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Funding For Musicians: U.S. Music Grants 

Funding For Musicians: U.S. Music Grants

It’s easier than ever to make music and share it with the world. But being able to do it full-time is another story. 

There are lots of different ways musicians can make money, but one source of funding for music projects often overlooked is grants. 

Guest post by Dave Cool 

What are music grants? 

Grants are an excellent form of funding for musicians. There are dozens of music grant organizations in the USA that regularly award cash to serious artists, allowing the recipients to focus entirely on furthering their music career in some way. And unlike loans, they don’t need to be paid back. 

Sound too good to be true? These funding opportunities are out there for the taking, but they’re very competitive. You’ll need to research which ones are a good fit for you, find out when the deadlines are, and set aside plenty of time for the application process, which can be intense. 

Some music grant organizations exist to help out fledgling artists, while others support more established artists. Depending on the type of grant, the funding could be used to get a new music project off the ground, record an album, or tour. Some organizations place no restrictions at all on how you can use the money. 

Here are seven of our favorite music grants available in the United States to get your wheels turning. But definitely check out local opportunities in your own city or state, you never know what you might come across. 

1. New Music USA grants 

Region: United States 

New Music USA’s mission is to support and promote all kinds of musical creativity in the United States. They offer funding for music projects, support for small ensembles and DIY venues, and even provide composer-in-residence positions in orchestras. Learn more about New Music USA’s grants. 

2. Foundation for Contemporary Arts 

Region: United States 

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts was created by artists in 1963 to promote the innovative work of their peers. Today, they offer generous grants to nominated artists, as well as emergency grants ranging from $500 to $2,500 that any artist urgently in need of funding can apply for. Learn more about the Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ grant programs. 

3. The Alice M. Ditson Fund 

Region: United States 

Since 1940, the Alice M. Ditson Fund has awarded over 2,000 grants in support of contemporary American classical concert music. They offer funding for recording projects, with the specific goal of providing wider exposure for the music of younger, relatively unknown American composers. Learn more. 

4. New York Foundation for the Arts 

Region: New York 

The New York Foundation for the Arts has a 32-year history of supporting artists at all stages of their careers. Unlike grants that fund specific projects, the unrestricted $7,000 fellowships “are intended to fund an artist’s vision or voice, regardless of the level of his or her artistic development.” You can find up-to-date application information here. 

5. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation 

Region: Delaware, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, the US Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia 

The Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation was established to support multi-state arts programming and has since expanded to include initiatives in other parts of the United States. The grants provide support for artists looking to create, tour, build an audience, and develop their careers. 

You can explore MAAF’s unique artist grant programs here, which include creative fellowships, funding to perform at international festivals, and even a French-American cultural exchange program for jazz artists. 

6. Tennessee Arts Commission 

Region: Tennessee 

With a mission to “cultivate the arts for the benefit of all Tennesseans and their communities,” the Tennessee Arts Commission offers a wide variety of annual grants for individuals, projects, arts education, and more. 

The Individual Artist Fellowship awards $5,000 to professional artists of all stripes, including composers. There are no specific requirements for how you use the money, but you do have to already be making a living off of music to qualify for the fellowship. More details here. 

7. COLA Individual Artist Fellowship 

Region: Los Angeles, CA 

This fellowship is specifically for accomplished artists who either live in Los Angeles or have presented their work in the city for at least three years. The Department of Cultural Affairs grants $10,000 per artist for the creation of innovative new work. Check out the eligibility details and application guidelines here

Even if you don’t get the music grant you wanted the first time around, applying for funding is still a valuable process to go through. As you continue honing your craft and refining your unique artist voice, your applications will become stronger and stronger.

2020 Colorado Music Educators Conference Presentation 

I am looking forward to speaking at the 2020 Colorado Music Educators Conference at the Broadmoor Hotel and Convention Center in January.

My topic: Makin a Living Making Music: Entrepreneurial Opportunities in the New Music and Entertainment Industry.

Click here to view the CMEA Conference Schedule

Today’s music industry is the wild, wild, west! The gatekeepers who once determined the fate of an artist’s success, the projects that would be recorded, the songs to be released, the bands that would take the stage, no longer wield their career crushing power. To succeed in today’s music industry, musicians need to expand their skillset from being musicians alone to being musical entrepreneurs. This session, Making a Living Making Music: Entrepreneurial Opportunities in the New Music and Entertainment Industry, will help you discover and declare your IDENTITY as artists and entrepreneurs, your VISION for the life and vocation you dream of, and your INTENTION and plans to begin to transform your dreams into realities. 

