17 Reasons You May Consider Firing You Publicist

Quick note: Hey there, everyone! We apologize for the lull in content, but we’ve been traveling the country and speaking with college students about the state of the industry today. We had some great chats and brainstormed some great solutions to better the business. We also forgot to update the blog, and for that we apologize. To make amends, please enjoy this post from Paul Resnikof, founder of Digital Music News.

1. They aren’t creating a compelling, heartwarming story that works.

Why did Spotify fire their PR agency?  The reason is that a lot of artists now hate them, including the most powerful artist in the world.  Spotify has simply failed to craft the right message and effectively deliver that message to the people they need the most: artists.

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If you have a question about working in the music industry...

by Zack Zarrillo

Hi readers, listeners, friends, and enemies – Off The Record, the podcast I co-host with Jesse Cannon, is taping an episode focussed on what anyone can do in high school, college, after graduation, and in between the three to get involved in the music industry via an internship or an actual job.

We get asked questions in that vein more than any other, so if you have questions, we’d love to hear them. See below for more:

Don’t know what Off The Record is? Now’s the time to find out!

When Apple introduced the iTunes store in 2003, sales of singles were only a small fraction of record companies’ already declining, post-Napster profits. Flash forward to the present, with 1.259 billion digital tracks sold in 2013, and it’s easy to see why singles tracks dominated discussions about music rather than albums. There’s an even bigger reason the industry gets so focused on songs when the weather gets hot: Albums don’t sell in the summer. So, when the weather gets warm, the song becomes almighty, and labels enter a fierce competition to win the title.
new rules for the music business

I launched my music career in 2006, after years of writing and performing just for fun. To my surprise and disappointment, I found that I had launched it to the strains of a funeral dirge. The Old Business was dead or dying, depending on who you asked. It was not yet clear whether there would be a New Business.

Thus, my business strategy for this past eight years has consisted mostly of guessing, experimenting, praying, and failing. Nobody I’ve met, no matter how experienced or successful, has had anything better than an informed guess about how to “make it” as an artist in the 21st century. It’s a strange and confusing new world.

However, thanks to some combination of luck, madness, and pigheadedness, I’ve been making a full-time living at this for about six years. And it’s starting to be kind of fun. I’m not saying I know what I’m doing, but I have ideas, and some people have asked me for advice. So what follows is my best guess at what the fuck is going on here. 

What Changed Exactly: The Market and The Muse

A funny thing happened in the 20th century. Artists - known the world over to be fuzzy-headed, open-handed, penniless fools, with one eye on the sky and the other turned awkwardly inward – were forced to become businesspeople. And I don’t just mean that they had to handle money – I mean, they had to start thinking about markets.

Let me make clear for you how absurd this is. The difference between the concerns of pleasing a muse (which are largely abstract and unnameable), and the concerns of pleasing a market (which are largely concrete and quantifiable) are akin to the difference between a bird and a stone.  

When we serve the muse, we open ourselves up fearlessly to the woes and passions of the world, we experiment playfully and adventure boldly; we forfeit all allegiance to time, money, and external expectation. The poet Mary Oliver put it this way, “If I have a meeting with you at three o'clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.”

When we serve the market, we strive to make something “marketable”: ie: something that meets an identifiable need or demand, is understandable, and is most likely similar to something that came before it. We try to please the fans and the managers and label-heads, because they are providing the money. We cater, above all else, to time, money, and external expectation.

In short, the muse and the market are not just different, they are diametrically opposed. One asks us to proceed boldly, the other to proceed with caution.

But don’t despair, artists. That’s how it used to work. Then, the internet took everything we knew about markets, turned it upside down, shook it hard, and stole its lunch money.

New Rule #1: Create Ceaselessly

These days, instead of appealing to one big market, artists have the opportunity to appeal to any combination of an infinite number of small markets – which don’t even behave like markets, really, but like communities. Our work can reach these communities no matter where they are in the world, how old they are, or what radio station they listen to. And these communities are highly networked within and between each other.

In other words, there are now infinite markets, and infinite ways of marketing to them.

