- Band Management
- Home Recording
- Live Sound
- Best Instruments
- New Music
Here are 10 ways to tune up your music business for the coming year. Make a commitment to focus on these every few weeks. No need to overwhelm yourself, just make progress.
You finally nailed a bio section and put it up years ago. It’s time to revisit it, especially on Spotify. It sounds simple, but I see this all the time. An artist with older accomplishments listed, or even old band lineups (“we’re a 3 piece,” when it turns out you added a fourth last year). Do the same for your socials. Sometimes you can do this through your distributor (Distrokid) or artist page on Spotify. On your social sites, make sure to include newly released music or accomplishments so that new fans can connect quickly. It’s a good idea to do a linktree which lists your website, merch shop, music streamer profiles, and video channel, as well.
Make sure your song lists are correct, include some new photos or get some new artists shots done. It’s a good time to include new venues and accomplishments, including any recent press. You most likely need to update streaming numbers, video views, and social follow numbers. Above all, any booker or PR person wants to see newer video content.▼ Article continues below ▼
This is an ongoing task, but you gotta start now. You are going to need all of this information in the future for your PRO, for HFA, MLC, and SoundExchange. You simply make a spreadsheet (xls or Google Sheets) which catalogs all of your songs.
Simply open a spreadsheet and here are your columns: Artist name, Song name, Track recording length, Writer 1, Writer 2 (add as many co-writers as the song has), CAE/IPI for Writer 1, CAE/IPI for Writer 2, Publisher 1, Publisher 2, CAE/IPI Pub 1 and Pub 2, ISRC, ISWC, Song UPC (if single), Album title, Album UPC, Label Name, Distributor, Credits.
Here’s a template for you to make it easy: https://michaelstjames.gumroad.com/l/songcatalog
By far, the biggest issue in music licensing is often split sheets, or lack thereof. Do not wait until I am on the phone with you to ask your producer or co-writers for this, because you will have lost the deal at that very second. For every song, you need a split sheet detailing what date the song was finished, who (if anyone) was a co-writer, their percentage of writing credit, their name and contact info, and PRO IPI/CAE information (as a songwriter and publisher) and it needs to be signed. Keep in mind, the percentage of writing credit is simply what you all agree on. The most important thing is that everyone agrees and is comfortable signing this agreement, no lawyer needed. You also need a split sheet for the recording. This should include what date the recording was finished, the list of songs recorded, the price paid and to whom, producer and mixer, whether or not the producer has any % in the master ownership/royalties (points), as well as any side musicians involved, and the amount paid to them.
Make sure your PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) reflects all of the songs you have with the correct percentages of splits. You should include any songs that are finished, whether they are released or not.
SX is a separate performing rights organization which collects digital royalties for non-interactive streaming such as Pandora, Sirius XM, and webcasters, as well as neighboring rights if you choose to have that collected. Money goes to the featured performer–the artist– directly (45%), non-featured artists – such as hired players on recordings (5%) and to the Master Recording rights owner (50%). So, if you are a band with four members all four need to sign up to be paid directly as featured performers. And let’s say you have your own label because you paid for your recordings, this is where you get paid for that as well as a master right owner.
At some point you will need to learn how to advertise your own releases. Yes, you can hire people, but it’s not too difficult to learn and there are tons of resources to help you. Two main areas: Facebook and Instagram ads are done through the business suite on Facebook or Instagram using your artist profile. Another area you need to dive into is Google Ads in order to promote your music videos on YouTube.
Every band member should do this with their respective gear. If you’re the one with the Mac running Pro Tools, include this as well. Whatever gear is shared by the band like a PA or van, do this as well. You’ll want to make a list of the gear, brand, model, make, year, and serial numbers. Pictures are great if you have the time, but not required.
The real reason to do this is insurance. You should have your gear insured personally anyway, and the band’s equipment insured through the LLC. If you want to do it personally, ask about apartment or homeowner’s insurance and include your gear in your possessions, it’s really not that expensive. Don’t be THAT band which can’t make the next gig because they got their PA ripped off or it blew up in Tallahassee and have no money to buy a new one. If you get on to a big tour, insurance is going to be mandatory. Don’t wait and then scramble and make mistakes. Do it now.
Look, we all go into this music game to NOT deal with boring things like this, I get it. But, really going through what you’ve made and what you’ve spent as a band, you will be able to understand that this is a business, and ultimately, where you can improve. Hopefully, you have an LLC which files taxes and that should make this easier. But even if you don’t, here is a simple way to get some good numbers. Break everything up into 3 categories: LIVE (shows), RECORDINGS (streaming, physical, downloads), OPERATING (rehearsal space, merch, Dropbox, etc.).
For instance, on the LIVE sheet, list what the band made for each gig and then what the band paid in drinks, gas for the van, late night food, and the difference is your net profit for the gig. Same with RECORDINGS. How much did the album cost (recording, packaging, distro), and how much has your band made in royalties from streaming or physical sales? You don’t have to share all of this detail with anyone, but just get your monthly or yearly numbers in order. At some point, if you get an opportunity for investment or a licensing deal, this will at least provide you leverage to know what to ask for.
Don’t rely on social media platforms alone to promote what you are doing. The way algorithms work means that maybe 1/3rd to half (at most) of your followers will see most of your posts. Promoted posts aren’t much better.
Even if you do not have a good solid email/text list right now, it’s time to start building it. If you already do have one, start really engaging. Here are some ways to do that. Do a giveaway. Not of your album, but something fun, like a silly prize or hang out session. Come to rehearsal, have a drink with the band, we’ll write you a song, pick a cover song for us to do – get creative. Just sign up here with email/text. Start a monthly newsletter to refresh those connections. Let everyone know that their favorite artist is working on something new, include a private link to a snippet on YouTube. And don’t make it always about music. Include what you’re watching on Netflix, maybe a stupid story about the band after a show one night. Let the fans in and see you as the cool creative people you are.
Lastly, reevaluate what you are doing. Are you selling the same old tired logo shirts? Maybe it’s time you design a new one, maybe add a new item like a fanny pack or coffee mug. Maybe use a lyric line or a catch phrase, or even a new logo. Fans aren’t going to tell you they already bought the shirt and want something new, you have to do it. Maybe your fans want more video content on YouTube? Maybe they just want new music from you more frequently.
It’s also time to answer this question: Hey, I would like to buy everything your band has done, how do I do that?
This sounds simple, and we do this with a lot of artists who are about to be signed or blowing up and it is very useful. The theory is, if an investment angel or a (superfan) walked in and asked this, can you accept their money today? Do you have it all together and available? This will get you thinking about a store or shop website, which you should have anyway.
Go one step further, what if they wanted to buy your recording catalog or your music publishing? Do you have any idea how to do that? Would you sell? How much would you sell for? It’s not about whether you would or would not, could you?
Do these ten things and by this time next year and I guarantee you will be in a completely different position as an artist. Good luck!
–Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.
*main photo by watts_photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0