Interview with NYC Musicians Meetup Organizer, Part I

One modern benefit of technology has been the formation of local musician communities that meet online and in person to engage and create music. Meetup is home to the The NY Musicians Group, which claims some 600+ members. Joining the meetup is as simple as filling out an online form, and will bring you in contact with a diverse and energized group of people all exploring music in different ways.

We recently interviewed Phil Robinson, the organizer of the NY Musicians Group, to find out more. Because his responses were so insightful, we will publish them over a few days to let you digest them…

How long have you been organizing the NYC Musicians Meetup?

Two and a half years.

What size is the membership, and how many people go to the Meetup events on average?

Well, our page on the Meetup site indicates that 676 people have ‘joined’ our group.  That means that that’s the pool of people who’ve registered to receive our event announcements and who can RSVP for events.

However, the number of active members who we see in person is much lower; and is probably closer to 30 very active regulars, another 30 once-in-a-while members, and then a large pool, close to 100 who float around and come to our larger events or pop in every once in a while.  Others participate only online for the most part (eg. discussion forums, or respond to group announcements, etc.).

We hold anywhere from 2 to 6 events each month, of all sorts (open mics, workshops, open jams, networking nights, member showcases, etc.) and some are designed to be large events and some are designed to be small.  Our smaller workshops work well with 7 or 8 people present; our larger events, like the Central Park Jam, gets cooking with 40 to 50 people.

In practice, it’s a fairly fluid community.

Are the majority of Meetup members professional musicians or hobbyists?

(To answer your question, I have to introduce a third category.)

If ‘professional’ is defined as ‘primarily supporting oneself financially by playing music’, I don’t think we have too many of those, although there are a few.

Most members of the group have the goal of supporting themselves from their music, and take it that seriously, but are not at the point of being able to completely quit their day job… yet.  However, I’d hesitate to use the word ‘hobbyist’ to describe them, as it implies a casualness or a lack of seriousness or a lack of ambition.

Many of the members of the group (myself included) do understand themselves as engaging in an active career as an independent musician, but also still earn at least a portion of their income through other non-musical means as well.

And then, there are of course, the people who do view it as a hobby.

So, to break it down, I’d say it’s roughly:

2% professional musicians (supporting themselves through music)
48% independent musicians (still doing some non-musical work as well)
40% hobbyists (do it for fun and have no intention of earning a living from it)

What musical styles are well-represented in the Meetup?

You name it, we got it. Popular styles (rock, pop, hip-hop, r+b, punk, singer/songwriter, dance, etc.), more traditional styles (bluegrass, acoustic, folk, blues, jazz), academic styles (classical, opera), electronic, film composers, etc…

Hmmm, now that I think of it, I don’t think we have any country musicians.  Not sure why!

Continue reading “Interview with NYC Musicians Meetup Organizer, Part I”

Messaging All Your Fans or Friends on MySpace

Given how slow and choked with advertising Myspace is, it can take forever just to send one message. They have so many useless features, but still manage to make the most basic ones unpleasant. Since most “friends” don’t share their email addresses, your only hope to convey a message to all your Myspace fans is to use your Twitter-like feed, which may not be adequate for your purposes, or compose messages one by one.

The Online Community Suite

My favorite tool for sending out a ton of messages is the Online Community Suite. This enables you to automate the sending of as many messages as you want. You can leave the program running on your computer while you go off and play a show or take a shower. Whatever. Point being, you compose your message to your “friends,” and that’s it. No more waiting for the pages to load. You don’t even need to have a web browser open, so you never have to look at those shitty ads. Online Community Suite

Advantages of Using

Continue reading “Messaging All Your Fans or Friends on MySpace”

Down the Rabbit Hole

The web seems host to an unending world of content, and each day I’m discovering more and more great resources for musicians. Articles on just about anything related to music marketing. Dialogue is happening on all levels, from high up at the corporate and start-up biz side, down to the nuts and bolts of engaging with one listener at a time.

