How to Sell Your Songs on iTunes

sell your songs online

Trystan Matthews Owner, DMS

I get asked all the time… “how do I sell my music?” Here is a simple step-by-step guide on how to start selling your music on iTunes.

What you will need:

- a digital file (wav format) of your music
- your cover art and liner notes
- some money, not much
- access to a computer with internet

I’ve also included the stories of Howard Lull and Cindy Akana, two artists we produced whose albums are now selling on iTunes.

Step 1: Record Your Song.  Produce your material… well.  If you need help recording, re-recording, or enhancing some of your tracks, consider hiring someone like me.

Step 2: Master Your Song.  Mastering is the final critical step in production when creating songs intended for the mass market.  When selling CD’s, mp3 downloads etc, ensure that your songs have been mastered.

Step 3: Album Artwork.  Create a cover with liner notes.  If you want to get more elaborate and do a full booklet you certainly can but it does add considerable cost.

Step 4: Get a UPC bar-code.  Whether selling physical CD’s or just downloads online, you will need to obtain a bar-code.  I suggest using a company called CdBaby which provides CD duplication and/or UPC codes that are very affordable.  When you sign up with them they will submit your song to the iTunes library automatically and tracks will be available for purchase on the iTunes site in as quickly as 48 hours.

Also…
If you haven’t already, you should join ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.  These are music licensing organizations responsible for tracking public usage of you music such as radio play, commercials, or performance.

And that’s it!  In just 4 simple steps you can start selling your music on the internet.  Good luck.  Questions?  Feel free to email me.

Proven Success – The stories of Howard and Cindy…

Howard Lull wrote a bunch of songs and he wanted to put together a full length album.  We produced “bed” tracks consisting of guitars, piano, bass, drums, strings, backing vocals and more.  Howard recorded his own vocals in a studio near him in Texas.

sell your music on itunes
market your song on the internet

“Trystan…The songs you arranged for me are playing on internet and college radio and I have several thousand fans that love the worship songs you arranged and signed up as fans of mine listening to the songs on Jango radio! I couldn’t have asked for more!”

market your songs on online radio


Cindy Akana‘s project was similar except that she was local to us (when we were still in Seattle). She came to the studio to lay down her piano parts and a “scratch” vocal. We then added guitar, bass, drums, and even some cello. When all the instrumental parts were recorded, she came back to the studio once more to record her final vocal tracks.

market your music on the internet
market your song on the internet

“I was so satisfied working with Trystan Matthews at Demo My Song.  He was competent, professional, music-savvy, and good-natured. It was a thrill to record my Evolve CD with Trystan because of his creative and edgy arrangements.  I plan to use his talents and expertise again when I record my 3rd CD.”

market your songs on online radio

Did you know

that despite music labels making massive profits in the 1990′s, that roughly 97% of artists signed to these labels actually lost them money?  Labels took financial risks every time they signed a new unknown act or performer and it was the multi-platinum level of success of a just a few artists, megastars like Brittney Spears or Coldplay, that bankrolled these ventures.

What’s my point?  The music industry changed a lot in the last 10 years.  With sales down from what they used to be due largely to online piracy, labels don’t take the same risks on talent as they used to and are even more reluctant to cut you that “record deal” you’ve always dreamed about.  But that’s ok!  Because now as “self-promoting” artists we maintain more control over distribution rights and are able to make more money per sale by selling our music directly to our fans via services like iTunes.  So what you are you waiting for?… finish up those tracks you’ve been working on and start selling your songs on iTunes!

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Producing a “Full Choir Sound” on a Budget

Melanie Recording the Soprano and the Alto Parts

We recorded a new song this week for Marion Priest, a longtime client of Demo My Song, and an avid composer of Christian and Worship music.  Marion wanted a “big choir sound” for her most recent song entitled, “His Power,” but wanted to keep her cost of production as low as possible.  So our goal with this project was to emulate a full choir sound using just three different vocalists.  On the mic were three members of the Portland Vocal ConsortMelanie Downie Robinson, Charlie Ahlquist, and David Krueger.

We were sent sheet music and lyrics along with a simple midi recording of the piece and from that we created a musical arrangement with piano, violins, cellos, woodwinds, and French horns.

