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CHAPTER 19

MUSIC

IN THIS CHAPTER I TALK ABOUT THE NUMA NUMA SONG, NEW REVENUE STREAMS, AND MAKING YOUR FANS FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU.

I would have lost an enormous amount of money if a year ago you had told me that I was going to write a book called #AskGaryVee, and one of the chapters was going to be about music. I would have made a bet against that for money that matters. Yet as Stephanie Land, my writer, and the rest of the team and I worked to pull together the material for the book, we discovered that I had answered a number of questions about music. Who knew?

Most people who care about the art form do not respect my relationship with music. I have no musical talent and my contemporaries often disrespect my taste. One of my favorite things to do is put a favorite song on continuous loop and listen to it for five to seven hours. I once listened to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s song “1st of tha Month” through the entire train trip from Boston to New York—and I didn’t take the Acela. While making the final edits of this book I listened to Drake’s “Back to Back” on loop. But you’ll also find Lionel Richie and Cyndi Lauper jams on my iPad.

This is fun for me. I don’t have amazing passion for the indie or the hip-hop scene, but I am excited to see how many musicians have real talent mixed in with entrepreneurial DNA, and I’m passionate about seeing how the changing marketing and communications landscape has provided opportunity for them.

Think about it. Would anyone have ever heard of “Dragostea din tei” if it weren’t for Gary Brolsma? You’re probably thinking you still haven’t heard of it, but you have. It’s more commonly known in this country as the Numa Numa song, and Gary Brolsma is the guy who uploaded a home video of himself lip-syncing to it onto the Internet back in 2004. The song went on to become an internationally bestselling single, and while the band who wrote it, O-Zone, split up, Gary Brolsma endures and, according to his website, continues to make music and videos. Carly Rae Jepsen, whose new pop album is being called one of the best of the decade, had been writing and recording songs in Canada for several years before Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez first tweeted about her catchy song “Call Me Maybe” and created the famously goofy YouTube dance video to go along with it that turned her into an international star. So you know how I’m always saying that you don’t want to obsess about how many followers and fans you have, but rather about who your followers and fans are, and that the quality of your content and engagement with them is everything it should be? That’s why.

It used to be that in order to get any attention you had to make a thousand demos and pray that some music producer would bother to listen and sign you up for a record deal, after which you were at the mercy of the label. But now aspiring musicians have far greater control over their careers, and many more avenues they can take to get their music heard. They don’t have to please record labels anymore. They just have to please their fans.

Do you have any idea how many bands and artists have been able to break out and become profitable because they knew how to use social media like Vine and YouTube to reach their audiences? These are the same bands that would never have been able to get so much as a meeting with a major label fifteen years ago. For sure there are fewer artists who go platinum, but the long tail has gotten even longer and allows a greater number of performers to make money.

That’s why I don’t understand why so many people continue to bemoan the fate of the music industry and complain that musicians can’t get a fair shake. They sure as hell can. If they hustle, that is. They just have to stop thinking of themselves as artists and start thinking of themselves as a business.

imageSince music itself doesn’t create income anymore, what advice do you have for musicians wanting to make their living playing music in the twenty-first century?

Let’s get some perspective—throughout history, maybe 1 percent of all musicians, singers, and songwriters ever made it big. Most professional musicians worked their whole lives making the best living they could doing what they loved, while supplementing their income doing work that they did not love. But they don’t have to take that second or third job anymore. Just like many other entrepreneurs, artists can make a perfectly livable income through AdSense, YouTube ads, sponsored social media content, and Beatport sales, which leaves them more free to devote their working hours to honing their craft, distributing their music, engaging with fans and music venues, and creating their own opportunities to perform live. In fact, according to a New York Times article called “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t,” “More people are choosing to make a career as a musician or a songwriter than they did in the glory days of Tower Records, with as many as forty-six possible revenue streams available to them.”* Musicians have to implement a proper content strategy on social media and build awareness of their brand and product, same as any entrepreneur. Where is your audience? If you’re trying to reach new music lovers, you need to go where they are. If you’re not on Snapchat, YouTube, Vine, Instagram, and SoundCloud, you basically don’t exist to the average twenty-five-year-old. Get over there now.

Your presence won’t be enough, however. It’s not sufficient to make some Vines, throw your music up on DistroKid, and wait for the sales to roll in. You have to cultivate community. That’s what the best music stars have always done. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, the Grateful Dead, Phish—is their music that much better than anyone else’s? Yes, to a point. But one thing that is unquestionably true is that these artists beat the odds by going well beyond merely putting out music and building an extremely engaged and loyal community.

Most musicians think their art is their priority, but your audience needs to be, too. Show them you care. Start doing things for them. Use all the platforms at your disposal to knock on their doors and say, “Hey, let me in.” Live streaming offers musicians today a spectacular way to connect to fans, and Facebook Live, Meerkat, and Periscope have created a new pipeline they need to expose and use. You can play for people live. You can take requests. You can talk about the process that went into the creation of a song or piece of music. You can test new material. Imagine the behind-the-scenes access you can offer. Imagine the connections you could make. You’d have fans for life! Once people love you, it’s easy to sell them your stuff.

