Category: Music Tools

5 Lyrical Clichés That Can Ruin a Song

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Mac DeMarco’s “Salad Days” uses a cliché theme in a fresh way. (Photo by Coley Brown)

How do we define cheesy? What separates a lyrical motif from a cringe-worthy cliché? And is there any way that these songwriting taboos can actually work in your favor?

The answer to the latter question is simpler than defining the errors. If you’re aware of the tropes you’re tripping over, the work can be understood as satire, irony, or camp. Another option: pair familiar lyrical lines with an otherwise unconventional song. None of those suggestions are foolproof, and it’s not a guarantee that your use of cheesy or cliché wording will make your music unlistenable. Figuring out what works in any particular situation, as always, is ultimately up to you.

Here are some of the most commonly relied-upon songwriting clichés, and why they’re mistakes – plus instances in which they were successful.

Read more: 5 Lyrical Clichés That Can Ruin a Song

5 Exercises That Will Make You A Better Songwriter

songwriting become a better songwriter

There is a false assumption about songwriting that some magical moment of inspiration will suddenly strike a person sitting in a room with a guitar, causing them to give birth to a small piece of artistic brilliance and until that happens, it’s not worth picking up a pen and a piece of paper.

It’s true that inspiration can come from a variety of places, but the hard reality is that just like playing an instrument, great songwriters become great by practicing.  It’s especially important to remember that early results are almost never that promising. It’s okay to write a crappy song. The key is figuring out what about the song wasn’t so great and what needs to be done to improve it.

In the meantime, there are exercises you can do on a daily and weekly basis that will strengthen your writing muscle and make you a better songwriter. Some of these are tried and true techniques, some are a little bit outside of the box. Some of them may work wonders for you, some may not. Every writer learns to find what processes work best for them.

Learn, Play, and Diagram Your Favorite Songs

Influences are a big part of every songwriter’s individual sound. The hard part is figuring out how to absorb your favorite writers and let their influence seep into your own creative process without copying them outright. Learning to play and perform a song that someone else wrote is one way to learn from the inside out what it feels like to sing from that writer’s perspective. The reality is, you will never be able to perform it the same way they do, so take liberty in interpreting their song with your own voice. Memorize the lyrics, practice and learn it as if you were preparing to perform it. Really let it sink in.

Freestyle Write and Record It

Freestyle, stream of consciousness writing is deceptively simple. Training your mind to spit out new ideas without stopping is a discipline in and of itself. Whether your playing guitar, DJing in Ableton, singing and playing piano or whatever medium you prefer to write in, freestyle writing can not only be a discovery tool for new ideas, but can also reveal crutches and patterns that you lean on too often. Make sure and record yourself and listen back, you might be surprised as to what you hear.

Write With Someone Else

It’s always a good idea to try out writing with another writer, whether or not they are more or less experienced that you are. There are always methods you could pick up, but more than anything writing with someone else forces you to put ideas to paper. Writing alone can often include distractions, but when you have a set aside time in front of someone else there is more of a sense of urgency to create something. Don’t expect every co-writing session to be fruitful, remember that a lot of these are exercises to make you better . You might not end up with a great song at the end, but the process can teach you a lot.

Point/Counterpoint Excercise

A complicated song with multiple sections and a fully developed theme can often be a daunting task to jump right into. An award winning prolific writer told me about this exercise. Write a series of verse/chorus combinations and think about each of them like a point/counterpoint. Identify one idea and flesh it out. Follow it up with a second idea that counterpoints that idea – melodically, lyrically, rhythmically, however you see fit. Once you’re done and this two part creation is complete, start over and do it again. Some of these ideas might even turn into actual songs, but you can’t expect them all to be great ideas. Again, it’s all about the exercise.

