Category Archives: Strategy

Crowd-Funding

I have always wondered what it would be like to have investors – folks who believe in me and my music so much that they would front me money for my next project.  Basically, a record label.

What if I had people demanding that I get in the studio to record, demanding that I make a music video.  And what if I was on the hook financially for those outcomes?

Would it produce better, quicker results?

I think so.

There is a newish thing happening on the indie music scene.  It is called “crowd-funding” or “fan-funding”.

The idea is that I get a bunch of friends and fans and family to invest money in my next project.  In return they get something based on the amount they give – i.e. a cd, a hug, a drawing, a song named after them, a party, etc.  It is like quid pro quo, except there is an element of awesomeness to it.

In addition to getting fabulous prizes, investors have a real impact on my production.

What do you think?

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Going Pro

Today I spent a couple of hours hanging with Charlie Van Stee in my apartment.  Together, we listened to the demo tracks from his forthcoming release, “Tigers will eat you!”  (You can listen to most/all of the tracks on Charlie’s Facebook page.)  It is his most heartfelt effort to date, imho.

Charlie wants to make a career out of music.  He is sincere about it, and I believe he has a good chance to do it.  This week, I have talked with two other musicians with dreams of doing just that (Ariel Apricio from Brooklyn and Keith Axline from San Francisco).  Both of them have found it tough going.

I believe that anyone with a bit of talent and a ton of determination and hard work can make a living playing music.  What people don’t always realize is that, like anything else, if you want to make money at music, you have to devote 40 hours a week to it and run it like a business.  This includes networking, honing your craft, and developing a reputation as a professional.

Below is my checklist for things to do to become and maintain your status as a professional working musician.  This list is reflective of my web biz more than it is of my music biz, but I think the same rules apply to both.

Networking

  • Attend local shows 5 nights a week
  • While you are at shows, meet the bands.  Meet the promoters.  Meet the bartenders.  Meet the bar owners.  Engage them all in conversation and hand them all your business card.  Follow up the next day with an email or phone call expressing (sincerely) how nice it was to meet them.
  • Maintain regular contact with aforementioned industry folks.  Ask them for gigs, leads, networking opportunities as appropriate.
  • Maintain an email list and add new email addresses to it at every show
  • Develop an online social networking strategy.  Get active on online social networking websites that make sense to you (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc.).  Spend reasonable amounts of time on these and be focused.

Honing your craft

  • Warm up for 1 hour every day
  • Practice for 2 hours every day solo
  • Practice twice a week with your band (if applicable)
  • Listen to music and music-business podcasts (Check out the CDBaby Podcast)
  • Develop a regular schedule for songwriting (This is the only way you will get better and quicker at your art!)
  • Write. Write. Write.  Blog about your experiences.  Write music.  Write poetry.  Think about things that happen to you, and write about them.
  • Become a leader in your local music community.  There are all sorts of local music organizations in Minneapolis (and probably every big city).  Get involved!

Developing a reputation as a professional

  • Show up to gigs early/on time
  • Be courteous and professional
  • Dress appropriately
  • Get contracts signed well in advance of gigs (if applicable)
  • Hire someone (or get a volunteer) to watch the door so that you don’t get ripped off
  • Sell cds and merchandise at your shows
  • Treat everybody with respect (they are your customers!)

The bottom line is that unless you get SUPER lucky (like Owl City), it will take hard work to make it as a professional musician.  Being a career musician requires starting your own business.  Time spent up front will pay dividends later.  Most of your good gigs will come from friends-of-friends.  You will get paid more the longer you are in the biz.

Now get to it!  🙂

CDs Being Printed!

I am working with Copycats Media in Minneapolis to print a limited-edition run of 50 cds for our release show on Friday.  I have no plans to print more, so if you are like me and prefer the hard-copy of a record, you will want to make your purchase early before these sell out.  I plan on making the mp3 version available for download on my website on Saturday for $10.

The album, titled Faraway Farm & The Bird, is intended to be listened straight through.  It is the story of a troubled 20-something gent, roughly of my make and model, as he navigates his way through the beginnings of adulthood.  I will post more about that this week as well.

I have been entertaining all sorts of value-add possibilities for subscribers to this website, including exclusive audio, video, information, and other content.  More on that later this week as I make the final decisions on the matter.  Oh! And I also plan on releasing the brand new version of this website by Friday.  Whew! I have my work cut out for me this week!

