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Congratulations and welcome, you’ve been appointed as your band’s manager! It’s common practice for a lot of bands to self-manage until they are at a point whereby their income and level of responsibility become too much, and they have to nominate a manager. Different managers have different styles and strengths and you’ll come to realise over time what works best for your band.  Some bands have great business acumen, others don’t, but if you apply the below you’ll be closer to your desired level of career progression.

Prepare a marketable product for release

Sound good!

A top priority for any successful music release is having a high quality and marketable product. When creating your release, ensure that the standard of audio production and songwriting is at a professional level and if need be, research producers or mix and mastering engineers that can polish off your product to help it reach its potential. You may need to invest here, but it’s a long term investment and you want to start as you mean to go on. Some producers may do deals for independent artists so don’t be afraid to ask. Even just having a reputable mastering engineer to add the finishing touches can change the perception of how your music is regarded, as if they are willing to be a part of your team it shows that the music is good enough for them to contribute to. This can also be used as a  Unique Selling Point (USP) when targeting industry.

Look good!

In addition to the music, ensure that the visual elements such as graphic design, artwork, music videos and photoshoots are reflective of the branding and message that you wish to promote as an artist. Ensure that your branding and up to date information is unanimous across all of your social media, as people should be able to identify which band you are in by looking at the visuals.

Plan ahead and strategise for optimum results

How long do I need?

Around 3-6 months ahead of release, it’s time to start preemptively reaching out to collaborators to help you get the most out of your music. Keep a track of these people and their responses, as it is important to start building your network and familiarise people with your music. Don’t be afraid to follow up if they haven’t responded within a week.

Who should be on my team?

It’s important to build good relationships with companies who help build the infrastructure for your release. You may have a recommendation from a friend’s band about a good merch or CD/Vinyl manufacturing company that they use regularly. Maybe you heard about a great music videographer who can not only help with music videos but also making some more online content for a good price. You may want to hire a PR person to reach out to the media, or to engage the services of a booking agent to book you an album launch tour. This is the time to get your house in order and get the mundane tasks out of the way so that your release has the best chance of success from hereon.

How do I keep all of the information organised?

My preferred way of planning for a forthcoming campaign is to compile everything in a Google Drive folder and to share this with all of the team. This can be everything from a release schedule, to promo photos, Audio files, lyrics, video content and a document outlining every blog, magazine or promoter you’ve contacted so you can keep track of responses.

It is imperative that you identify who your existing and also projected audience is. This will enable you to effectively outsource work to appropriate companies or to take the time to prepare relevant content and contacts for you to proactively reach out to.

What if we have limited funds?

Delegation of tasks within the band camp is a good way to save money. By acknowledging individual members’ strengths and weaknesses and being resourceful,  can be especially helpful for bands with limited access to funding.

There are various grants available to help up and coming artists develop and the main one I recommend is the PRS Momentum Fund.

As a developing manager, you may be inclined to look at the MMF Accelerator Programme, which is targeted at managers who have a proven track record of success but could use some assistance in terms of funding, training and mentoring. The programme is for a year.

Implement your release strategy

Once you have your plan and if applicable, team in place, you can start creating and scheduling content for social media to maintain momentum throughout your campaign.

Plan a release schedule that keeps up momentum and base it around key announcements like a new single, album pre-orders, a tour announcement or an exciting activity that the band is undertaking. Have engaging content to back up the announcements and ensure your team is all on board with pushing each announcement to get as wide a reach as possible.

Focus on time management and organisation

Releasing an album and meeting the expectations you have for your release can be a very stressful process. It is important that you time manage effectively and organise yourself so that you don’t become overwhelmed from being a part of both the creative and business undertakings.

Ensure your webstore and digital distribution is set up ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it. Register your songs on PRS. If you’ve managed to obtain a distribution deal or a record deal, it is important that you either become savvy with the deal points or appoint a lawyer to ensure the deal is a good one.

Setting aside time to be proactive and focus on tasks such as ordering merch in a timely manner,  label pitches, agent pitches, festival pitches or looking for blogs to cover your release is a good use of your time. In the early stages of your career, it’s better to be proactive than reactive, as a lot of the time YOU need to generate opportunities, and not wait for them to come to you. This still stands for even more established bands.

Are there any resources you recommend?

My go-to for all things Music Industry is Ann Harrison’s book ‘Music: The Business’.

If you’re keen to become a beacon of music industry knowledge then this book has everything you need to know (in theory, anyway; it’s up to you to put the info into practice and build your experience).