I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak by CMEA Tri-M Music Honor Society Chair, Michelle Ewer. Tri-M Music Honor Society offers students, grades 6 through 12, an opportunity to perform, serve the community as well as places them in leadership positions. It helps to bring a music department together and operate as one. Tri-M looks different in every school. Colorado has one of the most robust Tri-M conventions across the country; Students come together to share and discover new ways to make their chapters stronger. Students walk away feeling excited and eager to try new ideas they have experienced at the convention. Feel free to click on the links below to answer questions that you may have.  

Click here to start a NAfME Tri-M® chapter at your school 

Click here for NAfME Tri-M® chapter resources

Michael Pickering, President and Chief Creative Officer of Lionsong Entertainment, Inc., and former Director and founder of the Music and Entertainment Entrepreneurship program at the Community College of Aurora, is a creative leader, entrepreneur, educator, and musician. He holds a Master of Arts in Music Business Degree and a B.P.S. in Interdisciplinary Music Studies Degree from the Berklee College of Music. He has served on the boards of local arts and entertainment organizations, authored post-secondary music curricula, and spoken at many local and national music industry events. He also provides music and entertainment business and performance consulting services (www.mpickeringmusic.com). Michael and his wife, Amy Pickering, remain active as national headline music and clean comedy performing artists for corporate, theatrical, educational, outreach, cruise, and private clients worldwide — www.michaelandamy.com.

21st Century Marketing 101: Reach is overrated  

21st Century Marketing 101: Reach is overrated

I received a timely email from Seth Godin this morning and want to share it with you. (No, Seth and I are not BFFs. I chose to be on his daily mailing list because, when it comes to marketing and a number of other topics, he "gets it!"

So I'm sharing Seth's brief words of wisdom. Enjoy!

Reach is overrated

From Seth Godin

It might be the biggest misconception in all of advertising. 

The Super Bowl has reach. 

Google has reach. 

Radio has reach. 

So? 

Why do you care if you can, for more money, reach more people? 

Why wouldn’t it make more sense to reach the right people instead? 

To pick an absurd example, you can use a giant radio telescope to beam messages to the billions or trillions of aliens that live in other solar systems. Worth it? 

I read an overview that pointed out that one of the cons of Amazon advertising was that they didn’t have the reach of Google. 

This is wrong in so many ways. 

Reach doesn’t matter, because your job isn’t to interrupt people on other planets, with other interests. Your job is to interact with people who care. 

Running an ad on the most popular podcast isn’t smart if the most popular podcast reaches people who don’t care about you. 

Perhaps it makes sense to pay extra to reach precisely the right people. It never makes sense to pay extra to reach more people.

8 Important Web Resources Designed For Musicians  

8 Important Web Resources Designed For Musicians 

As social media promotion becomes increasingly difficult for artists to to do for free, band websites have now become one the most important marketing resources you have. That said, maintaining and customizing a website can be touch trickier than social media platforms - luckily there are a number of great resources out there designed specifically to help artists do just that. 

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Guest post by Patrick McGuire of Soundfly's Flypaper 

With social media promotion becoming trickier and harder to do for free, band websites are more important now than ever. From selling merch with no middleman to promoting a new release and upping your SEO game, personalized music websitesare crucial in helping get the job done right. But how exactly do you “personalize” a website? Social media platforms are great for promotion because they’re so easy to use, but websites are much tricker to customize and update. 

To help you navigate the vast world of music-related website resources out there, we picked out eight of our favorite web tools that are made specifically for musicians, so you know you’re in good hands with each of them. 

1. Bandzoogle 

If you’re like me and want to quickly maintain and update a solid website for your band so you can get back to making music ASAP, check out Bandzoogle. They’re a website-building platform built by and for musicians. For a low subscription fee, they offer tools to help musicians build great websites in minutes. They also give artists access to commission-free merch, ticket, and download sales through their online store feature. 

In fact, we like this service so much that we partnered with them to make a free online course called How to Create a Killer Musician Website. Check it out! 

2. Spotify Artist Insights 

Streaming platforms have long been a source of controversy because of how little they pay artists, but some offer other advantages. Spotify’s Artist Insights feature is a powerful analytics tool designed to help musicians understand who’s listening to their music the most over the platform. It tracks listener information like gender, age, location, and through what source someone discovered your music. 

How does this relate to your own website? By discovering detailed information about your listeners, you can tailor the content on your website to better reach the parts of your audience that are most engaged and likely to buy your merch, see your live shows, and check out your new releases. 

