Want Your Music to be Original? Aim to be a Soundtrack

With all the music floating around online, it’s hard not to think that much of it all sounds the same. The average hip-hop and pop songs follow the same formulas as the chart-topping hits but sacrifice on catchiness, dance and house music use the same underlying bass beats for every song, and metal bands throw in predictable screams and breakdowns whenever possible. This is a gross generalization, but it holds true for a large percentage of newly released music. How do we change this?

Now that I think of the much-anticipated TRON: LEGACY soundtrack by Daft Punk and their ensuing world tour, I wonder if there would be more good music out there if bands thought of their music as a soundtrack. Many bands, regardless of whether their music is ever used for a film, write concept albums that follow a certain lyrical and musical theme to keep the flow from track to track fluid. If artists focus on the shifting dynamics of scenes in a movie, they might be able to transfer the same emotional impact of a film’s storyline to their music.

Think of your favorite movies and the way the music contributes to the overall cinematic experience. Some of my favorite movies get the music just right—Dazed and Confused, Pulp Fiction, and Run Lola Run each have a soundtrack that makes you feel the right emotions at the right time (suspense, tearfulness, nostalgia, and poignancy are some words that come to mind). Often times when I listen to a particularly powerful song I picture how it would fit into a movie scene. Are the ebbs and troughs perfect for the shifting dynamics of an action or suspense scene? Does the emotion in the vocals mirror the feelings in a climactic scene of a love story? Is the production on this song retro enough for a Tarantino film?

My suggestion to artists, whether as a true way to create music or merely as an experimentation into their own creativity, is to watch a movie and ignore the music that is already in it. Think about how you would make the soundtrack to a horror film, romantic comedy, or action flick. Since dynamics in music play a key role in the emotions we feel while listening to a song, we might find new ideas in how to approach songcraft by taking a nod from our favorites movies.


5 Ways to Make a Viral Music Video From Home

So you might love the artistic music videos from Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Britney Spears, Madonna, or any of the other artists who can afford to drop more than a dollar or two on their production budget, but you’ve come to realize that you don’t have the time or money to pull off something as elaborate as the superstars. On the other hand, you want something that you consider Youtube-worthy and up to the standards of your personal brand. After all, you still want those hits! Instead of just playing your song to a static image like many artists do on Youtube, try out these simpler music video strategies that might be interesting to your viewers:

1) The Split-Screen

The split-screen video, if done well, can create a seemingly complex video that draws in viewers much faster than a single shot of a band playing their instruments in unison. While it is not as visually stimulating as a high budget music video, the split-screen technique can work well if you have few people that you can use to shoot the video (as with this one-man band). For songs that are more technical, the split-screen is a great way to show off your guitar chops or any of the other many instruments you might be playing in your video.

2) Live Footage

If you have footage of some of your past concerts, you can edit sections from each concert that are from the song you want to make a full music video for. Unlike with live footage, you can maintain the sound quality of your song by just having the concert footage muted and playing the studio track in sync with the live footage. By using footage from a variety of live shows, you can give your viewers a better flavor of what your live show has to offer. When you incorporate more than one show’s footage, you will keep the video interesting because the lighting will probably vary from concert to concert as well as the personality of the audience and your stage performance.

3) If You’re Willing.. Be Outrageous!

If you come up with some outrageous premise for your music video, you can probably get hits just out of the sheer audacity of putting yourself out there and thinking outside the box. Whether this means being a cross-dressing virtuoso bass player or just being yourself, originality (and shock tactics) often work wonders in getting hits for your video. Just remember to stay true to the message of your song and refrain from going too crazy if it doesn’t fit the image of yourself as an artist.

4) Hit an Emotional Nerve

Appeal to more than one emotion and you will draw in more viewers to your video. If I’m scared and curious, then you’ve got me hooked. If the video is tranquil, moving, and sad, I’m probably going to want to listen and watch attentively. A fan-made video of Rusko’s “Cockney Thug” is equally disturbing as it is playful and interesting. Rather than relying on a large production budget, the creator uses his production and editing skills to create a visually provocative work. The more time you invest learning the tricks of video production and editing, the more complex you can get with your lighting and effects. Regardless of the production value of your music video, you don’t want to leave your viewer feeling nothing midway through the video. It’s better for your viewers to love or hate your video than for them to be completely apathetic, so be willing to take chances. You can’t win over everybody, so don’t try.

