In the fall of 2016, I spent ten days on the road with a band from New Jersey called Young Rising Sons. Part of my duties were setting up and tearing down drummer Steve Patrick’s rig every night, and that opportunity gave me some amazing insight into Patrick’s work and what it means to be a professional musician. I got an excellent behind the scenes look at how much work goes into planning and executing a successful tour, and how integral Patrick was in keeping each night’s performance on point. My favorite experience however, was during fan meet-and-greets when Patrick would not rest until he had met every single fan, signed something for them, and taken loads of photos. His compassion for fans is unrivaled and his enthusiasm for his craft is what lead me to respect him so much today.img_0079

Patrick has been a great friend since the end of that tour, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for the inaugural article of a new interview series titled “Drummer’s Corner.” In this series I will explore what it’s like for contemporary drummers on the road, in the studio, and navigating the ever-confusing business side of today’s music industry.


ZF: The first thing I noticed about your kit was the muffling on your snare drum. Some drummers use moon gels or studio rings, but you’ve got something a little different. Please explain what it is and how it differs from other products on the market.

SP: I’ve recently been using something called a Big Fat Snare Drum. They are a company based out of Massachusetts I believe. I randomly happened across the 14” Original BFSD at a local music shop and bought it on a whim as I heard a friend of mine raving about it. I took it and dropped it on my snare and immediately noticed the difference. Since then I’ve used it on all of my snares and it does exactly what it says it does: turns your snare into a big fat tonal masterpiece. I’ve been using a Truth Custom Coke Bottle Acrylic snare recently and it has tons of crack to it, but lacks in low end and has a lot of overtones. The BFSD tightens it up and no matter how the head is tuned, it has a perfect, fat beefy tone to it. It also is great on fly dates where we have to use rented backline equipment. No more tuning a snare that has been abused for years, you just drop on the BFSD and go.

ZF: Do you use a different kit for recording than you do performing live?

SP: Yeah, live I play a Gretsch kit and it is just great across the board for any application. It’s so versatile and sounds gorgeous even if we toss it up on stage and go without tuning it. It’s my favorite kit I’ve ever owned and I can’t say enough good things about it, but when we are recording we have more time and space to find out what works; so we kind of create a Frankenstein drum kit to get all of the sounds we are looking for on a song-to-song basis. Most recently we used a Bubinga Tama Starclassic and it sounds beautiful. The kick has this controlled low end thump that is perfect for the studio, and the floor tom has a bit of a growl but doesn’t break up when you tune it low, which makes it perfect for all the tom parts I play. We tend to mix and match cymbals based on the song, but I’ve always used Zildjian K Custom Dark Hats, they are super dry and smoky sounding but still really musical, so they work in almost any vibe.

img_0075ZF: Which producer(s) do you normally record with, and what is the recording process like for tracking drums?

SP: For the past two years we’ve been with the same few producers: Shep Goodman, Aaron Accetta, and Christian Medice. Tracking drums with them is kind of funny. Christian is the only one with drumming experience so when they like something I do, they have to use Christian as a translator to describe what part they liked and why. On my end it’s a little hectic and confusing but it keeps me on my toes and challenges me a little bit to just nail it based on what I think they are looking for. We’ve tracked things a few different ways as well which has been challenging, but fun.

We’ve occasionally recorded the drums and cymbals separately to really give the drum tones isolation and stop cymbal bleed entirely. It’s useful on the songs that have more electronic MIDI sounds blended with the drums themselves. Recording that way is equal parts challenging and fun. You can let your brain relax a bit and really lay into the backbeat for most of the song but then you get to a fill and have to stop your natural muscle memory from hitting the cymbals. So certain parts feel a bit more cerebral than normal, which is fun for me because I’m always up for a new challenge. With all of that said, typically tracking drums for Young Rising Sons is a breeze. I can sit down and knock out songs in a couple of takes and then we listen and make sure it feels good.

ZF: You use a laptop and Roland SPD-SX pad while performing live. What do you use these for and why?

