3 Methods to Perfect Your Musical Craft like a Scientist

On the homepage of my website, I lay out (in very broad terms) what I've observed is the 4-step system to success in the music business: Have a great product (song/album/live show), build an audience around it, monetize their interest, and multiply your results. I warn my readers, though, that I don't talk much about the "great product" aspect of things- although I play drums/piano and produce music myself, there are amazing musicians and teachers much more qualified to instruct you on that area than I. However, when Praverb asked me to write on that very topic, I realized that I could bring a unique angle to the discussion, in keeping with my backgrounds in entrepreneurship and startups.

Great music is the foundation for the three steps that follow it. If you've honed your craft and created truly remarkable music, your audience and monetization stands on a solid concrete structure. You'll be able to build exponentially and an almost-karmic multiplication will take place. If you half-heartedly scramble to assemble an album just because you think you should, or put out your first attempt at making a track and think that you now deserve to be famous, well... with a lot of hustling you could build a small audience and make a few bucks, but it's a weak foundation. There's no way to grow off of it, and you'll always have to force, coerce, and spam people into listening or paying, and even then they probably won't care at the end of the day.

A good entrepreneur knows that the same thing goes for the product or service they're creating. Facebook is still the world's #1 social network because they created a truly amazing product, not because they hit people over the head with promotional tactics to force them into joining. On the flipside, think about the hundreds of wannabes who have tried to build mediocre social networks, put thousands of hours and dollars into hustling, spamming, and coercing people to join, only to ultimately fail. I personally know several people who have attempted that same feat and suffered the same fate.

Because of this, entrepreneurs become product scientists, obsessively collecting user feedback, testing new features and designs, and constantly tweaking their product. Musicians, bands, and DJs can, and should, do the same with their music. Here are 3 ideas on approaching and improving your musical craft with this same mindset:

1. Proactively seek criticism from fans and professionals alike

And no, that random guy on Soundcloud commenting "nice track bro" doesn't count. I'm not suggesting you kill your self-esteem seeking out haters, rather, get feedback from your biggest fans and music industry professionals on things that they love and would change about your latest track(s). Ask your fans over social media- maybe some really like when you write love songs but you've only ever made one or two, maybe some are imploring you to work with that great saxaphone player again. Head onto a site like Music Xray where you can actually hire producers, managers, A&Rs, and engineers to offer detailed critiques on your music. One of those professional critiques will offer insight that you could never give yourself!

2. Use open mics, private shows, and other low-risk live venues to test new material

I got this idea from a rapper that I've DJed for a couple times. He pays close attention to crowd reaction during his songs, and after 1-3 performances of any given version of a song, he'll go back and tweak the arrangement, the form, or things he does to interact with the crowd during the song. I've done the same track with him multiple times, and each time the crowd loves it more and more, because he's been adding more of what they respond to, and cutting down on the less interesting moments that kill the vibe.

3. Check the stats!

Nowadays we have a wealth of statistics available to us as musicians, stats we can get from Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Next Big Sound, or our distributor. Go beyond which of your songs are getting played the most often- which of your Soundcloud uploads has the highest ratio of favorites to plays? What track on Bandcamp has the highest % of complete plays, and which has the highest % of less than 10 percent played? You can draw inferences from this data as to what interests your listeners and catches their ear, and what they constantly hit "skip" on.

I hope these three ideas will get you started on taking an objective look at your music and further honing your craft. Remember- amazing music is the solid foundation that you need in order for the effort you put into audience building, monetization, and multiplication to be worth it. Then once you have a product you truly believe in, check out the Music Biz Systems website or my free eBook and hop onto my email list to learn more about the next three steps!

Ryan Lucht is the founder and author of MusicBizSystems.com, where he teaches artists the 4-step system to making music their career. With years of experience in everything from online marketing consulting to running cult-favorite beats label HEY WTF Records, Ryan started Music Biz Systems to adapt ideas from the worlds of entrepreneurship and startup companies into actionable guides and tactics for musicians, helping them create an amazing product, build an audience, monetize their interest, and multiply each factor. Get familiar with the Music Biz System in the Free 4-Week Guide to Power Up Your Music Career, and follow him @musicbizsystem.

Why Is It Important To Connect With Your Customers?

