Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Bands and Photography" a quick interview with Photographer Will Knowles

Question 1 - How should indie artists go about starting their search for a photographer? 

The first thing an artist should do when starting their search for a photographer is figure out an ideal budget and what they want their end product to feel like. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for... If you pay your friend to take your pictures for a $100, it wont have the same polish if you hire a photographer that requires his rate + a budget for rentals and a(n) assistant(s).

As for finding a photographer, you can google around for photographers, but the best thing you can do is ask and take recommendations from friends. Look through portfolios and find which style best represents who you are as an artist. It'll pay off in the end to hire someone you can trust and who naturally communicates your style.

Question 2 - From your perspective is it better for an artist to know exactly what they want or in your experience has it worked better to let you be more spontaneously creative?

This comes down to preference for the photographer... Its a good thing to feel out in an introduction. As for me, I generally like someone who has an opinions and/or concepts, but isn't pushy about ideas and trusts me when I suggest something different. With that said, some people don't really have ideas/believe that's why they're hiring me... and at the end of the day, they're right. I just like to give people the option of being involved.

Question 3 - What are things that are red flags for artists to look out for when searching for a photographer?

Photographers should be part artist and part business person... If they lack the business acumen, they might leave you with an incomplete project, stretched over a ridiculous time frame, and ultimately leaving you wishing you had gone with someone else. 

Communication is key. If they don't respond promptly the first couple times, you'll probably have a hard time getting in touch with them post-project.

Question 4 - What should an artists expectations be coming into the shoot? Does a photographer fix collars and roll up sleeves or should they bring along a makeup artist and stylist?

If you trust your photographer, they should come in expecting to have a good time... Having your picture taken can be tough... the more you can stay loose, the better the end product will be.
Its odd, the more you pay for a photographer, the less they do... production wise. If you have your friend take your pictures, they'll probably be more than willing to help out in any way possible: styling, make-up, etc... However, if you hire out a legit photographer, they'll want to hire a team. The thought being, hire experts and let people do what they're great at: A make-up artist does a much better job with make-up than a photographer. Feel free to hire your own stylist/make-up artist, especially if that's who you feel comfortable with... just ask first.

Question 5 - How does artist photography differ from standard ad photography?

There isn't a huge difference on the photography side. Its more the business side. Most ad photographers have a day rate and then make you rent the images for a specific period of time. Artist photographers generally bill you once and just make it count.

Question 6 - What is one piece of advice that you could give artists that may not have a large budget for images?

         Look hard. Ask around. Eventually you'll find someone that fits your budget. 
         Using a student or a friend can be a crap shoot, but with all forms of gambling and
         ... sometimes it pays off.

Question 7 - What comes in a standard package? (How many images do i get? What do I have the rights to use? etc.)

        There isn't really a standard package... it depends on the photographer. Some photographers would burn you a disc of all the pictures and call it a day... Some will charge you based on how you use the images. The most basic package you could end up with is one that gives you x amount of images with rights to use it with print and web.

For more information on Photographer Will Knowles please visit

Swiss Cheese And Toilet Paper

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What I learned From Justin Bieber -Part One

Baby, baby, baby oh…Ok I’ll stop right there.  So the story goes that Justin Bieber and his mom uploaded videos of Justin singing at a talent competition on YouTube in 2007.  The next thing you know he’s having a meeting with Usher and on his way to stardom.  Wow!  That is one crazy story!  So anyone can do the same thing and just wait for that major record label to call them,right? Lets just say the odds are not good!
Instead of kids getting their new favorite artists from pop radio, kids discover music on the web. We live in a fast instant gratification world and there is a vast amount of information.  Which means for artists that your 15 minutes of fame (AKA Vanilla Ice) is now 15 seconds of fame.  So as artists, how do we use internet marketing in a way to get real results?
Well lets go back and look at Justin Bieber and break that story down.
A.     Justin Bieber has talent and is a good looking kid
B.     He focused on a specific website where his potential fans (i.e. 10-18 year old girls) already were.   YouTube is the second most used search engine next to Google!
C.     He used an already popular song (i.e. Ne YO) to grab the YouTube user’s attention.
D.    He moved quickly after there was a fan base to get constant songs, pictures, video’s out to them as fast as possible. I believe that more songs of average quality are more valuable in this market than one amazing song! (Man that really hurt to say that!)
E.     Justin had an interesting story that made the media take notice.
F.     Lightning struck and he’s making the most of it.
G.     I’m still not convinced that this wasn’t a record label manufacturing a rag’s to rich’s story.  Even so, it doesn’t matter because it worked!
Less about Justin Bieber and more about You
Let’s make this less about Justin and more about you. No matter what website you use that website has a shelf life. Remember when MySpace was the greatest thing ever? Facebook and YouTube at some point will be replaced so throwing your career to the internet fates is not a wise thing to do. Instead stop and think about who your potential fan base is? If you’re a finger style guitarist then 40 - 60 year old men are right in your target market. Find websites where those people are already hanging out and focus your efforts there. There are even websites for certain religious denominations, so if you’re a Christian band then go find the websites that you know people will identify with you.  Check out
One of the mistakes that I made as an artist is that I tried to sign my band up for every website in the world in the hopes of being at the top of the search engine listings.  Here is what happens when you do that: you end up spending all of your time signing up and loading music and images when you could be focusing in on the right two or three websites and constructing a plan that would build as you go and not just be Facebook “Likes”, but real fans.