SP: Yeah! I think in today’s industry there are lots of tools you can use to sound as close to the actual recordings as possible while also expanding what you’ve done and delivering that new element to the crowd. I love the technology side of things and finding out what I can add on without making the live set feel contrived or like it’s a different band. We run Ableton on a MacBook Pro for a few reasons, and the backbone of it is we can send a metronome to myself and the other guys as well as certain synth tracks and other miscellaneous sounds that wouldn’t be practical to create ourselves on stage. A huge part of it is being able to trigger and automate our intro and song transitions so the show stays fluid, while those on-stage things that have to occur can go on (tuning, guitar switches, beer chugs, instrument changes, etc.). It’s also allowed us to program and automate a light show which gives us freedom to make the lights appear however we wish as they are triggered entirely in Ableton and never miss a cue. If we decide to change color schemes or design, we can easily go back to the drawing board and re-model them ourselves.

The Roland SPD-SX pad is my favorite part though, as it becomes an extension of my drum kit and lets me play all of those MIDI drum parts I spoke about earlier. Some of our songs have drum parts that are all electronic, or a blend of acoustic and electronic drums and the SPD-SX gives me an easy and effective way of accomplishing just that. I can just drop in the sounds I want, assign them to a pad, and play entire sections of songs on the pad just the way they were written. For example, I can use a snare on the pad but play the rest of the groove on my kit or I can assign sounds to a kick and snare trigger and blend my kit sounds with the MIDI sounds for just the right tone! It has endless applications, all of which allow me to customize and control more and more of the instrumentation of our live set, which is ideally what you want as a musician. The ability to control all of the sounds and manipulate them where I see fit has been a game-changer for us. Not to mention, it’s just loads of fun to mess around with, even in an acoustic or studio setting (or when you’re bored and binge-watching Stranger Things and you want to match the soundtrack). Roland gets an A+ from me, that thing is my new BFF.

Steve’s Specs:

Gretsch Catalina Club 14×26 Kick
Gretsch Catalina Club 8×12 Rack Tom
Gretsch Catalina Club 16×16 Floor Tom

Truth Custom Acrylic 7×14 Snare
Ludwig Supraphonic 6.5×14 Snare

Zildian A 23” Sweet Ride
Zildjian A 21” Sweet Ride
Zildjian 14” K Custom Dark Hats

Vic Firth 5A and 5B drumsticks

Roland SPD-SX
Roland RT-30 Drum Triggers

ZF: While shooting your music video for “Undefeatable,” you had to mute your cymbals and drums in order to play along to a backing track. How hard is it to mimic live-performance for the cameras?

SP: It’s always a strange feeling that I think most film crews don’t really understand. As a drummer, it’s SUPER easy to get in your head if something just feels a little off, so it’s a hurdle you kind of need to handle alone behind your kit. I think it’s all about knowing you’re going to look silly for the first few takes and then settling in and just pretending like it’s a real show. Once you’re adjusted it really isn’t so bad, but I do always find myself chuckling at it here and there.

ZF: You just got off a two-week tour with 888 and The Moth & The Flame. Describe a typical day on tour.

SP: We keep it pretty simple: wake up, shower, get dressed, COFFEE, drive to venue, load in, build stage, FOOD, soundcheck, MORE COFFEE, hang out—usually everyone has their own free time, interviews, photos, drinks, warm-ups, perform, take photos with every last fan, load out, drive to hotel, sleep, repeat! It always varies depending on the city and what press we may have or how long certain drives are, but this is the typical day I would say. Super exciting, right?

ZF: How do you warm-up for a show?

SP: I wish I had a better warm-up, but really I just drink Jameson and stretch. I’ll pull out the drum pad and work through some rudiments for a bit and if I’m feeling particularly stiff I’ll do a few jumping jacks or push-ups to get the blood pumping. It’s mostly the Jameson that does it.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

ZF: What back-up gear do you always keep with you on the road or in the studio?

SP: Mostly just back-up snares. We were on tour with The Kooks when I somehow hit my snare so hard that the rim of the drum broke in half and I was SUPER thankful to have an extra! (Don’t ask me how, I think it was a defective rim or something – I’m not even that strong).

ZF: What is the best show you’ve played?