If you are looking for more ways to do more with your business, the secret could lie in your ability to make more connections. This article sheds light on why you need to do this – and the more often you do it the better the results will be.

The worst thing a business can do is to look for sales with no thought as to what their customer might want. Sales are important, certainly – they are the continued reason why your business is afloat. However it is the way you approach those sales that makes the difference.

If all you focus on is selling you will miss what is right in front of your eyes – your customers. It’s easy when you’re in business to look at customers as just that and nothing else. However you should remember they are real people with real problems and as such they will have more interest in your business if you can provide them with a service they will use.

Businesses that manage to connect with their customers on this level typically achieve far more sales than if they concentrate on sales alone. Think of it as a reverse psychology. Instead of focusing on what you want, focus on what your customers want – then you will receive what you want as well, and probably more of it than you would have done before.

You should always make your primary target the customer. This means you should always have them in mind, whether you are thinking about the pricing of your new product or which new product you should stock. You should also consider what else you can do for them to make the experience better.

In short, even when your business is doing well you should think about how you can make it better for your customer. Pay attention to what they tell you – and perhaps just as importantly, what they don’t tell you. How can you make things better? What else could you do that would lead you to provide a better customer experience?

Connecting with customers can be done in a variety of ways. You can send regular emails to the people on your mailing list. You could hire recording studios to make a professionally recorded message to put on your website. You could send a surprise free gift as an extra thank you to everyone who places an order with you in the next month (without telling them about it in advance). Whatever you can do to separate yourself from the competition makes you stand out, and when you can provide even better customer service as a result, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to your business.

From recording studios for your video messages to simple gestures like free gifts, customers appreciate all kinds of things that make them feel like you’re looking out for their best interests. Brainstorming this particular idea could give you some of the best developments in your business you have ever seen. If you are serious about selling more and achieving more, bring the focus back onto your customer now. The more you can do to achieve this the better your business will be. You’ll get more customers via word of mouth too, which is the best deal of all.

Smaller Hip-Hop Blogs That Post Music

What comes to mind when you think of 2Dopeboyz, HipHopDX, Rap Radar, Dj Booth, Complex, Hypetrak, Nahright, OnSmash, HotNewHipHop, XXL, The Source, Noisey, Kevin Nottingham, Stupid Dope, In Flex We Trust and countless others?

Hip-Hop Royalty. These sites keep us up to date with the latest hip-hop news, music and at times gossip haha.

For the past two years I have been on a quest to find the perfect hip-hop blog.

This curiosity led me to create an expansive list of hip-hop blogs.

Recently I have been pitching music for artists and slowly building up the creative will to record more and I have found that most artists want to be featured on bigger hip-hop blogs.

Why you ask? Because of the ability to reach more people.

But what about the smaller hip-hop blogs?

Before I continue let me get one thing straight. Smaller refers to name recognition or brand recognition only. Smaller hip-hop blogs do not have the recognition of bigger blogs and for this reason they are often overlooked.

A lot of artists aim for the main hip-hop blogs and forget about middle tier and even newly formed blogs. I think this strategy is bogus.

Coverage is coverage and you never know who that blogger knows.

So build relationships with smaller blogs. Smaller blogs have the potential to grow.

Below I decided to detail some smaller hip-hop blogs that post music. This post will include some hip-hop blogs from the Ultimate Hip-Hop Blog Directory. If I missed some blogs please notify me in the comments section.

What smaller blogs do you submit your music to? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Making Music on a Budget [Infographic]

You've rocked the mic at shows, wowed the crowds and gained fans. Now the fans are hungry for more and can’t wait for you to release music they can get their hands on and/or into their iPods.

You want to give them what they want, but when you sit back and think about the costs that goes into recording and releasing an album, you feel a bit overwhelmed. There's a slew of bills and financial obligations coming at you from what feels like every angle. So you wonder…"how am I going to make this work?"

You are not alone and it is something you can accomplish with patience and the right planning. Don't stress, many of us are far from waking up in luxury cars and popping expensive bottles of commonly mispronounced beverages. We need to be thrifty in our approach to create quality music. Here are some simple tips to make the process of budgeting for your project a less daunting task and easily attainable.