Set Aside Dedicated Time

I read once that Nick Cave approaches songwriting like a desk job – he commits himself to writing from 9 AM to 5 PM, five days a week, with a lunch break in the middle. This can seem a bit stuffy to artists who typically consider the musicians lifestyle of sleeping until noon and getting that flash of inspiration at midnight to be the more inspired approach. The reality is that a surprising number of creative people work within a fixed schedule. Set aside time just for writing and take it seriously.

by Zach Varnell

5 Ways To Get A Great Electric Guitar Sound On A Limited Budget

There’s is nothing better than recording a top guitarist using great gear, but some of us need to add some electric guitar to tracks now and again. We don’t have the money or can’t justify spending a fortune on a top guitar and amp, but is it possible to get a great guitar sound on a budget?

Here are our top 5 tricks that should help you get a great guitar sound on a limited budget;

Use An Amp

Try and record using a guitar amp whenever possible. Even if you have to borrow or hire a guitar amp, there’s nothing like the real thing. Amp sims have come a long way, but the combination of a real amp, the mic and the room will still give you a sense of space and dynamics that can’t be beaten.

Work The Mic

Try a number of different microphones. If you have little budget then you can’t beat the Shure SM57, then try moving it around in front of the amp until you get the sound you want. If you have the chance to try a few mics then set them up in front of the amp and then have someone move them around whilst you check the sound – if you have no control room then use a pair of headphones for this task. You will be amazed how different a guitar can sound as you move the mic around in front of the cab.

Keep Your Options Open

Track a mic’d version and a DI version at the same time, this gives you a lot of options in the mix. If nothing else adding an effect or another plug-in and mixing them together can give some great results. This is often done when tracking bass guitar but less so when tracking electric guitar.

Plug in To A Plug-in

There are some great amp sims out there in plug-in form. Sansamp ships with Pro Tools but  is often overlooked. There’s also a lot of FREE guitar amp plug-ins like Amplitube, Eleven Free and others. Do some searching and you’ll some cool free stuff for both Mac and PC. As a last resort download a demo copy for a session and use it – it’s not illegal, just smart if you only need it for a day!

Track More Than One Guitar

Whilst I’m not a fan of tracks with hundreds of guitar parts there is something to be said for playing several different parts, it’s partly down to the genre of music you are recording. If you only have one guitar part recorded then a nice trick is to make a copy of the guitar track and then slip it slightly on the time-line, then add a different sound to it using an amp sim. Finally pan them left and right. You’ll be amazed at how big one guitar can sound using this effect.

These are just 5 tricks for those just starting out or on a budget.

How about your tricks, we know some of the community have some real gems, please leave them in the comments section.

Here are a few more tips to get a better sound.

Double track with a capo
Double track the same inversion but with guitar in different tuning.
Double track with a different guitar.
Double track with a different player ( differences are good!)
Double track just the bottom string (or strings depending on the chords) gives you a more positive sound
A good pop punk sound is gtr 1 @ 8 o’clock, double track gtr (different guitar capo’d or different tuned) right @ 4 o’clock, single bass string centre
Split between 2 amps with one 57 on each and a stereo xy for the room
Speakers need to be driven but not so loud that the room is adding too much to the mic
Don’t ignore using practise amps, they can sound huge with the right treatment
learn the part and record at half speed ( be careful of the top end)
Double with an acoustic for that Keef sound
Commit fx to record as often as possible except reverb which if you have it as vital to your sound then you should record to extra tracks
Use only really good quality guitar leads. If it costs less than a tenner you need to really check your thinking
Stand up while playing. Makes a huge difference to the attitude
Even if you are recording in the control room wear headphones. This will enable the engineer not to have the monitors too loud and make accurate judgements about your sound
Mic the guitar even if its electric . (plectrum on strings can sound great mixed back)
USE A TUNER…..Preferably the same one as the other guitarist and the bass player.
New strings are great but for the night before.
Use loop record

I’m sure there are tons more of these type of tips

10 Ways To Make Money With Your Music That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago

10waystomakemoney

1) Crowdfunding

Kickstarter has lead the way with nearly $120 million going to successful music projects. IndieGoGo is a close second and, unlike Kickstarter, allows creators to keep the money even if a project is unsuccessful (if the creator chose “flexible funding”). The most successful music crowd funding project is of course Amanda Palmer’s project which raised $1.2 million for her album. But there have been over 18,000 successful Kickstarter music projects (mostly funding albums) ranging from $1,000 to $1.2 million. Crowdfunding has been a great way for indie artists to bankroll their albums and tours without a label or investor.