Here are some sites I’ve come across that seem to be part of the solution:

Music Business 101

Bob Baker’s Music Promotion Blog

Music Marketing dot com

Music Think Tank

New Music Strategies

Unsprung Media

The Lefsetz Letter

Derek Siver’s Blog (Founder of CD Baby)

Indie HQ

A Never-Ending List of Music-Related Web Resources

The popular social networking blog Mashable has a post of 90+ sites and tech tools related to all facets of making and interacting with music. The comments list is a year+ growing spore of new and obscure and interesting plugs for music related sites. Definitely worth browsing, as you are sure to find some music tools that you didn’t know about…

Check it here:

How to Write a Great Band or Artist Biography

Dan Kimpel was kind enough to add his tips on writing an excellent band / artist biography to The Music Snob wiki, which we are featuring here because it’s a very popular article…Hope it gives you some good ideas for your own bios!

Writing a Great Band or Artist Biography

A bio is the cement that holds your presentation together, creates your identity, brands your style and leads the reader directly to the music. Ideally, your bio should be applicable for multiple purposes: a key ingredient in your press kit, an essential element on the homepage of your website and as an easy introduction to bookers, journalists, fans and the music business at large. Music people are intuitive about press and publicity materials, and if a bio is non-existent, shoddy, poorly written, off-putting or amateurish, odds are the music it represents will share these same adverse qualities. Keep in mind that if you are using your bio to generate press, oft-times overworked and underpaid journalists with lift the exact phrases and words in your bio for articles and reviews.

Recording artists, songwriters, musicians, composers, performers and producers all benefit from having well tailored, professional bios. In this article MC advises your how to create an effective bio in reverse, by advising you what not to do.

1. Don’t tell, show. Beware the hackneyed cliché, the imprecise metaphor, and the goofy, strained adjective. “Joe Jones is a brilliant artist,” or “Sue Smith is destined for stardom,” are lame and off-putting. The bio must lead the reader to his own conclusions. Telling a reader what to feel or think may lead to the exact opposite impression.

2. Avoid the time machine. “She began playing piano at the tender age of four, and by age five….” Instant naptime. Begin your bio in the present, and then go back in time, but only so far as the story is fascinating. Beware dating yourself: if you’ve had an extensive career, you may want to be non-specific about years and simply summarize the main points and experiences.

Continue reading “How to Write a Great Band or Artist Biography” – A Growing Online Community of Musicians

We recently interviewed the founder of, Tim Staump, to find out more about his site for independent musicians. has created a web community of artists that can share their music via download or streams, and offers some interesting features, including:

  • Aggregation of band materials from YouTube and Flickr.
  • Tag-based searching / sorting, instead of single-genre music classification
  • A “site stream,” which shows the latest activities by members. Since the site is in its early stages, now would be a good time to capitalize on this visibility, before the site grows and your share of the spotlight diminishes…
  • Regular profiles are free, and they are developing PRO accounts that will enable full customization. The example linked to in the interview is pretty sweet…
  • If you already have external blogs where you write updates on your musical goings-on, you can integrate them with your Staump “stream” so that they are fed to the entire Staump community. Very convenient syndication indeed!

Here are the questions and answers:

What sort of artists and bands (in terms of genre or career stage) do you think can benefit the most from using Staump?

We think anyone of any genre or career stage, who is interested in using the leveraging power of the Internet, will get benefit out of  Different approaches to using the site will determine varying returns. In fact, there are quite a few features to the site that we don’t think any one person or band has truly taken complete advantage of yet.  We’re not interested in any specific genre or style of music, but are simply fans of music as an art form. We are interested in the industry, the people behind it, and the people who just like to listen. This is why we have eschewed the idea of “genre” listings in favor of a tag based system, so that people may explain themselves a bit more thoroughly.  As for the range of career stages on the site, one can find people who are just starting out, to established bands who have been playing for years with record deals, and all those in between.

What are you hoping will motivate bands and artists already on profile-driven networks to add Staump to their online marketing efforts?