Inspirational Poem: How To Inspire Others

Inspire people with your thoughts
Inspire people with your success
Inspire people with your heart
Inspire people with your faults

Inspire people with your passion
Inspire people with your beliefs
Inspire people with your speech
Inspire people with your actions

Inspire people with your time
Because it is a sound investment
Inspire people with your mind
Show them your profound direction

Inspire people with your hope
Inspire people with your faith
Inspire people with your jokes
Inspire people with your face

Inspire people with your smile
Inspire people with your curiosity
Inspire people with your habits
Inspire people with your style

Inspire people with your compliments
Inspire people with your words
Inspire people with their accomplishments
Inspire people with your verbs

Inspire people with your composure
Be cool, calm and collected
Inspire people with your exposure
Be open, transparent and reflective

Inspire people with your ears
Inspire people with a closed mouth
Inspire people with your fears
Inspire people with your tears

How do you inspire others? Share your thoughts below.

Image Credit: Etsy

How To Build A Fan Base After You Perform Live

If you’re a musician at any stage of your career, performing live is often what you live for. If you’re a musician at the early stage of your career, then your live performance is the biggest opportunity you have to connect with your audience. Even in the modern age of social media where anyone, just ask Justin Bieber, can put themselves on YouTube or Instagram and try and build a following.

Think about the type of places you perform at when you start playing live. These tend to be intimate, even grimy and uncomfortable venues, but lend themselves to you getting to know the people who have come out to see you and give you a great platform to build a loyal following organically.

What can you do to build a following of fans when and after you perform live?

Publicize Your Social Media Presence

If possible, it would be great if you could do this on any promotional literature, such as flyers, that might be handed out prior to your performance. Whether you do this or not, be sure to somehow publicize your social media presence while performing. This might mean putting your Twitter profile on the front of your t-shirt or hoodie, or simply telling people to find you on social media after the gig. If you have a YouTube channel, you could use this to attract social media followers by saying you’ll share a private video of a performance with all your followers.

As a musician, you’ll already be using social media to try and get your name out there, and a live performance is a great opportunity to build a following. This can start a snowball effect, as a larger social following means better exposure for your next performance, which will gain you more social followers, and so it continues.

Hang Around After Performing

Many musicians who looked like they could have "made it" never did. Nothing new there, but the percentage of these who didn’t make it because of their own doing is alarmingly high. If we were paid each time a performer turned into a diva after a handful of gigs, we’d be able to retire and live it up in the Seychelles 365 days a year.

You have to hang around and meet and greet those who have attended the show. This is particularly important if you’re not the "headlining act" as the venue will get busier throughout the evening and you’ll get the opportunity to meet many people; those who weren’t there for your performance might even be inspired to come to your next show after meeting you.

Never underestimate the power of community within music, either, even at the very foundation of the industry. Bands and other performers will remember that you hung out after your own performance to support them, which could lead to you picking up additional fans later as they thank you and acknowledge the fact you stayed, both at the gig and online later.

Think of Ways to Make Them Come Back

In an ideal world, it is your performance that will inspire people to come back and see you again. However, what you cannot guarantee is that your fans will go away and tell 10 people how great you were. If you want to make a name for yourself, you should think of offering an unique proposition to your gig attendees from time to time. Something as simple as you’ll buy a drink for anyone that brings along five extra people to your next performance, or you’ll let them in free, for example, will work brilliantly and get your name out there.

Just remember that you will need to rein this in when your gig attendances move into the high double figures and hopefully into the hundreds and thousands.

There are many ways you can grow your following after a live performance, but ultimately they all come down to how you, as the musician and the person people have come to see, engage with your audience and use them to build a following.

Have you used any of these tips to build your fan base? Is there anything else that you would add? Share your tips below.

Image Credit: Demotix

This article was contributed by Pro Music Tutor, an online marketplace featuring guitar and saxophone tutorials for aspiring musicians to download and use at their leisure in order to improve their skills.

3 Networking Tips for the Relocated Recording Artist

You spent years building a fanbase for your music.

Your promo is on point. Your social media campaign is strategic and calculated.

Your merchandise always sells out. You truly control your own destiny.

Then you receive word from a family member about the health of your parents.

Do you, stay where you currently are or do you move closer to assist your parents?

When life strikes you have no choice but to react and usually reaction means packing up and moving.

