Tag Archives: business

7 Tips for Using Word of Mouth Marketing

7 Tips for Using Word of Mouth Marketing: The Original Social Media

7-tips-for-word-of-mouthWord of mouth marketing (WOMM), or peer-to-peer marketing, is genuine, emotional conversations people have with their friends about your gigs and music. Creating this type of “buzz” is particularly effective for building a following in your local area. Think of WOMM as the original social media.

Unfortunately, few artists use WOMM as effectively as they could. The problem is that they become too focused on collecting fans, instead of connecting with fans. Having 10,000 fans who at one time liked a video you posted, is not nearly as effective as having 100 really passionate local fans who drive others to attend your shows.

Here are 7 tips for using Word of Mouth Marketing effectively:

  1. Make sure your music stands out. Engage with the audience and get them talking. Be a presence in their lives by keeping them up-to-date with your life both on and off stage. Strive to be exciting, outrageous, and exceptional, both on stage and online. Take time to interact with everyone who posts something about your band or comments on your social media site.
  2. Provide your fans with different ways to talk about your band and share their experiences with friends. Encourage them to post on your social media sites, and take lots of show photos that they can comment on. Provide them with hashtags to use. Ask them questions about your set list and latest gig to get a conversation started.
  3. Building a strong fan base that goes beyond “likes” requires a strategy and some insight about what type of fans your music attracts. What other things do they tend to be passionate about? A good WOMM strategy is credible, social, repeatable, measurable, and respectful. Never deceive your audience/listeners by claiming to be something you are not.
  4. Make your communications special and memorable. Use “trigger words” like “sneak preview,” “exclusive footage,” “new release,” and “never before heard.” Surf the Internet for other phrases that seem to generate interest and write them down to use similar phrasing in the future.
  5. Hold short-term contests and tease them with upcoming info to get them to follow you more closely. Ideas include: “Indianapolis gig will be announced on Monday,” “win a free music download,” or “like this post to be entered in a drawing for a backstage pass (or VIP seating.” Alternatively, send them a link to a free song download on your site and say, “If you like what you hear, please pass it along to a friend.”
  6. Humor, sex, or shock appeal can stimulate and accelerate natural conversations among fans. Do you remember the funny “United Breaks Guitars” song and video posted by Dave Carroll of Local 571 (Halifax, NS)? Alternatively, use Photoshop to put yourself on stage with a celebrity, or make some other interesting, funny, and unbelievable photos to post.
  7. Utilize journalists and other people involved in your local music scene to help spread the word. Send them press releases and keep them informed about your latest releases and major gigs. Develop a press kit with your bio and interesting stories about your band.


Strategies for Effective Negotiating Teams

Strategies for Effective Negotiating Teams

by Barbara Owens, AFM International Representative Midwest Territory, and Negotiator

Strategies for Effective Negotiating TeamsBeing part of a negotiating team is time-consuming, challenging, exhausting, and rewarding. When the interpersonal dynamics work (both on our side and on management’s), the energy created as the team begins to reach agreement can be a tremendous catalyst for bringing the negotiations to completion.

A negotiating team is made up of diverse individuals coming together with the common goal of negotiating an agreement. It’s the responsibility of the group, and its leader(s), to bring out the best in each team member. In the orchestra world, we are already used to being a part of the group in our “day job” (playing in the orchestra), so it is familiar energy to be working within the group setting. Just as musicians each have a unique way of articulating a musical phrase, each negotiating team member has a unique way of expressing themselves. By listening and employing nonjudgmental feedback, we can use our familiarity with our colleagues to our advantage, even if we do not agree with them all the time.

Every team member brings unique strengths to the table. If you are a team leader—committee chair, sub-committee expert, or union leader—you have an additional opportunity to manage the strengths of individual team members and create an environment that supports effective communication and problem solving.

Listening is a critical part of what we do as musicians and also what we do as negotiating team members. In negotiations, people hearing the same information will often have different interpretations and memory retention. If you played the “telephone game” as a child, you will remember the confusion when the story was passed from one person to another, and then finally revealed at the end. Not only was the final story often completely different than the initial telling, but frequently, there were forgotten or even new details.

