New Music Seminar: A Talk With Tom Silverman

Ideally, shouldn’t the only thing a band have to worry about is their music?

Ideally, an artist should be doing whatever they have to do to be able to pursue their passion, and usually that means doing full time what they love doing, and if they’re a musician, that’s usually playing or performing or creating music. How do you monetize your music? You don’t monetize your music, you monetize your relationship with your fans. So you have to create fans somehow. It requires exposure, and that can be achieved online, through touring, a lot of different ways other than the old-fashioned top-down major label marketing heavy TV and radio focus.

Artists have to consider what’s the slow and steady way. If I can sell 50 tickets this month, and in two months sell 100 tickets, and in two years get up to 300 tickets, within driving distance of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, then once I break that, I’m on the map. All the booking agents are checking for me, and labels start checking for me as well.

I’m not even talking about selling any records. You do what you can do. You have to build a rapport—you have to have a conversation with your fans online. The real artists who care about their career, they’re blogging all the time, putting up new images, new music to different levels of fans. How do you manage your fan base so you can maximize your revenue from what few fans you do have, so that at some point you can build up so that can be your work?

Maybe when you’re selling 100,000 albums and playing to 15,000 people a night everywhere around their world you can just worry about your art because you can afford to pay someone else to do that other shit. But somebody’s gotta do that shit! And no one’s going to do that at the beginning unless they can find a manager and we’re going to talk about that too. Here’s all the stuff you have to do. Can you do it? Can the drummer do it? Bass player going to do it? If you can’t, maybe that nerd in school can do it, and he can become your manager. Let him book stuff and deal with merchandise and websites.

Well, you shouldn’t let the drummer do it.

(laughs) Well, somebody’s got to do it. Hey, in a perfect world, musicians should just be able to make music, but historically they’ve never been able to. Only the most successful ones have been able to. And now we have a democratization of the ability to make music and the ability to distribute it, but you have to be clued in to all the new technologies and all the tools of the trade to how to elevate yourself above this muck and mire that these 99,600 artists who release an album every year that doesn’t sell 1,000 units are stuck in.

That’s what we’re going to try to do, to give people those tools. Tons of information. These kids’ heads are going to explode at the end of the day.

I go on industry panels all the time, and 90 percent of the audience is artists, because I always ask. And we’re talking about subjects that are way over their head. ‘How do you get a sponsorship deal?’ You’re not getting a sponsorship deal, no one knows who you are! We’re talking about DRM, the ISPs, three strikes rule, all this B2B industry shit that they could give a shit about because it doesn’t affect their lives. So I said, we have to have a conference where all we talk about is what affects their lives.

People are serious right now, they really want to make this happen, and all the rules are changing. Tools are being invented virtually every week that are cheap or free and accessible certainly to everyone. That’s why we’re doing the seminar.

The New Music Seminar will be held July 21 at the Skirball Center For The Performing Arts at NYU, 566 LaGuardia Place, NYC. For full details on the event, visit