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Snapchat and Instagram’s child bathed in the ashes of Vine and arose as the viral behemoth that is TikTok. An app deeply associated with Generation Z, dance challenges and cute dogs, it has over half a billion users worldwide and nearly all the videos contain music. The platform has already been utilised by many famous artists to grow their fan base and get their music into your phone speakers, examples being Drake with ‘Toosie Slide’ and Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ which have associated dances that users can recreate in videos. A by-product of its reliance/use of music in the videos can also give old songs a new lease of life, Paul Anka’s ‘Put your head on my shoulder’ is a great example and has even led to him releasing new versions of the song to cash in on its revival. 

Understanding the app

TikTok has a flexible format, with videos normally lasting around 15 seconds but can stretch to 60 and with an emphasis on authenticity over perfection, the videos can look as DIY as you’d like and doesn’t need a set length. Although I’d encourage at least enough lighting so people can make out an image without adjusting their phone brightness and just about long enough so it doesn’t sound like a jumping vinyl player.  

The app also offers great options when creating these videos; one feature allowing you to shoot incrementally, chaining short clips together to create a single video, great for outfit or instrument changes. Another intuitive feature is how it allows you to find the song first if you wish, so you can choose the snippet of the song you want and record video to that, in effect working backwards to how you’d edit a song into an Instagram story. Something to also keep in mind is the freedom TikTok gives the user in terms of uploading from other editing programs like Adobe Premiere as long as it’s a vertical video, opening the door to a greater level of visual tinkering. 

The #FYP and looking at the algorithm  

The main page users interact with on TikTok is the #FYP (or For You Page). It’s fundamentally a flowing feed of algorithmically generated content, and the more a user engages with certain types of video, the intelligence of the app shines and will start to tailor certain content to the user's interests. This feed is where popular songs become viral. Due to how simple it is to use another video’s audio, dance challenges, lip syncing videos or duet/play along videos are incredibly easy to create and upload.  

Mastering the #FYP is tricky as it follows a myriad of rules and algorithms, although here are few things to consider: 

It’s skewed locally 

The app is very smart, Liam Neeson levels of smart, and knows where you are. It is more likely to show you videos from local creators and in turn, show your videos to local users. So an idea on how to easily relate to your audience would be to utilise local landmarks or local trends. Is there a really famous local busker, artist or personality? A local venue? Or even local slang or an in-joke which will appeal to those in the know? Remember TikTok was made for very frequent posting, so don’t be afraid to hone certain posts to just locals. 

Hashtags 

This one has already been hammered into us by nearly every other platform, but just like the rest, TikTok uses hashtags. Use a mix of hashtags for the best results, so for example if you’ve posted an in-pocket Dilla drum cover, try using a hashtag that relates to ‘slum village’ as well as a broader ‘drums’ one. 

Collaborate and engage with other creators/users 

Collaborating with more established creators has a variety of obvious benefits and advantages including increasing the chances of your own solo videos appearing on the feeds of your collaborators. Engaging with posts which relate to your content, in terms of commenting or sharing on to other platforms, is a great way of getting your profile onto the screens of others and increase your fan base. To expand on this idea, sharing your own posts onto other platforms may feel narcissistic, but it’s a great way of trying to get your fans to follow you cross platform and rack up your views.  

Look at the time of your post uploads 

Study your audience and where they live, targeting your uploads to high online traffic times. Below are some of the best general posting times for TikTok, they work by considering when people will first wake and check their phones, scroll in downtime and before bed etc. Although always remember to double check for country specific ones to fully maximise your market: 

It’s important to also engage and learn where your audience is based, and their location may surprise you. TikTok has dominated Thailand where 1 in 7 people have the app downloaded, 20 million users in India and 140 million in China, dwarfing America’s 14 million. With all these users, your audience may be more global than you think… 

Uploading music and sharing original material  

Using CD Baby or Vydia is a quick and easy way to get your music into the TikTok library, allowing your music to be found and used in videos on the app and more importantly get you income. What could also be important to note is that due to TikTok having a relationship with CD baby, you won’t need to separately opt in for social video monetisation. The music will also be automatically uploaded to Resso along with TikTok. Resso is an affiliate of TikTok and is currently only available in a handful of territories, like Indonesia for example (a country boasting 3.5% of the world’s population), but will still generate you income when your hit meme themed single breaks the app. 

