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8 Do's and Don'ts Of Making Your First Video

So you’ve spent hours in the studio tracking your epic debut concept double album. Now what? If you’re thinking of making your first music video as the next step in your career, don’t get all flustered yet. You don’t have to be OK Go to make an awesome budget-friendly video but you do need some good ideas, a healthy amount of pre-planning, and some serious dedication. With that in mind, here are a few things to strive for and to avoid when shooting your first silver screen masterpiece.

Do: Stage a live performance

The live performance video is a classic for a reason. It’s simple, easy to set up, and doesn’t require your awkward bassist to pretend that he knows how to act. Perfect. Just remember to have adequate lighting “ even workman’s halogen lights will do “ and a tripod so that you can capture at least one full steady take of the band in addition to your cameraman’s love of zoom-in close-ups. Just remember to synchronize your playing with what’s actually happening in the song. You don’t want to look like this:

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DIY Public Relations: What You Need To Know

Three years ago I started a music blog covering local and national musicians, and aiming to showcase those with not only talent, but passion. Although at first the press releases came in slow and steady, they quickly became overwhelming. This is especially the case when you’re running a one or two person team, as many blogs are.

Though it might be easy to fall into the assumption that labels, magazines, blogs and radio stations are overstaffed and underworked, I’m here to tell you that for the most part, it isn’t true. Although it is true that most music industry professionals want to break the next big thing, they are often not only understaffed, but overworked, and sifting through hundreds of press releases a day can become not only tedious, but impossible.

That’s why making yours stand out is so important. It’s also why so many bands and companies hire PR professionals to handle their publicity. But for those on a budget (and really, who isn’t these days?) we’re here to help you craft your own PR campaign, with a few simple steps. Check them out after the jump. (more…)

Electropolis: Monthly Wrap-up – Arps, Dynamics & Phrasing, and Rough Mixin'…

Wow, it’s been an entire month since the first Electropolis post and now it’s time for January’s recap! As musicians ourselves, we’ve read and discovered many flaws associated with explaining complex digital music topics within a variety of publications. One of these flaws consist of fifteen to thirty second audio demonstrations that merely skim over the applicate of the topic throughout an entire song. If you’ve ever taken guitar lessons from one of those dudes at the music store, you can see how these very short demonstrations are quite similar to learning a snippet of Van Halen’s “Eruption”. You may learn the technique very well, but can you incorporate it into your own music? Therefore, we’ve discovered that the best way to inspire your musical evolution is by providing an original tune produced with all, and only, the topics discussed. Although seemingly complex, it’s possible to make a very original piece of music by combining a bunch of random ideas. Let’s hear the tune, then revisit and do a little review on what we’ve discussed.

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OurStage Makes It Easy To Sell Your Music Online

Facebook recently announced that they will be holding f8, a developers conference, on September 22nd. Rumors are circulating that the popular social-networking site is going to introduce some type of music dashboard to the user experience, although nothing has been confirmed. We can only guess what this development could possibly mean for music makers and music lovers using Facebook. Could it integrate music sales for artists on the site? We say, why wait to find out? Start selling your music now!

Here at OurStage, we’re all about doing everything we can to help get your music heard! When you create an OurStage profile and upload your music, you can choose to put it up for sale (to do this, head to “Account Preferences” in the “Edit Profile” section of your Dashboard and check off the box that says “Allow OurStage to sell my music”). This means that whenever another user is judging a channel or just exploring music on OurStage and they hear your song and LOVE it, they can purchase it right away! We make it easy and accessible”just click the “Buy” option (shown below).

 

You’ll be able to check up on how many songs you’ve sold whenever you like! When you log onto OurStage, scroll to the bottom of your Dashboard to the “Sales” section and the information is right there. Each individual song is sold for $.99 and artists will receive a percentage of the transaction. Our Premium Members can make even more money from their sales! To learn more about becoming a Premium Member on OurStage, check out this page.

 

Tune Up: Caring For Your Guitars

Many guitarists send their instruments in for repairs and setups, so we’re devoting this week’s Tune Up column to giving pointers on guitar care and offering suggestions for when to have them. . .wait for it. . .tuned up.

Storage and Environment

One of the biggest mistakes guitar owners make is where they store their guitars. If you’ve worked at a music store or spoken with any of the repair technicians, you know how many guitars (particularly solid wood acoustics), have come in with warped tops and separated bridges. This is an expensive fix (often several hundred dollars) because it requires the technician to completely remove the bridge, straighten out the warped top then reattach the bridge. So, in order to prevent this, make sure you store your guitar in its case whenever possible in a room within the ideal humidity range. While this range differs from instrument to instrument, most guitars should be fine within a level between 40 and 70%. Above or below this range can cause problems for the wood and result in warping.

If you live in a house or apartment where you don’t have any ideal room options as far as humidity management, there is an alternative. Many providers sell acoustic guitar humidifiers that you fill with water and place on the guitar (often right into the sound-hole opening). You can also use one designed for violins or cellos called a Dampit. When kept wet and inside the case with the guitar, the guitar is kept in a decently humid environment. Be sure to check the humidity charts often supplied with these accessories.