        Work ≠ money:

In the old business, every iteration of your work (every concert, CD, and photograph) could be expected to make you a fixed, knowable amount of money. Now that your work is being dumped into the bottomless maw of the internet, you can no longer count on it returning to you with a handful of cash.

A lot of artists aren’t ready to face this one, which is understandable. It’s devastating and terrifying to learn that the way you used to make money is not going to make you money anymore.

But let me state this clearly: the old world is not coming back. We can either learn to live in this one, or we can get a job.

Now, many of us have been lulled into believing that we already have a job. We do not. We have a calling. If you want to follow your calling, a steady paycheck is one of the many nice things that you’ll be asked to sacrifice.

That said, I believe that the problem of money is working itself out in some new and interesting ways. Fans don’t equal cash the way they once did (they don’t necessarily buy your records or go to your concerts, for example), but a fan is still a person who loves and values your work, and is probably willing to pay for it. Kickstarter, Patreon, and Bandcamp are a few of the models that allow us to experiment with turning fans into income, and I predict there will be many, many more in the coming years.

The trick is, they are not linear models. The more fans you have, the more money you can make - probably - but the ratio is not 1:1. The amount you get paid depends on lots of mushy, musey things, like how inspired your fans are, and how much they like you personally, and what they ate for breakfast.  

I happen to believe that good artists will always be able to make a living doing the thing they’re good at. Maybe not a great living, but a living. That said, I’ll get a job if I need to. I didn’t get into this for the money; and I’d wager that you didn’t either. Like Gillian Welch said, back in 2001 (AKA: the beginning of the end), “We’re gonna do it anyway, even if it doesn’t pay.”

      Two crazy masters:

So in the old business, the market was fairly bounded, and behaved in a somewhat predictable fashion. In the new business, it’s not, and it doesn’t.

We still have to cater to two masters (the market and the muse), but now, at least they are equally insane. They both require from us every ounce of boldness, passion and open-mindedness we can muster, and they both reward us in surprising and unpredictable ways.

We have to learn to treat our careers the way we treat our art: open ourselves up to mysterious forces, work fearlessly, and pray that we’ll be rewarded.

New Rule #2: Share Generously

I’m about to say something that’s gonna get me into trouble.

“Intellectual property” is an absurd concept that only a society of clueless, museless marketers could possibly conceive of. It’s an idea that serves markets, cripples muses, and is willfully ignorant of all of human history.

We are stealing from one another constantly and shamelessly, and that’s a blessed and beautiful thing. Every folk song is a mashup of all previous folk songs. Every film stands on the shoulders of all other films. Every sentence, poem and novel exists only for the creative gumption of all previous speakers of language, which is itself a collaborative invention of the entire human race. The whole history of human invention is characterized by a kind of joyful, infinite plagiarism.

Ideas are not commodities. They are made to be shared, not owned.  

That said, I do get the point. If somebody covered one of my songs and got it on the radio and made millions and didn’t pay me, I’d sue the bajeezus out of the motherfucker. If you’re going to turn my song into a commodity, I expect to paid as though it’s a commodity (even though deep in my heart, I know it’s not). 

BUT, if somebody covered one of my songs and put it on youtube, or wrote a song that was an homage to one of mine, or burned one of my CDs and gave it to a friend, or used a song of mine in their broke-ass indie film, I’d high five them. Why? Because there is a big difference between sharing someone else’s work and profiting off of someone else’s work. And it’s time for all of us to get real, real comfortable with the former.

(This, by the way, is why all of my music is released under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial License. Read about it!)

The old business was set up in such a way that pretty much every time somebody heard one of your songs, you could expect to get paid for it. The new business is not set up that way, and in my estimation, it’s not about to be. But at this point, I’m inclined not to mind. Remember: fans are worth money, just not in a linear way.  That means that I am downright celebratory about people sharing my work. I want my songs to go out there and make fans.

        How to Get Paid for Sharing:

I’d argue that the most effective way to rig this new system in our favor is to create as many opportunities as possible for our fans to pay us for what we do. I think most fans are willing to part with some money, as a show of gratitude for the work that moves them.

