Tech Tip:Q&A with David Hooper, Marketing Tips for the Independent Artist

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Q&A with David Hooper,
Marketing Tips for the Independent Artist
by David Hooper



QUESTION: Do you suggest that we send no e-mails (for our band's promotion)? I have been doing my bands mailing list and we have 200 people on e-mail and 80 people without. Once in a while I'll send to the 80, but e-mail is "free" and I tend to put our little money into other things besides postage.


ANSWER: You should definitely use email, but don't think that it's a replacement for sending out an old fashioned post card.

Yes, email is free and easy. That's great, but it's also something that your fans are very aware of.


A postcard via snail mail is a lot more personal than an email it took you ten minutes to send to 200 people. Add a personal thank you on it and you'll get great results!


Postage is just part of your advertising expenses and there is nothing more important than advertising when trying to get people interested in what you have going on. You'll make this money back, so go for it.


QUESTION: I am a songwriter and I want to start my own publishing in order to promote myself. What is the best way for me to do this?


ANSWER: Contact the performing rights organization that you deal with. They'll be more than happy to establish a publishing company with you.

If you're dealing with ASCAP, they'll want to clear the name for a few months and have you release a product under than name before everything becomes "official." This is done because they don't want to waste their time working with songs that are not going to be cut and therefore get royalties.

BMI is a little easier to deal with, but it will cost you around $100 up front to have them clear the name.


QUESTION: When sending a demo out, is it better to send a CD or a tape?


ANSWER: Personally, I like to have a CD. In addition to the better sound quality, it allows me to skip over tracks which is very nice when I am on a very tight schedule.


Cassettes sometimes work great for music conferences since a lot of rental cars (and even non-rental cars) have cassette decks rather than CD players.

A good rule of thumb is to send a CD if you're mailing your package and have both options available if you're handing off the demo in person. Make it as easy on the person receiving your demo as possible.


QUESTION: Is there a certain way to get hold of an A&R rep, or is it purely coincidental?


ANSWER: Being in Nashville, I see A&R guys all the time at the various music related functions we have around town. I don't know where you are, but would bet you're not so lucky.


The best luck I have had with A&R reps is to approach them, not ask for anything, and just let them know I exist. I usually hand them a CD and say, "Just wanted to let you know this exists."


I don't follow up or have any other contact with them until I see them again out at a club, seminar, or conference. I just make sure they know I'm there. I NEVER ask for anything from an A&R person.


Keep this up and they'll start wondering what you have going on. That's when you can start to work on a relationship that is mutually beneficial for you.

Why do I do it this way? A&R guys are sick of people who only want to know "what can you do for me?"


I take the approach of "this is what I can do for you." Make things happen on your own and work to make things easy on the A&R guy.

An A&R guy isn't the final person you'll have to deal with at a label. He's going to have to sell a dozen or more people on your project once he is sold on it. Record labels don't like to take chances. Make your project an easy sell!


QUESTION: I manage a very unique rock act. They are serious players who are aged 8, 9, 10, and 13. They are accompanied by one adult. We are working on our second demo. The last was planned to be for the experience of it, and to play for locals.


I want to start shopping a deal for the kids. What would you recommend for a first step when the demo is finished? How can I get addresses of indie and major labels? The act is so unique that I think I have a good chance.


ANSWER: Your best step is to go a few steps above just the demo and put together the entire package. You'll need a live show, image, and also a fan base that is already in place.


As far as sending out demos, don't bother. Use the money somewhere else.


As small as my label is, we don't take unsolicited demos because we simply get too much junk. I can't imagine the volume of material that major labels get!


You mention that your band is unique. That's all the more reason to work on getting a buzz going, selling some albums, and getting people to your shows. That will get the major labels attention. Remember, labels are a business and businesses don't like to take chances with their money.


QUESTION: i have recently been a hired gun for a touring band that is in the process of another record deal.what are some things i should consider before i sign on with the band?


ANSWER: I'm going to answer your question with a few questions you should think about before heading out. I know some of them may sound paranoid, but you need to think about this and more BEFORE you head out.

Will I get paid?
Will I get paid when the band is not paid?
How much will I get paid?
What will I do when I don't get paid?
What will I do if one of the band members have alcohol/drug issues?
When happens when the van breaks down?
What if I can't stand the rest of the band half way through the tour?
Will I have a safe place to sleep every night?
What am I going to do when we're stuck in the middle of nowhere without
any money?


I have seen bad things as a result of poor planning happen time and time again. Don't let me scare you from going out with these guys, but definitely think ahead because what can go wrong will go wrong.


QUESTION: I'm a solo acoustic musician who has released a few things that I've only sold at shows. I've toured around the country and am about to embark on an American and European tour. While I never make much money, I'm pretty happy with the way things are. Do you have any advice or do you know of any booking agents who specialize in unsigned folk singers. I don't really have the desire to be a big star, just make a living, and I'd certainly be willing to be on the road all the time. I'm just so tired of making all of the booking phone calls to make my life would complete.


ANSWER: While making a lot of money is not something you seem to care about, it's going to be hard to find a booking agent who feels the same way. The more money you make, the easier it will be for you to get somebody interested in you. That goes not only got booking agents, but also managers, labels, and distribution companies.


Since you're willing to travel all the time, I would pick 20-25 spots that you can hit every four to six weeks and circle around until you are able to increase your fan base as well as your guarantee. Once that happens, it should be easy to get a booking agent involved with you.