5) Have Someone Else Do The Work For You

Fans on Youtube often spend a big chunk of their time making remixes of videos or posting their own videos for their favorite artists’ songs. If you have a big enough fanbase, try to run a contest that asks your fans to make your video for you. Choose the best video from all the entries and promote the video all over the web and give credit to the creator. Alternatively, you can dedicate your video to your fans and make a sort of collage of footage that includes your fans in the video itself.

Feel free to post any of your own homemade video techniques in the comments sections below!

The Culture of Your Neighborhood Hard Rock Venue

Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield, VA is located in the suburbs of Washington D.C. in a non-descript shopping center that is shared by a 7-11, gas station, Afghan Kabob restaurant, and a number of convenient stores. In my teenage years, Jaxx was the club I obsessed over—checking the club website to see if any new shows were posted and to check ticket availability was probably as frequent an occurrence as visiting my Yahoo! homepage. Jaxx was my childhood venue, the CBGBs for my neck of the woods.

As I remember it years ago, Jaxx had a metal detector at the entrance (although almost never in use), a bathroom without a door for the stall, band stickers that littered the walls, and an unforgiving PA system that would challenge your hearing for days if you weren’t smart enough to wear a pair of earplugs. Its shortcomings, however, became its greatest strengths. The fans relished in the character of the venue because it made you feel that much closer to the bands, the music, and the community.

At the more popular shows there would often be a line of 100-200 metalheads waiting for the doors to open in the early evening. The owners of the Afghan Kabob restaurant would ask the eagerly waiting metal junkies to move to the opposite side of the doors so as not to scare off potential customers to their restaurant. I don’t blame them—a couple hundred long-haired dudes wearing Iron Maiden shirts with Eddie the mascot on them probably would strike fear in the average unsuspecting family of four looking to have a nice dinner.

The proximity of the venue to my house at the time made going to Jaxx convenient and was a little easier to swing on a school night then going to a concert in D.C. (which was not even worth a discussion with my parents). I guess there’s something about having a venue in the middle of nowhere that attracts a fair number of consequential hard rock musicians that peaks my interest. 

For music fans who don’t have a club like Jaxx to look back on with nostalgia, then I think they are missing something from their music culture. If you don’t outgrow the venue, move to a different city, or lose your interest in the type of music from your childhood, then your musical inclinations will most likely be intertwined with your favorite local venue. I remember the venue being as integral a part of my concert-going experience as the band itself. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen many bands who I wouldn’t have gone to see otherwise had it not been for the built-in Jaxx “aura”, as grimey and rundown an atmosphere as it was. After moving out of the area for college, I haven’t had the same concert-going experience since.  

3 Tips To Gain New Fans & Reward Your Loyal Ones

1) Fan Testimonials

Testimonials are not exclusively for infomercials and movie reviews—why not get your most loyal fans to write something they like about your music and then show it off on your fan page or website? If your fans show how much they love your music, you don’t have to do it for them. When someone visits your website or fan page, they will be greeted with what OTHERS say about you, rather than the other way around. I would be persuaded by your passionate fans more than your label or yourself showing off why you’re the next big thing.

BE cReaTiVE! Okay, you probably shouldn’t confuse people with weird fonts, misspellings, or other gimmicks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make more creative testimonials than the typical short written statements of praise. If your fans are willing to put themselves out there for you anyway, maybe they would do it through different forms of media to help attract more attention. When a fan makes a Youtube video passionately discussing your latest concert or CD, get their permission to embed it on your fan page and website. Your loyal fans will be rewarded for helping spread the word by having their video on display and potential new fans will be drawn in by the buzz around you as an artist. Instead of a static page, your showcase will come alive through your fans.

A fan of yours takes a picture of themselves wearing your T-shirt in an exotic location? Post that too! The metal news and blog site MetalSucks happily posts loyal readers showing off Metalsucks schwag in crazy locations all across the globe. Not only does it make the loyal fans feel rewarded, but it acts as social proof to outsiders. The outsider might think, “These people are such big fans, there must be something good going on here. I’m going to check this out.”