Your music career is an afterthought at this time.

A few months go by and the situation is better. Suddenly you start feeling the itch to make music again, but you are faced with a dilemma, you do not know anyone.

Below I will detail 3 networking tips for recording artists on the move.

1. Reach out to Industry Tastemakers

When you are the new kid in town it is wise to research the area. Find out who the promoters are, find out who are the top artists in the area, find out who makes beats, etc and contact them.

Research the area with precision.

Contact tastemakers and let them know that you are new in the area. Learn from them, ask them questions. Set up meetings with these people.

2. Have Face-To-Face Meetings

There is nothing like face to face interaction. Face to face interaction gives you the opportunity to discuss things. You can also gain a friend. Knowing something that is familiar with the area with help you navigate the scene better.

3. Spread Your Ideas

You have built your confidence up after the face to face interaction. Time to spread ideas and share what is on your mind. Share what you learned in your previous destination.

Be a resource as opposed to a know it all.

Establishing a fanbase in a new location is very difficult. If you take the time to reach out and establish relationships with people the process will be a lot easier.

Have you recently moved to a new location? Do you have additional networking tips that will help out the masses? Please share your thoughts below.

5 Ways To Build Your YouTube Following (@delahayetv Interview)

Obscurity prevents a lot of artists from reaching their full potential.

There is nothing worse than being a no-name in an over saturated market.

Artists should strive towards ways to increase their exposure.

Artists should also gravitate towards establishing co-marketing alliances with bigger brands to extend their reach.

How should artists achieve this?

Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to interview an upstart video production company called DLHTV. Visual or Video marketing is huge right now due to the technological boom and the accessibility of mobile devices.

This UK based company focuses solely on helping underground artists get noticed via their growing YouTube channel. In the interview you will learn about the origin of DLHTV, the platform that it provides, the importance of sound and more. DLHTV will also share 5 ways to build your youtube following.

First and foremost, what inspired you to create DLHTV?

It was natural progression from my love of hip hop and urban music. I wanted to help new and up-and-coming underground artists get noticed.

I love the platform that you have provided for UK artists. How does De La Haye typically reach out to artists? Do they contact you first?

Initially it was a struggle to find talent and I had to get the name out there. I approached artists and made freestyles and videos for them for virtually no money. Now-a-days I'm getting hit up all the time to produce videos, promos etc. Artists contact me directly and if I think that they're interesting to our audience I'll get involved. The DLHTV channel and website is our platform, calling card and showcase - it also has direct contact details for artists to get in touch.

I really gravitated to your videography expertise. I love the multi-cam approach that you utilize. How influential has cinematography been to your career as a videographer?

I was bought up during a revolution in Television and music video production. I was influenced by the shows where you didn't need a £50,000 - 16mm camera to make a broadcast quality video. Of course I like the production values of the big Hollywood set pieces but I was influenced more by the free form approach of shows like 'Jack Ass' and early skate videos - You grab a camera and see what happens.

Are you self-taught?

Yes I am.

I noticed recently that you are started to shoot music videos. Can you describe a typical video shoot with DLHTV?

We like to keep it informal with a minimal crew, keep the artist relaxed and have some fun. There's normally one camera but sometimes two with all the required rigs, we turn up, turn on the playback and catch the moment. Obviously we'll try a number of things and if the artist has any specific plan we'll work to that too. Basically I find the best results come from creating on the go and catching what's natural.

Would you mind detailing the differences between the Voodoo Collective, Meet the Elite, and your other spinoffs?

The Voodoo Collective are a performance group which I help promote. Meet the Elite was just a series of freestyles we shot off the back of the Elite League videos and live cyphers. I work a lot with Idiot Village and Legionnaires who are London based and we co-promote as a movement. I also have a recording deal with Lefty for the Leftside Story album and promote Rhymeskeemz a huge local talent. I also have a co-promote deal with Knowledge is Power promotions under the DelaHaye TV presents label.

Another original idea that you are using is recording the Beat Box Freestyle. Explain how important recording sound is to capturing this phenomenal talent.

We invested heavily in sound equipment prior to going big into freestyle - sound is vastly important as these are shot quickly and often in one take.

Do you have plans to extend your platform internationally?

