Posted on 25-01-2012
Filed Under (making money) by Jon Stinson

The approach to practice real simple. If your main motivation is to indulge your ego, to become the famous one that everyone else envies, and to grace the “common man” with the privilege of allowing them to come to your show, you will fail.

I don’t care if you have a record deal with a major label, representation by a famous artist manager, or a booking deal with the top agent at the biggest agency. You will fail.

On the other hand, if you understand the new economy, you understand the value of trading information for content, and you’re willing and capable of creating meaning with people, then you will succeed.

You want to be a hit act? You need to understand what type of life that really is. You need to understand that by choosing this lifestyle, you’re joining the ranks of the working class. And you’re going to have to work hard for your success. Once you reach your goal, you’re going to have to work for a long time to maintain it.

You have to understand The Power Of Free Music

You have to understand that it is you who is privileged to have the honor to have the attention of a few people for the nite, that they have chosen to let you entertain them. You’re working for the common man, and you are the common man.

At this point, I’ve been working for a long time in this space – the place where the money comes only after you create meaning with people. It’s been a very rough road to say the least, and there’s still a long way to go. So far, it’s looked nothing like I expected it to, and directions have changed more times than I can count. But I’m still plowing away, and while not every idea comes to fruition, a few do.

One of these ideas is the Three Side Single, which I launched a few weeks ago. The idea of the Three Side Single is a simple three song release that is download only, and available for $0. All you do is trade your email address for a download.

The inaugural release of this series I did in partnership with the Nashville indie rock band, Kink Ador.

Kink Ador understands the power of free music. Both Kink Ador, and myself, invite you to join the tribe.

Download the Kink Ador Three Side Single


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Posted on 29-06-2011
Filed Under (marketing and promotion) by Jon Stinson

Since reviving this blog last Saturday, I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about working for $0, working for free, and creative ways to promote yourself as a record producer and audio engineer. That’s all well and good, but as I’ve stated throughout the those three previous posts (Do You Know What I Do?, Working For $0, and The Difference Between “Free” and “$0″), the point is to make money.

So I thought after spending so much time talking about promotion, I should spend some time talking about ways to make money.

All the work you have put in on the front end, both in previous projects, and projects you have worked on for $0, has increased your value. Leverage this value into a substantial daily or hourly rate.

It happens all the time. Someone books you for a full day, but then only ends up needing you for half the day, or worse-canceling altogether. Charge a minimum, as well as a cancelation fee. But be upfront about this when you’re hired for a project.

Increase your rate
Again, your work history (both in paid projects, and in $0 projects) has increased your value. Leverage that value into a higher rate.

Take a look at the services you currently offer. You probably currently sell yourself as a record producer, audio engineer, mix engineer, or all three. As far as “packages” go, you probably don’t really refer to the services you offer as packages in your marketing material.

Here’s the thing: in addition to creating information products, such as ebooks, that you can let people download for $0, you can also create information products, for example consulting services, that you can charge money for. You can “package” these additional information products and services in with your base set of production, engineering, and mixing services. Thus not only increasing your value, but also permitting you to charge a more boutique rate for your work.

Hope this ties together my previous three posts, and completes the thought on how working for $0 and free can increase your value, and ultimately generate more higher-paying work. Because the goal IS to make money.

Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 28-06-2011
Filed Under (promotion) by Jon Stinson

When discussing new media and marketing, and ways to promote yourself online, I typically try to stay away from using the word “free”. The reason is because very rarely is anything truly free. I guess it’s really just my meticulousness, but I’m of the belief that somehow, on some level, it subliminally makes a difference in the language you choose-both internally (with yourself) and externally (those you’re marketing to).

So then what really is the difference between “free” and “$0″? To me, “free” is something you give away, totally free, with no strings attached. A gift of sorts. For example, if you contacted a songwriter and told her that you wanted record an album of her music with no compensation of any type whatsoever, I would count this as working for free.

On the other hand, if you contacted that same songwriter and told her that you wanted to record an album of her music, and that while she didn’t have to pay you anything, you did want to work out something that would provide alternative compensation. For example, a picture, blurb, and link to your website on the front page of her website. Or a picture, blurb, and contact info on the inside of her CD booklet. Or an email blast and blog post describing your work and your identity, blasted out to her list. This type of arrangement, I would consider to be working for $0. Because, while you’re not getting paid, you are thinking of creative ways to promote your work.

I think there is a place for both. While it should be approached with prudence, I think offering a certain amount of your time to people completely for free is a great way to contribute to the community. Think of it as a tithe (one tenth of your time as a contribution for the greater good of everyone). While working for $0 should also be approached with prudence, it is a great way to create meaning with people, equip people with tools to promote you, contribute to the community, gain experience, gain exposure, build value, and make more money.

Some further illustrations of working for free:

  • Inviting someone into your studio so they have a chance to learn from you
  • Helping out at someone else’s studio so that you have a chance to learn from them
  • Meeting someone for lunch to answer their questions about production
  • Showing up to a band’s live show and recording it for them
  • Recognizing something that needs to get done, and doing it

Some further illustrations of working for $0:

  • Starting a blog to share studio stories, and recording tips
  • Writing an ebook about producing and recording
  • Recording an album, but owning the masters
  • Starting your own band
  • Starting a newsletter

In my post last Saturday (Do You Know What I Do?), I discouraged the idea of working for “free” a little bit. And in further contemplating this topic, I think I may have gone too far. At the risk of contradicting myself, I want to now motivate you to pursue both working for “free” and working for “$0″. But always with clear purpose and prudence.

