BECO Music Group LLC
The purpose of this document is to present the core elements and requirements of a Business plan, it is the writers intent to submit the content as perspective on paper, verses a road map to success.
BECO LLC. A “start up” business? There are certain elements, which are core to the formation and subsequent success of the business, (or in this case the band) Standard business practices such as, a clear vision, sharing your vision through your story and building a team for sustainability. Do apply, however, given the writers relative inexperience within the music industry much of the noted content is from, published documents, discussions with industry insiders, and a “gut feel” as a music fan.
The key focal points of the document are as follows:
- Graphics and branding strategy
- Distribution strategy
- Fan base development
- Performance projection and audience
- Local market review
- Finding the white space/ Niche
The balance of the document will include recommendations and additional key elements, to the development of the business plan as a document, and subsequent execution of said plan.
“ A goal without a plan, Is just a wish ”
Graphics | branding strategy.
The BECO brand should be the singular idea or concept, which as a band it owns inside the minds of our target audience:
- It should reflect the unique message within the music.
- It should define a singular, memorable concept that they stand for.
- It should communicate a compelling story to the target audience.
- It should improve the reach, frequency, and impact of the key message through consistent use at every opportunity.
Creating an institutional brand involves much more than the consistent use of logos and word marks.
It builds stakeholder consensus around a unique “Positioning Platform” that articulates what the music/band is, and what it stands for.
Strong positioning creates a unique BECO personality, attitude,
And identity that gives the target audiences “permission to believe.”
BECO is an intentionally positive acoustic rock group with traditional values; we seek the opportunity to passionately pass on joy, hope, and love, at each performance. While challenging our audience to think about Family, relationships, and life in terms of, being a part of creation.
Presenting a different approach to life (for instance)
Strategic tag line…………. “CHANGE THE WAY WE SING” “3 BUNK BED” 3RD WORLD BUILT MY MIND” ETC. JOURNEY LINE, Passion, change, help, contribute.
Once developed The strategic tagline, and the accompanying logo line
(Or Journey Line) should be incorporated as integral parts of the BECO
Signature for use in all communications of the core brand. Except official document and certain legal communications where a tagline would appear inappropriate.
Branding campaign executions
The executions of the BECO brand through a coordinated “family of
Communications ” should convey the brand promise and key messages to
Establish a clear and consistent market position.
The publications of the BECO brand should also convey a distinct and vibrant band personality.
The family of publications can consist of; Facebook, Twitter, album covers, web site, posters, flyers, T-shirts, and coordinated marketing materials for show attendance advancement. The following elements should link the passion, change, help, and contribute (for instance) with the brand promise of BECO.
These BECO brand designs will build in strength and brand equity over time.
Voice and copy
- Messages should convey high-quality music and audience experience with
A strong sense of the BECO fan base community.
- Copy should reinforce the quality of the BECO experience for individuals
It should convey the power and positive nature of personal transformation possible with BECO music.
- Copy should be delivered in short sentences and paragraphs, using
Frequent descriptive headers, bullets, callouts, lists, and tables whenever appropriate to help convey information quickly and effectively.
- Content should engage and involve readers using concise, conversational
Copy that speaks directly to the reader in the second person whenever
Appropriate. Language should be informal, forceful, and accessible however, it should avoid being hackneyed or trendy.
- A short, boilerplate description of BECO, including standard language
Regarding the brand promise, should be used in all collateral materials
Including the website, publications, and media releases.
The boilerplate description should also be distributed to local, state, and regional venues and news outlets and agencies, in summary, to anyone BECO is currently or is planning on doing business with in the short to mid term.
- Designs should grab and hold attention; where possible it should carry the imagery to stay consistent with the strategic tagline.
- Calling out some element of the journey line can enhance the theme of the marketing materials
- Photos of fans should be closely cropped to create intimacy and warmth
- Images should reinforce the sense of community experienced at a BECO show.
BECO brand photography should consist of visually compelling images of fans
And, the band at shows with a distinctive energetic style.
Photography should strive to embody the life-changing nature of the music through
the use of unusual and thought-provoking camera angles, emotional connection between subject and viewer, and striking visual perspectives.
Images should capture all aspects of the bands life, including social, residential, introspective moments.
Images that focus on the music should feature one-to-one or one-to-small-group interaction between the band and the audience. Both inside and outside the venues.
Shots should be tight and focus on band members with one to four fans.
Alternately, audience shots can feature interaction among themselves while are dancing, listening, or in introspective moments.
Images should also reinforce the supportive, close knit, and rewarding experience at a BECO show by depicting close-knit interactions among the audience and the band.
Shots should be visually compelling and most often capture two or more audience members engaged in an activity.
It is essential that each primary image evoke an emotional response in the viewer.
Architecture and venue images that do not show emotion or evoke emotion in the viewer should be used sparingly.
The consistency with which BECO applies its brand image as well as show and fan imagery to all marketing and promotional materials portals and press related materials, will determine the recognition of the brand.
The brand promise will need to be reiterated with every interaction the band as a unit, and as individuals has with fans, audience members, venue owners managers, booking agents, reporters, and the general public.
In addition to the interactions on a day to day or gig to gig basis, nothing is as POWERFUL A VEHICLE for positioning the brand as a live on stage performance wherein the band has the power to project its image and brand promise with the un-divided attention of its audience.
- A brand is a promise
- Customer/audience experience is delivery of the brand promise
- Promises create expectations
- Always ensure that you can live up to your promises and meet
- Under promising and over delivering is the more effective method of creating close and committed relationships, Never-ever overpromise and under-deliver
Unfulfilled expectations lead to disappointment, disappointment causes loss (of business, loyalty, brand equity, trust and future business)
At some point a distribution strategy became the business of selling CDs in plastic cases, and that business will soon be over. But that’s not bad news for music, and it’s certainly not bad news for musicians. Indeed, with all the ways to reach an audience, there have never been more opportunities for artists.
Some see this picture as a dire trend. The fact that Radiohead debuted its latest album online and Madonna defected from Warner Bros. to Live Nation, a concert promoter, is held to signal the end of the music business, as we know it. Actually, these are just two examples of how musicians are increasingly able to work outside of the traditional label relationship. There is no one single way of doing business these days. There are, in fact, six viable models by my count. That variety is good for artists; it gives them more ways to get paid and make a living. And it’s good for audiences, too, which will have more — and more interesting — music to listen to. Let’s step back and get some perspective.
We’ll always want to use music as part of our social fabric: to congregate at concerts and in bars, even if the sound sucks; to pass music from hand to hand (or via the Internet) as a form of social currency; to build temples where only “our kind of people” can hear music (opera houses and symphony halls); to want to know more about our favorite bands — their love lives, their clothes, their political beliefs. This betrays an eternal urge to have a larger context beyond a piece of plastic. One might say this urge is part of our genetic makeup.
What do record companies do?
Or, more precisely, what did they do?
- Fund recording sessions
- Manufacture product
- Distribute product
- Market product
- Loan and advance money for expenses (tours, videos, hair and makeup)
- Advise and guide artists on their careers and recordings
- Handle the accounting
This was the system that evolved over the past century to market the product, which is to say the container — vinyl, tape, or disc — that carried the music. (Calling the product music is like selling a shopping cart and calling it groceries.) But many things have changed in the past decade that reduced the value of these services to artists.