2) Limited Time Offer 

Time is of the essence! Suddenly there’s a sense of urgency. I might not be able to come back tomorrow and get what is offered today. If I know my time is limited, I will probably work harder to get what it is that will soon disappear. When infomercials claim that they have a limited time offer, most people don’t believe them. They will probably offer the same two for one deal the next day, so the more astute television watchers disregard the exclamations in the commercials altogether. However, many people employ the limited time offer in an effective and believable way. For example, some famous artists offer autographed CDs, but only for people that buy the pre-sale album or come at a certain time for an in-person signing. The fan will know that they have to order the CD before it comes out or show up on a certain day, so they take action. If they know they can get the autographed CD at any point, they can take their time and maybe even lose interest before they ever make the CD purchase at all. Even though you might not have long lines of fans waiting for your autograph at this point, you can still employ the limited time offer technique. Those who join your mailing list may be offered limited time downloads or sale prices on CDs or merch. If the fans know these offers are time-sensitive, joining your mailing list will keep them in the loop so they don’t miss an opportunity for a freebie. Make sure to point all these things out clearly so your fans know that it’s in their best interest to keep in close contact with you rather than returning to your website months later.

3) Exclusive Rewards

Exclusive rewards work in a similar way to what I described in fan testimonials, but it applies more to the loyal fans who follow you consistently than a  random passerby. Exclusive downloads, merch, and concert incentives should be reserved for the biggest fans, those that go out of their way to spread the word about you. If you have a street team, you need to give participants something you give NO ONE else. There needs to be something special about being on your street team and you should reward those who work hard for you by giving them something that you don’t just give away to anyone who’s willing to visit your site or give you a quick listen. Exclusivity and scarcity are highly valued commodities. When your free download or exclusive t-shirt is only available to a select few, it suddenly is perceived as a higher value item and might persuade some people to go the extra mile to join your street team, mailing list, or buy your album directly from your website.

Have any other tips to gain fans or reward the loyal ones? Please share them in the comments.

Crowning the Band: The Group is King, Not You!

How can we apply a business strategy to the intra-personal dynamics of a rock band? In Keith McFarland’s book, The Breakthrough Company, McFarland describes a key component in making a company truly extraordinary—the founder(s) need to “crown the company.” Crowning the company means putting the company first, rather than only following the preferences of the founders or whims of the CEO in determining the trajectory of the company’s future. Founders must make choices that benefit the company and not themselves. The same holds true for artists, regardless of who the main songwriter is or who is the frontman of the band.

The main songwriter or vocalist might feel above the rest of the bandmembers simply because he/she appears front and center in concerts, in CD reviews, or in any photograph of the band. If the frontman appears superior in any way, not only will the band resent the frontman for this but also the music will ultimately suffer. Does Axl Rose ring a bell?

Crowning the band, or putting the band first, is not just the job of the frontman. Even backup vocalists, drummers, and bassists have to check their egos at the door and do what is best for the band. Do you think the drummer for AC/DC is not able to play more complicated beats than the simple patterns he plays over and over in almost every song? My bet is that he can, but it does not serve the purpose of the band to add any complex embellishments to the straight-up rock music that makes AC/DC who they are. Even if you have the guitar chops of Yngwie Malmsteen, that does not mean it serves the purpose of the song to break out with 200BPM arpeggios every time it is your turn for a guitar solo. The best songs are made because the interplay between the bandmembers trumps the technicality of each of its individual members. Unless you are in a technical death metal band, save the blast beats for your garage and stick to the vision of your band’s music.

Although DJ’s and electronic artists are often solo acts, it is equally or maybe even more important for solo artists to think less about themselves when it comes to their music. It is even harder for them to debate what music stays and what does not if they are all alone, although this process is somewhat alleviated with the help of an outside producer. Often artists put up a defensive barrier when it comes to those criticizing their music because they are so close to their creations emotionally. If this is not the case, it still might be difficult to get the feedback one craves as an artist. Sometimes artists seek out as much constructive criticism as possible to help hone their craft, but their friends and fans only give them the positive feedback because they do not want to hurt the artist’s feelings. This is why, if it is possible, every solo artist should work with a producer to make an album or at least have a go-to person for candid music advice during the songwriting process and before outsiders hear the music.

If the feedback is coming through comments online, the comments still might not be constructive even though the potential embarrassment of direct physical contact is gone. Many artists want other artists to reciprocate with positive comments so they make sure not to come across as if they didn’t like the other artist’s music. Often times people find it easier just to say, “Your song is SOOO sick brah HOLY sh&t”, than to take the time to give honest advice on how to improve the production values or fine-tune the songwriting. For people who bash other people’s music online, the comments tend to border on trollish rather than helpful. Whether it’s from a producer or your friend, tell people up-front not to spare your feelings and to help you with your music—the music is king, not YOU!

