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Interview with Ariel Hyatt, Indie Music Publicist and Author of Music Success in Nine Weeks

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The Rock Star Life Lessons Interview with Ariel Hyatt, Indie Music Publicist and Author of Music Success in Nine Weeks
by Carla Lynne Hall

Rock Star Life Lessons: How has your marketing yourself and your career changed in the last 5 years?
Ariel Hyatt: Wow – great question – it has changed radically…. Since the evolution of Social Media my own PR and marketing has shifted from making our promotion and marketing all about a one way conversation: Hey artists: We have been in business 12 years and look at our reputation! Coupled with the fact that I was very much in the background as the “pitcher” to the writers writing releases and telling a very one sided story using press releases and mail and phone call follow -ups.

Now the primary marketing tool that I employ my expertise and how I can share what I have learned being on the court to help musicians understand not only the value of social media but also how to do their own PR and Marketing. The more I share, the more Cyber PR seems to flourish because people buy from those that they like and trust and I have built up trust by sharing good ideas and having a two-way conversation in the musicians community in the form of blog posts, vodcasts and newsletters and well as real-life interaction by teaching workshops and bootcamps and paneling at music conferences.

RSLL: What is Cyber PR?
AH: Cyber PR is my online PR firm and we get musicians and authors featured on blogs, podcasts, Internet radio stations, and all over the Internet. We also help artists come up with a social media strategy that works in tandem with a marketing plan so they can take advantage of the new ways to build a fan base and a community online.

RSLL: What do musicians need to know about social networking and/or Web 2.0?
AH: Social media is a wonderful way to engage your fans, meet new people and use cool interactive technology to communicate BUT artists must realize that this is just one piece of the puzzle. The real money and profits comes out of having a strategy and setting goals and working towards them.

I see so many artists that have thousands and thousands of fans on MySpace and on Facebook and they are making no money. The reason is: no one comes to MySpace or Facebook with their credit cards out ready to buy music – they do that at iTunes and on Amazon – so there needs to be a strategy that gets engaged fans away from the cool Web 2.0 portals where we meet and chat and interact into an atmosphere where we are used to BUYING – Amazon, iTunes and live clubs are where fan pull money out of their pockets and buy so if you are only on MySpace and Facebook and you are frustrated about why you sold way less than you expected ask yourself: Where are you asking for money? and how are you asking for money? Is there a strategy behind your asking or are you forgetting to even put a plan into place around this? Or even worse are you forgetting to ask at all because asking for money means you are being too pushy and aggressive and you hate the idea of asking?

You need to look at the Internet just like you look at your telephone or your fax machine – its a way of communicating NOT a place where you just will magically make money without a strategy and some knowledge of how traditional marketing works and a willingness to employ real plans and actions.

RSLL: What are some of your latest product and service offerings for indie musicians?
AH: Aside from Cyber PR campaigns, My best selling product is my book that I released last year. It’s called Music Success in Nine Weeks and it is a Nine week program that helps artists do 3 things:

1. Build a bigger fanbase
2. Get more PR (via using Social Media)
3. Earn more money

The way I teach this is by taking artists through a process that helps them:

1. Laser focus their message so that potential fans can understand them
2. Start a two way engaging conversation with all fans
3. Capture vital information (email addresses)
4. Create a plan that is based on traditional marketing so that they are set up for making money

My book comes with a lifetime membership to my closed online forum (which in the interest of full disclosure I will say Carla helps me manage!) where artists can get direct coaching from me and Carla and get a plan in action with the support of other musicians.

You can buy the book here:

RSLL: What is one action a musician can take to build their music business?
AH: Being in control of your own mailing list and start a regular email newsletter and send it at least once a month! This has been the #1 technique that I have noticed works the most effectively for musicians.

RSLL: If you were starting all over today as a musician, what would you focus on?
AH: I was never a musician so this is a hard question but I would say I would focus on building a community of fans who are engaged and involved with me on a personal and authentic manner. The bands that I meet who are making the most money and having the most success during these weird and uncertain times are the ones who work really hard at knowing who their fans are and what they like, don’t like and what they will respond to. These artists also provide a steady stream of communication and music and opportunities to engage with fans – either online or offline.

Thanks Carla – it was fun being interviewed!


Ariel Publicity was founded 12 years ago, and has since represented over 1,400 artists. The publicity game has changed radically over the last few years, so the company went 100% digital to accommodate the new landscape in January of 2007. Cyber PR is currently handling campaigns for artists of all genres and at all levels of their careers.

