Personality Dynamics: Why Communication and Respect Are Vital For The Health of Your Band

[Editors Note: This article was written by Patrick McGuire.]

 

Many serious bands happily sacrifice money, relationships and careers in the hopes that they’ll find an audience for their music. But while focusing on the musical parts of being in a band is important, the way the musicians who form a band respect and communicate with each other is just as vital for acts that hope to create, record and perform music over the long-term.

Bands break up for all sorts of reasons. Some musicians throw everything they have into music for a few years only to give it all up when they can’t find the success they’d hoped for, but others upend otherwise perfectly good projects because they simply can’t work with the other musicians in their band anymore. It’s become routine for bands with massive talent and untapped potential to call it quits because they fail to focus their efforts on communication and mutual respect.

What Bands Do and Don’t Do Well

When musicians set out to create new projects, they probably think about making music and not much else, and this makes sense. If the purpose of a band is to create music, it should exclusively focus on writing, recording and performing, right?

Bands obviously need to spend time developing their identity as musicians, but alongside non-musical relationship skills like communication, openness and respect. Musicians in newer bands with plenty of enthusiasm and energy tend to be great at writing lots of songs and playing shows, but they’re notoriously bad at making goals, being open about feelings and speaking up when they feel unheard or disrespected.

Blame it on the male-driven culture behind so many bands out there or the fact that making serious music requires musicians to frequently enter vulnerable territories they’re not usually comfortable in, but most bands are simply not great at being open with how they feel about things, and this is a big problem.

All Relationships Take Work. Why Would Your Band Be Any Different?

Whether you realize it or not, a band is a relationship unlike any other. Falling somewhere between a friendship, marriage and creative business partnership, the personality dynamic behind every band is completely unique. But like all other relationships, it takes effort and sacrifice to keep a band healthy and together.

The work that makes the other relationships in your life possible is similar to the work you’ll need to do to keep your band healthy and on track. Some bands, most famously Metallica, even go as far as to get professional counseling for their issues. Your band might not need therapy, but you will have to learn to speak openly and respectfully to each other if you want to stay together.

Opening the Lines of Communication

It can be awkward and unnatural for some musicians to open up and talk about their needs and feelings, but for bands to be successful, they have to be able to really talk and listen to each other. Communication in band settings is so vital because making music with other people is complicated on every level and there’s often so much at stake.

Bands routinely deal with everything from complicated finances and contracts to spending months together touring crammed together in a small van or car. Sure, at band practice once a week you’ll be able to stay quiet and let some things you’re not happy with slide, but when you’re on tour for two months promoting an album you’ve just put a couple thousand of your own dollars into, it might be a little harder to hold your tongue. Opening up the lines of communication now will keep you from saying things you might regret later.

Respect, Openness and Empathy

Musicians in successful bands find ways to respect and empathize with each other, even when it’s not easy to. Under ideal conditions, it doesn’t take a lot of work for some like-minded musicians to be kind and patient with one another, but like in any other relationship, people show their true colors in the face of real challenges.

Who you are when the van breaks down or when your band blows the show? It’s more important for that person to be kind, open and respectful to your other bandmates than the person you are when things are going swimmingly. Easier said than done, of course, but the effort here is the important thing.

Taking Stock of the Health of Your Band

It can be uncomfortable to address underlying issues in your band, but ignoring them will only make things worse. Setting aside time after rehearsals is a good way to make time for getting things off your chest, making plans and opening up a dialogue about what your band is doing and where you want to go.

Rather than waiting for disasters to appear and become unmanageable, getting in the habit of creating opportunities for respectful dialogue now will help your band stay together and make music for years to come.


Patrick McGuire is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.

A Look Back at TuneCore in 2017

Where did this year go?! It feels like just last week we were cheering about all the accolades and big moments that made up TuneCore’s big 2016, but here we are entering into a new year once again.

One thing that never seems to change is the ability of all the artists that make up the TuneCore community to shine. We’re thrilled to have spent another year helping artists take control of their journeys, build their fan bases and collect 100% of their sales revenue.

Along the way, TuneCore made its presence known at events and conferences around the world – connecting with artists to advance the mission of helping them get heard and get paid. It’s always exciting to see the artists who use our platform for distribution gain traction and show the world why it pays to be independent. So join us in taking a look back at 2017.

