Today, I’d like to present you a really condensed summary of an useful book I read some time ago.
I’m talking about “The New Rockstar Philosophy” by Hoover and Voyno, a small book dealing with the various aspects of having a band or generally being an emergent artist in the nowadays music business.
I found the book to contain more “human” advice than practical marketing or business advice, still it does pack up some good info, and there are plenty of other books more focused on the above mentioned topics.
Be aware, what I’m about to show you is just an extremely concise, keyword-based extract of the book which does not substitute its full reading.
There are more than just mere concepts in the discursive chapters, as for instance examples, case studies and so on.
So if you like what you’re reading and you’d want to dig deeper, please purchase the latest edition of the book.
Don’t forget that this reading was born from the homonymous, constantly updated New Rockstar Philosophy blog, devoted to all this kinds of topics.
I kept the original chapter numbers and ending “take aways” for reference to the actual structure of the book, as well as all the final web references.
I hope I’ll ignite some interest in the book , and that you’ll find the content (as well as, er, my summing work!) useful.
Did you? Want to see more on this lines? Let us know.
If you liked this, you’ll probably love the new column we have in the works at the moment!
Chapter 1 – Preface
Chapter 2 – Autopsy of a market
- Pillars of the music industry: live music, songwriting, publishing and mechanical royalties, merchandising and sales of pre-recorded music
- It is the recording industry to be in a crisis, not the actual music industry!
- Major labels today offer less and ask the artists more (360° contracts)
- New strategies: direct to fan, subscriptions, physical sales only to niches of fans
Chapter 3 – Who are you?
Key concepts: having a clear identity, being faithful and coherent with your own image, being transparent with fans.
- Get to know yourselves
- Ask yourselves why do you want to make music
- Ask yourselves who are your favorite artists, and why
Chapter 4 – Goals
Key concepts: keep contacts with fans via the Internet (socials) being honest in relationships and avoiding spam.
Try to have blogs\fanzines\radios\newspapers\etc. talking about yourself with the establishment of direct contacts with their responsible ones.
Exchange gigs with other bands from other cities.
- Define your vision of “success”
- Put your goals on paper. Short term goals (ex. in 6 months) are more easily achievable.
- Divide each goal in many little steps, for example each with a weekly or monthly deadline.
Chapter 5 – Writing
Key concepts: look for the “winning” writing for a song. Which are the hooks?
Be original: “if your music sounds like someone else’s, why should anyone listen right up to you?”
- Discover your own emotions and message
- While composing, keep in mind the 4 essential elements in a song: music and words, writing, hooks, originality.
- Write a lot and analyze your own stuff for “weaknesses”
- Don’t underestimate corrections or even re-writings on your own compositions
Chapter 6 – A band is like a marriage
Key concepts: each band member should have a clear role.
Take some time for a weekly jam session, and not for rehearsals only. Establish a periodical “band day”, a day to spend with the other members outside of music, to build up on the relational side.
Always clear up problems and arguments, and always establish clear agreements, especially written ones if they deal with economical decisions.
Don’t forget author rights, so establish who’s the actual composer in the band. Just someone or everybody?
Decide how to distribute incomes.
- Choose the right companions (human component > musical component!)
- Be honest and transparent in relationships
- Everyone should be aware of its own role in the band
- Bands made up by friends last longer
- Don’t underestimate written agreements to protect yourself from future arguments
Chapter 7 – “Image” is not a swear word
Key concepts: your image must get your musical communication coherent with the visual one.
Elements of the image: general style, live performance, photos, graphics, videos, etc.
Everything has to be coherent.
The only way to build a solid and lasting image is to know who you are and what you’re about.
Don’t underestimate referrals to other influencing bands, they can gain the curiosity and the interest of the audience.
- Being authentic is the starting point to build your own image
- Make your style match your music
- Coherence pays off!
- Be careful: not having an image is still having an image!
- The audience should be able to set you apart from other bands
- The audience needs referrals and reasons to give you a chance
Chapter 8 – Define your own audience
- Know who you want to reach for
- Get an idea of what your audience could be like
- Concentrate on a niche
Chapter 9 – The art of practicing
Key concepts: practice and rehearse as much as possible. One weekly rehearsal is insignificant.
Always take the time for at least one jam session besides rehearsals.
Always fix goals for your rehearsals, have a purpose.
Record your rehearsals and gigs and listen back.
Before you hit the studio, you should have the most absolute control on your own material.
Don’t underestimate re-arranging! Think Help by The Beatles: it was initially born as a sad, slow ballad! The rest is history.
- Rehearse as much as possible and have regular goals
- Establish a calendar
- Record demos to save time and money in the studio
- Record your gigs to hear how do you actually perform live
Chapter 10 – Recording
Key concepts: Pro Tools is the industry standard in software.
