The Smart Musician Guide

Wrap Your Head Around Backups —  Musicians Edition 

Wrap Your Head Around Backups — Musicians Edition

You know you need it but just the thought of it is so… boring. I get it. I get that feeling too and I’m a techie! That said, if making music is your business, then you have to set yourself up for success by being prepared as much as possible. Here’s how to do it.

The gist is, you want

  • a setup that makes sense for your work
  • a physical backup (or two) — this would be the fastest recovery method
  • a cloud backup — slower than physical, but good to have in case your physical backup is also lost.
  • a workflow that will allow you to focus on music, not backups!

The Setup

Here are a few types of files you might primarily be concerned about

  • Your “finished products”: releases, artwork, and any other accompanying document. You need to be able to access those from anywhere, quickly. For that, I recommend saving them to a synchronized cloud storage service like DropBox, Box, iCloud, GoogleDrive so that you can get to them from any of your devices anytime. I personally use DropBox, which is $9.99/month for 1TB
  • Your recording projects such as Logic Pro X or ProTools sessions. Depending on how much you’ve got, it may or may not make sense to have it all in Dropbox. I personally save the recent ones/the ones I’m currently working on in Dropbox for easier collaboration. If you are very prolific and are running out of space to store them, you could move those to an external drive. Let’s call this your archive drive. You may have multiple ones.
  • Your sample libraries and loops such as EastWest, Ivory or ThatSound. These easily take up a lot of storage. Left on your main computer, you will quickly find your system slowed down to a crawl due to lack of space. It would make more sense to move those to a separate drive. I am moving all of mine to a 4TB external drive that I call the sample library drive: https://www.logicprohelp.com/move-logics-additional-content-secondary-drive/

Physical Backup + Cloud Backup service

Dropbox and similar services only provide a convenient way to access particular files (that are in the Dropbox folder). It does not store all your other stuff such as app data, mail, downloads, documents, etc. For that, you want a true backup system. Preferably, you want both a physical and cloud backup for extra protection.

Physical Backup

First let’s talk physical backup. If you’re a Mac user, you already have the most intuitive backup system at your fingertips: Time Machine. If you’re on Windows, perhaps Genie might be a comparable alternative. If you’re on Linux, you probably don’t need my help ;-)

Time Machine basically stores a copy of your system and files and allows you to “go back in time” by restoring your system with all its files exactly as it was at a particular point in the past. Let’s say you installed some new software that completely screwed things up, you can just go back and pretend it never happened. How far back you can go depends on how much storage space you have for the backups. Time Machine will do an initial full backup (which may take an entire day), then incrementally save the changes you make. It’s very easy to set up. You can also encrypt the backup.

There is one catch. Time Machine backups are not bootable. If your computer’s main drive is completely fried, you need to be able to boot from something before you can restore from Time Machine. For this reason, it is also advisable to have a bootable backup of your main drive. This would especially come in handy when you’re on deadline. You can do so using Carbon Copy Clone ($39.99) or using the Mac’s free Disk Utility to do it manually. CCC allows you to schedule it and make automatic incremental backups, which is nice.

Cloud Backup

Why do you need this? Well, let’s say someone broke into your house and stole both your computer and your backup drive. Then what?

I am currently researching options. Here are a few:

BackBlaze offers unlimited storage, advanced security features, they’ll send you a hard drive anywhere in the world for free if you need to restore your data. It has a 15-day trial and then it’s about $5/month per device. It works with both Mac & Windows.

Synchronize! Pro is the only one that offers a bootable backup. It seems to also offer unlimited storage and archiving capabilities to free up space on your drive. Unfortunately it does not support versions of Mac OS more recent than 10.10. We are currently on 10.14 so that’s a problem in the long run if the software is going to be discontinued. It works on Mac only.

CrashPlan keeps your deleted files forever, has unlimited storage, advanced security features. It is used by many large corporations so it is unlikely to go away soon. However it is the most expensive option I found so far. It offers a free month trial then is $10/month per device for the small business option. It works on both Mac & Windows.

Final Thoughts

Arguably, the online backup systems could be a replacement for the physical backups. The only caveat is that, when on deadline, you want to be able to get your stuff fast.

Remember, you want a “set it and forget it” system so that you can do it once, then go back to way more interesting tasks like making music :-)

Credits:
The tips were compiled from a forum discussion I had with a few other ladies (and gents) in the biz. Thanks to Patti Boss, Carla Kay Barlow, Anne House, Michelle Lockey, Bill Lefler for sharing their strategies with me.


