On this episode Nick sits down with Todd McCarty, the founder of Band Builder Academy and former VP of Sales at Sony Music USA and General Manager at Fearless Records. Todd is now helping independent artists build their fanbase and profit from their passion. His proven experience working in both major and indie labels makes for a refreshing perspective of the music industry and how self-releasing musicians can thrive in it.
Join us for nearly an hour and a half of incredible insight on major vs. indie labels, networking, TikTok, DSP's, music promotion, visual branding and much more!
NICK SADLER: Welcome to The Label Machine Series, where we discuss with successful industry professionals how artists and record labels market and sell their music. My name is Nick Sadler and today's guest is Todd McCarty. Todd is the founder of the band builder Academy where he has worked with hundreds of music artists to develop and grow their music careers. He has extensive experience in the music industry working originally as a drummer, then to a manager and label executive. He has won numerous gold and platinum sales awards for his work as a music sales executive holding positions as Vice President of Sales for Sony Music, and Head of Sales at Fearless Records, where he spearheaded the release of over 200 punk song covers amassing over a billion streams. Todd, how are you today?
TODD MCCARTY: I'm doing well. Nick. Thanks for having me. Thanks everybody for tuning in.
NS: No problem, bro. I've been looking forward to this.
TM: Congrats on your baby as well.
NS: Thank you. Yes. It's a new world for me. And I'm loving it. I'm loving being a dad. And the good thing is little Jago, he's being a lovely little boy. We haven't really had any problems. So yeah, hopefully-
TM: Welcome to the daddy club.
NS: Yeah, thank you. Okay, so we're going to jump straight into it. And we're going to talk about your most recent music enterprise, which is the band builder website. So can you give me a rundown of what the main activities are there?
TM: Yeah, absolutely. Band Builder Academy was started, was sort of formed in my head when I was exiting the label business or thinking about getting out of it, thinking about what I really love to do. And education was the answer for that. So it's music education. But I sort of designed it thinking, I wish I had like a manual I could give to artists, the first day they came into the label at Fearless or Sony. Many of them show up unprepared, and not really knowing how to really build a business and work with the team. They already have, you know, some, some fans, but getting to the next step. And so band builder sort of starts like that. It's like a, it's like a roadmap for musicians wanting to learn music marketing, Spotify marketing, promotion, PR, how to make money, you know, getting paid. And, and we show you how to do that by doing good on-platform and off-platform promotion on Spotify and Apple Music. You know, we have we have tools inside band builder that let you know, your chart position within the algorithm. So it's, you can you can know where you're at, we clean your algorithm up. We help get official playlists. You know, Spotify is publicly said they're on a mission to help a million musicians make a living from music. And they, you know, they seem to be sincere about it. And if that's their mission, I'm with them. I want to help do the same thing. I want to help musicians get those official playlists. I want to help them learn to build a fan base the right way. And we dig into all of that at band builder.
NS: Nice. Yeah, that's a really good point about getting on board with Spotify’s vision. Would you say then there are a, there are a few different types of music education websites based around this? So would you say the artists you're working with in the experience you bring for band builder is, if I wasn't, if I was a band, rather than, say, a hip hop producer, you would, they would find it easier working with your site or like it? Do you get what I mean? Like, is there an angle there? Where it's easier to work with you?
TM: Yeah, no, good question. It's funny because I, when I was at Fearless Records, and Sony, I was working in rock music, some, some pop. And, you know, we branched off here and there, but it was mainly rock music. And I worked with bands. And when I started band builder, it you know, I hadn't fully immersed myself in the independent music or independent musicians community. And I quickly realized after launching that it was a lot of songwriters who might not even be performing. They were going for sync or, you know, just, you know, putting their music online, but maybe they're not trying to even build a fan base. It's more of, you know, getting their music out there to a bigger audience on Spotify. There was lots of singers, rappers, you know, groups, solo artists, all and all of those things. But the skills still apply. So it does, it does work. For all musicians, and I've sort of changed the content, to be aimed at bands to just be aimed at musicians in general. That said, I think anybody who really wants to get a grasp on Spotify and Apple in particular, and then even work beyond to like, Amazon or Pandora, or you know, YouTube Music, those ones. I'm an expert in those, I was, you know, there since the inception of those companies launching their services, I've been in the music sales thing for, I don't know, 15-20 years. And, you know, I'm an expert on Apple, and Spotify, those are my specialties. So anybody really looking to get that part of their business dialed in, is going to benefit from it.
NS: Nice. So you, you mentioned working 15 years as a sales executive, which, you know, you must have huge amounts of experience in obviously winning the golden platinum. How did you get from? Yeah, how did you get to that point from like, when you were, I guess a teenager? What was their kind of story?
TM: Right… Yeah, so I think you mentioned I was a drummer, I played in a lot of, you know, garage pans, and even bands that toured, none of them were very successful. But we learned a lot of lessons all DIY, I grew up in the Washington, DC, punk and hardcore community, which is sort of known for having, you know, a DIY spirit with Discord Records just found there. Simple Machine, a bunch of other cool record labels run out of their houses that competed with the big guys. And then they sold lots and lots of records for bands like Minor Threat and Fugazi. So those were sort of my role models growing up. And so I started a record label really young with the guitar player and my band. And we were pressing vinyl records. We were doing, you know, marketing and PR and booking tours ourselves doing everything DIY, so we had a lot of education, even if we didn't have a lot of success. But yeah, so that, so I did that. And like I said that, that band went on tour several times, and we booked all those tours. So I was naturally the tour manager and got those skills. So I became a tour manager. After college, I you know, after, you know, playing in bands, after college a little bit, mixing in performing with tour managing, and even doing some music sales, because I took a job as a sales guy and really was trained how to do, you know, medium, small and medium sized business sales. So I had that background, and I mixed that with music, and took on at one point I was tour managing six, seven months of the year. And then also managing a roster of about 20 independent record labels, where I was basically getting their music into record shops and expanding their distribution. And so Fearless Records ended up being one of my clients, and they were in California. I was in Washington DC at the time. But I moved out there, I was still a tour manager when I first started working for them. But eventually I stayed and became the Head of Sales. And after about a year, I became the general manager of the label and managed the label for a very long time after that. And yeah, and as I was on my way out of Fearless with the company, we sold the company to a larger company. And I stayed around at that new company for a while but really wasn't happy with the company culture. So I was thinking about other things. And meanwhile, Sony came along and recruited me to be the Senior Vice President of Sales there for the Century Media rock division of their label. So it fit me, I loved it. I worked there for about 18 months, and then moved my family to Japan and started a blog called Heat on the Street, which then I launched band builder using the blog to launch the Academy.
NS: So your independent, your independent label experience, and major label experience is actually pretty recent, really in the last kind of 10 years as well. What was the biggest difference you would say between working at a major and working at an independent when it comes to moving records?
TM: Good question. Yeah, I was curious. And that was one of the benefits or the sort of attraction I had to Sony as being an indie guy always. I always wondered what it was like on the other side in the major label world. And you know, had all these preconceived notions. Some of them true, you know, like it was a lot of red tape bureaucracy. You know, sort of cutthroat politics, everybody trying to, you know, claw their way to the top, there was definitely that at the major, the major label environment. But hey, some of that exists in the independent world as well. And, and, you know, so you learn to deal with those things and put it aside, but people-wise and the good work of artists development, I really don't think there was a difference, except that maybe the independent labels, it's true, I think they do a better job of getting a project, let's say from zero to 20. And the major labels are better at getting it from 20 to 100, or, or beyond. And that's not to say that independent labels can't, you know, knock it out of the park, Adele, who's sold some of the most records in the century, you know, that was on an independent label originally, so, and I think still is to some extent, so, you know, there, there really wasn't too many differences other than that sort of bureaucracy and red tape, I definitely think it slows the, the wheels of promotion down when you've got to turn in your expense reports and make sure that you're you know, you know, submitting your TPS reports and all that stuff, it was a lot of that.