BTW, John, Ryan, and I practiced for 2 hours yesterday and are working out many rough edges so that we will be able to bring it hardcore on Friday at Acadia Cafe!

My new to-do list follows:

  1. Finish CD Artwork
  2. Build new website for digital distribution of new album and other premium content
  3. Create master disc for replication.
  4. Settle on song order
  5. Order CDs
  6. Figure out pricing model for digital content

Thoughts on Paying for Website Content

I plan on redesigning this website to coincide with the release of my new album on April 2nd.  Along those lines, I have been considering ways to add value to y’all and have been considering a subscription-based service whereby you will pay a certain amount of money (maybe $XXX/year), and you will have access to some premium content such as:

  • MP3 downloads of the Faraway Farm and The Bird
  • MP3 downloads of …if Howard Roark could dance
  • MP3 downloads of my former band’s albums (The Corrupt Senators‘ 2 records, The Speakeasy Heroes‘ record, The Arthur Dent EP, etc.)
  • Access to my weekly artwork (comic strips, drawings, etc.)
  • A profile page on this website with your photo, name, etc.
  • Song-a-week
  • Weekly video guitar lessons

So basically, you would have an incentive to purchase my albums on this website rather than on iTunes or other services.  In turn, you will get certain premium content.

Why do this?  I need some incentive to create new content.  I love creating music, videos, blogs, and other content.  Having the pressure of your dollars (and expectations) will provide me with some motivation to create more content.

The idea is to provide extra content to superfans.  I want to give all of my biggest supporters a better experience.  This requires us to work together.  I think it will make you, as a superfan, more invested in my development, and I, in turn, will be more invested in providing you with great content.

What do you think?  What is a reasonable amount to charge for this content?  Also, should there be a “grandfather” clause (i.e. a discount) for folks who already own my record(s)?

Leave a comment.

Take This Survey | Get a FREE MP3!

We are doing some brand-positioning research for our forthcoming album, and we need your help! Give this mp3 a listen, then take this survey.

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Help me position my band's brand! You are smart…we are musicians.

We need help. We have no brand. Well, actually, we have a brand, but we don’t know what it is yet.

My band, Cryns #3, has been playing shows regularly now for over 3 years, and over that time we have been focusing on what we do best (making music) and neglecting what we do worst (the business).

We have a number of strong assetts working for us:

  1. The Band.  We are a fun group of guys hailing from Minnesota.
  2. Our Music.  Our music kicks ass.  It is fun, up beat, funny, tells heartbreaking stories, and makes me want to dance all at the same time.
  3. This Website.  Okay. So our website user interface & corresponding usability actually suck quite bad.  BUT we have a lot of rich content on this thing (photos, videos, tour updates, songwriting workshops, mp3s, strategy, etc.)…if only we can make it usable.

Last week, I met with Dan over at Idea Food to discuss how we can make people take notice of Cryns #3 and, ultimately, get people to show up to our awesome swinging rock shows.  First let me say that Dan is awesome.  He and I brainstormed for about 2 hours about the band’s goals, aspirations, target market, brand, strategy, and other items.  Here is our summary document.

The main thing that we need to do, as a band, is get people to the shows.  Getting more people to the shows is more fun and provides us more motivation to keep doing this (It also provides more money and more fame).

As best we can figure, the most reliable way to get people to show up is to let them know that we are doing something awesome.  So, we decided to build our email list.  My goal is to balloon it up from 400 people up (at present) to 10,000 people over the course of the next year.  That’s roughly 1,000 people added to the list every month.

Dan and I brainstormed lots of different ways to accomplish this goal of a humongous email announcement list, mainly:

  • Give away “Free Download” cards at the door of the clubs and around the clubs when we play in an effort to get people to fill out their email address when they visit the site for a free download.
  • Take people’s photos at clubs when we play, and send the link to the photos out via our email list.  This is both a value add and an incentive.

Generally we think that free stuff attracts people.  It also convinces people to hand our their email list.

Of course, we will have a multi-faceted approach, focusing energies on our live show and our music in addition to getting people to sign up for our email list and come to shows, but the email list remains the centerpiece.

