We’re excited to announce that Phil Taggart will be running exclusive one-to-one career development sessions for our WaterBear students.
Phil has been a champion of new music on his Radio 1 show for years, he runs his own record label, presents the UK’s biggest music podcast, Slacker, and recently released his book ‘Slacker Guide to the Music Industry’ which helps new musicians navigate the world of releasing music.
He knows his stuff. And it’s fair to say he is the man any upcoming musician wants to get in front of and pick his brains one on one. So we’re thrilled we can provide our students with the opportunity to do exactly that!
Our first round of Phil Taggart's Career Clinics will be taking place next week.
Welcome to our new People of WaterBear series. A chance for you to get to know more about the industry veterans you'll learn from at WaterBear. Asking everything from how they got started, their inspirations, lessons from working in music and much more.
First in our series is Head of Guitar, Sam Bell, a leading UK session guitarist and educator.
When I was 5/6 years old, I was obsessed with early Rock’n’Roll and I saw the West End Production of the Buddy Holly story. I love the show, but I was more pre-occupied by the musicians recreating the sound of the music I’d listened to on my parents' vinyl player at home. It was magic! I wanted to do that. I started writing cheesy little songs, playing for family & friends. I'm still doing that now!
Life in general! I love being in nature, I love 90’s video games, I love abstract art and comedy. Musically, I’m really into what top session players get up to, how they can be creative under pressure. I keep going back to Hendrix, Paul Gilbert, Vai, Tame Impala and Talking Heads. It's cheesy to say that I love all music, but I can find something I enjoy in most genres as long as it's got heart.
I write tunes for progressive metal band Mask of Judas - we have an album called ‘The Mesmerist’ which I’m proud of. It's very over-the-top 8-string guitar stuff. I’ve also released my own singles/EP’s of progressive instrumental guitar music. A few years ago, I made a low-fi synthwave-inspired EP called ‘The Earth Completes Another Rotation’. I’ve also been involved in creating lesson courses for LickLibrary. This is always fun; last year I taught a course on Rush’s ‘Moving Pictures’ album. Previously I’ve made courses featuring Paul Gilbert, Paganini’s 16th Caprice on Guitar, 7-String Guitar Secrets, Tapping Arpeggios and much more. I'm currently creating a course on David Lee Roth’s ‘Eat 'Em and Smile’. I’ve played many guest solos on various people’s albums, mostly in the Instrumental Metal/Rock genre. And I’ve done many sessions from home for all kinds of things - from Rock Operas to Singer Songwriters. I love it. I also helped structure the Guitar Techniques course for WaterBear!
I’ve been fortunate to have had some wonderful times in music. To be honest, I’m always proud of the people I get to play with, hearing how it all comes together. I feel lucky to play and work with some wonderful people. That’s what I’m proud of. One moment personally that took me back a bit was getting the job at LickLibrary. Andy James got me in to do some 8-string stuff for the magazine. From that moment my career changed a lot. He was very kind to give me that opportunity.
One of my tutors in my early 20’s was a fantastic player and all-round super gentleman Paul Bielatowicz. He put me forward to Bruce in the very early days of the creation of WaterBear. Meeting Bruce and learning about his vision for WaterBear was very refreshing; I’ve learnt a lot from Bruce. I love the vibe of the whole thing and I love being part of this amazing team. It’s a huge honour. The students are wicked, they keep me on my toes. They always introduce me to new music and ask really insightful questions. The standard of player these days is fantastic. It's an honour to play a small role in helping students on their musical journeys.
There was a time that I had drunk so much Matcha Tea before a show (I had previously done a 500-mile round trip as designated driver) that when I went on stage, after the curtains opened, I couldn’t move my feet or legs! I couldn’t feel my heart beating and everything was super slow. I thought I was passing out! Don’t overdo the caffeine!
Deep down I feel as though there is going to be a huge return of live music after this pandemic has passed. People are thirsty for it. The shows might be in smaller venues, there may still be restrictions. But I think everyone is going to appreciate it much more. It's going to mean more to a lot of people here in the UK.
Michael Sembello – ‘Bossa Nova Hotel’. He wrote ‘Maniac’ (which is on that album). He learnt guitar from Pat Martino, who wrote a bunch of stuff for Michael Jackson, George Benson and many others. He played guitar on Stevie Wonder's ‘Songs in the Key of Life’.