Intonation and Setups

For guitar owners, action, playability and intonation are common concerns. Many guitarists like low action (strings being pretty close to the neck) so that the instrument is easier to play. Others, however, prefer high action so they can play the guitar really hard without buzz (for more rock-oriented settings). While one can adjust the bend of the neck by twisting a hex nut at the end of the truss rod (often located at the base of the neck or where the head meets the neck), we recommend bringing the guitar into a repairman or music store to have them adjust the neck as part of a setup to eliminate the risk of damaging the guitar.

This brings us to the concept of setups and intonation. First of all, you may know that tuning a guitar’s strings will put the open notes in tune. But, if you fret higher up on the neck, you may notice that the string is out of tune. This is because the guitars overall intonation is off. This can be caused by a number of factors including the saddles on the bridge or grooves in the nut of the guitar. You can adjust this yourself, but it is difficult. Therefore, we recommend bringing your guitar to a service that does setups. Buy some new strings and know what type of action you want. Once given this information, the guitar tech will be able to return your guitar to you in great playing condition.

How often does a guitar need to be set up? This all depends on the amount of playing that is done and the manner in which is is done. A touring guitarist will probably need a setup on their guitar at least every few months (most guitar tech’s on tour know how to do quick truss rod adjustments and intonation checks). For the average guitarist, we’d recommend whenever you feel that one is needed. If the action isn’t to your liking, or you find a lot of intonation issues, then the guitar probably needs a setup.

At the end of the day, the most important thing about guitar care is longevity and playability. If there is cosmetic damage, don’t worry (unless you’re a collector). Keeping it in tune, intonated and safe are priorities. Storing guitars at the right humidity level and getting them set up appropriately will give you a guitar that lasts as long as you need it.

New Music Biz 101: Band Management

There is a certain point in an artist’s musical career when everything begins to pile up and slowly becomes overwhelming. Whether its juggling tour schedules, handling band finances, communicating with band members and fans or working on the next release, it’s tough to stay on top of everything in an organized manner. Luckily help is on the way.

There are resources out there for musicians and managers alike to get organized and become more efficient. BandCentral is one of these resources, and a very good one at that. It’s a intuitive and sleekly-designed online platform where you can organize everything about your band. The site has loads of very cool features, including:

Communication “ A single online “basecamp” to track all your internal communication between you and your team.

Band Calendar “ A simple calendar that allows you to keep track of gigs and everything else you need to stay on top of.

Files “ Upload and store your music, artwork and videos to the site to be able to access them anywhere.

Band Money “ Get detailed information on all your revenue and expenses.

Social Network Syncing “ Sync and send status updates through BandCentral on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

Tasks “ Keep track of all of your to-dos from anywhere in the world.

BandCentral’s pricing is pretty reasonable, only 92 dollars per year. Their trial version last for a month as well, so you can really get a good sense of the product before you commit.

You’ll know when its time to get involved with a service like BandCentral. When your career takes off and you need extra help with organization, this is a nice place to turn.

New Music Biz 101: Online Music Creation

In this blog series, we’ve focused a lot on marketing your music to the masses. This particular post will delve into the music creation process. Of course, because we’re on the topic of the new music industry we’ll be taking a slightly different approach. Indaba music is a web-based company that allows musicians to come together to collaboratively record, edit and mix tracks online.

Indaba recently underwent some exciting changes, launching a major update to the site. Notable changes include an upgraded interface along with new music sales features which let you sell on iTunes and directly to fans while keeping 100% of the revenue. You can also easily share royalties with your collaborators. In addition, Indaba upgraded their media management allowing you to increase your storage to 50gbs and control your account from one place.

What does it cost to participate? Believe it or not it’s free! Of course, there are premium accounts which give you additional functionality. Their pro version is $50 dollars per year, and their platinum version is $250 per year. For those just interested in making music and having fun with this platform, there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference between the two accounts.  However, the paid accounts do let you use their premium effects and audio clips. The premium accounts seem to focus on the distribution process of the new music you create on the site with an online store and iTunes distribution.

Overall the idea is really great, and it truly does let you collaborate in ways previously impossible. Check out the site and let us know what you think. If you’ve created any tracks using the site, we’d love to hear them!

Behind the Mic: Fan Funding

Being a musician is an expensive occupation. From gas money to rental fees to gear purchases, the costs constantly seem to be racking up, and there never seems to be enough money coming in to offset the expenses.

In the past, you’d probably have to land a bunch of paying gigs (and we all know how rare those are) or sell all your merch just to pay for studio time or tour expenses. Now, you can ask your fans to help you fund your next musical endeavor.

Justin Branam's iPhone Sessions

Sites like Kickstarter.com and SellABand.com allow fans to donate money to their favorite artists and help them fund their next tour, album release or merch order. In return, the artist provides exclusive rewards, which become better as the donation amount increases. For example, a fan who donates $20 to an artist may receive an autographed copy of the finished album, but a fan who donates $1000 may get a private concert at their home.