Community is a very important thing to artists.  What good is creating music if you can’t connect with people who enjoy what you’re doing?  To actually use the site isn’t just about creating a profile, it’s about using the tools we provide to connect with those people.  Yes, we offer profiles as a fundamental feature, but we don’t think that it is  the centerpiece.  The real “heart” of the site is the stream.  The Sitestream offers a very broad view of the activity on the site, so you can see who is new, the latest song uploads, photos, etc.  Each band’s profile page has a stream that shows only their activity, so you can get a more focused view on any particular band.  There is also a “Favorites” page that consists of a stream of only the bands and artists that a given user is interested in following.  We quickly found the “Favorites” page to be one of the most frequently visited because it lets the user focus on the recent activity of only who they want to keep track of.

What does Staump bring to the online music marketing efforts that other sites don’t?

Our vision for the site is to be an aggregation and community center point for bands and artists.  A place to get all the up-to-date information from all over the net in one place, and then talk about it.  The idea of status updates and bringing content together hasn’t quite yet hit the mainstream, and the sites that are doing it tend towards a broader, less focused stance, or are comprised mostly of the technology and social media inclined, so they tend to discuss that.  What we want to do with is take those ideas and give them a specific focus in one place that is perfect for it, and that’s the independent music scene.

Are the aggregation features on the end-user side only, or can artists “push” content to all their other online accounts such as YouTube and Flckr through Staump?

Currently we’re working hard to integrate services that musicians and fans alike are using to help them get their content onto easily.  But at the same time, we’re also big fans of openness in the social media world,  so we’re definitely looking forward to implementing push features, as well as opening our platform under some social media standards like OpenSocial.  We’re all about giving as much as we get when it comes to the social media scene.

Are there any insider “tips” for an artist to optimize their use of Staump to help promote their music?

The big thing that we don’t believe people have really picked up on is the streams.  Specifically, the fact that you can comment on ANY item that passes through it.  Any comment on a Staump specific item, like an uploaded song, a photo, or a blog post also displays the attached comment thread along with the item itself.  Items with comments tend to stand out, not only visually, but also because the comments themselves add so much to the content of a given item.  A good conversation about a song or a video is bound to get someone’s attention better than just letting the item slip by.

The other major under-used feature of is the “permissions” available on a profile.  The current climate of profile driven sites that people are used to use a “one person is one band” system., on the other hand, is designed for people from a more modern social media mindset.  Member accounts are separated from band profiles so that you can actually add any number of members as band members.  What’s more, the person who created the band profile can assign permissions to band members to allow them to post to the band blog, upload pictures, modify the profile, etc.  This gives people the possibility to turn band profiles into a collaborative effort from everyone in the band.  It also means you can assign someone else, to manage your profile, while you actually own it and maintain control of it.

The other upside to separating member accounts from profiles is that any given member can belong to any number of bands, and keep that all tied to a single account.  For example, Tim is in two different bands, as well as maintaining his own artist profile, all of which you can see and access from his member page.  This lets him keep his identity, and also be active in all three bands at the same time.

How does an artist get coverage on’s homepage?

The coverage is pretty subjective.  It’s all people that we either really like the music of, or we felt contributed in a major way to the site.  We’re looking at some other possibilities to help us make these distinctions, such as chart toppers, as well as more social oriented possibilities, like a “karma” system from social interaction.  There’s tons of possibilities.

When did you launch

The original business plan was started in 2004. September 26, 2005 is the date the database was created, but our actual public launch wasn’t until October 31, 2006.  The site, as you see it now with the modern feature set, was launched on June 22, 2008 to coincide with our annual Rock the Gaslamp showcase in downtown San Diego.

How many artists have active profiles on Staump?

Right now (July 21, 2008) there are 1260 artist profiles in the database.

Are there any special features in the pipeline that musicians should know about?

Due to popular demand, we just rolled out an introductory streaming audio player that shows up on all song pages.  This lets artists choose whether or not they would like to allow downloads of their music, and still show it off either way.  We’ll update this player with more features as we go along, as well as provide a configurable external player that people can embed elsewhere.

Even bigger, however, is our plan for “Pro Accounts.”  A Pro Account will give people a good deal of major new features.  For one, the ability to post embeddable items (like videos, music players, slideshows, etc.) from other sites onto their profile page.  And even better, full access to modify the style of their entire profile page to make it look any way they want.  You can see an example with the Maria Staump Band profile page at Musicians are artists, after all, and we understand that presentation of online presence is a big part of what they do and want.