What do you think?  Am I on the right path here?  Should I change this up a bit?  Is there something I am leaving out?  Browse our working strategic document and let me know what you think!

THANKS!!

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Focus

Here is what is on my band-related docket right now in order of priority:

  1. Finish the new album!
  2. Start “song-a-week” workshop thing (and write a song a week)
  3. Build “Guitar Lessons/Media/Lyrics” page/interface

I have been traveling so damn much recently that it has been hard to get into a groove.  Maybe the first thing on my list should be “Focus”, since that is really what I am lacking right now – at least focus on music.  I have been focusing intently on work-related stuff, which is cool, because a guy has got to pay the bills.  Plus, it is challenging and fun.  But I REALLY want to polish up the new record, which has been in a state of “almost done” for months.

So, for the next two weeks, I plan on spending a few hours per day finishing up the album.  That means plugging in the old Marshall stack for a few hours a day – totally awesome!  The bad thing is that I can’t do that at night due to the ass-kicking nature of the amp.  So, I need to FOCUS.  And get organized.

I’m thinking something along the lines of

9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Website work
12 – 1 p.m. Lunch
1-3 p.m. Exercise
3-6 p.m. Record guitar
6 – 11 p.m. Website work

Geesh!  When I put it like that, I really don’t have much free time, do I?  Rock and Roll has never been easy, I suppose…

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Songwriting Workshop – Interested?

I’ve been listening to CDBaby.com’s “Do It Yourself” Musician Podcast for a couple of months now, and it has given me all sorts of ideas and inspiration for my music career.  Today, I listened to their interview with and follow-up discussion about Jonathan Coulton.  As I was listening, I had this strong urge to do a Coulton imitation and write & record a song every week.  This would do two things:

  1. Exponentially increase my library of songs.
  2. Give me more songwriting experience (and possibly change the way I write songs)

Plus, it would be a challenge.  Writing and recording a song, even a shitty one, takes me about 12 hours total, which equates to 2-3 days of passive recording and writing (I find that it helps to let ideas ferment for a day or two before reworking and recording them).

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One idea I had that interests me is to have a songwriters’ workshop type of thing, where I would supply a theme or topic on Monday morning and anybody who is interested would write a song based on the theme or topic.  Then, we can all share our videos and do a big circle jerk to celebrate our brilliance.  What do you think?  Would you participate?

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Elevator Pitch

I signed up to participate in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge, and the first task is to develop an elevator pitch for this blog.

Here it goes!

UPDATED ON 4/7/2009 at 8 AM:

Cryns.com is my band’s website and blog. It features:

  • guitar lessons
  • discussions
  • video journals
  • daily blog entries
  • responses to questions and comments
  • free mp3 downloads
  • tour photos
  • tour dates
  • It provides a variety of ways for me to connect with you.

This website is the FIRST place that my MP3s are released and that news is announced. If you want to stay on top of all the exciting stuff going on around my band, then you need to visit Cryns.com.

UPDATED ON 4/6/2009 at 10:20 AM: Cryns.com is where I go to connect with friends and fans of my music. I share updates about my musical journey, and friends & fans share their ideas and thoughts in return. It features guitar lessons, video journals, daily blog entries, free downloads, and also tour photos. Basically, it gives us all an excuse to get together and share ideas online.

Cryns.com is a place where friends and fans of my music go to get updates about where my musical journey has taken me. It features guitar lessons, video journals, daily blog entries, free downloads, and also tour photos. AND it also provides an avenue for me to get to stay in touch with friends and fans via blog comments and emails. Basically, it gives us all an excuse to get together online.

What do you think? How would you improve it?

Thanks!

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Nerds and Booking

I was fully expecting and hoping to watch Revenge of the Nerds today (a key component of my expansive VHS collection), but instead I found myself sending emails to bars and coffee shops in an attempt to book some shows. While doing so, I realized that if I sent even one booking email per day to a venue, I would be much further ahead of the game than I currently am. (For the record, I am currently in a state of laziness.)

Today I emailed 5 venues. On Monday, I will email 5 more. Same with Tuesday. This might not seem like much, but it takes me about 1 hour to send 5 emails like that, since each one is customized to contain information for each venue.

I am trying to book June right now, which would save me from the stress of booking bands at the last minute as I did for the Valentine’s Day Fundraiser.