Wrap Your Head Around Backups —  Musicians Edition was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Bookers will love you for this 

Venues & Bookers Will Love You For This

Top 17 things to do to make sure you’re booked again

You’ve landed a cool gig. Maybe you’re really new and you just booked your first coffee shop feature. Or maybe you just scored your first festival or showcase. Every new gig is an opportunity to make new connections in the music business, no matter how small the venue or audience. You always want people to feel like they were lucky to book you. It’s not hard to do, but it is all in the details.

Before the gig

  • Make sure you know where to go, what to bring, who will be the point of contact beforehand.
  • Decide on your set list. You should at least know how many songs you can fit into your allotted time slot.
  • Think about your banter. Is this a venue where people will want to hear the story behind your music? If so, which story do you tell? Refresh your own memory so you don’t stumble on stage. You want to be as professional as possible to make your booker look good!
  • Promote the event. Everybody loves some help promoting their event.

At the Gig

  • Bring your best attitude and be flexible. You’re an entertainer, it should be fun to be around you. Introduce yourself to other musicians if you get a chance.
  • Show up at load-in time. If applicable, ask where to put your gear until it’s your turn to soundcheck, so that it’s not in other people’s way.
  • Once you’re there, stick around until you’re done soundcheck. Don’t have people chasing you around when it’s your turn.
  • Try really hard to remember everybody’s names: the sound engineer, MC, volunteers, anybody who’s helping out. It does matter.
  • Thank everyone personally before you leave.

On Stage

  • If it’s a new audience, repeat your band name a few times.
  • Mention your social media and/or merch if applicable.
  • Thank your audience.
  • Thank your host/venue and the event staff.
  • Do not apologize. It doesn’t make you appear humble. It makes you appear unprofessional and undeserving of the audience’s time. Even if you make a mistake, the show must go on.

After the gig

  • Send a thank you note. Bonus points for physically mailed thank you cards.
  • Tag the venue, organizer, photographer etc in your social media posts about the event. If a photographer provided pictures, make sure to give them credit whenever you post those photos!
  • Share any posts about the event. Promote them. Reciprocity is the name of the game.

There you have it! Have we missed anything?


Bookers will love you for this was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

ASCAP EXPO 2018 

Words of wisdom from those who are at the top of their game in the industry. A selection of our favorite golden nuggets from ASCAP EXPO “I Create Music” 2018, including Meghan Trainor, J Kash, Greg Wells, Claudia Brant, Jeff Ellis, Ne-Yo, Amanda Berman-Hill, Priscilla Renae, Lindsey Stirling.

“My dad told me if you’re gonna do this, you can’t rely on anybody else. You have to know how to do it all yourself. He would buy me gear for Christmas. He would tell me to set it up. Then he’d tell me “Ok, record a song”, then he’d say “Ok, tear it down and put it back in the box!”

So I was this 16 year old girl going into the studio and I knew how to do everything and it kinda freaked people out a little.

He told me I need to write 200 songs. When I did, then he said write 500, then write 1000. He’s been a great supporter.
— Meghan Trainor

“If you’re good, people will know. It’s a small community. You might not think we know, but we know”
 — J Kash
(lyricist: Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor, & more)

When I first started, I would do five sessions a day, and often two songs per session.
 — Priscilla Renae
(songwriter: Iggy Azalea, Train, Nick Jonas & more)

“My songs that did the best were all written from real life experiences.”
— Ne-Yo

When mixing, create a playlist of reference mixes. Every now and then, take a break from mixing and go listen to the playlist.”
— Greg Wells
(producer: The Greatest Showman, Adele, & more)

You’ll be surprised how many successful people let others control their life. Know what makes it fun for you, and respectfully say no to anything that isn’t worth it. I don’t care if it’s Drake or Kanye calling, I won’t be on call and I don’t work weekends unless it’s an absolute emergency, which it usually isn’t.
 — Jeff Ellis
(producer: Frank Ocean)

I don’t care if it’s fully produced or a guitar/vocal. It just needs to feel authentic” — Amanda Berman-Hill
(Publisher, Sony/ATV)

“When I translate lyrics I usually do my best to stick with the original meaning, but it’s not just that. You also have to match the vowel sounds, and that’s the hard part!”
 — Claudia Brant
(Multi Grammy winning songwriter: Alejandro Sanz, Camila Cabello, & many more)