When it comes to asking for money, ask with humor, confidence, and a sense of abundance. Try to maintain the sense that what you’re offering is valuable and worthwhile. In other words, “Please buy my CD, which is not that great, so I can buy gas” is much less effective than “I made this album, and I think it’s beautiful, and I want you to have it. If you happen to have made some money, and you want me to have it, I think that’s beautiful too.”

Also, ask often, and in lots of different ways. My ‘asks’ range from the “donate” link at the bottom of this post, to Patreon and Kickstarter, to the pitch I do from the stage at every live show (where my CDs are available pay-what-you-please). For more on the ask, I recommend that you watch this video.

In other words, I don’t require anybody to pay me for any of the work I share. That said, I make it really easy and fun and warm-fuzzy-feeling for them to do so. This has been working for me for the past five years or so, and it works better all the time. I’d wager that if you’re committed, and passionate, and willing to apply a bit of your (abundant) creativity to this endeavor, it can work for you, too.

New Rule #3: Collaborate Selflessly

Back when there was one big multi-billion-dollar market, it made sense to get a little territorial. It made sense that artists talked shit about each other, got into public skirmishes, and were reticent to share their resources. They were competing for their little slice of a very big pie.

These days, however, there are infinite pies. That means that advocating for another artist’s work (or even just tolerating it) takes nothing away from your own work. It means that competition within the arts is outdated and counterproductive. It means that we have to take responsibility for our work, because our work lives or dies on its own merits. That’s true of everybody else’s work, too – regardless of our opinions about it (and we have many).

Furthermore, working with other artists grows both of our pies. Cross-promotion and collaboration are perhaps our very best shots at growing our fan base. Marketing dollars are getting less valuable all the time, but “social capital” is getting more valuable.

So here’s what I recommend: find artists you love (artistically and personally), and make something with them, or for them. Send them fan mail. Tell your fans about their records. Make them a casserole. If you need help, ask them. If they need help, give it to them. 

Furthermore, if you need help and they won’t provide it, be gracious. They are fighting their own battles and have their own reasons. Similarly, if somebody makes work you don’t like, or if somebody you don’t like has some success that seems unwarranted, let it slide. What’s more: applaud them. We are not competitors anymore, and we gain nothing by cutting each other down.

We are all engaged in the hard work of trying to make something beautiful in an often-ugly world. We wake up every day and fight the same demons - some external, most internal. Every scrap of encouragement we come across is infinitely valuable. We may be an introverted, neurotic, solitary bunch, but we need each other.

This is good business, but more than that, it’s good living. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to do this work if it means my heart has to shrivel up like a prune. I make music because music breaks me open to infinity and God and magic and all manner of foolish feelings. If that stops happening, I’ll quit. Until then, I plan to share those feelings with every artist who happens to incite them, and say THANK YOU to every one of my comrades who provides inspiration or encouragement or help or hope or humor (for example, The Wood Brothers, Devon Sproule, Milton, Anais Mitchell, Chris Kasper, Peter Mulvey, Vienna Teng, The Weepies, Seth Walker, Mark Erelli, Shovels & Rope, and David Torkanowsky. To name a few).

New Rule #4 (the most important rule): Be Grateful.

Keep this in mind at all times. It is a blessing to be a creative person. It is a luxury and a privilege to have a calling, to know what it is, and to have a shot at pursuing it. Fame and fortune are a completely ludicrous expectation, and we don’t deserve them. We don’t even deserve to live above the poverty line (at least, no more than anyone else does). 

Whatever bullshit, boring thing you have to do to make it work - be it hooking, tweeting, waiting tables, driving 60,000 miles a year - make peace with it. When you feel bitterness or disappointment nibbling at your heart, fend them off the way you always have: sing, play, and write. 

The world gave you your muse. It has already done right by you, and it owes you nothing else. 

So, let’s review.

The New Rules: 

1)        Create ceaselessly. Approach your career like another aspect of your art: it requires constant inspiration and experimentation, and provides unpredictable rewards.

2)         Share generously. As soon as it’s out of you, it belongs to the world. Write the song, record it, bless and release. Then, make it really, really easy for people who love it to give you money.