SP: This is a tough one! Honestly we have played so many good ones that I can’t pick, so I’m going to go with the lazy option and choose a hometown show! We played Starland Ballroom in NJ with The 1975. It was the first time our friends and family had ever seen us play at home in New Jersey since we had signed a record deal and it was a special moment. Running into old friends and new friends who were all equally excited for us was a cool feeling. There was a sense of family in that room, plus it was right before the holidays so it was a talking point when we got home among all of our friends and family. It was a really memorable night.

ZF: On your most recent tour, the band performed several free acoustic sets for fans under 21 who were unable to attend your concerts. Explain how the band came up with this idea and describe your acoustic setup.

SP: A large portion of our fan base is under 21 and a few venues wouldn’t budge on their age restrictions due to local laws, so we wanted to figure out a way to still say hello to our fans that we haven’t seen in a while that couldn’t make it in. I think Andy came up with the idea to do acoustic meet and greets and obviously we thought it was a great idea. As for our acoustic set up, we wanted to figure out a cool way to get everyone involved and it so happened I started playing ukulele recently, so we figured why not try it out. It brightened up the performance and every song seemed to translate well on it. We had messed around with it for a bit when we realized it was missing a percussive element. I was already using a cajon as a seat and realized, I can’t use my hands but a kick drum pedal would work! So I grabbed one and we just went with it.

The whole idea behind the acoustic set is that all three of us can be flexible and play any of the instruments we’re using, so it allows us to mess around and swap instruments to create a new feel to a song we may have played 100 times in a different way. It’s a fun challenge for me to sing, play ukulele, and also play kick patterns while Julian uses a tambourine as a snare. It’s like I’m solving a real-time puzzle in my brain and it all fits together in motion.img_0076

ZF: Is Julian a better tambourine player than you?

SP: IN HIS DREAMS! I am the tambourine master. He’s pretty damn good though, he looks so good while playing it.

ZF: You’ve been playing drums for 15 years and signed to Interscope Records in 2014. How has the transition been from aspiring musician to signed professional?

SP: It’s interesting, I don’t feel any different! I just enjoy it immensely and I’m lucky to be able to wake up every day and play. Just enjoying the ride!

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www.YoungRisingSons.com

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Shazam is a mobile-based smartphone application that allows users to identify songs from radio, television and film simply by holding their phones toward the audio source. Though I use it sparingly, I’ve racked up over 100 Shazams in the past couple of years and I felt that it was finally time to pursue some of these artists. As I browsed through my list, I realized that there were several bands and even songs which I had captured more than once. In one instance, I even “Shazam’d” the same song three different times, leading me to conclude that it must have been something special. That song was “Soundcheck” by Catfish and the Bottlemen.

As I listened to the song with a new perspective, I spent the first 0:48 seconds perplexed. I didn’t really like it, and I couldn’t even remember having heard it. Then the chorus kicked in at 0:49 and I was immediately hit with an upbeat punk rock anthem that made me want to head-bang at my desk. The first chorus was short and sweet, and moved directly into the second verse within just 14 seconds. That verse already felt familiar to me and I enthusiastically hummed along while anxiously awaiting the next big chorus. The bridge hit around two minutes in and was as sparse as it was haunting. It built into an emotional and tense guitar solo which evoked scenes of chaos before returning to the familiar verse structure and a huge double chorus before ending abruptly.

most-artist-shazamsThe rest of my data was equally enlightening, as I found eleven artists in total whom I had Shazam’d more than once. Next up was Icelandic folk group Of Monsters and Men, followed by American-turned-English rockers Cage The Elephant. I quickly noticed a pattern in which 45% of my Shazams were indie-rock bands from the UK with California (36%) coming in a close second. At times it can be difficult to discover new music, especially with radio, retail centers and film replaying a lot of the same homogenous drivel. Shazam gave me the opportunity to identify the songs I liked and prompted me to discover and pursue these artists. Many say that technology is hurting the music industry, but with apps like Shazam, technology is only the beginning.

/ZF/

When I was a teenager, I started hanging out at a hole-in-the-wall dive bar on campus called Bernie’s to see punk rock shows. About 12 years later, an old friend convinced me to go to a local show at the old watering hole where I randomly met Matt Jensen, drummer of local punk band The Scratches. Jensen performed that night first with his side project (going by band name Earthworm Tim at the time), and later with The Scratches, who put on a punk rock show truly fitting for the atmosphere. It wasn’t until later that I realized I also knew the band’s bass player, Darby Antle; having met him at ComFest many years earlier. Since seeing The Scratches for the first time, my girlfriend and I have seen them around town several times, playing venues all over the city and truly paying their dues.