Recording costs have declined to almost zero. Artists used to need the labels to bankroll their recordings. Most simply didn’t have the $15,000 (minimum) necessary to rent a professional studio and pay an engineer and a producer. For many artists — maybe even most — this is no longer the case. Now an album can be made on the same laptop you use to check email.
Manufacturing and distribution costs are approaching zero. There used to be a break-even point below which it was impractical to distribute a recording. With LPs and CDs, there were base manufacturing costs, printing costs, shipping, and so on. It paid — in fact, it was essential — to sell in volume, because that’s how many of those costs got amortized. No more: Digital distribution is pretty much free. It’s no cheaper per unit to distribute a million copies than a hundred.
Touring is not just promotion. Live performances used to be seen as essentially a way to publicize a new release — a means to an end, not an end in itself. Bands would go into debt in order to tour, anticipating that they’d recover their losses later through increased record sales. This, to be blunt, is all wrong. It’s backward. Performing is a thing in itself, a distinct skill, different from making recordings. And for those who can do it, it’s a way to make a living.
So with all these changes, what happens to the labels? Some will survive. Nonesuch has thrived under Warner Music Group ownership by operating with a lean staff of 12 and staying focused on talent. “Artists like Wilco, Philip Glass, k.d. Lang, and others have sold more here than when they were at so-called major labels,” Bob Hurwitz, president of Nonesuch, says “even during a time of decline.”
The six possibilities
Where there was one, now there are six: Six possible music distribution models, ranging from one in which the artist is pretty much hands-off to one where the artist does nearly everything. Not surprisingly, the more involved the artist is, the more he or she can often make per unit sold. The totally DIY model is certainly not for everyone — but that’s the point. Now there’s choice.
- At one end of the scale is the 360, or equity, deal, where producers, promoters, marketing people, and managers handle every aspect of the artist’s career. The idea is that you can achieve wide saturation and sales, boosted by a hardworking machine that stands to benefit from everything you do. The artist becomes a brand, owned and operated by the label, and in theory this gives the company a long-term perspective and interest in nurturing that artist’s career.
Pussycat Dolls, Korn, and Robbie Williams have made arrangements like this, selling equity in everything they touch. The T-shirts, the records, the concerts, the videos, the BBQ sauce. The artist often gets a lot of money up front. But I doubt that creative decisions will be left in the artist’s hands. As a general rule, as the cash comes in, creative control goes out. The equity partner simply has too much at stake.
This is the kind of deal Madonna just made with Live Nation. For a reported $120 million, the company — which until now has mainly produced and promoted concerts — will get a piece of both her concert revenue and her music sales. I, for one, would not want to be beholden to Live Nation — a spinoff of Clear Channel, the radio conglomerate that turned the US airwaves into pabulum. But Madge is a smart cookie; she’s always been adept at controlling her own stuff, so we’ll see.
- Next is what I’ll call the standard distribution deal. This is more or less what musicians lived with for many years. The record company bankrolls the recording and handles the manufacturing, distribution, press, and promotion. The artist gets a royalty percentage after all those other costs are repaid. The label, in this scenario, owns the copyright to the recording. Forever.
There’s another catch with this kind of arrangement: The typical pop star often lives in debt to their record company and a host of other entities, and if they hit a dry spell they can go broke. Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, TLC — the danger of debt and overextension is an old story.
Obviously, the cost of these services, along with the record company’s overhead, accounts for a big part of CD prices. The buyer is paying for all those trucks, those CD plants, those warehouses, and all that plastic. Theoretically, as many of these costs go away, they should no longer be charged to the consumer — or the artist.
Sure, many of the services traditionally provided by record labels under the standard deal are now being farmed out. Press and publicity, digital marketing, graphic design — all are often handled by smaller, independent firms. But he who pays the piper calls the tune. If the record company pays the subcontractors, then the record company ultimately decides who or what has priority. If they “don’t hear a single,” they can tell you your record isn’t coming out.
So what happens when online sales eliminate many of these expenses? Look at iTunes: $10 for a “CD” download reflects the cost savings of digital distribution, which seems fair — at first. It’s certainly better for consumers. But after Apple takes its 30 percent, the royalty percentage is applied and the artist — surprise! — Is no better off.
Not coincidentally, the issues here are similar to those in the recent Hollywood writers’ strike. Will recording artists band together and go on strike?
- The license dealis similar to the standard deal, except in this case the artist retains the copyrights and ownership of the master recording. The right to exploit that property is granted to a label for a limited period of time — usually seven years. After that, the rights to license to TV shows, commercials, and the like revert to the artist. If the members of the Talking Heads held the master rights to the catalog today, they’d earn twice as much in licensing as they do now — and that’s where artists derive much of their income. If a band has made a record itself and doesn’t need creative or financial help, this model is worth looking at. It allows for a little more creative freedom, since you get less interference from the guys in the big suits. The flip side is that because the label doesn’t own the master, it may invest less in making the release a success. But with the right label, the license deal can be a great way to go. This is the relationship Arcade Fire has with Merge Records, an indie label that’s done great for its band by avoiding the big-spending, big-label approach. “Part of it is just being realistic and not putting yourself in the hole,” Merge cofounder Mac McCaughan says. “The bands we work with, we never recommend that they make videos. I like videos, but they don’t sell a lot of records. What really sells records is touring — and artists can actually make money on the tour itself if they keep their budgets down.”
- Then there’s the profit-sharingdeal. The artist receives a minimal advance from the label, Thrill Jockey, for example the advance is applied towards studio production and physical production of the product along with marketing, press and sales costs. Profits are shared from day one. And the artist retains the ownership of the master.
- In the manufacturing and distribution deal, the artist does everything except, well, manufacture and distribute the product. Often the companies that do these kinds of deals also offer other services, like marketing. But given the numbers, they don’t stand to make as much, so their incentive here is limited. Big record labels traditionally don’t make M&D deals. In this scenario, the artist gets absolute creative control, but it’s a bigger gamble. Aimee Mann does this, and it works really well for her. “A lot of artists don’t realize how much more money they could make by retaining ownership and licensing directly,” Mann’s manager, Michael Hausman, told me. “If it’s done properly, you get paid quickly, and you get paid again and again. That’s a great source of income.”
- Finally, at the far end of the scale, is the self-distribution model, where the music is self-produced, self-written, self-played, and self-marketed. CDs are sold at gigs and through a Web site. Promotion is a MySpace page. The band buys or leases a server to handle download sales. Within the limits of what they can afford, the artists have complete creative control. In practice, especially for emerging artists, that can mean freedom without resources — a pretty abstract sort of independence. For those who plan to take their material on the road and play it live, the financial constraints cut even deeper. Backup orchestras, massive video screens and sets, and weird high tech lights don’t come cheap.
Radiohead adopted this DIY model to sell In Rainbows online — and then went a step further by letting fans name their own price for the download. They weren’t the first to do this — Issa (formerly known as Jane Siberry) pioneered the pay-what-you-will model a few years ago — but Radiohead’s move was much higher profile. It may be less risky for them, but it’s a clear sign of real changes afoot. As one of Radiohead’s managers, Bryce Edge, told me, “The industry reacted like the end was nigh. They’ve devalued music, giving it away for nothing.’ Which wasn’t true: We asked people to value it, which is very different semantics to me.”
At this end of the spectrum, the artist stands to receive the largest percentage of income from sales per unit — sales of anything. A larger percentage of fewer sales, most likely, but not always. Artists doing it for themselves can actually make more money than the massive pop star, even though the sales numbers may seem minuscule by comparison. Of course, not everyone is as smart as those nerdy Radiohead boys. Pete Doherty probably should not be handed the steering wheel.
