If there's one thing I've learned over the years ... it is to document everything, get everything in writing, and get everything verified and legal (in some way) if at all possible. No where is this more pertinent than in the story I'm about to convey.
At the end of this story ... I'll provide a checklist for anyone in a band to illustrate creative ways to help your band make revenue, create bonding and legal contracts without an attorney, and to hopefully avoid any entanglements and nasty conflicts.
I'll divide this into three sections ... Part I: The Band / Part II: The Battle / Part III: And The Winner Is; You. So as not to add any fluff to this piece ... the first part may be a tad bit boring, but is important to read.
A little over a year ago my best friend came to me to ask my advice about promoting his son's band in a contest run by a website called TuneCore. The idea; to get as many people to request for a performance from your band through the TuneCore website. The grand prize - going to the band with the most requests - was a trip to London to record in Peter Gabriel's studio. The second and third prize was a TuneCore/iTunes distribution (which I will explain later) and mixer with a retail value of $1495. My best friend's son thought this would be a great opportunity for his band to finally make a full length album and get noticed. I had mentioned that even if they won the second place prize - we might be able to sell the prize (the mixer) and use the money to buy studio time. (More on that later as well.) My best friend and I mulled over ideas that his son could promote the contest. I emailed all of my customers - I have a list of approximately 200 regular clients. I told them I would give them a $20 credit on Apple service if they would go to the website and vote for "the band" - "A New Shade". Ends up - 18 people took me up on that offer. We mulled over launching balloons with a message inside. We talked about promotions on Myspace, Facebook, and other social/viral networking methods to friends, family, and contacts.
One of the ideas we came up with was to make 100 "professional" CDs with some of the band's DEMO music - essentially an EP. My friend's son would give the CDs away as prizes for all those that requested his band. His father and I would donate the materials and time. I also suggested to try selling a few copies cheaply on eBay. On my recommendation my best friend bought an HP CD printer from the local office store on sale. Using my CD duplicator, I made 100 copies for him using the CDs printed with the art you see to the right.
A little more background: My best friend's son's name is Drew. For greater than a year the band members had been practicing in Drew's Charleston, South Carolina home - which was owned by his father - my best friend. This house is located in a nice safe neighborhood. Drew rented the rooms to make maintenance and mortgage payments. He used one room and some of the storage specifically for the purpose of practicing and helping promote his band. They practiced regularly for months - in a room that had been soundproofed. Many tenants declined renting other rooms because they didn't want to be in the same house as a band practicing. Essentially, he sacrificed $400 or more each month so his band could have a nice practice facility. Many small bands in the Charleston area (and elsewhere) rent a storage facility - which typically runs $75 - $150 a month. These units typically do not have power - and so no heat and no other equipment other than self powered amps could be used.
Carrie, the band's extremely talented lead singer ... found Drew in a class at the University Of Charleston. Upon her recommendation - Drew became a part of the band. He was initially brought in to compliment the band on bass guitar and to assist the band with songwriting. It would suffice to say without extrapolation or impression - the band wanted to get serious.
Drew was a music major. He had a 3.7 GPA at The University Of Charleston. Often, Drew would assist "New Shade" band members in structuring their music on their various instruments or vocals. Each band member was talented - but Drew would often hone each member's strength. Drew can also write music - by notation ... something the other band members can do but struggled with.
Drew, almost solely, booked paid engagements at various Charleston bars for the band to perform. The band held a number of performances with Drew playing bass guitar.
With this knowledge, I was interested in the future of Drew's music career personally. I thought the band, "A New Shade" had potential. Since I serve a number of musicians and studios in my Apple Computer consulting business - I decided to talk to a few of my contacts. One person I spoke with was Noel Golden of Golden Records.
From press releases about Golden Records:
Golden has more than 20 years of experience in the music industry and has worked with artists such as Matchbox 20, Edwin McCain, Tom Cochrane, Sister Hazel, Metallica, Sammy Hagar, Willie Nelson and Lee Ann Womack just to name a few.
To me ... it seemed the sound of "A New Shade" fit in perfectly to the stylings of the music you can see Noel Golden produces and edits - somewhere in between Matchbox 20 and Metallica.