I sat down with Mr. Jensen recently to discuss some of the best venues in Columbus to see local bands, and it was only fitting that we started with Bernie’s.


Matt Jensen Press Photo
Matt Jensen on the throne


Venue
: Bernie’s

Location: 1896 N. High St. (North Campus)

Crowd Type: Punk. Says Jensen: “If you want to feel like you’re going to a true punk rock show, you should probably go to Bernie’s. You’ll probably get your teeth kicked in and a broken nose.”

Music Scene: Mostly locals. Some touring bands, but not as many as there used to be. Punk rock is the mainstay, but on any given night you can find anything from alternative to hip-hop.

Bar: Bernie’s bar is tiny, crowded, and usually only staffed by one person at a time, but it’s probably the cheapest domestic beer you’ll find in the area.

Average Admission Price: $8, and the occasional free show.

Food: Though colloquially known as just Bernie’s, its full name is actually Bernie’s Bagels & Deli/The Distillery. During the day, Bernie’s is just like any other campus deli serving affordable sandwiches, soups, and sides to Ohio State University students.

Parking: Not the best. If you’re lucky enough to find a meter on or near High St., you had better take it. Otherwise, you’re relegated to driving through neighborhoods filled with frat houses trying to find a spot to wedge into. If you have money, (what punk rocker does?), you can park at the OSU Union parking garage across the street for a few bucks.

Stage and Sound Quality: Much like the bar, Bernie’s stage, if you can call it that, is small and backed into a corner. Rising only a few inches off of the ground, it puts enough distance between the fans and bands for nominal comfort and boasts two large PA speakers. Though the sound quality is not the greatest, the performing bands sound very authentic and live- which only adds to the experience.

Takeaway: Bernie’s is the place to be if you want to see an authentic punk rock show. Find a decent place to park and bring a few bucks for beers, and you’re likely to have a hell of a night.


Venue: Scarlet & Grey

Location: 2203 N. High St. (another North Campus favorite)

Crowd Type: College crowd. Shows are ages 18+, with a big presence of students from Ohio State University.

Music Scene: Anything goes. You might have touring bands, locals, electronica and dubstep, and acoustic music all in the same weekend. S&G’s slogan is “we treat bands like rockstars,” offering a green room backstage with private bathrooms for performing artists as well as couches and a TV, which helps bring a lot of bands (and their fans) coming back.

Bar: You can expect a fully stocked bar with average “campus” prices. There are generally a few staff on hand who offer good service and treatment.

Average Admission Price: $7, with several free shows each month.

Food: Just like Bernie’s, most people leave the “café” out of the Scarlet & Grey Café’s name. Though the menu is small, patrons can choose from pizza, burgers, fries, and wings, adding to your typical college campus bar experience.

Parking: Parking is available on many of the side streets off of High St., and will usually require driving around 3 or 4 blocks on a busy night to find a good spot.

Stage and Sound Quality: The stage at Scarlet & Grey is noticeably big, with drum risers and enough room for a full-sized band to perform with all of their instruments and have room to move around. Jensen says that S&G has some of the “best lighting and sound” of the many venues The Scratches have performed in Columbus.

Takeaway: Scarlet & Grey is a good venue for an all ages (18+) show, has a great atmosphere for the performing bands, and you can see touring artists there without having to go through the hassle of TicketMaster.


The Scratches at Victorys
The Scratches performing at Victory’s Live

Venue: Victory’s

Location: 543 S. High St. (Brewery District)

Crowd Type: Post-college adults there to hear local music. Located between downtown Columbus and the Brewery District, Jensen usually finds the crowd to be around 25 – 30 years old.

Music Scene: Mostly local rock, alternative, and punk bands. Just like Bernie’s, you’re likely to hear a lot of unique music from Columbus’ underground scene.

Bar: Micro-brews, local-brews, and popular domestics are staple finds at Victory’s bar. Prices are a little higher than your typical dive bar, but remain standard for any local music venue in town. Fully stocked and spacious enough for comfortable seating.