While none of these models are absolute it strikes me as though the attending a live show at a venue will not be replaced any time soon, therefore any distribution strategy that BECO develops should certainly include sales of music at the various venues at which they gig, the key will be in consistently having the music available for those in attendance. A hybrid of Model 6 is probably the most cost efficient and scalable model for the position in which the band is currently. An exploratory project into the leasing of a server for customer download from web site purposes should be initiated. While the enhancements to selling the physical product should be implemented immediately.
The “merch” table basics
Catch the Eye
The very first thing when putting together your merch booth is to make it attractive to the eye. Make it look like an obvious merch booth.
Throwing t-shirts on the table doesn’t cut it.
Have a stand of some sort that can be set up on a table. With this stand, you can display all your merchandise clearly for the room to see.
A stand on a table elevates the merch above people’s heads, allowing people to see that you have a merch booth from across the room.
Your merch stand should be clearly visible; otherwise your sales will be clearly invisible.
You want to make sure that your merch booth is in a location that people easily walk by it. This can be difficult at smaller clubs.
Avoid being in the darkest most distant corner in the club.
You want people to stop at your merch booth on a whim.
If you can, make sure your merch booth is located in the spot where people will have to pass it in order to leave the club. As people are leaving the club, that is when they will make a purchase.
Light Without light, it is very difficult to see your merch booth in a dark club. Consider adding lighting to your merch booth.
With your own merch table, you can control where your merch stand is going to be set up. You can pick the most ideal location without relying on the club to provide you that location.
From Cheap to Expensive For your merch, make sure you have items that range from $1 to $100. The dollar items give the casual fan a memento, while the $100 item gives the “Sarleys” of the world one more BECO item to collect.
Something for free/establish a pay what you want for an item at every show
Incorporate a tip jar
Email sign up sheet
Arrange items for easy access
Always have someone in attendance of the stand
Always have it be the 1st thing set up, and the last thing taken down
A call to action from stage, sales increase by 45% as per live nation study
Accept credit cards
Additional merchandise sales, should be offered in the website as part of the customer/visitor experience as you point your audience to the web site they will become customers, additionally this is an opportunity to announce shows and spread the brand promise.
Fan base development
As I see it fan base development is not made through videos or CD sales as most consumers today expect free music and videos have to a certain extent replaced live performances.
“ AC/DC started out in a little club called Max’s Kansas City then they worked their way up to the Fillmore then the Forum and then the stadiums. They built a fan base, but so many of these artists just became these video stars and you could see them on video. The only way you could see AC/DC, before videos, was to wait until they went on tour” Bud Prager.
The following outline of steps is from the artist forum on fan base development.
- Get your act straight. Right people, right look, right sound and BRILLIANT material. Not ‘good enough’ – brilliant is what is required.
- Buy a domain name for your band’s website (we use Namecheap– it is!), and then buy hosting for it. Use Hostgator. I know you have loads of choices, but trust me, this works really well and I have never had a problem.
- Build a website – Use WordPress, hosted on your own domain (that’s downloaded from wordpress.org nothosted at wordpress.com). Personally I always use Thesisas the theme for the site for a host of reasons that I won’t go into here. It is awesome. If you think you can’t build a site in WordPress and/or Thesis, you will be able to. Honestly – there are loads of videos on YouTube to talk you through it and if you get stuck, find someone at your school, college or even on Elance to do it for you.
- Build a list of fans using serious email software. You can use Fanbridge– it works fine – but if you are really serious, there is only one choice – Aweber. It will do more than any competing mailing list software and it will last you your whole career.
- Give people something really valuable in return for joining your mailing list. Sure, give them mp3′s of a few tracks. But, you can do so much more. Give them a whole album and ask them to get their friends to come and sign up for it.
I love Pretty Lights and what he does – 3 albums, 2 EP’s and some live material. All FOR FREE. How does he make a living? He sells merch and has a massive live following. If he hadn’t given this music away he would not have gotten anywhere. The free music gave him the momentum. Now he makes more money from his music career than if he had signed to a major – by a factor of 20 or more. Plus he gets to be a true artist and do exactly what he wants, when he wants with his art.
- Put the sign-up box for the free stuff on the top right of every page of your site – what designers call ‘above-the fold’. Why? Because it works. Also – have a dedicated ‘squeeze page’ on the site or even on another domain that you can send people to. He doesn’t do this, but Pretty Lights could have a squeeze page at freeprettylights.com. It’s easy to remember and you just put a single page site there with just a small pitch and a sign up box for your Aweberlist.
- Build a quality profile (and interact – don’t ignore any of them) at MySpace (yep, still – it is themusic directory and you need to be there), Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. This is the minimum – there are others that you might wish to add.
- Shoot LOADS of video of your band. Writing, rehearsing, gigging, in the van – goofing off. It doesn’t matter. Send emails to your list at least once a week telling them to check out something that you have posted somewhere online. DO NOT just email them the week of a show asking them to come. Be in regular content. Put those videos on your YouTube channel and all over the place.
- Post on Twitter and Facebook all the time. Not inane stuff but things that your fans will want to know.
- Develop a healthy interest in music blogs. Find ones that might support you and start to build rapport with the bloggers. This is a key way to spread your name when you have material being released. Chris Bracco has the best guide to this currently available – which is free.
- Don’t neglect the art! Keep writing. Write much more than you record and rehearse as much as you write. Recording is important and you need tracks to give away, but it is having great material that is going to make your fans talk about you to their friends and build that fan base. Writing is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing.
- Play live. Anywhere for anyone. Not to the extent that your fans can’t keep up. But spread wider, cross genres, make new fans. Obviously, collect every name and email address that you can at gigs. Go to other band’s gigs – hand out cards with your site address on them at those gigs. Hang out, meet other bands and meet their manager, agent, sound guy…. whatever.
- Be tired. No, really. If you’re working a full time job and you’re doing enough to succeed, you are going to be exhausted. The people who can keep going when they are exhausted will win.
In order to become a fan, me as a consumer would expect, quality material, no bullshit, unreal live shows in terms of visual and audio experience, and true talent.
The connection with a band is developed as I look to the music itself and what the band is all about. Thus the messaging from the band needs to be consistent as I am a sporadic consumer, meaning I listen to many types of music, but I am a fan of few bands.
Performance projection and audience
With SXSW now underway in Austin, we turn our attention to the skills required when playing a showcase.
Unlike a your own shows, showcases pack many artists onto a bill to play to a crowd of people who very unlikely know any of your music. So, there is an art to the live showcase experience and we wanted to take the time to outline some helpful ways to make the most of your next showcase:
1. Register shows w/ PRO
So many bands and solo artists overlook the fact that it is possible to get paid performance royalties for live shows. In order to do so, you need to first be affiliated with a PRO, and then you need to get set up with their live performance royalties programs. Last week, we published our guide to getting paid royalties from live performance.
2. Analyze the audience
Show up to the event early and get a feel for the audience. See what style songs seem to be working well, which seem to leave the audience cold, and then tweak your set list and approach to match the audience in order to see the best results.
3. Engage with the audience
Unlike your own shows, it is likely that the majority of the audience will be unfamiliar with you and/ or your music. In order to make the most of the situation, try reaching out to the audience in order to break the ice. This may help these new listeners to let their guard down and give your songs the chance they deserve.