NS: I guess. So, you know, drilling down on that. If we've got a, you know, you've got a band, they've got a single coming up and, in 10, 10 weeks, and you're like, right, we're gonna you sit down, and you go, what are we going to promote this single release? What are we going to do, you know, and you've got your scratch heads out, and you're like, you know, we're going to a music video, and you know, you're talking through, essentially writing, what you is going to be your marketing strategy for that single and where you're going to promote it. I guess… So specifically thinking about that one example. Was there any? Was there any difference between doing that when you're sitting at the indie label, compared to within when you're sitting at the major? You know, what, what are the big differences there? Is there any difference? Is it just the majors like, yeah, we'll put 200 grand on a music video instead of 20 grand like, Yeah, I'd love I really like to know, that specific kind of area, what the differences are, if there are any, in fact.
TM: Yeah. So to be honest, I think there was, I think the independent label was more scrappy, you know, like, we had to, you know, really do all the heavy lifting and, and get for we couldn't, throwing money at something wasn't an option. Tapping into a radio promotion pipeline, or a global network of publicists, or, you know, throwing weight to, you know, land an artist on a bigger tour, those weren't options. At the end, you really had to, you know, claw your way to the top. So when you sat around the marketing table, to come up with ideas, you really had to- you could think big, and, you know, we wanted at an independent label, we wanted to think big. But you had to figure out how you're going to execute those ideas. And then if you don't, if you have a, you know, a problem getting to that, you know, like outlet whether it let's say it's a social media outlet, obviously, like, we're at an independent label, you can't go right to the top of other large companies like Instagram or TikTok. Whereas the major labels, you can, you know, they have a lot more leverage. So, access was definitely different. And at the major label, you could think big and execute big. And but that didn't mean that, you know, you, you have a better chance. It just it all comes down to the attractiveness of the, of the artists you're working with. And, you know, so I don't. And at the end of the day, I don't think there's too much of a big difference there. And I have to say, the independent label was equally as successful at, you know, at least in the group that I was in at Sony, at getting our records to where we wanted to be, if not more successful.
NS: Gotcha. So from the, I guess, from the gatekeepers point of view, they… Yeah, they didn't really care whether it was coming from a major or an indie It was probably like, Is it good music? And is there a good team behind it?
TM: And is there a good plan and who else is you know, involved in this and if you can tell a good story and tell why it's important and why it matters. That's what's important. And yeah, but the Sony, the Sony thing does open up doors. I have to say that it would have been nice at the Indies if we could have been like, you know, with our other label Epic Records, you did, you did this promotion with so and so artists. We wouldn't we want to model this promotion on that, you know, like we couldn't, we couldn't do that, you know?
NS: Yeah. Wow. That must be a must have been quite an experience. I mean, I'm sure there must have been when you first Started out and the like, well, we'll just give XYZ a call. We're here to Snapchat and see what he says. You're like, what? No, really? Yeah, so access to all of that must have been amazing.
TM: But to be fair, I was in the rock division at Sony, I wasn't working your front line, you know, pop acts, hip hop act, any of that. It was, it was all rock.
"I think the independent label was more scrappy, you know, like, we had to, you know, really do all the heavy lifting... throwing money at something wasn't an option. Tapping into a radio promotion pipeline, or a global network of publicists, or, you know, throwing weight to, you know, land an artist on a bigger tour, those weren't options. At the end, you really had to, you know, claw your way to the top."
NS: Gotcha. Um, speaking of acts like nowadays, through Band Builder, who are the artists that you're working with, you know, who are some of the who are some of the most successful artists?
TM: Sure, I'll give you a mix. Because it's, um, it wouldn't be fair to, it wouldn't be fair, just to call out, you know, the bigger, the bigger bands. And I won't take all the credit for their success. But there's a band called Awake at Last, Catch Your Breath, RedHook… See, who am I forgetting? But those are some of the bigger rock acts that have, have come through. But there's there's a guy. There's a guy called Neil, Neil... Kennedy One is the artist, is an EDM artist who's doing quite well. There's, there's a pop act from France called Half-Lives doing really well. So there's, there's some good developing acts, but we also have, you know, singer-songwriters then. And like, people making music for sync, or in genres, like soul or funk, or psychedelic music. I mean, there, there's so much, there's pure pop artists, there's dance and all of that. So there's a good mix of people in there. And then also, what's interesting is, I never expected this, but there there's some real niche music, like sleep music, or, you know, even niche down even more into like, Christian children's music. And that's one of the biggest artists in there is, you know, that they sell they’re called Scripture Lullabies, just shout out to them. I mean, if you just look at their debate, they have, you know, a huge audience of like, 100,000, 200,000 people tuning in at all time. And they only have four albums in material, but they play this material for hours. So like, the average listener is listening to their music, six, seven hours a day, because they put it on and let their babies sleep at night. And you wouldn't believe the metrics and the algorithm data I see on this artist, it’s sustained forever and ever, never. It's just, it's not like they have 300,000 people listening to them once they have like, 300,000 people listening to them, hours and hours a day, weekend, month, and so stuff like that. And I've helped them develop their entire Spotify strategy from when they launched, from, like, pre-launch to where they they got, they got on there. So, some really cool stories like that.
NS: Nice. Yeah, that's, I know what you mean about niche audiences and just not even really, I think it's, you know, that there are niches out there, but you're not aware of how big they are. That's the word is always sometimes really surprising for me. Okay, so I get you know, you there is a lot of experience in bands. So I did have a question. What would you recommend to, for, for a group of artists or bands, they're early in their career, and they want to start playing shows. And we're going to talk about this pre-post-COVID. So, you know, like, we imagine, imagine it's a year from now and things have gone back to normal, that they're just a garage band, like early 20s. I've only got about 50 people on the mailing list, about 1000 followers on Instagram and Facebook. What's the, what's the best thing you'd recommend that they start doing?
TM: Yeah, I think…
NS: Remember they what the goal is, they want to start playing shows that they've got they've got a set, like they can play a half hour set really tight. But they want to go now places, play to an audience.
TM: Okay. Yeah, look, you got to when you're when you're performing and putting on a concert, you got to be good, you got to be entertaining. So obviously, you can only practice in your, in your basement as much as you can. You want to get out there and perform. So you've got to get out there and just practice and do it. So in the early days, I'm all for artists, not over playing but you know, play frequently. You know, say yes to opportunities. Don't start turning things down because you think you're going to overplay but if you can't play too much in your home market, start going out on regional weekend dates, you know, go two hours away, and then another two hours on the Friday and Saturday night on the weekend. So I think that's a good way to do it. But once you feel confident in your live show, then you really do need to be careful not to overplay your market. And I recommend a market rotation of like six or seven cities. And I recommend artists get to know all of the club promoters in those areas, get to know the DJs and the radio DJs that, you know, the people on the college campuses, you know, the journalists in those areas, the influencers, like which TikTokers and Instagramers live in those cities, you need to start inviting them out for the shows. So you treat these six or seven markets as little individual marketing plans for each, you have a tour marketing plan for each of these cities. And you go back to them two, three times a year. Not overplay, but just get there enough to where each show gets bigger and bigger. It's a regional touring strategy. And it builds a fan base, and they start to sell merch. And the goal is to support, support, headline, or maybe direct support, headline, headline to where you're selling merch, you're getting the biggest cut for the tickets. And, you know, if you can't work your way up and get more and more people out each time, you need to revisit and take a look at what you're doing and, and improve, improve your, improve your live show. Improve your marketing in those markets. But all along, as you keep growing, you need to be building these relationships with people in those cities, the DJs, the promoters, the, you know, and even the other bands, the other bands are a really good place to start as too, because they can introduce you to all these people as well. So get to know not just any band in those markets, get to know the best bands in those markets that you want to support. And, you know, you know, come up together with, that's, that's really important.