3. Bandsintown 

Bandsintown offers a set of high-powered tools aimed at helping musicians promote shows, engage fans, and upload videos. Their events widget is designed to sync up show listing information across the web, so adding it to your site will help your fans stay up to date with accurate information about your performances. Show announcements can be automated and sent out through their platform, which is also a big plus. But Bandsintown’s biggest advantage comes with their comprehensive show listing page, which shows fans which artists are playing shows near them, in case you wanted to pitch your band for a support spot! 

4. GigMailz 

GigMailz is similar to Mailchimp, but is geared towards musicians and other entertainers. For a low monthly subscription, users get services like a 45-minute design consultation, unlimited lists, and analytics. By adding the GigMailz widget to your website, you can bring new fans into the fold with show and music release updates, sales on merch, and other band happenings, with a few clicks. 

5. Songkick 

If you’re looking for an easy way to post show information in one place and have it show up all over the internet, look no further than Songkick’s Tourbox API feature. It functions through a widget that you can add to your website and across your social media accounts, as well as a mass automated updater that reaches Spotify, Shazam, Bandcamp, Pandora, Hype Machine, and loads of other sites. Fans with the Songkick app installed on their phones will receive notifications when you announce shows near their location. 

6. Bandtraq 

Bandtraq, another company formed by musicians, creates digital tools to help artists and fans alike. The musician-oriented tools they offer include a handy customizable widget that lets artists present social media feeds, videos, music, and more, all in one place. The unique Bandlink feature helps bands design smart landing pages to promote and present new releases through a single short link, which is ideal for rolling out new music over a website in a quick and easy way. 

7. SoundCloud 

You’re probably well aware of SoundCloud by now, but its widget feature is worth mentioning. Because SoundCloud is completely free and typically reliable, it’s the perfect place to host music over your site. Yes, you’ll lose some royalty money by not linking up to your Spotify or Apple Music account, but going with SoundCloud is the best option because it doesn’t force those visiting your site to sign up with yet another service. Plus, it’s essentially social media for track releases. 

8. Metablocks Widgets 

For musicians looking to integrate sophisticated retail capabilities with their sites, Metablocks is a good option. Through their widgets, you can sell music, accept email addresses, and even integrate Spotify’s Pre-Save campaigns. They’re able to link with hundreds of music retailers, and offer analytics in real-time about who’s clicking, when, and why. 

Bonus: Google Analytics 

And for a bonus, because it’s not strictly designed for musicians, Google Analytics is worth checking out if you’re obsessed with learning more about the fans who visit your website. This platform is designed to help businesses (if you sell music, then you’re a business) better understand and serve their customers, and that makes it perfect for you.

Your Network IS your Net-Worth 

Music industry veteran, Bob Lefsetz shared about the essential nature of building and nurturing a fan community in his blog this week. i can't agree more with his insight. Building, engaging, and nurturing community is central to my messages to my clients and my students. Enjoy Bob's post below.

You've got to build it from scratch. 

And you have to know each and every member and how to reach them. 

Remember the MTV era? Instant heroes who soon became zeros. The faster you make it, the faster you lose it. 

In other words, if you're depending on the label, the corporation, to bring you to the top, you're in trouble. 

I know this is antithetical to everything you've been taught, but the mentality of the music business exists in the twentieth century, while we're living in the twenty first. Grass roots. Credibility. Honesty. All these things are going to grow your career in today's era, and it's gonna happen slowly. You might never break through to the big time, but your fans will support you. Fans will house you, promote you and give you all their money. All they want in return is respect and access. It's the best deal in history. One e-mail, one tweet can motivate them into taking action. 

No candidate is better known than Joe Biden. But he's living in the last century, he had no mailing list, except for the one from when he ran for Vice President, and they say those mailing lists are only good for two years. 

Biden said he raised $6.3 million in his first day of fundraising, more than Bernie's first day, which netted the Vermont Senator $5.9 million. 

But the devil is in the details. Biden raised the money from 97,000 donors. Bernie raised his cash from 225,000. It's about fans, not grosses. Which is why you'll see big bands limiting ticket prices, selling tickets to fan clubs, doing everything to maintain their base which will sustain them through the thin times. 

Furthermore, Biden got $700,000 from fat cats, at a fundraiser. And in today's era, all the little people hate the big people. 

It's happening in music too, it's just that the big people don't want you to know it. The imprimatur of the label, the push at radio, these are things the true fans have no sympathy for. The labels and radio are in the hits business, the fans are in the career business, and there's so much more money in that. 