4. Be flexible
No one likes dealing with a diva. When dealing with a showcase, you are only one of many artists/ bands to perform, so it is imperative that you be flexible. If you’re time is cut a bit short, the sound isn’t perfect, your amp has to be moved, or any other similar, and (quite honestly common) scenario, being flexible will help you to garner far better results from the experience.
5. Work the crowd
Whether you’d like to think of a showcase as a competition or not, the fact remains that you are competition with all of the other acts for the attention and affection of the crowd. The only way to truly come out a winner here is to work the crowd and the stage and to give the audience an experience they won’t forget.
6. End with a bang
Understanding the science of a set list is very important, and even more important is understanding the simple idea of going out on a high note. The best move you can make is to save your absolute best, most audience attention-catching song for the set finale, as it will not only ensure that you are remembered long after the set is over, but it will leave the audience wanting more!
7. Take chances!
While it may seem best to play it safe with your performance, the bands that are the most likely to find success from taking part is a showcase are the ones that go above and beyond and take some risks. Although they don’t always pay off, it is more likely that the risk will lead to something special than it is for your ‘safe’ performance to lead to anything at all.
8. Play a cover song
If you really want to stick in the minds of these potential new fans, give a well-known song your own spin to perform a cover version. The more iconic the better! A word of caution: avoid karaoke versions and really find something new to bring to an old song. Slow it down, rock it up – whatever!
9. Announce your band’s and each song’s name
By announcing your name and the name of each song that you perform, you are increase the chances that these potential new fans will look you up online after the show!
From CATCH 22 PRODUCTIONS.
Stage Presence Tips
If you’ve ever been to a gig where there’s a bar and the artists are unsigned, chances are you’ve witnessed at least one artist being completely ignored by the audience. And then there are gigs with people who seem to do barely anything, but appear so at ease that everyone’s hooked from start to finish.
What does the second band have that the first one did not? Stage presence.
The way the band looks on stage plays a huge part in capturing the attention of the audience. The visual image you project matters. The eyes, as well as the ears, need to be satisfied if an audience member is to become a fan. You can see this at work with every successful musical act. The way the group looks and acts on stage affects the way you experience the music. The greatest artists capture your attention through their sheer power as performers.
This section gives you a few suggestions on how to get your live experience right, including:
- Tricks to make you feel better
- Dealing with nerves
- Going wrong
- Communicating with the audience
- Moving on stage
- What to do if you are ignored
- Plus much more!
You might think these rules only apply to a certain member of the band such as the lead singer, but they apply to everybody. Below are some tips to get started on your stage presence.
The first is easy.
Smile: Unless your band isn’t supposed to. People want to have a good time, and they want to see you having a good time too.
Introduce yourself: Tell people who you are – make sure you introduce yourself, if not right at the beginning of your set, then one or two (dramatic) songs in.
A friendly face: Make sure you have a friend at the front of the stage. Then you can focus on them whenever you want, someone who will smile back, and encourage you, giving you your confidence back.
Water: Water is incredibly important. A dry voice crackles and breaks. And a dehydrated body performs poorly. Make sure every band member has at least one bottle of room temperature water. Cold water restricts your vocal chords.
Dress the part: Don’t do led zeppelin in a cowboy hat, and don’t do blues in a Kiss costume. And definitely don’t look like you just woke up or just left your day job. Audiences want cool, or glamour, or whatever your style of music calls for. It’s part of the fantasy. As far as the audience is concerned, this is what you do. Look as if you’ve always been on stage, and look like you love what you do. Perhaps you can develop your own unique look and style of performing.
The most important thing here is just to HAVE an attitude, some kind of attitude. Nothing is more boring when watching a band than to see musicians standing up there doing… nothing. To continue your image building, your attitude should match the style of your music. (Folk Singers are usually “polite”, hard rockers “rowdy”, Goth bands “serious”, etc., but like all rules, this one can be broken.)
Do ANYTHING except stand there staring at the floor. Move around, dance, mosh, jump, whatever.
Lighting & staging: Another visual addition to add interest to the show and draw in the listeners. You can use creative lighting effects, props, ramps, platforms, banners, etc. to make your show more appealing to the eye. You would be surprised how the right lighting effects can make any band look like rock stars.
Acknowledges the audience: You need to let them know that you know they exist. Audience participation is a great way to do this. Play short games and contests with them. Screaming contests, dance contests and sing alongs are all great ways to get the audience involved. Try asking a few audience members up front what their names are and dedicate a song to them.
Look at the audience, not at your instrument. It’s way friendlier to the folks who came out to see you. Look at the other musicians once in a while. Make eye contact with your band mates and especially the audience. If you look out over a crowd, it seems as if you’re looking right at them, and you’ll appear as if you’re involving the whole crowd.
Mingling: Getting out to talk and mix with the people of your audiences can win them over before you even take the stage. Now that they’ve met you, they may end up staying longer at your performance than they had planned on. Have a schedule of your upcoming performances you can hand out, or a website address so they can check your playing schedule out online. The better your social skills, the easier time you’ll have.
Start conversations with customers and make them feel good about being there to see you. Don’t ignore people when they want to approach you. Leave your ego at home. We all hate that. And you never know who knows whom and who’s telling on you the next day. Also good to remember is that if you approach people in your audience, you don’t know if they know music or not, you don’t know whether they are constant concert go-ers, you don’t know nothing’. Treating them like ignorant boobs because they don’t have a guitar in their hands is going to lose you some audience and a lot of respect. They may know the club owners and patrons at other clubs and will most certainly babble if you act like a jerk. It only takes one person to get the whole crowd cheering or booing.
Have a lot of fun on stage: Even if you aren’t having fun, try to make it look like you are. The audience is watching you. If you aren’t having a great time, neither will they. Run around, dance, jump, sing to audience members, point at them, get off the stage and run around, whatever! Don’t make it look like you feel obligated to be there.
Keep the list a mystery: Don’t let the audience know what’s on your set list! Keep them in suspense, waiting for that special song. They might otherwise wander off and do something else, or stand in the back talking. You want their full attention.
Inside jokes: This is a big no-no on stage. Refrain from them at all costs! If you tell some joke that would embarrass someone in the band, and they don’t enjoy the joke, you just wrecked their stage presence. If you’re the only one that thinks something is funny, keep it to yourself! This includes alternate names for songs. Don’t reveal that sort of thing to the general public; it’s embarrassing to the whole band, the staff at the show, the other band(s), and especially your management.
New songs: Expect to screw up a lot. Say that it’s a new song, and that you haven’t played it a lot. Unless you want it to be a surprise, of course!
Screwing up: We all screw up at some point. Even the best of us. When you make a mistake, get back on track as smoothly as possible, even if it means waiting for another part of the song. Remember, it needs to be funny to you. Smile! And if someone else screws up, don’t shoot shocked or confused glances over at him. He is already embarrassed, and if the audience hasn’t noticed yet, your sudden reaction will bring it to their attention. If it’s a new song, keep on playing like that’s how it was supposed to be. Do not argue on stage. Do not call each other names or cut each other down. Remember as far as the audience knows you’re all friends and having fun. Even if it isn’t true
The golden rule for groups when things go wrong, everyone follows what the singer does!
Different audience, same show: If you play in front of a totally different crowd than usual, don’t apologize for the way you sound in any part of the set! Don’t be ashamed to show the world who you are. Play the same as you would for any other crowd.
