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Getting It Done: The Week In D.I.Y & Indie Music 

Music Think Tank Weekly Recap: Getting Featured • The Art Of DJing • Music Videos On A Budget 

MTT+GraphicThis week on we examine how you can get your music featured, explore the art of DJing, and share some tips for filming a high quality music video on a budget.


REWIND: The New Music Industry’s Week In Review 

Bitcoin Can't Save The Music Industry If The Music Industry Continues To Resist Transparency  

blockchainYesterday music business scholar and entrepreneur George Howard laid out the basics of what Bitcoin Blockchain is and how it could save the music industry.  Today, in Part Two of this must read series he looks at the obstacles 

image from www.hypebot.comGuest post by George Howard

Here’s a strawman that I believe fairly strongly: Bitcoin can’t save the music industry because, the music industry will resist the transparency it might bring. My recent post – The Bitcoin Blockchain Just Might Save The Music Industry…If Only We Could Understand It – discussed how Bitcoin could potentially prove to be an effective tool for tracking the rights and transactions surrounding musical intellectual property.  However, in my quixotic rush towards some form of musical utopia in which every transaction can be tracked and the appropriate rights holders compensated, I lost track of the very thing that nearly always frustrates this type of progress.

Fortunately for me, an astute reader pointed out this omission via Twitter:

image from

I’ve spoken to the author of this tweet, Aston Motes – the first hire at Dropbox and now an advisor to many music related startups and entrepreneur in the music space – a few times over the years, and was unsurprised, given his experience and background, that he made such a spot-on comment.

His comment tracks directly with something I’ve talked and written about over the years. Bluntly: the parties who benefit most from the lack of transparency are the ones who will resist anything that ends the lack transparency.

Of course, the parties who benefit the most from lack of transparency in the music industry are the labels, publishers, and streaming services. The record industry was built upon a firmament of information asymmetry – that is, the labels/publishers have more knowledge than those signing the contracts. Given this, they are able to exploit this information imbalance to their benefit. At the extreme end, this meant blatantly lying to artists who were under-educated, under-represented, under-experienced (or all of the above) to strip them – often, forever – of their rights. At a slightly more benign level, these labels and others create agreements and “reporting” so byzantine in nature that only the most experienced (and expensive) lawyers can parse them, which forces many artists who don’t have the resources for such representation to accept the deals/reports prima facie.

Yesterday I Skyped with Mr. Motes, and he elaborated on his tweet, “Even indie labels – it’s not clear that they’d be willing to disclose who makes what, and what people sell. The whole industry is driven on smoke and mirrors.”

He continued down a path that I’ve been harping on for what seems like forever: the idea that these services could provide more than just economic value – but he tied this to Crypto Currency.

“Why doesn’t Spotify give fans or artists more access to the raw numbers, etc.?” Mr. Motes questioned before adding, “Crypto currencies could play a role here because they’re decentralized, but even centralized companies like Spotify could show more; they could expose actual plays by user, or disclose to artists what songs were listened to, or be transparent about how much money is going to the artist. All of this is interesting information that the majors or any label don’t want out there.”

Mr. Motes added: “from a technology perspective nothing is stopping [labels or streaming services] from building these types of transparent reports. The streaming services fear the same things the record labels fear: If you let people know how complicated these deals are and how the money is split up it compromises the nice shiny facade Spotify has put up. Showing what’s behind this will make them look bad.”

If you doubt that labels or publishers have benefited from a lack of transparency, it’s instructive to look at how the fast-growing publishing company Kobalt distinguishes themselves from the other, more established/older publishers. The first lines of their About page state:

"We create technology solutions for a more transparent, efficient and empowering future for rights owners, where artists, songwriters, publishers and labels can trust they will be paid fairly and accurately, regardless of how complex the digital world becomes."

If Kobalt has been able to gain market traction based on the competitive advantage of transparency, what does that say about the industry at large?

Certainly, the artists are not blameless in not demanding less obtuse agreements/reporting, but they simply don’t have the leverage to do so, and – being artists – their impulse to create/the potential for their creations to be heard will outweigh virtually any other consideration.

Therefore, while my thoughts with respect to Bitcoin providing transparency may or may not be accurate (I stand by the fact that it could greatly help, but absent better education holds little chance), there is little to no incentive for those who benefit from lack of transparency to adopt Bitcoin or any other technology that would force them to make less advantageous deals, or render more accurate reporting that would negatively impact their bottom line.

