The Indie Band Survival Guide The Complete Manual for the Do-It-Yourself Musician

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-08-05
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
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The Indie Band Survival Guideis the ultimate resource for musicians looking to record, distribute, market, and sell their music for less than most rock stars spend on green M&M's. Musicians and web gurus Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan cover every step of the process. With nothing but creative talent and the Web, they've gotten tens of thousands of fans for their band, in addition to being hired to write music for film, television, theater, and other media.Randy Chertkow (by day, a tech expert) andJason Feehan(by day, an attorney) are lead members of Beatnik Turtle, a rock band based in Chicago, Illinois. Beatnik Turtle plays live, has produced eighteen albums, written music for TV, films, comedy shows at Second City, and has licensed music to ABC Familyall without a label.For the first time ever, it's now possible for musicians to find success without a record label. With the Internet, musicians can record, distribute, market, and sell their music for a lot less than most rock stars spend on average. Unfortunately, most musicians don't know where to begin. InThe Indie Band Survival Guide, musicians and web gurus Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan cover every step of the process. With nothing but talent and the Web, they've gotten tens of thousands of fans for their band, in addition to being hired to write music for film, television, theater, and other media, and hope to pass on the guidelines and tips they've acquired in the process."The Internet is an extraordinary opportunity for musicians to make and profit from their music. This clearly written and comprehensive book shows exactly how. A perfect balance between the mess of the law and the promise of the technology, it should be read by anyone who wants to take their talent and share itfor the love of sharing, or for the profit."LawrenceLessig, author ofCode, professor at Stanford Law School, founder of the Center for the Internet and Society, and CEO of the Creative Commons project "Finally! A comprehensive and practical guide for musicians that explains how to navigate today's music world without a label."Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby and HostBaby "If they gave out Grammys for music career books, Randy and Jason should surely win one. TheirIndie Band Survival Guideis a must-read resource for any musician wanting to take the independent path to successwhich, these days, is the only way to go. Networking, branding, Internet promotion, live gigs, distribution, publicity . . . they cover it all."Bob Baker, author ofGuerrilla Music Marketing Handbookand founder of TheBuzzFactor.com "A fabulous & comprehensive 101 guide for any musician trying to make it in the crazy 'new' Music Business."Ariel Hyatt, founder of Ariel Publicity & Cyber PR "A practical, down-to-earth guide for bands working in the real world."Brian Austin Whitney, founder of the Just Plain Folks musician network "In this indispensable guide for indie musicians, Chertkow and Feehan, lead members of the Chicago band Beatnik Turtle, explain how they have managed successfully to get their music out to the public, to produce four albums, to build a huge following and to write music for television shows and theater without the benefit of a record label. Covering topics such as building a brand, networking, Web site, getting booked, playing live and getting publicized, Chertkow and Feehan pass along advice that, while sometimes self-evident, encourages bands to exploit the Internet and to become Web savvy to make a name for themselves. For example, in illustrative detail they spell out clearly

Author Biography

Randy Chertkow (by day, a tech expert) and Jason Feehan (by day, an attorney) are lead members of Beatnik Turtle, a rock band based in Chicago, Illinois. Beatnik Turtle plays live, has produced eighteen albums, written music for TV, films, comedy shows at Second City, and has licensed music to ABC Family?all without a label.

Table of Contents

There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be a Musicianp. 1
Get Preparedp. 17
Your Networkp. 19
Your Brandp. 33
Your Web Sitep. 49
Your Web Presencep. 93
Your Albums and Merchandisep. 133
Your Rightsp. 161
Get Fansp. 203
Get Noticedp. 205
Get Booked and Play Livep. 215
Get Distributed and Soldp. 245
Get Played and Heardp. 257
Get Publicizedp. 299
Conclusionp. 329
Acknowledgmentsp. 331
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.



WELCOME to The Indie Band Survival Guide, a practical how-to manual to get your music heard, distributed, sold, booked, promoted, and seen. In the past, you could only do all of this with the backing of a major record label, but you can now do it on your own. We’ll tell you how to get started and walk you through the process.

This book is for all musicians, from hobbyists to professionals. It’s also for managers, bookers, labels, promoters, recording engineers, music teachers, music-video directors, filmmakers, and anyone else who works with music. In fact, many of the methods we share here are useful for any creative endeavor; you don’t have to be a musician to get a lot out of this Guide. But our focus is on how each topic relates to music. For instance, when we explain how to create Web sites, we specifically cover the creation of music Web sites, even though the principles of good Web-site design we share are applicable to any site.

The information in this book is applicable to musicians of all ages, from teens starting their first garage band to retirees who have rediscovered their love of music and want to share it with the world. It will be indispensable to you whether or not you have a lot of experience with the Internet. The Guide will explain how to use all of the talents that you already have and supplement them with tools, techniques, and a network of people to accomplish what was only possible for major-label bands in the past.