If you’re serious about a career in management then I would advise joining the MMF (Music Managers Forum), who are a body of active music managers that hold meet-ups, networking events, and training and mentoring sessions for artist managers. These events give you the opportunity to constantly learn and evolve as a manager and stay up to date with developments within the industry.

Don’t lose sight of why you write music in the first place

Some musicians are able to successfully self-manage for a long time and others may need to step back in case of a conflict of interest happenstance. It is important to not fear asking for advice or help or to gain a clear overview of whether you are the best person to manage your act.

Meaningful relationships built along the way will only stand you in positive stead, and if and when it is time for someone else to take over the reigns, perhaps you already have someone in mind who you have worked closely with.

A fundamental part of being in a band is to not lose sight of why you write music in the first place. Sometimes the fun can be overshadowed when business interests override creativity, so be sure to take time to enjoy and be proud of your achievements.

Working towards a common goal and ensuring each band member is valued for their input (including yours) will help keep up the enthusiasm and motivation to achieve your goal.

Believe in your art and believe in yourself! Good luck.

If you’re a gigging musician, you are probably starting to feel the strain. Your livelihood is all about entertaining the public at gatherings, or at festivals or live music venues, and most opportunities have more or less dried up due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeing major festivals being postponed, we’re seeing pubs and restaurants being closed and even the small intimate gigs at coffee shops and clubs are gone. Social distancing is the new norm to stop the spread of the virus. 

Things are going to be very different for (at least) the next few months irrespective of where you are on the spectrum of nonchalance to panic. As a musician, you’re either choosing to, or being forced to, take a significant financial loss for the good of the larger public. 

What can you do to survive during this time? 

Well, in addition to the other WaterBear blogs in the Musicians Guide series, you can take the following steps to conserve cash. The old maxim “Cash is King” is hugely relevant right now. 

What support schemes are out there for self-employed musicians? 

Temporary changes to benefits have made it easier for musicians to apply. 

Hardship Funds being implemented for musicians facing genuine hardship. 

Health and welfare with financial assistance offered by organisations. 

Reassurance and support services. 

There will also be many more. So now you’ve got time on your hands, do some research. Keep up to date with the government website as things are changing fast. Maybe consider watching the live news conference at around 5pm everyday to get the real news - avoid fake news on social media for your mental wellbeing. 

What can you do differently to conserve cash?

As a gigging musician, you are already probably very good at managing tight budgets so carry on with that. At a time when hoarding and rationing is the norm, it seems strange to encourage thriftiness, but it can be a means of survival.

Review all your expenses and identify what can be postponed or stopped.

Mortgage or rent – get in touch with your lender or landlord and ask about payment holidays or reduced payments during these times. With mortgage lenders offering mortgage holidays even for buy to let mortgages, most landlords should be in a position to provide some assistance.

Council tax and services – contact your suppliers and again agree a holiday or reduced payments. I know that this creates a future debt but once things get better the economy will bounce back. Hopefully it will be quick, as people have been locked down for some time and want to go out and be entertained.

Credit cards, banking and loans – contact your financial suppliers and ask about delayed or reduced payments. Can you get a coronavirus business interruption loan guaranteed by the government for your business?

Household expenses – draconian times require draconian measures so you should look to reduce your intake of non-necessity items such as alcohol, tobacco/vape juice, crisps/chocolate and snacks. Teach yourself to bake bread, and other food stuffs using basic and cheap ingredients – you’ve got the time and it’s fun and rewarding to eat something you’ve made for a few pence!

Running out of cash?

Cash in hand – how much cash do you have?

In a spreadsheet (or “old school” it with paper and pen), work out what you will need each week after you have deployed some or all of the foregoing. You’re now creating a budget for the next few weeks. How long will your cash last and when do you need to worry about running out?

Sources of cash generation for an isolated musician

Live streaming concerts

Can you go live from your home? If you can, it can generate funds.  Be sure to include a Paypal.me link for donations

Check out these live-streaming options:

Instagram Live for musicians 

The complete Facebook Live toolkit for musicians

YouTube Live

Remember to show your fans that they can support you

Remember your fans can:

Buy a t-shirt, hat, or other merch from your online store if you have one.

Buy a CD/Vinyl/Tape/USB/MP3, whichever music format is most useful. This puts more money in your pocket than streaming.

Listen to you on your streaming platforms. This is great as every play is monetized.

Add one of your songs to their playlist.

Include your song in their own videos.

If they have design skills, design you a cool shirt or poster that you can sell.

When touring does resume, buy a ticket and help you pack out that venue.