3)         Collaborate selflessly. Make friends with artists whose work you love. Make yourself available to them, and ask them for help. When they help or inspire you, be enthusiastically, vocally grateful. When they don’t, be gracious. Let your heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living (joyfully plagiarized from e. e. cummings). 

4)         Be Grateful. You are a lucky bastard, whether or not you ever sell a single record or ticket. When it’s not working the way you want it to, fall to your knees and give thanks for your ears and your muse and the infinite gifts of creating.


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Imagine this: canceling your Spotify subscription, and paying $20 for a Tidal subscription instead. It’s more expensive because it’s “higher quality” and “artist-owned,” which is important because Usher, Daft Punk, and Madonna have been living in wretched penury for far too long, and it’s time for people to give back. The modern-day Our Gang (which counted among its members not only the aforementioned supernovas, but also Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Chris Martin, and Jack White) held a “keynote” to promote Tidal, the already extant European streaming company Jay Z recently purchased for $56 million because he’s bored.

8 Ways To Make 2015 Different

The beginning of the year always feels exhilarating. It provokes excitement and enthusiasm for a future that could be—that will be. It also wakes up that crazy inner voice that insists, “this year is going to be different.” That said, here are 8 ways to help make 2015 different:

1) Make NO New Years resolutions. Instead make intelligent choices. You already have a project, a goal, a mission, a plan, or an idea bouncing around between your ears. Commit to that for 2015!

2) The “Internet of Everything” is near: Upgrade your digital world—it’s a wise investment. Everything has become mobile, portable and global and it’s not going to stop—it’s not even going to slow down. Don’t break the bank, however be sure you have thebest tech-tools you can afford; including phones, pads, laptops, apps, software, etc. Plus, don’t resist the opportunity to take a few classes this year to sharpen your skills and deepen your awareness of the ever-growing tech revolution.

3) Strengthen your base: Content may be king, but community holds the keys to the kingdom. We live in a “direct to customer” world, and if you want to expand your empire you must “consistently” interact and engage with your fans, followers and customers. It’s an intelligent investment of your time.

4) Turn Off The News! Really, it’s the worst form of hypnotic poison and the most embarrassing product of the entertainment industry. Say good-by to Wolf, Anderson, Storm, Erin, Forrest, Shepard, and all the other talking heads with funny names. Allow others to gather around the TV and get stoned on the drama while you respectfully step away and return to your studio, office or creative space. You’re an artist, an entrepreneur! You have your own drama unfolding right in front of you; Your Art! Your Company! Your Project! And don’t worry about “staying informed,” if something critical happens you’ll rush to the TV for the latest info.

5) Don’t freak out about money: Just make intelligent choices and decisions regarding your resources, whether you have a lot or a little. Be smart enough to avoid spontaneous, emotional spending, and courageous enough to jump on wise investment opportunities when they come your way. Also, be sure to take my 13-second Money Seminar. 

6) Commitment is EVERYTHING: Doesn’t matter if you’re a fledgling songwriter or the CEO of a mega-corp. The commitment to “get there” is your first priority—HOW you’re going to do it is second. To the degree you are ruthlessly committed to achieving your biggest goals, to that degree you will achieve them. Not like “positive thinking,” more like a smart, sturdy foundation to stand on.

7) Silence The Beast: Learn to quiet the critic between your ears. I began meditating daily in 1985, and the balance I’ve found in my life between the hoopla of showbiz and the silence of my soul is astounding. If you’re interested I’ll send you a copy of my personal meditation practice (exclusively for my subscribers only). All you have to do is ask.

8) Don’t Do Anything Stupid! You’re an artist, an entrepreneur—a crazy, creative, genius! I know it can be tough; however, it’s a GREAT life, and the only life for you! Don’t screw it up!

Happy New Year!

What It Really Means To Be ‘Almost Famous’

I often hear about kids my age that are just as passionate as me about music. I am constantly asked about how I’m an editor for three music websites as well as a writing contributor to four, on top of the insanely stressful junior and senior years. Quite honestly, I’m falling apart. Don’t get me wrong, writing is my salvation. It distracts me from the bullshit of high school and is starting me off on an incredible foot for my future, but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t want to rip my hair out from time to time dealing with it all.

