Digital Media Deconstructed: Alex Blackwell of The Bridgemaker

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Welcome to 2014’s first edition of Digital Media Deconstructed. DMD is a monthly interview series were we interview digital media makers who are thought-leaders or trend-setters (or both!) in a niche, sharing their experience with creating a consistent compelling content strategy, establishing their own signature story and developing a strong online brand.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 11.21.11 AMThis month we’re speaking with Alex Blackwell (@thebridgemaker), who is the founder of The Bridgemaker, one of the most established Inspiration Blogs on the internet. Along with his blog, Alex is also the author of Letting Go: 25 True Stories of Peace, Hope and Surrender. Alex has done an amazing job not only using The Bridgemaker as a platform to establish his own thought-leadership in the Inspiration niche, but he has used his blog to create a platform to create a community of contributors who are all sharing their stories of inspiration and positivity.

We began working with Alex several months ago for a client of ours who had herself become a source of inspiration for others after she recovered from an additional to crack cocaine and wrote a book about her journey. The Bridgemaker was a great opportunity for us to further connect our client to her niche through contributed content. Alex’s community continues to grow and we’re thankful that he has welcomed so many of our clients to take part in sharing their stories of inspiration, positivity and personal development.

What interested you in wanting to start the BridgeMaker blog?

I first became interested in personal development 10 years ago when it was clear I had to begin making changes in the choices I was making if my marriage was going to last. My journey started when I attended a personal transformation seminar that gave me the tools and awareness that the life I wanted was waiting for me – all I had to do was make the choice to go get it.

A few years after reconciling my marriage, I was inspired to start The BridgeMaker as a way to inspire others to seek meaningful change in their lives, too.

Is there a common theme to your blog posts?

For the posts I write (which are published every Monday), I provide a properly-sized window into my life so readers will know they are not alone with their hopes, dreams and challenges. My posts explore the power of love and forgiveness; letting go of the past and celebrating the beauty found in life’s ordinary moments.

What is your impression of the blog’s community? How have they taken to you and your site’s mission?

The BridgeMaker community is awesome. They inspire me to continue sharing, growing and changing. I love replying to their comments as well as the interaction on Facebook and Twitter.

For many bloggers, the measures for success come from online metrics and analytics. Do the measures for success go beyond that for you because of the nature of your site?

Absolutely! For me, the most important measure of success can be found the emails I receive from readers who tell things like, “your post is just what I needed to read today,” or “you have inspired me to…” My focus is on providing honestly-written content. By doing that, the business side of my blog takes care of itself.

What advice would you give for bloggers, be it inspiration-focused or not?

Blogging is hard work. If you want to build a large blog and audience, be prepared to write every day and do things that builds your community like commenting on all other blogs and being involved with social media.

In the six years I’ve been blogging, I’ve seen so many blogs come out strong, and then fade away. I think this happens because there may be an expectation that starting a blog can bring overnight success – it does not. But, if you are clear on your blog’s purpose, and have the passion to work hard, blogging can be very rewarding, both financially and personally.

Where can people find you online?

http://www.thebridgemker.com
https://www.facebook.com/thebridgemaker
https://twitter.com/thebridgemaker
http://www.pinterest.com/calexblackwell/

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Create a Perfect Music Section for Your Website – Free eBook from Bandzoogle

buildingwebsite_ebook-coverBandzoogle has released a free eBook called “Building Your Website: A Step­By­Step Guide for Bands and Musicians”. Whether you’re building a new website, or looking to improve your current one, the eBook offers tons of tips to help you make an effective website for your music.

Download the free eBook from Bandzoogle here:

http://bit.ly/buildyourwebsiteebook

Below is a sample chapter to give you an idea of what you’ll find inside the guide:




Create a Perfect Music Section for Your Website

When it comes to having music on your website, installing a site­wide music player or embedding a player on your Homepage just isn’t enough. Remember, your website is your main hub on the Internet. If there’s any place that fans should be able to find all of your music, lyrics, and some free downloads, it’s on your own website.

Here are some essential elements to include on your Music page that will give fans a great experience, and help you to collect emails and generate sales in the process:

Have a PLAY button

It sounds obvious, but some band websites don’t have a single play button. Don’t simply post the image of your album cover with a purchase link. Let your fans preview all of your songs, including at least 2­3 full songs. Give them something more on your site than they would get anywhere else.

Offer free digital downloads

Speaking of giving more to your fans through your website, offer a free downloadable song on your Music page. Even better than that, offer free songs in exchange for their email address.