So where does this leave us?

Eventually, the incumbents will face the same fates that befall all companies who myopically focus on their existing customers/business models while blithely ignoring the changing needs of the market – essentially, they face The Innovator’s Dilemma. Perhaps the disruption will come from new models that, as Mr. Motes suggests, charge varying amounts for people with different consumption patterns, which would increase the number of frequent micro-transactions.

However, Mr. Motes noted that while crypto currencies could play a large role in this scenario, Bitcoin will likely not be the crypto currency utilized. According to Mr. Motes Bitcoin doesn’t have the transaction speed to handle the number of transactions necessary to keep track of the rights. This limitation is echoed by Mike Hearn, formerly of Google GOOGL -0.76% and a Bitcoin Core developer, who states that Bitcoin is limited to about 7 transactions per second.

What both of these issues – Bitcoin’s limitations around transaction numbers and the labels resistance towards a system with increased transparency – really imply is that we’re on the cusp of change. That is, rather than there being a vague underlying elusive un-diagnosable ailment that is plaguing the industry, we’re moving towards identifying the root causes of the issues, which often can lead to a cure.

MORE: The Bitcoin Blockchain Might Save The Music Industry...If Only We Could Understand It

George Howard is an entrepreneur, educator, advisor, and angel investor. He was the President of Rykodisc, one of the original founders of TuneCore, and manager of Carly Simon. He recently co-founded Music Audience Exchange, is an Associate Professor atBerklee College of Music , and advises numerous creative companies. He is most easily found on Twitter.

Talking Artist Management With Adina Friedman [Megan Trainor, Lindsey Sterling] 

1In this installment of Tunecore's Artist Management Series they speak with Adina Friedman, who was involved with the management of, among others, Meghan Trainor and violin sensation Lindsey Stirling.


Guest Post by Kevin Cornell on

As we continue to plow through the month of July, we’re thrilled to offer the third installment in our “Artist Management Interview Series”, this week featuring Atom Factory‘s own Adina Friedman.

Adina comes to the plate with prior experience working for Atlantic Records, Warner Music, and the Artist Organization. On top of that, she has assisted in the management of April Smith, The Dig, Madi Diaz, and pop sensation Meghan Trainor. For the past few years, though, Friedman has focused her attention to the day-to-day management of the phenomenal talent (and TuneCore Artist) Lindsey Stirling.

We got the chance to chat with Adina about her experience as an artist manager, Atom Factory, working with a successful independent artist and more:

How did you begin as an artist manager? What is your method of choosing the artists you work with?

Adina Friedman: I kind of fell into it by default. I was working at Warner Music in New York when I began working with an artist I became musically obsessed with, April Smith. I began helping out and it led to a management role. I quickly realized it was something I really wanted to do. I got a great opportunity to work for John Legend’s team at the Artist Organization, so I left the label side of things.

Moving from the label system to a company like Atom Factory, how has the way a manager/artist relationship begins changed in the last 5-10 years?

Especially with artists like Lindsey, it’s so involved. Since she doesn’t have a label, it really means we’re the manager, the label – pretty much everything. It’s a very close relationship and we put trust in each other. You really have to possess the ability to look at things from all different levels – especially if artists don’t have a label. I had the background of working at a label, how they operate, and the different things they look for in setting up a release. I think managers today have to know a lot more than they did years ago when they had the labels to rely on in terms of marketing and overseeing a release.

What are a couple of the key lessons have you learned as an artist manager over the years?

I honestly think I learn something new everyday. The industry continues to transform and the reliance on digital and social becomes increasingly apparent. There’s no plan that fits every artist – you have to cater to them individually. I think with Lindsey, she’s breaking new ground everyday and there was no path that was pre-written for her.

In terms of the first year of an artist/manager relationship, what kind of role does a manager play in overall business development?

When we first started managing Lindsey, she only had digital distribution (via TuneCore). We had to find the right team members across the board; including people with the right relationships in place to say, get her music into a Target or a Best Buy. We wanted to retain her digital rights, which is why it was so great with TuneCore. It’s also important to find the right publicist and marketing team. – even down to finding the right directors and producers for videos.

Being such a ‘digital artist’, the most surprising thing was how she translated in the physical world. We weren’t sure how she was going to do in record stores, but we quickly learned her fans want to have their hands on physical items, too.

In your experiences, what are some of the biggest misconceptions of an artist manager’s role(s)?