I approached Noel about possibly recording "A New Shade" if they didn't win the first prize in the TuneCore competition ... but maybe the second place prize - selling the mixer on eBay, which at the time of the competition ending, was fetching $1200 average end price on eBay. My idea - if they won that prize - they could sell the mixer and get some of Golden's studio time at a reduced cost. I mentioned this to Drew's father; which he in turn relayed to his son.
Eager to win the competition ... Drew went through with many of the promotional ideas brainstormed about.
The top two bands that you can see in the graphic above - were professional bands with paid promoters. Drew's band, solely from his promotional efforts, won the second place prize - as seen in the picture above. As you can see ... the 4th place band wasn't even close to the same tally.
The contest ended in October of 2007. The results were given in November. The semester at the University Of Charleston was over soon thereafter. Drew communicated back and forth with the prize sponsor and "New Shade" band members about the prize. Drew said he would just get the prize shipped to his Charleston home while the other band members, who were from Ohio, returned home for the holidays.
Without knowledge or communication with Drew, one of the band members contacted the prize sponsor and had it (A mixer valued at $1495.00) rerouted to Ohio. After a few unanswered inquiries from Drew - one of the band members communicated to him that he was no longer a part of the band, that they had acquired a promoter, and were possibly going to tour in the summer of 2008 or 2009 when the band members finished college.
My best friend came to me again for legal advice on what to do ...
In the first part of this series, I outlined the background to a legal matter I was recently involved in and helped provide expert testimony for.
Before I begin telling you about the court case, its implications and lessons, let me give you a background concerning my role.
I'm a PowerSeller on eBay. I've been on eBay for 12 years now. I have sold just about everything - but I focus mostly on Apple Computer related items. This sometimes encompasses musical equipment. I both buy and sell musical editing and mixing equipment for my Apple computer consulting business in the Upstate of South Carolina.
I'm fortunate to have one of the largest musical equipment pawn shops in the southeast near me - Luthi's Pawn Shop in Greenville SC. I use this pawn shop often to buy, sell, and trade musical equipment, plus get an idea of "going prices". The management knows me and is sometimes willing to give me more than the standard 25% of retail that most pawn shops offer for items.
From experience, I know that I can usually fetch a premium on eBay for the items I sell versus other sellers - even specialized ebay consignment stores. I've sold mixers and audio equipment both online on eBay and locally - as it relates to computer integration.
I have also set up a number of studios for the likes of Edwin McCain and Emile Pandolphi - not to mention; I've assisted dozens of small musicians and churches with musical equipment purchases and Apple computer integration.
I have assisted a number of musicians big and small with getting their music promoted and listed with iTunes, on MySpace, and on YouTube. As a note, I have shown musicians how they can monetize freely distributed music with ads, sponsorships, and affiliate income - such as this blog makes with Google ADsense advertisements, Amazon affiliate links, and sponsorships.
I've been involved in a few small claims court cases - some people suing me - some I sued them. I've won or settled each of them with no money out of pocket for me. I also went Pro Se in a federal court case brought against me - I solely secured a huge victory for bloggers regarding free speech and blog defamation and reinforced deep linking precedent. I've learned a lot about the legal process and I have taken the time to study it carefully. I regularly consult with a good friend of mine who is a patent, copyright, and intellectual property attorney. It also helps to have had an infamously litigious father and that I'm able to slide a legal question or two when doing computer work for attorneys.
Other of my clients, in my local Apple Computer Consulting business, are creative professionals in advertising, marketing, and promotions. I work closely with these individuals and see their work flow on an almost daily basis.
Over the years, being self employed, I've learned the value of a contract and the peaceful means of enforcing the terms outlined in them. At first, my contracts were my word ... and while to most it meant enough and meant a binding obligation - to others, as I found out - it meant "if it's not on paper.".
I journal on an almost daily basis. I take mental notes most of the day and find the time to write about my day at some point. I've kept a journal of my entire life since 4th grade. It is one of my proudest personal achievements.
By many people, I'm considered a highly creative, extremely self motivated person.