Ariel’s bi-weekly ezine “Sound Advice” has over 6,000 musicians and music professional subscribers. Her first book, Music Success in Nine Weeks, came out in June 2008. She is a contributing blogger to New Music Ideas and Music Think Tank and her articles have been featured in the Discmakers and ASCAP online newsletters. Ariel Publicity also offers Band Letter, a musician’s newsletter service to handle fan outreach.

Ariel has spoken at dozens of music conferences including SXSW, The Philly Music Conference, NEMO, The East Coast Music Awards, OCFF, & Les Rencontres (Canada), A2A (Amsterdam), CMJ, BMI Music Panel Series, and The Connective Panel Series.

Ariel’s Websites:
Ariel’s Blog
Ariel Publicity on Twitter
Ariel Publicity on MySpace
Ariel Publicity on Facebook

Ariel’s Products and Services:
Ariel’s eBook: Music Success in Nine Weeks
Cyber PR Campaigns
Band Letter Newsletter Services
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Interview with Dayna Steele, Author of Rock to the Top

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This week heralds the unearthing of last year’s lost indie music reviews, which will culminate with a BRAND NEW interview on success mindset from indie music mogul Derek Sivers. Enjoy!

Dayna Steele, author of Rock to the Top

The Rock Star Life Lessons Interview with Dayna Steele, Author of Rock to the Top
by Carla Lynne Hall

Rock Star Life Lessons: How has your marketing yourself and your career changed in the last 5 years?
Dayna Steele: The good side is there are many more avenues. The bad side is there are many more avenues and everyone is doing it!

RSLL: In your book, Rock to the Top, you write about musicians like Gene Simmons, Carlos Santana, and Jon Bon Jovi, who have “an entrepreneurial fire”. Is it important for musicians today to think of themselves as entrepreneurs? Why or why not?
DS: Anyone in any business has to think of themselves as an entrepreneur if they want to succeed. Competition is fierce in any business and you won’t succeed unless you do treat any career like a business. Everyone has to market, network, brand, etc.

RSLL: For your book, Gene Simmons wrote a glowing foreword, which also gives the reader an inkling of the drive that it takes to lead KISS, also known as “The Greatest Band in the World”. How did you get him to give up the goods?
DS: I asked for three months. It was either going to be a “yes” or a restraining order. I finally just laid it on the line, this is what I want and this is why you should do it for me. You have to let people know what you want and why they should give it to you. No one reads minds…except maybe your mother.

RSLL: After you left radio, you created an successful online business, The Space Store, that you later sold to a NASA aerospace contractor. What online marketing/promotion tips did you learn that a musician can use?
DS: Keep your website updated weekly if not daily and communicate with your customers/fans. Have a newsletter signup, let them know when there is a new product, an appearance, free stuff. They love free stuff….

RSLL: I also hear that you’re an AC/DC fan. What do you think of their decision to only sell physical CDs (no MP3s) of their new CD release, Black Ice via Wal-Mart and
DS: Brilliant. Hey also have the money to begin with to take such a daring stand. They are a very successful business. They know their fans, they did their research. Very smart. And still adore Brian….

RSLL: What is one action a musician can take to build their music business?
DS: Network like crazy – it’s still who you know more than what you know…!

RSLL: If you were starting all over today as a musician, what would you focus on?
DS: Getting my music online everywhere I could, doing everything I could to get that one great song to “go viral.” And make sure you have it all backup with a website, blog, newsletter, quality product, etc. Get organized and run your business!


For years, Dayna was one of the top female rock radio personalities in the USA. During her career and reign as Houston’s “First Lady of Radio,” she was named one of the 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts by Talkers Magazine and nominated as Local Radio Personality of the Year by Billboard Magazine.

After leaving radio, Dayna created The Space Store , the world’s largest space related e-commerce venture which she sold to a NASA aerospace contractor. She then created Smart Girls Rock, a product line to encourage girls to make “smart the new cool” or “geek the new chic.” Dayna also founded Operation National Anthem, a series of free videos of U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq offered to venues throughout the country to play prior to the singing of our national anthem. For that, Reader’s Digest named Dayna one of the “35 People Who Inspire Us” in the May 2008 issue.

Dayna Steele is the author of Rock to the Top: What I Learned about Success from the World’s Greatest Rock Stars with a foreword by KISS superstar Gene Simmons. Dayna captivates audiences across the country with her stories and sage advice learned from the world’s greatest rock stars. From students to a national sales force to corporate business gatherings, Dayna Steele rocks her audience through the four essential principles for achieving rock star status and building a stage for success.