That they’re going to create every opportunity that the artist gets. I think Lindsey is a tried and true sample of creating her own opportunities instead of waiting for someone else to come along. I think a manager should help create opportunities, but it’s about working hand-in-hand, and when both parties create opportunities together, the manager is able to take it further.

Similarly, how would you pitch the main responsibilities overall to a potential new client?

I think in some ways managers are like a marriage. You need to take the time and find the right fit, while also jumping on the right opportunities before they’re gone. It’s the all about finding the right balance; you need to get to know the person – and artists want to know what you can offer and what experience and services you can bring to the table.

We have a big team at Atom Factory, and we can let them know the services we offer, and take the time to learn about their goals as an artist and how we can help them achieve them. Hopefully both sides align there and you come to the conclusion that it’s a good fit for both.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 12.09.01 PM

When managing an artist who is without the resources of a label, tell us about how you go about assembling a team to help move their music forward.

I think it’s really important to put the right team in place. When an artist doesn’t have a label, there are a lot of pros and cons. In the case with Lindsey, we can get the right people on each facet of a release, but on the flip side the artist has to pay for it. We have a pretty diverse roster and can leverage opportunities and relationships for other artists. One thing labels do really well is they have a lot more funding and are a much bigger machine. That’s the kind of leverage that creates opportunity, with radio especially, for example.

How important, in the case of an artist like Lindsey, is remaining ‘independent’ in 2015?

Honestly, I think part of what makes Lindsey so great is that she’s independent and I don’t know how she’d do if thrown into the label system. I’ve heard great feedback from so many of our partners that we’re able to react so much quicker because there’s not a long approval chain for every little decision. Also, she’s a constant content creator. She’s churning out content every single day, so if she had to deal with the restraints of a major label, it’s not like you can just release a video whenever you want. You’d have to go through the approval, funding, sign offs – I feel like you’d lose part of what makes Lindsey so great as an artist.

When it comes to being presented with a label deal for an artist in 2015, what factors do the artist/manager team have to take into consideration?

I think you have to look at what the label is going to bring, what their strengths are, and if it’s a good fit. If you’re an artist, sometimes it’s completely the right way to go, and for other artists, sometimes it’s really not. You really have to understand the value proposition and make sure you’re getting the right offer. It’s almost as important as the relationship with the manager – you’re giving them rights to your music, the work that you created, and putting your trust in them, so you have to feel good that it’s the right relationship and you believe in what the label is offering you.

How important is music publishing when it comes to maximizing the revenue from an artist’s catalog? What role does the manager play when it comes to staying on top of royalties?

I think with someone like Lindsey, it was really important to at least have a publishing administration deal because of her large international base. If you don’t have someone collecting that, you could be leaving money on the table. I feel it’s important to retain that publishing as long as you can and if you’re going give it up, it should be for an important reason – whether it be for an advance for a record, or you believe this publisher can get you the syncs or co-writes you need – it’s all about starting this relationship at the right time and getting the value out of it that you should be.

Have you been able to identify the differences between a company the size of Atom Factory can make on an artist’s career versus other types of management companies?

I think its somewhere in between – we’re small enough to give artists the attention they need but we’re big enough to offer unique services that not every management company is able to offer; especially in terms of digital, creative, and touring services. I think Atom Factory has been really smart about growing the company and taking on artists that we have the resources to manage.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years as an artist manager?

I definitely want to continue to grow as a manager and take on more clients. It’s all about finding the right artists at the right time for now.

US Government Seeks To Steal Kim Dotcom's Assets 

Judge-gavelWhile now infamous internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom is battling extradition from New Zealand, a separate lawsuit has been filed by the US Government aimed at seizing Kim's assets.


Guest Post by Mike Masnick on

Earlier this year, we covered a very troubling situation involving Kim Dotcom and the US government. As you almost certainly already know, Dotcom is fighting extradition from New Zealand to the US to face a bunch of charges concerning criminal copyright infringement. We've written about those charges as well as the extradition fight many times. However, while all of this was going on, the Justice Department filed a separate lawsuit, not against Dotcom himself, but against all of his stuff. We've talked for years about the problems of the "asset forfeiture"program in the US, and Dotcom's case drives all of those points home. And, even if you think that Kim Dotcom is absolutely guilty, a horrible person, responsible for billions of dollars in losses to the film and music industries, you should still be concerned about the asset forfeiture aspects here. 