GRAMMY Nominations


TuneCore artists, songwriters and arrangers are making some serious waves in the GRAMMY nomination pool this year. Check out some of the awesome noms received by independent artists from the TuneCore community and join us in congratulating them:

SZABest New Artist, Best Rap/Sung Performance, Best Urban Contemporary Album, Best R&B Performance

Sylvan EssoBest Dance/Electronic Album

Julian Lage & Chris EldridgeBest Contemporary Instrumental Album

August Burns Red  – Best Metal Performance

K. FlayBest Rock Song

Raul MidónBest Jazz Vocal Album

Miguel ZenónBest Latin Jazz Album

Tina CampbellBest Gospel Performance/Song

The Walls GroupBest Gospel Performance/Song

CeCe WinansBest Gospel Performance/Song, Best Gospel Album

Marvin SappBest Gospel Album

Alex CubaBest Latin Pop Album

Los Amigos InvisiblesBest Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative album

Aida CuevasBest Regional Mexican Music Album

Blind Boys of AlabamaBest American Roots Performance

The Infamous StringdustersBest Bluegrass Album

Lisa LoebBest Children’s Album

 

TuneCore at SXSW, A3C & Midem 2017


As we have been in the past, TuneCore was in attendance at some of the music industry’s most important events and conferences this year. It’s always incredibly meaningful for us to connect directly with artists, labels, and managers to talk strategy and success – and of course where TuneCore fits into that conversation for them.

At SXSW, our team held down the Artist Gifting Lounge for four days where we were able to hold one-on-one consulting sessions, introduce our artist services and distribution options to newcomers, and shoot the breeze with artists during one of the busiest events of the year. At night, that same team was out on the streets attending TuneCore Artists’ sets and showcases all over Austin.

In other rooms of the Austin Conference Center, TuneCore’s Director of Entertainment Relations Chris Mooney chaired the Transforming Online Popularity to Offline Success” panel. Additionally, Director of Artist Entertainment Relations Amy Lombardi could be found running the “Creating For a Cause: Music For Action & Awareness” panel.

 

Across the pond, TuneCore’s VP of International Marie-Anne Robert was invited to speak at a distribution-focused panel during Midem 2017. Being able to chime in during one of the largest publishing conferences in the industry is always a massive honor, and Marie-Anne advised artists on the importance of making sense of the data from streaming services and how it can help influence business decisions.

Later in the year, members of the TuneCore team hightailed it down south to Atlanta for one of the biggest and increasingly important events for independent hip hop: A3C Fest 2017.

With so many independent artists popping their heads in and out of the Loudermilk Conference Center in downtown Atlanta, TuneCore took advantage of this opportunity by hosting “Music Made Me Industry Talks” that included a combination of hip hop artists, producers and music industry professionals. Topics included distribution, beatmaking, business planning and radio promotion.

International Highlights


TuneCore’s International team was busier than ever in 2017. Brand managers across Europe were busy meeting with and informing artists about the benefits of using TuneCore during our first-ever “TuneCore Indie Tour” – stopping off in the UK (Manchester, Birmingham, and Nottingham), France (Marseille, Nantes, Lyon, Paris, Lille and Annecy), Germany (Hamburg, Dusseldorf, and Dortmund), Austria (Vienna) and Romania (Bucharest).

 

Aside from connecting with artists on these tour dates, TuneCore also established new partnerships with like-minded, artist-friendly European startups like the CapiTalent, Arezzo Wave Love Festival, Music on Stage, Les Etoiles du Parisien, NME, Focus Wales, Liverpool Sound City, SPH Bandcontest and the Reeperbahn Festival. Partnerships like these have allowed us not only just reach more international artists and labels, but also helped create more exclusive opportunities for them to take advantage of.

 

Music Made Me: The TuneCore Podcast


By promoting articles written by experts active in the music industry today, we like to think the TuneCore Blog is a strong resource for independent artists seeking information that can help them further advance their careers. Education is a key component of getting ahead in this game, and in the summer of 2017 we branched out into a new medium by rolling out “Music Made Me: The TuneCore Podcast”!

Each episode is hosted or curated by a member of TuneCore’s team and features conversations with artists, managers, publicists, music supervisors and more – all with the goal of getting the right kind of information into the hands of those who need it most.

Haven’t had a listen yet? Be sure to catch up on this year’s episodes and subscribe to keep up with all the exciting upcoming episodes we’ll be sharing in 2018 and beyond.