I was told over and over that I was too different, but that’s the very thing that people liked about me on YouTube
 — Lindsey Stirling
(dancer/violinist/composer, YouTube sensation)

Recurrent themes

These are just a few quotes. However, the same themes keep showing up everywhere:

  • Write music that comes from the heart, that you truly believe in/feel, that you have a deep connection with. Those resonate the most with other people.
  • Work harder than everybody else.
  • Know what your goals are so that you can design your ideal job and set your own boundaries.
  • If you’re good, people will know/notice. The songwriting community is relatively small.
  • Hustle, hustle, hustle.

So, for all you songwriters and musicians, this is yet another reminder to treat your music like a business, and hustle like a startup! You are your own CEO and the decisions you make today will determine your value and how much people will want to invest in you in the future.


ASCAP EXPO 2018 was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Taxes for musicians 

Deductions for 2017

Let me preface this by stating that I’m not a tax accountant or expert by any stretch of imagination. I’m just a musician doing my taxes and learning how it works along the way. I’m sharing what I’ve learned but it may/may not apply to you or be 100% correct. The information below is not replacement for expert tax advice/services. In other words, don’t quote me on it :)

That said, here are a few things you might find useful when filing your taxes this year if you’ve set up your music business.

Contractors vs Legal & Professional Services

Musicians for hire

  • If you’ve hired somebody multiple times AND you’ve paid them $600 or more in this tax year, then you’re required to provide them with a 1099-MISC. This can easily be created online. We created ours using TurboTax.
  • If you’ve hired somebody only once, you could deduct that in professional services instead, even if it is over $600.

Other items that fall under professional expenses

  • Production Services (production, mixing, mastering) if hired on a per-project basis. If they’re hired on a full-time or contractor basis, then report them appropriately.
  • Subscription to professional publications in your field (i.e any music industry publication)
  • Membership fees to join professional organizations such as a musician union, a songwriter association, or websites like Taxi and BroadJam that offer members only access to opportunities.
  • Distribution service fees such as TuneCore, CD Baby to make your music available on various digital platforms.
  • Short-term consulting fees
  • One-time management consultation fees
  • One-time marketing consultation fees
  • One-time engineering consultation fees
  • Fees paid for website analysis
  • Other outside consulting fees for short term advice on specific deals
  • One-time logo/web design fees
  • Fees paid to talent agents and business/personal managers who are not paid as employees.
  • Legal fees for business matters
  • Accounting fees

Vehicle Expenses

If you use your car for business reasons (eg to go to your gig), you can deduct certain expenses such as:

  • Miles driven for business
  • New tires, repairs, maintenance
  • Gas/oil changes
  • Insurance, registration, license fees
  • Lease payments or depreciation (see Assets)

There are two ways to claim these expenses: actual expenses and standard deduction. If you use a software like TurboTax, they usually guide you to figure out the best way to go for your situation.

Business Travel

  • Airfare/train/bus
  • Hotel
  • Rental car
  • Taxi/ride-sharing services
  • Baggage fees
  • Gas
  • Gear rental for gigs
  • Internet access fees (e.g on planes or in the airport/hotel)
  • Phone calls when away on business
  • Tips while traveling (except for meal tips, which are only 50% deductible)
  • Dry cleaning
  • Cost of shipping your equipment that is necessary for a gig
  • Cost of storing baggage/equipment during business trip
  • Late check-out charges if you’re required to stay over-time for business
  • You want to have receipts for anything $75 and over. You have to be able to show the business purpose of an expense if requested.

Miscellaneous expenses

  • Photography services can be deducted under miscellaneous business expenses
  • Music Conferences that you’ve attended to improve your skills, maintain relevance in your field, or otherwise improve your professional performance can be deducted under miscellaneous
  • Cloud services/software such as LANDR, Dropbox, etc also fall under miscellaneous.
  • Accompanist fees.
  • Banking/credit card/financial service fees (including interest) for your business accounts/cards.
  • Books, magazines and other subscriptions for business
  • Tax return software
  • Startup costs
  • Prizes to fans

Communication expenses

  • Cell phone service.
  • Internet service.
  • Second phone line.
  • Long distance calls.
  • Voice mail/answering machines
  • Call-waiting/message center fees
  • Video conferencing services (e.g if you use Skype or other such tools to call clients)
  • Modems and wireless routers
  • Ringtones for your work phone (who buys ringtones still, I don’t know…)
  • Fax line for work
  • Text messaging service (auto-responding text service)