We tracked the Soprano and Alto Parts with a Rode NTK running through an Avalon 737.  The Tenor and Bass parts were tracked with two separate AT-3035’s running through a 2 channel RNP (“Really Nice Pre-amp”).  These three parts were all recorded at the same time in our “Orange Room” but since Melanie was the only female vocalist for this session, we tracked the Alto parts afterwards separately.

Mel's son helping me with the mix... while dancing!

After getting our first solid vocal take of the song, we double, and then tripletracked the parts, so between the four SATB parts we recorded a total of 12 vocals.  Then, adding just a touch of reverb was all that was needed to create a lush choir sound.  Listen to the results and let us know what you think!

Listen to “His Power” by Marion Priest

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Get Instant Feedback For Your Songs

Owner and Founder of Demo My Song, Trystan Matthews

Have you ever wanted instant feedback for your lyric or song ideas?  Why not submit your songs to an online songwriting contest?   I recently stumbled upon a bi-weekly songwriting contest called SongFight wherein contestants write and record a song for a given title and votes are cast for a winning track.  “Who Said I’m Dead” by Secret Submarine was recorded in the Demo My Song studio in S. E. Portland for the contest this past week.  Watch the YouTube Video of “Who Said I’m Dead.”

The songwriting contest is free, open to all,  and is a great way to get motivated, get writing, and then get instant feedback via votes and a user forum with reviews of your music.  Head over to songfight.org now to listen and vote for the song we recorded this week for Secret Submarine.  And while you’re at it, check out the title for next weeks SongFight and get busy writing!

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How to Record Your Own Studio Quality Vocal … In Your Bedroom! Pt. 1 of 2 – The Room

If you are recording your own vocals in your home or apartment, then this post is for you!  My name is Trystan Matthews and I am the owner and founder of Demo My Song.  Ever since I first started making recordings, which not unlike most teens, was in the garage of my parents house using my trusty old Yamaha MT-50 cassette recorder, I’ve always wanted to make the best sounding recordings possible regardless of any limitations I may have had at the time whether it was location or equipment.

In my early adulthood I moved… a lot…which amongst other things taught me to deal with a new set of acoustical problems with each bedroom, basement, or I admit, bathroom I was forced to record in.  Sometimes I got really lucky and other times… not so much.  Here I will share some of the things I have learned over the years, mostly from trial and error, that will hopefully reduce some of your guesswork the next time you go to record your vocals at home.

Record your own vocals

The advent of in-expensive recording platforms for both the mac and pc has made recording on a budget or in a home studio more possible than ever… but as you have probably found, making a studio quality recording in your bedroom isn’t as easy as just plugging a microphone into your computer.

The first thing you should always consider is the room you plan to record in.  The quality of your vocal recording, and even the overall timbre of the sound that is being captured by the microphone, can vary greatly on your room’s acoustics.  Let’s take a look at a few room type “do’s and don’ts” based on size and shape.

The Room:

Perhaps the easiest mistake one can make is recording in a room that is fully symmetrical, i.e. a perfect square.  Square rooms are especially prone to “standing waves” which occurs when continuous sounds, at given frequencies, bounce off the walls surrounding the sound source and re-combine in a displeasing manner creating peaks (nodes) and nulls (anti-nodes) in sound pressure.  Standing waves are also the cause of a phenomenon known as “one-note” bass in which certain bass notes, playing for example out of your home stereo system, sound louder than others, especially when listening at different locations throughout the room.  Inversely, the very same note may sound weak or soft at other points in the room.  For those who have no other option but to record in a square room, not to worry, there are some things which I will share will you a bit later than can help combat your “squareness.”

The “ping pong” effect, which has a sound best described as a “fluttery” echo and is most easily audible following a percussive noise such as a handclap is also a common problem with just about any room with two opposing walls which are perfectly parallel.  Its effects are audible in most homes but furniture alone usually offsets it to the point that it’s not very noticeable.   The next time you are moving out of your house or apartment you might take note how much the sound of a room changes as you move your belongings out, especially furniture or floor coverings.  It can be quite dramatic!