As a member of a band, if you do not have a professional promoter - you need to be associated with someone like me or have the skills, experience, and encompassed knowledge of what I have just outlined for you.
These would be considered my areas of expertise that I provided for the trial.
Ok ... ok ... I sort of bragged ... and I wasn't trying to be vain ... I was just illustrating; that unbeknownst to the band with the exception of Drew - they had a lot going for them that I was prepared to help them with.
The first matter that was taken care of in the court hearing, presided over by Honorable Judge Henry W. Guerard, was identifying various parties appearing in the court room. I had purposely asked Drew to wear a nice button down shirt with no tie. I asked his father, who was also there, to wear something rather casual. I wore a nice grey suit with a conservative tie, tie chain, etc. I had intended for my look to be a bit of intimidation - as if to appear like a music industry executive or possibly legal counsel. I was immediately stripped of some dignity in the first few minutes:
Judge (asking of me) : "And you are?"
Me : "My name is Philip Smith."
Judge : "And you are here today for what purpose?"
Me : "I'm here to provide some legal advice and assistance to Drew. I'm interested in the dynamic of the band and how this matter has unfolded unpleasantly. I plan to blog about it. I'm also hear to serve as an expert eBay seller, music equipment integration expert, and support for a good friend ... which is each pertinent to this case."
Judge : "Are you an attorney?"
Me : "No, but ...."
Judge (interrupting) : "Then you won't be dispensing legal advice or addressing parties involved."
Me : "I plan to provide expert testimony and back up anything Drew has evidence for because I've been involved in the matter before this court from the beginning. I've also been involved in a number of legal matters, carrying one to Federal Appeals Court; Pro Se and winning, I serve music industry professionals AND their attorneys in my job, and I plan to blog about this case on my website."
That raised an eyebrow and a look towards me from the Defendant attorney.
Judge : "Why are you interested in blogging about this and what is your website?"
Me : "I'm very interested in the dynamic of what has gone on here. Drew has been unfairly treated. Many of my associates are also interested in the outcome of this case and want me to report back to them about what happened here today."
Judge : "Report what?"
Me : "Report of Drew's victory."
This got a rise out of the Judge.
Judge (laughing as asking) : "What's your website called and what do you do again?"
Me : "I'm an Independent Apple Computer Tech, service, and sales person ... and I also run a website. My website is called FIXYOURTHINKING.COM
Judge : " And what is the general topic of this website?"
Me : "Anything that interests me ... but I generally focus on Apple and eBay ; news and opinion. That sometimes encompasses the music industry ... as you may know has been the focus of Apple over the last few years and as I told you - I serve a number of well known musicians and their studios."
Judge : "Well known; as in?"
Me: : "Edwin McCain and his producer who has produced for many famous artists." [Various artists namedropped]
The Judge returned a bottom lip poked out and a head nod to show a slight fascination.
Judge : "Yes, I know about Apple and the music industry, I've had an issue shuffling songs amongst my number of Apple computers and three household iPods."
[SIDE NOTE] Ah ha! So I have identified the judge as a Mac user - and a seemingly dedicated one at that. All I could think in my head was; Brownie points! I looked over at my best friend, who is also a Mac Service Tech, and smiled.
I'll also note that in my trial with Bidzirk (over this blog) the Plaintiff attorney had belittled me quite a bit about my legal experience and representing myself - attorneys often take this for granted - thinking they have the power to crush you because they know the system. As it was there ... it was also here in this case;
Nothing beats a good attorney, but a bad attorney is always a loser.
I could see the other attorney looking at his watch and getting anxious.
The trial started after everyone in the band was identified and sworn in. The Defendant attorney, Glenn P. Churchill, was there to represent someone in a small claims court case. I'll repeat, a small claims court case. I can't be for certain, but it seems he might have been hired through an Attorney Assistance Program at The College Of Charleston. That's interesting. (More on that later).
The first matter of business was directed to both parties to settle - as it is with all normal court cases. The Defendants had prepared an insulting settlement of $150. Drew was asking for $4000+. After researching this matter, I now have an idea of why this attorney made such a ridiculous settlement. It's my supposition that he was paid a flat fee for his appearance by the Attorney Assistance Program. I had hoped that the Defendants had hired an attorney. Nothing is more pleasing than wasting a bad attorney's time. That said, I respect a good attorney, even if against me, and will do whatever I can to make things go as quickly as possible.