Advertising expenses

  • Website hosting, Domain name purchases,Website design (e.g Wix, Bandzoogle, SquareSpace, GoDaddy, 1and1 hosting, WordPress, etc)
  • Business cards (for your music business)
  • Poster design & printing
  • Design services of any kind (artwork, posters, etc)
  • Online ads (Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Ads, local newspaper online ads like patch.com, event promotion ads like Evensi)
  • Print advertising (duh)
  • Any merchandise that you’re giving away for free
  • Fees paid to ad agencies or PR firms
  • Yellow pages listings
  • SEO/web traffic analysis
  • Marketing email/direct mail campaigns
  • Professional performance videos and CDs (promo material)
  • Package design fees
  • Signs, display racks
  • Sponsorships
  • Basically any cost directly related to promoting your business.

Taxes and Licenses

  • Cost of applying for your business license.
  • Business license.
  • DBA/Fictitious business name one-time filing fee.
  • Incorporation fees.
  • Business name search fees.
  • Copyright application and registration.
  • Trademarks and logo fees.
  • Domain name search fees.
  • Fees paid to the state board.
  • State and local taxes.
  • Property taxes (NOT for home office).
  • Fees to acquire, draft, or cancel a lease.
  • Cover song licenses that you might have paid via Loudr, EasySongLicensing, CDBaby, WeAreTheHits or others.
  • Software licenses.
  • Image/Video footage licenses (purchases on sites like pixabay, shutterstock).
  • Payroll taxes for employees such as Medicare, Social Security. *
  • Unemployment taxes for employees. *

* We did not hire anybody as an employee or intern, so we don’t know much about the deductions for that. Feel free to comment below if you know more.

Home Office

If you have a home office/studio, you can deduct the following, pro-rated for the square footage and percentage of business use:

  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Upkeep
  • Improvements/renovations on the home office

For example, if you rent a 500 sq ft place for $1000/month, and your office is 100 sq ft, then your pro-rated rent for business use is:

(Office space/ total space) * rent or mortgage per month

(100/500) * $1000 = $200 per month

So if you use that office room for business 100% of the time, you can deduct $200. If you use the room for business 50% of the time, then you can deduct 50% of $200, which would be $100.

Office expenses

  • Office supplies
  • Shipping & postage
  • Office cleaning
  • Shredding services
  • Security system
  • Office decoration, soundproofing

Supplies

  • Equipment accessories (carrying cases, straps, pedals, music stands)
  • Instrument accessories (cases, strings, reeds, tuners, metronome)
  • Sheet music and books
  • External hard drives, trackpad, mouse, cables/cords
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Safety/protective gear

Equipment purchases of over $200 can be deducted as assets. Some examples include your computer, guitar, keyboard, studio monitors, etc.

Assets

Equipment purchases of $200 or more can be declared as asset purchases. These assets can be depreciated over time (5–7 years). If you use TurboTax, it will automatically set the correct lifespan for it.

Some examples of common assets for musicians would be:

  • Laptop
  • iPad
  • Instruments
  • Recording equipment
  • PA system
  • Studio monitors

How depreciation works

Let’s say you buy a piano for $5000. Suppose you can depreciate it over 5 years. Each year you’re entitled to claim an equal amount of depreciation.

However, there are a few other options to consider:

Section 179 allows you to take the full amount of depreciation in that first year (year when the asset was purchased/put into use) instead of depreciating it over a number of years. However, it requires that you have income of the same amount or more, meaning you can’t use it if you’re running at a loss. This is a good option if you have a high enough income the year you buy the piano.

Didn’t make enough money for Section 179 to be an option?

If you bought the piano NEW, then you can use “Bonus Depreciation

Bonus depreciation allows you to take 50% of the cost as depreciation in the first year. So that means you’re left with $2500 to depreciate the “regular” way, over 5 years. That remaining $2500 is your “basis for depreciation”. You can take the first year depreciation on the basis on top of the $2500 Bonus depreciation.

Good to know: Bonus depreciation can be taken as a loss, meaning you can take it regardless of how much money you’ve made this year.

Bonus depreciation is not available every year, and tax laws change all the time. Be sure to stay updated. We use TurboTax, which updates according to tax laws every year.