Big thanks to Sam Bell! Check out our unique departments and other amazing tutors here.
As musicians or artists, we’ve all felt a feeling of longing to be able to fulfil our wish-list of equipment, productivity tools and furniture to create our ideal home studio at whatever the cost. More than ever we are looking through the window into other peoples homes, lifestyles and practices, and making impairing reference to our own lives.
There’s an intimidating amount of articles online detailing Home Studio Essentials, The Top 10 Hardware Synthesisers You Need Right Now!!, 14 Ways To Increase Productivity At Home, but I really believe there’s a more important elementary holistic process to go through before the practical advice in these becomes easy to separate, and potentially ignore. In this article I want to challenge the perception that somebody else is going to be able to tell you how to approach creativity at home and influence the mechanics of the space in which you do so. It’s likely you’ve already got everything you need.
Let’s look at the terminology. Almost all definitions of a studio suggest that it’s a separate room designed for work and creative practice. For many of us, I’m certain a dedicated environment is an opulent and unachievable goal, and through time various spaces in our homes have had to sustain multi-disciplinary activities; to this day my kitchen table functions as the production suite.
During your studies, you’re likely to come across or have encountered already the structure of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which details a five tier model of human needs, from physiological up to self-actualised. Some of the basic and physiological needs (including food, water, warmth, security, resources etc.) may seem self-evident to talk about, but I think it’s important to reinforce their place when it comes to supporting and sustaining creativity. They strengthen the importance of home in the term ‘home studio’, that it’s an adaptable space and that your creative endeavours are going to be built on solid foundations.
Firstly, I think it’s fundamental we become comfortable with both the present and future function of a home studio. Try and transport yourself to where you might be in a few years times based on the opportunities you see opening up for you, or where you’d hope to be. If you see the bulk of your work being realised in recording and rehearsal facilities, then you may want to consider the focus of your space to be a source of inspiration and a place to explore new ideas, of which you’ll then continue in external environments. Is there anything you can change about your current set up to support changes in the future? Unused equipment…unused space?
For me, the primary function of my creative space is to be able to very quickly explore ideas. Minimal waiting, loading, patching….whether that’s to satisfy capturing ideas with immediacy, or squeezing creative time around other demands of home life.
This is a very personal list you’re going to make, and not one I’m looking to influence and the items within it. The purpose of asking yourself this is just to distinguish between wants and needs. If I spend enough time looking at Instagram of a day, I guarantee I can convince myself I need a certain pair of monitors, or a valve pre-amp…but honestly, for me…the bulk of my work has never deviated outside of laptop, interface and speakers….and I really intend to keep it that way. It promotes flexibility and mobility in my set-up which is what I need in my adaptable creative space. Make sure you have a firm grasp on what is essential, and that it’s not dictated by others.
Further from the basic and physiological needs I referenced earlier, there’s some important factors to consider to help us sustain creativity at home.
Firstly, separating your environments is worth considering. If you’re able to make space to be creative and work outside of your bedroom, I hugely recommend it. In my experience, associating my bedroom with work and productivity only served to effect my quality of sleep and sleeping patterns, and when you start to go down this road this will start to effect the quality of your work, which further reinforces meeting those basic needs.
Secondly, take a moment to consider the visual stimulus in your creative environment, these being items from which you draw inspiration or motivation. How does your current environment make you feel? Is there anything you could change that would empower you to feel more creative? For me, it’s just natural light and sitting close to a window that aids that process. In the past I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a Brighton sea view in my home creative space while writing music, but at the moment the view from my space is north facing, and watching the incoming weather roll off the South Downs and over the city is a really exciting a new source of inspiration.
It’s a minefield out there. Stay focused on your personal journey through it. Try and make purchasing decisions objectively, not subjectively. Sitting with these thoughts an ideas, you’ll likely build a heightened appreciation for your current set-up, and explore the different applications it can offer.
As a final thought, I see many artists becoming increasingly more aware of the environmental impact of their work. If you’re looking to further the conversation in this article, maybe ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to meet the requirements of the environmentally conscious artist we should all be aiming to be. Some very simple first steps could be considering how to save energy, buying second hand equipment and furniture, and sharing equipment for recording purposes in
For more advice in setting up your own home studio get in touch.
