How to Make Your Own Cover Art!

Written by; Ava Spolec, Rock the Dream

When designing your album cover, it’s common to experience a creative block or struggle to decide on a design. Do you want a minimalistic appearance, a psychedelic look, a still life, a photography portrait? When it’s all said and done, what you want is for the cover to fit the artist’s image and album title, and to be visually show-stopping.

First, think about what route you want to go, a real life photo shoot or a digitally made cover.  For a photoshoot, think about local spots with the right aesthetic — maybe a room in your house, an abandoned town, or even the junkyard. You can get really eccentric with hair, makeup and wardrobe design. Check your local thrift stores for outfits and props for cheap. 

You can use visual effect tools to spice it up, too. Play around with effects like smoke, fire, shadows, mirrors, water or iridescent bubbles in your background. Although it would be an extra cost, a projector can be an excellent tool to set up entrancing backdrops for many covers to come. 

Picsart has various features to edit photos, or you can create digital art from scratch. It has thousands of free backgrounds. You can add text with shadow effects in over 20 fonts. Stickers are also available. You can pay for the Pro Version ($41 annually), although, the free version is just as useful. You can make a personal sticker from a photo in your camera roll; use filters, photo masks such as flames and broken glass; blend images on top of each other and distorting effects like mirroring images, chopping them, and making them look like an oil painting.

Canva is another digital app with an interesting comic book feature, and plenty of templates to inspire you. It costs just $12 a month, or you can download the free version. 

With a little creativity, using the many editing apps out there, or just working with an iphone camera and some cheap equipment, you can make the perfect cover art on your own.

Not Writing Enough Songs? Try These Challenges!

Written by Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

If your new year’s resolutions included being more disciplined in your songwriting, how is it going? The first few weeks of making a new plan or schedule always seem to go smoothly, and then the motivation starts to fade. If that’s how you’re feeling this year, here are some “challenges” to keep you writing:

1. Song a day challenge: This one is just what it sounds like, you will write one entire song everyday for a month – or longer! They can be about anything in any style, you just have to write one finished song a day. Of course, most won’t all be “hits”, but it will get you in a routine and maybe spark some new ideas.

2. Rewrite your favorite album: The goal here isn’t actually to “rewrite”, but it’s to create new songs from the titles off your favorite album. Your versions can and should be completely new and different, but use the album songs as your prompts or ideas for your own. 

3. Art challenge: This one can be fun and really challenge your imagination. Pick out different pieces of art from your favorite artist – abstract, classic, whatever you want. Then, use each piece as your starting point and write a song based on whatever feeling, idea, or storyline it brings to mind.

These may not turn out to be your best songs ever (or maybe they will),  but they will at least keep you on track to practice songwriting more this year. The most effective way to elevate your writing skills is to keep trying, so stop waiting and get writing!

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Should You Be Sync Licensing Your Music?

Written by Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

For some artists, TV and Film placement is the ultimate goal, but others never even give it a thought. These kinds of placements are called sync licensing, and can be a huge stream of income for musicians. If it’s something you’ve never heard of or never tried, now’s the time to give it a thought.

The market for sync licensing is huge, think about all the tv and movies being produced, which all need music, not to mention video games, youtube videos and advertisements. And the best part is in this part of the music industry, the quality of music is much more important than fame and credibility. 

There are a few ways to get into the sync licensing world — one is through music catalogues. This is probably the easiest place to start. And, there’s not much work to do after placing your music, the deals will come to you. There are tons of music libraries, so it’s sometimes hard to figure out which ones to place your music in. Do your research and try multiple. The biggest thing is to look for non-exclusive deals, so you can license your music in more than one place. 

Another route is to work with a publisher. A publishing company will do most of the work promoting and getting placements, leaving you more time to work on music. However, you will be sharing royalties with the publisher. These deals will also often be exclusive, so be sure you know what you’re getting into. Never sign a lifetime exclusivity deal as you never know how it’s going to work out in the long run. Try to make any exclusive agreement deals as short as possible.

You can also try to DIY and make your own deals, but it takes a lot of time through trial and error to build these kinds of connections. It’s best to start by reaching out to smaller companies, gamers, and youtube channels with this strategy. 

Although it sounds like a dream set up, it can be very difficult to get into this market and to be successful. It’s also very rare to make a full income from sync licensing. However, it can definitely be a valuable time investment, plus big placements can be good promotion for you as an artist.