What’s in a Name?: Choosing a Band Name That Works

In a DVD for the New Jersey-based metal band God Forbid, lead guitarist and back-up vocalist Doc Coyle made an interesting point about choosing a band name—that is, choose something that the fans can chant back at you when you’re playing live. What can be more exciting than hearing your band’s name being screamed back at you by hundreds or thousands of adoring fans? He points out one example with the chant-worthy band name Pantera. Pan-ter-a! Pan-ter-a! Pan-ter-a! It’s three perfect syllables that any non-rhythmic crowd can chant in unison. The same is true for Doc’s band God Forbid. God For-bid! God For-bid! I know I’ve personally started a God Forbid chant back in my day (okay, I probably still would if the vibe was right). Doc says three syllables works best, but anything in the short and easy pronounceable vicinity of Pan-ter-a and God For-bid and you’re probably good to go.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are bands like Fear Before the March of Flames, I Wrestled A Bear Once, and Between The Buried And Me that go for the longer and arguably more interesting band names. I haven’t been to a couple of those bands’ concerts, but I know Between The Buried and Me are lucky to have a memorable acronym—BTBAM, which is chanted as B-T-BAM in concert. I’m not sure if BTBAM thought that one out in advance or not, but it definitely helps in a live setting when the crowd is getting riled up.

You want your band (or artist) name to be something catchy, memorable, and maybe even fun if it’s suit’s your band’s style. I’m sure The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza get as much press because of their name as they do on account of their actual music. In fact, Tony Danza actually brought up the extreme metal band in a quick segment on his now defunct morning TV show (watch the clip here). If you’re going to go wild with your name, you have to be prepared for the fact you might not be taken seriously. Don’t take picking a name lightly! A party band can have a tongue-in-cheek name that borders on childish, but a serious band should have a serious name.  Who knows, you might become famous one day and you’ll be stuck with that name forever.

Is “The Beatles” that impressive a name? The band is pretty much the biggest band ever, but the play on words with the bug that shares the same name is probably only great because they were the biggest act in town. Many of the most famous rock acts also have the coolest names: Queen, Def Leppard, Rolling Stones, Motley Crue, and AC/DC to name a few. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that the best bands have the best names. Somehow I doubt it, but it’s still important nonetheless. It might seem as if all the good names are taken, but that doesn’t mean you should have seven symbols and four consonants in a row in your name just because you can. No one will even think twice to remember that. Let it flow.

With online music streaming and distribution, your name is also important in a digital context. Not only do you want your name to look good on a t-shirt, but you also want your band’s website and social network URLs to be easy to remember and spell. Unfortunately with social networks, it is usually first-come-first-serve for URLs. If your band name is a very common term, there is a good chance your desired URL is already taken on the larger networks. Once you come up with a name for yourself or your band, try to join the land grab and scoop up all the usernames you can get on sites that you might use (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.). Go to some of the lesser-known sites and register for those just in case those become more important for you or your band later on down the road. If you haven’t selected your band name yet, it might even be in your best interest to do a quick domain search to see if the band names that you’re thinking about are available on GoDaddy or another domain registrar.

Choosing a band name that is both memorable and that fits your style is a big piece of the puzzle towards gaining marketability. The music shouldn’t be secondary, but no one says you can’t always get everything you want. Well actually somebody did. 


5 Widespread Myths in the Music Industry


1) The Record Deal

Many unsigned artists still think the holy grail in the music industry is securing that big record deal. Sorry to inform you, but that ship has sailed. Record labels are scrambling to make ends meet, which means if you don’t watch your back, you’ll probably get the short end of the stick (a stick that’s much shorter than it ever was before). When artists do get a record deal, the record labels pay for many of the up-front costs of creating and marketing an album. They end up recouping this money from album sales and other revenue streams where artists hope to profit. Unfortunately, contracts are often setup so you are consistently in debt to the record label, so it’s a never-ending loop where you almost never see a sizeable return. Many mid-level bands are now trying to make due with their own connections in the music industry by doing all the album release work themselves, while still getting some extra help on the distribution side of the business. Some bands like Radiohead are willing to give their music away free, letting fans decide how much they want to pay for their album. Solid record deals are hard to come by, so unless you’re a big-name artist with a lot of leverage, make sure you read the fine print before signing.. Alternatively, don’t sign anything at all.

