Sarah Sharp is a talented songwriter, music supervisor, and the lead singer of the Austin-based Jitterbug Vipers. I chatted with her about music licensing, marketing tactics, and standing out in Austin’s crowded music scene.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Sarah. Your Hypebot article “Tips On Getting Your Music Licensed” is a fantastic, practical resource on the world of music licensing.
What spurred you to write it?
Hi Wes! I’ve been working with Cyber PR for the release of our Jitterbug Vipers album and they pitched the idea to Hypebot. I enjoyed writing it and now it’s helpful when anyone approaches me for advice, because I can start by sending them the article.
You recommend going to film festivals. What are you favorites?
Well, I go to Austin film festival, because that’s where I live and it’s awesome. Ten years ago, my band played at a fundraiser for the festival and they gave me a badge. I made the most of it and by the end of the festival, stumbled into my first music supervisor job. That was just from having really enthusiastic conversations about how there is no end to the awesome indie music that my friends make.
The Jitterbug Vipers just played that The Hollywood Film Fest and made some amazing friends who have so many cool film projects in the works. I get so inspired when people manage to make a great film. It’s a lot more complicated than making a good album.
You advocate a relationship-based, face-to-face method of building a network of music supervisors. What do you think of online licensing services?
I have had luck with Crucial Music. They have placed several songs for me. They are very selective. No matter who you are, each song goes through a lengthy process for them to take it on. They re-title the songs, so they get the publishing only on the particular placement that they procure, but you still own the song and it’s non-exclusive.
Where does music licensing fit into your marketing plan? How does it work with other marketing tactics?
Licensing is the biggest tactic. So many careers have been taken to a completely new level by one awesome song placement. The Jitterbug Vipers album is so new, we are just starting to get it out there. I gave a ton of CDs and downloads away at the Austin and Hollywood film fests. I only give them to people who are genuinely interested and with whom I’ve connected in a way that I can stay in touch. I don’t just walk around passing out CDs.
Our other tactics are to keep playing all the time, get into bigger festivals, raise our profile every way we can. We are trying to conjure a new music video asap.
The Jitterbug Vipers’ social networks are not only active; they have a good level of fan engagement. Tell me about your social strategy.
We mostly tweet quotations of things that get said on stage. It’s usually naughty. We have a lot of inside jokes, mantras, mission statements. Anytime something really funny happens, the band will say “Twit that!” or “That just came out of my twit.” All the band members post in our Facebook and Twitter accounts, so you never know what you’re going to get.
The 1930′s swing rock vibe permeates everything from the name “Jitterbug Vipers” to artwork to the actual music. Any advice on consistent branding for musicians?
Oh, good question! We didn’t really formulate our consistent brand. We have played 200+ shows a year for the last 4 years and our own little culture and distinct identity have evolved out of the fact that we adore each other and it’s a big love fest on stage and the fact that we live in Austin, Texas, where there are thousands of bands.
Out of necessity, we have figured out a way to distinguish ourselves. You have to do something that makes people want to show up on a night when there are over 100 other bands they could go see. We have a ton of fun and we can get as crazy as the audience wants us to get.