music.”
How did this relationship come about? i.e. did they approach you or vice versa, how did you find each other?
“Well, both actually. We’ve reached out to some bands and others have reached out to us. Lately a lot more have reached out to us and we’ve made it very easy for artists to submit their music to us via our website. A lot of them have found out about us via our digital campaigns and we’ve found a lot of bands via independent music blogs and international music / media events such as SXSW and Tallinn Music Week.”
Do you believe there are benefits to creating relationships with people in the industry internationally?
“There are many benefits. I think musicians underestimate the power of an ‘international audience segment’ approach which an international network can give you. What doesn’t work in Denmark might work in Russia and vice versa. One of our Danish artists is quite popular in Poland, a country with a population of approx. 40 million people – 8 times more than Denmark. This was only possible due to our international network.”
From your experience in promoting music, what advice would you give to artists about making themselves and their music marketable in such a competitive industry?
“Consumers yearn for substance and meaning right now, and underground musicians aren’t good enough at delivering. To me, one of the most frustrating things is a musician that doesn’t know what they’re really good at or lacks a clear idea of what he / she wants to convey with his / her music. ‘I can play all genres and sing about everything’ just doesn’t cut it. Identity and individuality is key. That doesn’t mean that your music can’t evolve. It can. But you have to have a clear message and an identifiable style every time you promote your work. The artist’s message and personal identity is just as important as the music itself. Identifying popular and topical subjects is also an option if you want your songs to be more relevant and relatable to a broad audience.”
So, there you have it. Assessing yourself and the music you want to create could be the key to identifying whether you have a marketable product. Do you have an individual identity in your music? How would you describe yourself?
Knowing this could help you find international marketing opportunities as well. Just because the country your from isn’t taking much notice of your music doesn’t mean that another one won’t either. Find the right market for your music.
For the chance to find some international opportunities with labels, managers and publishers from around the world, sign up to our monthly opportunities newsletter where you can get the contact details of these companies.
No Angel Records make it easier for great upcoming bands and artists to get noticed via media placements while the media industry gets an easier time finding great affordable bands for their commercials, TV productions and films.
A TV / radio plugger makes music available to be played on radio stations and music TV channels. They do this by working directly with artists and labels and presenting the music to key stations and influencers.
What Does the Role Involve?
This role hinges on networking and contacts. The better you know producers and heads of music at TV / radio stations then the more cooperative they will be.
The plugger must convince contacts that the music that have has a place in a station’s catalogue or playlist. A good plugger will be in regular contact with the radio and TV stations. They should be continuing to push the existing music they represent and introduce new artists and tracks. They will look for any kind of exposure for the music they are working with. This could be spot plays, interviews, live performances, competitions and tickets or announcements etc.
Making Money as a TV / Radio Plugger?
The more contacts you have and the more successfully you can market artists and their music. Additionally, you can then also charge more for the services you are offering.
Big record labels will have pluggers on their staff who exclusively promote artists signed to them. Many pluggers also work freelance and are hired to promote artists from several labels at once.
Fees can be agreed with clients by how much exposure is obtained. However, due to the nature of plugging, the amount of plugging is not necessarily proportional to the amount of exposure. So it is common for contracts to include a basic fee with bonuses for successful exposure.
The best way to get started is to find people in your area that work in tv / radio and start cultivating relationships with them. Once established, you can start to offer your services out to local musicians and grow from there.
A music journalist is a qualified journalist who specialises in music. They can work directly with a music publication or they can work freelance and write for many publications.
What Does the Role Involve?
A music journalist can spend a lot of their time going to live gigs and listening to new music. They will write reviews of gigs they attend and albums they listen to for publication. The articles they wrote would traditionally be for use in print publications but most are now published online. Some journalists even write exclusively for their own websites and find artists coming to them for exposure.
They liaise a lot with managers to arrange interviews and press coverage, although many artists now do this themselves too. Music journalists can also be involved in press campaigns for a new release.
How to Make Money as a Music Journalist?
A large number of music journalists start off by working for free simply because they have a love for music. Many start by writing for the local music press / magazine or newspaper while they gain more experience. Online blogs can also be used as s a forum to showcase their writing which can lead to paid work. If they do have a popular website, they could even earn money from paid advertising. Although journalism qualifications are preferred by some, they are not always necessary. Some publications prefer their journalists to have hands-on experience and a proven record of their writing.
Some publications pay their journalists a set wage whereas others will pay per word or even per article. In general the more you write, the more you will get paid. Experience really does go a long way to building your career as a music journalist.