And the newest of the crowdfunding bunch is Patreon. I call it Crowdfunding 2.0. Creators on Patreon ask their fans for continued financial support (patronage). Most patrons pledge $1-5 per piece of content released (music video, song, blog post, podcast, whatever) But some have pledged upwards of $1,000 PER PIECE OF CONTENT, because they can afford it and they really love the artist. Patreon launched in 2013 and is now paying out over $1 million per month to creators. This model embraces the new philosophy of asking your fans for support, not forcing them to buy. Because album sales are in a free fall, this is the next best solution for independent musicians with a highly engaged audience.

2) PledgeMusic

Some people lump PledgeMusic in with Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. I don’t. PledgeMusic is different. It has changed the way the modern album campaign works. The pre-order on PledgeMusic is much more than just an advanced purchase of the album. Running a PledgeMusic campaign invites the fans into the entire album making process from start to finish. Some bands literally live stream from the studio to their backers. Many large bands who don’t need the money still run PledgeMusic campaigns (without the crowdfunding element) because it increases fan engagement and opening week sales. Artists like 311, Ben Folds Five, Imogen Heap, Howie Day, Korn (with the backwards R) and Lucinda Williams have all run campaigns. Many actually charted on Billboard in the opening week (all pre-order PledgeMusic sales are reported to Soundscan for chart placement).

3) Self Managed Digital Download Stores

BandCamp has been the most successful artist-managed music store (no labels allowed) and currently pays out over $3 million a month to independent artists. Their “name your price” model has personally allowed one of my fans to pay me $200 for my new album and another fan paid $20 for a single. BandCamp is moving to a Patreon-esque subscription service in 2015. CD Baby, Loudr and Tuneport also offer self-managed download stores that have become increasingly popular amongst the indie music community.

4) BandPage Experiences

BandPage started as a Facebook app to allow bands to post music to their Pages. It has evolved into a musician-fan experience haven. Artists offer “experiences” like meet and greets, soundcheck access, pre-show ping pong challenges, pre-show guitar lessons, green room hangs and anything else you can think of. These experiences have brought in additional income for bands on tour above the standard ticket/merch income.

5) YouTube Ad Revenue and Sponsorships

Companies like Audiam, INDMusic, Fullscreen, Maker Studios, ONErpm, AdRev, Believe and Rumblefish collect YouTube ad revenue for artists and labels. Multi Channel Networks like Fullscreen and Maker also act as agents for their creators and negotiate high paying sponsorships for their videos and YouTube channels.

6) Online concerts

StageIt and Concert Window are leading the way in the online concert world. Most shows are “pay what you want” and encourage tipping. I’ve played a few StageIt shows and have averaged about $5 a head for a “pay what you want” concert (from tipping and tickets). Not bad for playing songs from my living room.

7) Gig Masters

This is like an online event planning company. I’ve never tried it out, but I have a few friends who get booked for weddings and corporate parties all the time through the site. Customers leave reviews of the artists and the artists’ ranking rises the more positive reviews they receive. Gig Masters costs $200-400 for the annual membership, but one booking will typically pay for that.

8) SoundBetter & AirGigs

Mixing and mastering engineers, producers, instrumentalists, singers, and full demo production studios get hired through these sites by artists for their recordings. Live in a remote village in Tanzania and want your epic 127 track production mixed by a Grammy winning mixing engineer? Done! Well, if you can pay their rate of course. This has been a great way for freelance artists with home studios to get extra work – especially if they aren’t plugged into an active music town.