Average Admission Price: Free

Food: Adjacent to the music room, Victory’s offers an in-house pizza place with subs, sides, and all your favorite pie varieties. Prices are average and service is tableside.

Parking: This may just be one of the most convenient venues for parking. Because most of the businesses in the area close down at night, Jensen finds the area to be “safe, with great parking at the meters on High St.”

Stage and Sound Quality: The stage is a little small, and forget about seeing the drummer once the fog machine comes on, but Jensen describes the sound system and lighting as an “awesome experience for both fans and audience.”

Takeaway: If you want your audience to have a good time, be well fed, and have a great selection of drinks, Victory’s is the place to be.


Venue: The Basement

Location: 391 Neil Ave. (Arena District)

Crowd Type: A marketer’s dream. Being a part of the PromoWest family, the Basement attracts fans of all ages who attend to see national and international touring bands. Jensen feels “you’re more likely to find a commercial target audience there than locals just there to drink and see their friends’ bands.”

Music Scene: DJs, indie, electronic, pop-punk, rap, etc. Mostly touring bands, but PromoWest is very good about getting locals to open, such as when The Scratches opened for Anti-Flag last month.

Bar: Long and shallow, the bar offers a lot of seating and several TVs to watch the stage or something else on television. Jensen describes prices and selection as “typical for any music venue, with big brand drinks and quick service.”

Average Admission Price: $13 plus TicketMaster fees.

Food: Though the venue itself doesn’t provide food, it is connected to the A&R bar upstairs which serves Mikey’s Late Night Slice; arguably one of the most popular food truck enterprises in town.

Parking: Jensen describes parking in this area as another safe bet, with parking garages across the street on Neil Avenue as well as a large lot behind the venue.

Stage and Sound Quality: Being a part of the PromoWest family, The Basement offers “a nice stage with great lighting and a professional sound engineer.” The stage is sunken, unlike almost any other venue in Columbus, but still provides an interesting experience.

Takeaway: The Basement is not your local mom-and-pop venue. It is professional, commercial, and you’re far more likely to walk into a show from a touring band than a local.

The Scratches at The Basement
The Scratches’ setup for a performance at The Basement

Venue: Ace of Cups

Location: 2619 N. High St. (Just north of North Campus)

Crowd type: Without sounding cheeky, the crowd type at Ace of Cups is your typical college hipster.

Music Scene: Popular local groups, some touring bands, mostly indie and alternative. The Scratches played there once, so sometimes pop-punk.

Bar: Ace of Cups is certainly unique in this article as it probably provides the most imports, micro-brews, and other rare finds for beer connoisseurs. Prices are what you would expect to pay for an imported lager from The Netherlands, but having a wide selection is a distinctive factor.

Average Admission Price: $7, and the occasional free comedy show.

Food: Though AoC has eclectic food finds such as sweet coconut rice porridge, easter pie with kale salad, and vegan empanadas, Jensen was quick to remind me of the cornerstone campus establishments in the area such as Hounddog’s Pizza and Mikey’s Late Night Slice. Ray Ray’s Hog Pit & BBQ also delivers to AoC’s parking lot each weekend.

Parking: There is a small parking lot available, but once it fills up, you’re back to circling the neighborhood to find a side street to park on.

Stage and Sound Quality: Jensen described the sound quality as good, with a big, wide stage which gives the audience a better chance at visually seeing the bands.

Takeaway: This is a bar for the in-crowd. Micro-brews, indie bands, and food you’ve never heard of will leave an inimitable taste in your mouth.


Venue: Spacebar

Location: 2590 N. High St. (North Campus, across the street from Ace of Cups)

Crowd Type: A “noticeably younger crowd, with hardcore, pop-punk, and other alternative bands.” When discussing the crowd, Jensen and I both felt that the crowd was very inclusive and friendly.

Music Scene: The Spacebar definitely caters to local bands, as the one time that I was there, members of local bands who were not performing that night made up a large population of the audience and even staff. Jensen describes the music as having “a lot of locals, some touring bands, and other popular bands from the Midwest. Lots of acoustic, alternative, and pop-punk.”

