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

Source; https://spinnup.com/uc/blog/submithub-how-does-it-work/

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! 

14 Hip Hop and R&B YouTube Music Promoters - The Future of Viral Music

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! 

Theater Steps - Music Lessons in New Jersey

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

source; https://blog.landr.com/crowdfunding-for-musicians/

Can You Really Make Money on Youtube?

Written by Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

Throughout the changing music industry, Youtube has stuck around as a huge platform, since its rise years ago. It’s also become a source of income for all kinds of creators, including musicians with huge audiences, as well as small and independent ones. If you associate with the latter, then be sure you’re making the most of your channel’s earning potential.

Most people know that as a free service, a large part of the money to be made on youtube comes from ad revenue. Your account must be set up correctly in order to receive your share. To do so, you should join the Youtube Partner Program through the creator studio, and connect an AdSense account. You’ll, then, get the revenue from ads for any videos you choose to monetize. This feature does require a minimum of 1000 subscribers, and 4,000 total watch hours in the past year. 

If you use a distributor, you may also partake in the ad revenue from Youtube. Some distributors also use Content ID, which will direct the revenue back to you from any videos using your music not uploaded by you. There are also services-to-hire that will locate other videos not detected by Youtube, since they often miss around 40%. 

So, all of this is only important once you have content or music generating a significant amount of views, as it takes a lot to add up to any substantial earnings. Your cut for views is even less than that for streaming services, at around $0.002 per view. This will come out to $1000-$2000 per million views, not to mention fees, shared ownership, and different kinds of ads that complicate things further. 

If you’re not at this level of views yet, then focus on gaining more exposure to grow your following, and on other ways to monetize your channel. For starters, use your channel to promote your merch, tour dates, social media, and your songs on streaming services. Always have links in your video descriptions, but also take advantage of Youtube cards, which are the pop-up links you can add during the video. 

Something else you can advertise is a crowdfunding campaign. This can be something like a Patreon account, where your viewers essentially make donations to fund more content they’ll enjoy. You can offer special access to content or accept requests for future videos as an incentive. 

As you work on growing your subscribers and fanbase, you can also look for opportunities for branded or sponsored content, where a company will pay you directly for promoting them on your channel.  

Think about your content in order to reach a point when you can collect ad revenue, and then start to increase it. Posting song audio or playing covers alone usually doesn’t amass views or a big following. Adding diverse content like vlogs, music videos, and behind-the-scenes videos will make your channel more interesting, thus gathering more views.  

Also consider posting the types of videos that are most searched for, like instrument tutorials (for your own songs or others), and advice for musicians on things you’ve already accomplished. These will bring in viewers outside of just your music fanbase, and in turn drive up views and revenue.  

Additionally, try to get your music uploaded in videos from other accounts. Encourage fans to make videos using you music. You can try something like creating a dance challenge or a contest for the best lip synch video. 

Another way to drive up your numbers is to get on music curator channels, which will also help increase your fanbase. There are a ton of these channels of different sizes across genres. Usually there is an email listed for submitting music listed on their channel. They will post new music they like and fits their genre.  

It may seem like a a lot of work for little reward, but once you start to get consistent views and a following, you can keep the money coming in by releasing new music and continuing to upload content. Youtube has helped many artists to make a living with their music, and it can help you, too, if you start today.

How Much Money Do YouTubers Make? - A YouTuber Explains - The Money  Algorithm

Sources; https://www.complex.com/music/2017/11/how-artists-make-money-on-youtube , https://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2020/04/5-ways-musicians-earn-revenue-via-youtube.html

“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”- October Songwriting Workshop

By Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

Rock the Dream puts to bed another great songwriting workshop with multi-platinum producer Loren Israel last weekend! 

Aaron from An Awful Mess and from Australia, Seb Szabo, individually met with Loren to ask industry questions and music advice. As always, they got the honest truth about what it takes to make hits and make it in the music industry. 