Contribute to your crowdfunding site if you have one (if not, you might want to set one up).

If you're interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician, please join us at WaterBear HQ for an Open Day or Order a Prospectus.

Happy New Year, I hope you are feeling ready for 2020. If not, let this blog be a reminder that this is your year!

The holidays are a time for eating, drinking and being with family. As a musician, the holidays can also provide a wave of well-paid function gigs which give way to financial risk as January draws in (sorry, I know I moved past the cheer quite quickly).

If you are an original artist, you may have realised that avoiding a December release will stop your art getting lost amongst the holiday noise. January will be your month and the start of a whole new cycle of release and promotion.  So, let's discuss how to monetise your career as an artist.

Get on top of your business

This year, if you are not already, you are going to treat your artistic pursuits through the lens of being a business owner. You are a business, and you need to organise yourself as such. This will help you maximise your reach and potential to make a profit.

The first aspect of planning is the assessment of your goals. In the next twelve months, consider what you want to achieve and whether it will improve your career?  Make sure you implement the right action that will take your career from amateur to pro.

What are you going to release?

Are you going to release an album, EP or Single? This depends on where you are within your career. If it's an album, the assumption is that you are in an advanced stage of your project. You have an established fanbase and a few prior releases under your belt. And, perhaps a strategically placed album will give you gravitas as an artist?

However, if you are starting out, it’s worth considering whether an album is the best thing to release. An album's success relies on having a fanbase to release it too. It's a costly exercise, in both terms of budget and time. That means you will be looking to recoup, and feel as though it’s not a wasted endeavour.

Even if your career is established, a series of singles or EP’s can create high levels of sustained engagement on your socials. In fact, singles seem to be a release format that best apply to the social media culture of fast and disposable content.  Due to the endless sea of digital content attention spans can afford to be shorter. Therefore, having reoccuring calls to action will be a huge benefit to your career as an artist.

With all that considered, you could plan your next twelve months like this;

Winter - Single

Spring - Single

Summer - Single

Autum - EP/Album

Do bear in mind that releasing an album in the last quarter of the year could lead to problems with the festive noise. So, you need to be strategic and time it right. To add, this is not a cast-iron plan, you can adapt what you want to release and when. However, the main takeaway should be to keep it consistent and don’t let the buzz drop off.

Merchandise

Merchandise is one of the biggest money-spinners in an artists toolkit. It can become so profitable, that it outweighs the money made from recorded music and live ticket sales. You have at least two avenues for selling merchandise; live and online. The age-old way of selling merchandise is on the stand after your show (if you need some help with this check out our channel for some tips). This can range from T-shirts, Vinyl, badges and even bottle openers.

You know the social media following you have been cultivating? Well, it's also social marketplace. You can sell t-shirts and the like via your Facebook, Instagram or any other platform you are using.  Remember to be smart with it, price it correctly. If it costs you £8 per unit to print a t-shirt, plus a designer fee for the logo, then it can take some time before you start to see any profit.

One suggestion is to aim for a 50% cost to profit margin. Which means if you spend £5 on the accumulated value of manufacture, then you’d sell the merchandise for £10. This economic shrewdness allows you to reinvest into additional merchandise while making a profit.  Be inventive, and create your Merch like you create your music, with care and detail. If you create something cool, I guarantee it will sell.

Don't forget to consider supply and demand. How big is your following and Gig attendance? If you are starting out and the following is low, your efforts should be on creating a market to foster demand.

Your marketing and media strategy

Right, you now have some assets to market. You have your release, you have merchandise, and you need a way of getting it out to an audience.

There are many factors to consider, how established is your project, your pre-existing channels and the demographics of your primary audience. Where do they exist? Is it Facebook? Instagram? Twitter?  This is a deep subject, with infinite nuances along the way. And in it that, plenty of scopes to get lost and not achieve your objectives.

Herein lies the first part of clarity, what are your goals in the marketing campaign? Are you looking to sell t-shirts to a fan base? Do you want to extend your reach? Or is it Spotify playlisting that is the essential metric? In all honesty, a successful campaign will incorporate a mixture of these things - and will have multiple goals.

To reach all your aims, allow yourself the time to do. There is no point contacting journalists to review your work 24hrs before its release. You need lead times, and you need to organise your campaign as such.

Get out Excel, Numbers or even simple to-do list - start by writing it down, assign durations of the task and plot this into a visual representation of your work. Gantt charts/pie charts / Kanban work boards - use whatever works for you, but make sure you organise your career this year and achieve your potential.