The Judge asked Drew to clarify what his case was. He had been nervous before entering the court room, but seeing the environment and the initial ice breaking that went on - he stated his case calmly and professionally.
I had mentioned to Drew that a great opening statement would be mentioning that he had been approached by several TV court shows to make an appearance. TV court shows pay from the producer, pay for airfare, and a hotel stay for both parties. Both parties come away with cash in hand and a memorable experience. I asked him to say the following ...
"I think it's noteworthy to mention that we were approached by several TV Court shows, including Judge Judy. The Defendants declined these offers knowing that it would actually make them money and that no one would be out of pocket. I accept this as a partial admission of guilt because they didn't want to lose on national TV."
That statement also got the Judge to return a bottom lip poked out and a head nod to show recognition of a good tactical statement.
His case was pretty much as follows:
• The band had won a mixer in a contest - the win was solely and provably Drew's work. Drew was inexplicably and abruptly kicked out of the band after winning this prize. He wanted 1/4 of the retail value. ($1495.00 US)
• Drew had costs associated with this contest that he solely promoted for the band.
• Drew wanted 1/4th of the rental value for the practice room that the band used for greater than a year or the equivalent value of a practice space rental as outlined in first part of this series.
• An interest in the copyright of the songs the band held.
• There were court costs involved and requested for reimbursement.
A lengthy discussion ensued for all points. 1 1/2 hours and a recess passed. I was called to the stand after the recess to provide testimony regarding the value of the mixer that had been won in the contest, to testify of its eBay value, and testify what I had proposed to Drew to do with the funds if the mixer was sold - pay for studio time with Noel Golden*. I was also there to testify about the small prize won and its significance to the band - a TuneCore iTunes Distribution contract.
The Judge was quite interested in my testimony and seemingly had a number of personal questions that he integrated into importance and pertinence in the trial. Most notably he wanted to know about revenue sources that the band was receiving or had the potential to receive. In side bar testimony that was not objected to, I had mentioned during Drew's testimony that one cannot just be listed on iTunes without an intermediary to Apple - IF they want to be paid. Essentially they have to have a label that Apple recognizes send them the music in a lossless format for PAID distribution. Anyone can submit to iTunes, but unless represented or contracted by a label, you are classified as a podcast and you receive a FREE button next to your song.
The Judge was also interested in another comment that I had made - about receiving revenue without charging for music. I mentioned affiliate income and deals with MySpace. If I place a video on YouTube or somewhere such as MetaCafe - I can sign up for ad revenue sharing. This means that, based on the number of hits/views that video receives, I receive a share in the revenue for the ads that were displayed on that page and higher percentage if an ad was clicked on. I explained this model through means of this website. I also mentioned to the judge that I had planned to help the band with setting up a blog that received revenue, submitting to YouTube to receive revenue, and placing affiliate links such as AMAZON.COM to receive revenue. The Judge was confused on how it was possible to receive revenue if one could go to MySpace and listen for free. I explained that most bands have contracts with Myspace to share in ad revenue. The judge could see where I was going that this had importance to the songs that the band was going to record and had already recorded with Drew.
The attorney had cross examined Drew upon his testimony in an L.A. Law style - asking Drew questions as if he were a murder suspect. At one point I blurted out ...
I was quickly brow beaten and reprimanded by the Judge. It was apparent to me, that if Drew had an attorney, he would be objecting and claiming a badger of the witness.
This is not advice; merely an element to this story ... if you are representing yourself in a court case (small claims or otherwise) you are allowed a significant amount of leeway in your procedure. I knew Drew would have one chance for reprimand - so I waited patiently before my outburst. I chose it when I thought best to make the attorney back off of him. You may have the opportunity to do such as well in a courtroom. You need to know when to object. Talk to the Judge and tell them your feelings. Judges care most about the litigants - not the attorneys. Keep that in mind.