Getting a fan’s email is worth much more than getting $0.99 for a song download. That way you can keep in touch with them over the long term to let them know about upcoming shows, new music, new merch, etc.

Have digital downloads for sale

Don’t simply send fans away to iTunes to buy your music. You should have ecommerce setup on your own site where you can offer digital downloads for sale. This way you get to keep the majority of the money, plus collect their email addresses.

Have physical option(s)

Don’t believe the hype, there is still a demand for physical merch. Pledgemusic revealed that 82% of the pledges are going to physical product. So besides digital music, you should also offer physical options for your albums.

Include lyrics

Did you know that people search for “lyrics” just as much as “sex” on Google? With digital downloads and streaming, gone are the CD liner notes with lyrics, but clearly fans still want to see the lyrics. So on your Music page, be sure to also include lyrics for your songs.

Another option is to create a “Lyrics” submenu page for your Music section and post all of your lyrics there. Just make sure that fans can find them somewhere on your website.

Add album info & descriptions

Another important element to add to your music page is info about the albums/songs.

When/where was it recorded? With who? What was the inspiration behind the creation of the album? How was the experience? Why are you excited about it?

Give your fans some context. Let them read the story about your music while they’re listening to it, it might help inspire them to buy it.

Offer other purchase options

Although you should emphasize selling music through your own website, some people simply prefer to buy through stores that they’re familiar with. So at the bottom of your Music page, include links to stores like iTunes and Amazon, but don’t bring more attention to them than that.

Again, your focus should be on selling directly to your fans and getting most of the money, and more importantly, collecting email addresses to stay in touch with those fans.


Download the entire “Building Your Website” eBook from Bandzoogle here:


http://bit.ly/buildyourwebsiteebook

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12 Days of Monetization – A Summary of the 13-part Cyber PR Guest Post Series

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I’m guessing that you may have already begun to make some resolutions for 2014 and I am also guessing that making more money from your art may have been on your list of resolutions… If this is the case (or if this sounds good to you) look no further! I reached out to some of my favorite colleagues in the business and I asked them to contribute an article that talks about “making money from your music” I left it fairly open and their responses are FANTASTIC! Here is a list of the topics and each one is a full length article.

Good luck in 2014! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish.

Ariel & Team Cyber PR

Day 1: 60 Do’s and Don’ts of Monetizing Your Life – Julie Flanders

This article was contributed by Julie Flanders, Achievement Expert and Creative Success CoachRecording artist and lyricist for October Project, a major–label turned independent artist with a worldwide following. Julie delves into the Do’s & Don’ts of monetizing your music.

Day 2: The Power of Positivity – Nikki Loy

Our super talented singer-songwriter friend Nikki Loy gives us insight into how to manifest good thoughts into real outcomes. She discusses how changing the way you think can change the outcome of what happens to you.

Day 3:Making Money from Live Shows – John Taglieri

Indie artist John Taglieri has released 11 albums, selling over 25,000 units, owns his own record label, publishing company, and studio, but 70% of his income comes from live touring. In this article, he discusses how and why you should focus on your live shows.

Day 4: How to Get People to Actually Buy Your Music – Debra Russell

Debra Russell, speaker and founder of Artist’s Edge, talks about the best ways to sell your music in the new digital age. She discusses the advantage of social media and making real, genuine connections with your true fans.

Day 5: Selling Direct-to-fan via WordPress – Ross Barber

Ross Barber is a web designer who runs Electric Kiwi, a web design company that works primarily with artists in the music industry. He teaches you how to leverage your WordPress website to sell your music directly to your fans.

Day 6: 12 Ways to Make Money from YouTube – Jay Frank

Jay Frank, author and CEO of DigSin, gives you 12 ways to build an income stream from your underutilized YouTube channel.

Day 7: YouTube Monetization Through Advertising – Bobby Owsinski

Bobby Owsinski has written 23 books that have quickly become staples in music business programs in colleges around the world. Here, he gives us a few in-depth methods for monetizing your YouTube channel.

Day 8: What Will it Really Take to Make Money from Music? – John Oszajca

John Oszajca, singer-songwriter and founder of the Music Marketing Manifesto, talks about the popular “1000 fan” model and discusses how to start making a living once you get there.

Day 9: Connecting with Fans Through Contests – Corie Kellman

Our own Director of New Artist Relations Corie Kellman lets us in on how to connect with your fans through contests! Contests engage the fans and bring them together—everything you need to know here in this article.

Day 10: 4 Alternative Avenues to Monetize Your Music – Michael Shoup

Cyber PR friend and guide Michael Shoup offers up 4 alternative avenues to monetize your music; house concerts, office concerts, becoming an expert, non-tv syncs and licenses.