OurStage artist Justin Branam, who was hailed as an “artist to look out for” by AOL Music, used Kickstarter to finance the making of his new album. His goal was to raise $3000, but with the help of seventy-one fans, he was able to surpass his goal by $275.

In addition to the fundraising itself,  Branam also used technology to create a unique donation incentive: an EP called iPhone Sessions. As you might have guessed, the EP was recorded entirely on Branam’s iPhone, but the album art and promo videos were created on it, as well.

One of seventeen incentives offered for donations to Justin Branam's Kickstarter project.

Branam’s campaign lasted one month and offered fans some incredible incentives, such as having their name in the new album’s liner notes, a record from Branam’s collection or a one-on-one webcam chat with him. Fans who donated money got the prize at that level and also all of the prizes for lower donation amounts (fans could earn all seventeen rewards, plus Branam’s original demo CD from when he was sixteen-years-old, for a donation of $5,000).

Fan funding is the future, and has proven to be successful for many artists like Justin Branam. Not only does it engage fans, but it is a great way to directly reward their support and generosity. Hard work on both sides will pay off,  making the relationship between fan and artist even stronger.

Check out “Dial Tone” from Justin Branam’s iPhone Sessions!

New Music Biz 101: Digital Distribution

Shifts in the music industry have leveled the playing field for independent artists in many ways. One such way is musical distribution. Because we live in a digital age, distribution is taking place in high volumes online. There are a numerous solutions to distributing your music digitally, and we’re going to give an overview of a few of these options.

Tunecore

This company is a massive aggregator of distribution platforms. The idea is that they are a one-stop shop for getting your music on iTunes, Amazon MP3, emusic, etc. Their Web site is easy to maneuver and understand. In addition, their pricing is reasonable considering the number of platforms you’re able to get your music on. At $9.99 per single, and $47.99 per album, it’s a no brainer for a new release.

SoundCloud

If you’ve ever wanted to find an easy way to get your music around the web quickly and easily, SoundCloud is your solution. This platform allows you to promptly send and receive music tracks which is great for collaborating on different mixes or mastered versions of your work with your band mates. Additionally, the company offers artsy widgets that look good on most Web sites. The service starts off free at the base level and ramps up to different price points as you add in additional functionality and trackability.

Fair Share Music

Fair Share Music is a very cool idea for any artist trying to make a difference in the world. The platform is designed around donating a share of the tracks sold on the Web site to a charity of the buyers choice (within their database). Although still in beta, the website offers over 8.5 million tracks to download. They donate 50% of their profits to the selected charity!

With all these cool ways to distribute your music for cheap, there’s no reason not to share your music with the world! As always we’d love to hear about your methods of digital distribution.

Behind the Mic: Beyond Basic Band Merch

No matter whose merch table you visit, chances are you will find t-shirts and CDs on display. They are both great promotional items and relatively inexpensive to mass produce. But music is a business, after all, and at the end of the day, your band is your brand. And, like a brand name, your band should do everything possible to stand out from the crowd. This means coming up with some slick designs and merch ideas. Here are some beyond-basic products that fans are lining up to grab.

Lady Gaga's iPhone skin from DingLife.com.

Show some skin. Many people spend all day on their laptop. They use their iPod when they leave the house and spend a lot of time texting and making phone calls. How great would it be if your band could be promoted every time someone uses these three devices? Artists such as Fall Out Boy, Lady Gaga and No Doubt use Web sites like DingLife.com to sell band-customized “skins”- protective vinyl stickers that cover the entire back of a device. Your band can sell through these sites too, so design an awesome skin and start sticking!

Nevershoutnever gets crafty with their merch plans.

Toys, toys, toys: Toys are not just for kids. In fact, they are making a huge comeback in beyond-basic band merch. From U2‘s Lego set to Cinematic Sunrise‘s coloring book lyric booklet, toys are both fan must-haves and cool collector items. Arts and crafts merch is becoming popular too, thanks to performers like OurStage artist NeverShoutNever, who sells a make-your-own-bracelet kit, and Kanye West, who had paper dolls of his album logo. Some more great ideas include Frisbees, coloring books and stuffed animals (wearing your band’s t-shirt, of course).

VersaEmerge's limited edition laminate.

Badge of honor: The laminated tour pass is a triple threat. These limited-edition badges make fans feel as though they’re VIPs at your show. They also make great souvenirs that trump any collection of crumpled up concert tickets. The greatest part of the tour pass though, is that it can act as a real pass for fans, like a pass for an exclusive performance or a discount card for any purchase. VersaEmerge used this idea as a pre-order option for their latest album, Fixed at Zero. Fans could purchase the laminate, which had a download code on the back, and also use it to cut the line at the band’s merch table and signings at Bamboozle and Warped Tour. The possibilities for the tour pass are endless, so get creative with the design and make sure your fans feel like stars, too.

Merch is all about making your fans feel like they’re part of a community. The more creative and limited your merch is, the hotter an item it will be. Let us know what great ideas you come up with!