Your mind and imagination have a tendency to fill in the gaps when you hear information that is not clearly understood. It is critical that your team clarify every confusing detail in real-time, as the negotiations move along, both internally and with management, if necessary. Saving questions for late in the negotiations causes confusion, and may erode any goodwill that has been established between musicians and management.

Ultimately, an agreement is achieved through successful teamwork on both sides and across the table. Although we may naturally revert to our traditional musician/management roles at the conclusion of the negotiations, the lessons we learn from negotiation teamwork can establish a framework of effective communication and cooperation for the life of the agreement.

new use

Having Musicians on the Boards of Directors May Not be a Good Idea


Steve Mosher

Bernard LeBlanc, Director, Symphonic Services AFM Canada

Bernard LeBlanc

by Steve Mosher, Associate Director, Symphonic Services AFM Canada, and Bernard LeBlanc, Director, Symphonic Services AFM Canada

A quick look at the 2014 OCSM Wage Chart indicates that 17 of 20 Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM/OMOSC) orchestras have at least one representative to their boards of directors. One orchestra has four representatives, and six orchestras have full voting responsibilities. The time that we’ve spent on this topic is reminiscent of the discussions we’ve had about whether musicians and other workers in the arts in Canada should be considered employees or self-employed. While there’s still no definitive ruling on the employee versus self-employed question, there is news on the matter of musicians on boards of directors.

The point here is not to argue the pros and cons of musician involvement with our boards. There are several articles in the archives of the AFM, the player conferences, and the Symphony Orchestra Institute that deal with this issue. The discussion was rekindled in November 2013, when Orchestras Canada received an opinion letter from a law firm regarding the remuneration of directors, with reference to changes in the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. There are a few such opinions available on the web at sites like Canadian Charity Law. The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General website offers the following:

“Generally a charity cannot pay a director to act in the capacity of a director. Also, a director cannot be paid for services provided in any other capacity, unless permitted by a court order. In appropriate circumstances, payment for services other than as a director may be allowed by court order or by an order made under section 13 of the Charities Accounting Act, where it is in the charity’s best interest to do so.”

(NOTE: Registered charities are often referred to as not-for-profit organizations. However, while both types of organizations operate on a not-for-profit basis, they are defined differently under the Income Tax Act. The terms “charity” and “not-for-profit” are interchangeable for the purposes of this article, since the same rules apply to both.)

The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General further addresses the duty to avoid conflict of interest: “Directors and trustees should avoid conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest arises when a director or trustee has a personal interest in the result of a decision made by the charity.” Katherine Carleton of Orchestras Canada shared their opinion letter with the delegates at the 2014 OCSM/OMOSC Conference and it gets more to the point, “In general, if an orchestra is a charity, then any musicians who are paid directly or indirectly by an orchestra cannot sit on the board of that orchestra as a director, regardless of whether the board seat is voting or nonvoting.”

There are always wrinkles to legislation, and there is no absolute rule that covers every situation. The Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act applies in provinces that follow common law. A provincial court can state that a common law rule does not apply in that province. In the case of Quebec, there appears to be no restriction on board participation by employees in not-for-profit organizations, since it is the only province in Canada that follows civil law, not common law. There is one orchestra in Quebec that has taken over its board, installing musicians. They feel that this is the only way to keep the orchestra afloat and it seems to be working, at least in the short term.

But Michel Nadeau, general director of The Institute of Governance of Private and Public Organizations (IGOPP) in Montreal, is clear: musicians should not be members of boards of directors, no matter as voting member or not. He explains that decisions taken by all board members are for the long-term viability and well-being of the organization; these decisions might be against musicians’ interests and would put the musician in a difficult position facing his peers. He adds that annual activity reports from the executive director or the board to the musicians should be a priority of management to maintain good working relations and should be sufficient information from the board.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra deals with musician representation in Article 27.7 of their collective agreement, as follows: “On an annual basis, two members of the orchestra shall be selected by the Orchestra Committee, with the approval of the members of the orchestra, to attend regular meetings of the board of directors, as permitted by the board of directors. To be clear, orchestra members are not members of the board of directors and, as such, do not have any voting or decision-making power.”