Again, this lawsuit is technically entirely separate from the ongoing case against Dotcom himself. Instead, it's USA v. All Assets Listed In Attachment A, And All Interest, Benefits, And Assets Traceable Thereto -- which is a catchy name if you're trying to hide what you're really doing, which is stealing all the assets of someone in a foreign country. The Attachment A in the title of that lawsuit is basically a listing of all of Kim Dotcom's assets. In asset forfeiture cases, since the government is technically filing the lawsuit against the stuff, arguing that the stuff itself is guilty, it leaves only limited ability of the original owner of that stuff to try to block the government from taking it all. And, that was made much more difficult by Dotcom (who has never even been to the US) fighting extradition in the (entirely separate) lawsuit against him. The DOJ, somewhat perversely, used the extradition fight to argue that Dotcom is a "fugitive," to basically say that he can't try to block the forfeiture, and the judge agreed

The end result? The court gave the DOJ a huge green light to legally steal millions of dollars worth of assets from Kim Dotcom despite the lack of any court ruling or admission of guilt. That seems like a rather big due process concern. While a New Zealand court has put a temporary stop to the US government taking the New Zealand portion of the assets, back in the US, there is an appeal going on over the initial ruling. 

As part of that, three organizations that you wouldn't normally think of as associating themselves with the likes of Dotcom, have stepped up to argue that the whole civil asset forfeiture effort against Dotcom's stuff is a complete farce. The Cato Institute, the Institute for Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have filed an amicus brief in the appeal arguing forcefully about how ridiculous this whole case is (not the case against Dotcom, but the case against all his stuff). As the Cato Institute notes in its blog post about this:
The Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause requires an opportunity to be heard and an opportunity to defend against government-initiated actions against your property. Unlike an escaped criminal appellant who is scorning the court’s jurisdiction, in civil forfeiture, it’s the government that has dragged Dotcom and the others into court. Moreover, given the amount of abuse in civil-asset forfeiture, the government shouldn’t be allowed both to profit from the forfeiture and suppress defenses by calling residents of other countries “fugitives.” Finally, the reasons for fugitive disentitlement in criminal appeals simply can’t be transferred to civil-asset forfeiture. When an individual is “on the run” from criminal prosecution, courts can’t enforce judgments against them, but a valid forfeiture order would be fully enforceable against Dotcom if the court has jurisdiction over the property. Fugitive disentitlement is also used to deter felons from escaping justice, but there’s no similar concern here, where the property can’t run away and the claimants are merely residing in their home countries. The Fourth Circuit should not only allow the Megaupload defendants to challenge the seizure, it should also consider striking down as unconstitutional all uses of fugitive disentitlement in civil-forfeiture cases.
Frankly, if Dotcom is eventually found guilty of that which he is charged with (which is a separate issue altogether), then it could be perfectly reasonable to argue for asset forfeiture of the proceeds from such illegal acts. But to argue for civil asset forfeiture entirely separately from that process and to abuse the process by arguing he's a "fugitive" in order to get those assets is particularly ridiculous:
Under civil forfeiture laws, the government can take property without an underlying criminal conviction based only on the allegation of a crime. Those whose property has been seized can get it back by proving that their property is “innocent.” The government, however, is preventing the defendants from even making that argument. Using the “fugitive disentitlement” doctrine, the government is blocking the defendants from challenging the forfeiture. 

Fugitive disentitlement has historically been applied only to criminals who escaped custody while appealing a conviction, the idea being that a court could decide to dismiss the appeal because any judgment would be unenforceable against an absent defendant. Here, the government has decided that, because the Megaupload defendants aren’t coming to the United States to defend their property, they are “fugitives” who have lost the ability to defend against that seizure — and the district court agreed.
As the filing itself notes:
Stripping the claimants of their due process rights isn’t just unconstitutional, it’s dangerous. There’s a growing literature on the abuse of civil forfeiture—and those abuses are directly tied to the protections given to the claimants here, as well as the ability of government officials to directly benefit from forfeitures. This court should not ratify a doctrine that would make abuses even easier. 