SoundBetter just implemented a search by location feature so if you want to find recording studios or live sound engineers in your town, you can find them here as well.

9) YouTube tips

This is a new feature just rolled out this year by YouTube (to compete with Patreon). It’s not available to all YouTube users yet (you have to apply), but it’s a great way for fans to pay artists directly through YouTube – without having to leave the site.

10) Licensing Companies

Traditionally, licensing departments were a division within publishing companies. But with more and more demand for independent music on TV shows, commercials, movies and trailers, licensing companies have been popping up every day to connect indie artists with music supervisors. Some of the biggest have been doing it for 5-10 years now and have built up pretty solid relationships. Music supervisors love discovering new music to place in their projects, however, with so much music out there they typically only accept music from sources they trust: labels, publishers, artists who they have build relationships with, and now licensing companies. In addition to these more traditional licensing companies that pitch music directly to music supervisors with big budgets, many companies like, Triple Scoop Music, The Music Bed and Audiosocket, clear music with the artists in advance and put the songs up on their site for a set fee to be used, non-exclusively, by photographers and indie film makers. Passive income baby!

+How To Get Songs Placed On TV and In Movies

For all the doom and gloom discussions within the music industry right now, hopefully these 10 avenues shed some light onto how you can diversify your income stream and make a solid living as a musician.

Photo is by Earl McGehee from Flickr and used with the Creative Commons License

Article by

Ari Herstand
 
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take.

 

100+ Awesome Free Online Resources For Music Producers

100+ Awesome Free Resources for Music Producers!

Over the years, I’ve bookmarked hundreds of free online resources which can be incredibly useful if you’re away from your main music workstation. Things like online BPM counters, tuners, virtual instruments and web based music sequencers can be life savers when you’re making music or recording audio outside of your studio.

All of these free goodies are compiled here, in a huge list which is meant to be updated and improved with your help. I’ve also added some of my favorite tutorials, music theory guides and various other tools which can be helpful for music producers and artists. Feel free to submit your own favorite freebies in the comments section below!

If you prefer making music with free software which you can install on your computer, take a look at our huge lists of freeware VST/AU plugins and free VST host applications. We also cover free samples and loops in our daily updated news section. Enjoy!

Music Tools

Online Instruments

Free web based musical instruments.

Patatap | A free jamming and beat making tool.

Theremin | A free touch friendly synthesizer which works great as a dub siren.

WAVE-PD1 | Another touch friendly virtual instrument.

Tibersynth | Make totally weird noises and swooshes with your mouse.

Websynths | Powerful VA synthesizer with a built-in preset manager.

WebModular | Play a modular synthesizer in your web browser.

TrueGrid | A complex modular synthesizer with patch saving and audio export.

Tanguy | Virtual analogue synthesizer capable of processing external audio.

Patchwork | An awesome experimental modular synthesizer. Build your synth from scratch.

Acid Machine Beta | A pair of TB-303 bass modules and one TR-909 drum machine.

AngryOctopus | A collection of web-based virtual instruments (requires Java).

PatternSketch | Cool grid based sequencer with several kits and export functionality.

Tonematrix | A simple tone matrix from the makers of Audiotool.

Otomata | Another matrix sequencer for jamming and inspiration.

PulseBoy | Free Game Boy style tracker.

Seaquence | A totally weird generative music sequencer.

SiON FM Synthesizer WF-1 | Neat FM synthesizer with a mouse controlled filter.

WebSID | Browser based Commodore 64 style synthesizer.

MiniGoog | A Minimoog Google Doodle in celebration of Robert Moog’s 78th birthday.

Sample-stitch | Re-create iconic hip hop tunes with your computer keyboard.

Musical Keyboard | A really simple online piano keyboard.

Click here for our huge directory of freeware VST/AU plugins.

 

Online Drum Machines

WebAudio Drum Machine | Online drum sequencer with several kits and effects.