Day 11: Investing In Yourselves – Peggy Dold

In this inspirational article by Peggy Dold, you will learn the underappreciated value of investing in yourself, putting in the necessary time, money, and education to really achieve the goals you need.

Day 12: 5 Super Simple Steps to Make Money at Your Next Show – Madalyn Sklar

Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach and social media strategist who founded GoGirlsMusic.com. In this article, she teaches you five simple steps to make money at your next live show.

Bonus Day! It’s 2014. Time To Stop Starving and Start Living Empowered! – Jo-Ná A. Williams

Jo-Na Williams good friend of team Cyber PR + music entertainment lawyer lets us in on the top 5 ways to be unstoppable in 2014: Have amazing music, have an incredible brand, craft a business foundation, have a team, understand and implement marketing.

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4 Simple Strategies to Increase Your Chances of Gaining New Twitter Followers

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This guest post was contributed by Andrew Muller (@TheRealMusician) goes to all his concerts in Vancouver & Seattle, because small-town Chilliwack (where he lives) has some of the least diverse music tastes this side of Utah. You can find him writing about personal development for musicians on his website, therealmusician.com. He also runs Twitter campaigns for musicians who need a little boost in their marketing.

While working on promoting band’s Twitter accounts, I’ve started to notice a fairly consistent trend between campaigns that are extremely effective, and campaigns that just do “alright”.

The trends I’ve noticed sometimes have to do with the style of a band’s music, but more often than not it just has to do with simple changes to a band’s Twitter account.

Here’s how you can tip the scales in your favour, and increase the chances that anyone viewing your Twitter account will decide to follow you.

Custom background/header/profile image (with photoshop templates)

I can’t tell you how often a band is ready to run a promotional campaign on Twitter, but hasn’t even bothered to create custom graphics for their Twitter page yet. It’s a very simple task, so it always tends to blow me away when I see this.

If you don’t have any of your own ideas, here are some I’ll give you to get you started. If you do have your own ideas, feel free to let those surpass my recommendations.

For your profile photo, I would recommend choosing a picture of your band. Sometimes an album cover or a piece of art you have can be appropriate too. The photo can be up to 2mb in size.

For your header image, create a graphic that’s 1252×626 in size. It can be an album cover, a picture of your band, or maybe even just a background from your album slip. Do your best to make it a cohesive image that fits in with the rest of your band image.

For your main background, I have a special treat for you. Take a look at the Twitter account for “Every Time I Die”. Their background image is a perfect example of professional design, and you can achieve a very similar effect with minimal graphic design skills.

If you follow this link, you can download a photoshop file I’ve prepared for you.

All you need to do is fill in the blanks to get a professional background image. You do need to own a copy of photoshop, or at least know someone who does, but it should save you a lot of legwork when designing your own Twitter background.

With those 3 elements in place, you should be good to go as far as the “look and feel” of your Twitter page goes.

Tweet @ people

Twitter is meant to be a dialogue between you and your fans, so you need to consistently be talking to people.

Using the @ symbol when you reference someone is a great way to show on your public Twitter profile that you’re talking with people. When someone shows up to your Twitter page and sees that you are actively talking with people, they’re much more likely to follow you.

Tweet consistently

With that last point in mind, just Tweeting (similar to a Facebook status update) is something you should practice regularly. 3 times a day is an optimal amount, but if you haven’t even started yet and you don’t feel like you can commit to that number, start with a number you can handle.

Maybe you can only handle once a week, or once a day. Start there, and as you get more familiar with Twitter, you can Tweet more. You really do want to reach that sweet spot of 3 times a day though, so keep that in mind.

Still, once a week is far better than nothing.

Don’t over-promote (more original tweets)

When Tweeting, remember that you don’t always want to be promoting your new album, track, or a show you’re playing. Those are all relevant things that should show up on your Twitter feed periodically, but realistically you want to be posting a large amount of things that you like, and just sharing your mind.

As a good rule of thumb, only 10% of your posts should be self promotion; everything else should be something that your fans would simply find interesting (and don’t require them to buy something).

With all these tips implemented on your Twitter account, you should start to see more people reacting positively when they see your profile, and will help to increase your follow rate.

What changes did you decide to implement?

Where did you find that you had a deficit in your Twitter presence? Did you already have all of this done before you read this article? Tell us below!