Hello, I'm Ade Dovey and I have worked in the Venue and Live Music Industry for over 15 years. My professional background has focused on developing new venues to launch into the market. Mainly grassroots venues operated by independent companies and/or via third party teams such as promoters who managed venues alongside stakeholders, shareholders and private landlords.
In the build-up to the pandemic, I had moved from the multi-venue grassroots sector to coordinate events, content and live music in the Arena and Theatre venue realm overseeing various North West and North East locations such as Manchester Arena, Newcastle Utilita Arena, Leeds First Direct Arena, Aberdeen P&J Live Arena and Bonus Hull Arena (operated by ASM Global formerly SMG Europe). Within this role, I would be responsible to programme sustainable and financially viable events up to 21,000 Capacity. Ranging from Popular Artists, Sporting Events, Comedy, Live Cinema with Classical Soundtracks.
Before this, I coordinated many venues including Manchester’s Albert Hall, Gorilla and The Deaf Institute (for the company Mission Mars). These venues focused purely on contemporary bands and DJs in and around 750 events a year over 200,000 ticket-buying customers in and out as well as being responsible as ‘Head of Programming’ managing a team of 10 professionals who coordinated ticketing, social media, support artists, administration, production and club events.
The main goals and objectives with working in one or multiple venues (as the main principles apply for one up to several) is to achieve a healthy calendar/diary system and point of contact for all departments in the event booking universe. In order to visualise this, you tend to adopt the mindset that if your venue had arms, hands, a nucleus and the ability to communicate well, then that is you as the programming manager. On a daily basis, you will be networking constantly and consistently with external promoters both locally and nationally ranging from new promoters and local allies up to Live Nation, Kili Live, DHP Concerts, AEG and more. At the same time, you will be coordinating many valuable and intricate threads of details in ticketing, marketing, production (Sound and Lights), logistics, tour managers, event reps (show contact), drivers, local authorities, venue teams and staff as well as additional stakeholders (finance, business owners, IT, local press, interns, student union, human resources and more depending on the business model).
As a programming manager, the communication or systematic approach to having a healthy diary system is dependent on the quality of your resources. This includes contacts within the local music scene, national scene and band/talent knowledge and is essential you have motivation and a ‘mission statement’ followed by a plan knowing what audiences you want to attract based on your venues appeal and target demographic. It’s vital that your initial aim is to know what is to be expected of the quality of your booking approach so you can build and build on attracting the right promoters, booking agents and artists so that you create a vibrant cultural seasonal/annual listings which open the doors to more bookings.
With technology forever expanding and goalposts moving it’s essential to focus on your tone and language online and in each establishment in order to speak to your audience and relate in order to not just book the right bands but to make sure it’s financially viable and within budget in order to obtain a sustainable and economically sound business model. Some venues are natural at developing this from the launch, however some older venues who want to adapt might struggle and require the right team and skilled staff to advance in the competitive market.
It’s also worth to note not all venues have adequate budget to employ resourceful staff and (as I have experienced personally) you might be doing a lot of the work yourself and once successful, usually after financial year 2, you can progress to outsource an assistant or reliable ticketing and social media staff. It’s very rare for one individual to be able to programme, production manage, ticket manage and be an expert on social media and often the dilemma is due to time management as the live bookings industry rarely slows down and you will need to be able to respond and communicate well with composure without taking a breath or even being able to put the kettle on.
Generally, you are at peak performance and business 9-10 months of the year and utilise the other two quieter touring periods to refresh your systems, analyse your approach and coordinate opportunities for the next busy year. The touring season tends to start from September and slow down just before Christmas, the NYE section is often quiet for bands but a great time to create business with DJ events. January is regarded as an admin month but a very busy period follows February into June. Festival season often counteracts the summer months programming but allows you to prepare for student return and making sure you’re booked up every prime day (Weds-Sat) and often battle out the calendar dates available with your reliable independent promoters.
You might be thinking, how do I become a programmer? Where do you start? My advice would be to integrate with your local favourite venue and knock on their door or direct contact online about being interested in shadow experience at an event and/or offer your services for a period of time as an intern. There are many roles within a small or large venue organisation and often the case most venue programmers are found and recognised from having multiple experiences within the live sector but personality, trust and eye for detail are often your most recognisable attributes to an employer. But first and foremost is the drive, passion and love for music and making the venue a home for the day to all touring artists and touring personnel and making sure you have good relationship skills with all industry colleagues.