Moreover, the reasons for invoking the fugitive disentitlement doctrine in criminal appeals are inapplicable to civil forfeiture actions. First, unlike an order against an absent criminal defendant, a valid forfeiture order where the court has rightful jurisdiction will be fully enforceable. Second, the claimants here haven’t scorned the district court’s authority as a fleeing criminal defendant would. Third, by appearing before the court via counsel, the claimants haven’t disrupted the court’s processes or offended its dignity. Finally, unlike with criminal appellants—who may need to be deterred from flight by the threat of disentitlement—the claimants are merely continuing to lawfully reside in their home countries.
Once again, even if you think Dotcom is the root of all evil in the world, even then you should be concerned about this particular aspect of the case(s) against him. It seems telling to me that, in the comment sections on our previous posts, those who have argued that Dotcom is clearly guilty, seem to have no problem with the asset forfeiture. They don't see it as any sort of due process violation because they've already decided he's guilty in their minds, just as the US government has. But that's not how due process works. You're supposed to be found guilty first. If these people are so sure that Dotcom is guilty, why not wait until that's shown in a court of law, rather than having to go through this separate process to take all of his stuff?

Tips For Touring Europe As A Musician  

Shutterstock_106606793-300x225Touring can be a difficult experience no matter where you are, but these difficulties are often magnified when said tour takes place in a foreign country. Here are a few tips for saving money and reducing stress when touring across the pond.


Guest Post by Stephen Simmons on The DIY Musician

One of the biggest questions I get asked from fellow artists is about playing Europe. I have been traveling in mainly Western Europe and doing music tours there once or twice a year since 2007 (12 tours altogether, anywhere from 2-6 weeks long).

It is such a big topic (and I’m still learning), and it is one that’s going to be a bit different for everyone that gets to experience it anyway that I seldom know where to start. If we were real life friends, you’d buy me a few drinks and I’d tell you everything I can think of; But if we’re virtual friends swapping advice back and forth (which I am always open to) it’s too big of a subject and too long of an email; I never know where to start with folks.

But we have to start somewhere, so let me begin by saying that much of my specific advice about clubs and promoters would be limited to my genre of music: Americana & Roots Music. If you are a Hip­Hop, Pop, Hardcore, or Soul artist —or any other of 1,000 sub genres of music — we aren’t going to be using the same agents, or promoters. Oftentimes, even the venues, towns, and countries can differ according to genre too.

A few specific suggestions, though, for those who want to tour in Europe…

I initially self-released my debut album and saw that about half of my album sales (remember when we sold those way back in 2004?) on my website and on CD Baby were in Europe. Specifically the UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. I now know that many Europeans would order multiple albums from various CD Baby artists to save on bulk shipping. Eventually this lead to me getting a lot of DJ requests and music writers approaching me from those European markets, and by 2006 I had signed a distribution deal with a European Indie label.


The biggest thing they did was set up a tour and arrange a booking agent for me. That was a big step and it would’ve taken me years to figure it out on my own. However, those first few tours were just laying the groundwork. What I have seen in the 8 years since is that I’ve made contacts and friends and connections along the way at those shows that have helped me to continue to tour Europe. I have worked with many different agents (usually someone local from each country), and in almost every case it is where someone reached out to me. This goes for any genre, but I find that when it’s me reaching out and asking for help on a cold call (or email) it usually doesn’t lead to anything. It’s been my experience that people will find YOU if you are making a few waves in the scene, vs. contacting them asking for help. I’m not saying it can’t lead to a good relationship or even a referral to something useful. It’s just something I’ve noticed. The Americana genre is full of music promoters (and agents) who just love roots music. Often the promoters have other full time careers and this is their passion.

I often tell people who are starting out to begin with the Americana Euro Chart:​.

All of the reporters there have their contact info listed and they are loyal DJs, promoters and label heads of the EU Americana Scene. It often just starts with one contact who wants to help you come over and play some shows.


This is something that might apply to many genres as well.

Americana is a lyrics-based genre, so it makes sense to tour in places like the UK and Ireland, since they speak English (though English is taught in many schools across Europe). But you should also consider touring in countries such as The Netherlands and Norway where they see/hear English spoken often on TV.

I have come to realize it’s much more difficult for me to book tours (esp Acoustic Tours) in places like Spain and Italy and even certain parts of Germany where they overdub the Television. People in those countries can read English often much better than speak it or understand it. They have years of schooling but they don’t use it or hear it as often, so promoters often prefer a band.

I have been told in some places it helps to play an uptempo set as people in certain towns will only catch every fourth word. So you can see why bands would be preferred, much more going on than just a dude with an acoustic guitar saying something you didn’t catch. But bands are expensive. Having said all that, I try my best to learn how to say things in German, Dutch, etc. Sure, I sound stupid with my Southern American accent, but they really appreciate the effort. Just like we do here.