Here is a video that helped me understand the difference between the two. It goes into much more detail and is worth watching:

Inventory

If you have CDs or other merchandise for sale, you are required to declare them on your taxes the year you acquired them. I’m not sure about the grey areas such as if you paid for them in a different year than you received them. I’m not a CPA :) Do your homework.

You are required to maintain inventory (ie you’ll need to report how much you had at the start and end of the year).

That’s All Folks!

Hope you found this useful. If so, claps, shares, comments would be very much appreciated :)

If you’d like to receive updates on our blogs directly to your inbox, sign up here:

Smart Musician Guide


Taxes for musicians was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The making of my tribute to Chester Bennington 

Or ideas on how to make a cover song your own.

Interpretation

There are many types of covers. Some sound just like the originals, some sound nothing like it. I absolutely love cover songs that are somewhere in between. It takes intentionality to create a cover that feels authentic to you as an artist while also honoring the song. I love comparing originals and covers and see what artistic choices were made. If you’re wondering about that process and how to do that, or are just curious, I’ll describe my process for creating this cover. below

Picking the song

I was first introduced to LP by a friend when I was 15 and I was hooked immediately. Chester had such a versatile voice, sometimes powerful, sometimes vulnerable, sometimes both at the same time. The band’s sound was very unique, and the songwriting was very appealing to me. I know the lyrics to most of the songs on Meteora and Hybrid Theory but the LP songs I listened to the most are probably “Breaking The Habit”, “Points of Authority”, “P5hing Me A*wy”, and “My December”. So when I heard the news, I thought I might cover one of those. But that’s not how inspiration struck.

I have to admit I hadn’t kept up with all the latest LP releases but I knew the singles. I did finally get to see them live with my brother in Toronto a few years ago, soon after I moved to California. For a night, we relived our favorite songs from our teenage years and we sang along to all the songs we didn’t even know we knew the lyrics to. At one point, I took out my phone and caught a little snippet of us singing along with the crowd to “Castle of Glass”. After watching the video again, I decided this would be the song to do.

The Linkin Park Version

First, here’s the original: Linkin Park’s “Castle of Glass”.

My version

Analysis

  • Would you recognize the song if you knew the original? Yes.
  • Would you have guessed it was a Linkin Park song if you didn’t know it? Probably not.
  • Does it feel consistent with my original material and my sound? Yes. I can get behind this version.
  • Does it fit my personality? Yes.
  • Do you like it? Maybe yes, maybe no and that’s okay.
  • Did I make it my own? I would say so.

So what did I change?

For all you musicians who would like the juicy details, or all you music lovers who wonder how these sonic experiences come to life, read on :)

Instrumentation

While LP’s version has very prominent beats, padding, harmonies, etc, mine would be stripped down to an acoustic version. Just guitar and one vocal.

Key & Vocal Approach

It will often help to change the key, especially if you’re covering a voice with similar range. In this case, I didn’t have to. While this song had Chester singing in his lower range in a very soothing tone, the same key was perfect for me to hit that mid-high range where I could do some of the more vulnerable variations I was going for. Note that I chose a more low-key approach as opposed to an Evanescence-style powerhouse belt.

Meter/Rhythm

You’ll notice that my version is slower that the original with a bit of swing to it. When I slowed it down, there was all that space to play with. So instead of singing it like I would a faster version, I emphasize the words/phrasings differently. Compare the first line: “Take me down to the river bend”. I add a little pause after “down” to align the vocals with the guitar’s rhythmic pockets and it gives the song a different feel.

Tension

The original has a very interesting beat that creates tension with Chester’s evenly smooth vocals. Since I changed the vocal rhythm a bit, that tension wasn’t replicated in my version. Instead, I created tension in the vocal delivery.

Melodic variation

I like to only do a few melodic variations when doing cover songs because I think part of the reward for the listener is to recognize the melody. The variations provide a nice element of surprise, but not so much that it detracts from the essence of the song completely. Listen to the last chorus around the 1:35 mark for the “in this castle of glass” line.

Conclusion

What did you think? Did you like the cover? What would you have done differently? Comment with a link of a cover of which you’re proud of, or a cover which really resonates with you. I love to hear interesting covers :)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider doing one or more of the following:
- Drop me a comment and let me know what you think!
- Clap/Recommend/Bookmark this blog
- Share this blog with a friend who likes Linkin Park or who makes covers
- Add the song to your library on Spotify
- Buy the song on iTunes or add it to your Apple Music library
- Say hello via www.23rdhr.com or sign up for our mailing list:

Written by Sherry-Lynn.