Whether you’re an artist trying to make a career in music or someone who wants to step into an alternative role within the music business, having both short-term and long-term goals will help you have a better chance of success. It’ll also prevent you and your business from becoming obsolete. Success is not always measured by profitability, it can also be measured by opportunities and how strong your network is, and beginning with the latter is arguably more crucial than the former to get ahead in the game.
The music industry is currently facing unprecedented times, so it’s important to remain astute and reactive to rapidly changing circumstances. Even without a worldwide pandemic, the music industry is an ever-changing and ever-evolving beast, there to trick you and lure you into a false sense of security before the next landscape change. I’m here to provide a few pointers on how independent artists can future-proof their music career, capitalise on alternative revenue streams and be able to stand resilient in the face of unforeseen adversity.
When we talk about future-proofing, we talk about creating something that is designed to be sustainable or easily adapted in terms of maintaining success. This involves planning ahead, much like I described in my former blog “Top tips on how to self-manage your band”. Planning ahead in this case can involve education, networking, building a name for yourself, having transferable skills, locking in future activities and always being two steps ahead.
Times like these can either make or break an artist, and it’s important to distinguish the differences between artists who have the infrastructure to withstand having their revenue streams limited vs those who don’t.
Planning will always be an integral part of any band’s success, and as far as business models go, it’s important to look to the future and to set SMART Goals [Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound]. Having these will really allow you to have something to work towards but also something to look back on in years to come. This way you can assess whether or not you carried out everything you said you would.
An example of a SMART goal can be to play twice as many shows in 2022 than you will in 2021 (I was going to say 2020 but the joke wrote itself). That is already specific and measurable. It is achievable if you book the shows in advance and it’s a realistic goal if you have a new album cycle that creates demand and opportunity for a busier touring schedule.
A lot of established artists may have a 3-5 year plan based around their current and future album cycles, international touring plans, promotional activities etc. When looking at your own plans you should at least dissect your timeline to one that is relevant for you. For an independent artist I would recommend a 1-2 year business plan mapping out both controllable and possible uncontrollable factors (this is a popular marketing term and can be applied to all business models). A controllable factor for instance is when you choose to release your album, and at what price, and when you choose to book a run of tour dates to promote the album. An uncontrollable factor is Covid-19 decimating the economy and shutting down the live industry, meaning that fans may no longer have money to support you for the time being, and your accompanying tour dates being cancelled as a result. That hurt to write.
In order to prepare yourself for the future it’s crucial to spend some time focusing on the development of your profile, your reputation, and your audience. Over time, your network, those loyal fans, those business cards you picked up at gigs, conferences and festivals will turn themselves into opportunities. Those opportunities will then transform into a revenue stream and the more you have, the more options you have to explore or develop when things don’t go to plan and certain revenue streams (such as live gigs) have been cut off.
An example of how your network can help you generate profitable opportunities is by having good relations with a label who can cut you a deal with a good advance and further your reach, or having a good rapport with a publisher who can help land you sync opportunities. Other examples include knowing an agent who can get you a tour with a good fee or you may know a good manufacturing company who produces high quality merch at a good price so you can sell shirts with a bigger profit margin. The list goes on.
It might seem obvious, but having a strong set up in terms of social media, e-commerce and platforms for audience growth is imperative in the current landscape. Direct to consumer (D2C) in terms of music, merch and ticket sales is part of the modern evolution of the music business and should be an important part of your business model. Knowledge is power, and if you can identify where your fans are, how many of those are actively invested in your music (those who buy gig tickets, music, merch) compared to those who are passive fans (maybe they stream your music and like the odd Facebook post) then you are in a position of power.
The goal however, is always to turn those passive consumers into active ones.
Here is my check list for a future-proof set up so that you can not only maintain a fanbase, but further it during periods of no live activity and still maintain an online presence.