NS: So, you know, that's, that's excellent advice. And I'm listening, and I'm going, okay, great. How do I you know, you say, play some at, play, play or get these opportunities and play these shows in these different cities? And get to know these bands, like, get to know these influencers? Like what specifically? Do you know, do they do like, are they, are they, you just try and find an email and email them? Do you pick up the phone? Like, I want to get my first show in Atlanta? Like how do I you know, what, what do I specifically actually have to do? Like, how do I go about doing that?
TM: Yeah, I'm a phone person, you know, coming with, with a sales background. I'm always into just picking up the phone and calling people, I don't think anything works better, unless you're out meeting people face to face, that's always a good way, you should always be networking, musicians have to know that at this point, you have to be social and out there networking. But through your network ask for an introduction, it's always a really good way to get an introduction. If and those are all sort of like, you know, obvious examples. And then the other obvious one is knock on the front door of social media or their website or email and try to reach out with a cold email or a message or something like that. I don't recommend that that approach too much. I recommend treating it just like any human relationship, like you're gonna make friends - in regular life, it's no different. So maybe it's starting by going on their social media and leaving a comment or finding some topic that they're passionate about and commenting on it. But rather than just commenting, a better way to do it is to ask them a question. That not a long question, not a difficult question, just the simple, easy question where it's sort of demands a response. If you can just get them talking to you, then you can ask another question, but it's just building a relationship. It's not going for the kill and saying, Hey, will you promote my band? Hey, will you do this, like, too many artists go for the kill too soon. And then they give up really quickly if they say no, or they get rejected, but why not build a friendship? And this is called playing the long game. Like you're not, you're not building a relationship with them to capitalize on that relationship, and a week or two or a month, even, I mean, just let the relationship build organically naturally. And you don't even have to tell them you're in a band, that you can just become a friend. First, they're gonna find out that it's pretty easy to find out what people do, so just get to be their friend. And eventually, you know, then then ask and tell him what your, tell him what you're about. Tell him what your priorities are, ask what their priorities are, and how you might be able to help them find something, find some way to help them. That's a good way to do it as well.
NS: Or it's going to naturally come up. I mean, if you've, if you've decided to reach out to someone specifically because they're a promoter, at some point, there's going to be a conversation around. We've got, we're doing a new, you know, new bands Thursday show and you're like, “Oh, that's funny. I've got a new band.” “Oh, yeah, sure, we should book you.” I agree, you've really got to play that long game. And I think a lot of people like, they do the cold email to try and get even some promo and, and then they wonder why no one really, you know, picks up on it. And, and yeah, like you said, because there's no relationship there. Yeah, that's really good advice.
TM: I divided into two like, I have like this A list in my head and a B list, like an A list is these people that I'm trying to build a lifelong relationship with for a whole career, not just for a short, short term kill, you know, so I have that list of people. And if you've got five band members, each of those five band members has a different list - don't double up, like, you can cover a lot more ground. And then your B list is that's when you do the whole, like press release, or, you know, new track releasing on September 4, you know, and like you, you just blast the list, you know, so you, you don't ever blast your A list. Those are human relationships, you just talk to them, you pick up the phone, you communicate with them. The B list is more like, blast away.
NS: Yeah, there's the equivalent in the, in the dance world community. So you have your A-list DJs. And they're the ones that are, you know, and you know, they are typically A-list DJs. You know, they're playing headline shows, they've got their own radio shows, etc. But they're the people if you've got a new track, you'll email them individually. Yo, hey, Andy, how's it going? What do you think of this track, etc? And yeah, your list, maybe 30-40 people like that. And then you have your B-list, which you send your DJ promo out, and it's just a bit more of a promo list. So yeah, I think that's and it's funny, even at The Label Machine, you know, like, and like you, as well, you know, we've we've still got to build relationships with people. And, and, you know, to grow our businesses and grow out and grow our members. And, you know, I do have a, I've got a list of people that I am, I guess, A-list people as well. And then I've got my B list that I sort of do my promo out. So yeah, I guess it's not just music, it's a good way of thinking generally, if you want to grow your, grow your career.
TM: That's right. Yeah.
NS: Um, so I guess staying on, I guess, the live tip as well. And I know you, I know, you said, you've got a lot of artists you work with, which aren't necessarily performing artists, but for the, for the bands, for the artists that are performing as bands. How have you found COVID affected their careers in the last year? And they were playing a lot? And what have you seen them doing instead that have helped them pivot successfully?
TM: Yeah, that's a good one. I think, obviously, not being able to play live for rock artists and singer-songwriters, and so many artists that really rely on the live show. It's been really, really tough. It's an understatement. And it's just been awful for them, you know, but they've had a good attitude. They're educating themselves, they're figuring out ways to, you know, make money in other ways. They're, they're using the time wisely to, to build it. And they're also looking at the silver lining that, hey, when touring comes back, at least, I've learned a few ways that can keep me going and weather the storm. So I think there's been those benefits of it as well. Of course, there's a lot of musicians that are more into like sync and publishing, for getting in video games, advertisements, commercials and those types of things who they were affected a little bit less than the artists that are performing live. But yeah, it's been, it's been tough. But I have seen a lot of positivity, and now that vaccines are coming into play, and you're starting to see festivals announcing, there is a lot of positivity, that things will return. But assuming, you know, they haven't, at this point, the merchandise offerings have been one way and that sort of Patreon is in the sort of tipping culture is what I like to call it and I hope that tipping culture is something that picks up more in the West. I actually I'm in Japan, and it sort of exists here in Japan, but more so in China, and Korea, a lot of their social media apps, their main ones have tipping built right into it. So imagine if Instagram, you know TikTok, which may or may not have it, Facebook, those Twitter, just had tipping like a tip me, built right into it, where it's it's in your face. And it becomes a normal habit. Sort of like on Twitch, the video game platform, Twitch has that, you know, tipping button right there where you can you can give to these creators. And I think that culture has definitely, you know, been jumpstarted, because of COVID. And I hope it continues. And I hope that the big social media companies will just make that happen. Because you know, there are going to be other social media companies coming up, where that's their primary feature is we want to help creators monetize. And so I think sooner or later, you're going to see that happen. And that's thanks to COVID. So that would be a good thing. So that direct income source from fans. I know, some artists really feel slimy, if they're asking you for money or begging. But I hope that it gets to the point where they don't have to, and it's just a natural part of culture where where people are supporting artists that way, because they do, they hear so much in the media, how difficult it is to make a living in music. And it really is, it's not easy, there's no, there's no way to paint a good picture about it. It's difficult. There's a couple others that people haven't thought about, though, as much. And I mean, one thing I helped my community do during the pandemic is educate them on the music royalties, how they work and how to collect them. When you're a signed artist, to a label, there's, there's really only a few sources of income coming your way, you'll get money from your music publisher and your music collection societies, you get money from your labels, and then you have money from your merchandise. But when you're an independent artist, and you self-release your stuff, there's literally like eight or nine different checks you need to be collecting every six months. And a lot of artists don't know that, especially signed artists, because they don't, they don't see that, it doesn't, they don't get eight checks individually, it all comes through a fewer, fewer checks, and they don't even get a full cut.
But uh, so take a million streams, for example, it can be argued that there's $5,500 to $7,000 per million streams generated from music on the total piece of the pie. But a lot of artists - signed artists - are seeing a very small sliver of that pie. But if you own all of your rights in yourself, releasing your music, there's potentially $7,000 per million streams, maybe even a little bit more, depending on on your platforms that are that are being used. So that money is there to be collected. I know, in for US, mechanical royalties, for example. There was a payout of $430 million by Apple, Spotify, Amazon, all the major DSPs paid out $430 million in uncollected mechanical royalties in January of this year. And that went to the mechanical licensing collective. Now the major label artists, they got their money, they got paid, but there wasn't, there wasn't a way set up to get self-releasing artists paid. So that's $430 million in self releasing artists money that they need to go collect. So it's things like that during the pandemic, I wanted to educate artists on how to collect all that money, but then how to generate more of it. And sync was a big focus as well.