If you find you are not having any success with licensing, reevaluate your music. It has to be top broadcasting quality, no demos, and must meet the genres and styles in demand. Also, keep trying different music libraries and researching for opportunities that fit your music best. It can be a long journey to success, so if music licensing sounds right for you get started now!

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The Secret Way to Master Songwriting

Written By Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

Until recently, getting a degree in songwriting was almost unheard of. Nowadays, most big music schools offer a songwriting program, or at least a few classes. While a degree doesn’t mean much in the music industry, it takes more than just talent to write real “hits”. Songwriting is a craft that can be learned and developed; and, thankfully, it doesn’t require paying tuition to master it.

There aren’t any secret formulas that a class or degree program will teach you, but there is one technique they all use – analyzing successful songs. Writing as many songs as you can is helpful for sure, but you also need to be listening to music critically to learn how to actually improve your writing.  

All the biggest hits, even across genres and different kinds of artists, share certain similarities, which change with the times. Picking up on these and applying them to your songs is key to creating what people want to hear today. 

The elements to look at are — well all of them. You want to listen to top songs for their structure, instrumentation, tempo, lyrics and meanings. Write out everything you notice, and do it again and again. Eventually, you start to see the elements that appear over and over again in hit songs. 

But, isn’t songwriting all about originality, and creating something totally new? Of course you want your song to offer something new, but it also has to fit into the mainstream expectations of music. The art is in combining borrowed elements and your own creative touch. 

If you’re serious about being a songwriter, then keep on writing, but start listening, too! Whatever your routine is, make analyzing hit songs a part of it. If you want to be the best, then you have to learn from the best. 

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Why You Should Have a Social Media Schedule

Written By; Ava Spolec, Rock the Dream

Have you noticed your posts receiving little interaction despite the effort you put in? Social media is actually a lot more complex than it may seem when it comes to promotion and growing a following. That’s why you need to strategize and plan ahead.

For an artist desiring to build a committed fanbase, social media scheduling is something to utilize. We all know how far and wide the media’s reach extends, but it is the user’s job to take advantage of it. 

Although we at Rock the Dream are not a huge fan of duplicate posts on different online platforms, it’s better to have something than nothing at all. “SocialPilot” is one example of a site that can help you create a bulk schedule. You can create 500 posts and send them all over TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr. After a 14 day free trial, SocialPilot is priced at $50 for 5 users. Many tools are going to cost you something, but promoting your work is how you receive proceeds and new fans! 

Another tip is to use calendar templates that can be found online where each post adds to your “long term social media goals”. It can be hard to envision posts for months in advance, but websites like “SocialSprout” can aid you in an “audit” which will show what got the highest level of engagement from your audience. Once you know what your followers appreciate the most, it will be easier to guide and plan your future posts. 

Social media experts agree that the best time to receive recognition from followers is in the evening. Posts are best experienced later in the day. Around 6pm is the best, when more people are checking their phones.

With many helpful sites at your service, you can always schedule and plan your videos and posts by yourself. See what works best for you in the past, and then manage your own posting rhythm. 

The most important thing is to be consistent, which will benefit your image. Your fans want to rely on you and your content. Growing your presence on social media is done by repeatedly standing out in one’s feed. Don’t let your content be swept under the wide web’s rug! Use the varying tools out there or make your own toolbox to allow your social media to soar. 

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3…2…1 Smile!

By Jessie Cheng, Rock the Dream

3…2…1…and Smile! If you’re camera shy, it’s perfectly understandable. But, having great professional photos is an extremely important aspect of successful artist branding and promotion. 

Why are professional photos important? 

  • Easy recognition. Your photos should portray your artist image, so your fans will recognize your face more and more, especially on social media. This will help draw positive attention to you, your social media, and most importantly, your music! 
  • Music promotion. When promoting new music, you can use photos to create “teaser” images or for press purposes. This establishes your credibility as an artist and looks very professional. 
  • Creative expression. Professional photos are also a great way to express your unique artistry. Through your outfit, makeup, facial expressions, unique props and background visuals, etc., you can effectively promote your artist image and music. Make it different than all the other typical press photos. Imagine someone who looks at hundreds photos all day, and make them stop on yours and say “Wow, this is interesting!”

