Category Archives: Business

Bands aren’t the same anymore

These days music is more accessible than ever. This abundant supply of cool tunes and new acts means being in a band rarely brings much of an income. As a result many musicians are not loyal band members, but come and go, often playing in multiple bands at the same time. For those like me who are passionate and committed it’s frustrating and a little depressing to see talented colleagues spreading themselves too thin.

A recent blog post on Ultimate Guitar prompts the question of whether being in a band (or bands) is worth it. This is quite a pertinent topic – I’m starting out in a new band in a new city. What is the point? What’s in it for me?

One of the commenters on that blog noted that this issue has been raised in the past. However there are some new aspects to today’s trend. Apps like Spotify or Pandora give a thrill to music listeners, but often fail to give musicians a fair reward (a living wage if you like) for the hard work they put in. This is a large problem that cannot be easily bypassed by choosing between strategies of pooling your efforts in one band or multiplying your chances by playing in lots of bands.

A contributing factor to the problem of low returns is the skewed distribution in wages. A tiny number get a big piece of the music revenue pie. Does a musician (indeed anyone) ever need to be a multimillionaire? I wonder how many more musicians would receive a living wage if there were greater equity in music income. How to achieve this, as with any industry-specific structural reform, will be difficult to achieve. I wonder who would be willing to take the leadership on this matter, especially when the resources and power are concentrated in a minority of record labels and media moguls who reap rewards from the current system. The line between music and politics is indeed a blurry and controversial one.

Thankfully I do earn a living wage, and to me music is an end in itself, increasing its worth above any capital return. But I worry for my colleagues, for my students, for the future of music. What do you think, does it worry you?

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Guitar advertising places

How do you hear about upcoming music events and guitar performances? Where do you market your local music business? Here’s my advice on advertising in and around Raleigh, based on my experience setting up my guitar teaching business. If you know about other opportunities please share with the rest of us by posting in the comments below.

To reach students and academics there are cylindrical poster boards on NC State’s main campus by the Free Expression Tunnel and near Harrelson Hall, but these are heavily used and abused, i.e. posters are quickly ripped off or pasted over. There is a non-commercial solicitation rule on campus. You can pay to advertise in The Technician, and events of interest to the university community could be posted on the noticeboard in the Music Department. It is courteous to ask before sticking up your notice.

Listservs
There are many popular local email lists, some of which may include thousands of potential customers, such as those interested in live music or music lessons. (I’m on one with over 4000 subscribers but it is private so unfortunately I can’t post an accessible link here). A good place to search for your interests might be on Yahoo Groups or Google Groups. Another thing people like to do is to accrue a database of the email addresses of potential customers, either by storing their details from past purchases (with their permission of course), or by including an email subscription box on your website.

Community noticeboards:

  • Sam Ash on Capital Boulevard. Material removed after 30 days, sooner if it is out of date.
  • Guitar Center on Capital Boulevard.
  • I have also found business cards of interesting bands on the corkboard in the men’s toilets in Raleigh Brewing Company (might be similar in the women’s but obviously I haven’t been in!).
  • Craigslist offers free classified advertising for specific cities and is split into topical boards, see for example one of my ads.
  • Local libraries, such as this one at Cameron Village. Usually you hand in your notice and it must be approved before the librarians post it.

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What’s so special about you?

So last week’s blog on standing out for cycling with a guitar was a a bit tongue in cheek, though it is a practical problem I face. Here I want to consider your USP – this is your Unique Selling Point, what distinguishes you from everyone else in the marketplace. You’re operating in a dynamic market where your services, your competition, and the perceptions of your customers are all changing. So thinking about your USP is a reflexive process that you should not stop doing, whether you’re running a part time freelance business, whether you’re working on a team, or whether you’re a big boss.

I’ve had to think about this twice: when setting myself up as a guitar tutor in Sheffield, and when moving to Raleigh and considering a similar line of work.

There are two stages to figuring out your USP:

  1. Scout out the competition (in person, in marketing material, on the web) – what are they up to? What does your business offer? Is there anything you offer that the competition does not? – make sure your marketing reflects your niche.
  2. Listen to customer feedback (in person, emails, phone calls, emails, online reviews) – what do they value in your business? Do they have other needs that you could meet? – make sure your marketing reflects the ways you satisfy your customers.

These might seem like simple questions, but often people neglect to gather the data or spend the time answering them properly. If you take the time to listen to other businesses and your customers, you will be well prepared to communicate what you can most usefully sell or provide. Feed the results of your research into your marketing material.

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Music studios in Raleigh

Whether your band needs room to practice, or a dedicated space to record tracks for your album, here’s a list of music studios in Raleigh, NC.

Rehearsal studios

For college music students in Raleigh there are practice rooms at Peace University and at North Carolina State University.

Recording and Production Studios

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