For Canadian orchestras, musician participation on boards of directors needs to end. We want to ensure that our orchestras comply with the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act. At various times in the past, the AFM and OCSM have had voting representatives (or ex-officio status—also no longer allowed) to the Orchestras Canada Board of Directors. Orchestras Canada is in the process of changing their bylaws to ensure that they invite guests “fundamentally vital to our operations” so that the AFM and OCSM have voice in an informal arrangement. The same can apply to our orchestras.

There are alternatives to full participation on your orchestra’s board. Musicians should be allowed to attend board meetings as guests, with the right to speak. Musicians should also be welcome to sit on committees and advisory boards, since musicians are directly affected by the decisions made at those meetings. It’s one thing to have a voice in meetings but, according to the rules, a vote at the board is a clear conflict of interest. The message that we understand from the documents available to us is that directors cannot receive salaries, stipends, grants, honorariums, or consulting fees from a charity. The only way you can sit on the board is if you’re playing in the orchestra for free. Or you can seek a court order, but both options are rather extreme.

Employee or self-employed? We’ve probably passed the 50th anniversary of that debate, and for those of us who want to keep it going, it’s still alive. There might still be some life in the board discussion as well, but at least we now have clear parameters to guide the conversation.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Performance Licensing

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Performance Licensing

frank gulinoby Frank Gulino, Berenzweig Leonard, LLP and member of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC)

Whether you write music or operate a venue that features live performances, licensing impacts your business and livelihood. For composers and songwriters, licensing revenue provides an important source of income that enables them to keep doing what they do best. For bar and restaurant proprietors, providing live entertainment can help draw a broader audience, give the regulars a reason to stick around and buy that next drink, and generally improves the ambiance, adding value to the customer experience. By observing licensing requirements and presenting only appropriately licensed performances, we can ensure that composers and songwriters are able to keep turning out hits and also that venues are able to keep showcasing exceptional music played by talented bands. Given the broad reach and importance of licensing, there are a few key things critical to understand, no matter which side of the industry you’re coming from.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Performance Licensing

1) The venue, not the performer, is responsible for securing licenses. It may seem counterintuitive that the venue is responsible for licensing a performance, rather than the musicians who are actually performing. The logic is that the venue is the party who ultimately derives the benefit from live performances. For example, a bar with a pleasant atmosphere that includes live music frequently charges a cover, and also sees the additional financial benefits of drawing more customers and being able to charge more for food and drinks than they would without live entertainment. As a result, the liability for unlicensed performances falls squarely on the venue.

2) What kind of venues need licenses? Any venue presenting live performances or playing nonbroadcast recordings needs a license! There are more than 100 different kinds of businesses that need to license music—bars, restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, museums, cruise ships, airlines, orchestras, and many more.  

3) Performance licenses are required whether music is live or played from a recording. Radio and television don’t count, as long as you’re not charging a cover just for having the radio on, but playing a CD, record, or digital recording over the speaker system at your restaurant or retail store to liven up the atmosphere, or on an airplane to entertain passengers in flight, definitely requires a performance license.

4) If you place a caller on hold and play music over the phone, you need a license. Even hold music counts as a performance, believe it or not.

5) The rights to perform, record, physically copy, or use music in a film or commercial are licensed separately. Don’t assume that, if you have permission to do one, you have permission to do them all! Also, because those rights are not necessarily all held by the same party, you might have to do some legwork to secure all of those different permissions—but that’s another article.

So what can you do about it? The performing rights organizations in the North America—ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC (in the US), and SOCAN (in Canada)—are responsible for collecting licensing fees and distributing royalties for roughly 20 million different songs. Each organization offers blanket licenses that your business can purchase for a flat annual fee in order to have unlimited access to the largest repertories of music in the world. The songwriters get paid and the business owners get the right to use all the great music that’s out there. In the licensing game, everybody wins as long as you know the rules.

Frank Gulino (@GulinoFrank) is a composer, trombonist, Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) member, and business attorney living in the Washington, DC, area. As a composer, his works have been commissioned, recorded, and performed by some of the world’s foremost brass soloists, chamber groups, and symphony musicians at venues such as the Kennedy Center, the US Capitol, and conservatories and universities around the world. As an attorney, Gulino practices in the Entertainment, Sports and Media Law group at Berenzweig Leonard, LLP, in Tysons Corner, Virginia. He is an artist/clinician for the Edwards Instrument Company and performs exclusively on Edwards trombones.