Bar: Fitting to their name, this venue has an excellent bar tucked away at the back of the room. “There are a lot of craft beers on tap as well as popular domestic beers.” Prices are average or even a little higher than average, but you definitely get what you pay for.

Average Admission Price: $7, and the occasional free show.

Food: Though the venue doesn’t have food available, the building is right next door to Mikey’s Late Night Slice (which I’ve plugged three times now in this article).

Parking: There is a small lot, but typical to campus, you’re more likely to find a spot on one of the residential side streets.

Stage and Sound Quality: Jensen describes the stage as “big and open, with good sound quality.” He also mentioned that the owners of the venue were still in the process of acoustical soundproofing, as the Spacebar was recently renovated from now-closed venue Kobo.

Takeaway: “It’s a nice little place to play or see a show, with a good atmosphere and newly-renovated improvements upon the old venue.”


You can catch The Scratches at their next performance at Vans Warped Tour in Cincinnati on July 16th on the Ernie Ball Stage or tune in to 99.7 The Blitz Local Stuff to hear their latest studio single, “Left Sunk In.”

ZF.

http://www.thescratches.com/

https://www.facebook.com/thescratches614

https://twitter.com/ScratchesBand

Purchase at iTunes

The Scratches Cartoon Press Photo

In keeping with the spirit of an album release, today we’ll talk about how to price your album. There are many different factors to consider when establishing a price, such as how much money you put into the making of the album (studio time, artwork, photography, advertising); how much money you hope to earn from sales of the album (after dividing money between band members, paying income tax, manufacturing overhead), and ultimately, what you think the album is worth.

Manufacturing Overhead: Overhead is the cost of doing business. So you rent a studio space for $500 a month, it costs you $750 to press new merchandise each month, and your entire band needs a cost of living wage; so when it’s all said and done, your overhead is likely several thousands of dollars per month.

Income Tax: Taxes paid on all incoming revenue. If you are a solo artist or sole proprietor, or your band is a co-owned LLC, you would generally pay the IRS your income tax quarterly as an independent contractor.

Many artists calculate what they’ll sell their album for by starting with the product cost. What I’ve heard a lot of bands say is “the CDs each cost $2 to press, so we need to earn at least $2.” This is called break-even pricing. What this strategy vies for is earning enough revenue to cover the cost of manufacturing. What it doesn’t take into account is how much money it cost to record the album in a professional studio, how much the photographer was paid, and how much time each band member spent practicing, recording, and promoting. Unless you’re opting for the freemium model (which we’ll discuss later on), this is the best worst-case scenario.

If you want to earn a profit on the sale of your records, what you’ll likely want to do is markup your sale price. Cost-plus pricing is when you consider the initial cost of manufacturing and add (plus) your desired profit. So it takes $2 to press each CD, and you want to earn a minimum of $5 profit per sale, so you sell each album for $7. In today’s economic environment, is this the most realistic price? If every other musician on the planet is selling their album for only $5, and you are selling yours for $7, who do you think the audience is more likely to support? Unless you have added value (bonus tracks, free downloads online, music videos, etc.), your competition is likely to prevail. Competition-based pricing is just that- pricing your products at the same price or lower than your competitors. I’m sure you’ve seen gas stations across the street from one another lowering their prices by mere pennies just to gain market share; well it’s not much different in today’s music industry where supply greatly outweighs demand.

Gross Profit: This is the amount of money you make before paying off your band members, income tax, and using the band fund to cover costs such as hotels and meals.

Net Profit: This is the amount of money that you earn after all expenses are paid. So you sold $1,000 worth of albums, but after living expenses, taxes, and per diems, you’ve got about $40 bucks.

With the increase in streaming programs such as Spotify, Pandora, and Rdio, many consumers, especially die hard music fans aren’t even buying much music anymore. Sure, they might pick up a vinyl record or download an album on bandcamp to support an artist they love, but in 2014, several artists surpassed over one billion plays each on Spotify. With this technological shift in the way we consume music, many bands, especially indie ones, are opting for pay-what-you-want or freemium pricing strategies.