Create music, create content, create community, and create revenue streams. If you’re a musician, that’s the path that will allow you to support yourself with your art.

imageAs a private music teacher I have limited hours to teach. Thoughts on how to increase my income and brand?

Of course I do.

There are entire industries that have been transformed by tech, allowing people who work on opposite sides of the globe to connect and collaborate. Who says your students all have to be in your time zone? There are doctors who treat patients, and accountants who consult with clients, via Skype. Why couldn’t a music teacher do the same? Offer classes on Skillshare. Take a page from online education and start marketing yourself to people who don’t have easy access to good music instruction. Find the need and fill it.

Another strategy would be to monetize the hours when you’re not teaching. As hard as teachers work, they of all people should have the most time to crush it when they’re not in the classroom or with students. Teachers usually find their schedules open up a lot during the summer, so that’s another time when you could get a lot of initiatives going that could carry you throughout the year. Start putting out content—blog posts, videos, podcasts, anything—about music, teaching, cultural events, and any other topics that are even tangentially related to your business and give you a chance to show who you are and build trust. Use Twitter Search and engage with people who love music, or who have kids who love music, or who might be interested in music classes, or even to connect with other teachers. Offer tutorials on Spreecast or Meerkat (I’m an investor), start a YouTube Channel, and take advantage of Google hangouts. The options are endless for creative entrepreneurs.

Does all of that sound like a lot of work? It is. How people react to the prospect of so much work is really what differentiates between those who build successful small businesses and those who eventually give up and go work for someone else. If you love the work—if the idea of putting yourself out there and sharing your love for your art and reaching more and more students gets you excited—then there’s no reason why you can’t make this work for you. If you’re overwhelmed by it all and just can’t imagine giving up Game of Thrones or the many other activities that take up hours in our days, you’re really not cut out for it. Your talent is what it is, but the level at which you increase your income and brand is limited only by the scope of your ambition and willingness to hustle. Nothing more, nothing less.

imageI’m a music producer. How can I use social to promote my content?

When this question came in, we decided to take a look at this music producer’s Twitter account to see what he was already doing. You know what we found? He’d posted a remix of a Rihanna track eight times in twenty-four hours. That’s a bit much. Overwhelming, actually. You want to put out content, of course, but you want to put out a variety of content, and you want to do it with purpose. Otherwise you start to look desperate.

So, the answer to improving your social, whether you’re a music producer or a mustard seller, is, as always, to listen to your audience or the target audience and produce great content, in that order. Get your best work up on SoundCloud and other music platforms, and then start looking for opportunities to listen to people and then engage with them to the degree that they decide they want to check you out.

Someone in the music scene might go old-school by joining some music message boards and becoming an integral part of that community. If Rihanna’s music inspires you, you could use Twitter Search to find every single person who recently tweeted about her music and start jamming with them, sharing why you love her work, too, and how it influences yours. Be interested and interesting and more than likely they will check you out to learn more about you. You might even set aside a few days to concentrate on this strategy. If you do, consider this tactic: Change the URL on your Twitter profile to that of your SoundCloud account so it links directly to the track you want people to hear. If people love it, they’re going to share it. If they share it, it has a chance of gaining more attention from more people and maybe even have something pop, aka go viral. Get that viral loop going and you can get major brand awareness. All your efforts should go into creating great art, making it as easily available as possible, and engaging with the people who might want to hear it. If you’re truly skilled, your fans and their word of mouth will start doing much of the social work for you.

imageI’m holding back tears and my heart is heavy because the Seahawks lost and I bet $225. That’s like four Xbox games and an Arizona iced tea. I’ve listened to Drake, the Weeknd, Jhene Aiko, and even PartyNextDoor, but the pain is too much. How do I cope?

I’m an extremely happy guy in general except when the New York Jets do something stupid. And then for a few hours I feel like I’m drowning in quicksand. When you’re feeling this low, do what I do: play a heavy rotation of two songs, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads” and Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” Put them on loop, repeating each about seven times before switching to the next. Drown your sorrows. Then take the pain and carefully put it in a little compartment near your heart, and let that be an engine for the revenge you will strike against your enemies.

imageHow would you suggest an indie artist use his or her marketing money when royalty checks come six months later?

Simple. Be patient. You can’t do anything if you don’t have money, so you wait for it, and then you execute.

Come on, you didn’t really think that was all there is to it? Use your time to hustle and make some other money! Look at the royalty checks as gravy. Go out and play shows, get another job, go garage sale’n’ and flip the stuff you buy on eBay. Whatever it takes! If this is your dream, if you want to be a famous and rich artist, or even just a working artist, sitting on your ass waiting for your check before doing any marketing seems idiotic.

Read the answers to the first two questions in this chapter and you’ll see what you need to do while waiting for your money to come in. You should also go back to Chapter 2, “Starting Out,” and reread every single question and answer. If an entrepreneur can figure out how to market a product that’s still six months away from a finished prototype, you can figure out how to market the music that is probably as much a part of you as the air you breathe.

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