#2018Goals


Finally, we’d like to say congratulations to all of our TuneCore Artists on their successes. We appreciate you working with us for digital distribution, and we’re excited to find new ways to support the independent community.

In fact, we’d love to know what you’ve got planned for 2018. Let us know by sharing your #2018Goals with @TuneCore on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

Thanks, Happy New Year, and see you in 2018!

Why Playlists Are More Important Than Ever

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

In 2017, the playlist has become an integral part of not just music but our culture at large. While radioplay and the blogosphere still have the power to bring attention to an artist, playlists are becoming a steadfast way for more and more listeners to discover and consume music. This isn’t exactly breaking news for those readers who’ve been making serious music over the past decade, but the fact is that playlists are shaping the musical landscape more than ever before, and if you don’t release your music with that in mind and plan accordingly, you’ll risk missing out on some potentially huge opportunities.

The New Listening Landscape

Remember that snobby record store clerk you used to get your music recommendations from? Or maybe it was your cool older sister. Well, either way, playlists featuring every genre of music you can conceive of are introducing listeners to new artists in way measured by literally billions of songs, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

But probably more important than the way listeners are discovering music is the way they’re now listening to it. Listeners are now relying on playlists big and small to guide their unique listening experiences. Why?

Put yourself in the shoes of a non-musician for a second. Unless you’re particularly interested in discovering and listening to new and interesting music, you most likely won’t have the time or patience to wade through hours of music to find songs that actually resonate with you. Enter an army of new expertly curated playlists, specifically designed to convey an array of nuanced moods that cater to a wide variety of different music fans. Like indie rap? There’s tens of thousands of playlists out there for you. Looking for electronic jazz/rock fusion for stepdads? Actually, I have no idea if that playlist exists or not, but you get what I mean.

Engaging new and old listeners on this relatively new playing field is becoming more and more important for career musicians, but don’t take my word for it.

Let’s look at the data.

The Data Behind Playlists

On average, Spotify’s 4,500 curated playlists generate over a billion streams per week. Their Discover Weekly feature has connected well over 40 million music listeners to about 5 billion new songs. Love it or loathe it, Spotify is doing something massively important for new artists, and figuring out how to get your music featured on Spotify is worth looking into, even if the chances of your music being selected by one of Spotify’s notoriously picky playlist curators is slim.

But while Spotify is a major resource for listeners when it comes to finding and consuming music, YouTube is an even bigger player. Though the stats are controversial, complicated and difficult to understand, some music industry analysts believe YouTube accounts for 40% of all music listening.

I released a single recently and was surprised to learn that a dude with a playlist I’d never heard of had shared my new song on a YouTube playlist with over 188,000 subscribers. My release performed pretty well on Spotify, but the numbers were nothing compared to the exposure I got from being featured on that one Youtube playlist.

Make music regularly enough and you’ll sometimes get lucky and have your songs featured on decent-sized playlists, but reaching out to playlist curators and asking for your songs to be considered is vital if you’re just starting out and new to the playlist game.

Pitching Your Music to Playlist Curators and Digital Music Stores

Taking the time to submit your music through TuneCore’s feature submission form is an easy way to pitch your music to digital music retailers like iTunes, but if you’re interested in getting playlist curators to consider your songs, you’ll have to do some research.

Take some time to find out what playlists are out there that feature music that’s similar to yours. Rather than gunning for the big, heavily followed tastemakers, I recommend starting small and pitching your music to playlists with smaller followings.

Similar to how you’d pitch your music to blogs, take some time following different playlists and getting a feel for the kind of music their curators like to feature.

Craft a short email explaining who you are, what your music sounds like and why you think it fits on the playlist you’re inquiring about. Yes, you’ll most likely get your fair share of no’s and unanswered emails, but with how much potential there is out there for finding new fans through playlists, getting serious about playlists is becoming a mandatory task if you’re intent on being a successful musician.

4 Music Theory Techniques To Help You Write a Great Chorus

[Editors Note: This article was written by Chelsea Ira of New Artist Model.]

 

I want you to think of some of your favorite songs. You know, those choruses you could sing over and over for hours and still not be sick of them.

How do you think those songwriters stumbled upon something so seemingly perfect?

Was it a bolt of inspiration out of the blue?

Or did it stem from their understanding of music and countless hours of practice?