More than anything, at the heart of this book are essential techniques for getting your music to the world.


"We" are lead members of Beatnik Turtle, an indie band with more than a decade of experience, more than a dozen albums, a song that was licensed to Disney for a commercial campaign, years of live shows, college-radio play, countless podcast plays (we’ll explain podcasts, don’t worry), theater shows at venues such as Second City, TV theme songs, music videos, Web sites, and a completed Song of the Day project where we released one song each day for a year. In case you’re curious, all things Beatnik Turtle can be found at www.beatnikturtle.com.

We are two working professionals—an IT expert and an attorney—and we’ve brought all the knowledge and experience from our respective fields to bear on this book, just as you will learn to take advantage of your own skills in making your band a success. Thanks to our backgrounds, the two of us are just as inclined to discuss the state of the music industry or the future of in de pen dent music as we are to actually sit down and jam.

In the end, though, we are indie musicians with a band. We generated the material in this book by actually solving the problems we discuss here. In fact, this is the book we wish we’d had when we started out over a decade ago. For instance, when we wrote the section about how to submit your music to podcasts, we recorded the steps we’d been using for years, then did another round of submissions to test and refine the process.

So when we say "we," we’re talking to you as one musician to another.


We’re going to cover a lot of topics, but we’re going to take for granted that you know how to sing and/or play your instruments, and that you have your own music to perform. You might do cover songs, or you might write your own music, but, either way, we assume that you should already have that ready to go.

Finally, we assume you know how to use a computer and possess at least basic Web skills. We aren’t going to spend a lot of time explaining what hyperlinks are or how to use a Web browser. Many of the opportunities that have opened up for musicians in the last few years are on the Web, so you’ll be using it quite a bit to promote your music and get it heard by a worldwide audience. If you’d like to do some background reading, we suggest the book Internet for Dummies by John R. Levine, Margaret Levine Young, and Carol Baroudi for a basic overview, as well as the book Rule the Web! by Mark Frauenfelder, which can help you get the most out of the Internet.


This book is about doing.

In this book, we cover the theory behind how things work so you can navigate unfamiliar tasks (such as publicity), but you should expect to act on these how-to steps and suggestions, not just think about them. This book will work best if you have a note pad next to you while you read so you can take notes on what to do next.

We’re big fans of Getting Things Done, a book by David Allen that provides an excellent system of organizing your tasks and your time. With the Guide in hand, you can shortcut trying to figure out what you should do. That’s what we struggled with for the past decade. We wrote it here so you can pick up where we left off.

Lastly, the Guide is not a book of lists and links. Although we have important links throughout this book, new tools and services for musicians are always popping up (as well as disappearing). For this information, as well as a way to connect to other motivated musicians, head to IndieBandSurvivalGuide.com.

Naturally, as a musician you’ll want to improvise on what we suggest here. Go for it. As we like to say, these tools and lessons are no substitute for artful practice.


Below, we provide our own definitions of a few music-business terms to avoid any confusion about what they mean when we use them:

• Unsigned: Refers to a band or musician that does not have a contract with a label for recording, production, and distribution. Unfortunately, it seems to imply that being signed is the goal, and that musicians who haven’t been signed have a lower status than those who have. We will not be using this term, and we suggest that indie bands skip it as well.

• Independent ("indie"): Used to describe a band, musician, or label in de pen dent of the major labels. We don’t believe that musical success should be defined in the context of business contracts. The definition we use is, in de pen dent musicians are artists who handle their own music careers. It’s something to be proud of.

• The music industry: The music industry has changed so much in recent years that a person in the business just five years ago would hardly recognize it. While today the term still seems to refer to the monolithic music business, it’s more safe to say that many industries are coming together around music. This term is in transition, but we will use it to talk about the business of music.

Because the traditional players in the music business used to be gate-keepers for the distribution and sale of music, many of their terms defined music between what was inside their system, and what wasn’t. This isn’t surprising: in the past nothing outside the system would get heard by anyone but local bar crowds. What is surprising is that these terms are still used even though musicians have gotten access to almost all of the same recording and distribution channels that the traditional players use. When people talk about bands that are signed or unsigned, we ask them what difference they hear between a song that is owned by musicians and one owned by a company. Is there some magic way to analyze the audio signal to get an idea of who owns it?

Fortunately, music is music, no matter what contracts are signed and how the lawyers have chopped up the rights. Music fans don’t care about contracts, they care about the music and the musician. And that’s the point: there no longer needs to be a middleman between musicians and music fans.

This book will tell you how to reach the fans who are waiting for you.

Excerpted from The Indie Band Survival Guideby Randy Chertkow & Jason Feehan

Copyright © 2008 by Randy Chertkow & Jason Feehan

Published in 2008 by St. Martin’s Griffin

All Rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher

Excerpted from The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual for the Do-It-Yourself Musician by Randy Chertkow, Jason Feehan
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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