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12 Days of Monetization: It’s 2014. Time To Stop Starving and Start Living Empowered! – Jo-Ná A. Williams [BONUS]

Jo-Na AEG headshotIt’s 2014! Congratulations you made it. Yes I know 2013 was full. Lots of challenges and triumphs but the New Year provides a fresh start and more importantly, another year for you to get it right. You desire to finally get your music seen and appreciated by millions right? I mean, It’s great. You’ve spent hours on the production, you’ve saved money, perhaps had a crowd campaign to fund the album. Now, you’re ready to finally get it out there and appreciated by the millions of fans you know will love it. I get it…

However, let me ask you one question? After you’ve created the art, what else have you done to ensure your career is on the right track for this new year? So many artist get caught up in the creation of the music (as they should be while they are creating) however, once it’s complete they have no plan, strategy, team or brand to ensure the music reaches the millions of followers they desire.

Well, it’s time to stop approaching your career with an “I’ll get to it” mentality. All we have is the present moment and it’s time to stop wishing and start LIVING your dream on your terms. Yes it’s possible to be a superstar or simply create a sustainable career but it requires a new plan of attack.

Here’s are the top 5 things that will help you create an unstoppable career in 2014:

1) Have amazing music

There is no way you can survive in the music industry without it. That means, great lyrics, great instrumentation, high quality sound and mastered to perfection. NO excuses. Remember last week? The only way you’re going to stand out is to create the type of music that does. Period.



2) Have a incredible brand

If you’re going to be successful in today’s time it’s no longer just about the music. You need to connect. We live in a society that’s controlled by the Internet and people expect transparency. Also, they don’t latch onto chaos. If you don’t have a brand that’s clear, consistent, authentic and connects, your career will not reach the heights you hope it will. It will actually become harder for you to make meaningful strides. Who are you? What do you stand for? What’s your music about? What’s authentic and incredible about you? Take some time this year to create answers to these questions. Your fans will not get behind chaos so creating a foundation for yourself will help you connect with your music and your fans better. It will also position you as an artist that has their S$#@ together!

3) Craft a business foundation

Yes I know you may feel like business makes you uncomfortable. You’re an artist right? Well, you’re going to have to get over it! There’s no way you can do this and be empowered around your career without embracing the fact that business is a huge part of it. You can no longer afford to stick your head in the sand when it comes to learning what business entity you should have or how to create a yearly plan. It’s not an option to be uneducated in this area so you need to invest in getting guidance to help you achieve an empowered stance on this part of your career. Being an entrepreneur is essential! Meet with a CPA to determine what’s the best entity for you based on your specific tax circumstances and your career expenses.



4) Have a team 

I know you’ve heard this more than once. Yes, you need other people to help you execute your dream. However, you need to know how to manage them and in what order to add them to your team. Start with an assistant. Once you know how to effectively communicate and delegate (very important skills for a CEO) then you can start to add other team members as you grow and you have an increasing need for them. Starting with an assistant will allow you to focus on creating music, revenue and exposure generating activities verses setting up your hootsuite posts or sending emails.


5) Understand and Implement marketing

Just like you need to know who you are and what you stand for, it’s just as important to know how to communicate that to your audience on a consistent basis. This means investing in a consistent look on your website and all your social media platforms and regularly sending emails to your audience. People are not going to follow you if they feel like you only come around when you want something from them. If you notice, the biggest stars feed you content all year before they ever ask you to buy an album, product or concert ticket. It’s all about what you can GIVE not what you can get. The “get” will come. 

I know that sometimes all these tasks can feel like you’re climbing a brick wall, however it’s only as hard as you think it is. Our mindset will determine how far we go in our lives and if you have a mindset of “Yes it’s time let’s do this” you’re going to have an incredible career AND music. The entire package is what will allow you to snatch the crown from Queen Bey’s head. So what are you waiting for breakthrough in 2014!


Jo-Ná A. Williams (@JWilliamsEsq), Esq. is a business attorney and coach for musicians. She can be reached at jo-na@jawilliamslaw.com For a FREE copy of her guide “Blueprint: The Insider’s Guide to Empowering Your Career as an Artist and Ditching your 9-5 for Good” Sign up here: http://eepurl.com/HBuwL.

(Legal stuff: this article is for information purposes only. It does NOT replace the advice administered by a licensed attorney in YOUR state based on your specific situation. I know you wouldn’t assume I was your lawyer cause your mama “didn’t raise no fool.” But mine didn’t either, hence the disclaimer!)


12 Days of Monetization is a 12-part series designed to help you make more money in 2014. Ariel and team Cyber PR asked 12 of their favorite colleagues to contribute and we hope you enjoy this series.