Different mood, different show: If your audience is not in the right mood, don’t apologize or stop the song. Try to formulate some type of alternative set list if the mood dictates. Or shake things up with some sort of icebreaker. Free merch to the most enthusiastic audience member works well.
Train wreck: This is the worst nightmare of every band. If you train-wreck a song, it’s funny to you. Even if, it really isn’t. Make a joke about it, and say something like “OK, we do practice a lot…” Then continue the set. In some cases pick up the song again if it’s possible to do so without making the song feel like it’s dragging on. Otherwise come back to it later or forget the whole thing.
Silence: Avoid awkward pauses or long bits of silence between songs. Instead use any time between tracks to introduce the next song or even your fellow band members. Talk to the audience, tell a funny story, tell a story about the next song, etc.
Set lists: Set lists are incredibly important. Make sure you have one at every show. Nothing is more unprofessional than stopping to ask what song you’re all going to play next. Make sure everyone agrees on the set list before hand and has a copy of it at the show! At the very least the lead singer should have one so he or she can announce which song is next to the audience and band. If you have instructions written on the set list, pay attention to them so you’ll know exactly where you are in the show. If you have instructions written specifically to you, follow them so the rest of the band isn’t embarrassed or confused. Deviating from the set list is okay as long as you make sure the rest of the band knows about it, without making it immediately obvious that you have to make a change.
Tuning and setup: Guitars come out of tune. That’s something you just have to deal with. The audience on the other hand shouldn’t have to deal with it. There is nothing more annoying that having to hear a guitarist tune his guitar on stage. So use an electronic tuner or have a standby guitar already tuned up so you can simply switch off. The same goes for mic and volume setup. If at all possible do not subject the audience to “check one, check two, check three…” Do these things before your crowd shows up or before your set starts. You don’t want your first impression to be a band one. Also don’t ask the audience if they think the sound is too loud. You should be concerned with your sound, but deal with it professionally. Deal with audio problems during the show by talking with someone who knows what they’re doing. Send a friend into the audience to check the sound if you like.
If you’re being ignored: Change the set list so that you play your best song next. If you’re the front person, have a few lines scripted in order to get the audience’s attention back, whether it’s just the corny old- what do you think of the show so far, or cajoling them to listen.
Too much fun: Don’t get wasted before you’re show-The audience usually isn’t drunk before you start playing, so you probably shouldn’t be, either. If a musician says, “I play better stoned/drunk”, he has no clue. They may think they sound better, but it usually just leads to rambling pointless solos and playing too loud. If the show is going great and the audience is getting plastered, you might have a bit of fun, but don’t get trashed yourself.
This section is exclusively for the BECO members to develop as a team, I am not a performer or an artist, and I don’t play an instrument, however I have had to learn how to engage an audience of pears, subordinates, customers and company leaders during the course of my career, from as little as 10 people in a meeting room to as many as 2500 in an auditorium it is not an easy feat. Trial and error, research on the subject, and a lot of practice in front of hotel room mirrors helped me achieve what I would consider a good mastery of presentation skills.
To that end, I consider this the most integral part of any (performing) artists skill set development needs, as a live performance is the key in todays music business, it is where an artist can truly have all the aforementioned elements come together for him, Brand messaging, Merch sales, fan base development, market development, web site hits increase, and on, and on, I can go. When a singer has a microphone in his or her hand, no one in the place has more power than that singer. From a business perspective it is the packaging, positioning, and sales opportunity of your products, thus, you would need to consider whether your packaging and sales opportunity should look like an Apple product, or a made in Taiwan with cheap cardboard product and the sales opportunity feel like a cheap used car sales opportunity in which your being sold a cheap vehicle with bad tires.
Local Market Review
Data from: Cultural policy center University of Chicago. Copy attached
- Among the 50 most populous metropolitan areas, Chicago ranks ﬁfth in the number of musical groups and artists employed. Nearly 2,000 individuals are on the payroll of musical entertainment businesses, out of a total estimated at almost 50,000 nationwide. Chicago is home to twice as many musicians as Seattle, and ten times as many as Austin.
- The core component of Chicago’s music industry employs nearly 13,000 people in 831 businesses. Chicago has the third-largest music workforce, third-largest number of music businesses, and third-largest payroll in the country, roughly $280 million in 2004. Receipts generated by the core component of the music industry total $84 million. Sound recording studios in Chicago produced more revenue than their counterparts in Atlanta, coming in not far behind Nashville (though far behind Los Angeles and New York).
- Overall employment in all music sub-industries in the Windy City is 53,000, in businesses that generate payrolls totaling over $1 billion, again third in the country.
- Music industry employment makes a difference to the overall economy: statistical analysis of counties nationwide strongly suggests that music employment levels are positively associated with county-level job growth.
- Demand for recorded music in the Windy City is relatively high for R & B and rap, low for country music and—surprisingly—low as well for jazz, Latin and gospel recordings.
- The live music scene responsible for attracting tourists and the “creative class” is extraordinarily strong in Chicago. 1,093 shows were performed in Chicago in 2004 by touring performers, generating nearly $80 million in revenues. 47 out of Billboard’s Top 100 artists appeared in Chicago, almost as many as in New York or Los Angeles.
- Critically acclaimed performers are far more likely to appear in Chicago than in New York. Among our comparison cities only Seattle has a higher percentage of shows by critical favorites. And Chicagoans prefer quality more than others: in no other city do critically-acclaimed artists sell a higher percentage of the total number of tickets sold to shows, or rake in a higher percentage of total receipts.
- Critical favorites generate less revenue per show than other artists in every city we examined. In Austin, such musicians bring in only a third the average revenue per show, while in Las Vegas; the ﬁgure is an abysmal seven percent.
- Chicago is a musical omnivore’s paradise. To a much greater degree than anywhere besides Atlanta, the music scene of small clubs in the Windy City is devoted to speciﬁc genres of music, and Chicago offers more kinds of music regularly than anywhere except New York or Los Angeles.
- Chicago offers ample numbers of seats in both large and small venues. With
28,000 seats in clubs and other small venues, Chicago is ahead of Austin, Nashville and Memphis. The average club in Chicago is about the same size as the average club in Austin.
- Chicagoans are more able than most citizens to get a ticket at an affordable price to a show in a relatively intimate venue that is hopping. Catching a show in Chicago is less expensive than in New York or Los Angeles, and comparable to the cost in Nashville, Seattle, or Austin. And for shows featuring performers on the Billboard charts, only Austin is cheaper.
- Live music clubs are more densely packed in Chicago than in Los Angeles, but
tend to be strung out along major arteries rather than clustered within walkable neighborhoods as in New York.
DEFINING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
To speak of the music business as an industry is to conjure up the specter of a highly centralized, vertically integrated, factory-like system of production, a monster conjured up by the sociologists Adorno and Horkheimer in their seminal critique of what they were the ﬁrst to call “the culture industry,” and shared by many a musician battling for creative control against the “suits” at the record company.
The truth is somewhat more complicated. As economist Richard Caves has pointed out, the bedrock properties of creative activities (the uncertainty of demand, the emotional investment of artists in the product they are making, the need to combine genius with humdrum inputs, etc.) mean that creative industries, including music, “differ in substantial and systematic (if not universal) ways from their counterparts in the rest of the economy where creativity plays a lesser (if seldom negligible) role.” The music industry may appear a rational, well oiled machine spitting out nearly identical musical commodities, but it is far more Rube Goldberg-ish than it appears.