The Lost Indie Music Interviews Are Coming!

Posted in A Day in the Life, DIY Diva, Future Legends, Indie Music, Interviews, Musicians Lunch | No Comments »

Indie Music Interviews are Coming!

At the end of last year, I interviewed a boatload of indie music artists and music biz experts, but I had been unable to blog them all before now.

Stay tuned to Rock Star Life Lessons as I’ll be sharing tips and lessons from indie music luminaries such as Ariel Hyatt, Matthew Ebel, Natalie Gelman, and more!

Brought to you by Musicians Lunch New Orleans: Saturday, May 23rd 1-3pm.

Interview with Heather McDonald, Music Careers

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If you enjoy the music biz blog posts on my site, then you’ll love Heather McDonald’s Music Careers page. Since meeting Heather this year via Twitter, I have had the pleasure of getting to know another passionate indie music fan, who shares a wealth of knowledge, and I’m excited to share her with you.

Heather McDonald,

The Rock Star Life Lessons Interview with Heather McDonald, Music Careers
by Carla Lynne Hall

Rock Star Life Lessons: What are your favorite parts of music promotion?
Heather McDonald: Talking about music! I love music, and when I’m working on something I really believe in, it’s a great feeling to turn other people on to it. Sometimes, music promotion can be quite formulaic and frustrating, but it all becomes worthwhile when someone else gets excited about some music that you’ve introduced to them. I also love talking to other people who love music, so when you call someone to talk about a new release and you end up just shooting the musical breeze with them – that hardly feels like work.

Also, hearing a song you’ve worked on getting some radio play or seeing a review or interview that you helped arrange is a good feeling.

RSLL: I learned recently that you spent 7 years in Scotland working for Shoeshine Records, an indie label. How does music promotion differ from Europe to the US? Or does it?
HMc: You know, it is different. Speaking about the UK specifically, one of the biggest differences is simple size. The UK is a lot smaller than the US, and that matters. There’s so much less ground to cover, and it’s a lot easier to get national exposure. Doing a “national” tour in the UK can mean hitting five or six cities – if you get regional press coverage at each stop, you’re well on your way to having a decent buzz going about your music. Do that a few times, and chances are that a lot of music fans will know your name.

Another huge difference to me is radio. I’m not saying it’s a walk in the park to get your music played on the radio in the UK, but it is significantly more accessible than it is in the US. I think perhaps the death of the great John Peel has changed things a little bit, but there is a lot more support for independent music on UK radio than there is in the US. My music friends in the UK bemoan the plight of the indies on radio, and I’m not saying it couldn’t be better. But compared to American radio? Big difference.

Of course, you also have to consider the fact that a play on say, Radio 2, reaches a national audience, unlike regional US radio.

I actually find the music industry in UK to be quite different overall to the music industry in the US and could probably go on for days about it!

RSLL: What is one action a musician can take to build their music business?
HMc: I’m a little old school, but my answer has to be: book a show! Heck, book a tour! Get out there and play. I know that the overriding theme for musicians these days is that the answers to building their profile lie on the internet, and I’m not discounting the importance that all of the new opportunities that the internet has created for the music industry. However, I’m a big believer that building an ardent live following, even if it’s just in your town for now, is ultimately more cash in the bank for your music career than adding friends/followers/what have yous to your social networking profiles all day long. Those things are important and useful, but the translation of social networking friends to bums on seats at your shows isn’t a forgone conclusion. The trick is finding the balance.

When you play live, you build a following that is more invested in you than following you back or accepting your friend request, you perfect your craft, you make connections – these basics still matter. In other words, don’t sit around on the internet all day debating, say, whether or not the future of monetizing music is selling merch at shows. Get out, play a show, sell some merch and make up your mind that way! Learn by doing. It will be eminently more useful to your music career.

RSLL: If you were starting all over today as a musician, what would you focus on?
HMc: I think that these are both exciting times and exceedingly confusing times to be a musician. I’m lucky that my job lets me interact with a lot of musicians who are just getting their start in the industry now, and a lot of them email me because they feel like they’re just spinning their wheels. There are just so many paths to go down these days that it’s easy to go a little way down all of them, only to find out you’re not really ever reaching any of your big goals.

What I always tell them – and what I think all musicians should make a point of doing these days – is to just focus on the basics and go for it. You should make a point of educating yourself about how the industry works and pay attention to the internal industry debates and dialogues, of course, but I think it’s a tremendous mistake to think that recording a good song, promoting it and playing it live aren’t still the bottom line. And yes, really, focus on the music before you focus on anything else. If your music takes a backseat to developing this plan or that plan, you’re building a house of cards.