HTML5 Drum Machine | Create classic drum machine loops and export the results to WAV.

FL 909 | Free Roland TR-909 emulation.

808 | A simple Roland TR-808 kit for online jamming.

Sequence | Free drum pattern generator with over 100 free drum samples.

Monkey Machine | A simple free drum machine from the creator of MauSynth.

Qwerty Beats | Online drum machine with a freaky mouse controlled synth.

JS-909 | Web based drum machine (requires QuickTime).

Drum Kit | You, your computer keyboard and 26 weird samples.

Sound Generators

Bfxr | Creates 8-bit sound effects which you can download in WAV format.

Text to Speech | Convert any text to speech and download the result as an MP3 file.

Online Tone Generator | A handy test tone generator.

Sweep Sine Tone | Sweep tone generator for testing your monitors and room acoustics.

Noisli | A wonderful background noise generator to help you relax and focus.

Defonic | Another free noise generator to help you relax.

Online DAWs

Audiotool | A modular online music studio with a set of virtual synthesizers and effects.

AudioSauna | Free online workstation for making music on the go.

Soundation Studio | Online sequencer with audio and MIDI processing.

TwistedWave Online | A free online audio editor for editing mono audio files.

Free DAWs

Studio One Free | Free edition of Studio One, no VST support.

Podium Free | VST plugin support, limited to a single CPU core.

>> Click here for our round-up of freeware VST host applications.

>> Click here for our in-depth list of downloadable free audio editing software.

Online Collaboration

Splice | Online platform for music creation and sharing.

Indaba Music | Free online music collaboration platform.

Ohm Studio | The first free online collaboration platform for musicians.

Blend | Collaborate online and create remixes (powered by Dropbox).

Kompoz | Collaborate with musicians from around the world.

Livegit | A free online collaborative DAW.

JAM with Chrome | Jam with your friends in Google Chrome.

Plink | A fun way to pass time and make music with total strangers. 🙂

Ear Training

EQ Your Ears | Identify specific frequencies with this online tool.

EQ Match | Simple graphic EQ trainer.

Note Ear Training | Identify notes by ear.

Pitchimprover | Absolute pitch training.

The Music Intervals Tutor | Recognize music intervals by ear.

EarTeach | Various ear training utilities.

Blind Listening Tests | Various tools to test your ears.

Other Tools

Interactive circle of fifths!

Autochord | Chord progression generator based on key and playing style.

Interactive Circle of Fifths | An easy to use online circle of fifths.

Interactive Frequency Chart | Interactive frequency chart with an ear sensitivity graph.

Metronome Online | Free online metronome and tone generator.

Tap for BPM | A free tap tempo tool to calculate BPM.

Music Calculator | Convert BPM values, calculate transpose ratios, etc.

Tunerr | Free tuner tool which uses the microphone input on your computer.

Online Guitar Tuner | A simple online guitar tuner from Fender.

Pedalboard.js | Process the line-in of your sound card with four guitar FX pedals.

Guitar Tab Creator | An online guitar tab making tool.

Noteflight | A powerful music notation platform which runs in the browser.

Blank Sheet Music | Create and print blank sheet music for free.

Free Sounds

Free Samples

99Sounds | Free sound design label offering free sound effects and instrument samples.

Freesound Project | Download thousands of royalty free sounds.

Loopmasters | Offering a royalty free pack with 500 MB worth of sounds to subscribers.

Prime Loops | Get 500 MB worth of free audio loops and samples on their freebies page.

A Sound Effect | Over 2 GB of free sound effects and field recordings in a single download.

NHF Sample Pack 002 | Over 3 GB of royalty free sounds crafted by Neurohop Forum members.

Converse Sample Library | A huge collection of stems and one shot samples, completely royalty-free.

Goldbaby | Legendary collection of free drum machine samples.

AfroDJMac | Over 100 free instrument racks for Ableton Live.

Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra | Free orchestral sample library.

NASA Audio Collection | Tons of sounds from NASA space missions. Also available on SoundCloud.

Acoustic Drum Samples | Our huge archive of free acoustic drum sample packs.

Free Patches

Rekkerd | A huge archive of free patches for virtual instruments.

KVR Audio | Database of patches and sound banks submitted by KVR Audio members.

AudioBombs | A fresh archive of free synth patches and sound banks.

BigTick Zen | Manage and launch all your synth patches from a single plugin.

>> Click here for our list of freeware virtual synthesizers in VSTi plugin format.

Tutorials

Music Production

Introduction To Music Production | Free music production course by Berklee College of Music.

How To Make Electronic Music | An epic intro to electronic music production.

EQ Masterclass | In-depth series of EQ tutorial videos by ADSR.

Thinking inside the Box | Great beginner’s guide to EQ.

Compression 101 | Great beginner’s guide to compression.

Compress to impress | Compression tutorial for the electronic musician.

Kim Lajoie Blog Dump | PDF archive of Kim Lajoie’s music production tips.

3 Mixing Secrets From The Legendary Andy Wallace | A reminder to keep it simple.

Synthesis

How to Make a Noise | A legendary free eBook guide to synthesizer programming.

Synthesis Fundamentals | Free tutorials for absolute beginners by the Bob Moog Foundation.

Synth Student | Beginner’s guide to subtractive synthesis.

Synthesis types | Understand different types of sound synthesis.

How To Bass | A series of tutorials for creating heavy bass sounds (by SeamlessR).

Syntorial | Software for learning synthesis. First 22 lessons are free.

Music Theory

Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People | A lighthearted intro to music theory.

Ravenspiral Guide to Music Theory | One of the finest free music theory books (here’s the PDF).

Music Theory: The TL;DR Version | Music theory guide for EDM producers with short attention spans.

Music Theory for Songwriters | A comprehensive guide to music theory for songwriters.

Open Yale Courses | A useful collection of free music video courses by Yale University.

10 Chord Progression Tips | Interesting chord progression tips from a jazz musician.

Music Theory Cheat Sheet | A handy TXT file cheat sheet for music theory.

More Goodies

Making Music | Free chapters from Ableton’s epic book for musicians and music producers.

A Club Track’s Frequency Map | A cool print friendly frequency chart by FutureMusic.

EQ tips Cheat Sheet | EQ cheat sheet available for download in PDF format.

RealTraps | A guide to testing room acoustics with free software.

D/A and A/D Digital Show and Tell | Explains various digital audio myths.

Artist Toolbox

Streaming Platforms

SoundCloud | The most popular online platform for uploading and sharing your music.

Bandcamp | Build your artist profile and share your music with your fans.

sfx.io | The Imgur of audio, a quick way to upload and share your music.

Online Marketplaces

AudioJungle | The largest online marketplace to sell your music.

iStock | Sell royalty free stock music and recordings.

Pond5 | Another online marketplace for selling royalty free music.

Synthmob | A marketplace for synth presets, audio loops and samples.

Sampleism | Sell your samples and other sound design work.

Backup & Productivity

Wavestack | Backup your recording sessions and share them with collaborators.

Dropbox | A great free solution for backing up your files online.

Hive | Upload and share your music and other materials.

Evernote | Take notes of all your projects and ideas in one place.

Trello | A great tool for managing your projects and collaborations.

Google Keep | Use this online note saving tool to keep track of your ideas and tasks.

Toggl | Time tracking utility to help you stay focused and measure your productivity.

Pocket | Easily save online resources (such as this article) for offline reading.

Graphic Tools

Artwork Creator | Create your album artwork for free.

CD Cover | Make a simple CD cover with your printer and a bit of paper.

Hipster Logo Generator | A free logo generator. Also works for simple album art and covers.

Squarespace Logo | Another simple logo generator.