The attorney for the Defendants also tried to slide in a wholesale invoice for the mixer ... explaining that it was worth far less than Drew was claiming. While the contest rules specifically stated the value ($1495.00 US), and Drew had proof of the eBay value (around ($1200.00 US) and even a printout of the device at retail ( around $1400.00 US) ... the judge accepted the wholesale invoice and rejected the eBay value and contest value ... citing the old "when you drive a new car off the car lot" devaluation tale as reason for doing so.
* I even offered to look it up the value on my iPhone, but was rejected.
Again, this is not pinch hitter attorney advice ... when you have proof of something that contradicts evidence from the opposition and their proof is accepted over yours ... refuse to move on until your explanation/proof is CONFIRMED BY THE JUDGE as understood.
Drew had evidence for everything well organized. This was important to his argument and I believe important to his win. I quipped with him before the trial that no one wins a court case unless they have two manilla folders - it doesn't matter if they have evidence in them ... it needs to look like you have the evidence.
The Defendant attorney cross examined me asking me what pawn shops typically value items at. I explained usually 20 to 25% of retail. This was somehow made relevant because the Defendants had essentially pawned the the mixer won in the contest - receiving only one fourth of its actual market bearing price.
The Defendant's attorney then called his first witness to the stand; Tyler Eisenhart. Tyler is a good looking young man who essentially played as the band's lead guitar - but more or less "poster boy". His testimony consisted mostly of saying that music was his hobby, not his career - that the band meant nothing to him. This was to have the effect of making the judge think this was not a serious venture and Drew was trying to spoil a bunch of fun.
That fun had consisted of performances at bars in Charleston, continual practicing on a weekly basis, writing songs, and talking extensively about recording a whole album. Fun ... certainly. A hobby ... by no means. Drew was serious about being in a band and would have in my estimation, NEVER have been involved with any of the members, had they even ONCE mentioned to him it was a hobby.
Drew made an excellent cross examination of Tyler. Why would he want to record an album and go on tour if their band was just "a garageband" or "just jammin" as the Defendant attorney so insulted?
We were now into our third hour of testimony. I was smiling quite big at this point - thinking of how much of this attorney's time had been wasted.
As if to humor the loser - the judge allowed the Defendant attorney to completely re-testify for his witness who didn't really help his case very much. Even though objections are not allowed during closing statements - breaking procedure would have been good for this particular case. Again, this attorney was taking this matter seriously, good for his clients but it was SMALL CLAIMS COURT!!!! Everything he said got an, "Oh brother!" reaction from the Judge.
The Judge decided in Drew's favor - awarding him reimbursement for the 1/4 resale value of the mixer, court costs, and associated promotional costs for materials. He was not awarded practice space rent - even though I found this to be one of his strongest arguments. He was also not awarded any copyright considerations/royalty - but I didn't expect him to - I wanted this to be an ongoing concern for the band and I thought this would be a good charge for Drew to throw in to see if it stuck to the wall of the Judge's mind. And so it did ... the Judge said that the small claims court was the wrong forum for consideration of copyright but that with the ruling of victory in his hands that he would certainly have a case in his hands should such concerns be taken to higher level. This ended up lasting an additional 30 minutes of closing statements from the Judge.
So ... I've outlined the background of a band, the dynamic, and the unfortunate legal battle that a band dissolved over.
Drew was very hesitant to get the band members to agree on even the simplest of contracts.
As I've been re-watching previous seasons of LOST on television; one line has been repeated:
"Live together or die alone."
This is a much more than a cliche in the show and it applies to EVERY band, business, family, or even user group. It's certainly true of Apple computer and iPod ownership. We solve problems around the internet nearly instantly. Before the internet - we were in Mac User Groups - living together ... while Windows users were dying alone - paying expensive technicians to solve problems that most user groups were solving easily and FREE.
"Live together or die alone."
It's not a legal or binding contract - it's a mental contract. Even if in passing every few days - make the ones you love and care about KNOW THIS. There are a 1000 ways to say it. Learn it. Live it. You should depend on the ones you are sharing your life with. They should depend on you.