Yes - We're looking for US artists to promote in the UK. Reaching out to the Russian market and always open to exploring new markets if there is a following.

How can the masses get in contact with you?

The website has a contact us button and I see all the emails. I also monitor the Twitter and FaceBook feeds (Twitter @delahayetv and FaceBook.com/delahayetv).

Can you detail 5 ways artists can build their following using YouTube?

1. Get your video onto DelahayeTV!

2. Build subscribers by pushing your channel at live gigs.

3. Social network like crazy!

4. Look for the influencers in the market and get them to recognize you.

5. Keep reminding people you are there and never give up.

Have you tried to partner with YouTube channels to build your following? How has the response been? Share your response below.

An Insider's Secret To Hip Hop Blog Coverage

Let me share something with you right quick. It is not your music.

Your music is a link within the email.

In order to truly captivate someone's attention you need to hook them. You need to get their attention first.

How do you get someone's attention when you are dealing with obscurity?

The subject line of the email, the person sending the email and the people on the track play a huge role in the recipient's response.

Descriptive subject lines work!

Bloggers love receiving songs from people that have a track record of pitching quality material. PR firms, publicists, music journalists and even artists become blog favorites by sending exclusive material.

Artists that bloggers already post and producers with name recognition stand out.

At the end of the day you want to be given a chance. Sometimes outsourcing the blog submission process will ease the process.

11 People that will help your music get noticed:

If you are an artist that is frustrated with the submission process, outsource the process.

Your music deserves to be heard.

Have you ever outsourced the blog submission process? Share your thoughts below.

Jason Skills (of The Sound Providers) on Production and Software Development

A year ago I decided to delete all the music from my iPod.

I played with the idea of starting fresh and restoring the iPod. For some reason I could not remove the Sound Providers material from the mp3 player.

I am a huge fan of jazz inspired hip-hop production and one of my goals revolved around working with or interviewing the Sound Providers.

I did some research and stumbled across a name that I was familiar with.

Jason Skills, 1/2 of the legendary production duo the Sound Providers, had an active Twitter Account. So I decided to reach out to him and the rest is history.

Below you will find an interview with Jason Skills that breaks down the similarities between production and software development.

Okay before we get into this interview. How are you doing today and how is the weather in Utah?

I’m good. Utah is a beautiful 64 degrees today.

Describe life today as a software developer. What do you enjoy the most about your career choice?

Building software isn’t that different fundamentally from crafting a beat, or mixing a record. At a high level you are breaking things into logical parts, making those parts solid independently and then working those parts to play well in concert with each other. As nerdy as it is, I love building software. For me, it’s a fun challenge that lets me exercise mentally. I think the thing that I love the most is that it is never ending. There is always more to learn, new things to explore.

In your former life you were a recording engineer known as J-Skills or Jason Skills. Do you still utilize skills from your recording background today? If so, what skills?

I really enjoyed working as a recording engineer. It was a dream come true for me. Looking back at all that I learned during that time in my life (and I did indeed learn a lot), I think the thing that mattered the most then, and still does today is the ability to communicate effectively. In the studio you end up with folks who’s ego is on the line. An emcee who feels like this is the one shot that they will get. A singer or a band who knows there isn’t a budget to do this again. As a result you really learn to communicate and critique in a way that doesn’t diminish that effort, in a way that hopefully doesn’t damage that ego, but at the same time provides balance and actionable insight into how we (and I indeed mean we, as recording and producing records is a team sport), can push forward and be better.

Those lessons in communication are invaluable. As it turns out, a lot of folks building software are also "married to their code" in a similar way that artists are married to their work. There is an art to providing feedback, and being able to receive that feedback. This has perhaps been my most valuable lesson from long, long nights in the studio.

Along a similar vein of interaction… Guru once said "I never did that #!&@ when I wanted to get on. I gave them a pound, told them my name and I was out". Essentially don’t be a sucker. There will be folks that you look up to, admire, etc. and that is normal and healthy. Give them dap when you have the chance, but lets not assume that the admiration goes two ways. You have to earn respect, and acting stupid trying to be down isn’t the way. What you do, and how you do it, will always speak volumes into who you are. So give them dap, and then get back to work. Your work will speak for you.