Another room type that can be very problematic for vocal recording is just about any room with low ceilings.  Anyone who has ever recorded vocals in a standard sized basement can attest to that.  The early reflections bouncing off the overhead ceiling and creeping back into the microphone creates an instantly displeasing sound which is best described as “wish washy” or “unfocused.”  If recording vocals in a room with low ceilings is your only option, you might try sitting on a stool or chair for your takes.

For this post I will assume that most of those reading will be recording in a standard sized bedroom, or perhaps living room.  While square rooms are to be avoided if possible, a rectangular room, which is undoubtedly the most common room shape, will do just fine.

If you have the option, I recommend recording vocals in a room with carpet.  Or, as is popular in recording studios with reflective floors, you can place a throw rug directly underneath the vocalist and microphone.  This helps absorb some of the sound that would otherwise reflect back off the floor and into the microphone.

If your budget allows, you may spring for some sound absorbing panels specifically designed for sound absorption.  Most of the ones sold in music stores made of pyramid or triangular foam work great to absorb high frequencies but do practically nothing for lower frequencies.  For that, I recommend making your own wideband absorbers like the ones we made.

If you would rather do this on the cheap, then a simple solution for sound treating a room is with the use of heavy drapes or blankets hung, preferably, several inches to two feet from the wall.  Unwanted low frequencies are a common problem when recording in small rooms and they have a tendency to build-up in the corners of the room.  Consider placing sound absorbing material in the corners to help reduce this problem.  Heavy sleeping bags work pretty well for this and can be attained quite cheaply.  Pillows also work well to “kill” corners but you may have to get creative to make them stay in place on the walls.  If you have any large windows in the room, consider also closing the drapes or curtains or again simply cover the window with some sort of heavy fabric.

Stay tuned for Pt. 2 of this post in which I will be sharing with you tips on microphones, mic placement, as well as some basic vocal recording techniques.

In the meantime, I would like to hear some of your experiences with recoding vocals.  Leave us a comment below!

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Phase 1 studio renovation complete!

As we mentioned in the last blog post, the last (and most challenging) step was to deal with the large main room, bathroom and kitchen.
We started with the bathroom by having the light, fan, new toilet and faucet installed.  Then, we scrubbed the walls and floor (and the shower, just for good measure, even though it won’t be functional) and re-painted the walls.  The result?  A like-new, functional bathroom!

Trystan edging in the main room

Next it was time to do the main room.

The first task was to scrub and paint the walls.  This was a simple task but gave the room a fresh, clean, new feeling.

Next was the floor.  It was covered in carpet underlay foam and adhesive, so we decided to sand it, and either restore the original hardwoods (if possible), or to just smooth it out enough to paint it.  For this task, we rented a floor sander from Kennedy Rentals, a local Portland company.  They gave us a great deal and were super friendly, so we will definitely use them again in the future.

Floors before sanding

Before we sanded it, we scraped the largest accumulations of foam off with a large putty knife, and removed any protruding nails or staples by hand with a pliers.

Piles of foam scraped off of the floor

Once this was finished we were able to sand.  After 4 hours and 2 sheets of sandpaper, we decided that it would be too time consuming and expensive to try to restore the floors at this point in time, since even after that much sanding they still looked pretty rough.  So instead, we cleaned all the dust away and painted them gray to match the floors in the other rooms.

The last room was the kitchen, which had already been scrubbed and painted when we did the main room.  We did one more thorough mopping, patched the holes in the wall, and set up the counter.  The counter has a sink built in, but the sink is not in use yet.

Finished Kitchen

The last few finishing touches were to paint the floor in the entryway, install curtains, arrange decorations and lighting, and to sweep and mop the stairwell.

Julia painting the floor in the entry

Even though the studio is fully functional, we will be continuing to do work on it to make it even better. One of these projects which will be coming up soon is to paint the stairs and stairwell.

We have been learning a lot about our new space and it seems to have quite a history.

When the electrician was here to re-install the light in the bathroom, we discovered that what we thought was the attic is actually just the space between the original ceiling and a more recently installed drop ceiling.  The current ceilings are approximately 8 feet high, but the original ceilings would have been more like 13 feet high!