In the meeting session, Loren developed ideas on how he could help them advance their music and jumpstart their careers. The artists were definitely not expecting what he had in mind, but are excited to see what Loren can help them do. 

In the days following the meeting, they’ll be working together to produce and record a top quality song, learning from his advice and taking the skills they acquired to all of their future projects.  

If you are a songwriter and are interested in participating in future workshops, for free, apply at contact@rockthedream.org. RTD will pay the $200 registration fee for those they feel are ready to learn.

Treat Music Like It’s Your Job – Even if It’s Not!

Written by Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

Some people still believe that “making it” in a music career comes down to pure talent and getting noticed by the right people. If you’ve paid attention to how things have been working since the early 2000’s, you know that it also takes a business mindset. What it really comes down to, and always has, is the work

I know you’ve heard that a lot, but what does it really mean? Think about the hours and effort you put into a job. Whether it’s selling fast food or working high up in a corporation, every job requires you to follow a schedule, meet requirements and deadlines, and do what’s expected of you whether you want to or not. You have to treat your music the same way, because the bottom-line is that it’s a business. 

Taking on this mindset is the first step. Set aside time, a good amount, and seriously evaluate where you are, where you want to be, and what your plan is to get there. Actually write it out in a strategic plan. Set your goals and a realistic timeline for each. First, list what your overall goal is, and be truthful with yourself. Listing “love and kindness” won’t carry you through to success. Where do you want to be in 10 years? Be specific.

Then list the strategies you will implement to achieve this goal, each with a realistic due date to keep you on track. If it doesn’t help you directly reach your goal, throw it out. For example getting a certain number of new followers or Spotify streams in a certain number of weeks. Do some research on what a realistic goal would look like for where you’re at, and what things you can implement to actually get there. 

If this is all new to you, then you’ll have to start by doing your research and learning the industry; and not about how huge record labels work, but what being a successful independent musician looks like. Some important things to really consider at first are; Do you have a brand? This means not just that you put out music under the same name, but you have a clear message and image that encompasses both your music and you as an artist. Do you do any promotion or just put songs out and hope for the best? 

Once you get yourself organized on where you are and where you want to go, you need to create a workable, realistic budget. This will determine whether the steps you’ve listed to reach your goal are do-able. Moving forward costs a lot of money. How much money you have determines how quickly . . . or slowly, you can climb that ladder. 

Consider how much money you can put just towards music, and how exactly it will be spent. You need a budget for your regular expenses, as well, to be able to do this.  And, if you already make some money from music, is it profit or does it all go back into the music and then some?  Consider this and maybe make a goal to start breaking even from your projects and eventually being profitable.      

Next, you need to continuously follow your plan and implement the steps again and again, ensuring that you achieve the results you’ve outlined for each strategic step.  Does your boss give you one huge project for the year and never give any tasks or deadlines in between? Probably not, a regular job usually has daily, weekly, and long term deadlines and assignments to keep everything on track. You should also have weekly schedules that put aside specific times to work on your social media and promotion, booking shows or collaborations, and working on songwriting or completing new projects. 

Nothing in life is guaranteed, but you can be assured that doing nothing but make music and hoping someone will find you will take you nowhere. However, to accomplish success requires a lot of work and a lot of time doing things you probably will hate doing. A quick solution is to hire a manager, if your budget allows. Be wary of those who will do it for free. They normally will either scam you or accomplish very little, because they lack the knowledge and skills. 

There are legitimate artist development and management companies who can come to your rescue, however, they cost a lot of money. A third option is Rock the Dream, a nonprofit artist development organization who can walk you through everything you need to know and do at a very affordable cost. 

Working hard gains you the respect of those in the industry, as well as of your fans, and everyone will applaud your efforts in working towards your dream. The longer you wait to take control of your music career, the farther away success will be.  