More likely than not, it was a combination of the two. In songwriting, it’s important to find a balance between chasing inspiration and developing your skills. Too much or too little focus on either could leave you in a frustrating writer’s block.

But today I want to focus on the technical side of things. More specifically, I want to go through a few music theory techniques that you can use to spark killer chorus ideas and get your inspiration flowing.

Of course, these are only ideas to get you started. If inspiration strikes, follow your creativity and even break some music theory rules!

1. Simplify Things Down to a Motif

As songwriters we can sometimes get caught up in the big elaborate vision we have for a chorus. This top-down approach to songwriting can certainly work, but it’s very easy for the essence of the hook to get lost amidst everything else. And then you’ll end up with a non-descript chorus that falls flat compared to the initial vision you heard in your head.

In other words, the hook gets lost in translation.

An easy way to get past this is to simplify your idea, narrowing it down to one or two motifs – then build up from there.

In music theory, a motif is a short musical idea that is used to build phrases, melodies, riffs, and grooves. Typically, motifs are very short and simple. Think of them like small little Lego blocks that can be stuck together in multiple different ways to create larger things.

I can’t emphasize simple enough when it comes to motifs. Often it’s the songs that use the simplest motifs that really stick in our heads.

Blues songs are one of the easiest places to see motifs at work. Take a listen to Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and you’ll hear a motif in the first line of the lyrics, starting on A, going up to B♭ and C, and then back down to F. That motif is repeated with subtle variations and is answered by a second motif.

Another example is Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. I know – it’s not exactly modern music. But, it’s a great example of just how powerful simple motifs can be. Almost everything in the song is created and derived from that iconic four-note motif. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

Next time you’re stuck on a chorus, try simplifying things down and really think about the motifs you’re using. Try making small changes or variations to those motifs and stringing them together in different orders. Starting from the core of your hook and working out from there will give your choruses a very strong and cohesive sound.

2. Play With Sequences

Expectation and anticipation is something every great chorus harnesses. You want the listener to be expecting and waiting for that hook to come around – the hook and the sections leading up to it should almost act like a magnet that draws the ear to the most important part of your song.

In music theory, one technique you can use to create expectation for your hook is a sequence. A sequence is a musical idea that is transposed and repeated to create a pattern.

A motivic sequence is made up of a motif that is transposed and repeated using specific interval pattern. (For example you could move the motif down by a 4th and up by a 2nd.)

A harmonic sequence is made up of a set of chords that follow a particular interval pattern.

Our ears latch onto musical patterns by nature, so as soon as you establish a sequence your listener will catch on and begin anticipating where the music will go next.

In songwriting, you can use this to really build things up before or during your chorus and draw the ear into your hook.

Alternatively, you could also create expectation with a sequence and not follow through by playing something completely unexpected to create tension.

3. Pull From the Notes in Your Chord Progression

The notes in a chord will always be the strongest, so they can be a great starting point when you’re writing a strong melody for a chorus.

You see this all the time in popular songs. The hook will pull out one or two notes from the chord(s) underneath it, or even outline all the notes in the chord. Using your melodies to drive home the key notes in your chord progressions can create an overall more cohesive sound and a much stronger composition.

Of course, you don’t need to only use notes from your chords. Try using them as a sort of outline for your hook.

If you write melody first, try going back and creating a chord progression that incorporates some of those main melody notes. If you write chords first, try pulling out key notes to create an outline for your melody.

If you want to expand on this idea even more, try looking into modes. If you’re playing in they key of C Major, use the G Mixolydian mode to create the melody line over the G Major chord and the F Lydian mode to create the melody line over the F Major chord. This just allows you to pull out those strong notes that will really get your hook to stand out.

4. Harness the Power of Repetition and Subtle Variations

Repetition is often the thing that really drives a strong hook home.

Think about songs like “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. The chorus is simple and it’s played over and over (and over) again. But despite all that repetition, it’s pretty tough to get sick of that song.

Why?

If you take a closer listen, you’ll notice that there are subtle variations in each chorus. Different instruments are added into the mix and small compositional changes help keep things fresh.

Once you have a great hook or chorus, experiment with it, see all the different ways you can subtly manipulate it, and use those variations in your song to really get that hook in your listeners’ heads.


It goes without saying that if you want to write hooks and choruses like the greats, you should study their work. Make a habit to try to really dissect some of the choruses from your favorite songs to see what’s going on.