Pay-what-you-want is so simple that it makes you wonder why no one thought of it years ago. Radiohead was one of the first bands to successfully execute this model with the release of In Rainbows in 2008, which saw millions of downloads worldwide. Many indie artists are using the PWYW method as a gamble. Realistically, most people will probably download your album for $0, but every once in a while you might get a very generous benefactor. I remember one time I was hawking my old band’s EP for $5 at a Warped Tour stop in New Jersey, and after hearing us, a young woman offered $20 for the 5-song EP that we recorded in our singer’s basement. She was heavily intoxicated and clearly incapable of making financial decisions, so I declined her offer as many times as possible before she simply shoved the $20 in my face. I gave her $20 worth of merchandise and sang her a few tunes on my ukulele, making damn sure she got her money’s worth, as that was the first (and last) time anybody paid me $20 for my music.

Finally we’ve arrived at the current trend in indie music, the freemium model. When I was going to university for marketing, I had always heard a term called “loss leader” which is a strategy that works well for major corporations. A loss leader is a product that the company sells for a low price or gives away in order to drive consumers to their establishments in the hopes that they will buy other items on which the company will profit. McDonald’s sells $1 large drinks in the summer in hopes that the customers will buy Big Macs and whatever other expensive crap they sell. It usually works. In the music industry, time and time again artists are realizing that the best money they’ll make is on the road. And how can you guarantee that people will come out to see your concert? Well, you can’t really, but giving them free music is definitely a start.

Recently, U2, one of the biggest bands of time immemorial, released their latest album for free on iTunes to all of its users. In all of my years avoiding pop radio and television, I suddenly found myself with a copy of an album which I had previously gone out of my way to avoid. I’d be lying if I didn’t enjoy the U2 tracks that came up on my shuffle, but will I ever go see them live? Probably not, but if it were a local band whose concert I could afford attending, I would definitely be more inclined to go than if they were charging me $10 to listen to their album.

We’ll touch on pricing again as we get into the 4th P, Promotion, covering topics such as discounts and incentives, but for now this is most of what you need to know in order to start pricing your album. Tune in next week to read about place; also known as distribution.

Marketing is often known as selling or advertising a product or service, but it’s actually part of a much larger process. The marketing mix, or “4 Ps”, consist of product, price, place, and promotion; individual concepts which we will explore further in future blog posts. When you are ready to begin the marketing process, the first step is to define your target market. Your target market is the group of consumers who have common traits, needs, and desires. The essential question you have to ask yourself is, who are my customers? Males aged 18 – 25? Hispanic women? Jewish pre-teens in New York?

Marketing MixThe easiest way to define your target market is through demographics. A market’s demographics often consist of age, gender, race, occupation, and location. Other statistics included in a target market’s demographics are how they buy what they buy, where they buy what they buy, etc. If you’re a musician, how will your target market access your songs? Will they have enough money to purchase a vinyl record instead of streaming your album online? Do they live in the location in which you’re touring? Are they old enough to get into the club that you’re playing this weekend? These are all important things to think about when trying to increase your visibility among your target market.

Visibility is exactly what it sounds like. How visible is your music? Do music fans even know you exist? How can you increase visibility? Visibility goes hand in hand with reach. Reach is the total number of people that have been exposed to your music at any given time. Thanks to the internet, reach and visibility are limitless, providing millions of ways to get your music out to fans and gain new ones. Websites like Facebook, SoundCloud, and BandCamp allow for you to connect with consumers socially in ways that you never could have before, guiding them toward your brand and your products. Unlike the internet, geographical location can drastically limit your reach. For example, if you live in a small town of 5,000 residents and you’ve played the same bar every weekend for a year, your overall reach starts to dwindle as you begin to tap out your market. This is why touring is the most lucrative industry for musicians right now.

bandcamp
One last thing to think about before you begin your marketing campaign is branding. Your brand is who you are, what you represent, and what you hope to sell to your audience. A brand can be a lifestyle, a logo, or even a political or religious ideation. Just off the top of my head, California punk rock band Black Flag’s logo is something that has nearly transcended the band itself, representing “rebellion and anarchy” in the punk community and beyond. Branding can be one way to increase visibility, and acts as an overall component of every successful marketing campaign.

Black Flag logo
Next Phase
: A 4-Part Series on the Marketing Mix