Why Your Local Music Community Is Important

Why Your Local Music Community Is Important

A tale of two musicians – one moved to the big city, signed a record deal, lost the rights to all of her songs, became disillusioned with the business, ended up in a day job and struggled to live her dreams for 20 years. The other stayed in his hometown, did lots of local gigs, turned out more than 100 albums, networked with his fans daily online and made enough income to earn a good living and pay his mortgage. True story.

It’s common when you first get into music that your dream is to get signed, have a chart hit, be on TV, tour the world, trash hotel rooms and have millions of adoring fans. The music industry as most people know it is the one we see on the TV, hear on the radio and whose artists appear in the media daily for their latest antics, reality show appearances, sell out stadium tours, etc.

But what about the other side of the industry, the one that folks don’t get to hear about but where it’s perfectly possible to make a good living? This starts in your local music community – with local musicians, labels, promoters, studios, venues and fans. This is where the musical ‘movements’ are created that shape the industry as a whole and where you are part of a great, supportive network. Even if you want to join the more ‘visible’ side of the industry at some point in the future, it’s easier to get noticed by developing yourself as an artist or band in your local community first. If you make enough of a wave in your local scene and start getting good music press, the industry will come knocking, even if you’re already signed to a local Indie label. In fact they would probably prefer that you are already signed – these days big labels like to have all of the work done for them in advance so that they know they’re making a good investment, so being signed already is often not an obstacle, especially if you’re on a one album contract.

One of the obvious benefits of staying put and developing your music career in your local music community is living costs – they will be much lower than if you moved to the big city, where you will probably end up sharing a small flat with multiple occupants. This also means that you likely won’t get any time alone to practise, write or record, another downside to being in the city. Another thing is that competition is tough and gigs are hard to get – you’re not only competing against everyone in your home country that has travelled to the city to ‘make it’ but also against people coming from overseas with that same dream. There’s also a lot more entertainment of different types available so making a living from gigs is a lot harder than it would be in more rural areas, where you can travel more quickly between nearby towns and cities and don’t have to ‘pay to play’. I’ve encountered multiple musicians over the years who arrived in town with big dreams only to find themselves working ‘day jobs’ for the next few years.

Of course since I came to sign my first deal, the internet has improved massively and it’s possible to have a global reach from your own living room. This is why, were I to do this again, I would choose to live in a cheaper area where I could cover my cost of living from either music alone or at worst, a part-time job. Any spare cash would go into getting the best quality recordings that I possibly could – there’s nothing wrong with travelling to the big city for this if you find the right producer to meet your needs.

Local Indie labels are vital to building a great music scene in your area and I would definitely seek one out for the release rather than doing all of the work alone. This way you share the workload, get to be on a roster of bands that you can work alongside and there’s a much higher chance that you’ll be able to make a comfortable living from your music career. Build a strong following and then gradually start to extend your reach into neighbouring communities by teaming up with good bands in those areas and offering support slots to one another.

So get to it, start developing and engaging with your local music community today.

How To Switch From Doing Gigs To Doing Tours

How To Switch From Doing Gigs To Doing Tours

There comes a time in your career when you need to stop doing gigs and start doing tours. While you might think that this entails huge expense, it’s actually easier to get started than you think.

The first step is to group all of your current gigs together under a tour name. You can actually get away with doing this even if the gigs are a few months apart. Add the tour name and tour dates to your website. If the budget stretches to it, get yourself some limited edition tour merch together displaying those dates and stick to the same set list throughout the tour, which you can share with fans in handwritten social media posts and playlists.

From your second year onwards you can really start to plan your tour dates around your annual album campaign. The tour should be named for your album and you’ll have fresh songs, merch and more to keep things interesting and your fans coming back. Try to improve your stage shows on each tour. Take in the same venues to play to your existing fans plus aim to add a few extra dates further afield each year to expand your fan base.

Be sure to include your tour dates on your onesheets and any other press releases that you send out to media. Improve your chances of successfully selling out each venue by contacting local radio and press in advance of each new gig and seeing if you can get airplay, writeups and interviews.

Even though you’re playing exactly the same gigs as you were before, you’ve suddenly put yourself on the next level by announcing those gig dates as a tour.

How Spotify Can Help Your Career

How Spotify Can Help Your Career

Have you claimed your spotify artist profile yet? It’s really easy to maximise your potential on spotify and the first step to doing this is to access your profile on the spotify website so that you can upload header pictures, bio, tour dates and social links.

Head over to artists.spotify.com and fill in the claim form. Spotify will check your claim and get back to you within a couple of days. Once logged in, you can change your header image, add gig dates and update your about me section, including adding up to date information about your latest campaigns and links to your profile pages. Use the artist pick area at the top of your page to pin your latest playlist. Make sure that you update your content fairly frequently to encourage repeat visits and listens.

Spotify Barcodes

Spotify scannable barcodes are a new feature and you’ll see them appearing as chunky looking wave files underneath artwork images. Head over to spotifycodes.com and paste in a URL from your Spotify profile. You’ll be provided with your own scannable code that you can embed onto your website or add to promotional materials. These codes can be read inside the Spotify app – open the app on your phone, select search on the bottom bar, click into the search box then select the camera icon – pointing this at a Spotify barcode can take you straight to an artist, song, album or playlist URL.

Spotify Playlists

One of the key strategies for an artist in 2018 is playlists and by accessing your artist profile, you have more control over playlist submission, a new feature added recently.