Anyway, no Revenge of the Nerds for me today. Next up is lunch with Megan, then an interview with Jenny Dalton for the Lunch of Champions podcast series.

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Planning a Summer Tour

So today I finally got motivated and began planning my 2009 Summer Tour *forms hands into devil horns and headbangs*. I am thinking it will be a month long, the entire month of August. I will start in Seattle and travel south to San Diego, couch surfing, hosteling, and camping along the way. Of course, I will bump into my numerous family members along the coast as well. Perhaps I will even get to play a gig with one of those bastards after all these years. It has, after all, been almost two years since Globeytron 3000 graced the stage at the J&S Bean Factory!

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Thoughts on a Dual EP Release

I have been doing some thinking on the new record, and when I listen to the songs all together, I get the feeling that there are two categories that the songs fit into:

  1. Damn, that was a long way back from the black infinity of sadness.
  2. Let’s dust our clothes off, take a shower, and get back to loving life!

So, I am entertaining the possibility of creating two EPs or sections of the disc as follows:

Movement 1: It’s a long road back from Sadness.

  1. The preacher doesn’t understand.
  2. Lori won’t get out of my way!
  3. So Just Be
  4. Sometimes I cannot sleep.
  5. Duluth

Movement 2: Let’s rebuild this fucking House after that dreadful fire!

  1. Let’s Get Funky!
  2. I’m quitting my job today!!!
  3. 2 Sisters
  4. Tonight was a wonderful night!
  5. Run. Run! Run!! RUN!! RUNNNN!!!!
  6. Colleen
  7. All That I Want
  8. Rock Star
  9. It’s time to decide!

What do you think?

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Vinyl Makes a Resurgence!

I met up with Perfect Porridge‘s Greg Swan yesterday to help him upgrade some website software, but the conversation quickly turned to other matters. One item that peaked my interest was a combination cd/vinyl product that Greg noticed a band using. Basically, it is a cd on one side and a record on the other. “Brilliant!” I thought! But, of course, I don’t own a record player. In fact, I don’t own a working cd player at the moment either. But the record holds a certain allure for me and countless other music fans. In fact, vinyl record sales rose over 15% between 2006-2007, and vinyl record sales rose a whopping 36% in 2007-2008! Meanwhile, cd sales dropped 11% during the same timeframe.

So, what does this mean for us? I don’t know, but it sure would be fun to make a vinyl record. The question is, would any of you buy it?

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Bringing Online Social Media to My Band

I am reading David Meerman Scott’s “The New Rules of Marketing & PR“, and I am thinking of new ways to market my band, including blogging, podcasting, and press releases. I am already doing all three of these things with little consistency and little measurable results. That is, I am not sure if all my blogging, press releases, YouTube videos, and podcasts are having any impact on my fan base.

For the new Cryns #3 album, Faraway Farm, I am considering releasing all of the tracks with a Creative Commons license, allowing any non-commercial entity to use the tracks as they wish. Plus, I am thinking of doing the same thing with the source tracks, allowing hip-hop groups to sample specific vocal or instrument tracks of the album. It will also allow people to utilize my tracks on YouTube mash-ups and any other sorts of mash-ups or cut-ups that are imaginable.

I am at a point in my life where I just want something to happen with my music. I want to be interviewed. I want people to show up to my concerts. I want to look out at crowds and see people listening and singing along. I want to tour Europe and the West Coast (again).

I also want to use this release as an opportunity to test many of my online social media theories. Mainly my belief that honesty and openness on the web can make this band thing more exciting. Playing in a band is one of those addictions that have few moments of rewards borne of many thousands of hard work. Disappointment is a re-occuring emotion after shows. It’s not anyone’s fault. I have heard all sorts of popular actors and musicians talk about the loneliness of their work, and I am beginning to see what they mean. No matter how popular or famous or rich I get, I still live a normal life with normal people. And when the lights have dimmed, and I have left the stage, it is still just a night out on the town with my super hot girlfriend, who, despite my great efforts to prove the contrary, still does not view me as a hugely popular rock star.

Getting back to the online social media thing, I think that linking up with friends and fans in real time, online, as I am touring, might provide me with a greater sense of satisfaction with my music than has been previously afforded.

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