To avoid creative blocks in the studio, it is useful to stop working on a song for some days.
How to choose a studio: get info on which artists recorded there before, ask around, get to know the staff, ask if the studio is offering additional services.
- Think about the sound you’d want to have
- Have practical ideas for every song
- Building an home studio could be a long-time venture as well as a good saving method
- Make your own demos and understand what’s the best studio for your band
Chapter 11 – Live shows
Key concepts: every single live show should be excellent.
A nice starting point would be studying the performances of your favorite artists.
How to get gigs: contact local bands, contact venues, ask to be the opener to touring bands.
Preparations: knowing how long the show will last, how many bands will have to play, when’s soundcheck time, economic agreements (incomes), possible instrument sharing\lending, if the set has to deal with covers or originals, being aware of advertising channels for the gig, of the eventual possibility to sell merchandising, having a kit for “on-stage emergencies”.
Make the audience remember who you are: make a banner, remind your name and the merch availability at the mic, distribute stickers or postcards, write down a mailing list at the merch desk, etc.
- The show has to be amazing
- Always ask for a chance to perform
- Being ready for a gig doesn’t only mean having done your rehearsals
- Don’t just let the venue holders take care of the gig’s promotion
Chapter 12 – Friendships
Key concepts: “Making friendships is networking”.
Hang out with local bands, tour with them, make split albums with them.
With a split album, you’ll divide the costs and multiply the fan reach.
It’s important to think about how to present the split (Targeting just a niche? New or old material? Covers or originals? Etc. Mind to plan out a good tracklist!)
- Networking means making new friends
- There are lots of chances to make friends in the local scene
- Split albums are a good way to get your music to a larger audience
Chapter 13 – Online strategies
Key concepts: buy your “.com” domain, at least for redirecting traffic on your socials until you’ll be in need of a proper website.
- Buy yourbandname.com
- Exploit the web’s free resources before investing in an official website
- Stay tuned on newrockstarphilosophy.com
See: Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, Youtube, Mailchip. Flavor.me, E-Lance.com, newrockstarphilosophy.com
Chapter 14 – Taming the beast (or, you against social media)
- You must be present on social media
- Try the greatest number of services at your disposal, you’ll understand what you like the most and where fans like to reside the most
Chapter 15 – Blogs
Key concepts: search engines “love” blogs.
- Having a blog is a great way to keep contacts with your fans
- A blog offers your fans a good excuse for searching you back
- Search engines love blogs
See: WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot, Tumblr, Google Alerts
Chapter 16 – Twitter
Key concepts: it’s important to insert an human element in your band-to-fan communication.
Communicate in a personal way, always reply, create debates.
Three tweets per day is usually enough to keep your fan base stimulated. Don’t underestimate hashtags.
- It’s not about the number of followers, but their quality
- Try to be interesting and steady
- Mind you’re interacting with other people, so be propositive and start conversations
Chapter 17 – Facebook
Key concepts: importance of artist pages and FB ads.
You could also create exclusive groups to bring extra material to the most die-hard fans.
- On Facebook, pages work better than groups
- Engage your fans
- Facebook ads and groups are tools at your disposal
Chapter 18 – Youtube and online videos
Key concepts: realizing covers could gain you lots of attention. It’s important to publish some live recordings, as well as some video clips.
EPK (Electronic Press Kits) are the video-business card of your project.
Be aware of the correct titling and tagging of your videos to help search engines finding you.
The video description should be coherent with its content and always contain a brief biography and some links to your main websites.
Streaming now gives you more chances to get your live performances out. See Ustream.
- Music is more engaging is if it is accompanied by a video
- Filming videos is getting cheaper and cheaper
- Online videos are getting more and more requested
- Lots of people enjoy discovering new music through YouTube
Chapter 19 – Direct contacting: E-mails
Mailing list: offer a free download in exchange for an email address, then keep your fans up to date in time.
- It is fundamental to keep contacts with fans
- Mailing is alive and well!
- Respect your subscribers (bring contents, no spamming!)
See: MailChimp, Reverbnation, Streamsend
Chapter 20 –Blogs and promotion
Key concepts: good promotion arises interests in the media.
Write down a list of blogs\websites\magazines which could be a reference for your kind of audience, and try to let them have content that is interesting enough to make them write about it.
Deadlines are very important.
Don’t underestimate small blogs, the crucial thing is to get yourself out there.
- Bloggers need something to talk about
- Initially, just focus on some blogs
- Establish relationships and don’t spam
See: Pitchfork, Stereogum, Absolute Punk
Chapter 21 – Re-thinking the album
Key concepts: an album is nothing but a song collection, so as you would treat a single with great consideration it is important that you treat each and every song on your album just as well.
An album with just 2-3 good tracks and lots of mediocre ones won’t make sense.