This complexity makes it difﬁcult to use standard industrial measurement tools such as the North American Industry Classiﬁcation System (NAICS) as the basis for deﬁning the music industry. NAICS, a system for categorizing business establishments developed by the US Ofﬁce of Management and Budget, groups together business units that use similar processes in the production of goods and/or services. It enables us to count how many employees work in recording studios, instrument-making companies, or in wage-earning jobs as musicians or groups; how many companies populate the ﬁeld, and with what size payrolls; and how much revenue is generated by music establishments. Because music production involves what Caves calls a “motley crew” using very different skill sets and engaged in very different kinds of productive processes, however, there is no one NAICS code or set of codes covering the whole industry. To begin with, then, it is necessary to pick out those categories of business units that participate in the music industry.
We did this by examining each coded industry category to determine whether it had any connection to music at all, and if so, whether it constituted part of the core component of the music industry or part of its periphery. Businesses wholly or predominantly involved in the performance, production, or distribution of musical activity—such as “musical groups & artists,” “sound recording studios,” and “radio networks”—were easily designated as part of the core component. However, some industry categories, such as “independent artists, writers or performers,” lump together musical and non-musical work. Other categories—for example, “audio and video equipment manufacturing”—deﬁne businesses that support the performance, production or distribution of music, but may also support non-musical work. We place both these kinds of hybrids in the peripheral component of the music industry. The table below provides an exhaustive list of the 6-digit industries included in our deﬁnition of the music industry.
MUSIC INDUSTRY DEFINITION
NAICS Code SUB-INDUSTRY DESCRIPTION
CORE MUSIC SUB-INDUSTRIES
339992 Musical instrument manufacturing
451140 Musical instruments and supplies stores
451220 Prerecorded tape, compact disc and record stores
512210 Record production
512220 Integrated record production/distribution
512230 Music publishing
512240 Sound recording studios
512290 Other sound recording industries
515111 Radio networks
711130 Musical groups and artists
PERIPHERAL MUSIC SUB-INDUSTRIES
334310 Audio and video equipment manufacturing
334612 Prerecorded compact disc, tape and record reproducing
611610 Art, drama and music schools
621340 Ofﬁces of physical, occupational and speech therapists and audiologists
711110 Theater companies and dinner theaters
711300 Promoters of performing arts, sports and similar events
711400 Agents and managers for artists, athletes, entertainers and other public ﬁgures
711500 Independent artists, writers and performers
722400 Drinking places
A second limitation stems from viewing the music industry as a set of ﬁrms ﬁrst and foremost. Doing so means ignoring or radically undercounting the vast amount of work being done by roughly half of all musicians: the self-employed. Online music sites such as MySpace Music and garageband.com register, in Chicago alone, the presence of thousands of musical groups and artists missing from the NAICS census—but these sites tell us nothing about their income from gigs or recording sales. We capture some ﬁnancial information about these individuals and groups by using the Non-Employer Statistics dataset, which tracks establishments and receipts generated by tax-paying businesses that do not have employees. Self-employed
Individuals doing work in the music industry (regardless of whether their primary earnings are from music industry work or whether they only moonlight in the music industry) are represented in this dataset, but only if they report musical earnings of at least $1000 on their federal tax returns. Given the nature of the business, it is highly likely that self-employed musicians are underreporting their income, or not reporting it at all. Tracking the money is made even more difﬁcult by the fact that around 40% of the 249,000 musicians who found music-related jobs in 2004 were only working part-time.
New York and Los Angeles dwarf other metropolitan areas, Chicago included, in the number of employed musicians, reﬂecting in part their much larger populations
(21 million for New York, 16 million for Los Angeles, compared to Chicago’s million inhabitants). Nashville’s third-place ranking for employed musicians is all the more impressive because its population is only ﬁve percent as large as New York’s. Indeed, if we were to award the title “Music City” to the metropolitan area with the highest number of employed musicians per capita, Nashville would win it, with two musicians for every 1000 residents. All other cities, including Chicago, have a ratio of musicians-to-residents approximately a tenth the size of Nashville’s.
The core of the core
There can be no music without musicians. Any comparative study of music industries must therefore begin by asking how many musical groups and artists are making a living in the metropolitan statistical areas being studied. This is not an easy question to answer, but a start can be made by drawing on statistics that track the employment of musical groups and artists. These statistics show that among the 50 most populous metropolitan areas, Chicago ranks ﬁfth in the number of musicians and groups employed, trailing New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, and San Francisco. Nearly 2000 individuals found employment in musical entertainment ﬁrms in Chicago in 2004. This measure, as noted above, captures studio musicians and those with permanent gigs, but does not count the much larger number of self-employed musicians.
Chicago shows to have 1,940 employed musicians, very low number in terms of population, however based on what we’ve learned thus far a vast majority of musicians are not reporting employment status. New york shows 7,494 employed musicians while Los Angeles shows to have 5,162.
When we expand the deﬁnition of the music industry to include both core and peripheral categories of work, Chicago’s music industry employment ﬁgure triples, to 53,000. It remains in third place, but the gap narrows slightly between Chicago on one hand, and New York and Los Angeles on the other. On a per capita basis, Nashville still outperforms other cities in terms of music industry employment when core and peripheral categories of music-related work are combined. Its lead, however, is now only 2:1 rather than 10:1, probably reﬂecting the relative dearth of sports promoters, theatre companies, agents, and non-musical independent artists and writers in the country music mecca.
THE MUSIC SCENE
Figures on employment, establishment, payroll and receipts provide a skeletal view of the music industry’s contribution to a city’s economy. That contribution goes far beyond what is captured by these metrics, however. A city with a relatively small number of permanently employed musicians and with mediocre revenue ﬁgures—but blessed with a tiny yet critically-acclaimed club scene—may nonetheless be more effective in luring tourists from out of town than a city with a large corporatized musical workforce that concentrates on making recordings. And that same small but-hot live music scene may also act as a magnet for the free and restless college-educated knowledge workers whom Richard Florida has dubbed “the creative class. “How much of a magnet? We cannot say for certain, because assessing the statistical impact of music scenes on migration patterns lies beyond the scope of this study. Previous work by economists such as Edward Glaeser reveals that education increases a person’s tendency to attend pop, rock, or classical concerts, and that residing in the center of a city increases this likelihood still further.18 But recent research shows that not all city centers are created equal: while college-educated 25-34 year-olds are ﬂowing disproportionately to close-in neighborhoods in some cities (New York, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco/Oakland, and Seattle are the top ﬁve in this regard), this is not the case in other major cities (Los Angeles and Las Vegas rank 47th and 50th out of ﬁfty). While many factors undoubtedly are at play, our hypothesis, still to be tested, is that the robustness of the live music scene may account for at least some of this variance.
Chicagoans are more able than most citizens to get a ticket at an affordable price to a show in a venue that is hopping. But will their seats be any good? This is a tricky question. For some kinds of music and some kinds of listeners intimacy is essential. For others, the thrill of jumping up and down along with thousands of fans trumps any concern about being able to see the look on the lead singer’s face as she hits that high note. As noted above, Chicago has a large number of seats available in both large and small venues, and a relatively low average capacity, making it more likely that performers will be appearing in venues that are not too big, not too small, but just right.