Much of this article is a response to my UTG editor James Shotwell’s article on the fabricated plot of Almost Famous. From someone who is living just as William Miller’s life would be on realistic terms, I completely agree with Shotwell’s stand. I can’t even tell you how many people have told me to watch Almost Famous when I’d explain my journalism career to them, and I finally sat down and watched it when my mom bought me the DVD. Already being a teenager in the journalism field, I knew the movie’s premise scenario was extremely dramatized for the sake of Hollywood. However, in the eyes of kids who have yet to step into the real world of music journalism, Miller’s adventure can radically enhance their daydreams, leading to utter disappointment if they actually pursue this career. If being an adult journalist is hard enough, imagine being a teenage girl navigating her way around shows and festivals, desperately trying to look professional and mature underneath the awkward judgement from older band members and uptight tour managers.

That’s me.

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Kelly Clarkson has notched another American Idol first. Arguably the biggest star to emerge from the Fox show (she’s tied with Carrie Underwood at three No. 1 albums), Clarkson is the first alum to fulfill the recording contract she won in 2002. And with the release of her seventh studio album, Piece by Piece, on RCA (it debuted at No. 1 the week ending March 8 with 97,000 track-equivalent albums, according to Nielsen Music), she’s now a free agent who could command a hefty new deal.

Just posting this to note that Kelly Clarkson’s record contract was for 13 years! 

3 Reasons Why Your Music Career is not Succeeding

1. Time

As in you haven’t given it enough yet. Success comes about when you have dedicated enough time (often decades) into many different aspects of your career, so at some point they all click and start to snowball. Generating the amount of connections needed to succeed is a long term commitment, and a common mistake is to think that one person will come along and put your career in overdrive. But it is personal connections accumulated over a lengthy period of time on every level, from fans to professionals, that leads to a tipping point. And it’s not always about people hearing your music, or seeing you play, but about many people being aware of what you are doing, hearing about you from multiple sources, seeing your name around, so that one day they finally do turn up at your show, or click a link to your video, or look you up on Spotify. Be warned that when they do, you must have put the time in to be good enough, so they are hooked as a fan, or as a business associate. These people need to believe that the thing they are to invest their time and money in, is more that just the potential of success, it’s the real thing.

2. Entitlement

As in you think you are entitled to success. The absolute truth is you are not. No one cares what your music means to you, they only care what your music means to them. And those in the business only care about how much money you will make for them. Until you can understand how you appear to someone who has no reason to ever give a shit about what you are doing, you won’t understand what it takes to succeed. You are not better than everyone else. Your music is no more vital to the well being of the world than anyone else’s. When you fill a hall full of people, who have paid their hard earned cash to see you, then you are entitled to a decent cut of the profits. But thinking you are owed success more than others because you are in someway special, just shows how far from success you really are.

3. Work Ethic

As in hard work gets results. If you want success you got to work for it. Relentless, unceasing, ego free, hard work. If you are not making a living making music, then you don’t have the luxury of saying no to things. Steer clear of bad long term deals, and avoid pay to play, but if something comes up that will get you in front of people, or build connections, do it. If you have to work a day job to enable you to keep moving forward with your music, take it. But make sure you work double hard on your music when you get home, and invest some of those earning back into your career. If you are in a privileged position, where you don’t have responsibilities, and can spend your time focused on music, take full advantage of it. If you are frustrated with where your career is at, but spend spare time playing xbox, you only have your self to blame. Successful people don’t have spare time because they are too busy doing something productive with it.

4 Top Internet Trends That Will Impact Musicians

By Matt Voyno 

Mary Meeker presented her 2015 Internet Trends report at the Code Conference in Cali and it’s filled with key information for artists. You can read the whole thing here but below I’ve picked out the 4 trends that will impact your music-making-self.

1. The next revolution for making money as a musician:  BUY BUTTONS
Finally mobile commerce has evolved to allow fans to purchase wherever and whenever.  That will literally look like “Buy Buttons” all over Twitter, Facebook, Google. It may seem still some time away but according to Meeker the change will be quick and seamless.