Covid-19 has seen a complete shutdown of the live music industry, and everyone from venue staff, bookers, promoters, managers, tour bus companies, catering companies and more have seen a complete restriction on what, for some of them, is their primary source of income. Bigger artists who pursue music as their full time profession may be a lot more dependent on live income than a developing artist who is establishing themselves in their local scene. No matter the size of the artist, we’re lucky to live in a world where opportunities can be created with the use of modern technology to see them through these times.
Musicians are currently utilising the power of social media and various other platforms such as Twitch, Beatport and Zoom to accommodate live streams, live Q&As and connect with fans during a time when they can’t tour. Now it’s time to bring the fans to YOU. It is important to be innovative and to bring the live show experience to fans in the comfort of their offices and living rooms. By having good quality audio, video and of course a mind-blowing performance (be it acoustic, full band, or just straight up acapella), now is your time to shine and capitalise on fans eager for live music.
If you have a strong fan base you may be able to warrant hosting a ticketed event, and many bands have set up concerts with streaming partners such as Veeps. However if you’re doing this more for exposure points than looking to generate money, you can host a live stream on Facebook, Instagram, Twitch etc. and maybe have a “Tip Jar” and put your PayPal address in the stream comments or description. You can also direct fans to your merch store during the stream if they wish to support you.
If some fans are unable to watch the live stream, you may keep it available for a limited time on socials as well so fans can watch again or share it with their friends. Alternatively, you can record the set and upload it to YouTube after. Lots of possibilities and different methods work for different artists and how they prefer to connect with their fans.
Over the years, accessibility and visibility of music has increased, whereas the overall ‘value’ of music has decreased for the average consumer. So let’s talk about the super fan.
Crowdfunding models have become popular in recent years and help acts to raise money to pay for a new album where they may be lacking in advances from a label, for example. However, if we move up a level from a one off payment structure, we can now look at bands who can ask their fans for repeat payments to support their activities.
Reserved for bands who have a very invested and dedicated following, a subscription model (even if only temporary) can be an interesting way to generate regular income for an artist. Musicians can utilise this platform to connect directly with their fans, offer exclusive pieces of content and opportunities other fans without a subscription cannot access. I think this model will become more popular in the future and a case study I like to refer to when talking about the Patreon model is a band called Ne Obliviscaris, who spoke with Forbes about the innovative model and how they make it work for them.
As you can see, the band has a few tiers in terms of how much you can pay per month. Patrons are given priority access to music, shows, and whatever else an artist is able to offer. This model doesn’t work for everyone, as some artists like to remain elusive or have an air of mystery about them. It means artists need to plan ahead and deliver a constant stream of content, products, opportunities and experiences on a regular basis to provide value for money, otherwise they may lose subscribers. Whether or not it is a long term solution for artists to acquire a regular ‘wage’ to help them fulfill a full time career as a musician is questionable, but it’s great to see the commitment from fans to the acts who do make it work.
In summary, there are a lot of things an independent artist can do to keep momentum up when confronted with such an uncertain future within the music industry. Future-proofing your career can put you in a better position to keep business and activities going when the world presents its challenges. When you’re ready to hit the road again, having that infrastructure passively working away in the background collecting data will allow you to see what growth you’ve been able to achieve and how many more new fans you may be able to reach when you are finally ready for that world tour!
It’s likely that with a lot of international travel bans and restrictions on large gatherings, independent music will become a more focal part of society moving forward and this is a very positive outlook for the developing artist and those just starting out a career in the music business.
Good luck and here’s to a successful future.
What makes a great band logo is a topic that's been thrown around in many a music marketing meeting. Is it the font that’s instantly eye catching? Is it the colourway or concept? Or does it boil down to how effective a logo is at truly representing the band or artist in question?
There are a multitude of expertly constructed band logos out there, designed by leading graphic design artists. However, some of the most iconic and recognisable logos in the music industry are the ones that are simple in execution and to-the-point.
When you're coming up with an idea for your band's logo, you'll need to consider how you want to come across. What do you want your band (or artist) image to say about you and your music? Remember, anything visual you put out there is an extension of your identity. So, it might not be the best idea to develop a black metal, chunky typeface for group that sounds like Maroon 5 (unless the tongue is deliberately – and firmly – in cheek).
To get started, have a concept in mind, something that is at the heart of your music that serves as a catalyst for the design. For example, when I designed some t-shirts for Rabea Massaad, premier shredder, social influencer and WaterBear guitar tutor, I ran through themes close to his heart, as well as, his music.