Since quality is your priority, why not publishing just an EP with 3-4 great tracks per time?
- Nowadays, people can download single songs for free. That’s why an album should be a coherent and quality product
- It’s all about the songs. An album is just a collector for them
- Are all of your songs really that good?
- Albums aren’t the one and only way to get new fans
Chapter 22 – 3P: The constant stream of music
Key concepts: people expect new material more and more often.
Make fans happy: record and publish new music more often by realizing a 3P (a 3-4 tracks EP), maybe one every 3-4 months.
This way, it will be easier for you to craft music as well as to keep fans enthusiast. A 3P is also cheaper than an album, and having less tracks in it you’ll be able to concentrate better on their quality.
Publishing less music more often also means that your fans will have less material to skip upon and will be better engaged by your songs.
Still, don’t forget that some fans will keep wanting physical copies.
- 3Ps are the new way to promote emerging bands
- It just takes 3-4 songs every 3-4 months
- A 3P is easier to digest for fans, as well as easier to craft for you
- You can concentrate to work on your small amount of songs at best, treat it like a serious release
Chapter 23 – Merchandising
Since the most common clothing item in the western world still is the T-shirt, it makes sense for bands to start from there.
Expand your offering starting from T-shirts.
Using a logo will help your fans identify and remember you.
If you wish to propose deluxe editions in your merch, you have to justify the price tag. For instance, with a special packaging, extra gadgets or by offering a free download.
You could try to ask for funds directly to fans through pre-orders.
Be careful to present your merch properly at gigs with a visible, clear desk with proper lighting.
You could also set up an online shop, preferably with detailed pictures of the objects and of some model wearing them.
Other common merch items apart from T-shirts are stickers and bottle openers.
Find out a niche product, to be coherent with yourself and your audience.
- Selling merch could make you gain more money than selling music
- T-shirts are a classic
- Decide if you’re going DIY or if you need to contact a professional
- Nothing will help you selling your shirts more than a good design
Chapter 24 – Money
Key concepts: always consider your band as a part-time job, not a full time one.
Always keep a “cash fund” of your band and eventually stick a “band tax” on members, maybe on a monthly basis, to make up for funds.
Have a common bank account and always keep track of its movements.
Having a cover band as a side project could be an idea to gain more funds.
- Money is important if you’re serious about your passion
- Think of yourself as a small business
- Get self-sufficient
- Find creative ways to get funds
- Take care when dealing with credit cards
Chapter 25 – The mini-tour
Key concepts: a mini-tour is usually a 3-day tour in an area you’re sure to get an audience.
Get a good word-of-mouth going and contact local bands to share dates.
Directly contact both local venues and radios.
Publish the event on local music websites and media.
Budget your tour and all transportation methods.
Take care of the security of your gear, never disclose your van explicitly!
Get earplugs other than all the gear.
Don’t forget your merch!
- Mini-tours will let you broaden your audience without breaking the bank
- Keep track of your money
Chapter 26 – Trade fairs and showcases
- Have clear reasons to show up at a fair
- Capitalize on your opportunities
- Concentrate on just a few people to network with
- Sonicbids isn’t the only way to get to big festivals
Chapter 27 – Music licenses
Key concepts: royalties and licenses deal with the money owed to you by anyone who would use your music for third party purposes. If you rely on a licensor, he will register your material at PROs, protecting its usage and making it yield.
- Mechanical and performing royalties can gain you profits if used smartly
- Being featured in a movie or a TV show is a great promotional benefit
- Music advisors often discover new talents on the web
See: Randall Wixen-“The plain and simple guide to music publishing”, Marcello Vilelda, Leopoldo Lombardi-“Uno su mille ce la fa. Tutto quello che c’è da sapere per entrare nel mondo dell’industria musicale” (ITA)
Chapter 28 – Collectives
Key concepts: a group of artists or bands unites to promote the activity of the collective as well as of the single persons composing it.
Artists should obviously share a precise artistic idea to result united and coherent.
Collectives for instance usually share promotion, musicians, mixtapes, rehearsal rooms, studios, tours, expenses, merch, a common website and so on.
- Discover the power of collective working
- Union provides strenght
- Divide tasks and revenues
Chapter 29 – The “nano-rockstar”
Key concepts: you should be able to understand and define who you are, otherwise you’ll never manage to communicate that to others.
The more original and creative you’ll be, the more your fans will perceive you as unique against the crowd.
BE ORIGINAL! Make yourself unique.
YouTube is a first, powerful window on the music business, with which you’ll be able to create a large following from day one, taking advantage of frequent and smartly guessed content.
- “What does success mean to me?” Think about that, really.
- YouTube is the place to start building your own fanbase
- “Nano rockstar” concept: with a small following of loyal fans, willing to subscribe to your content, it is possible to make a living off your music