Facebook Cover Collection Freebie | Nice looking PSD templates for Facebook cover images.

Pixlr | Great free online image editor similar to Photoshop.

Canva | Incredibly cool free graphics editor to make covers and promo images.

Video Tools

Sonic Candle | Completely free tool to generate an HD music video with a spectrum display.

Audio Visualizer Creator 2.0v | Free music visualizer generator (requires Adobe After Effects).

Blender | Free alternative for After Effects. Loads of tutorials available on YouTube.

Website Tools

WordPress.com | A powerful free blogging and blog hosting platform.

Strikingly | Build a beautiful looking free portfolio or artist website in minutes.

FourFour | Free website platform made specifically for musicians.

Flavors.me | Make a free artist website with links to your social media profiles.

MailChimp | Build a free mailing list for up to 2000 subscribers.

SharedCount | Monitor the social media stats of your releases or artist profiles.

 

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Read more: 100+ Awesome Free Online Resources For Music Producers

3 Innovative Revenue Streams for Musicians

revenue streams for musicians

This article originally appeared on Sonicbids

With album sales nowhere near what they used to be (unless your name is Taylor Swift, who probably doesn’t frequent indie artist advice columns), and streaming not yet a truly viable source of income for musicians, a lot of artists are looking for new ways to distribute their work that will both reach their fans and result in some remuneration.

Three such methods that are gaining in popularity are the new fan-funding site Patreon, the concept of artist-run subscriptions, and going old school with special cassette releases. What all three of these methods of distribution have in common is that they give fans something exclusive, and they create a unique connection between the artist and the fan. Here’s what else you need to know about distro’s newest stars.

1. Patreon

Do you use Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or PledgeMusic but hate having to constantly launch new campaigns, and re-ask all your fans for support? Patreon has found a way to streamline the process.

Patreon was created by Jack Conte, who is one half of the musical duo Pomplamoose, when he noticed his YouTube views weren’t doing as much for his bottom line as he’d hoped. Rather than a one-time campaign, Patreon is a platform where fans contribute a set amount per project. For example, a fan can decide to pledge $1 per song for an artist, and that artist will get $1 every time he or she creates a song.

According to Patreon’s Head of Marketing and Special Projects, Erica Costello, this cuts out quite a few, oftentimes unnecessary, people. “Literal middlemen have come between artists and their supporters for way too long,” she explains. “Artists and supporters belong together!”

revenue streams for musiciansA few big names have been using Patreon, including the queen of crowdfunding Amanda Palmer and Ryan Leslie. That said, Costello notes artists of that notoriety aren’t necessarily who Patreon is focused on. “We’re super stoked to host Amanda Palmer and Ryan [Leslie],” she says, “but we take pride in serving the creative middle class. Patreon is the primary source of income for so many singer-songwriters who were struggling to pay rent and eat food, even though millions of people watched and loved their creations on ad-based platforms like YouTube.”

Patreon, at its essence, is a modern day, more advanced version of a fan club. Pentatonix, the a cappella supergroup known for their tight relationship with their fans, uses the service, and according to the group’s Scott Hoying, “A fan club is a perfect title for it. There’s more of a sense of a community, though, because it’s all digital.”

Ari Herstand, who’s a musician but uses Patreon to support his music business blog, adds, “Fans crave a closer engagement and exclusive content from their favorite artists.” He notes Patreon “gives fans a [nearly] direct line to support their favorite independent artists more than just paying for a download, which has turned into a cold, detached, digital transaction, quite different from the feeling fans would get visiting a record store and buying their favorite artist’s record.”

With constant access to your fans’ bank accounts, however, how does an artist make sure that their relationship with their fans stays a happy one? According to Hoying, “Putting out good content and staying interactive with the patrons will keep all parties happy.” Herstand seconds this, saying, “If the artist continues to show their fans that they actually care about them, and continues to be authentic and honest, the fans will stay loyal.”

