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Martin Atkins Unleashes 20 Strategies for Indie Bands

With over 30 years in the music business, Martin Atkins is perhaps best known as a musician. A member of Public Image Ltd, Killing Joke, Pigface, The Damage Manual, and Murder Inc., as well as having made contributions to Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, Atkins continues to make a name for himself. The author and owner of Invisible Records and Mattress Factory Recording Studios, he can also add producer, columnist, lecturer at Columbia College Chicago, drummer, documentary film maker, DJ, and father to his resume.

Atkins’ discussions during the New Music Seminar last month were candid and entertaining. His panel was complete with profanity and quirky stories intertwined with advice for indie bands trying to make it.

“Nobody gives a fuck about you, your band and your music except you,” he told those in attendance. “It’s not how you’re communicating, but what you’re communicating. Change is constant. Be aware of it and stay on top of it.”

Cleverly titled, “Welcome to the Music Business — You’re Fucked; Problems You Will Face and Simple, Immediate, and Effective Solutions to Overcome Them. Grow Your Brand and Your Band Incrementally,” below are 20 of Atkins tips as told at the conference.

1. Have a fucking strategy
2. Get the fuck out of bed (you’ll be hours ahead of everyone by the end of the month)
3. Practice for catastrophe
4. Free is the new black
5. Get a diverse skill set
6. Stop overplaying your local market
7. Small is the new huge (don’t play arenas, sell out small bars and work your way up)
8. You must have more than one t-shirt for sale
9. Be as good as you  need to be
10. Have more than one CD for sale
11. Never take your country to war unless you know the outcome (gas prices, hotel costs — find out where your fans are and go there, don’t just tour the entire country)
12. Pay for tools that work for you
13. Stay on top of new technology (learn social media tools)
14. Don’t be an asshole
15. Have a tip jar
16. Stay with friends (cut down touring costs)
17. Book yourself
18. Learn how to screen print (t-shirts, merch)
19. Play songs people want to hear
20. Make cool shit (create something amazing people want to buy)

 Never give up!

For more helpful tips, be sure to follow Martin on Twitter.

Related Links:
Personal Connection with Fans Leads New Music Seminar Discussion
Hotspur Win NMS Artist on the Verge Competition
New Music Seminar Introduces the New Music Business
Artist of the Week: Matt White


Personal Connection with Fans Leads New Music Seminar Discussion

Bill Werde, Kelly Cutrone, Little Steven Van Zandt speaking during New Music Seminar’s 4th Movement “The Creative Conundrum” on Wednesday, July 21st

Photo Credit: Workman Entertainment

Last week, artists, managers and music industry enthusiasts flocked to New York’s Webster Hall for the New Music Seminar. The two-day, three night sold-out event featured panels and mentoring sessions from leaders in the business. Moderators included Ariel Hyatt, Peter Kafka, Martin Atkins, Bill Werde and Margaret Cho, who led talks on cultivating artist/fan relationships, music marketing and differentiating yourself from the crowd.

Of the many topics discussed, the most prominent was fan interaction. Ariel Hyatt of Ariel Publicity & Cyber PR broke down the 1,000 True Fans logic during the First Movement while additional speakers gave advice.

The concept of 1,000 true fans is that an artist only needs to acquire 1,000 fans to make a living. “A True Fan will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing.” Additionally, if 1,000 fans contribute to buying $100 worth of merchandise, concert tickets, music, etc. throughout the year, this becomes the equivalent to earning $100,000, a comfortable salary most can live on.

Mike Doernberg of Reverb Nation stressed this idea. “Your fans are your value. The deeper the fan relationship, the more value you have as a band. It’s more important than ever to have a relationship with your fans,” he said.

How does one cultivate these relationships and more importantly, maintain them?

Stop talking about yourself and sustain a community the panel advised. Relationships are multi-faceted; create a community and promote other indie bands, don’t just focus on selling your music. By being authentic in your dialogue you attract more people.

“Engagement is not a destination, it’s a continuum,” stated Eric Garland of BigChampagne.

Joe Kennedy of Pandora agreed. “It’s not about the numbers. Build a base of passionate true believers.”

The energetic Martin Atkins had his own take during his 18-minute intensive talk. “Nobody gives a fuck about you, your band and your music except you. It’s not how you’re communicating; it’s what you’re communicating.”

Instead of interacting with fans solely on social media, send out monthly newsletters with one call to action. Be it, “add us on Twitter” or give away a free track; focus on one specific thing to draw fans in. When people have too many choices, they tend to abstain from making any decision.

Live music producer Tom Jackson spoke of music fans in the concert setting. “It’s always about an emotional connection between people. If you can create moments and change their lives at a show, people will keep coming. The key is connecting with the audience.”

While the seminar focused on advising young, independent artists, Just Blaze summed up the discussion best. “When you have fans of your persona, who you are, what you stand for, that’s a lot more powerful than having a number one record.”

You can also read this article on Music Dish.