One measurement of a music scene’s strength has to be the ability to ﬁnd a good seat at an affordable price for a show featuring either a popular or critically acclaimed performer. But another criterion should also be assessed: the degree of variety that exists in the live music offerings of a city. This feature is of particular economic importance because research has shown that educational attainment and economic status is associated with what sociologist Richard A. Peterson dubs “cultural omnivorousness,” a taste for cultural variety. Peterson notes that better educated and wealthier individuals are more likely than others to appreciate many genres of music. Cities with more diverse live music scenes are better positioned to attract omnivores—if the diversity of their scenes can be promoted properly to those considering moving to one city or another.
By looking at the formats of music offered in the small clubs listed in POLLSTAR’s 2004 Talent Buyer’s Directory, it is possible to get at least some sense of what kinds of music it is possible to hear regularly in a wide range of metropolitan areas. In every city we examined, the kind of specialized musical experiences sought after by omnivores is not the norm: the majority of seats are in clubs that do not specify the formats of music they present on a regular basis. In Chicago, however, this unspeciﬁed piece of the music club pie is smaller than in any other city in our comparison group except for Atlanta. To a much greater degree than elsewhere, the small club music scene in the Windy City is devoted to speciﬁc genres of music. Among those small clubs devoted to speciﬁc genres, there is an extraordinarily ecumenical spread of musical kinds in Chicago. The city’s music scene is not only
less non-descript than any comparison city besides Atlanta, but it has seats for almost every taste, something Atlanta does not come close to offering. With thirteen genres of music strong enough to constitute at least one percent of the total seats available in Chicago, the diversity of Chicago’s music scene is unmatched.
It should be noted that even Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, with their smorgasbord of live music, are nowhere close to providing an omnivore with clubs dedicated to presenting all 31 music formats listed in the Talent Buyers Directory. It is unclear how much diversity is enough to constitute a selling point for musical omnivores. But given the relatively meager variety now available in most cities, policymakers interested in supporting a live music scene as part of an amenities based urban development strategy might wish to consider ways of diversifying their city’s offerings.
The vitality of a live music scene—or at least the perception by visitors to a city that there is a lot going on musically—is not just a function of the number of shows on any particular night, how great the performers are, how packed the clubs are, or how easy it is to get a ticket. Though all these are important factors in weighing the strength of the live music industry, there is another equally crucial factor: geographical concentration. A city whose music clubs are randomly scattered across many square miles is at a disadvantage when it comes to selling that music to tourists and out-of-towners considering relocating. Several venues clustered together in the same neighborhood make the scene visible in a way that should have some economic value.
One last element of the live music scene ﬂies below the radar of the nationwide focused data sources upon which we must rely for this comparative study: the grassroots scene of underground hipsters, music-star wannabes, musicians in training at conservatories or music schools, and semi-professional performers of all kinds of music. While some of these performers may occasionally play gigs in small clubs or give occasional concerts, they tend to perform more often in ad hoc settings such as raves, unlicensed clubs whose business operations cannot be traced, house parties, college classrooms, dorms, church basements and garages. Though some may be signed to independent labels, they often do not tour but perform locally or regionally only. Though their cumulative effect is enormous, the direct economic contribution of these musicians individually is thus next to nil, and like the dark matter in the universe their presence in a city can only be measured indirectly, for example by noting the unusually high revenues generated by musical instrument retail stores in a city such as Boston.
Within only the last several years, however, the existence and extent of this vast grassroots sub-sector of the music industry has become statistically visible, thanks to the advent of MySpace Music, a site on myspace.com that enables hundreds of thousands of musicians to create their own webpage to post their music to the web. Many of these are hugely popular stars, of course—everyone from Outkast to James Taylor has a site. Because membership is voluntary, and because MySpace Music will not register those performers who lack computer skills or the recording software and equipment needed to record an mp3, the site has its limitations. And it is undoubtedly slanted toward commercial music. Still, with over 1.4 million pages, it constitutes the most complete uniﬁed database of musicians/groups available.
Most of these 1.4 million are amateurs who do not even list their geographic location. Nationally, we found 376,389 performers who listed their city on webpages on MySpace Music as of February 2007. Fully one-third of those performers were located in places outside the top 50 metropolitan areas. The New York metro area led with over 26,000 individuals or bands listed, followed by Boston at 16,362 and Philadelphia at 11,300. The showings by these two cities are particularly impressive given their relatively small population bases. Chicago came in a highly respectable fourth, with 10,778, a thousand more than Washington Baltimore and twice that of Seattle. Most of these performers are missing from the Country Business Patterns, which, as noted earlier, places music group employment at 1,940 in Chicago.
Most surprising, at ﬁrst glance, were the low ﬁgures for Los Angeles, Nashville, and Las Vegas. Only 5,314 bands from LA appeared on the MySpace Music website (a mere 200 more than are found in the business census), barely 1,000 from Nashville (which lists 2761 employed musicians), and a very low 148 from Las Vegas. The ﬁgure from Las Vegas is particularly astonishing given that the County Business Patterns counts 530 musicians and musical groups employed there. One hypothesis to account for this anomaly is that in Los Angeles, Nashville and Vegas most employed musicians are hired for house bands or studio work and may therefore not be concerned about promoting themselves via the Internet. In Nashville, moreover, musicians are very likely to be songwriters aiming to sell their songs who may be uninterested in promoting themselves to the general public (or who may even have a motive for not putting their songs up on the internet where competing songwriters could steal their ideas). More research would be needed to conﬁrm this speculation. It seems clear, however, that cities, which are strong in some respects musically, may be very weak in others.
While Chicago boasts a huge number of musicians and musical groups, the average person is less likely to know someone who is in a band here than in Boston, Austin, New Orleans, or Seattle. Boston is the city with the most performers per capita, with roughly one musician or group for every 500 residents. In Chicago, the ﬁgure is closer to one musician or group per thousand residents. New Orleans’ strong showing here is gratifying, indicating that the city’s musical grass roots remain strong even after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.
No one city is the overwhelming leader in all the categories we have examined, leaving open the question of whether there is a single music capital of America. Chicago does stand out as a strong contender, however. By almost any measure, it is a great music city. Chicago ranks in the top ﬁve out of our ten music cities in almost every category we have examined, and in the top three in most of those.
But this strength is less well recognized than it could be, for several reasons. First, the music industry in the Windy City has not carved out a specialty niche as a recording capital for a particular genre, as Nashville and Atlanta have done. Although Chicago blues is a brand that draws a stream of tourists (thanks in part to the city-sponsored annual blues festival), blues making and listening constitutes only a small fraction of a much bigger overall local industry and live scene. Second, Chicago’s music industry is a small ﬁsh in a big pond populated by many other strong industries. Los Angeles and New York, of course, are also big ponds, but in their cases the music industry is tightly afﬁliated with ﬁlm or television, while Chicago’s is more or less on its own. Third, Chicago’s wonderfully variegated music scene has not developed a distinctive physiognomy like those found in some other cities. There is no equivalent to Beale Street or the French Quarter, and no city-level policy in place to encourage or drive the creation of music districts. Lastly, despite being a big trade show/convention town, Chicago has not established itself as a music trade show hub in the way that Austin has done with its highly successful South by Southwest conference/festival. The data we have presented here may help overcome these shortcomings by making visible just how strong Chicago is compared to its competitors in the music business. In addition, we hope that the industry here and elsewhere will take these ﬁgures as benchmarks against which to measure future growth.
