Artists – Stop wasting your money – The top 5 ways bands waste money and how to stop!!!

January 27, 2010

I hear artists complain all the time that they have “spent tens of thousands of dollars” promoting their CD and music career – but are no further along.

Well, welcome to the world of “being your own record label”.

For all the crap labels take from artists about being “ineffective”, now having run my own indie label for almost a year, I can tell you, it’s hard as hell.

And if you’ve tried promoting your own CD you’ve likely realized it’s no easy task to get people’s attention, much less get played on the radio or reviewed by anyone or placed in any film or TV show.

And hiring people is expensive!!!!

Why is it so hard?

Because even doing the basic, cheapest level of promoting – sending CDs to radio and for reviews and licensing is EXPENSIVE!!!

Sure, we are moving into a digital age but not everyone is down with digital files and even if they are, realize the people you are submitting to are getting hundreds, if not THOUSANDS of emails A DAY!  A DAY!!!!!!

You’re not the only one submitting a CD to radio or your local newspaper for the hopes at a feature story much less an album review.

Over 50,000 CDs come out EVERY YEAR on major labels, indie labels and of course, mainly, indie artists!

The competition is fierce and it’s unlikely you can OUTSPEND your competition – so you have to be SMARTER than that!  Because a LOT of artists have rich parents, or a rich uncle!


Anyhow, back to my original point.

Sure, there are no guarantees in life.

And there are definitely no guarantees in the music business.

But maybe you’re no further along in your career because you’re spending your money with the wrong people or on the wrong things!

Now I can tell you as much as the next person – there is no guarantee out there.

And any publicist, radio promoter, agent, lawyer, manager, publisher, label – anyone that GUARANTEES you any type of fame or success is absolutely a liar.


Because if it were “so easy” – every artist signed to a major label would be successful.

Every single one.

Because major label spend oodles of cash promoting their artists, right?  (Often a million dollars + PER ARTIST!!)

Yet, labels fail a LOT more than they succeed.

Sure, you only hear of the “successful artists” – the OneRepublics and Coldplays and Katy Perrys of the world right now.

But for every success like Coldplay, there are 99 artists that were signed to a major label that you’ve never heard of.  And many/most of those “failed” artists had hundreds of thousands of dollars (or a million dollars+) dropped on promoting their career.

So, to help you, I’ve come up with a list of the TOP 5 WAYS I SEE ARTISTS WASTE THEIR MONEY and how to stop!

1)  Music conventions.  With all due respect to the fine folks who run these amazing conventions (I’ve gone to both, lots of fun) but in general, IMHO, SXSW, CMJ, sure, all of those music events get a ton of buzz and press because the Killers or some huge act that you’ve heard of NOW played them BACK in 2005 or what not.  But what you don’t hear about is the other 3,000 unknown baby bands and artists that played that year that spent thousands of dollars of their own money to get to Austin or NYC to “showcase” in the hopes of getting discovered — and yet absolutely NOTHING happened from playing one show at these festivals.  Now I’m not saying don’t do it or consider it (after all, I always say “be open minded” & “try new things” because maybe you’ll meet someone amazing in the hotel elevator or walking down 6th street – you never know!).  I just think there are a LOT better ways to spend your money than playing SXSW or CMJ or attending most music conventions or events.  Sure, if you can tour through Austin and make a stop there to play some shows at SXSW for fun, why not.  But just know it’s like spending your money on a vacation i.e. it’s expensive (easily $1,000+ and a lot more if you’re a full band) and purely something you’re doing for FUN with no hopes of making that money back.

2)  Hiring an expensive “old school” publicist without a plan or good reason.  If you aren’t touring, or don’t have an AMAZING new CD or single you’re promoting, you likely don’t need an expensive music publicist.  Because a lot of the press a traditional, “old school” publicist will get for you will be “tour press” and guess what?  Most newspapers and weeklies don’t care about you unless you’re touring through their city and they can mention an upcoming gig or two.  And generally, getting press is VERY difficult if not impossible for an indie artist.  You need some pre-existing buzz or a “story” – some reason why someone would want to write about you.  Do you have famous parents?  Or something INCREDIBLY unique about you or your music?  Like were you raised by wolves?  Or vampires?  If so, I bet you could get some good press!  But if not, it’s going to be a VERY hard sell for even the most experienced of music publicists.  If you do hire one, hire someone who specializes in your style of music and make sure you have very realistic goals before going in!  Remember, music PR is tough – it’s a lot of work with NO guarantees that any journalist will write about you or review your CD!  Just be realistic!  You gotta try but also realize, thousands of other artists are hiring publicists too!

3)  Hiring a “name” producer.  Listen, it doesn’t impress anyone (not even a major label) that you have a “name” producer who produced your record.  Why?  Because EVERY indie artist has one.  I can’t tell you how many CDs and press kits I receive from bands that say “Our CD was produced by famous producer 1234”.  I’m only impressed if that “name” producer produced your songs or CD on spec (meaning, entirely for free) and/or he’s at the top of the Billboard charts RIGHT NOW.  Because most producers, like many in this business, are hired guns and will work for anyone who has enough money.  And now more so than ever, especially since their revenue from major labels has dried up, they are looking more and more to indie artists to foot their bill.  In general, save your money.  If you can’t produce a great record on your own, or with an “up and coming” producer or kid in your hometown, you should well, be in another business!  Because a big part of being an artist these days means knowing how you want your record to sound and having control over it in the studio.  Besides, name producers don’t sell CDs.  You think Joe Blow in Kansas is going to buy your record or single on iTunes because Mr. XXZ produced it? Think again!  Artists sell CDs, not producers!

4)  Hiring a shady radio promoter.  There are SO many shady radio promoters out there.  Ones that will take your money, make up fake charts to show your song doing well – and all the while not even sending your CD out.  It’s hard to know who to trust, right?  I would only hire a radio promoter who had worked with bands that I could verify references with i.e. the bands heard their songs on the radio that the promoter allegedly got them on.  And if they are contacting you on myspace or you haven’t heard songs on the radio because of that promoter, I’d run run run away!  This is such a shady business it’s really tough to find a good radio promoter out there so unless you’re 110% sure you’re with a reputable one, save your money!

5)  Making an expensive CD.  I know, I know.  It’s “fun” to be in the studio.  But what did you spend on recording, mixing and mastering your last record?  Hopefully not much.  I was talking to the President of a major indie label who said he doesn’t spend more than $30,000 making a record for an artist or band on his label. So, if you’re spending more than that as an INDIE artist, well, it’s likely just money down the toilet.  Because what chance do you have at recouping even $10K of that let alone $20 or $30K as an indie artist?  You don’t have the marketing budget that a major or even decent size indie label has to recoup your investment.  And sure, it helps if you own your own studio (or have a friend that does).  The smart artists who were signed to major deals took their advance money and used it to build their own studio and buy their own recording equipment.  So not only can they make music and their next records inexpensively, they can also rent out their studio to other bands and artists and maybe even produce or engineer other band’s records. Besides, in case you haven’t noticed, CD sales are declining, and people aren’t buying enough mp3’s to make up the difference. So, spend as LITTLE you can on your next record and maybe, just maybe, you’ll recoup!

Not to worry, next time I’ll email you a list of the Top 5 things you SHOULD be spending your money on!

Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 320
Beverly Hills, CA  90210

~Indie Record Label~Artist Management~Music Licensing~Music Publicity

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
-Yogi Berra

“Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark.”
-David Ogilvy


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