The other fact we recently became privy to is that the space we are occupying is actually comprised of what used to be 3 separate buildings which are now joined together!  The kitchen, main room, and business office are located in the first building., the mixing and tracking rooms are in the second building, and the bathroom is in the third building. We are trying to find any records, photos, and written histories of the building, but so far have only found one document claiming that the building was built in 1901.

The studio lit up with colorful lights

To celebrate the opening of the studio, we decided to have a Halloween/Grand Opening Party.  Fellow Portlanders and friends of Demo My Song enjoyed refreshments, music, and dancing, while touring the new space. We look forward to hosting more celebrations, art/music/cultural events, and community gatherings at the studio in the coming years!

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Building our studio rack mount and tracking room control panel

Now that the space is sound-treated here at Demo My Song and the Laetoli Music Recording Studio, we have been putting the finishing touches on the Mixing and Tracking rooms.

Remember that “cord run” we made in the wall between the mixing and tracking rooms? Well, now it is being put to use.

Screen and Computer Control Panel mounted in the Tracking Room

We ran a cord through to the tracking room and mounted a computer monitor on the wall which displays what is on the computer screen in the mixing room. This will enable a producer to easily record his own tracks in the tracking room without having to go into the mixing room to stop and start the track.

In the mixing room, Trystan created his own rack mount using a movable kitchen island/cutting board, inspired by the design found here. He drilled holes in the metal legs and affixed two rack mounts to them using four oak wooden spacers, then simply attached his gear to the rack mounts (which were left over from an old disassembled rack which was sitting around). We did end up purchasing a few bolts and other hardware, but the total cost of the project was about $10.

So now the mixing and tracking rooms are ready for action, the studio is nearing completion…though the largest room is yet to be completed.  The areas left to tackle are the large main room, kitchenette, and bathroom.  The biggest issue is the main room floor, which is covered in the same sticky foamy stuff as the entry and hallways were.

Here are a few pictures of the completed spaces

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Sound Treating the Studio

This week began the exciting task of sound treating two of the rooms in our new music recording studio, dubbed Laetoli Music Recording Studio, home to Demo My Song.

”Sound treating” a space, often confused with “sound-proofing,” is a very important way to gain more control of the acoustics in your room, usually through the use of sound absorbing panels and diffusers.

Most rooms are naturally prone, due to their shapes and sizes, to various acoustical anomalies. One such problem in mixing situations is a phenomenon known as “one note bass” in which there is one particular note in the bass register that sounds significantly louder than the others.  For example, a bassist could be playing a C major scale and then suddenly, the G note sounds twice as loud as the others.  This is due to the sound waves being produced actually bouncing off the walls and combining in an additive fashion to create a perceived increase in volume at that pitch/frequency.  Most rooms are prone to this problem and the exact frequency (i.e. note/register) at which it occurs varies based on their size and shape.

Bass Traps mounted in corners above mixing desk

A common solution for this problem, and one that we have employed in our new studio, is low frequency and wideband absorbers.  Low frequency absorbing panels may also be referred to as “bass traps.”  We began with the mixing room.  Luckily we had already assembled all of the panels themselves as they were initially built and installed in our previous studio in Langley, Washington.

Frequencies in the bass range tend to “build up” in the corners of the room so it is common to attempt to “kill” your corners with sound absorbing material.  Pictures below show both home made versions of such panels as well as ones purchased specifically for that purpose.

A Helmholtz Resonator

Store Bought Bass Trap

We also built and installed a pair of  “helmholtz resonators” in the “Orange Room” which are designed to absorb low frequencies while deflecting higher ones.  They are finished with untreated Western Red Cedar 1×4’s which gives the “Orange Room” a distinctly sweet aroma reminiscent of a sauna.

The next thing we installed was high frequency foam panels (begrudgingly purchased from Guitar Center.)  I find it’s easy to make the mistake of using “too many” of these types of panels rendering your space so devoid of reflective wall space that it sounds unnaturally “flat” or “dry.”  The extreme example of this effect would be an anechoic chamber, which is so “dry” (i.e. without any natural reflection) that people often describe the experience of walking into one as “nauseating.”  This is because our equilibrium relies partially on the ability to interpret our surroundings from sound reflecting back to us (just like bats and their ability to navigate), so it’s easy to be thrown off balance when suddenly, we perceive no reflection of sound at all!