Licensing Music – Grey’s Anatomy’s Music Supervisor

While we’re on the subject of licensing music with the help of web tools, here’s an interview from April that I just came across with Alexandra Patsavas, the music supervisor from The OC and Grey’s Anatomy, among other hits, who has come to play quite an important role in helping unknowns get heard internationally.

The good news is, as she mentions, that being an unknown band doesn’t hinder your chances of being used on a show like theirs. She says that probably 30% of all songs are from unknown artists.

She will be speaking at the Bandwidth Conference 2008 in San Francisco in August…

Using Online Services to License Your Music

As CD sales continue to dry up, music licensing has taken on an ever-increasing role in the independent artist’s career. In the old days, the barriers to license music were very high, and the opportunities much fewer for the musician without connections. Today’s web-based world has changed all that; more opportunities than ever exist, but the competition has increased dramatically.

There are several ways to go about finding licensing deals for your music:

1) Contact ad agencies directly
2) Seek out music supervisors (the people that select the music for film/TV)
3) Have your record label do it for you (we all have record labels, right?)
4) Use an online service that connects music buyers with music sellers

We are mostly in interested in #4: the services like Taxi, Pump Audio, Music Gorilla, Song Catalog, Sonic Bids, The Orchard, etc. that aggregate content from various artists and make it accessible in a centralized location for the ad agencies, music supervisors, and whoever else that wants to license music.

There are many permutations among the online licensing opportunities. Here are some basic questions / differences to keep in mind:

1) Do I retain control over when and where my music is licensed?
Some companies require that you agree beforehand to accept whatever deals they generate, while others will give you a choice based on the particular opportunity.

2) Is there an annual fee for participation?
Fees can range from $0-$400+ annually. Are they worth it? Sometimes…

3) Do I have to pay (additional) fees to submit to individual opportunities?
Some companies charge no fees but take a higher percentage of the licensing income. Others may charge to screen candidates and earn a little extra for themselves.

4) What rights am I ceding by using a particular service?

Most of these types of companies use non-exclusive agreements, meaning you are free to list your music with any and all of these companies at the same time. If a deal comes through and the buyer wants to have the exclusive rights to your song, then you can negotiate on a case-by-case basis.

Maximize Your Exposure and Get Better Results
While each of these companies has a slightly different model, most of them are legitimate and represent new ways for your music to get heard. Don’t just use one and expect to make millions. Your best bet is to try using as many channels as you can and thereby improve your odds. If your budget is tight, you can still submit your music to the services that don’t charge anything up front.

Further Reading

Go here for an overview article on licensing from Larry Mills, VP at Pump Audio.

Re-Title Publishing – Update

Last week I wrote a post about “re-title publishing”, and how I couldn’t really find much information on it. Which was part of the problem. Today I talked to the CEO of a popular music licensing service and he explained in detail why this practice isn’t great for artists and that it’s not industry standard.

What Re-Title Publishing is…

A company actually changes the titles to your songs and registers them with different names under THEIR publishing company. For example, if you have a song called “My favorite day is Tuesday.” They might rename it “Tuesday is my favorite day,” and register it under Douchebag Publishing with ASCAP or BMI, etc. You split the upfront licensing fees, and since they’ve published it under their own company, that entitles then to some or all of the backend revenue, which is what is generated whenever that movie, TV show or commercial is re-aired in the future.

Why It’s Lame

1) You get less money – whereas most licensing companies split the upfront fee with you and you keep ALL your future publishing earnings, this means you lose a percentage of those backend dollars.

2) It’s harder for listeners to find your music – If your song’s name was changed so some company could license it to a movie, people watching that movie are going to search for it by its new title. And because the only place in the universe it appears under that title is in the movie, they will have a harder time finding, and buying, the song.

Who Does It?

Granted, earning some money is usually better than earning no money. But there are plenty of companies that don’t require re-title publishing, if it ruffles your feathers or raises your eyebrows as it does mine.

Pump Audio is one of the big names in licensing that does re-title publishing. So, consider yourselves warned!