Using TikTok to promote original music is easy and fun to do, considering the tips above, let’s look at some ways we can advertise your music: 

Participate in trends or challenges 

Watch your own feed and research similar artists, look out for current trends in video ideas or themes. Is there a certain dance challenge you could participate in (or maybe utilise a more athletic friend if just the thought gives you a minor heart attack)? Is there a challenge like the ‘Bow Wow’ or ‘Ice Bucket’ challenge that you could do and soundtrack with your song? Is there a new trend developing in people's videos, like filming content in the ‘golden hour’ that your song would suit? 

Film fun skits 

The video starts following a busker on a busy high street, the audio is just background noise, the busker thanks the crowd and counts into the next song, as the busker starts singing the audio switches to that of your song dubbed over the video, the video quickly jumps to running crowds from an apocalypse movie. However cheesy such an idea sounds, it might make a few chuckles and would only require some (even fake) busking footage. Would your music be amusing over cats chasing laser pens or staring longingly out of windows? Funny animal clips are low effort and serves as great filler content. 

Perform your music live 

Maybe slightly harder to do in shorter videos, fans would still love to watch a raw clip which captures an earlier version of the track with alternate lyrics or a vocal run you only normally do live. What is going to make this 15 second live clip special? 

Selling yourself as a general musician  

Maybe writing the next ‘Careless Whisper’ isn’t your calling in life, maybe being an insanely gifted educator, session aficionado or influencer personality who just so happens to shred a mean panpipe is? In this case, let’s look at some ways you can sell your talent: 

Duet/Jam videos 

Post a cover of a track, maybe with a tricky run in it, then encourage users to duet - following your lead or harmonising your lines, then comment or re-share them to engage with the fans. Another idea, especially for instruments, is to play along to a backing track or play an accompaniment (if taking this route, possibly using a tricky progression) and asking fans to trade lines with you over the track or play over the changes of your comping.  

Post covers or videos of you playing 

The classic Instagram style video, now on TikTok. Aim for current trending songs with the right hashtags for more exposure. 

Fun re-harmonisations or gimmicky ideas 

Want to hear what ‘God is a woman’ sounds like to the changes of ‘Giant Steps’? If ‘Roxanne’ modulated up a half step every time Sting sung the name? Or if ‘Watermelon Sugar’ had been produced by J Dilla? Well, someone does and tying this to a meme or a funny video which draws on artist stereotypes is only going to help.  

Lessons 

Maybe break simple ideas down into mini tutorials. Ruben Wan is a master of this on his platforms, check out his Instagram for some very smart ways of condensing theory or big ideas into very short inspiring videos. These videos may be better suited as the juicy main course 60 second content considering they’ll be slightly longer, with the 15 second appetisers luring the users in. 

Closing thoughts 

Some final aspects to consider are: 

In conclusion, TikTok is a relatively new, yet invaluable platform to utilise when looking to gain a wider audience. Great for harnessing a younger audience and for using in tandem with Instagram, it offers a way to gain a viral hit fast. You might already have the perfect song to kick off a dance challenge. 

To find out more, check out our courses here.

At some point in your music career, you may find that self-managing isn’t an effective strategy for you anymore. If you haven’t been approached by a manager or management company, you will have to be proactive to secure a manager that’s right for you. This means finding, researching and reaching out to a relevant manager or management company.

The Groundwork

Before you reach out, make sure you’re ready for a manager. For many bands and artists, self-management can get you very far and put you in a better position to secure a management deal at the right time. When you do reach out, make sure you are contacting managers that want to work with your style, genre and type of band. Check out this guide to make sure your efforts won’t fall on deaf ears.

Managers are business people that need work and income, so they generally don’t make themselves difficult to find. However, just as a manager will want to appeal to an artist with their experience and catalogue, so must an artist put their best foot forward to appeal to a manager. Think of your music, band or project as a product and think about how it could be considered a worthy investment for a manager.

Management Contacts

When you are ready to get a manager on board, check out these contacts.