Rabea has a deep love for Japan and Japanese culture, so I started with the idea of having his name in Japanese. He is also born in the Year of the Dragon, so I created my own adaptation of this iconic creature incorporating a traditional style with a modern twist.
Although, these two designs are very different visually – one simple and monochromatic, the other colourful and detailed – both illustrate how looking into your subject can inspire ideas. You can see how they turned out here.
Let’s look at some examples of great band logos that have stood the test of time.
Take the Rolling Stones ‘Hot Lips’ image; probably one of the most famous music logos ever.
Designed in 1969 by art student John Pasche, the idea was to create something that conjured up the spirit of the Hindu Goddess Kali. The artist found inspiration in the feature of the mouth and charisma of band leader, Mick Jagger.
It’s an iconic symbol that represents the band without ever needing their name attached to it. Of course, it also helps that the Stones are pretty much the most famous band on the planet. But, they would have had their name with 'the mouth' to begin with as its synonymous with their on-stage performance. Due to their success and the power of artist imagery, that logo has forever been inked on to the arm of music history.
Another logo favourite is that of 80s hardcore punk band, Black Flag. It is super simple, featuring four black bars in between the font and designed to represent movement of a flag, as well as the four band members. It was created by Raymond Pettibon, brother of the band’s founding member and guitarist Greg Ginn. Pettibon was not an artist, he just drew a simple image for his brother that had meaning and understanding of the band and their music. It's a powerful image and it helped put the band firmly on the map. Consequently, it went on to be copied, parodied and homaged in popular culture from then on.
So, where do you start in terms of creating an impactful logo?
Think about the imagery and logos you like. They don’t have to be music related, just something that speaks to you personally and professionally (or catches your eye). Compile these images on to a mood board so you can get an overview of the kind of aesthetic you are aiming for. Your artist personality should be looking back at you from the page.
PINTEREST is great (and free) platform to create a mood board for this kind of activity.
Look at fonts you like from bands or artists you are inspired by, as well as other sources like brands or film posters. A good resource for visualising typefaces is Google Fonts. Just type in the name of your band, flick through the different types of fonts and see which one 'comes to life'.
Don’t overcomplicate it. Your logo will hopefully be displayed 30 feet high behind you on the Pyramid stage, but it should also work scaled down, like on a smartphone. Keep this in mind when creating the design.
Once you have decided on your image and/or font, experiment with design software. I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, but these can be pricey so here are some free online alternatives:
Now is the time to finalise your logo concept with a graphic designer. Chances are, you may have reached as far as your skills will allow. Seek out an Illustrator or Graphic Designer to put the finishing touches to your band logo. You have already done most of the hard graft yourself so that should save you some money (and time).
Don’t be daunted by the task of getting your logo perfect on first go. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. It may take a few iterations (or more). Your band logo can evolve with your music. Take my band, for example, see how our logo has subtle differences on each album we’ve released. The bones of the concept remain consistent throughout .
In my previous blog, we examined the circumstances leading to the current state of play in the music industry and the growing divide between labels and self-releasing artists. In this follow up we reflect on the way major record labels reacted to the changing environment and the state of the marketplace now.
The major labels had previously enjoyed a monopoly of the market and displayed a certain amount of arrogance at the changing digital picture. They were caught by surprise and paid a huge price – job losses, shrinking departments (Guy Hands sacked the majority of EMI’s A&R department on acquiring EMI in 2007) and ultimately a need to focus on only signing the one artist that would break through as a mass selling commodity, rather than the ten they would have signed to find them in the past. Their reaction came in a shifted business model where they look to extract more revenue from the artists income to supplement the reduced revenue from sales. So was born the ‘360 Degree Deal’, better termed ‘The Multiple Rights Deal’.