Sky Miles! Sky Miles! Sky Miles! The average plane tickets were $700 when I started in 2007 and they are now usually $1200. (Yes, even though fuel prices have gone down). I would just advise you if you do book a tour/trip to try to stick with an airline that flies into a lot of the places you think you are going to be going. Granted you’re not going to know everywhere you might get something going. But when I first started out I flew American one tour, United one tour, and then Delta another tour, etc. And a few years in I realized I was going to keep going back and it was too late to claim some sky miles I should’ve saved.

For the Countries I tour the most (UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Italy) it seems like Delta flies into them and has the most options. So I have stuck with them and that way it’s easier to rack up enough miles for a free flight ever few years. Also, if you are on the verge of having enough miles for a free flight, a friend or family member can transfer sky miles to you. It costs money, and it only makes sense if you’re already close. But it is a useful tip if you have friends that aren’t gonna use theirs.

I have also noticed in the last few years that over six months out the plane tickets are super expensive (maybe they are hedging their bets on fuel prices?) But from two months out to about one month out the prices come down and then they don’t go back up till the last few weeks. So I have tended to buy my tickets about one month out.

The little connecting flights with various airlines all over Europe, though, offer good deals if you book far enough in advance (if, let’s say, you know you’ll be flying from Amsterdam to Zurich on a certain day). And likewise, when it gets to be the week or so before the flight, prices jump.

Taking a guitar on a plane (a sore subject for many musicians) is always an adventure. And of course it’s now the law of the land here in the good ole US of A that you be allowed to take your guitar aboard your flight (thanks Obama). However, I have noticed many of the large planes that fly overseas now have the super deep compartments that are actually not long enough for my trusty Guild D25 dreadnaught to fit in. So I basically smile and nicely ask if there is room in the closets up front and so far almost every time they have complied. Sometimes they are super nice and say no problem; sometimes they are not nice and act as if it’s too full a flight.


I have been guilty of “fudging” and saying another flight attendant told me I could. But remember to loosen your strings just in case you have to gate-check it. Another HUGE difference is in Europe they don’t have to abide by this. Especially those little puddle jumping planes and discount airlines — they’re horrible about trying to charge you an arm and a leg for an instrument (I’m looking at you Ryanair). Just remember that some of those airlines such as Ryanair and Value Jet and other discount airlines are meant for people traveling with hardly any luggage. If you have a suitcase packed for a few weeks and a guitar you are going to pay extra for both and they still will very likely make you gate-check the guitar (some won’t even let you gate-check a guitar; they will make you put it on a conveyor belt).

I have had several booking agents try to book a flight for me that’s cheap and I just say “no” nowadays if it’s one of these repeat offenders. Also I finally broke down and bought a little small bodied guitar for traveling. I love my big guitars but I’ve been on too many planes, trains, buses, and undergrounds fighting the limited space that is often available.


If you’ve never traveled in foreign countries that speak another language, public transportation might not be for you at first. I was a kid who’d barely been outta the country when I went the first time and I grew up in a small Tennessee town, so I was clueless. A TomTom and a rental car and a co-­navigator helped me survive. There are also folks you can hire to tour manage you and drive you around if you have the resources for it. I’ve never had the extra dough so I’ve always done it the hard way, but it’s enabled me to learn how to get around everywhere on my own.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a GPS (yes you can use a smartphone, but the data charges are expensive — more on that below). The absolute worst experience I’ve ever had on tour was being in the UK for the first time alone and the rental company was out of GPS units. They gave me an atlas. Driving on the wrong side of the road trying to navigate downtown London to find the BBC for an interview was beyond foolish. It was ignorance; I didn’t know any better (plus the phone I’d previously used in Holland quit working and phone booths aren’t all over like they used to be). I missed my interview and barely made it North to my gig that night. I spent 13 hours in that car mostly stuck in traffic chain­smoking and cursing and wishing I could use the bathroom. I came straight home and bought my own TomTom!

I’ve learned that one person traveling by train in the UK is cheaper than renting a car, but with two people it’s the same price. I’ve learned that Dutch trains go everywhere and are super inexpensive and a great way to tour. But Germany and Norway are too big and spread out. Again it’s gonna vary everywhere you go. I have liked using Auto Europe at times for booking both flights and cars. ​ One thing I like is you are always speaking with an American and this way things don’t get lost in translation if something comes up. At times I have had to call to make changes to a car reservation, and it’s just easier over the phone this way. And you always have one number to call. Also it’s a really great way to get ballpark ideas about cars and flights from country to country when you are planning a tour just using the online “make a reservation” feature — even if you book it elsewhere.