Tips for low-budget, stunning professional photos:

  • Choose colors that match your artist image, or the theme of your current project. Rock bold colors for an uplifting, positive mood, or maybe black and white for something more somber. Choose a solid background if your outfit is colorful or a little chaotic, unless chaos is what you’re going for!
  • There is no need for fancy, expensive outfits. Choose a look that’s professional and stylish, whatever that means for your image. You can borrow, rent, or thrift to find an outfit, but don’t break the bank just on that. If you can, do your own hair and makeup. The most important part is that you get the quality and mood you’re going for, so plan ahead with your photographer!
  • If you have other people in your photos, make sure the spotlight stays on you. It will be cheaper to go solo than hire models, but if it’s necessary for the image see if you can get friends to volunteer instead! Anyone else in the image should also look put together and styled to theme. Get a few solo shots of yourself or each band member if you have the time. You never know when you might need them. 
  • If you’re able to, bring your crew to manage your photoshoot! A team makes it easier for you to get the best angles, poses, and lighting. Either way, make sure to be on time and prepared to get the most out of your shoot time. Plan ahead with your photographer to know exactly what to expect from the shoot and final product, and what the price will be. 
  • Choose a photographer who has “mad” photoshop skills. This most often takes a regular photo to a whole new level. And, one last tip, do not go for the huge outdoor scenery shots. You are the focus, not the background. Pick something unique and intriguing, or do an in-studio shot.

What are you waiting for? Look into the camera…and in 3…2…1…Smile!  

Photo Shoot vs Photoshoot

How to Use SubmitHub

By Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of playlists in promoting your music, but how do you really get added to someone’s list?

Some have specific ways to submit music, but SubmitHub is one of the biggest platforms for finding and submitting to playlists, as well as some blogs. It’s a free website that playlist owner’s use to take submissions, and the easiest way to start looking for playlist promotion. 

SubmitHub works by using “credits” for each submission. While it can be used totally free, you only get a few standard credits a day, and premium credits can be bought for more submissions at a time. They are relatively inexpensive, and they require that the curator listens to 20 seconds of your submission. Using only free credits, you will have to be more consistent and go on everyday in order to submit to a large number of playlists.

By utilizing SubmitHub, you can search through opportunities by type of submission, genre, and specific moods or styles. It works as a great database if you have no idea where to start looking, let alone to which playlist to submit music. It also lists the following size and percent of accepted submissions for each playlist opportunity to consider. 

Music blogs are often overlooked nowadays, but can still be a huge way to promote new music. If you’re not familiar with any music blogs, you can also search through those submission opportunities on submithub and take advantage of them. 

You’re much more likely to get responses and success using SubmitHub than sending out emails for blogs and curators that you found somewhere online. And, paying for premium submissions actually guarantees it, plus you’ll get feedback even if your song isn’t used. It’s a great tool, even when used for free, that all artists should be taking advantage of. 

The Pros & Cons of SubmitHub - An Honest Review - Musician Wave


Youtube Curators – The Secret that Can Help Your Career

Written by Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

So you’ve written and recorded your song that’s sure to be a hit – if you could only get it in front of an audience. A lot of artists are in the same spot, and though it’s not quite so simple, a youtube curator could be the bridge you need to get heard. 

There are tons of music promotion channels on youtube whose purposes are to find new music to fit their genre and niche, and deliver it to their audiences. Subscribers of these channels are people who are actively looking for new music and artists to listen to. Some of these channels have amassed audiences in the millions and have propelled songs and artists into success.

The question is; how do you get your music on these channels? It’s actually pretty easy. The first step is to find the right channels. Some of the big ones have established themselves over years and feature huge artists, but may also take rising and undiscovered music on occasion. Other curators are also just starting out, so they post smaller artists. You’ll want to submit to many different channels.

You can find these channels by searching on google and finding compiled lists, or go right through youtube. Start by searching one curator’s page or an artist similar to you who has been featured on one. Find the post from the promo page and use the suggested videos to find other channels or artists, and keep going.

Make sure to take the time to look through the channel and listen to the music they’ve posted before submitting. Your music needs to fit the genre and style of the page, or it’s not going to be used and it’ll be a waste of time for both you and the curator. Quality also matters, so don’t send in demos to a page posting higher quality music. 