2) Music sales are down, but touring will pay the bills

To be honest, I actually thought many artists tour so much because they want to make some sort of a living from music. Although there are some artists who make a decent living on the road, many smaller bands struggle to pay the gas bills and the other expenses of the road (click here for a point-by-point breakdown of one band’s touring profits). After splitting merch sales with the venues and record label and living off a small food budget, it’s tough to make a profit on the road. Obviously there are many factors that go into this calculation, including the size of the venue you’re playing and how many people actually show up to the concert, the number of bands on the bill, the price of the merch you’re selling, gas prices, etc. It’s not all bad—for some bands touring is a way of life and they find a way to make things work out. If you’re on tour for most of the year and you don’t have an apartment you’re paying rent for all year long, then touring might mean more profits for you in the end. Make the necessary calculations based around your particular circumstances and try making it work if touring full-time is a goal of yours.

3) Online is the most important place to be

A huge online presence is mandatory for success these days, but sometimes you’re online activity may overshadow the time you spend marketing yourself in the physical world. For many smaller artists, building a strong local following is the most important aspect of beginning success. Just like many businesses start in one city and then branch out (think Yelp, Foursquare), the same is true for artists. You build a following in one place and then use your online activity and a spot on a larger bill to start gaining fans nationally (and then at some point you hopefully go international).

4) If you’re good, they will come to you 

If you’re REALLY good, fans will flock to you—even then, it’s no guarantee and probably a long shot at best. The reason we find new and good music every day is that there’s too much stuff out there to discover everything at once. You have to make yourself heard both online and off. Find some of your most passionate fans in cities that you want to tour in and create street teams that will promote your shows and music in exchange for some perks (exclusives, free CDs and merch, etc.). Either all the big names out there in all genres grind it out for years to make a name for themselves or they have some sort of huge marketing force behind them—either way somebody’s putting in the work.

5) Your demo will get you the exposure to record a bigger album 

It takes a one-of-a-kind ear to spot gold in a rough demo of a song. If you listen to some of the original songwriter compositions and productions for songs from Madonna and Michael Jackson, you’ll realize it takes a lot of polish to make a hit. Do-it-yourself recording setups are getting better, but an experienced producer in your local area can really help separate you from the rest of the crowd. This advice pertains more towards the rock and pop genres than your average electronic DJ whose main focus is the way they can manipulate sounds on their DAW. For full bands, microphone placement and selection, instrument setup, and the acoustic properties of your recording environment are integral parts of your sound. If you can afford an above average recording experience, the benefits might outweigh the short-term monetary costs. Just make sure everything is within your budget and makes sense for the resources you allocated for your band.


5 Online Tools for Artists You Won’t Find on a Music Site

Mailchimp: The web’s most popular email-marketing service allows you to manage your email campaigns and lists. This service is perfect for an artist racking up a long email list at the merch booth during live shows. Mailchimp allows you to build and manage your email lists as well as design HTML email campaigns. They also have a nice variety of ready-made templates for you to work with if you don’t want to go too far into the coding aspect of your layout and design. You can store up to 500 subscribers and send up to 3,000 emails a month for free. If you want to grow your email list out further, there is a tiered pricing system for premium accounts. 

Animoto: Sick of making Youtube videos with one static image or a blank screen with a song title pasted on it? Animoto helps you create a video by combining images, video clips, and your music into a seamless work. If you want to get your music online without spending time on making a full video production or you don’t have the resources to make a high quality video, then Animoto might be the right choice. The one catch is that free videos have a maximum length of 30 seconds and don’t provide downloads. You can create a single video for $3 or buy a year subscription to the service for $30. Pro accounts are $249, which might suit record labels or music promoters in need of more robust features.

Hootsuite: Dubbed as “The Professional Twitter Client,” Hootsuite manages all your social networks through one client. The application contains a multi-stream view so you can manage all your artist accounts, like Myspace and Twitter accounts, with one log-in and within the same application. You can schedule your tweets, manage your followers, customize different streams of updates, and track statistics based on the activity on your networks.