There are great train apps in each country as well.


The first few years of touring in Europe I would use cheap mobile phones with top up sim cards. But they expire if you don’t use them for six months and the phones locked. You can have them unlocked and buy new sim cards each time but you have to find a phone shop. Also they are country specific so the numbers to dial into or out of a country will change (and the rates) when you take a phone from Holland into England for example. It’s just too easy now to take a smartphone that’s yours from the USA (that has a sim card) and use it instead.

Yes, using your own smartphone is more expensive but you can talk to people cheaply back home via Skype, Whatsapp, Viber, etc. The convenience of having a smartphone to double check an address or look up a hotel on the web is just priceless. It beats lugging around an old laptop and looking for wifi. Of course the most important button on your phone is the “turn data off” button. And try your best to get your emails and and everything else done while you’re on wifi. But there are times you just have to have it to save yourself a lot of hassle.

Trying to use a GPS unit in a vehicle in a foreign country, you can easily type the wrong city or province; turning on your smartphone occasionally to double check your route and the trusty screenshots is good for piece of mind. I’m on Verizon and they charge you $25 for about 100mbs of data and just keep adding when you go over. I usually have to pay about $100 for an average month overseas of data. But it is difficult to tour manage yourself in a foreign country without it. And the battery of my phone is often the single most important thing to manage when traveling via public transit. There aren’t always charging stations and it’s your one lifeline you can’t lose.


In the early tours for me it was lots of B&B’s and hotels and sometimes staying with the agent or a promoter who had a nice spare room. As time has gone on I have made friends with so many folks I rarely stay in a hotel at all. But starting out sites like ​​ and​ are super helpful.


1Obviously you’ve got to have one of those. Give yourself plenty of time. The first year I got mine apparently they had changed the rules and there was a backlog of folks trying to get passports. I had to go through my Congressman’s office and order a second one just to make my trip.


So far the only country that has required a work permit for my touring is the UK. They are pretty darned adamant about it as well. Even when I had work permits I have been detained for awhile as they verified it was all on the up and up. Work permits cost around $150 to enter the country, no matter if it’s just one show or you’re playing every gig for free! So don’t skip it. I know folks who’ve been sent home at the airport.

Every single other country I have been to doesn’t require it. I usually just say I’m on Holiday (even with a guitar on my back). If you are Bruce Springsteen you probably need a work permit for Germany or anywhere else in Europe, but at my level most places aren’t concerned. If you are booking on your own or with a small agent you aren’t making enough for it to be an issue. The agents I use of course report their tours and income to their respective governments, and if the tours were big enough, a permit would be in order. But again: Not the UK!


I always try to arrange to be paid in cash. And sometimes they pay the agent directly too and that’s ok. Traveling with foreign currency is nice to be able to pay for things as you go without having to use your own card. Banks will hit you with a foreign transaction fee and you have to pay the difference in the exchange rate as well.

There some banks (such as Bank of America) where you can deposit money in their European banks so that you don’t travel with so much cash on hand. Also, back to making friends. I have often just paid cash to a booking agent or promoter or good friend I stay with and they deposit it in their bank and Paypal it to me. You can transfer money to a friend up to a certain amount on Paypal without incurring a fee. A lot of Europeans use and love Paypal; it’s a great way to send money to people for tour expenses (like if they shipped CDs for you, printed up posters for you, etc).


Also something I had no clue about back when I started: the royalties you generate from public performances. I would be in countries and fill out my set list for them to submit to their respective PROs and think “oh cool, I have some money coming back to me” and never saw anything. I had no publishing admin deal back then. I also didn’t understand that I couldn’t collect them from foreign territories without a publishing admin company representing me.

Eventually I did a sub-­publishing deal with an indie based in Europe to help me collect those. However, I never saw a dime from them, or a single statement. It is VERY hard to track down those things from our shores. There wouldn’t be enough money there to justify hiring a lawyer to even try and sadly I think most folks know that. When my current PRO (SESAC) began paying for live performances for everyone I began to understand the process a bit more. Eventually they would even send my Europe tour info along to their International collections department; but it’s not their main area, and it was a very imperfect process.