In order to have some flexibility in how much high frequency absorptive material was being used at any given time we developed a simple system for mounting the foam that lends itself well to various applications.  The system involves stringing two strands of bailing wire (used for it’s affordability) in parallel between a pair of brass hooks (see pics below).  With this system panels can be added or taken out as needed and need not be glued directly to the wall which is great!… because you can use them again and again.

This technique also worked great on the ceiling at our old studio .

Panels on Ceiling of OLD studio in Langley, WA

The only panels we have yet to install in the “Orange Room” are the pair of semi-cylindrical poly diffusers.  These two units were also built while at our previous studio space and the design came directly out of How to build a small budget recording studio from scratch…with 12 tested designs written by Mike Shea and F. Alton Everest, which is a great resource for those building their own recording studio.  We will mount them soon but haven’t yet decided where they will be best placed.

Another great idea we picked up from the aforementioned book involves the use of garden trays.  They are built from standard square gardening trays (the ones with the perforated bottoms, widely available for free at places like wal-mart and home-depot) and are filled with two layers of ¾ inch owens corning 705 rigid fiberglass insulation.  Between the gardening tray’s perforated bottom and the panels of 705 is a layer of fabric which serves not only to keep the irritating fibers concealed, but also give you an opportunity to get creative with various designs and patterns.  When completed the panels are fixed directly to the wall or ceiling with 4 small screws.  Below is a pic of the panels we installed in the “Red Room.”

Panels made from garden trays

Cords going through cord run

Lastly, we installed a cord “run” so that it was easy to share mic and computer cords between the Red and Orange Room.  This was built of a 6 inch section of 4 inch diameter ABS black plastic pipe.  We were surprised to find when we cut into the wall that, rather than cutting into a traditional wall cavity, we actually cut into an old doorway which had been “walled” over at some point in the past.  We cut the hole in the wall first with a drill with a 1 inch diameter, then completed the hole with a jig-saw.  After inserting the pipe we caulked the edges on both sides… voila!

Stay tuned for more exciting updates on our studio building progress.

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Studio Progress

Hello loyal readers!

It has been a few weeks since we started working, and the studio is shaping up nicely.

We have thoroughly cleaned and painted the mixing room, tracking room, and one room that will serve temporarily as our business office, but we will eventually be turning it into another recording room.

The mixing and tracking rooms were quite easy.  The tracking room was the first thing we tackled, and all it needed was a fresh coat of paint on the walls and floors.  The mixing room was next, and was equally easy.  It required a little bit of spackle to fill some holes in the walls, and again a fresh coat of paint.

Next came the floors in the  hallway connecting the mixing and tracking rooms. They were covered in linoleum which must have previously had carpet on it, so it was covered in carpet glue and foam.  Trystan ripped the linoleum out and painted the floor grey to match the floors in the tracking and mixing rooms.  The floor in the entrance to the studio was also covered in the same glue and foam.  For several hours Trystan sanded this section of floor, with the intention of restoring the hardwood floors, but eventually decided to paint the floor grey so that it would match the floor in the rest of the studio.

Then finally we cleaned up the room for the business office, painted it, and put in the furniture and office supplies.

In the coming weeks we will be sound treating the mixing room, which we have decided to dub the “Red Room”, and the tracking room, which we have dubbed the “Orange Room”.  We will be using wide band absorbers, a pair of Helmholtz resonators, bass traps, high frequency absorbing panels, and semi-cylindrical poly-diffusers.

Here are some pictures of what we have been up to.  Enjoy!

-The Demo My Song Team

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We're Building a New Studio

The Demo My Song team has been busy these past few weeks, not only producing high quality music tracks, but also moving to Portland, Oregon and expanding our studio!

Located in Southeast Portland, the new studio, which will be known as Laetoli Music Recording Studio, is approximately 1,000 square feet.  When completed it will have three tracking rooms, in addition to a mixing room and vocal booth.  Our goals for the new studio will be to provide a facility for our new record company, and to greatly expand our musician/vocalist roster, and ultimately create an “in-house” band (larger roster of musicians and vocalists means faster turnaround time).