Keep reading

This new official line from Spotify about people moving beyond “genres” is interesting. There may be some truth in it. Or it may be that people have listeners have never been has segregated as you’d think. From what I understand, US radios are strictly divided by genre to a degree that seems quite extreme when compared to European radio stations so this might have helped perpetuate that idea.

What’s interesting is to wonder why Spotify, which until recently promoted genre divided playlists, now wants to de-emphasize genres in favor of… “activities” like jogging, cooking, waking up. The article argues that it could be artist friendly, a way to show that they help get their music into people’s hears. But I’m not buying that and the artists probably won’t. (btw you know it’s a tech guy and not a music biz guy who wrote the article when labels  aren’t mentioned even once).

In part, this might be a way to sell advertising, because ads targeted to people currently jogging may be easier to sell than ads targeting “people currently listening to obscure sub genre”. But Spotify’s engame is not ads but paying subscribers.

Musicians and labels understand, you could even say they “own” genres. What Spotify has that no one else does is data about their users’ listening habits. If distribution is linked to those, not to genre, then Spotify is in control. You can tailor a country song to country radio standards. How do you tailor a song for Spotify’s “Sunday brunch” playlist? OK, that may not be that hard. But how do you know Spotify won’t suddenly find out people don’t listen to music during brunch and will suddenly shift its focus on Sunday afternoon barbecues playlists? The answer is: you don’t know. So you work with them.

Spotify currently pays 70% of its revenues to the recording industry and is always at the mercy of one of them pulling out or renegotiating an even bigger payout. So they need to shift that power, and this is their latest plan to achieve just that. Basically, it’s “we will crush you with our big data”.

What Exactly Does An Artist Manager Do?

We have become big fans of Andrew Jones’ work in recent months, and every week or so we like to share some of his unique industry insight on our blog in order to provide a different perspective on this crazy place we call the entertainment business. Today’s post is a little sillier than the others, but it still has a good message to share.

This blog exists to promote the future of the music industry, and to do that we need input from people like you and your music-loving friends. If you have any questions about the content in this article, or if you have an artist you would like to see featured on this blog, please contact and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

“So, what do you exactly do all day?”

As an artist manager people ask me this all the time, and it’s always a little complicated to answer. There are a variety of answers to this question, and honestly every manager is different. Even one manager may handle slightly different tasks for different clients or handle something for one season but hire a third party for another.

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An Overview of What the Music Copyright Changes Actually Mean per Yngvolkayno

(this is copied from a conversation I had with Yngvolkayno this morning and I thought she did a great job breaking it down, so with her permission and some minor formatting edits, here it is:)

The copyright article is good, overall. Basically, it’s changing how songwriters get paid for songs being played over things like Spotify/Pandora/YouTube, because right now, most artists are getting screwed. 

The really interesting thing (to me at least) is the clause that moves all pre-1972 recordings under federal law instead of state. Before now, most state laws didn’t require royalties to be paid for anything recorded before 1972 (which technically includes at least 1 year’s worth of Eagles music). Moving it under federal law means that they’ll start getting royalties for them, but I don’t think it’s retroactive, which still kind of sucks, but what can you do. 

Also, one of the clauses gives the label a chance to opt out of certain things being available through programs like Spotify, etc. So basically, artists would essentially have even more leverage to get the royalties they deserve, because if a company isn’t willing to play ball, they can just pull their music and give exclusivity to a competitor who will.

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LOS ANGELES — So what effect will the “Blurred Lines” verdict have on the music industry?

That’s the question being asked after a federal jury in Los Angeles found Tuesday that the 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines” infringed on the Marvin Gaye chart-topper “Got to Give It Up,” awarding nearly $7.4 million to Gaye’s children.

The case focused on the similarities between the song and the legendary soul singer’s 1977 hit. Jurors found against singer-songwriters Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, but held harmless the record company and rapper T.I.

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Begin Again - Opening June 27th, 2014

This movie is not getting enough promotion. It looks amazing and I cannot wait to see it! My favorite people sharing the screen with my profession all over it! This is going to be great!