Now I’m registered with Songtrust (who is partnered with CD Baby and anyone can access an admin deal via CD Baby Pro​) and I enter all those set lists in directly with them and that money is collected much more quickly and accurately.


And this leads me to the subject of Distribution deals overseas. You don’t need a big distribution deal anymore, of course. You can do it yourself (I use CD Baby, but there are many others out there these days) but there are times when a distribution deal can be worth it.

If an indie label is able to hook you up with a booking agent that can get you on tour with decent gigs, or if they legitimately are paying to promote your album in the places it makes a difference then you have to look at it as a viable option. I have had indie label deals here in the USA and in Europe. Some have been good, some have been bad, some have been something in between. But it can be a huge advantage to have a partner to work with in a country that is still new to you. And also, when you’re touring, you can get your CDs directly from them once you arrive. Therefore avoiding packing a suitcase full of them that you might have to pay extra for or shipping them, which is super expensive nowadays (and that’s not even considering the VAT tax that hits them when they get there).

But you have to get those CDs over there somehow; it’s just something you have to accept. In the places that I tour, people still buy way more CDs than they do here in the USA. It is declining just like it is here, but not as fast.


These are just some of the main things I’ve learned that I wish someone could’ve tipped me on long ago. Some of the lessons were hard, but most of them were fun. Like anything you have to love the process; and I love touring. I love meeting people from other cultures and learning about their lives. Things that worked for me might not work for others and there are doors that open for other artists that don’t work for me. We all tend to flow towards where we feel we are making an impact and being appreciated.

I hope this helps anyone in the middle of trying to figure things out. And good luck out there.

— Stephen

This article was written by guest contributor Stephen Simmons, an award-winning Americana songwriter who has toured extensively in Europe, and whose music has appeared on television shows such as Sons of Anarchy.

Music Publishing News Roundup 7.14.15: Spotify Discover • Grooveshark • YouTube's Paid Service 

GroovesharkGrooveshark co-founder Josh Greenberg was discovered dead at his Florida home on Sunday. Police say there are no signs of drug use or foul play.

His mother reported that Greenberg had no known health problems and was faring well after Grooveshark, the streaming service he and Sam Tarantino founded in 2006, shut down due to litigation with major labels about copyright infringement. Greenberg was only 28 years old.

YouTube has forcibly signed up content creators for their soon to be launched paid streaming service. By communicating that these videos that make up 90% of YouTube’s views will not be monetized unless they sign up, YouTubers have been taken along for the ride into the first of it’s kind video-based paid subscription service. Though they don’t plan to halt their focus on free content, YouTube is pushing for paid streaming to be successful in that subscribers will have access to ad-free videos, have the ability to store videos for viewing offline, and have videos play in the background on mobile devices.

Spotify’s new “Discover Weekly” feature compiles tailor made playlists based on personal tastes of listeners. In line with Apple Music’s “For You” component, Spotify’s new heavily personalized element uses data of the individual listener and combines that with what fans of similar music listen to. The two-hour long playlists update every week and follow the idea of “having your best friend make you a personalized mixtape every single week,” including deep cuts as well as more popular items.

Live Nation & Yahoo Renew Concert Streaming Partnership 

yahoo live nationYahoo and Live Nation spent the past year live-streaming a concert every day and  with the first year drawing to a close on July 14th, the numbers are in and a new deal has been struck

According to Billboard, Yahoo and Live Nation online concerts logged 135 million live streams from 225 global markets, with an audience demographic that skewed heavily millennial, with each viewer spending an average of 24 minutes watching the stream. That works out to approximately 369,000 viewers per concert. 

Yahoo! and Live Nation will be continuing the program for 2015/16, but instead of streaming a concert per day, they plan to throttle back to several per week, Billboard said. 

“We looked at the math and saw that we could actually increase streams and avoid traffic jams for a big Lady Gaga concert if we had a day or two before and after the show,” Lisa Licht, Yahoo’s senior vp marketing partnerships told Billboard. 

The second year of the program started on July 15th with a concert by Christina Perri, with artists including Train, Graham Nash and Miguel on deck. 

Citi, Kellogg and Sprint participated as sponsored for the first year of Yahoo Live, with $5 million to $7 million each, but second-year sponsorship deals were still being negotiated at the time of the program’s renewal, Billboard said. Yahoo declined to comment on artist negotiations, but an unnamed source told Billboard that compensation varies, with Live Nation and Yahoo! taking a share of the ad revenue from the streams.

via Celebrity Access