Ping.fm: This free social networking and micro-blogging service allows you to post to all your favorite sites with one status update. Instead of logging on to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, Delicious, Ning, AIM, Google Buzz, or any of the other social networks you use, you can update them all at once. This is a great service, especially if you’re on-the-go and want to send out a quick message or post via your mobile device.

Posterous: Don’t have an artist website yet? A social networking presence is important, but there is no room for your longer posts on many of the social networks out there, so you might want to create your band’s blog on Posterous. Posterous allows you to post to the web via email or the Posterous website and auto-post to other sites you want to syndicate to. If you own your own domain name, Posterous will host it for free so you can have a more professional website name attached to your blog. Posterous allows you to add separate pages to your blog, attaches a comment section to each blog post, and helps you integrate Facebook and Twitter log-in for your fans to comment on your page. You can also take advantage of the analytics that Posterous provides with your profile.

Purple Cows, Old Spice, and What This All Means for Your Music

Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow, is based off the premise that the way to succeed is to stand out. If you saw a purple cow on the side of the road, you’d probably do a double-take. That’s what you want people to do when they see your music videos or hear your music! You’re music needs to be good no matter what, but it helps to go the extra mile to stand out and be seen in any way possible (short of breaking the law). Lady Gaga didn’t get where she is just because her songs are catchy. She also has music videos that stand out in the same way Madonna did in the eighties. She has that unique persona that puts the media in a frenzy, who drool over the next headline featuring the iconoclastic figure.

What could be YOUR purple cow?: 

1) Personalized Song 

Let’s say you’ve built up your fanbase to the point where you don’t remember all your diehard fans’ names, you have a growing email list, and long lines outside your concerts. What would make your fans feel closer to you? Meet-and-greets have long lines and often offer little time to actually chat and interact with the artist. VIP tickets and backstage passes seem like normal fare to gain access to artists these days, but they often cost some extra cash in addition to the normal concert ticket price. What if the artist created a contest offering one lucky fan a personalized song? The fan with the best fan-made video post would win a personalized song based on the theme of their choice and the song would be dedicated to them. Only one fan would ultimately win the contest, but if fans participate, it would create extra buzz around the artist for the duration of the contest. Once the song is made, one superfan would have a special memento from one of their favorite artists and the rest of the artist’s fanbase would know how much the artist cares about the fans.

I started writing this blog yesterday, not knowing that an Old Spice campaign was starting on Twitter (@OldSpice). Old Spice was a promoted trend on Twitter and the guy from the commercial started posting personalized videos on the Old Spice Youtube channel in response to what many Twitter users and bloggers were writing about him and the commercial. Kevin Rose of Digg and Ashton Kutcher both were surprised and delighted to get personalized responses from the Old Spice man. The personalized ads were not only created for celebrities but also regular folks. One guy even proposed through the man in the Old Spice commercial (supposedly the woman said ‘yes’). This is marketing at its best because everyone is in on the fun. In music, artists are responsible to make their fans feel closer to them, which is way easier to do than it is when brands try to do it through commercials. If Old Spice can do it, you should too!

2) Music Video

A unique music video and something that has viral potential can be a catalyst for recognition, especially if you’re seeking some momentum outside of your core music community and fanbase. Remember that Ok Go music video with the guys on the treadmills doing a choreographed dance? That music video got millions of hits, mostly from people who never heard the band’s other songs. I don’t have all the stats, but you can assume they got a certain percentage of the Youtube audience to click on the videos for their other songs and then converted a certain percentage of that crowd into true fans. While you should be concentrating on songwriting and production for your music, don’t underestimate the visual aspect of your portfolio. Visuals are important to make a live show experience, so why not put the same emphasis on video and images online? 

3) Get eclectic! Get Weird! Mix it up!

Every artist has, or should have, a signature sound that their fanbase recognizes and loves. Even if you are a new artist who hasn’t been in the game too long, you are probably beginning to hone your craft and find your own voice. Once you’ve found yourself in a comfort zone with people who like your particularly sound, you should add a little variety. If you can create just one track that deviates from your normal sound and mixes genres and styles in a way that stands out from the other artists in your genre and community, you will develop interest from people you never knew you were targeting. If you’re a band like Slayer, you’re known for staying true to your style and playing the same lightening speed thrash metal over and over for decades. That might be Slayer’s cup of tea, but unless you have a diehard fanbase like Slayer who chants your name at every concert, then a little variety won’t hurt. “Slayer” is the metal community’s equivalent of screaming “Freebird”. There aren’t many artists who get rewarded for being the same for 20+ years, so don’t pigeonhole yourself into one specific sound.