The press is behind Biden. As are the corporate donors, lobbyists and the Party. You'd think he's a winner until you look at the actual voters. This is how the Republican fat cats lost control of their party, when Trump swooped in and appealed to the little people who felt ignored. 

A big publicity campaign won't tell you who you're reaching, won't give you hardly any information at all. And today it's all about the data. Spotify will tell you where you're hot and where you're not. But even more important is the rank and file, the fans. They want to hear from you, but with so many media messages your effort gets lost and stops before it reaches them. No one catches everything, it's impossible. Even the biggest of publicity campaigns don't reach everyone. 

It's all about targets. Efficiency. 

And there's a nerd in your fanbase who will coordinate all this. Someone savvy, who'll do it for the love. 

You've got to be organized, you're managing yourself. If you're handing off responsibility to someone else, you're missing the point. Fans want you, and they can tell when it's fake. 

Of course it's a lot of hard work, but the dividends are paid in the future. 

Bernie could only raise this much money because he ran in 2016, he had an infrastructure. 

The era of the vapid instant superstar is done. It only resonates with the media and the brain dead. True fans want to feel like they belong, they want to channel their energy, they want to know they're important. 

So we've got two music businesses today. Actually three. 

One is the oldsters who made it before the internet coasting on their hits, never to have another one. 

Number two is the Spotify wonders. Propped up by the machine. Hyped. Sure, some of them will sustain, but most of them will not. Come on, you know that fans want to own the act themselves before everybody else does, they want to say they were there first, they don't want to be a number, they want to be known. They want to say they saw you in a club. That they bought a t-shirt from you at the merch table. And when you break through, they'll still support you. 

Number three is the vast majority. Those who the machine doesn't want. Those who do not rap or sing pop to an 808 beat. Their time is coming. Stop bitching about recording revenue, everybody can hear your music essentially for free, that's a good thing! You used to have to depend on radio and sales for traction, now your music is just a click away and there are so many ways to monetize, be encouraged, not discouraged. 

The media can't cope with numerous genres. It's all about winners. But in the internet era there are tons of winners. And the more different you are from the hitmakers, the greater the chances that you'll succeed. 

But it's a slower process than before. 

And you have to do most of the work yourself. 

But your fanbase will support you through thick and thin. And no one is as rabid as a fan in spreading the word, they'll drag friends to a gig, which is why you've got to be great every night even if there are only ten people in the audience, because one person today has more power than any newspaper if they believe. 

The world has become inverted. We're going from the macro to the micro. And the truth is there's plenty of money in the micro. And if you hang in there long enough, you can go macro. The machine is throwing things against the wall. You're making music containing your heart and soul, humanity emanates from the grooves, it's not for the good times, but for all time. 

The old game is dying. 

You're in charge of the new game. But you must use the new game paradigm. And that starts with ones and twos, fans. Know who they are and activate them, it's the only way to win in the music game today. 

If you want to sell perfume and have a clothing line that's a different path. 

But if you're a musician, your time has come. 

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Finding Your Passion  

If you struggle with the question, "What are you passionate about?" you're in much better (and much bigger) company than you probably realize. 

When I was younger, I thought I was passionate about a lot of things – music, movies, faith, girls, Star Trek... 

But in reality what I was truly passionate about was just feelingpassionate. Once the flame died, on to the next fire I'd move. 

It's tempting to rely on Hollywood's romantic formula for defining what it means to be passionate about something (or someone).  

And because I did this for so long, even now, when I am alone with my thoughts considering the question, "What am I passionate about?", I can still struggle to provide an answer. 

Because the Hollywood formula is both backwards and incomplete. 

"Dear world, offer me something I’m passionate about and I’ll show up with all of my energy, effort and care!" 

Where's the commitment? It's easy to show up, but without commitment it's equally as easy to walk away. Because nothing is good enough to earn your passion before you do it. Perhaps, in concept, it’s worthy, but as soon as you closely examine the details, the benefits... and the pitfalls, it’s easy to decide it’s better to wait for a better offer. Or if you already jumped in with both feet, once your feet begin to ache (or wonder) to run off after something else. 

Passion and commitment are inseparable. 

But what if you reverse and complete the formula? 

"Dear world, offer me a chance to contribute, and I’ll commit to work on it, with focus, and once I begin to make progress, I’ll become passionate about it!" 

Committed activity – before passion – measures our craft and calling in terms of contribution, not in a romanticized notion of perfection. Passion comes from feeling needed, from approaching mastery, from doing work that matters. 

To find your passion, commit yourself to doing work that matters. Contribute to the best interest of someone and something else. And feel the rush of being needed, wanted, and trusted.