Bands, by their very nature, tend to be casual, no-rules, free-form, whatever groups that have enough problems agreeing on what to write - without hashing through legal paperwork.
In Part II: The Battle I said this:
I journal on an almost daily basis. I take mental notes most of the day and find the time to write about my day at some point. I've kept a journal of my entire life since 4th grade. It is one of my proudest personal achievements.
If you aren't doing this, as a band member, you are making a HUGE mistake. Here's why:
1) If you talk about band unity; it's worth noting. If each of you wrote down that Band Member #1 said,
"Guys, I think we have a shot at the big time if we take this gig tonight."
If it comes true, on that night, a talent scout saw you ... you'll each have the exact date and time you first thought that THIS WAS IT! If you journaled just a few of your thoughts on that day, you'll each have a unique perspective. Your band will be prepared when VH1 comes knocking on your door to do a "Behind The Music" for your band.
2) Cohesiveness builds if you feel it. Divisiveness dissolves if you discuss it. By writing your positive thoughts down - you will genuinely feel even more positive - particularly if every now and then or on a down day you go back and read a positive thought about your band or a band accomplishment. On my worst days, I love to go back and read what my wife wrote to me in emails when we first met. It lifts me up completely. On the other hand, when I write something that I am not happy with, it helps me organize my thoughts to better discuss and resolve any problem I have.
3) If I write down that I discussed a contract with my band on a certain date - I essentially entered into a verbal contract whether signed or not - existing on paper or thought in my mind. Now hold on - don't mistake the priceless value of a written contract - just know that a consistent, relatively detailed journal, will and does hold A LOT of weight in court. A journal can also show that your band members knew you were a band, knew you split things evenly (or as agreed by evidenced documenting), and knew you were writing it down.
Don't think that you can just journal something and write something that isn't there into existence. Also, don't think you'll have the ability to just go and write a few days down and pretend you have some sort of journal you've been keeping for a while. It doesn't work that way. You, no matter what role you play in the band, should encourage everyone to journal their experience. Your stories won't match, but will be as cohesive as the gospel in the New Testament of The Bible - different perspectives that make one complete account of events.
Along the same lines ... if you write music - notate it and keep it written down. I don't mean lyrics - while you should certainly write down ANY lyrics - not throwing away even rough drafts - you should notate any harmonics, tones, sequences of sound that you contribute to the band. If you can't do this, then get a member of the band that knows how to help or simply record your "music" into Garageband and keep the file on a thumb drive.
Contracts: Formal Or Not - Have 'Em
If you are a young band in college and plan to be serious - an attorney is not always expensive. Your college or university may have a Legal Assistance program. This may be necessary if you do want to draft up formal contracts, but know that a notarized contract* OF ANY KIND is legal, binding, and enforceable.
* Notary are easy to find and free. Most government employees have the ability to make a notary seal on a document. Most lawyers lawyers have paralegals that would do it for free. Most bank branch managers are notaries
Contracts should include the following and be specific without excruciating detail:
1) Each member of the band should be named bother former and current. Their location and contact information should be updated at least once per year.
2) A lead songwriter should be named and each song the band performs should be noted with credits as to who played what instrument, who sang (including backup), and what general forum who perform at.
3) Records should be kept of finances by at least one band member, even if there is an accountant involved.
4) A separate contract and receipt should be drawn up for those that you perform for and charge for your appearance - it should be attached to your contract.
5) Online social media accounts should be open to every band member and every band member should agree to review their online presence at least once per month. (MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube, Twitter, etc etc)
6 A bank account should be opened in the band's name and all affiliate revenue, performance revenue, and sales revenue should be deposited into said account and ALL WITHDRAWALS from that account should be balnaced like a normal checking account and discussed at least once per month.
A contract doesn't have to have the words, "herewith" , "on this day" , "signed" - it doesn't have to be intimidating. Agree with everyone in your band that if there is a disagreement and breakup is necessary, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the problem - each of you will be treated fairly by the other members. Each of you should make this one of your first journal entries about your perspective of the meeting where you discussed this.
The 5 People Your Band Needs To Be Friends With
1) Another band that you see as an up and coming band. Who knows, they may hit it big and let you open or accompany.
