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What’s Working in Indie Music Today: Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Justin Ratowsky

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath, sponsored by the New Artist Model: Turn your passion for music into a rewarding career.

Cali Conscious is all about good vibrations. The reggae band that got its start playing under the pier in Huntington Beach, California combines a talent for creating great music with a commitment to organizing beach cleanups and helping the homeless. In addition to Justin, the group includes Anthony Haas on bass, Jason Sandoval on trumpet, Chad Stanner on keyboards, Chuy Vidales on drums, Dig Gbye on percussion, and Stephen Wood on sax.

The group recently launched a new social media campaign to attract fans to its message of peace, love and environmental preservation. And so far, it’s working.

“We’ve gotten over 1200 email subscribers and more than 10,000 Instagram followers in the past 12 months,” according to Justin Ratowsky, the band’s guitarist. “We are implementing the strategy of giving away our music in exchange for email addresses that we learned in Dave Kusek’s New Artist Model to successfully create our own fan base.”

Growing Your Email List with NoiseTrade

The group is making the website NoiseTrade a centerpiece of its current social media campaign, Justin says. The music distribution platform lets the group trade their music with anyone who shares their email and zipcode on the Cali Conscious website ( http://caliconscious.com/). Currently, the group gives followers a download of High Times as well as an EP featuring acoustic versions of four songs from the new album.

“With NoiseTrade, we get email and zip codes and fans get to download and share on Twitter and Facebook. It lets you encourage your fan base to become part of your marketing team,” he says, adding that the service also allows fans to “tip” musicians. “NoiseTrade charges 20 percent of the money that comes in but we are still getting revenue from that every month.”

“You should use your social media platforms and the real estate on your website to give away songs and build that relationship with your fans to gain trust and turn them into superfans,” says Justin, adding that “superfans” to him are people who share news about the band with their followers.

Justin believes that developing 1000 superfans will enable Cali Conscious to have a sustainable music career — one that includes adequate support for crowdfunding, merchandise sales, touring and live shows.

Combining Music and Activism

Cali Conscious puts almost as much work into activism as it does into music. The band has organized monthly community beach clean ups in Huntington Beach and funded construction of a clean water well in Ethiopia by donating live performance tips to Charity:Water.org. Cali Conscious doesn’t sell plastic CDs at its shows and created a plantable paper download card embedded with carrot, lettuce, and tomato seeds to celebrate the release of its first album High Times.

On May 21, the group will play the Concert for the Coast in Santa Barbara where they will feature “One Love For You,” a song about homelessness written by percussionist Dig Gbye and the first single from the new album. The band will make a music video for the song that includes an informal “jam session” with local homeless men and women.

During their visit to the city, the band will also provide blankets, clothing, food, water and socks to people in need with the help of online sock retailer Bombas (http://www.bombas.com).

“Water,” the second single from the new album, will also get its own video. All proceeds will benefit Gravity Water, a nonprofit dedicated to providing filtration and storage systems to poor communities around the globe(http://www.gravitywater.org/). Both of the videos for the singles will be included in a pre-purchase crowdfunding campaign, Justin says.

“The most important part of our music is the message we have in our lyrics; that’s how we want to connect with our fans. We strongly feel we have this musical ability and we are purposefully using a positive message to help bring the world together through our lyrics,” Justin says. “We want to be a catalyst for our fans to inspire change. If we can create an easy avenue for them to be able to support our music but also support causes we believe in — like getting water to the world and making sure that people on the streets have warm feet — that’s where we want to be.”

Read Justin’s full story on New Artist Model.

To learn more about Cali Conscious visit http://caliconscious.com/

New Artist Model is an online music business school developed by Dave Kusek, founder of Berklee Online. The online school is a platform for learning practical strategies and techniques for making a living in music. Learn how to carve a unique path for your own career with strategies that are working for indie artists around the world. Learn to think like an entrepreneur, create your own plan and live the life in music you want to live. New Artist Model provides practical college-level music business training at a mere fraction of the cost of a college degree. Programs start at just $29/mo. For more info on the New Artist Model visit http://newartistmodel.com.

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