The making of my tribute to Chester Bennington was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Break the Business Interview 

Ryan Kairalla is an entertainment lawyer, writer, podcaster and teacher. His Break the Business Podcast is a show for indie artists and the people who love and support them. It is a fun and informative discussion of entertainment law (for non-lawyers), independent artists, and popular culture.

Our conversation with Ryan was filled with marketing tips, and covered a bit of our backstory. We talked about:

  • How George changed his mind about never being in a band again
  • How we both used interests outside of music to promote ourselves
  • How aligning our goals with a cause can help us reach new audiences
  • And more!

Listen here:

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the music business and the legal intricacies that come with it, check out the book:

Break the Business

Thanks to Ryan for having us on the show. We had a blast! If you enjoyed this episode, please recommend it :)


Break the Business Interview was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Female Entrepreneur Musician Interview 

A few weeks before our album launch, I started seeing ads for Bree Noble’s “Women of Substance Radio” and “Female Musician Academy”. Eventually, I also found her Female Entrepreneur Musician podcast. After binge-listening to CDBaby’s DIY Musician podcasts for weeks, I was happy to have new material to listen to. I enjoyed listening to all the accomplished guests on her show, sharing tips and tricks and tools that help them get through this crazy journey.

Then the album dropped. Unbeknownst to us, we would be featured on iTunes and next thing you know, we’re running with it. Soon after, I was invited to chat with Bree on her podcast about what strategies have worked for us. It was a real pleasure to share this conversation and I heard that Bree’s gotten good feedback about the episode, so I thought I’d repost it.

You can listen to the podcast here:

#FEMusician Episode 88


Female Entrepreneur Musician Interview was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Be your publicist’s dream client 

As musicians, we can’t control how we compare to our peers. While we should strive to be the best musicians we can possibly be, there will always be somebody who can do it better. We can’t control how good other people are but we can control how pleasant we are to work with. We believe that being awesome clients can be a key differentiator. We are thus starting a series to inspire other musicians to use this strategy to advance their careers.

Hiring a publicist: Expectations vs. reality

Expectation: Getting a publicist means you can focus on the music and let the publicist do her thing.

Reality: Getting a publicist means you have to write guest blogs, do interviews, and possibly other stuff. It’s work but it can be fun.

Expectation: The publicist will find you more exposure because your music is great.

Reality: The publicist will find you more exposure because you have an identity as an artist. The publicist may be familiar with your musicianship but they don’t know your strengths and weaknesses as an artist. Are you good at public speaking? Are you a good writer? What else can you talk about? What else are you passionate about that might resonate with potential fans? The more you know the answers to these up front, the more angles your publicist can use to pitch your story.

Expectation: The publicist will also get you featured on Pitchfork and Spotify.

Reality: You’re probably not getting on Pitchfork or Spotify unless you’re at that stage of your career.

Help them help you

The whole idea is to help them help you. They are part of your team and you’re the boss. What kind of boss do you like best? The boss who makes demands and does nothing, the boss who passively exists, or the boss who works tirelessly so that the team as a whole succeeds? We prefer the latter, and we try to set the example. As with anyone we hire, we were prepared to work really hard, and work with them to get us to the next level. We want to be partners.

A publicist’s value

What is the most valuable thing that a publicist brings to your team? What is it that you are willing to pay them big money for? Publicity, of course. How can you maximize the amount of time they are publicizing you? Get rid of anything else they need to do for your campaign that is NOT publicity. That includes doing all the tedious stuff they would have to do to set up your campaign, and anything they would have to do during your campaign that isn’t using their time efficiently.

Maximize results by eliminating boring tasks

Every job has tedious tasks. For the publicists, we figured it would be to gather all the materials that will be necessary for each pitch. Having done some of these ourselves, we know that websites have various preferences. Some like full bios, some want one paragraph. Some want tweetable snippets. We realized that our publicist would have to adapt her pitches to all these different formats. What a waste of energy! Her time would be better spent creating valuable connections for us.