Amour Music
Genre: Singer-songwriters, Contemporary

Authority MGMT

Genre: Singer-songwriters, Pop and Dance

Defenders Entertainment

Genre: R&B, Rap, Drill, Reggae and Dance

dfjArtists

Genre: Jazz

Enzo Music Management

Genre: Rock, Metal

Incendia Music

Genre: Rock, Prog & Metal

Key Music Management

Genre: Alternative

Rock People Management

Genre: Rock, Blues

Young Guns

Genre: Classical, Jazz, Pop and Fusion

 

Management Contact Directories

Here are 5 directories for finding managers and management companies.

 

The Unsigned Guide

https://www.theunsignedguide.com

The Unsigned Guide is a UK music industry contacts directory. You can search for over 240 UK artist management companies and band managers. This features allows you to narrow your search by region and get contact information, websites, social media channel links and addresses.

Signing up to The Unsigned Guide costs £5.99 monthly, £10.99 quarterly or £32.99 annually. The great thing about The Unsigned Guide is that the directory doesn’t just cover management, but record labels, studio production, live venues, press, publishing, distribution, media, training, music law and more.

 

Music Week

https://www.musicweek.com

Music week has an annual directory to help music industry professionals connect with up-to-date contacts. With its finger on the pulse of the evolving nature of the music industry, Music Week brings out an updated directory every year.

You can purchase the directory for £50, or subscribe to the Music Week magazine through one of the 3 options and get the directory free of charge.

 

The Music Management Forum (MMF)
https://themmf.net

The MMF are the largest representative body of music management in the world. Their members are managers and management companies. Through their website, artists seeking management can submit their details to the members of the MMF using this form.

 

Association of Independent Music (AIM)
https://www.aim.org.uk

AIM is a not-for-profit representing UK independent music. Find opportunities, jobs and contacts through the website. The AIM friends directory allows you to search for industry professionals such as live music management.

 

Musicians’ Union (MU)
https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk

The MU provides advice, news and connecting facilities to its members. The members directory allows you to search for other members in your area.

Currently you can access the members directory for £1 for the first 6 months when you sign up to an annual membership. The MU also offers special rates for students.

There’s also the option to seek out a specific manager based on your genre and the bands you know using that manager. If there’s a band similar to yours who has good management behind them, reach out to the specific company or person. Being passionate about being part of their roster, because you appreciate what they already do and want to be a part of it - if coupled with some real growth and movement from your band - could be the personal touch that makes the difference.

 

The topic of management comes with a lot of implications and considerations, and there are different circumstances that dictate whether or not your band is ready for management yet. There are some key questions on this topic that I will respond to below so that bands can have a better insight as to whether or not they’re in a position to benefit from having management, and also which type of manager suits what you are trying to achieve long term. It’s important to maintain an objective stance on this topic as some bands can easily become disillusioned or disheartened with their expectations. As much as having management can be glorified and assist with your band’s profile and credibility, it’s important to consider the reality of what stage in your career you are at, and what a manager brings to the table.

The role of a band manager

The role of a band manager has evolved a lot in recent years. Managers today have a much broader spectrum of responsibility than they once did, and it is a constant hustle to get artists heard in such an oversaturated industry where there is a lot of competition. Your manager must have relevant connections, experience and knowledge of how the music business operates to put you in a better position for success. Ostensibly, it is a manager’s job to oversee the careers of their artists, to proactively search for opportunities, and to maximise all revenue streams.

Managers are normally inclined to build a team for a band, so may seek out recording or publishing deals for you, hook you up with a booking agent, a publicist or find you relevant endorsements. Once the team is formed, the manager may delegate tasks, oversee the team and manage the overall project, as well as developing the artist. This ensures that when a band has a release, it is pushed from all angles and has maximum reach.

Managers also oversee day to day logistical tasks such as the organisation of photo and video shoots, merchandise production, branding and image consultancy, social media promotion, marketing and more. Sometimes, when bands are particularly high profile, they may have a main manager and a day to day manager so that the tasks can be split and carried out thoroughly. However, most managers who work with bands take on an all-encompassing role, which means that their job doesn’t fit a precise description, and they end up just doing whatever needs to be done. You may already know this having self-managed your band.

At what stage does your band need a manager?

