Originally posted on Music Think Tank.
It took some effort to leave my default self in the cold streets of Harlem, prior to entering City College Of New York’s Aaron Davis Hall. The theater of 600 seats was temporarily converted into an intimate space for developing new perspectives, dropping the “music careers are hard” bullsh&t, and having conversations about success. Led by one of my favorite mentors, Emmy-winning composer Michael Whalen, and PR guru-author-badass Ariel Hyatt, the six-hour seminar consisted of two presentations, three panels of experts, four Q&A sessions, and zero breaks (save a few moments of stretching).
Oh, my default self? I call her IKIA: Impatient Know-It-All. (Replace “Impatient” with “Insufferable” if you’re a Harry Potter fan. Yes, my default self is also a dork.) She has lots of evidence that supports her know-it-all-ness, like her years of touring, recording, licensing, and a $30k fan-funding story to boot. That, plus speaking at SXSW and writing a successful e-course for musicians pretty much makes it impossible for IKIA to learn anything new, let alone be a likable contender for collaboration. IKIA had to go so that the best version of me (the one who actually causes the good stuff to happen) could enter the room of colleagues, professionals, experts, and potential partners from a place of wonder and curiosity.
I am curious what my new record of co-writers and duets can learn from being here… I wonder if I can finally get that pesky publishing split question answered… I wonder if I can find clarity for what my next steps are. Yes, I, Cheryl B. Engelhardt, have all the same experience in the music business as IKIA, but I, (Cheryl) am interested in what’s next and moving forward in today’s industry, not the music industry of my past months, years and decades (the same place where all my experiences live). It’s a “now” conversation, and, as I soon learned, the only conversation that I need to be interested in.
I knew that I’d be in good company with the few hundred other composers, songwriters and artists who were there on time on a Saturday, looking to see if they could pick up any hints or tips to help propel them forward to the next level of “success”… whatever that looks like for each of them.
And we learned things. Lots of things. Things that aren’t really Googleable. Ariel and Michael kept the mood light, kept the day rolling, and made six hours of packed information feel like one. With the underlying theme of the day being we are responsible for our own success, I can categorize what I learned into two buckets: the technical stuff that I need to know, and the personal, philosophical and big-picture stuff that I need to be.
1. Copyrights are split into two– the recording (the actual recorded version of a song) and the publishing (the composition and lyrics of the song). Both Recording and Publishing rights holders make money from the same sources including sales, streaming, monetization, PROs (performance royalties), license fees and foreign sources, but the money for Recording and Publishing rights-holders comes from different pots.
2. Song Placements: On a the panel with Joyce Dollinger (entertainment lawyer), Larry Mills of We Are The Hits and Linda Lorence-Critelli of SESAC, we learned/reviewed the different ways of getting music into places that could lead to song placements. This included production libraries and independent licensing companies. Sometimes the piece of the publishing pie will be split among a publisher and the songwriter. Either way, each writer should also register themselves with a PRO (ASCAP, BMI or SESAC) as a publishing company, which can be just a name (not necessarily a fancy company like an LLC).
3. Monetization is not about selling music, it’s how your music is used, and cashing in on that. The main place this is happening is on YouTube through YouTube Partners like CD Baby, Tunecore, the Orchard and Audium. You can upload your music to a site like these, and then YouTube detects when a song of yours is on a video someone uploads and pays you. The model for who gets paid what for every dollar of monetization looks like this:
4. PR and Marketing: Patrice Fehlen (September Gurl), Pam Workman (Workman Communications Group) and Jo-Na Williams, Esq. (Artist Empowerment Firm) all agreed that knowing your “color” aka, your brand and your story, is the first step to great PR, whether you DIY or you hire a firm. Marni Wandner joins Ariel for a conversation that added social media on to the PR pile and taught us that the three most important things are
1) to be consistent,
2) to be authentic and
3) to build your mail list!
(Also, post 3-4 x a week on Facebook, send a monthly newsletter, and give a way 4 free tracks as a bundle mailing-list opt-in incentive).
5. Crowd Funding: We got our crowd funding convo on with Kristen Henderson (from the band Antigone Rising), Benji Rogers (CEO of Pledge Music) and Aly Taros (artist), learning that the pre-campaign needs to be strong, personable and individual. If a campaign reaches 25% in the first few days, it is most likely to succeed. And interestingly, there is a 67% increase of crowdfunding during the holidays, and results are not as hot during the hot months. Also, crowdfunding is not about asking for help, or money. It’s about sharing an experience. Which is a perfect lead-in to the next section of things I learned that were more hippy dippy (but totally necessary).
6. Conversation as Currency. We heard this a bunch. But seriously…. Whaaaaat? Well… currency, like, money, is always changing. So currency is a “now” thing. Conversations…. also “now” things. You get interested in your fans, like, really interested in them, via conversations, and you start to see where this translates to currency all while staying current.
7. The most personal you can be is the most universal. If the song is important to you, it gives your fans permission to make it important to them. THIS IS DEEP SHIT, my friends. Go get some wine and let it sink in. See you at #8.
8. Success is in the details. (More wine.) This also came up a whole bunch, both in a literal context and in a big-picture context. For example, when adding your name then quotation marks around your song title in your YouTube videos, you will get more plays, as does choosing a powerful thumbnail, adding discoverable text like blogger-friendly words in your video’s “About” section, and adding MANY keywords. Success is in the details applied to the big-picture? Well, throughout the day we saw the importance of planning, of dotting i’s and crossing t’s – from wording in contracts to developing a marketing campaign. The details get the results, and results come in all sizes.
9. Ditch your restricting stories. You know… “It’s so expensive to live in New York” and “The music business keeps changing, there’s no way to keep up” and “If I crowd-fund, everyone will be invested in me and they’ll find out I’m a fraud” because all you’re doing with those conversations and stories is going out to prove them right (this is a basic human condition, don’t beat yourself up over it). If you come up with new contexts and perspectives, like “I’m having a blast making partnerships” or “I am a success”, you’ll end finding evidence to support these MUCH more productive stories. (I’m SO sharing this with IKIA.)
So that’s my summary of the seminar. In closing, I want to offer this: if you missed this seminar because you didn’t know about it, then start following all of the people I mentioned in this article on twitter to be kept up to date with music biz happenings.
If you missed this seminar and you knew about it, ask yourself why. Did you not feel like it? Did something come up? Did you think you knew what it was all about? Whatever the answer, my guess is that this is how you work in your whole music career. So do yourself a favor. Figure out what you want. Plan it out. Write it out. Declare it to the world. Get a coach, or an accountability buddy. Get the restricting stories out of the way. But get going, because according to twelve very successful music biz folks, all you’ve got is now.