Yeah, it will be hard work to do these things, and a lot of it could be considered ancillary work. But if you pursue it honestly it will be a 100% fruitful investment in yourself. And if you’re not willing to do that type of work, then don’t expect to necessarily generate a lot of paying work, only focusing on carrying out the primary tasks associated with your business.

Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 29-07-2009
Filed Under (producing and engineering) by Jon Stinson

Seth Godin says that everything you do is marketing. I think he’s right. So if that’s true, then how you interface with people throughout the record making process is everything as far as your career is concerned.

Catching a Laugh

Everything you do-every reaction you have to a good or bad situation, how relaxed you seem, how focused you seem, they way you respond to people, the way you listen to people, they way you respond when your ideas aren’t used, the way you respond when your ideas are used-shapes your reputation and personality as a record maker. Through this reputation and personality you’re inadvertently “branding” yourself.

You can learn all the information in the text books, and regurgitate that information verbatim. You can learn everything about the circuitry of all the most popular equipment, and even build a lot of it yourself. You can know everything there is to know about gain staging, acoustics, phase, mic placement, or gear components. You can even know all there is to know about harmony, key changes, scales, tempo, or time signatures. But if you don’t have people skills you won’t be making records with people.

I’ve seen people who knew more than anyone else about all of the above and beyond, get passed over for people who did not know as much but were very creative and had great people skills.

The trouble with the people who know everything is that they get hung on the verbatim part. If it does not look and feel exactly like what they know it’s supposed to, exactly what the science says it’s supposed to look and feel like, then it’s wrong.

Text on pages and what you “know” are just a tiny spec of dust in the universe of record making. You have to have people skills. You have to be able to speak the language of creativity. You have to open your mind to other perspectives. You have to throw out the legalistic thinking of what is “right” and what is “wrong.” You have to be able to sympathize and empathize with people.

So how are your people skills?

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Posted on 18-05-2009
Filed Under (marketing and promotion) by Jon Stinson

What if you simply organized a few people? What if you took the remarkable idea you have, and instead of going out with intentions of marketing to the masses, you focused on the extremists-your biggest fans? What if you simply empowered these people to do your marketing for you? If instead of putting all your focus on ways to get new fans, deciding how your fans will be fans, and how to convince more people to buy your music instead of trading it for free, you focused only on the fans who care about you the most? The fans who will buy your music no matter what. The fans whose lifestyle is built around your music-empowering them-giving them control. Giving them everything they need to promote you. What if you gave your biggest fans the privilege to be a leader who organizes others around your music, converting them to the lifestyle?

Why would anyone do this? Why would anyone put forth the effort organize a group of people around your music without getting paid, or necessarily getting any recognition? Because to them it is a privilege. Just like it’s a privilege for Mac geeks to build a website all about Mac rumors, NIN fans to participate in the band’s online remix community, or for German car enthusiasts to create a message board where they can meet and talk about their cars. You and I do this everyday within the communities we’re privileged to be a part of.

One of the communities I’m privileged to be a part of is one that organizes itself around the ideas Seth Godin shares, and as usual Seth himself articulates this idea of “empowering others to spread your message” best. [Seth Godin on the tribes we lead.]

What action can you take in your career in music to position yourself so that your biggest fans are empowered with the privilege of organizing others? What do you think would happen if you gave them this privilege?

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Posted on 22-03-2008
Filed Under (stinson bulletin) by Jon Stinson

Well I left out a point. In my haste to get my previous post published and then run out the door, I forgot to call your attention to something specific David Armano says in his video. I wanted to tell you to pay attention about 3/4 the way in when David says, “learn by doing.” This struck a chord with me because I am often preaching that sermon. You read about it all day long. You can have all the text book knowledge on any given topic in the world. But you don’t really have a clue what you are doing until you get your hands dirty. It gives you perspective…

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Posted on 22-03-2008
Filed Under (marketing and promotion) by Jon Stinson

Why do I spend so much time talking about marketing/promotional ideas when my blog is supposed to be about music production? Well possibly the main reason is because I’m really interested in the subject, especially internet marketing/promotion. I get really excited about the opportunities the internet creates every day.

The bigger picture is because I believe that if you are starting out as a producer or engineer, it is important to know how to market yourself in today’s music industry. Learning the trade of recording is the obvious stuff to know. Learning how to market and promote yourself is, on the other hand, kind of grey. If you want to become a great producer or engineer, of course you will want to develop the skill of capturing music perfectly. But do you think of yourself as a business? Do you know how to manage that business?

But what if you are in the music industry because you are employed by someone else? Perhaps you are the house engineer at a recording studio. Do you still need to think of yourself as a business when you already are employed by one? Absolutely. I have held staff positions at recording studios myself, and I have the inside perspective on what it means to be “employed” by someone in the music industry. The music industry requires you to be a self-starter. It takes a person who has an entrepreneurial mind set.

I believe that in 2008 this entrepreneurial mind set has actually leaked into pretty much every industry. In the 21st century, getting paid means being an entrepreneur and being on the internet.

This morning I came across a new (to me) marketing blog called Logic + Emotion run by a guy named David Armano []. The only reason I found it was because I recently signed up for Twitter. One of my longtime friends from high school found me on Twitter, and when I took a look at his list of people he follows, I found David. Not to get off topic, but this proves social media works (perhaps I should talk about that in future post). Anyway, the whole point of this post was to leave you with a video on David’s blog that inspired me.

Follow Up
Hope you enjoyed/got inspired by/learned from David’s video. I want to read your opinions. How do you see blogs and the internet playing a role in the future of the music industry? Leave your comments.

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