In simple terms, the 360 Degree Deal ensures the label makes money from other activities undertaken by the artist traditionally sitting outside of the remit of the label. Labels used to sell recordings. Simple! The newer structure of deal sees labels take a share of live income and often publishing in return for the investment made. Some argue they are right to do so as the declining revenue from recorded music sales was not enough to recoup large marketing spend. And whilst the label invests in the recording, the artist used to enjoy increased ticket sales and publishing revenue as a result of that investment. As Anne Harrison puts it in ‘Music, The Business’:
A record label may say to an artist - in effect - 'We cannot make enough money just from selling your records to justify the level of advances, royalties and recording costs you want us to pay. We cannot invest the kind of marketing budget this record needs because we can't make enough money from record sales alone. So, if we are going to sign/extend your record deal we can only do so on the basis that we also get a share of the money you make from other activities”. (Harrison, 2017)
Harrison was involved in such deals from very early on, negotiating the (in)famous Robbie Williams multiple rights deal with EMI in 2002. She tells us that “The record company is usually looking for a share of income from things like the artist's... sponsorship and ticket sales and publishing income if it can get it“. Percentages of each area paid to the label vary massively from 10-20% up to as much as 50%. It is important to remember that a standard first record deal at a major label will see the artist on a 15% royalty rate (Harrison. 2017). These deals are now standard fare at major labels and whilst they were heavily contested in their early days, they are now very often the only deals on offer and artists (as well as their managers who of course will see reduced income from commission as a result) have come to accept them.
However as the marketplace changes again, the argument that money cannot be made from the sale of recorded music by labels begins to feel increasingly harder to wear. Data on sales shows increased revenue coming to rights holders of recordings year on year now as they learn the new marketplace and how to work it. Furthermore, major labels dominate the playlists of Spotify and the other streaming sites. As we learned in the last blog, they are the rights holders who own 87% of the content on Spotify (Business of apps, 2020)
Here is a little insight into how they manage it.
“Outside of the Spotify staff-curated playlists, those curated by Filtr, Digster and Topsify have more visibility on the Browse pages than any other playlisting brands, individuals or labels. With these playlists, employees of Filtr, Digster and Topsify can simply log in and add tracks… the majors effectively use these playlists to pump their artists into Spotify-owned algorithmic playlists.
We can apply a similar kind of logic to our own careers. The labels’ logic was to replace declining recorded music revenue streams with multiple revenue streams. The numbers soon add up. As self-releasing artists we can do the same – we need to ensure our house is in order and the pennies that are available from ALL of our activity are being gathered in effectively. The secret now lies in the pence rather than the pounds.
Do your homework. Look at the rates per stream/download. Look at the hidden charges. Think like a label not a self-releasing artist. There are so many things we can do to improve performance and revenue coming in from sales and streaming. Homework and research is essential to develop the best relationships with distributors that effectively maximise activity and subsequently, revenue.
Rather than just registering with PRS to collect royalties for your song exploitation, play a proactive role. Upload set lists, see where the activity is happening, analyse reports, understand what leads to revenue spikes. It is crucial that we monitor our song writing activity and understand the trends and revenue coming in to ensure potential is maximised. If the time is right and the revenue is there you may attract a Music Publisher to get involved. Begin the conversations early – develop your networks in this area.
Are we collecting all revenue streams? There is income related to the exploitation of the recording as well as the song. Is our PPL registration up to date and functional? Think like a label. Who is collecting revenue from YouTube? Is our channel partnered? There are a growing number of high-quality organisations that will manage and collect neighbouring rights for us. Some distributors offer the service, so do some music publishers. Understand what is out there. Homework is key.
As mentioned in the previous blog – maximise D2C (direct to consumer) sales to ensure profit is maximised. The simple equation to understand here is the following:
CWF + RTB = £
Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy = Revenue
Give the fans interesting things to buy, treat them well, allow them to spend as little as they want – but also as much as they want. The true fan will buy everything you offer. Simply put; if you don’t offer it, they can’t buy it!
There are a growing number of revenue streams developing in the digital world. Which ones work for you and are you exploiting them fully? To name but a few; subscription platforms, teaching platforms, sync agencies, etc . Understand your brand and what avenues will work for you.
At the time of writing we are in the depths of COVID-19 lockdown. The live scene has changed forever… we just don’t know quite how yet. It has the potential to place the DIY artist in a powerful position, so watch this space.
- ‘Water bear’ is the common name for a Tardigrade.
- Tardigrades are micro creatures, found everywhere on earth.
- They are the most resilient creatures known.
- They can survive and adapt to their surroundings, even in outer space.
- Their resilience and ability to adapt and survive inspires us in everything we do. We love them.