If we could eliminate all the tedious stuff, that would free up a few hours of her time. She could use these hours to start pitching instead! So here is what we prepared and sent her on day 1 of the campaign:

  1. A text file with all our relevant links. These include social media links, shortened social media links, links to our private album on soundcloud, link to our latest video, shortened link of latest video, website address, website bio page, email addresses, links to older videos they might want to share.
  2. A text file with all our blurbs for easy pitching. These include short blurb about our release show, 1 line bio, 3 line bio, 1 paragraph bio, short bio, medium bio, long bio.

Less work, more play

When we got on a call with her the next day, she said:

“I almost fell off my chair when I saw this. I have been doing this for a long time and have NEVER had a client do this for me. This will save us so much time!” — Ariel Hyatt

Not only would these save her team hours of work, but it also leaves them with the fun part of the job, which is to use their connections to send our music to potential influencer fans. That’s what publicists love to do, so let them do it!

When we first approached our publicist, we were an unknown duo releasing our first album, nothing extraordinary for a professional who has been doing this for over a decade. However, the quote above shows that our attention to detail and our willingness to work together as a team set us apart from most other clients. There is always a difference between working for a regular client versus a client who makes the job easier and more fun. So get rid of the boring stuff and make the job fun for your publicist!

Thoughtfulness inspires confidence

Being well organized and professional is a good sign that you’re likely to succeed. Going the extra mile for your publicist means that you are mindful of their time and value, and it shows that you’re smart, driven, and considerate. The fact that you’re treating them with such thoughtfulness gives them confidence that whomever they refer you to will also be pleased to work with you.

This opens up more opportunities for you. A good publicist will not send all their artists to all their contacts. They select carefully. The more influential, the less likely the publicist will contact them about a smaller act. Remember that a publicist’s value is in her connections. All these people being pitched are connections that the publicist wants to keep! Therefore, if you’re hoping to be introduced to a higher tier of contacts than your current status merits, you have to give them a very good reason to.

Asking is not enough. Actions speak louder than words. Start with genuine thoughtfulness. It might not get you on Pitchfork, but it might get you a tiny bit further than you would have gotten.

Your future publicity

You might think of your publicist’s job as a service. You pay, they deliver some press, and you move on. However, that’s a very narrow-minded view. Especially if you ever plan on hiring a publicist again. You want to be part of growing your publicist’s business, or at least not hurting it. So take the long-term view and remind yourself why a publicist might want to work with you again.

For every pitch that goes out, your publicist is taking a chance on you. Long after you’re gone, the publicist will still want to maintain a relationship with that blog/paper/writer. If you’re ungrateful (or worse, unpleasant), that reflects poorly on your publicist too and it could reduce your publicist’ chances of getting other artists featured in the future, including you (especially you).

Don’t be that guy.

Your publicist is giving you an opportunity to develop relationships with these outlets. The least you can do is thank each person, like, retweet, share their post on your social media. It takes time to create a feature, and these people did it for you. Be thankful.

Small actions that publicists love

When your publicist gets you a spot as a guest on a podcast/radio show:

  1. Listen to at least a few episodes of the show and get to know what they’re all about. Don’t go in cold. People like to know that you took the time to get to know them in return for them taking time to feature you on their show!
  2. Prepare and send all the materials they ask for ASAP. This usually includes a one-paragraph bio, website link, and maybe talking points.
  3. Prepare your topic if there is one. If there isn’t, ask how you can help prepare for the show.
  4. Make sure you know when the show is going to air or be released and promote it.

When your publicist gets you a guest blogging opportunity:

  1. Read the blog to get a feel of the style and type of content that resonates with its audience.
  2. Take note of the preferred length. Some like to be brief, some are very detailed.
  3. Keep the readers in mind, write in a way that will inspire them to engage with your post AND with the blog. Again, you want to leave everything a little bit better off.

When your publicist gets you featured on a blog:

  1. Go wherever the main post is, and like/comment, and thank them.
  2. If you have the person’s email, also email them a thank-you note.
  3. Go everywhere else they’ve posted it and repost (eg retweet, share).
  4. Add it to your website with a link back to the original website’s post.
  5. Like their page, follow them, and engage with other content that isn’t about you as well from time to time.
  6. If you want to go the extra mile, sign up for their mailing list. Everybody loves more people on their mailing list!

That’s all folks!

Did I miss anything? Can you think of something I could do to be an even better client? Let me know in the comments!

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Be your publicist’s dream client was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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This is where we'll post our tips for other musicians, our interviews with music biz outlets, etc.