If you are interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician please join us at WaterBear HQ for an Open Day or Order a Prospectus.

Today, I want to talk about how to make £100 a day on Merch. Having a career in music is dependent on sustainability, and in my book, this is the key to professional freedom.

The thing is we live in an age where music is essentially free, streaming royalties are very insignificant and people are still using P2P file sharing. This is why merchandise is incredibly important, it makes your performance career and studio output sustainable. Suddenly, your recorded music that normally has very little commercial online value, is worth £10 again on the merch stand.  It’s a high margin and a serious product. Let's find out how to make the absolute most out of your merch table’s potential.

Tip no.1 - understand the core business of merch

Selling merch at the gig

 Whilst it’s tempting to be creative with potential formats of merch, the big sellers are still going to be your t-shirts. As attractive as vinyl is, it will sit there, and you will still sell more CD’s. This is not due to playability but it’s a handy thing to get the band to sign.

By all means, if you want to create lighters, cigarette papers or more novelty items and have them on the stand, do it! They are good talking points and you may sell a few. However, when you look at the tour accounts, you’ll see the big sellers are t-shirts and CDs.

 So, that’s the gig, however this video is all about making £100 per day from merchandise. The stand works on the road. You only need to sell ten t-shirts for £10 and you have made the one hundred. What about the days where you are not touring?

Selling merch on the website

On your downtime you can sell an awful lot of Merchandise from the band website, or if you must, a digital distribution platform. There is a different headspace here, you’ll see more exciting merchandise with higher prices playing a part. People in bands can take a few tips from Youtubers, who are putting out items with much higher design quality, higher prices, and a larger margin.

At the end of the day, what you are selling, is cool. People will spend anything to buy in a bit of cool for themselves. This is an opportunity to take YouTube standards, apply it to band merchandise and elevate your product. Consequently, this could lead you to sell £100 of Merch a day. It’s just a question of the design being good enough and providing value.

Tip no.2 - keep ownership of your merch business

While it can be attractive to take an advance from a merchandise company, you will lose control of your item's price points. Nobody can look after fans like the band can. If you are swayed by that advance, get the calculator out and work out how much that money is costing. Common sense will take you back to the point of doing it yourself. A direct relationship with your fan is the key to financial security.

That also goes for distribution, fans usually prefer to buy direct from the band. If you farm this out to a digital distribution platform, you’ll make less, and the customer service cannot be as good. They will also charge you 15% of the gross, so you will lose money.

 There is an opportunity here, if you are sending out most of your merch directly and making the most out of the financial side of the deal, you can go the extra mile and demonstrate value with small touches such as sending a nice little handwritten note from the band. This is a very different transaction than doing it through a third party. The bands I have spoken to say that they have sold an extra 25% from their site as opposed to a digital distribution platform because of the direct fan relationship. Loyal fans will come back time and time again, you’ll get a rebound effect and your sales will stack.

 Your only limitation here is energy and creativity. This could easily be developed into a clothing brand, why have one t-shirt when you could have twenty? You can develop a back catalog - remember you cannot download t-shirts. A T-Shirt is still an item with real physical value, so let’s make the most of it.   

Tip no.3 - your best friend is the calculator

Even a mid-level band could easily shift a few thousand CD’s and five hundred t-shirts with an album launch. That’s £25,000 gross with a relativity high margin. This type of money will keep your band in rehearsals, it will pay for the design and a couple of videos and that’s just in the first week of sales.

 There is still money in music, and there is still money in DIY music. There is a long-term future in that direct relationship with a small group of superfans. A great quality merch stand that is pinned is a really good investment at this point. To keep you going, here is a list of recommended merch manufacturers;

 My Custom Band Merch - http://www.mycustombandmerch.com/

 Awesome Merchandise - https://www.awesomemerchandise.com/

 Octomuffin - https://www.octomuffin.co.uk/

 Impericon - https://www.impericon.com/uk/

 Flood Print - http://www.flood-print.co.uk/

 Bands on a Budget - https://www.bandsonabudget.com/

Where do we go from here?

You now have an understanding of the core business, products and figures, you have a great design, you have established a distribution network, and perhaps even an overarching clothing brand. You may be getting excited as this is where the money is. Merchandise is not just part of the game; it is THE game.

 Now is the point where you can be creative, bands have produced merchandise that ranges from teabags to tea towels to coffee to beer and to the more bizarre. Put any suggestions you have seen in the comments below and do let me know what sold well for your band.

 Thanks for reading, if you interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician please join us at WaterBear HQ for an Open Day or Order a Prospectus

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