NS: When you're talking about they collected the mechanical royalties, are you saying like going on ASCAP and registering as a publisher? So you can collect that mechanical rights? Because otherwise as a self-releasing artist, without a publisher, you wouldn't collect that?
TM: That's right. Yeah, that's right… It doesn't get, it doesn't get paid. Actually, ASCAP and those societies in America - ASCAP, BMI, SESAC - they don't collect mechanical royalties. They collect performance royalties. So mechanical royalties get paid directly by the label or through Harry Fox Agency, but now it's going to be paid well, that's for physical. And for digital royalties, there was no, there was no way to get paid unless you were getting paid direct, and the major labels did whereas your indies didn’t. And that's why, that's why there's $430 million in suspense and just sitting there because there was no actual way to pay it. The US government hadn't created any legislation that instructed Spotify and Apple on how to pay that money.
NS: So how are they doing that now then? Because I that was, that was right. There was a deal with Spotify and whatnot to go directly to the majors to collect all that income. So the independents, it's sitting there. If you do want to get hold of that, do you have to go through say something like Songtrust?
TM: Yes or… Well, you can go through Songtrust, but you can register directly with the mechanical licensing collective. But I would recommend, you know, I would probably recommend just making your life a little easier and having Songtrust, because they don't-
NS:Yeah, I love those guys. I love those…
TM: Yeah, great company, and they just for the amount of work they do, it's a totally fair price for what, for what they do. And it's, it's real simple, they make it easy for you. And if you're not already registered as a writer with the PRO, and you're not already set up as a publisher, don’t first do that and then sign up for Songtrust. Just sign up for Songtrust, and they'll actually do it for you, and wait and you get that fee waived. You don't have to pay the ASCAP fee, just for the, you know, the fee that you pay Songtrust, they'll set it all up for you and make your life easy. So I would, I'd recommend doing that.
NS: Definitely. Just going back, you were talking about the… and also, thanks for the insight about what people are working on, because it was really interesting. But you were talking about the tipping functionality. And it would be, you’re right, it'd be great to start seeing that more in Western culture. But specifically on Twitch, what, what are people? What are they, what are people doing to encourage people to tip like, are they, are they doing a live stream? Are they interviewing? Like, what what are they specifically I guess doing to encourage people to tip you know, does that make sense?
TM: Yeah, yeah, so Twitch is such a, an evolved platform, it's been around for a while. But at this point in their evolution, they're just now getting serious about music. Some people might have heard that Twitch just did a big partnership with Distrokid. So now anybody distributed through Distrokid is sort of, you know, automatically getting their music licensed with, with the Twitch platform for Twitch creators to use their music. So that's, that's a cool thing. But they're still at the beginning of their evolution of their music thing, but Twitch primarily came from the gaming industry and like the tipping culture has existed in that gaming culture. So my hope is that a lot of people using Twitch to get in there, you know, to get into those channels will come from the video game thing. So hopefully, the music, the music vertical, will peel off some of those gamers and get them into the music area. And those people are just already that community and Twitch already knows how to tip like that's just part of what they do. So I hope that they'll tip musicians just like they tip video gamers for like, basically, you're watching somebody, like a really advanced person play a video game, and you're just watching them. And it's like watching television. But it's expected that, you know, if you kind of hang around enough that you just leave on $1 $2 or $3 here just for hanging out 20 minutes watching them. And that's just part of the culture. So I hope that that carries over to the music. But musicians are sort of just scratching the surface, the surface of Twitch right now. And I know most of the musicians listening, you're probably going like, “Oh my god, like, I've got to do TikTok right now like, and I've got to get in that whole game. And I'm just learning that. And now I've got to learn Twitch as well. So it's a lot to ask, but I think the musicians that go in there will be rewarded, that go to, you know, utilize Twitch and set up their own Twitch channel and use it to broadcast like, you know, using it as your livestream platform. Sure, I hope they'll be, I hope they'll be rewarded. But yeah, there's going to be the automatic tip function button that you know, that everybody's used to seeing. But yeah, from time to time, you want to stop and just say, you know, I don't know, some artists might not feel comfortable…
NS: My rent is due tomorrow. I'm $50 short.
TM: Yeah. Here’s a picture of my daughter, please, you know, support. But, you know, something simple. They don't have to really like, you know…
NS: No, I think what you said there, that was really interesting about if you hang out there for like 20-30 minutes, when you leave, you just do $1 I mean, that's sort of similar to when, you know, you're when you're out and about and you see a busker and you just stop and you watch for 10-15 minutes and you're like, wow, that guy's really good. And then you reach in your pocket and you know, I mean less so these days with everyone being on car but you know, you throw out $1 or even 50 cents as you walk away, because you're like appreciate the time kind of done so I can see how that translates over on that Twitch stream. Well that's really interesting. And are you, are you helping artists set up their Twitch at the moment or you’re sort of just recommending it?
TM: A select few that are passionate have already proven that they have a video strategy, you know, like this one artist, Dead Eyes, right now, I'm working on it with them to where they're going to be doing a regular Twitch series. And it's going to be sort of multi format, you know, some showing their production capabilities, like one of the, one of the guys in the band is a producer. And he showed, he's already doing this on TikTok, where he shows his process of how he will take like, you know, like a, like a hip hop song and turn it into a rock song like doing a cover. And he'll show you on the I don't know, which if it's Pro Tools or whatever rig he's using, but he shows you how he does it. And people tune into that. And then one guy is doing guitar plays. And then sometimes they just have a hangout with their fans, or, you know, they'll do Q&A sessions. So there's lots of different ways they can use the platform, but they're… Twitch is looking for partners. So if you're an artist who thinks video and this type of format is your strength, and you really want to commit to it, Twitch is looking for, for artists to promote right now. So you should consider, you should consider it.
NS: Interesting. Alright, so, uh, but we before we go on to the music selling trend questions… What are some rookie mistakes or common problems, you see new artists making over and over again?
TM: Yeah, I thought about this a little bit. And I think to narrow it down. I think that artists, they sort of, they sort of, they spray and pray, you know, like, so they sort of, they record their track, they get it, they get it ready. They put it up on social media, they sort of look at what their aspirational artists are, the bigger artists in their scene are doing, they sort of look at what they're doing. And they just copy them, and they just get it out there. And if they can afford, you know, some advertising, they put a little budget in, if they can afford a PR, that's the first thing I see artists going for right away is the PR. And they think, you know, that'll open up doors. And they just kind of get it out there and let it go. But I think they're not pitching their music properly. I think, you know, they're just, they're using maybe the Spotify, Spotify For Artists platform to pitch Spotify, but they're not working their distributor to pitch Apple Music, Amazon, and all the other DSPs. And a lot of those services don't offer that, or they don't, they might email you back and say I'm sorry, we just get your music on the services, we don't promote it. But you know, that's, they must be helping somebody, you know. So like, you should make a good marketing plan, and know how to tell your story. And not just say, “please playlist us” or “I hope you like the music, you know, please playlist this.” Tell why your music is different. You know, tell the story, tell why it's important. Tell us, you know, your past successes and who else is supporting it. And make sure that each time you put out a new track, you have some of those things to say like, we're partnering with this influencer, or we're partnering with this magazine, or we're partnering with this, this blog in our community or our song is about, you know, this, this charity or this bent, like, we're passionate about this, this nonprofit, so we're partnering with them or connect with the community or we're going to be on, you know, this livestream with this artist or this festival, I wanted to say, you know, like, I think that you need to have a community.