With the age of the internet and social media, the definition of what ‘stage’ a band is at in their career can vary. Some bands have huge online success, others translate better in live situations. Others have never played a live show before. It all depends on the artist, the demographic of your audience and also the style of music you play.

Some managers are attracted to high social media engagement and the amount of Spotify monthly listeners you have, others are more concerned with how many live tickets and how much merchandise you sell, but normally, it’s a mix of the aforementioned factors combined. If a band is particularly promising live and connects with an audience, the online statistics can always be developed if a manager wishes to invest time and marketing efforts to bring everything up to their expectations. Live is a huge part of an artist’s income and typically, managers, labels, PR folk would want to see strength in this area, particularly if you operate in the rock spectrum. Try to get feedback as well so you have an indication of the quality of your live performance.  Bands typically use their online presence to effectively promote tours and encourage ticket sales and grow their live income.

However, If you’ve never played a show and if you have no active engagement on social media, then chances are, you probably don’t need a manager.

Some managers (and agents)  are open to development deals but they may request a payment model that isn’t reliant upon commission. I will talk about the different types of management deals in my next blog.

Once a band starts picking up momentum and you make the decision that you are no longer capable or willing to self-manage or seek out appropriate opportunities to take you to the next level, then is the time to look to bring someone on to the team. I speak about how to effectively self-manage your band in my first blog ‘Top Tips on how to self-manage your band’. Bands both proactively seek managers and also there can be instances whereby a manager will approach the band.

To summarise, there’s no right or wrong time but there are some components that increase your chances of attracting management and future deals.

What is the difference between wanting and needing a manager?

If a band lacks skills, connections and time to manage themselves, then looking to hire a manager may be a consideration. However, if a band has not been very proactive and doesn’t have the financial stability to support future activities, then the likelihood of attracting a manager is not likely.

A band may need a manager if they have managed to grow a successful online following, are selling out venues locally and nationally, and have done everything they can to get to a certain level. Some bands may be great at juggling all of the various tasks involved but do not feel they can negotiate the best record/publishing/licensing deal for them and may need some assistance here if they know that the labels are interested. Some labels prefer working with bands who have managers before they sign them, others just want to know they are dealing with someone capable, professional and efficient.

Bands can prematurely feel the want to bring a manager on board, but they also need to take into consideration the financial implications here and if they have enough revenue to compensate a manager for their efforts. Hence why I mention financial stability above - where a lot of the time cash flow comes from day jobs that initially support the band’s activities until they are self-sufficient and monetising.

Back in the day, managers were compensated upfront for their efforts by way of huge advances from recording and publishing deals, deposits from show fees and more. Nowadays the models are very different and managers will be mindful of existing and potential revenue streams that they can help maximise.

What can you do to attract the attention of a potential manager?

Look good, sound good, be professional. How are you perceived by potential managers?

There are many things a band may do to attract the attention of management, and that can include making a buzz online, performing at showcase festivals, having impressive sales and streaming statistics and attracting a live audience. Again, most of these things are mentioned above but I want to emphasise the importance of all of these contributing factors.

Having a unique look, personality and message in conjunction with having high-quality music is a great package for any manager. If you have spent a couple of years developing yourselves and have a good CV to bring to the table complete with media coverage, Spotify playlists, notable support slots, festivals and any other achievements, then put this all in an EPK (Electronic Press Kit). Make managers aware of what you’re doing. Stay in touch with them and provide updates on your progress. A manager may express initial interest, but feel more needs to be done before they commit to a long term working relationship with you. Keep this in mind and just maintain communication with potential managers so that they can keep track of how you are developing as an artist.

Why your band can’t find a manager

Do your research, don’t send blanket BCC emails and be realistic. I regularly receive submissions from bands out of my genre remit, proving they have not done their research. Ultimately, they’re just wasting their own time and energy by firing emails in all different directions without any specific vision of what they need.

Personalise your emails, show you have a knowledge and interest of what this manager has achieved for their artists and acknowledge that you feel they could bring to the table what you’re looking for. There is nothing worse than when a band sends a blanket copy and paste email with no information, a few links and just a line saying they’re looking for management. Emails like that will go in the trash.