For BECO there is an obvious opportunity in terms of genre acceptance, as Chicago does not have a preferred or overwhelmingly preferred genre such as Nashville, on the flipside of that is the specialized small-midsized venue seating availability which caters primarily to specialized acts and “somewhat well recognized” artists. In my opinion the Chicago music scene can be penetrated in two ways, the first being to create an undeniable “buzz” or following in the outlying areas, which can be done via fan base development and resume building, (who you have played with ETC.) the second being through either formal (talent agent, booking agent) or informal connections (a connected friend of a friend) In either case the goal would be to connect with an established venue such as Double Door, Schuba’s or with a well established event such as Music in the park, Lollapaloozas etc.
There are some core marketing, fan base development, brand positioning, performance quality, and professional approach challenges, which need to be addressed as the band moves towards projecting itself as a viable draw, for an audience who is willing to pay to hear them play. I can only speak to the quality and strength of material (the music) from a biased perspective, as I consider the music to be great compared to most local musicians I have heard.
As compared to nationally or internationally acclaimed artists, it’s obvious that number of instruments, artists involved, production dollars, and the sheer repetition of shows (they do this for a living) marks the major difference between BECO and said acts from a performance point of view, however the music still stacks up strong.
Finding the white space/Niche
There are 4 basic marketing mixes/elements they are:
These are called the 4 P’s of Marketing; as to the execution of the marketing there is segmentation, one on one, target market etc.
The music industry as a whole is a naturally segmented market as the music Genre or (product) comes into play, therefore, BECO’s target market from a product perspective is pre-defined, although there is some white space between, rock and acoustic one can easily surmise that it’s acoustic rock. Price will not apply for this exercise as market pricing for both live and recorded product has been established.
Place is where things begin to get unraveled to a certain degree, in that BECO, can be described a jam band (Dave Mathews Allman Bro’s), which is conducive to one function venues for example an amphitheater, or any outside/inside venue exclusive to listening to music, BECO can not and should not be described as a dance/party band, which is more conducive to bars (cover bars) and private events/parties. Thus there is a certain misfit aspect to the place element in the marketing mix, the white space here needs to be developed through brand and message positioning along with strength of performance.
A clear concise definition of the band must be developed as one cannot promote or sell what is not defined, this is true of any product, but, much more crucial in terms of music and a band. In other words assuming the music and the performance stand up to the scrutiny of a paying audience, the question becomes “what are these guys all about” are they, a band with a message? If so, what is it? Are they a jam band? If so, can they jam? ETC. Once the aforementioned has been clearly defined, the branding, marketing message, and positioning should be developed. These elements should include a what have you done for me lately for me aspect, IE: The attendance at the House Pub for BECO shows increases by 40% on average, the consumption rates at Evenflo increase by 20% at BECO shows and so on. Once these criteria are developed an extensive on line and print (press kit) campaign can be initiated.
BEC0 is currently where it was a few years ago, in that, geographically the band is currently limited to (by choice or not) the Fox valley area, (80-90% of gigs) expansion into other markets has been challenging, lack of resources and unfamiliarity have contributed to the lack of said expansion.
Strategically, the band is not closer to the end game, as defined by Living off the music; promotion and professionalism from a career development standpoint is key to obtaining the stated goal. The question is what level of living is the band expecting to make?
Median income for men is $45-$50k per year, while low income for an individual is considered at $12k per year, at the current pace BECO members will need to supplement their income with other work in order to maintain a median income lifestyle.
To that end, there are varying elements at play within the promotion aspect they are as follows:
- Establishing the product/brand
- Defining the geographical market to attack (suburbs or city or hybrid)
- Defining the promotional tactics which enable expansion of the brand and subsequent areas of influence (suburbs or city or hybrid)
- Define the quality (high compensation) vs. quantity (lower compensation) criterion as it pertains to frequency and place of performances
- Define promotional outlets
- Establish frequency and management accountabilities for the promotion of the BECO brand
- Vet out the possibility of farming out this aspect of the business model
- Establish rules for promotion look and feel
- Establish rules around message an image of promotional campaign (press kit revamp)
Solidifying the base fans by continuing to drive awareness at shows in particular through high reaching performances seems to be the most effective method of promotion; the frequency of shows is the driving factor here. Marketing via Twitter, My space and Facebook is probably better of being done by a professional.
Knowing what your selling is paramount, adding value with a message or identifying what the band is about is a tactical benefit; blog campaigns and messaging on a consistent basis can supplement the campaign at a low cost.
Obtaining audience contact info is basic promotion practice, additionally any in writing “kudos” you can obtain from bar owners, fans, promoters ETC, needs to be included in all promotional items.
Promotion is about, encouragement of the progress, growth, or acceptance of something, furtherance. Everything we do needs energy behind it to make it grow, move or even to establish itself within its environment. Art and particularly music needs a catalyst to project it, whether it’s an instrument a voice or a speaker system promotion in terms of an idea, a message or a brand takes a lot of work, energy, focus and consistency, along with very specific attention to detail.
The key to a successful execution is alignment. Strategy, people, and work processes need to be effectively linked. Everyone must understand the plan the right people need to be in the right jobs to allow for maximum work performance, and action plans must be developed, implemented, and reviewed.
A common issue is the communication vacuum, guiding an entire market to the same place takes consistent repetition for the message to stick permanently in the minds and hearts of audiences and fans.
Another critical point is that plan execution is a process, not a specific step. There is no discrete beginning or end. Markets and competitors are ever changing. Although the broad strategy and direction should not waver, what things get done, and in what order, will evolve due to changing conditions in the world around us. Then we evaluate and adapt and to gain traction and ground on the competition. As the world changes, communication, once again, is very important to minimize any confusion within the ranks.
The bottom line is that effective execution is difficult. There are formidable roadblocks, hurtles, and changing dynamics that get in the way and can injure the implementation of a good strategy. But well run entities do this all the time! Although there is no singular process to manage the execution of a business plan, there are basic processes and fundamentals to be followed.
- Once the broad Mission, Vision and strategy for the organization has been established, focusing on its core competencies, specific quantifiable goals to support the strategy must be formulated.
- The team must be evaluated. Do you have the right people with the Right skills in the right jobs? Should you outsource for the skill sets you need?
- Identify the key initiatives and broad actions that must be accomplished to achieve the strategy. Identify the transitional issues, or the “gaps”, between
where you are today and where you plan to be. Push the initiatives throughout the team. They must be consistently understood in all functional
areas. Everyone needs to understand their individual role in accomplishing some aspect of the plan.
Develop a budget to support the plan. This may be an iterative process until the right combination of strategy, tactics, and financial prudence is achieved. You should also create decision filters that help guide the team through a thought process for those times when the team wrestles with a concept that may stray from its strategy. And last but not least establish a review process. As the markets, venues competitors, economy, etc. evolve, some priorities, and possibly some goals, may change. Go back to the beginning, review each step, and determine if further changes are necessary.
Business Plan elements
A complete business plan that pertains to the music business should include the following elements, this document contains suggestions which are highlighted below:
- Executive Summary
- Mission Statement
- Vision Statement
- Music Industry Overview
- Band/Artist Bio, History, and Functions
- Other Key Players (manager, agent, accountant, booking agent etc.)
- Your Audience
- Graphics and Branding
- Recording project
- Press Kit
- Pre-release Promotions
- CD Release plan/party
- Media Strategy
- Fan base development
- Web site/Technology development
- Distribution & Retail Strategy
- Special events
- Partnerships/other artists/record labels etc.
- Video production
- Songwriting as BAND and as specialty
- Additional Revenue
- Strengths/Past Successes