Revenue Drops as Music Accessibility Goes Up

The National Publishers Association announced that last year the US music publishing industry experienced a 2.5% drop in revenue from 2013 ($2.206 billion) to 2014 ($2.142 billion). At the organization’s annual meeting President David Israelite discussed ways to improve the bottom line, among them: redefining the economics of the streaming model to acquire a bigger piece of the pie from satellite radio stations and music streaming services and converting more free streaming subscribers into paid subscribers. He also expressed hope for Apple’s streaming service in improving music publishing revenue.

Your Best Gig Could Be Your Next Gig

Over the past few columns I’ve talked about crazy, memorable, and terrible gigs. That’s life as a working musician. I appreciate all the letters, calls, and e-mails about out-of-the-ordinary playing jobs. They are too numerous to mention here, but I am retaining many of them for future columns.

Besides just mentioning a highlight or funny story of some careers, three AFM members sent me books they’ve written. They range from “riding the crest of a slump” to looking back on a wonderful career as a union musician.

Hank Doiron of Local 198-457 (Providence, RI) wrote a recap of his more than 70 years as a bass player/vocalist. In his book, Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey, he mentions the hundreds of local AFM buddies he worked with through the years. Doiron is a former secretary of his local, and has had an outstanding career. One of the more unique gigs he played was when he was asked to put together a Dixie trio of bass, banjo, and trumpet. He arrived to find they were playing for a wake and the deceased’s last request was to have live Dixie music play during his calling hours.

I received The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Drummer (available on Amazon) from Troy “Skeet” Seaton of Local 71 (Memphis, TN). It’s his stories from 45 years as a drummer in a number of different bands throughout Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

One of his fun stories was about playing at a bar with a guy who didn’t drink. It was the guy’s first job with the band in a number of years, and Seaton had a tough time even getting him to play the gig. The band was on a break, and someone bought a whole tray of tequila shooters and sent them over to the band. Skeet told one of the guys at a table next to the band that they’d had enough, and that he could drink them all. He promptly grabbed them like they were diamonds and downed them all at once. The guy in the band who didn’t drink came over to see what was going on, and the tequila grabber promptly threw up all over the nondrinking musician’s new cowboy boots. Skeet said all he could say was “welcome to the band.”

Then there was Local 1000 (nongeographic) member Jamie Anderson’s Drive All Night. The liner notes say it’s “in the tradition of the second oldest profession.” She’s been a traveling singer, comic, songwriter, musician, and a few more things beyond that. These are her recollections of grungy lodging, shady producers, half-deaf sound engineers, and miles of highway weariness. She has a very unique niche, and you’ll have to get her book on Amazon to really get a good take on her adventures as a girl with a guitar. She’s opened for major and minor acts, closed a church coffeehouse by uttering names of female parts, and danced with a tornado.

The book is a delightful mix of horror road stories on the touring circuit for her unique audience. It’s very funny in parts, and will make you feel your worst gigs were nothing compared to what she went through—no matter where you played. Her life has always been gigging, writing, networking, recording, and laughing. It’s a not-so-glamorous look at her daily grind.

Once, after slogging through a too-long sound check at a gig in Baltimore, a sound guy groused, “You’ve just never worked with such great equipment before.” She was tempted to answer, “It sounds like you’ve never seen sound equipment before.” Nothing she could do would convince him that her guitar does not usually scream like a jet at O’Hare, and her voice shouldn’t sound like something from an ancient boom box. She says you learn to live with it.

Once she had to sit on the edge of a stage in a huge theater, singing without amplification because no one knew how to adjust the computerized sound system. There was a date in Ohio where the sound equipment was locked in a cabinet for which no one had the key. She still did the gig, but only the folks in the first few rows could really hear her. She still got paid.

You learn to deal with these times, because you know the next gig will be better. Anderson writes in her book: “As long as somebody wants to hear me, I’m there. I’m especially interested in any gig in Hawaii, but Burnt Corn, Alabama, will work too.” She goes on to say, “There is nothing more satisfying than hearing applause when you’ve done a good job.” (It’s really nice when you get well over scale too.) Anderson also says she could never be an accountant because “no one claps when you balance the books.” Amen to that.

Tough gigs are a fact of life. It’s part of what we do. You learn from it. That next gig could be the best one you’ve ever had!