2) A well known musician in your city or nearby. You need to know the business, see the business, and hear stories about the business. Go to a local well known musician's studio - most have personal studios. Contact them and ask if you can come for a field trip. Bring your instruments when you go. Don't be afraid to ask if you can come again some time. Don't outstay your welcome and don't go too often - but go when you can!
3) A wealthy individual. This may be a family member, a family friend, or someone one of you knows. Wealthy people tend to know other wealthy people. Their sons and daughters buy everything that sets trends at their schools. Wealthy people socialize with other wealthy people - you never know who might hear about you at a cocktail party.
4) A pastor at a church. Even if you are atheist, you need to pray to the wind that your band has success. A good pastor won't try to recruit you into the congregation of the church - he should and most likely will help you structure a prayer. Holding hands with everyone in your band and sharing the experience will draw you closer together.
5) Yourself. Each of you must like yourself and have a decent amount of self esteem. In turn, you must know and like each other. Remembering that each of you has weakness - each of you can compensate with your respective strength.
More lessons can be taken from this unfortunate situation.
In Part II of this series I said:
"...one cannot just be listed on iTunes without an intermediary to Apple - IF they want to be paid. Essentially they have to have a label that Apple recognizes send them the music in a lossless format for PAID distribution. Anyone can submit to iTunes, but unless represented or contracted by a label, you are classified as a podcast and you receive a FREE button next to your song.
The Judge was also interested in another comment that I had made - about receiving revenue without charging for music. I mentioned affiliate income and deals with MySpace. If I place a video on YouTube or somewhere such as MetaCafe - I can sign up for ad revenue sharing. This means that, based on the number of hits/views that video receives, I receive a share in the revenue for the ads that were displayed on that page and higher percentage if an ad was clicked on. I explained this model through means of this website. I also mentioned to the judge that I had planned to help the band with setting up a blog that received revenue, submitting to YouTube to receive revenue, and placing affiliate links such as AMAZON.COM to receive revenue. The Judge was confused on how it was possible to receive revenue if one could go to MySpace and listen for free. I explained that most bands have contracts with Myspace to share in ad revenue."
Don't just put your stuff all over the internet for free willy nilly consumption - monetize it transparently. Small bands can easily and realistically make a few hundred dollars a month from these tips. Larger bands easily see a few thousand. Stars make 10's of $1000's everyday from small sources of income like this.
Open a Google account ... open a Google ADsense account.
You can do that here!)
Open an iTunes affiliate account.
You can start that here!)
Open an AMAZON ASSOCIATES account.
You can start that here!)
Register a domain that has a unique name or with your band's name.
I recommend GODADDY.COM
Place videos on YouTube that are monetized by page views of the ads that appear with them.
Open a blogger BLOG for your band. Do not use any other form of blogging ... place ADsense advertisements on your blog just as you see here on this website/BLOG.
Update your blog with:
• Talk about performances both past and upcoming
• Share a thank you and small promotion for a place you performed
• Talk about a new musical instrument or sound you are trying ... place with the post a link to purchase the same instrument on AMAZON. (More on AMAZON affiliate income in a minute.)
• Talk about how you came up with the band's logo
• Tell a few favorite musically related stories from each band member's childhood
• Talk about new albums from big artists you like / Review albums / place iTunes links and AMAZON music links to those albums.
Try to stay relatively focused and avoid making it "an anything blog".
Go to https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/
Sign up for an AMAZON ASSOCIATES account. Once you've signed up, read this article:
Place this box in the sidebar of your blogger blog (just as you see on this website). Encourage loved ones and friends to make all their purchases by searching for them on your website. They won't pay any more, but they will kick back 1.75% - 8% off their purchase to you.
Regularly try to promote an AMAZON eSTORE on your blog that is filled with your band's favorite things and even a wish list.
An AMAZON eSTORE contains a pictorial description of items you like - suggestions if you will. These items could include favorite albums, your own album, favorite movies, instruments, Apple computers, audio mastering equipment and mixers, software. You can also include a wish list. You never know who might just decide they like you and send you something on your wish list.