Try to be formal with your correspondence when initially approaching managers, this is a business after all. Reaching out and pretending they’re your best friend before you’ve built a rapport isn’t going to bode well for a professional relationship.

I’ll be expanding on the different types of management deals in a future blog so stay tuned. But for now, good luck in your search for a manager and I hope some of the considerations above may allow you to think about why you may have not been successful yet in your search.

What does ‘future-proofing your career’ mean?

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.

Be SMART and plan ahead

Integrate Smart Goals

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.

Make a Business Plan

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.

Develop your business to maximise your chances of having guaranteed revenue

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.

The Online Economy

Building a strong Online Audience

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 and the Live Industry

How to compensate for lost revenue and maintain momentum

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.

The Power of Social Media

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.

Subscription Models

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.

The importance of independent and local music in 2020

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.

Where are we now?

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)

MIDA Report

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.

Applying 360 Degree thinking to our own careers.

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.

Choose the right distributor.

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.

What’s happening with your publishing?

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.

Neighbouring rights.

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.

D2C

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!

Anything else?

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.

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.

Creating the ultimate band name (or indeed album or song title) can be a right headache. You might have a great concept for your band, project or artistic direction. The songs might be demoed and ready to go. But there's a stumbling block. You can't quite figure out (or agree) how to articulate what your band or artist name should be.

You just need a name. It can't be too hard to pinpoint, can it? You start by writing down a list. Nothing really leaps out. The more you work on it, the more desperate and uncool the names seem to get. So, you ask the rest of the band, friends and family, for suggestions. How hard can it be?

Two long weeks and several heated arguments later, you end up accumulating an even longer list of lame band names than before. You're teetering on the brink of madness, picking the least rubbish one to get the whole sorry business over and done with.

Just stop for a moment. This is your chance to make a fundamental difference to the potential of your band or project. There's so many bands and artists out there. You have a massive opportunity here to construct a name so unique that people just have to check you out.

Here are some processes and exercises to make your search for a truly epic name that bit easier:

Decide on which route to take: specific or general concepts

Do you want to be specific and tell the world who you are? For example, generate acceptance in one specific genre at the expense of the wider public, like American heavy metal band Metallica. Or do you want a band name is more generic, that won't offend or put people off? Therefore, allowing your music to be judged on its own merits like pop rock band, Maroon 5.

There's no right or wrong here. This first hurdle gets to the heart of where you see yourself as an artist. And also how well you understand your target audience.

Tip: Try writing two separate lists of potential names, looking at both approaches and seeing what works for you and your music.

Look within creatively - your music might have the solution

The answer to your problem could be staring you in your face. Dig out your band's lyrics. Pore over every line. You wrote this stuff. It came from your subconscious and there is a purity about that. This may inspire a band name that's truly authentic. Have a look through your work and see if a phrase or a set of words leap out at you.

Don't forget to think about your location too. Where does the band live? Where are the special places that mean something to you on a personal or professional level? You might just get a band name out of it (see Cypress Hill and Boston). You might get a few song or album titles from this exercise, like The Beatles 'Strawberry Fields' and Paul Weller's 'Stanley Road'. Take the band Blossoms, for example. They named themselves after their local pub in Stockport. If you think about it logically, there is a goldmine of ideas here. Plus, it makes you look back and consider where you came from as an artist or band.

Take inspiration from around you

Go through your bookshelf and pick out ten books which mean the most to you. I would, however, caution against using the actual book title (unless it's super obscure and out of print). Otherwise, you run the risk of playing second fiddle to a more famous book. Once you've picked your book, try googling quotes from it or looking through the pages to see what comes up. As I write this blog, I am doing this using Ian Banks' 'The Wasp Factory' for inspiration. In 30 seconds, I've found a line that really stands out and has some resonance to me.

It's a rather dark and menacing line which comes from the main character - “My enemy is twice dead, and I still have him”. It just sounds cool as you roll it around the tongue. I am wondering if the words "Twice Dead" have potential as a band name. It's strong enough to add to the list of contenders perhaps. It might even evolve as there is room to add another word or two. Anyway. You get the idea.

This process forces result and beats sitting creatively constipated. Like song writing, when inspiration fails, process and work can bridge the gap. Keep everything moving until inspiration strikes.