This point may sound kind of obvious, but I encounter a lot of musicians who are extremely concerned about whether this site or that site is better for promotion or if the CD is dead or vinyl has been resurrected or any number of industry issues, but who have never played a show or even written enough songs to fill up a demo. Again, I do believe that now more than ever it is important for musicians to understand the industry as a whole, but be careful to avoid the temptation to put the cart before the horse.

When you build a strong foundation, opportunities tend to guide your next steps, but once I had something to promote, I would cherry pick a few homes on the internet to network with my fans. I think it’s better to be a vocal member of a few communities than getting lost in the shuffle joining every single networking site out there. I would also get my own website. Social networking sites are not enough.

Last but not least, I’ve spent the past several weeks interviewing lots and lots of teenagers about their music habits, and while plenty of interesting things popped up, one thing every single one of them said was that YouTube is one of the first places they go when they want to search out new music. I’d make getting a presence there a priority.


Heather McDonald has worked in the music industry since her teen years. She started out sitting behind a record store counter, first as an employee and then as the manager of a small, independent record store. During her time at the record store, Heather worked closely with both major and indie labels on new release promotion and worked on in-store performances from artists across all genres.

Heather left the record store to move to Glasgow, Scotland, where she worked at indie label Shoeshine Records. There, Heather got to do a little of everything: dealing with manufacturing and distribution, securing international licensing agreements, artist management, tour booking, show promotion and album promotion.

Heather now works as a freelance writer, covering music for many print and web outlets. She also works in PR for various bands and record labels. She is currently involved in the set up of a label designed to give Caribbean based musicians opportunities in the US and Europe.

Heather’s Music Career page

Heather’s Blog

Follow Heather on Twitter

Interview with Jason Bradford, Tone Box Digital

Posted in A Day in the Life, Interviews, The Great Give Back 2008 | 1 Comment »

I recently interviewed Jason Bradford, musician and owner of Tone Box Digital, an online music label, and l was impressed with his mission to empower his artists.

Indie Artists, Musicians, Bands, please go to’s Small Biz contest page and vote for Tone Box Digital. It only takes a click. Voting ends December 31, 2008 at 12:00am.

Rock Star Life Lessons Interview with Jason Bradford, owner of Tone Box Digital
by Carla Lynne Hall

Rock Star Life Lessons:You recently received attention from Wired Magazine for Tonebox Digital, your indie record label/distribution service. What is that about, and what was it like to be recognized for that?
Jason Bradford: This is actually going on right now. started a small business section on their website and to launch it they began the search for new businesses that would line up with the Wired mentality. We were chosen in the top five and I was flown to NY to do an video interview, which is live on their site right now. Now it’s up to the public to determine which of the five should win the program. It’s been amazing. I know there are many labels big and small who are trying to find there way in this industry and for Wired to recognize our business model and plan as a good one is truly amazing. (Tone Box is also the underdog in this program. We’ve never had backers or investors so it’s all come out of my pocket– small pocket! The other four are pretty well funded and have some great ideas, good company to be in.)

RSLL: How does Tonebox Digital differ from the old school music business model?
JB: Our model is pretty simple. We make sure that no matter what, the artists makes more money than anyone in the chain (the chain consists of artist/label/distributor/service). We partner with artists and get them placement in all the major online sales outlets then help them connect with bloggers, social media sites, music review sites, podcasters and any other outlet we can manage to find.

We also do everything online. We do not print physical CDs nor to we promote to traditional radio…However, our artists may do these things on their own and we advise/consult on placement but normally do not go that route unless we have a proven artist/music piece to work with. The word “label” can be misleading because I feel like we are more of a partner to the artists and what they are trying to do.

RSLL: How did you decide to start a label?
JB: I had dreams of running a major label one day… I went to school and got a Music Business degree and knew that I would work at a label one day. The funny thing is that I never worked at a label besides my own. I’ve been told that’s a bad thing because I “needed” that experience but I can tell you that I’m glad I didn’t. It’s been fun building my own thought process of what the music business should look like and I know that I haven’t fallen into any traps that the traditional or big labels would have “taught” me.