ANSWER: I am contacted weekly by teens who want to be the next Brittany Spears or N'Sync. While MTV makes it look easy, almost all of the 'teen bands' that are popular right have members that have grown up in the business and already have years of experience.


I'm not saying that you need to give up your dreams of having a record contract, but my suggestion to you would be to work on the foundation of your talent (such as writing songs and performing) and look at the big picture. By the time you you in your late teens or early 20s, you'll be well beyond most of the people your age.


Remember, trends in music change, but a good song backed by a good performance will never go out of style. The average overnight sensation takes seven years, so you've got plenty of time!


QUESTION: What should be in my press kit and how should the bio be arranged?


ANSWER: The best thing to do, if it is possible, is to ask the person you're sending the kit to exactly what they'd like to see. Personally, I just like music,a fact sheet, and a cover letter that tells me exactly what people want me to do with the material.

If you're going to do a bio, don't do it in first person. If you find this hard to do on your own, get somebody to write one for you. Keep it short and simple and don't put in any fluff that would cause your important facts to be delayed (or skipped!).


QUESTION: My band is getting ready to record an album. We don't have the capital to record the album and get the sound/production we need. How does a group go about securing investors, and what do you offer them once you have them interested?


ANSWER: If you don't have money to finish the job like it needs to be done, don't start. I get so many projects with notes like, "Don't pay attention to tracks 5-10. We ran out of money and had to put the rough mixes on."


It's better to go with four great songs than ten songs that aren't great. My suggestion would be for you to record your best songs and do them right before trying to approach investors.


I know you can hear the music in your head, but it's going to be hard to convince somebody who can't to give you guys money. An EP would be a good mid-point.


Personally, I'd skip the investors all together and get the money yourself. You can record a great independent album for $10k. That may seem like a lot of money, but it's really not and it's always nice to have complete control when you're dealing with art.


QUESTION: What's the best way to get into record production. I've always wanted to be a producer. I'm confident i have the musical skills because i can redo almost all the (R&B,POP) songs they play on the radio in my home studio to every little details(strings,bass,etc.). Plus I do my own songs too. So besides getting lucky, what can i do to increase my chance of getting to where David Foster is? (David Foster is my idol) Like how can i get my feet into producing records?


ANSWER: Sounds like you've already got your feet wet. Doing something on your own and then showing it to the people you want to help you out is the best way to do anything.


David Foster got a break, but he was ready to take his break when it came. If you keep preparing like you are, I'm sure you will be as well.


I would suggest finding some local producers and shadowing them in the studio to find our more about their process. I would also suggest doing some local groups for little or no money to get together a reel that you can send out.


Just climb the ladder one step at a time. Again, it sounds like you've got a good start on it.


QUESTION: I am a singer songwriter in my late 20`s. I have heard that a lot of record companies don`t want to sign guys over 30 years of age. I figure that by the time I make it, I will be in my early 30`s. should I throw in the towel,or ignore what I have heard. After all, groups like:Smash Mouth and Men at Work started in their 30`s.


ANSWER: First of all, ignore what the record companies do. There are no rules to the music business and the major label machine is broken.

I'm in the singer/songwriter capital of the World and there are thousands of successful artists here that are well over thirty. If there is one market that it is possible to break into at your age, it's the singer/songwriter market.


No, you're probably not going to be the next Ricky Martin or another MTV-oriented artist, but that doesn't mean you won't be able to make a comfortable living writing and performing songs.


A good song is a good song. It doesn't matter what the age of the person who writes or performs it is.


QUESTION: I have just made my first CD. Now, I want to create my own music website. Nothing too complex. Maybe a 5-7 page website. I don't want to spend too much to maintain my website each month, maybe $20/month the most. Can you direct to the appropriate place to create my own website. I already have a domain name.


ANSWER: The web designers we have at Kathode Ray Music charge about $35/hour and could come up with a solid 5-7 page site for you (assuming you already have the copy) in just a few hours. This seems to be about the going rate, so you probably won't have a problem finding a similar or even better deal.


You can definitely design the page yourself if you have time to learn HTML. I have seen programs recently that are making that easier and easier to do.


As far as hosting, you should be able to find a good host for $10-20/month with no problem. I would ask around and recommendations.


After you get a host, they'll post your domain name to your new site and you'll be ready to go!


QUESTION: I got started in the music business five years ago, when I was twelve years old. Mainly, I focused on remixing Indian music. I have released one remix album since then. Recently, however, I have lost interest and want to make a career for myself in the American music industry singing. I know I'm not white or black, so how likely is it that I could ever get a chance for an A&R rep guy to listen to me if I don't want to start to play at clubs? The music that I like creating is mostly fast, club stuff, like Eiffel 65. I also want to know if adding a little Indian Spice to the music would help me get noticed.


ANSWER: If you want to break into the US market, you're probably going to have to start at a local/regional level and work your way up. Breaking Nationally on your first time out is a pipe dream.


Do you enjoy Indian music? If so, I would definitely stick with it. If not, forget about it and find a new style. Do the music you like because this isn't something you want to get burnt out on or not enjoy.


Bottom line, you're looking at a real long shot if you're not actually in the US playing live shows and developing a fan base on a local/regional level. If this is not an option, I would suggest an aggressive Internet marketing campaign to get something started on a moderate budget.


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