Another form of BLOG INCOME is getting a sponsorship - maybe a place you performed, maybe a restaurant or club you like. A reasonable charge (for a small band's site) for such an ad would be $250.00 for one year's placement. I have awards I've won in my sidebar and I have one sponsor for $250.00 a year. In the past I've had a number of sponsors including Jones Soda and Donna Karen. You don't have to be a marketer ... all you have to do is call the 1-800 number for the big business or the local number for a local business and talk to the owner or human resources. Tell them about your site. Offer to send them a CD with your music. Simply ask if they will sponsor an advertisement on your site. This is also an important area where networking plays a key role. Get a family member's company, a friend's business, a friend's father's business to sponsor an advertisement.
Realize that blogging - such as you see on this website is VERY easy. It's just matter of uploading pictures and typing in text. The formatting, fonts, font size, everything is all automated.
Use a source such as TuneCore which charges around $50.00 as of this writing to publish your band on iTunes and start making revenue from digital downloads. This market has expanded immensely in the last 6 months; now that Apple allows direct downloads to the iPod Touch and iPhone.
Consider talking to MySpace about licensing once you have an album and a small fanbase. DO NOT PLACE ANY SONGS ON MYSPACE in a full length format. Instead, if you'd like ... place snippets and then iTunes affiliate links to purchase those songs. Make sure your MySpace page has a note such as:
"For more up to date information - including tour dates and performances - see our website at WWW.OUR-BAND.COM"
At least once a year ... Google your band. See if your music is being distributed by anyone else without license or royalty.
At least once a year ... record a song, place it onto a torrent website or file sharing service like Limewire. At the end of the song - record something like:
"Hello, this is "X" from "XBAND" if you liked this song, you'll love the rest of our music - you can find us on iTunes and Amazon or visit our website at www.xband.com"
Most fans will appreciate the promotion ... understand that exploiting the file sharing services is one of the biggest opportunities you have for spreading.
Lastly ... if you can think of some kind of viral campaign ... one that starts with flyers with a shocking message like:
"On Feb 14th 2009, YOU WILL OWN THIS CITY!"
On your website tell all those that saw the flyer welcome and to come to your concert on that night.
That was a lame example ... but you get the idea. The more people that are funneled through YOUR BAND'S website - the more of this small revenue you will receive. You want everything that one can Google for about your band to result in your website. As your band gets bigger ... you may want to consider purchasing sponsored search results from Google.
Because Google owns the majority share of searches I haven't mentioned Yahoo ... but don't neglect your search placement in other search engines.
Don't do business with anyone that gives you less than a 50/50 share ... this includes businesses like Guitar Center. This business often takes advantage of bands. When selling musical equipment ... use places like eBay or the classified ads in your local paper. If you have a local classifieds only paper - list there. In my area, I have a classifieds only paper called iWanna.
You can typically sell for higher prices and buy for lower prices from other sources than retail. Become friends with local pawn shops that sell instruments. Note ... do not become a pawning or loan taking customer ... become a buyer and a friend. Offer some pricing advice if you feel it might score you or your band mates some brownie points.
From all that I have read, researched, and learned personally from this experience ... don't enter "Battle Of The Bands" contests. If you do, make sure you get winner's lists from the sponsor. Make sure all the contestants are meeting contest requirements. Make sure there's no shill votes for any band involved - including your own. The worst thing you could have happen to your band besides losing a contest like this is that you are exposed for fraud during the competition.
One of the things that came from my experience before writing this article is that Noel Golden - the producer's name who I name dropped earlier in this series - had told me that just about all "Battle Of The Bands Contests" are rigged. He was quite surprised that Drew's band had even placed and commented that it must show some level of talent and dedication.
If you do enter such contests - use the arsenal of what I've described above to spread the word.
Do you have any advice for bands? Feel free to share in the comments to this article.
Use this article ... show it to your band mates. Talk about it. Record an album. Send me a signed copy.
* MYSPACE page for A New Shade
* See A Few Extra Notes ... about this case in another post on FIXYOURTHINKING.COM.
* See Some Sound Advice For Bands ... for more creative ideas in another post on FIXYOURTHINKING.COM