2. Artist-run subscriptions

Magazines have been published for hundreds of years, and for hundreds of years people have subscribed to the magazines which featured topics in which they were interested. Some indie musicians are looking to use that ideology as a way to sell their music.

Coole High, a hip-hop and smooth jazz artist, remembers first hearing about the artist subscription concept in 2009, when he met Tim Sweeney, who ran a music strategy conference in LA. “He had this brilliant idea of independent artists having their own subscription models to sell their music, merch, etc.” The comparison made at the time was Netflix versus Blockbuster.

In 2009, however, the tech wasn’t quite there yet to make it happen. Now it is, which is why Coole High recently launched a way for fans to subscribe to his work for $20 a year. That subscription includes his extensive back catalog, any new releases that come out in the next year, discounts on tickets and merch, and subscription exclusives in the form of videos and concert streams.

Dance pop artist HoneyChrome has also launched a subscription format, noting “it’s like the fan pays the artist to be an artist, not pay the record label to manufacture one release.”

They key to making this form of distribution work, according to Coole High, is in the connection an artist has with his or her fans. “It’s really about creating a new and more intimate but effective way to connect with the people who really appreciate what you do, who you are, and what you’re about.” He adds, “A lot of my fans can’t make it from France to see me do a gig in NYC, so now with the subscription they’d have access to live streaming of select concerts or performances from virtually any location I can access WiFi.”

Both Coole High and HoneyChrome also love the fact that this form of distribution discards the traditional way of how artists release albums. With a subscription format, much like how Beyonce and Drake have dropped albums out of the blue, artists can release music whenever they want to. “Typical album/EP/single release schedules are fading,” HoneyChrome explains. “Artists like myself are creating more and more music faster than ever, and we want it to be heard. This answers our call.”

alternative revenue streams for musicians

3. Cassette tapes

Yes, you read that right. There are artists and labels going back in time and releasing albums via cassette tape. Some artists are doing cassette-only exclusives, while indie labels like Burger Records boast a giant catalog of cassette releases. (And when we say “giant,” we mean it. Their site features over 200 albums available on cassette.)

Most music fans aren’t about to add a tape deck to their lives, but many still have them in their cars and others have older boomboxes that have the ability to play tapes. You’re definitely targeting a very specific audience with a release on cassette, but when done correctly, it can reap some pretty impressive rewards.

For his most recent tour, Stones Throw Records artist Homeboy Sandman had a tour-exclusive cassette release, meaning the only way to get it was to buy it at one of his tour dates. “Everybody’s hyped over it,” he says of the cassette release, which he credits Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf for coming up with. “I sell it more than any other piece of merch. More than vinyl, hats, or CDs.

Homeboy Sandman feels that the exclusive nature of the release, which makes the album a collectible, is partly what inspires so many people to purchase it. “Nobody’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll just get it online, so I don’t have to carry it home.’”

From an artist’s standpoint, he notes that the cassette tape is a format that is more challenging to rip and put online, so a cassette release will likely have to be bought if someone wants to hear it.

The positive reaction he’s received from his first cassette release has Homeboy Sandman thinking of future uses for the format. As he says, “If I had some of my actual albums available on cassette, it seems like they would sell, too.”

Which one of these burgeoning forms of distribution is right for you? We don’t know, but we can give you three words of advice regarding this: know your audience. If you have an older crowd that grew up in the ’80s and ’90s and is prone to long car trips, a cassette release may be right up their alley. If your fans have fervently supported every one of your releases, perhaps you may want to try one of the subscription ideas.

There are a lot of ways to get your music out there, and as HoneyChrome notes, they all have the same ultimate goal. “I think we are just trying to get back to making everyone happy, fans and artists.”

Adam Bernard is a music industry veteran who has been working in media since 2000. If you live in the NYC area, you’ve probably seen him at a show. He prefers his venues intimate, his whiskey on the rocks, and his baseball played without the DH. Follow him at @adamsworldblog.

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