So like, you need to have those talking points. But to get those talking points, you really have to put the work in to go out and find a blog or a magazine that will be a champion for you. And don't just think of them as a journalist or just a blog, like they're a community so like, if it's started, just think of an obvious one, you know, BrooklynVegan, you know, like, so it's like, you're trying to get your your music there. But find what BrooklynVegan’s priorities are for that month or quarter or year, find out what what they're working on or they're doing a festival or a live stream and try to get involved or try to work with them and align yourself with that community or if they have a certain discussion going on about a topic in their community, get involved in it and tie yourself to that community of people so that when you pitch your music, you know, you're aligned with, with that magazine or blog or festival or whatever it's going to be. So I think you really need to have at least one or two of those talking points when you pitch a track.
Social media: rather than having, you know, all four of your accounts big, I mean, if you, if you get to be a bigger artist, eventually all of your social media accounts will get to a bit bigger size, but when you're just starting, you can't expect to have you know, 20,000 on Facebook, 20,000 on Instagram, 20,000 on TikTok, like, just get good at one of them. Because like, I have an artist who doesn't have a very good Instagram, they just haven't, like individually, their personal accounts do okay, but their artists profile for some reason just isn't grabbing. But they've got, you know, collectively, so like their Instagram really only has like 2000 followers, but collectively on TikTok, they've got like 70,000 followers, and their total videos between their, their different accounts have amassed, like 3 million streams. So go for that big number. At least they have that talking point when it comes to social media. Like, yeah, our Instagram sucks. So we're not going to bring it up. It's only 2000 followers. But we've got, you know, 70,000 followers on Tiktok with 3 million collective views on our, on our, on our TikTok. So that's something that they have. So you only have to be good at one of those social media, but make sure you are, make sure you don't have three or four that are small, really get one to catch fire, because the volume and the traffic that that will provide really does help.
NS: Yeah, I, it's funny, I had a conversation with some artists I'm working with yesterday. And they showed me the email that they'd been sending out to patch their track to some blogs. And… they did, they did actually they made it personal so they did say I really enjoyed your article that you wrote about, and other artists that similar to them. So that was cool. But they didn't know what you were saying. And they didn't provide a context or a story on why that journalist or person should care about them. You know, it was like you said, it was like, “Here, we've made a cool track. We hope you like it, will you support it?” And I was like, you know, and I said to them was like, “look if you got there, what, why… You've never heard of this artist, why would you just do that?” You know, you need to… What's the story behind it? Like, you know that the track was a collab. And I said, “Look, your last track was, you know, top 10 on Beatport. And this artist was supported by these guys here. Like put those names in there and say our last track was supported by these guys. Then it's a talking point.” They're like, “Okay, cool. Yeah, I recognize those are the artists, like, okay, so these guys are obviously being supported in the scene, that somebody talked about, I'm going to post it and, you know, they're like, “Okay, cool. I've got it.” So they're like rewriting again, but exactly, it just mirrors what you're saying about creating that story. And I guess if you're starting out, and there is no story, I think it's brilliant. What you said about the BrooklynVegan office, like finding a community where you can say to them, “yeah, what are you? What's your focus for the next three months? Cool. Well, we can do something around that as well. Would you be interested in this and getting them to go call?” And then you've got that seed, isn't it? And then you've got when you're reaching out to other people, you're saying, “Oh, yeah, next month, we're partnering up with BrooklynVegan and we're doing this thing” and then that's the ball rolling. Yeah, exactly. Excellent. Excellent.
TM: Just have two of those. That's enough, because you don't want a long email. But if you were to be like, you know, you know, we have 70,000 followers on TikTok and amassed 1.5 million views. And we, you know, have a partnership with Twitch where we're going to be, you know, doing a month-long feature with them, or…
NS: That’s it. Great.
TM: That’s more than most people have. And by the way, you know, we sound like, we're, you know, we sound like this artist, this artist so that they have some sort of point of reference of like, “Okay, well, like what's the path for this artist, what, what, what sort of genre group of bands that they fit with, that's really important to quickly get that out there. And then those collaborations are huge, like what you mentioned, like featured artists and featured guest vocals, all of that stuff is super important. And I forgot to bring that up during COVID. For me, features became the new touring. So like if you can't be on tour, make sure you have a similar artist or a guest artist on your track because that's like going on tour with their fan base around the world. So that's one thing I would add to this sort of post-COVID lessons, is do featured artists, I mean, especially in the rock world, it hasn't happened a lot. I know like EDM and pop and hip hop, it's been always happening. But some reason rock artists have been a bit precious about it. But it's happening more now. And I would recommend that those artists get on it right away, like, you know, and don't just do them with the same type of artist as you like, if you're a male fronted artist, have a female vocal feature, you know, or try a different genre. You know, like, if it's an older fanbase, try to bring in a younger fanbase, like try to hit different demographics with your features. Don't just try to do the same thing each time.
"know how to tell your story. Tell why your music is different. You know, tell the story, tell why it's important. Tell us, you know, your past successes and who else is supporting it. And make sure that each time you put out a new track, you have some of those things to say."
NS: Yeah, yeah. Good advice. So moving on to some of the selling music trend questions, record sales: where are you finding royalties are coming from across the major platforms of Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Tidal in the last 12 months?
TM: Yeah, I'm not looking at a ton of royalty statements anymore, having been removed from the label business for three years now. But uh, you know, just from what i've, what I've been monitoring and reading, it seemed like Apple in the United States was sort of holding their own and keeping up but they they lost market share again to Spotify, to where far and away Spotify is the, is the moneymaker, at least in the US market, and I think everywhere else. But America is unique to where they have another one that people overlook is Pandora. Pandora is the third largest DSP as far as making money in the US, and it's not easy to get your music on to Pandora's free tier, everybody gets their music on the paid tier. But the difference is, is on the free tier. There's like 100 - I'm sorry - there's like 70 million users free users. And then on the pay tier, there's only 3 to 5 million, it's a much smaller pool of people, you want to be on the free tier, it's not easy, like I said, to get on there. But try to use your distributor to get on there because the royalties on that free tier. It's a per play royalty, and it's very lucrative. So I've seen money come from there, and a lot of self-releasing artists are not on Pandora and they should be. It's a very US-centric platform. I think it's only available in the US. But it doesn't mean that foreign artists outside of the US can't get their music on Pandora, many of them already are.
NS: What are the steps? What are the steps you need to take to get on Pandora, like what are the practical things you do?
TM: So they have like a, what's called an acquisitions desk, and the distributors have a line into that. So really, you need to get your distributor to try to push your music onto the free tier and just pitch them for it. And it's a manual process, and they only accept you know, you know, a handful of artists a week, maybe I don't know, maybe it's 20, maybe it's 50. But it's not hundreds, and you need to sort of lobby and pitch your distributor to get you on there. But you can see it's like, it's just like pitching for a playlist, you pitch by the single or by album release. So your distributor would need to pitch them. And in that process of pitching the single, they would lobby to get them on the free tier. And the reason they don't want a lot of people in the free tier is because they have to pay a higher rate on that free tier, and royalty. So that's why they keep it in a small club to lobby your distributor. But they also want to see that you have some activity. So you would need to be like, if you're outside of the US, you somehow want to say “hey, if you're in America, everybody in America start a radio station on Pandora for our artists, like XYZ artists radio.” To start a station, they want to see people are putting your artists name into the search bar search bar on Pandora, and they can track that. So I would do a little campaign before you pitch to show that you're driving people to Pandora and getting people to check out your music and start stations. Starting a station is like the big metric on Pandora.
NS: So is that the equivalent of like setting a playlist on Spotify?
TM: Yep, that's right.
NS: Gotcha. Okay, but it's and yet I wasn't aware of the free tier and… I knew Pandora had great royalty checks come through, but I didn't actually know why. And that's really interesting. So moving on to Spotify. What have you been finding works for getting on Spotify playlists? What's been the most effective method?