Run DMC broke into the mainstream after their collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way”. They were able to incorporate their hip-hop sound with rock n’ roll. These days mashups are the norm, so sticking out in that scene might be more difficult. What you can do is create an original production that uses many different styles to create something that sounds entirely new and not forced. Some mashups are very interesting and some just seem like someone is trying too hard. If you create something entirely new, your creativity will not seem forced.

4) ???

What’s your purple cow idea? Put them down in the comments if you’ve got one.

A Guide to Funding Your Album Online: When DIY Isn’t Enough

There are a variety of ways you can record an album these days, which include recording it for free in software like Audacity and Garageband or dropping the big money to record in a well-equipped studio. No single way is ideal, but they each have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of price, quality, and convenience. Computer-based music has improved to the point where composing high quality electronic music is as simple as owning the right software and plug-ins. Recording a full-on rock album with the right microphone choices, recording environment, and back-up string section on those monstrous choruses will probably take more resources to do the job right. In the last couple of years, many artists have been moving online to help make recording a professional-quality album possible. Thankfully for those cash-strapped artists without a major-label backing, there are a host of “crowdfunding” websites out there to get the word out and help you fund your goal (with few strings attached). Here are a few of the more well-known sites to fund your next album:

Sellaband: Sellaband is designed to help musicians fund a professional album with donations from fans dubbed “believers”. In early 2010 Sellaband declared bankruptcy, although they’ve since been taken over and are now back in full force. Originally, Sellaband helped artists reach a $50,000 goal to record their album. Now Sellaband has a more flexible structure where artists can choose a much lower budget for their album to reach their goal quicker (the range is anywhere from $5,000-$250,000). Once an artist reaches their goal funding stops and believers are locked-in to their donation amounts. Artists don’t set a specific deadline so you can work a long time to reach your goal (as you can see with Public Enemy, who actually lowered their original funding goal from $250,000 to $75,000). In exchange for donating a certain amount of money in fixed parts, believers get rewarded with exclusive releases, goodies, or even a cut of the artist’s revenues. Sellaband also has a host of social features, including an activity stream, commenting, and music players integrated into the artist pages. Sellaband takes a 15% fee from the budget, although they help out on the finances, execution, and administration of the project.

Kickstarter: Kickstarter is an online funding platform for creative projects. Although Kickstarter doesn’t only include artists looking to record an album, they get more traffic than the niche music funding sites and cater to a similar demographic of artistic-minded folks. If you’re looking for a place to fund your next album, it is set-up differently than Sellaband. Jenny Owen Young created a Kickstarter project to fund her “shiny new album,” surpassing her goal of $20,000 with more than a month left before her funding deadline and well over 300 people donating to the project. Unlike Sellaband artists, on Kickstarter you can keep raising money until your deadline even if you already reached your goal (see this record-setting project: Diaspora). If you’re project gets a lot of attention, you have the ability to raise a lot more than you originally intended. If you don’t reach your funding goal by the deadline, all the backers keep their pledged donations and the project isn’t funded at all. If the project reaches its goal, the project creator offers a variety of rewards based on the amount of money you donated to the project. Kickstarter takes a 5% cut from the money raised if you reach your goal.

Slicethepie: Slicethepie takes a similar path to funding artists as Sellaband but provides a more all-encompassing funding experience. Not only can you donate music to help fund an artist’s recording project, but you can also rate music, trade contracts with other users, and follow Slicethepie’s market data. Instead of “believers” or “backers”, people who donate to artists are called “investors” and promised a certain return per 1000 albums sold if a record is made. While this strategy seems enticing from a gaming or gambling perspective, it seems like artists who use the site won’t be on track to sell millions of records and provide any sort of serious return for their investors. Nonetheless, if you are looking to fund your album and take part in a community that involves more crowd participation, Slicethepie might be a better choice. Slicethepie takes a 25% royalty for a two-year period for every track sold, although they use some of this money to pay back users who invested in the artists. They also take a commission from Contracts traded on the Exchange as well as 10% from any artists who reaches their $15,000£ goal in the Showcases section.