The Benefits Of Video
Try to use video as much as you can! Honestly, this is something that I need to start working into my blog! These days people don’t like to read so try to use video as much as you can. It’s amazing what you can do with a $200.00 flip cam and imovie. (Every band or artist better have one!)
Your Website Needs To Be Your Anchor.  Find ways to funnel traffic from your Facebook, Youtube, or whatever it is back to your website. Example: post a few pictures on Facebook as a teaser.  Then post,  “To see the rest of the photo’s click on this link”, which takes viewers back to your webpage. Always, always, always make your website more of a priority than your Facebook page.

There Is No A+B=Record Deal!
There is so much to cover on internet marketing, so in the coming weeks expect more on this topic as we are just scratching the surface. Remember there is no A+B=Record Deal, so what works for you in internet marketing and what works for someone else maybe be all together different.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Toilet Paper And Swiss Cheese

At least once a week I get a CD of an aspiring artist handed to me. I’m convinced Starbucks is the music and business hub of Nashville. I really try to make an effort to listen to everything that I receive. After all, I know first hand from the last fifteen years how hard being an independent musician can be.  You never know, that blank disc with the band name scribbled in mint green marker just might be the next Coldplay.
Ninety-nine percent of the time the CD is sonically not up to par (this is my nice way of saying absolutely freaking terrible!) and there are always basic song writing mistakes spread through out. Now if you had stopped reading here you would walk away thinking there is no hope and that Blake guy is a total jerk. But wait, there is hope! This is the point where we all sit back, take a deep breath, take a sip of our favorite coffee, and address the issue of why working with a producer is so important.
A friend of mine once told me about when he fell into an opportunity to work at a small boutique ad agency in the late sixties. He had just gotten back from being on a two month long tour with his band.  To land a job that wasn’t bagging groceries was a huge stroke of luck. As the agencies youngest employee, he soon found himself marketing everything from toilet paper to Swiss cheese.  Once a week they would all gather in the conference room set the product for whatever new account they had just landed in the center of the table and they would start brainstorming. “What’s different about this product than its competition? What are the products uses? What are the benefits? What are the negatives? How do we hide or spin the negatives?” It wasn’t long before my friend realized how much his new work at the ad agency was a perfect image of artists in the music industry. The point is, when you are “the product” it is near to impossible to be blatantly, terribly, and ruthlessly honest with yourself about the quality of your product. I think the job description of a producer is this. A person that helps you do what you do better, or as my mentor Lynn Nichols say’s “Let’s figure out who you wanna be when you grow up”. 
We live in an amazing time where every ten year old kid has a pro tools setup in their bedroom. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of every artist spitting in the eye of the cigar smoking, music biz fat cat! The fact is, in order to compete in today’s music business you need great songs and a great recording. Yes, I know there are, of course, exceptions to the rule. We’ve all read articles about the guy who recorded his whole Grammy winning album in his bedroom in Iceland or whatever. That’s great for him, but for the rest of us mortals we need to seek outside input to reach our potential.  Don’t let pride or even fear be the reason why you release sub par music.  Find yourself a producer!

Written by Blake Easter

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Pity The Fool!

When I was growing up in the eighties one of my favorite shows on TV was The A-Team.  I can still picture the awesome black and red van, hear the theme music playing, and I chuckle when I think of all the over the top explosions where no one was ever seriously injured.  The A-Team was always up against some impossible mission.  Hannibal, the leader of the A-Team, would help devise up a step-by-step plan (usually with junk yard car parts, a machine gun and one of the guys dressing like a woman) that would accomplish their goals to perfection. It always ended happy and the good guys always won!       

Dont you wish it was just that easy in real life!

So what is a good music biz plan? Is there a mystical A+B=record deal formula? Where in the world do I start?  Through the years Ive learned that when youre dealing with the music business you constantly find yourself living in a big picture world.  Goals like getting signed, building a fan base or the big one of making it can seem out of reach and completely overwhelming. I have lost many years and many dollars spinning my wheels because I was unknowingly playing the part of Future man. When your Future man your focus is constantly on the big picture which causes you to lose focus on what needs to be done today. Seeing the big picture is a very good thing, but seeing it all the time is crippling to your career.
Take for instance that the task on hand is building a band website. (Big picture) Sounds simple enough, but if you start with the website your getting the cart before the horse (You can thank my mother for that one).  Before you hire a web designer there are a few things that you may have already missed. Do you have your web URL purchased? Do you have new photo images to provide the designer to design around? Do you have new music finished? Has your merch been photographed for your website store?  Ok, stop! This blog isnt about building a website (although that may be a future blog), its about being able to work backwards from our big picture goals to a tangible first step. 
Example: Lets say your big picture goal is to get signed.  If we follow our train of thought all the way back to the beginning we find ourselves facing the simple questions of do you have a band? Do you have original music? Then we take another thought forward to what do you have on your merch table to sell? Are you playing shows? Do you have a professional recording?  Do you have professional images? See how this moves forward? At each stop, say the Do-you-have-a-professional-recording step, we can seek in depth help from the many credible articles and blogs out there to help us in that specific step. Google search it!
Yes, I realize this is all seems obvious, but ninety percent of the time you and I miss this stuff and guess what happens when we miss it? We have to back track and that costs us opportunities, money and the big career killer……. time! 

Proverbs says, Wise men learn by others mistakes, fools by their own.
Mr. T was right I really do pity the fool!

Written by: Blake Easter