Spotify have a couple of AI generated playlists which can really help to raise your profile and let your fans know as soon as you have new music out. Each of your followers will be notified of new releases in the Release Radar list so it’s important to encourage people to follow your profile. Discover Weekly keeps an eye on the kind of music people are listening to and suggests similar artists and bands which can be of huge benefit to you when you’re also getting suggested to fans of your genre around the globe.

It’s an extremely good idea to create your own playlists for different moods, e.g. think about what kind of venue your music would work well in, e.g. a coffee shop, then create a coffee shop playlist, embedding one or two of your own tunes into it. Promote this playlist across your social media channels. Also make sure that your songs are listed on Shazam so that if anyone does happen to really like your track, they can find out who is playing.

A brand new and exciting feature for Autumn 2018 is playlist submission. You can now submit your songs directly to key Spotify playlists to request inclusion. Make sure to give a detailed description of your song to the playlist curators and submit it at least seven days in advance of the release date so that they have time to include you.

Spotify Analytics

The final benefit of claiming your page is the ability to view your stats. Keep an eye on which cities stream your music the most so that you can make decisions on future tour dates. You can also run an artist comparison and find similar artists to yourself, which can assist you when making your own career decisions.

Can You Really Call Yourself A Songwriter?

Can You Really Call Yourself A Songwriter?

During a recent panel discussion on songwriting, host Tom Robinson asked everyone in the room who classed themselves as a songwriter to put their hands up and most of the room responded positively. He then asked how many hours on average they spent per week on songwriting and watched as a realisation spread across the gathered crowd. It was laid bare in that moment that there was actually very little creative output in a room full of people that professed to be songwriters. Tom’s solution – to aim for two songs every week. This would give a healthy number of songs to choose from for a yearly album release plus possibly provide additional material for placing with other artists.

In a world where we’re all busy, turning out two songs per week can sound like a daunting prospect but inspiration is all around us. Most of us have our phones with us constantly and can write down any inspirational words or quotes that we hear during a working day. With dictaphone and even mini studio apps being made available for free, we can also capture melody and chord ideas so that nothing is lost. Someone who is in the songwriter mindset will take inspiration from every conversation, news headline and story that they see and hear throughout their day and should come home with a host of ideas that can be developed.

One of the tricks to increasing your musical output is speed writing, a technique that journalists often use when coming up with and developing new article ideas. With your inspirational notes in front of you, give yourself some quiet time and type (or record) any new lyric ideas as they come into your head. It doesn’t matter what you’re typing and how random it is because you’re going to go back and edit your lyrics later in order to craft them into a polished song.

In fact for the songs that have potential, keep editing them until they are perfect. Do the same for the melody lines and the chord sequences. In our current musical climate, the money is in your songs so don’t record them until you have something that is of high quality and can compete on a world platform. Of course a lot of songs will get rejected or put on hold until a later date but this is the point of writing two per week, to have a large catalogue that you can draw upon so that you’re only releasing your very best work. This will ultimately increase your chances in a very competitive market.

When To Stop Gigging For Free

When To Stop Gigging For Free

One of the issues we encounter a lot in the music business is bands being expected to work for free. As musicians we have come to assume that will have to do free work in order to build our fan base and gain more exposure bt there comes a time when you have to make the decision not to do any more gigs where no entry fee is charged on the door and to start doing ticketed events only.

After all, even musicians need to pay for food, rent, equipment costs, travel costs, rehearsal costs, etc. We should never end up out of pocket for performing at a gig if we’re serious about it becoming our full-time career.

We strongly recommend that you honour all no-fee gig dates that you have in your diary but create a cutoff point from which you’ll no longer be taking on and more of this kind of work.

The trick then is to start planning gigs that you can sell tickets to. If you’ve built up a strong following you’ll probably have attracted the attention of festival promoters and booking agents who can get you into a higher level of venue alongside their more established artists and who wll work on your behalf to help get a healthy number of ticket sales.

But for those of you that haven’t attracted any agents, there are ways that you can create your own ticketed gigs, you just need to be a little more creative. You may have a hard time selling tickets on your own but if you turn the evening into an event and there are more of you selling tickets, you have more chance of success.

For starters, you could try teaming up with similar bands that have a strong following in their own areas and that like you, are looking to expand their own fan bases by extending their reach through gigs. Put on joint events with three bands on the bill, taking it in turns to headline, and work together to sell tickets. You could also seek out other bands local to your own area whose music compliments yours and put on a joint event that you can take to a number of venues around nearby cities. You could also team up with a DJ that plays your genre of music and put on a live performance later in the evening so that the DJ is playing either side of your set.

Many Indie record labels operate in this way, putting on a series of events with a specific theme and some of the most well-received ones have actually started iconic movements. Start thinking about how you can tap into that interest and put on events that everyone will want to attend.

One artist that has been running his own tours very successfully for a number of years now is Steve Knightley. Using a method he created called ‘Grow Your Own Gigs’, he started to target lesser-frequented venues such as village halls in rural areas and suggested that if the local committee arranged the event and sold tickets, he would turn up to perform. Not only did the venues do most of the planning, he’s made a good living from his creative approach.

No fee-gigs are a great entry point into the world of performing but once you’ve honed your craft and you’re ready to go pro, you need to stop devaluing your band by performing for free and to work out the best way for moving on to the next stage of your career.