That lesson has served me well in my career. The programming world has a hierarchy. There are plenty of folks to look up to and learn from. I always try to apply this lesson in regards to interaction with the upper echelon on the programming world, the same way that Guru taught me in the hip hop world.

I have lots of examples like this. Occasionally I tell myself that I should start a blog dedicated to what I’ve learned from the hip hop community, and how those lessons apply outside of it as well. I’m never sure if that would be a blog that I’m essentially just writing for me, or if others would find any value in the topic.

In September 2013, you wrote an awesome post on Capturing Good Audio. Why is sound so important and why do people still struggle with it?

Recording decent audio isn’t that difficult honestly, but it isn’t something that most people do, or think about. The problem is that poorly recording audio (at least in my biased view of the world), immediately stamps what you are doing as being amateur. You can have the best podcast series in the world, but when the audio sounds like garbage it makes it difficult to listen to, and difficult to take seriously. If you don’t care enough about the quality of that podcast to have good audio, why should I trust that you’ve put anymore care into anything else? So to me, and again I recognize that I’m probably overly biased here, if the audio of what you are doing (music, podcasts, videos, screencasts, etc) is bad, I assume the entire product is questionable.

The casual fan may not know this but you taught Audio Engineering at Full-Sail University. Describe the feeling associated with educating others on the wonderful world of audio.

I did indeed. I taught audio engineering for some time. Later I moved to teaching fundamental computer science courses (object oriented programming, etc). Teaching might be the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done. I have friends and peers in the world today that I look up to and admire who I once had the privilege of teaching. I am fascinated with how we learn. The process and seeing it happen is amazing, and super fun to be involved in. There are lots of lessons learned from teaching as well. Not the least of which is that I don’t know everything, and don’t imagine a future where I will know everything. Once I recognized my role as a teacher wasn’t to be omnipotent, it allowed me to change how I interacted with students. I was able to see myself more as a guide (who potentially had a bit more insight and experience). When that happened I really had a great time teaching. I still speak at local meet ups and user groups from time to time just to scratch the "teaching" itch.

On your blog, Knomedia, you shared a blog post about seeking higher education. I really enjoyed the blog post because you detailed how you acquired your skills and why you decided to pursue higher education. Are you finished pursuing that degree? What did you learn while completing the degree?

I do not believe that I will ever feel that I am finished with education (while technically I hold a pair of degrees today). I hope to continue to be in the blessed state that I get to balance life, work and school throughout my life. I don’t believe that a formal education is the only, or even the best route at times. Balancing formal education with hard work and self learning is a great combination. I enjoy learning, and there is always more to learn.

I speak for a multitude of fans when I ask this. We will ever be blessed with another Sound Providers release?

Probably not in the near future. I won’t say never, but there aren’t any current plans.

Do you still have the time to crank out any beats?

Occasionally. Not like I used to for sure. I spend more and more time with the Fender Rhodes (I have an 88 suitcase with the speakers / stand built in) these days, and have been enjoying that.

Who does Jason Madsen listen to today, music wise?

I just came across Asheru’s Sleepless in Soweto LP and have been digging it. I also have crate after crate of what I consider timeless music that I listen to pretty regularly. Lots of jazz, lots of soul jazz, just fresh music. I broke out Duke Pearson’s The Phantom this morning, and have it bumping now. This record is so so ill.

You and Soulo had experience working with a record label (ABB Records). Today's music climate has changed a lot. Indie seems to be the way to go. What are some advantages to being an independent artist?

I would say that we were independent even during the ABB days. We were never actually signed to ABB. We had a distribution agreement with them, but we pretty much did what we wanted to. We paid for everything we did on our own, no record advances, etc. ABB never had much (if any) influence in the music we worked on, or who we worked with. They would suggest things from time to time, sometimes they were things we were interested in, sometimes not. We were pretty involved with the entire process back then, so it wasn’t really a typical label arrangement.

I’m a little out of the loop on what releasing music is like today. Things have certainly changed a lot from when we were releasing vinyl. I’m probably not the best to comment on the benefits or drawbacks of being an independent artist these days.

Any final words that you would like to share with the masses?

I appreciate all the love the Sound Providers have gotten over the years. We made the type of music that we loved, and it’s always grand when others value what you valued. So thanks for all the love and support.

What is your favorite Sound Providers track? Share your favorite track below.



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