TM: I think keeping your algorithm pure. I'm talking, we're talking about official Spotify playlists, right? Getting official Spotify playlists?
NS: So yeah, like I get... Yeah. And so for the listeners, there's the official Spotify playlist which are curated by Spotify. And then you've got the user generated playlists, which can be very big as well. And those two areas, so let's break it up and say: What have you been finding works for getting on the official Spotify? And then what do you find works with getting on the user generated playlist? And then you said, keeping your algorithm pure? What does that mean?
TM: Yeah, so for official playlists, you basically want to show the curators, the human curators at Spotify, and the robotic curators that which is called the algorithm, you want to show them that people liked your music, and it's popular. And that goes by longer play rates - skip is about the worst thing you can get in digital music nowadays, you want to avoid skips at all costs, because that tells both the human curators and the robots, that your music, you know, isn't popular, it's not doing well. But you want them to save it with the heart, you want them to add it to a playlist. You know, there's, there's a, you could start, you know, like, tune in to the radio station, there's so many different ways on these digital services that you can show the service that you like, you like it, you know, so… And when I say keep up pure algorithm, I mean, don't get skips, you know, so like, if you're, if you're, if you're, let's say, I don't know the EDM genres too well, but I'll just use the rock what I'm familiar with, if you're, like, a, like an indie rock, let's say you're an indie rock band that has, you know, a little bit of acoustic or folk roots in there, then you don't want to be submitting for more, you know, like, electronic, you know, 80’s sounding indie rock, or, you know, like…
NS: Shoegaze rock.
TM: Yeah, you want to make sure to keep it with that type of sound, you don't want to get on a playlist, it's going to get you skipped. So you certainly don't want to be on a hard rock playlist, or a mainstream rock playlist, or anything with like, fast music, or if it's too, you know, slow and depressing playlists, you don't want to be on those either, you know, so like, just put your music on the playlist that it would sound good on. And that is going to get you the least amount of skips. And these don't have to be big playlists, like you mentioned earlier, when describing, you know, official playlists versus user generated playlists. Don't go by size, go by the quality of the playlist, meaning, you know, is it going to get you skips or not, that's the best way I can define it. And you should just be able to use your best judgment. But skips are going to tell official algorithm like a official human curators at Spotify, that they should stay away. And it's going to keep the algorithm either flat or going down. And if you can just keep it pure, it will naturally, organically always go up. And the keyword is always - it'll just grow and grow, and it'll never go down. Whereas if you do get skips, and you use shady playlisting promotion tactics, it will go down, and it might continue to go down, and it'll never go up. So that's what I mean…
NS: Yeah, what I wanted to, I wanted to highlight that point as well, because that, you know, everyone sees these ads on Instagram - will guarantee you, but they're not allowed to use the word guarantee, but we'll get you on the Spotify playlist. And you know, it's like $40-50, guaranteed 2000 plays, etc. And people that you said that are going for the spray approach, they think this is a great way to get the numbers up. And it simply doesn't. And like you said, I didn't think about the skip thing. Because if your music is going to go into these playlists, where they just chuck it in there, to get a few plays to get your numbers up so they can take your money, it is going to be skipped if it's in the wrong one. And then it's just gonna end up long term, like you said, being on the downward staircase of less plays, because people are going to skip it because it's in the wrong playlist. You're exactly right. And again, I think that goes back to play the long game, not the short game.
TM: That's right. Yeah. And like, the key word is if you treat the algorithm right, it always goes up, and it's going up while you sleep. You're gaining fans while you sleep. You want to have that peace of mind. You don't want to jeopardize that and go down - and I have so many artists tell me, “but you know, like, I know I'm not supposed to but a year ago I got on this, you know, you know Greatest Hits playlist or the soundtrack playlist and it continues to be my, you know, best. I'm still getting 500 plays a month from it, you know?” And my thing back to them is, “yeah, but you're still getting 200 skips a month from it. That's why your algorithm continues to go down. Yeah, you're getting 500 plays every month from it. But I'd have them removed my track from that thing right away. It shouldn't be in there, it's getting you 200 skips a month. So get it out.”
NS: Is there any way is there's not any way you can see if tracks are being skipped? Do you know, I don't think there is this in the algorithms.
TM: There is for certain artists. So Spotify gave skipped data to music publishers. But you have to be sort of with a major music publisher, or sort of an indie, a large indie publisher. And some of the distributors. There's one in particular called AWAL is owned by a publisher, Kobalt - Kobalt, a large publishing company, they own a distributor, AWAL, and AWAL does provide the skip data to their distribution clients. So if you're also with a major label, or one of their indie distribution wings, like The Orchard or ADA, or Caroline, or one of those major-owned things, they also have skipped data. But a lot of the open DIY platforms don't have it yet. And that's because they're not music publishers. But Sony, Warner, Universal, and Kobalt, they all have publishing links, but they have the publishing, they have that data from Spotify.
NS: Interesting. So that could also be a factor of why you might go for say, getting on AWAL over say Distrokid, for that reason for that data, which is pretty important data.
TM: It is and I think it'll eventually come down, it'll come back to all, all musicians will have it. If Spotify is sincere about that 1 million musicians making a living from music, then if anybody from Spotify is listening, please give the skip data to those million artists that need it.
NS: Hmm. Yeah. Yeah, that's... that's really insightful. Blogs, are they still relevant?
TM: Absolutely. Yeah. I think they're relevant. Because especially if it's a bigger blog, that's a community for the reasons we mentioned before, if you're a new and developing artist, you know, having a very household name blog, feature you or maybe even mention you is good. But if you can, like if you can make it a bigger play, like we're doing this special promotion with this blog, that's even better. But that's why a lot of art, I'm glad you asked this question. Because a lot of artists, one of the mistakes I see them making is they jump right to PR, like that's the first part of their team they make, maybe they get a manager, but a PR is like the second part of their team or first part of the team they get. And you know, I love publicists, sorry. I don't mean to slight them. But it's, it's not everything. That's not music promotion, you know, music promotion, PR is one little slice of music promotion, there's radio promotion, there's, you know, television, there's social media, there's all these other things. And then there's like, really creative guerilla marketing and, you know, tapping into these communities of community marketing, like we talked about. But you know, there's, in fact, maybe what we should do, Nick, is as sort of a freebie for anybody that tunes into this podcast, you can leave it in the show notes, I'll leave like a download link to, you know, I have a called the big list of promotional ideas. And it's, it's like a long list of ideas that musicians can do. They can look at the list when they're building their marketing campaigns. And they can see that you need to at least do five or 10 of the things on this list before you go and hire a PR. And I'm not saying don't hire a PR, do that too maybe if you can afford it. But that's, your job doesn't end by releasing the music on DSPs and putting into distribution, maybe buying some ads, telling your social media followers, and then hiring a PR to handle the rest. That's leaving the job half undone. And you'll see on this list, this big list of promotional ideas that there's so much more that musicians can be doing - signed and unsigned musicians - that isn't getting on blogs. There's just so much more to do.
NS: Oh, excellent. Yeah, we'll definitely organize that. So if you are listening, head over to thelabelmachine.com/podcasts and you'll scroll down and then look for Episode 11. And then you'll see, you can click on that and scroll down, we'll have the download link for that there for you to download… Paid advertising. Do you use it, what works, any failures? And I guess what I'm saying paid advertising I'm saying the Facebook and Instagram paid advertising platform.