While we are on the introspective tip, go through any letters you have written. It could be important emails, school reports, press and social media posts. Look for stand-out phrases that could be recycled. There is a sense of authenticity in band name that you may have already created in an unknowing way.

Common tricks used by other bands

Contrast and clever juxtaposition can produce band names with gravitas and timeless quality. The greatest example of all is 'Led Zeppelin'. I don't think they would have made this blog if they had continued to call themselves 'The New Yardbirds'. My old band 'Little Angels' always struggled to be taken seriously in the rock press. Much of this might have been because the name was a double light construction. It lacked contrast or weight implied in a light/ heavy combination such as 'Flaming Lips' or 'Iron Butterfly'.

Try a few variations yourself. It's an approach that is overused (but still great). It certainly lends itself to rock genres very well (ref. Steel Panther, Def Leppard etc.). My challenge to you is to try and use that idea outside the rock genre. Does it work? You tell me. Got to be worth a shot.

Randomisation

The theory for this is: one abandons the element of control and we simply trust the universe to give. I've tried this a lot and I think it's a bit like doing scratch cards. You'll get a win eventually. Unlike the scratch card, when you do win, you'll need to recognise greatness when you see it. It's easy to become jaded and miss a good band name in a mood of despair. Don't be too judgemental. Come back to a name a few days later if it calls you back. Perhaps, the name will find you rather than the other way around.

Band name generators

If you look online there are several random band name generators. I've done this a lot. It has never worked for me and I've never seen it do the job for anyone else either. But it is fun. I'll try it right now and give you the first four to see what happens. You know how it works. Type in some responses to questions and let the algorithm do the rest. Here goes nothing...

The results are in and the top four are:

  1. Worm Failure
  2. Classic Vicars Club
  3. My Heart, Your Toes
  4. Why. Dogs. Why?

You can have those if you like. You're welcome.

Why doesn't it work for me? I think it's down to the transactional online process. It makes me feel unconnected to the suggestions. There's not enough soul in the process. I'd feel differently if I randomly opened a dictionary or scatter clippings from a newspaper to see what lands. I would feel more of a physical and creative connection to the band name suggestions. Daft maybe, but that's how it works for me.

So, try the online band name generator by all means, but consider more organic ways of random word and phrase creation. See what turns up. And trust the universe. It might just provide the goods.

Longer band names

In recent times, there has been a growing trend for longer and more abstract band names such as 'Cellar Door Moon Crow', 'And So I Watch You From Afar' and 'Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band'.

These names are really fun and require a certain level of confidence on the part of the artist to pull off. When I see names like that, I think they show creative courage and I always have to check out the band. Very often the music is similarly risky and ground-breaking, so your project and the name really have to match up creatively.

This concept helps with one of the most annoying aspects when coming up with a band name. The fact that all the obvious ones are taken, and most of the not so obvious ones too. These days all it takes to form a band is think of a name and set up an Instagram account. It's monumentally annoying when you have a great concept/name and some pub band in Australia has already claimed it. You could take the view it doesn't matter, and for the most part it doesn't, but even small artists get mighty territorial and even litigious over this. It's hassle – and confusion you don't need around the project.

Templates and approaches to help generate your band name

Here are some useful templates to try:

  1. 'Noun, noun, noun, noun' eg. 'Wicker Basket Cat Farm'
  2. 'Adverb noun noun eg. 'Crispy Cat Park'
  3. 'Noun singular and the adverb noun' or variants eg. 'Teaser and the Firecat', 'Cats in Space'

And here are some conceptual approaches to keep the band names coming. How about:

  1. Longer abstract sentences such as 'An uncomfortable silence falls'
  2. Evocative visual image described in words from a piece of cinematography 'Teardrop Explodes'
  3. Celebration of the ordinary 'Soccer Mommy'

I could go on and on. My main point is that the creative process can be stimulated by process. You can, of course, come up with your own. However, what it boils down to is putting the work in. As always in music, most people don't do this and they settle for something average far too quickly.

Don't.

Your band name matters so make it count.

Here's a few useful links to online name generators:

https://www.bandnamemaker.com

https://www.name-generator.org.uk/band-name/

If you're serious about a career in music and want to know about our courses at WaterBear, the college of music, click on the link here.

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