New Year, New Goals for Your Funeral Home

What You Need to Know about Spotify’s Algorithm

Written by Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

If you’ve looked into how to promote your music in recent years, you’ve probably come across countless strategies to outsmart the “algorithms” on streaming and social media platforms. Maybe you’ve tried them, or paid for services that promise this, or you thought it was too complicated to waste your time on. 

Algorithms are real ways that social media, and yes, Spotify, put your content in front of people. And, they do impact how your songs and following grow, or don’t. Though you don’t need to “outsmart” them, or pay your way around them, you can absolutely use algorithms to your advantage if you take the time to understand them.  

So what is the algorithm on Spotify? With the thousands of tracks uploaded each day, Spotify can’t have real people listening to all of them to find the best and put them on playlists. Instead, they use data and their algorithm to do this. It’s intended to help good music get noticed amongst all the white noise. The data that Spotify collects comes from what you input when you upload; genre, mood, etc., as well as the numbers of listens, skips, new followers, or getting added to playlists. The goal for Spotify is to identify which listeners will like your style of music, and to put it in front of more of those people. 

What does this mean for you? Contrary to some beliefs, the algorithm is really meant to work in favor of the artist, regardless of the size of their following. To do this, you need to consider the data that Spotify uses and how your own tracks are doing. The first part is listing your song with the correct genre and mood labels. Take the time to really listen to the song, compare it to other songs in the genre and playlists that you think it should be next to, and even ask for some outside opinions. Being honest with this is only going to help you.

Next, think about your promotion strategy. We all know playlists are huge in promoting music today. It sounds logical that the more playlists you get on, the better your music will do since more people will hear it. While this may get you more listens at first, doing this wrong can reflect negatively to the algorithm. It notices your number of plays, but also the number of skips and saves in relation. If your song is on 10 playlists, but it really only fits into the genre and style of one of them, while it will get more plays, the 9 others will be racking up people who skip the song and don’t save it, because it’s not what they’re looking for. This essentially tells Spotify the song is “bad”, when it really was just shown to the wrong people.  

In this case, less really is more. Finding those few playlists that your song actually fits, and pitching to those is a much better strategy. This is also why paying for playlist promotion can be tricky. There is always the issue of “bots” and fake streams, and the fact that paying for streams can get you kicked off of Spotify. But, it’s hard to know if even services that promise “organic” promotion, or real listeners, will be beneficial. While you will get exposure, you run the same risk of being put in front of “any” audience, and not the right one. It’s best to steer clear of this all together, and save money to put into more music and other types of promotion.  

The goal of all of this “promotion” is to get your music in front of new people, so your fanbase will grow. The algorithm will work to do this even at the smallest scale. The best way it does this is by putting songs into people’s “release radar”, for people who have listened to you before, and “discover weekly”, for new people that will probably like your music. This process is going to be slow, but it will work for you in the long run.    

Don’t skip promoting to your current audience, even if it’s just friends and family! Post on your social media, and simply ask for anyone that likes your music and wants to support you to follow you on Spotify, like your song, share it, and pre-save new releases. Having followers on Spotify is often overlooked, but it’s another piece of data that can help you, and it guarantees your releases to be put on “release radar” playlists. 

The same goes for likes on Spotify. Even if your following is only in the hundreds, anyone who shares your music probably has a similar size following, which increases your exposure exponentially. Getting pre-saves is one of the best ways to show the algorithm that people want to hear your music! The moment your song is released, you’ve already gotten saved to playlists. Even if it’s just a few, something is always better than nothing, at least in the eyes of the algorithm. 

This strategy will continue to work with every release, so you should try to do so as often as possible. This means singles are the way to go. Especially when just starting out, there is no benefit to releasing an EP or an album. This way, you have a chance to promote every song, and have continuous positive feedback for the algorithm to pick up. The industry in general is moving away from albums, so save that dream for when you’re more established. 