TM: Yeah, I'm a, for developing artists, I'm pretty big on paid advertising. Because as a developing artist, it's really difficult to get that partnership with said blog, or it's really difficult to get the attention of a bigger influencer. So until then, until you have that breakthrough, remember, you're playing the long game. So in those six to nine months, when you're not getting anybody to return your phone calls or your messages, or emails, paid advertising is a great option. Let's take this example. So let's say you really want to do a partnership with with a blog that's got 600,000 Instagram followers, and they have, you know, 150,000 active visitors on their website every day - those are pretty big numbers. But let's say that company does a post on to those, you know, 800 or 600,000 followers on social media, you're really only going to reach 10,000, 20,000, maybe 30,000 of those people, anyway, even if they do a post about you. And if their website gets 150,000 unique visitors a day, you're just one little sliver of it. So you're not going to get those 150,000 people, you might get 10,000, 20,000 people tuning in at that moment checking you out, before your band sort of moves down the feed, and you just go further down, you get less and less impressions. So these big opportunities might sound good as talking points, but they're really not getting you that many ears and eyeballs. So what you can do with social media ads on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, is get in front of 30,000, 50,000, 100,000 people for very cheap, like, I don't know, 10,000, 10,000 impressions for in, I don't know, $15, $20, you know, you can go out and get that, you know, $30 maybe, you know, for $100, you can get even more if you have that and you can, you can reach more than if you were to get them to post about you on social media, or for them to put you on a feature for one day on their blog. Same thing with an artist, like if you want to get a feature with XYZ artists that has a million monthly listeners on Spotify. Well, yeah, maybe he didn't put you on there. But you can still advertise to his audience on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, you can pinpoint target people on social media that like that artist, and you can get yourself in front of them for 100 bucks for 200 bucks, and do it, every day of the week.
NS: Yeah, I think I'm with you as well, if you starting out and instead of putting $800 to a PR company, you should put $800 towards paid advertising, targeting your audience of similar artists to what you're doing. I have to I have to completely agree. And as well as that for you know, for the listeners, right, right now is a golden period in paid advertising, this is not going to be around forever. Like right now, the ability to reach out to these people, and for how cheap it is, is once in a lifetime, and then five years, it's going to dramatically change. I mean, already with Apple's iOS 14 updates, they're locking down, people don't want to be having these ads thrown in front of people's faces. Like, in five years, it's going to be so much harder, people are going to look back at this time and going “My god, why don't you just take out a bank loan of like $10,000 and just build your audience, because you couldn't you just could have done it, you just switch a button and you could have done it. Now that's been removed. It's even harder.” I'm quite passionate about this. And I really just, you know, wish people would they're like, I don't really want to spend money on paid advertising. It's like, but it's just results-based, like yeah, I don't know if you feel the same way, but…
TM: I do, I do. And I would tell anybody listening like it might be six months and it's gone. Poof, like we have to find a new way to reach these fans of XYZ band, you know, like so, join Nick's course, you know, join my course or whatever and learn to do social media ads, you know, like you might not be able to do it much longer so I would put some urgency into it.
"'skip' is about the worst thing you can get in digital music nowadays, you want to avoid 'skips' at all costs, because that tells both the human curators and the robots, that your music, you know, isn't popular, it's not doing well. But you want them to save it with the heart, you want them to add it to a playlist."
NS: Definitely. Is there anything, leveraging the band angle again? Is there anything specific that works better for bands when it does come to marketing your music?
TM: Anything more specific?
NS: Yeah. So I mean if, like, if you're, if you're like a rock band or an indie band, is there anything you find works better for marketing to that audience then say, you know, compared to like a hip hop artist or EDM artist or a, you know, a classical artist, say?
TM: Okay, yeah, so I don't have too much experience in those other genres. I'm definitely a rock guy. So, but I would say the one of the good things about, like, hard rock and sort of niche rock genres are that you can build a fan base for a lifetime. And maybe you can't in any other genre. But what I noticed on like, the alternative indie charts, and what's on the radio is artists will pop into there. And, you know, they'll have one big song, two big songs, one big album, and then album number two is half the size, album number three, is even smaller than that, and that those artists typically lose their fan bases, I don't know if they just grow out of the artists and they mature and they're not into that music anymore, or whatever. But that doesn't happen in like heavier rock artists. So if you're in a, like a niche rock genre, or hard rock or metal, like you have the luxury of having fans that want to be your fan for life. So that means like, any time you form a band, you really need to think about your branding, and branding campaigns and consistency. So like, there might want to be a common, you know, like art album cover artwork, there might be like, some similarities between each album artwork, or each tour has a certain theme, or, like you, there's running themes in your lyrics. And, you know, from album to album. So I would say, think about that. And going back to your question, like, that's a strategy and a benefit in one because if you market to keep your fans for a lifetime, you can monetize them over a lifetime, as well. It's not just like you're having to, you know, find a new group of fans every six months, or every year, every time you put out an album. So, you know, I would definitely focus on your branding and be original and really try to hone in on building a rabid fan base, you know, people that just like your band, like you're their favorite band.
NS: Gotcha. Yeah, that’s interesting.
TM: That works. I think in rock music. You know, you're going to sell more concert tickets, you're going to sell more merchandise, if you have a diehard fan base. Yeah, so I think, I don't know if I answered the question.
NS: No, no, definitely. Yeah, I think, yeah. In summary, it's, it's really think about your branding and being consistent with it. Because your audience is going to be able to connect with you consistently, and, and it's, I guess, it goes back that, what's that classic? It's, it's far easier to, it's cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to get a new customer. What's some sort of sales thing around that? Isn't it like?
TM: Yeah, no, I know what you're talking about big customers. It's expensive to acquire a new customer. So when you get that fan, lock them in for life, and everything that you are doing, should not just mirror what your favorite artists are doing. It should be how can I make this fan single me out and say, my band's unique because I do this, my band's unique because, you know, we you know, we stand for this or, you know, this, we want to, you want your fans there, they're there… You want them to align with what you align, you know, like your passions…
NS: Almost like, and you know, again, trying not to be too technical with marketing terms, but like a USP really, what's your unique selling point? You know, find that and communicate that with your fans and find other people that are aligned with it.
TM: Yeah, I didn't articulate that very well, but I just I can't state enough how important the branding is. And being original and connecting with your audience is just huge.
NS: Yeah, I agree. And using stories to connect with your audience. Social media, which platforms are you finding are getting the best response in the last 12 months? YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok? What's your thoughts on that?
TM: Yeah, no, I'm fully drinking the Kool-Aid on TikTok like, there's just no second. Close. No close second to TikTok right now it's, and when I say that, let's say you have 100,000 followers on Instagram, and 100,000 followers on TikTok. Everything being equal. If you try to drive those people to Apple Music or to Spotify. It's 5x bigger coming from TikTok then it is from Instagram. So, you know, what are you going to? What are you going to pick and that data comes from some friends, some friends at major labels, then it's, that's, that's the numbers they're sharing with me. So it's five, it's 5x the return, you know, like if you can, so I'm going to I'm going to put my my money on TikTok, if I'm, if I'm a young developing, not young, I shouldn't use that word - any developing artists. I would, you know, I would get in the TikTok game. And one of my other friends today he just said to me something like, you know, it's a TikTok world and we're just renting a room in it or something like that. But it's, it really is becoming the juggernaut in the social media space. Hmm. Yeah, I agree. I agree. I've got two parts to it. Sorry to interrupt. But there's two parts like a lot of artists right now are probably going Ah, fuck TikTok…
NS: Another platform for me to have to create content for?
TM: Yeah, but there's, there's two, there's two ways to do TikTok, I'm sure there's more. But you can either be a content creator on TikTok, or you can just be an artist, just trying to get people to use your sounds on TikTok, like getting creators to use your music and their videos. Or you can do both. I think artists should try both. But yeah, so certain artists, if you don't feel like you're going to have a strong content strategy, and really put the time into investing, to creating content on TikTok, and tuning into TikTok daily, then the content route might not be good for you, you're not going to be competitive, you might want to take the other strategy with this, which is trying to focus on getting people to use your music in their videos. And there's, there's paid ways to do that. And there's organic ways to do that. But those are what you should be focusing on.