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12 Days of Monetization: 5 Super Simple Steps That Will Make You Money At Your Next Show – Madalyn Sklar [Day 12]

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You write great songs. You record killer albums. You put on the most kick ass show. Yet your merch sales fall flat. Over the years I have discovered…

“The best way to make money at your show is by simply asking people to buy.” click to tweet

I have spent the last 18 years booking, promoting, producing or having something to do with thousands of shows all over the world. My fascination with the psychology of selling is beyond conventional. I have learned an incredible amount over the years and am happy to share what I’ve learned from running the door and merch table at these shows.

If you follow these 5 simple steps, you will make money at your next show.

Step 1 – Greet Them At The Door

I have rarely seen artists do this but the few that do make quite an impression with fans. The best way to get ahead in this business is networking. There is no better place to network than at the door of your show. For many years I ran a monthly GoGirls showcase event in Houston, TX. I had the coolest job, not just booking and promoting it but running the door and merch table too. I met amazing people. But I wasn’t the talent on stage. I was just the girl charging cover or selling merchandise. The ticket holder is there to see you. It would be so unexpected for them to witness you greeting people at the door. It shows you are approachable and way cool. And in return you will see more sales. Cha-ching!

“Most fans have you on a pedestal. If you didn’t know this, better start believing it.” click to tweet

For those who already know it, don’t be a dick about it. Treat your fans with respect and love. Always.

Step 2 – Mention You Have Merch For Sale From The Stage

I know this one sounds like a no brainer but I hardly see bands telling their audience they have merch for sale. They always tell me they forget to announce it from the stage. Keep in mind that the majority of people at your show are not mind readers so it’s helpful to let them know that not only do you have merch for sale but you’ll be happy to sign a CD or poster for them. The next time you’re on stage, mention you have a merch table with lots of fabulous stuff. The best way to ensure you don’t forget this is to incorporate it right into your set list. It’s super easy to do. When making your set list, pick two spots and mark it as “Merch Reminder” that way you will not forget once you hit the stage.

Step 3 – Bundle Your Merchandise

Fans like things simple. So why not make it easy for them to give you a $20 bill or swipe on your Square (for credit/debit cards) by bundling two things together. I’ve seen bands put together simple bundles that make the deal look too good to pass up. You can offer 2 CDs and a sticker for one low price or maybe a CD and a t-shirt combo. You can easily increase your earnings just by playing it smart with bundling. Get creative and have fun with it.

Step 4 – Be At The Merch Table Immediately After Your Set

After your show, get yourself to your merch table immediately. Run to it if you have to because this is your optimal selling time. Don’t piddle around on stage. Don’t head out back to smoke weed. I see far too many artists not capitalizing on this immense opportunity to make money. And don’t think you’re too good to hang out with your fans. Get someone to pack your guitar and mic while you go talk to your admirers. This shows you care about them. Think of yourself as a salesperson because if you want to make money, you just inherited the title. Be approachable. Smile. And listen. You do this, I guarantee you will make a huge impression on everyone including the people who own/run/bartend/book the place. And, cha-ching!, you will make more money.

Step 5 – Walk Around And Ask For The Sale

Whenever I counsel an artist, I ask them to do this and then report back to me. It never fails that they make money with this plan. After your set, when you’re done talking to people at the merch table, get some CDs in one hand and your mailing list in the other and go walk around and talk to people. Don’t be timid. Many artists tell me they are super shy off stage. If you would like to earn more money, you need to get bold after your set and go talk to people. In all my years running the merch table at GoGirls shows, I was fascinated with watching people. You’ll be amazed to know that there are always people in the audience who never leave their seat, many times too shy to walk over to the merch table. But if you walk up to them, strike up conversation, and simply ask them if they would like to join your mailing list and buy a CD, most times the answer will be a resounding “Yes.” Try it because you have nothing to lose. The worse thing that will happen is they say no. It’s no big deal. Smile and move on to the next person.

If you have already implemented all five steps, my hat goes off to you. If not, give these a try and report back to me. I’d love to hear how it works out. Making money in the music business is always within your reach. Now go get some cha-ching!


150x150This article was contributed by Madalyn Sklar (@MadalynSklar), Music Business Coach and Social Media Strategist, and the founder of GoGirlsMusic.com (@GoGirlsMusic). She hosts the wildly popular GoGirls Twitter chat every Thursday 9pm ET at #ggchat. It’s open to all musicians and music industry professionals.


12 Days of Monetization is a 12-part series designed to help you make more money in 2014. Ariel and team Cyber PR asked 12 of their favorite colleagues to contribute and we hope you enjoy this series.

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