A final tip is to pitch to editorial playlists before you release. This isn’t exactly using the algorithm, but it offers an opportunity you should not pass up. As long as you schedule your release date at least 3 to 4 weeks ahead of time, you can pitch it to Spotify editors directly. There will be a link on your Spotify for artists page to submit the song and have a chance to get onto a Spotify editorial playlist. 

These are the official playlists that no promotion service can pay to get you on. There is obviously a lot of competition here, but they have put small artists, even with their very first release, on these playlists. This comes down to the quality of your music, but make sure to fill out the form as precisely as possible. 

Like always, make the genre and mood selections that are most accurate. You also have a chance to explain a bit about the song, so tell them your promotion strategies and why your song fits certain playlists and will do well. It is a PITCH, not just a backstory. Also, update your profile and artist bio beforehand to look as professional as possible.  

I know that as an artist you want to focus on the craft and let the music speak for itself, but it’s very rare to succeed that way today. The industry is falling more and more into the hands of artists and out of the control of record labels. This means you have a much greater chance of being able to accomplish your goals as a musician, but you have to focus on the business side and put as much work into it as in the music. Just like learning an instrument, it takes time and practice to succeed, but diligence pays off. 

Why the Release Radar playlist is Spotify's secret weapon

Source: https://artists.spotify.com/faq/promotion#how-do-i-get-my-music-on-a-spotify-curated-playlist

How To Make a Music Video Without Breaking the Bank

Written by Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream

So, you’re at a point in your career where you know the value of music videos and how this will definitely grow your following. The issue now becomes . . . doesn’t making videos cost a lot of money? 

Sure, they can cost tons for top of the line production, but you don’t need to create a cinematic masterpiece just to showcase your song. With some creativity, there’s no need to break the bank!

Start with making a budget. Decide how much you want to invest, if anything, so you can then decide whether it will go to equipment, a videographer, etc. Your own skills and equipment, and the concept for the video will help you decide where the money is best spent. For example, most phones record at a high enough quality for great footage, no need for expensive cameras.

If you want an intentional “lo-fi” vibe, which can be very successful, then you don’t need to spend your budget on equipment. If recording quality is important, then save by using free locations (like somewhere outdoors), or consider a live performance video that won’t need much editing. 

Think about concept, this is the most important part. Many videos have been successful or even viral on a low budget because of the actual content. Think about what would go best with the song; a dance, a heart wrenching story line, or maybe something funny. Just like with making great music, creativity is key. The one thing most viral videos all have in common is that they’re original. 

Something else worthy of investing in is lighting. This is probably more important than camera quality. You can find some cheap film lighting options by looking for used equipment or renting it (unless you can borrow it for free!). If you have no lighting, it’s best to film outside, especially if shooting on a phone. 

Filming outside provides a free background, so take advantage of the best nature or city views near you. For filming inside, using a backdrop or an empty wall is much better than seeing your bedroom in the background. A bright colored backdrop can help you stand out, and they’re pretty inexpensive to buy. Or, a green screen, allows you to edit in any backdrop from a number of free sources.

A great idea to save money is to look for free or cheap help. Just like there are countless musicians always looking to collaborate on projects, tons of aspiring filmmakers and videographers are the same. Think of anyone you may know, or look around your area, especially for film students. Chances are they’ll do it for free or very cheap. It’s an opportunity for them, as well as you, to work on their craft and to add to their portfolio.

Finally, a huge difference is made with the editing. You can learn how to use editing software yourself by searching for free youtube tutorials. Or, you may consider putting some money into it by hiring someone to do this part. Even for a lo-fi type video, you need good editing to convey how you envisioned your concept and give it a professional look. 

People will remember you more if they can connect your music with your face, or any kind of visual, for that matter. They also appreciate new kinds of content, especially when it adds to you and your song’s message. So, rather than waiting for the day when you’ll have a huge budget to work with, make a great video today!

Sources; https://aristake.com/how-to-make-a-music-video-on-a-tiny-budget https://www.prescriptionmusicpruk.com/the-prescription/how-to-make-a-music-video