I’ve had opportunities to work at some big labels but the timing was never right. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go there now, with the shift in our digital world I think some new thinkers and idea shakers could do a lot of good at a major label… who knows, I may end up there one day or I may not! 🙂

RSLL:Why did you decide to go digital?
JB: It was simple for me. I was an early adopter for buying music online and knew that there had to be a way to get indie artists out there. This was in the early 2000’s… by 2003 I was prepping Tone Box and by 2004 one of my artists had spent over $100K trying the traditional model (photo shoots, lots of CDs, clothes, video, radio promotion). It wasn’t fun- even though he had backers, I wanted it to work! I immediately started thinking there has to be a better way. I started working with another band and we spent less the $5K on the record put it out digitally and starting making money right away. They went on to sign a bigger deal but had the credibility from the stuff I did with them. That was two different artists with two different approaches and you see which one worked. I’ve been full on digital since then.

If you believe in indie music, vote for Tone Box Digital by December 31st, and help empower indie musicians everywhere!

Interview with Cliff Goldmacher, Record Producer

Posted in Interviews, Recession Proof Musician | 2 Comments »

While reading a recent TAXI music newsletter, I read an interesting music column by Cliff Goldmacher, a successful Nashville & NYC record producer. While I was familiar with Cliff’s production work (thanks to Mary Beth Stone and my other pals in the Nashville Songwriters Association), his column explained how he is able to record Nashville musicians while he is in New York City by using audio streaming software and hardware. This kind of technology blows me away!

While Cliff is a pioneer in virtual recording sessions now, the future recording possibilities for session players are endless. I couldn’t wait to interview him, and find out how he does what he does.

Cliff Goldmacher
Cliff Goldmacher

The Rock Star Life Lessons Interview with Cliff Goldmacher
by Carla Lynne Hall

Rock Star Life Lessons: How do you have recording sessions with “virtual” session players?
Cliff Goldmacher: I’ve equipped both my Nashville and NYC studios with a combination of streaming audio software and hardware so that I’ve essentially turned my studios into internet radio stations. In other words, I can broadcast the session from Nashville (where it’s actually being recorded) to New York where it’s being monitored. I’ve also wired things so that my voice going through a talkback mic in New York feeds into the players/engineer’s headphones in Nashville. In essence, I’m producing from another room but that “other room” is my New York studio 1,200 miles away.

RSLL: Is there a difference in recording quality when the musician is not in the same town?
CG: None whatsoever. I simply bring a great session musician into the studio in Nashville, record them there and monitor from New York, I then transfer the high resolution files back up to New York for mixing.

RSLL: How does a singer or musician get started in virtual session playing?
CG: Well, in my case, I’ve been working with most of these session musicians for years. However, I’m always looking for new players and singers. The way I usually hear of them is from friends of mine that have used them on their own projects. Also, my Nashville engineers are always scouting new talent for me.

As a singer or musician getting started doing session work, I’d suggest working as much as you can for very little or no pay at first. Then, as you get more recognition and get busier you can start charging the going rate for your services. The key is getting your name and good reputation out there.

RSLL: What kind of recording equipment is needed for this type of recording?
CG: The recording equipment is the same. I use ProTools in both my Nashville and NYC studios along with high-quality tube microphones and pre-amps. The difference comes when I transmit the audio from the Nashville session up to my New York studio. For that I’m using a combination of software and hardware that allows me to stream the audio. At this point, I’m under a non-disclosure agreement with the hardware manufacturer as it’s brand new technology but it should be more widely available in the not-too-distant future.


Cliff Goldmacher’s Bio:

Cliff Goldmacher is the owner of recording studios in both Nashville and New York City. A multi-instrumentalist, Cliff has recorded, played on, and produced over fifty independent albums and thousands of demos for most major and independent publishers in Nashville as well as New York.

The songs Cliff has demoed and performed on have ended up on major label album projects, in feature films and on television. Most recently, a song Cliff demoed in his Nashville studio is on Dan Evans’ album “Goin’ All Out” which recently cracked the Top Ten Billboard Country Album Chart.

As a songwriter, Cliff worked on staff for Wrensong Music Publishing in Nashville and is equally adept at creating his own music and lyrics or collaborating with other writers. Cliff’s song “The Light Inside of You” was recorded by the Irish tenor Ronan Tynan on his Universal Records release Ronan and his song “Table for Two” which Cliff also produced, was included in the movie “Trust the Man” starring Julianne Moore and David Duchovny. Cliff’s song “You’re Lyin Through Your Tooth” was recorded by Universal Music Country artist Big Mike Callan.

As a teacher/instructor, Cliff has served as a panelist on engineering for NAMM (National Association of Music Merchandisers) and teaches songwriting demo workshops for BMI, ASCAP, The Songwriter’s Guild of America, The Nashville Songwriter’s Association and Taxi.

Cliff is also a regular contributor to EQ Magazine.