Submitting is actually the easiest part, almost all of these channels will have an email in their description that you can submit your music. In the email, put a direct link to only ONE song, unless instructed otherwise. Be polite and grateful, compliment their page, and give a very brief description and pitch of you and your song. Don’t ask for any other special requests or try to get all of your music featured at once.

If you don’t get a response, especially from a bigger page, it’s okay to send a follow up after a reasonable amount of time. They might not always respond if they choose not to feature you, or they could have not seen it yet. You can always send new submissions in the future, just don’t start spamming the same account that hasn’t responded. 

When you do hear back from a page, be sure to keep up the relationship, so they will continue promoting your future releases. A lot of these curators also have spotify or soundcloud playlists and other social media, which they might promote you on as well if they come to like you. Don’t ever demand for more promotion than offered, though, or you could ruin the relationship. 

Submitting to curators is a great strategy, because it doesn’t take much time or any money, and you can use it continuously for your releases. If you’re not getting any responses from any kinds of channels, re-evaluate your music’s writing and recording quality. Also, ask if you’re really targeting the right pages. Just one curator could transform your career, so don’t miss out on that chance! 

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FROM PASSION TO PROFIT – Ways to Make Extra Money From Music

Written by Jessie Cheng, Rock the Dream

Turning our passions into sustainable careers… while it’s everyone’s goal, we all know it’s easier said than done. As musicians, what are the ways to add extra money into our pockets? Read on to find some creative ways to become a profitable artist!

  1. If you have a special musical talent, that skill can also be turned to a means of profit! Consider teaching music lessons, including vocal, songwriting, producing or instrument playing lessons. Not only will you add extra money to your profits, you will also be inspiring others to develop their talent! 
  1. If your forte is writing or producing, check out sites like Fiverr and Soundbetter to write and produce music for other artists. There is a massive community searching for and desiring your expertise, so put it into good use to make empowering, good music that will also bring in income.
  1. Stay consistent on social media, especially sites such as YouTube, where you can generate extra income once you build a strong follower or subscriber base. Post consistently high-quality, creative, and engaging content that will be sure to create a buzz about you! You just might be able to make money through advertisements.
  1. Organize a virtual concert with fellow musicians via Instagram or YouTube Live, and ask for monetary donations from audience members. This is a great way to share your music with others, support fellow musicians, and generate revenue. Just make sure to publicize and start planning early! The tools are all out there, so use them wisely.

What are you waiting for? Reflect on these tips and see how you can use your passion and skill to start generating revenue! 

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Guide to Crowdfunding – It Actually Works!

Written by Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

You may be wary of crowdfunding campaigns because you feel you’re just asking for handouts, or you may have never even thought of doing one. They’re actually a really common and successful way that musicians fund their projects. Crowdfunding gets your fanbase engaged and creates a community feel. Here’s how to run one!

Crowdfunding isn’t just asking for money from fans, it’s to support a project that they want just as much as you. This means you need to explain exactly what you need help in funding; for example, finishing an EP, producing a video for your new single, upgrading equipment, or whatever the project will be.

Also be transparent with the projected cost and set a goal for the campaign. This gives people a sense of how much they should contribute and how far along you are. It also shows legitimacy in that you have a plan in place for the funds. 

There are plenty of ways to structure your campaign, but using a reliable crowdfunding platform is your best bet.  People may recognize these and it will feel more professional and secure. The biggest ones are Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which have been around for a while and have raised tons of money for independent projects. A newer one you might have heard of is Patreon, which is a little different in that it’s more an ongoing, subscription-like set up. It can be good for a long-term project, but you must keep it up-to-date. 

Once you set up your campaign, don’t be afraid to advertise it. True fans will want to support you and to get more great content! Of course, not everyone can or wants to make financial contributions, so give an alternate request like sharing the campaign or your other projects on social media. 

Make sure to express your gratitude to everyone who helps out, and don’t underdeliver! By creating your campaign, you’re making a promise to deliver something at the end, so stay on your timeline and don’t slack in effort. 

In addition, keep everyone updated on the progress you’ve made, specifically on what their donation covered and on the entire project overall. This way they feel they are a part of your team and of your success. Plus, it is a sign that you’re grateful and this will get more people excited (which gets more donations!). 

Crowdfunding can be really successful when done right. It will also show you how dedicated your fans are, and how many are really just “followers”.  There’s always a way to get around barriers, and money shouldn’t be an excuse to hold off on your career!

Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and Patreon compared