NS: When you say paid ways, do you mean, going to a platform that says we’ll connect you with creators who will say “I will use your music in the background of my creation” and do a shout out for you? Is that what you mean by that?
TM: Exactly what I mean by that, yeah, and they'll charge you X amount of dollars for that. But they can also really target your campaign. So like they if, let's say you're doing, you know, like talking about funny genres that are in, in Band Builder, I've got, you know, one artist that's playing like, music that people line dance to, you know, like, it's folk music that people line dance to it, and it's like, like this, like this one of these companies, these TikTok influencer, companies could say, okay, you know, we're gonna get you the biggest influencer in Europe that specializes in that type of line dancing, and you're gonna pay x, but you're gonna be guaranteed a million views. And those million views are going to translate to, you know, say 200,000, streams on Apple, and Spotify. So, you know, hopefully, the money that you pay, eventually will make enough money back in streaming, and exposure to pay for the campaign itself.
NS: And you've got all those new fans as well, hopefully, that again, grab your next single… Just on specifics of TikTok, when you if, in the example that you use there, and your music has been created, how are people jumping from the TikTok app to say, streaming the track on Spotify? Are they linking or they do have to go to the profile? And in the profile, there's a link to Spotify? Or as you know, if you've got a paid campaign on TikTok, is it that will directly link off to Spotify? Like what are the mechanics of it?
TM: It’s all of the above, you know, so that there's three or four different touch points where you can get them to, you know, go and one of those touch points just being a natural. “Oh, I like that song. I'm a heavy Apple user. I'm a heavy Spotify user, or I'm a YouTube user, and I'm gonna just I want to see it. I want to see more.” So it's uh yeah, I don't have any hard data on this by the way. I'm just yeah, this is just me talking about it, but yeah, like you're you're trying to optimize your TikTok video content. To do that, like you can have you know, on-screen call to actions where the influencer themselves or you're creating the video, you can say go listen on Spotify or Apple. You can have a text link, you know, text and your profile and on the video description. You can you know, part of these paid campaigns like if it's, you know, like an indie paid influencer campaign. That might be part of it, they're gonna find some creative way to get people off of TikTok and specifically on the Spotify or Apple. That's part of the deal that they'll do. So it's sort of you want to put a call to action in as many places as you can.
NS: I mean, I actually have to say, I think the searching thing is probably one of the most common I mean, I've done it I've, I've been, I've seen something on TikTok, and it's got that I'm like, what's it's on? It's really interesting. And it's just got the name cycling along the bottom, you know, as the wheel turns. And I've just like, just opened up Spotify, put them in search and gone “that's the one,” click, add to my playlist. So…
TM: I'm the same way. In fact, I like In fact, just because I'm curious about it. Now, when I see that little song title and artist name scrolling at the bottom, I'm in the habit of just going to Spotify. I want to see how many monthly listeners they have. So I'm trying to see the correlation between, you know, people discovering on TikTok, and I've never once seen like a video come up and checked the artist on Spotify and not seen like 100,000 monthly listeners or a million, is always huge, because I know, TikTok is driving loads and loads of traffic over to Spotify and Apple and YouTube.
NS: You know, TikTok kids. Although I'd say most of the kids are on TikTok. So yeah, we're coming to wrapping it up at the end. But the rear sync deals? Have you found ones that work? I know that a lot of people have been trying to get, you know, do that with COVID. Yeah, have you had any success stories for any of your artists?
TM: Yeah, so Artlist at the beginning of the pandemic. You know, Artlist was one that musicians were turning to where this is a service where YouTube creators, documentary creators, filmmakers, TV, people, they're all looking for relatively cheap music to license for their, to sync into their, their creations, their, their films. And Artlist is a company that charges I don't know, $150 a year or $250 a year, some fee, where you have access annually to a library of music that you can put in your videos, and it's pre-cleared. And that's a great model. Because, you know, it's not all music, it's just whoever wants to be in there, but you have to be accepted. And it's gotten really competitive. So I've been hearing a lot as we go on in the pandemic, a lot of artists knocking on the door of Artlist trying to get in. And there's several other companies like Artlist, they're just getting bombarded with musicians hitting them up looking to get in the library, but they're turning people away at a higher rate now, because it's becoming overwhelming, like, on Artlist, when they started, they were really successful, because you could, a YouTube creator could go on there and search a keyword like sad, dramatic score. And like, you know, 150 songs would come up, and they would come up in an order where you listen to them, and you quickly could find something. But now after two or three years of, of growing their library, like 6000, or 50,000 tracks come up, and it's overwhelming. And now they quit, they can't quickly find the songs that they want. So they're these services are kind of pushing more musicians out. But I wouldn't, that wouldn't, I wouldn't stop. I wouldn't stop you from trying if you if you have music, good music that that you think is sync friendly, like good for film scores and TV commercials. And a lot of its video game apps. Like, you know if you've ever seen these advertisements on your iPhone for, for, for apps, the music playing and those a lot of it's coming from Artlist and those type of services. So it's worth getting in there. And there's success stories in my Academy. There's one artist who is seeing tremendous growth on Apple and Spotify from it. And when he looks at the data, it's coming from, you know, definitely coming from those Artlist syncs and they were for video game apps in Korea and India in particular. You know, like those, they were his, his music was synced in those gaming apps. And it led to organic Spotify and Apple sales, and also just social media profile search, people were seeking him out and saying telling him, “Hey, I found you on this game or I found you on this commercial.”
NS: Interesting. Interesting.
TM: So that's for unsigned artists. I think that's a good way to go. If you don't have a publisher or a label pushing your music for sync, trying to get into one of those libraries is the way to go.
NS: That's good to know. Okay, I think that's a wrap. I guess the future, coming back to the Band Builder Academy, is there anything on the horizon? I know, just before the, just before we started, you mentioned, you're going to be starting a YouTube channel, which is going to be exciting, is it? What else have you lined up for the next 12 months?
TM: Yeah, I am gonna be starting that YouTube channel, probably in May or June. And that's going to be a lot of free content. But I also have, you know, member-only content inside the Academy that takes things to the next level, and gives them a lot more detail and higher level information. So there's that. And then, I just did, I just did a new lesson in there on trigger cities, which is becoming a thing in the Spotify algorithm, I'm going to be doing I just did another one on that sort of on royalty collection and breaking down like the difference between the royalties on say, 100 radio stream, or 100, radio plays, a million Spotify streams, and then like, you know, a sync on a TV commercial. And you can see, not just what those outlets pay, what the average sync outlet pays, but like, you know, where do you collect the royalties for this? Like, how specifically do you collect the performance royalty, the mechanical royalty, you know, the, the total publishing royalty and the total master royalty, so I'm walking people through how to do that.
TM: Yeah, so I'm getting into a lot of quick win content. And that's quick trainings where you can sort of in a day, consume a lesson, put those things into action to you know, drive your business forward.
NS: Likewise, quick wins, got, like my new little quick win, quick win tab inside the platform as well. Yeah, people want to see results. Awesome. Well, Todd, thank you so much. Like I have to say, you know, the, with the theme of what I'm really trying to do here is how artists and record labels market and sell music, I have to say it's definitely, for me being the most insightful, talking to you, covering those areas. I think we've really gone into a lot of detail. And there's been a lot of insight from you. So thank you so much. Yeah, until next time!
TM: It's been fun. It's been fun, and you know, best of luck with everything. And, you know, hope everybody took something away from this. And, you know, go learn all you can from Nick, he's got a lot of good information out there. So I encourage everybody to check out more of his stuff.
NS: Of course, and we didn't mention, of course if you do want to go to Band Builder Academy, it is just bandbuilderacademy.com. But there'll be a link in the in the show notes, as well. And of course link to download those, all that list of promotional material. So yeah, thanks again, Todd!
TM: Yeah, no problem. Take it easy, Nick!
NS: Take it easy.