Hotspur Win NMS Artist on the Verge Competition

I’ve been attending the New Music Seminar in New York this week. Three nights of artist showcases and two days of panels, the seminar has featured talks with industry leaders who have provided endless advice to up-and-coming musicians as well as those interested in making it in the music business.

I’ll be providing full recaps in the next few days, but I first wanted to congratulate D.C. based-band Hotspur for winning the “Artist on the Verge” competition! You may remember them as Band of the Week a few months ago or one of the acts featured on my TWLOHA benefit concert (before the blizzard of 2009 hit).

Hotspur were selected as finalists from over 500 bands on OurStage based on “the criteria of rising above the noise ceiling and doing it on their own without the help of a major or major independent label.” Tuesday night, Hotspur competed against Brooklyn-based hip-hop group Yonas and Pennsylvanian rockers Comic Book Heroes to win $75,000 in musical equipment, services and consultations from the new leaders of the music industry and other valuable prizes to take their career to the next level.

Here’s what some of the panelists had to say about Hotspur:

Bill Werde, Editorial Director, Billboard: “We’re all talking about managing your own careers. I went down to use the men’s room and this was the only band that had anything on the merch table.” When introducing the video, “The people with the tightest pants on the lead singer, Hotspur.”

Kelly Cutrone, Founder, People’s Revolution PR and Marketing: “They looked the most comfortable.  There used to be this term we used, FQ which means fuckability quotient. I’m not into seeing them in that way but I think that any 18-30 year-old chick in America, in a bar late at night would want to go home with one of those boys.”

Werde: “I was talking to a couple of people in the business watching that show and everyone said the same thing. There was no question that that was the band that was the most polished, the most ready for prime time.”

Cutrone: “They looked like rock stars. You should changed your name to Looks Like Rock Stars because you look like rock stars. You know what, Rolling Stone, GQ, Details they all like to put hot dudes with leather pants on their magazines and girls like to buy records with hot dudes. Go do a study of rock and roll. Guys like Bono, he has a really good FQ.”

Tom Jackson, live music producer: “Lots of potential. Definitely the most polished. Mr. Frontman, you can be a star. You gotta find those things inside your songs and let stuff breathe. There’s nothing wrong with rocking, but tell us a story. A great record takes us places. You guys are what I call Chinese water torture. The pressure never changed. You’ve got to let your stuff breathe.”

For more on Hotspur, be sure to visit them on MySpace and stay tuned for my interview with their music video director Josh Eisenberg.


Related Links:
Band of the Week: Hotspur
Song of the Week: “Heads/Tails”
What Would You Ask a Music Video Director?
You Sing, I Write + The Jew Spot Present A Benefit For TWLOHA


Follow YSIW’s Coverage of the New Music Seminar

I’m excited to be covering The New Music Seminar, this week in New York! The two-day, three-night conference includes panels with top industry speakers providing what they’ve learned in the field and advice for those trying to make it in music. With the main purpose to connect and inform music enthusiasts on how to achieve success in the music business, each night ends with a showcase of artist performances. Stay tuned to You Sing I Write on Twitter for updates, as well as blog posts later this week!

Since I’ll be attending and reporting back to you on the days events, I want to know what you’re most excited to learn about or which talks you’d like me attend. Be sure to check out the complete schedule here and let me know what you’re interested in learning and any panelists or bands you’re most excited to see coverage on.

Speakers for the NYC conference include everyone from Pandora and Reverbnation to Myspace Music, CMT and many more. Watch last year’s video recap below.


Pre-registration for NMS NYC is closed, but tickets will be available beginning at 6:00 pm, Monday, July 19th at Webster Hall, 125 East 11th Street. For more information and a complete schedule, visit

Features News

New Music Seminar Introduces the New Music Business

At a recent industry night, I learned about The New Music Seminar, a two-day, three-night conference with the purpose to connect and inform music enthusiasts on how to achieve success in the music business. Whether you’re an artist, manager, business executive, label or promoter, the seminar promises you will learn five things:

1. The secret to leaving your millions of competitors in the dust
2. How to turn your music dreams into reality
3. A whole new way to see the music business that will give you opportunities you never new existed
4. Simple strategies to build your touring business
5. The newest technologies and techniques to market yourself and manage your business

Each day includes numerous panels, presentations, mentoring sessions, live music and networking opportunities. Speakers for the NYC conference on July 19-21 include Pandora, Reverbnation, Myspace Music, CMT and many more. The Artist Movement “conducted” by Margaret Cho will feature superstar artists discussing how they got their break and tips on how to apply what worked for them.

I was intrigued, and sold by last year’s video recap. I think you will be too.


A recent press release on the seminar stated: “Artists have never had so much power to control their own careers and build their success. This affordable event gives artists and their representatives the knowledge, tools and connections to step into the tomorrow’s music business today. Delegates all receive the New Music Business Guidebook filled with important do’s and don’ts by the experts, tips, information, forms and essential websites and blogs.”

For more information and a complete schedule, visit Register by this Friday for the discounted early bird rate.