We gave you a few examples in this article, but if you want more, you can download the ebook Inside the Hits: The Secrets Behind 10 Hit Songs for free here. In that book you’ll see what’s going on from a music theory perspective behind 10 big hits by artists like Rihanna, The Police, Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson, Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, and more.

Thoughts On How To Approach Music Bloggers

[Editors Note: This article is derived from the “Question and Answer” format found over at MusicPreneurHub.com, a site that connects artists and music industry experts. It was written by Jack Ought, a musician, freelance writer and digital artist from the UK.]

 

1. Start With Empathy

I’d say start with empathy. Empathy is a vital skill for dealing with other humans, whether they blog or not. Try to put yourself into the head of the music blogger before you contact one. What do they want out of life and how can you help them get it with your music? Put another way, ‘what’s in it for them’?

It’s a bit like submitting to A&Rs at major labels. If they’re really big, they’re getting more submissions than they can possibly deal with. They’re getting generic/irrelevant pitches all the time, and they might have grown to resent ‘bad pitches’. They don’t want to read War and Peace, even if your content is relevant to them – instead, they’re looking for short, informative, and ’to the point’ releases that allow them to learn more, if they want to. And they are always looking to uncover music that they feel has real value, why else would they do what they do?

If it’s a commercial blog (i.e they have ads), understand their revenue model – they want more page views, which generate more ad revenue. How can you help them generate more page views? One of the things that always gets my interest as a journalist or blogger is an exclusive – I’m not interested in posting content that a bunch of other people have put out before me. Do you have something new to announce that they can post first? A new tour perhaps, or a new single? Perhaps consider: “if it’s not new, it’s not news”

2. Your Mindset

Perhaps consider your mindset too; in the sense that you are here to serve and provide value. You are here to give them something very exciting to show to their readership. You have something genuinely valuable to share with them in the form of your art.

What to do when you pitch a blogger:

Have a strong headline: It’s worth bearing in mind that your email subject is a bit like your headline – you really have to get it right, because if they don’t like the title they won’t even read your email.

Do your homework on the blog: Some blogs ask you to do certain things in your email to help them better process your submission. If you don’t, the blogger will likely reject your message outright.

Personalize your pitch: Make sure the salutation references them by name, if you can. If not, name of the blog that they write for. Don’t start an email with something like ‘Dear Blogger’, please. Tailor it to the blogger in question, ideally in the first paragraph by referencing something they have written about in the past: And why what you have to OFFER them is RELEVANT. I speak from experience when I say that if someone shows that they have taken the time to research what I am writing, I am much more inclined to respond. It’s not flattery per se, more an example that you’re a professional who has taken the time and thought to do their research.

Expect a low hit rate: Sad but true, even the best crafted, most targetted pitches will often evaporate into nothing. This is very often the case and not something to take personally. People are busy, people forget stuff, sometime spam filters get excited, there are many reasons. Which leads us to the next bit… Follow up: 3-5 days later, politely. A short, friendly follow up email to remind them. There’s a trade off between emailing indefinitely until they get back to you or tell you to stop, or not. I think it’s like a lot of stuff in life in that persistence pays. Remember, you have something useful for them to see. An optional step – you could pick up the phone and call them (or try to get them onto Skype). If you are the kind of person who is good on the phone, this may be better for you.

Provide easily accessible links to your content: Either download links to music and imagery on a site like 4shared, or your EPK. Say thank you at the end: Everyone is busy, the fact that the blogger has taken the time to read all the way to the end is great. Politeness will get you around. Here’s an example of an email title (first introduction) that could work for you: “Hi [NAME OF JOURNALIST], I read your piece on [SOMETHING THEY WROTE] & thought you may like this…”

3. On Bloggers (Big and Small)

Please don’t rule out smaller bloggers. Just because they’re ‘small’ doesn’t mean they’re not important – even though a blogger may not have the following of a bigger publication, they often have a highly engaged and super niche following of the kind of people you want to get in front of. For example, they can be followed by journalists at bigger publications looking to catch new bands before they take off. Big outlets often get their ideas from smaller ones.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that bloggers are, on the main part, fanatical about what they like and they can be some of your biggest champions, if they like you. Most of the time, the ones who went into it purely for the money were quickly weeded out when they realized that they’re probably not going to get rich and famous overnight.