Other key new features of our studio will include a new piano and vintage Wurlitzer organ.  Stay tuned for pictures and exciting updates as we build the new studio!

We are very excited to show you all the new space, so watch for pictures of our progress.  We are also excited to be expanding and will be celebrating the completion of the space with some great deals on our production packages and services!  You can stay updated by reading this blog, Facebook, or Twitter and be the first to see the studio and take advantage of some great savings.

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Using Social Media to Promote Your Music

We are witnessing a golden age for independent musicians.  The industry had historically been directed by record labels; putting the careers of musicians and songwriters at the mercy of massive, soulless entities.  Artists are now able to make their music directly available to the public, putting the power in the hands of fans rather than companies.

This can mean fabulous opportunities for aspiring musicians, but it also means a greater saturation of the market.  There are countless online venues for fans to hear and purchase music, but when the listener has so much to choose from, how do you make yours stand out?  Knowing which sites to use and how to make the most of them is the secret to success in the ever-growing online marketplace.

First let’s address the Big Four.

Facebook – If you haven’t already, you need to sign up to create your personal profile and musician fan page.  It’s free and relatively easy to do.  Facebook has over 400 million users worldwide, spending more than 500 billion minutes on Facebook per month.  Pretty impressive.  The site gives you the ability to get your music and your name out to the entirety of this broad-ranging audience.  You can also inform your fans of upcoming shows and releases, interact with them on an individual basis, and offer them exclusive content.  Facebook is also easily integrated with other social media sites.  If you are looking for free and easy sources of online exposure, Facebook is one of the first places to look.

MySpace – Although Facebook has overtaken MySpace as the number one social networking site; MySpace is still a great resource for musicians.  You can make your music readily accessible to anyone online by setting up a Music Profile and uploading your tracks directly through their music player.  You can easily customize your profile, and gather a large fan base, as well as network with other musicians.  MySpace also offers a handy Tour Calendar to show your fans where and when you’ll be playing, and how they can purchase tickets online.

Twitter – Another free online resource, Twitter is a type of microblogging tool mixed with a social networking site.  Fans who are interested in getting your latest news can become your follower on Twitter.  It allows you to send updates, called “tweets”, to your followers, using posts of 140 characters.  You can connect to your fans by letting them know tidbits about your personal life, or give them information on events.

YouTube – A public bank of user-submitted videos.  Using simple software, such as Windows Movie Maker, you can create your own music video using your tracks and images of your choosing.  Create something kitschy or unique, and it could go viral literally overnight.

These guys are massively influential tools that, once mastered, can prove to be successful in helping you to promote yourself.  As an artist/musician/songwriter, you may be looking for more ways for your music to be heard.  There is an ever growing number of resources available to the independent musician; here are 5 tools for the independent musician from Mashable, an online blog specializing in social media.

Going back to the beginning of this article, you may be wondering, with over 400 million users on Facebook, how am I ever going to get my page noticed?  While it can be overwhelming with a lot of clutter and white noise, the fans you’ll need to be successful heavily use these tools.

First of all you need to make sure you have a recognizable and eye catching profile photo, up to date contact information, a way for fans to hear your music, links to your other social media profiles as well as a link to your band/artist website.

Staying active and fresh is huge.  If you aren’t posting on a regular basis, you won’t register on your fans radar.  You need to be posting fresh content at least once a day to keep followers engaged.  Be mindful to keep your posts concise and to the point, but at the same time eye-catching, interesting, and useful.  Fans love to hear about exciting news, events and activities.

In blogger and social media PR extraordinaire Miss Destructo’s post about using social media to your advantage, a key focus is offering content that is only accessible if users become a fan or follow you via social networking sites.  This could be the location of a secret show, a downloadable new track or special remix, web chat or online stream of a live performance.  You could also give fans incentives such as discounts when purchasing tracks or your latest CD.

Keeping your fans engaged is vital to successfully utilizing social media.  It can help them find you and your music without having to go through a long-armed label with a highly targeted audience.  It takes a little bit of effort and upkeep, but if you stay diligent and active, you can make social media, and your fans, work for you.

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