9 steps to mainstream music industry success
The desire for success in the music industry is a strong as it ever was, but the game has changed and I’m seeing lots of desperate effort being made by all sorts of artists. And the result? Zilch. (Or very little.)
Not only that, but there can even be a fantasy created that stuff is happening, when really it’s only a drop in the ocean.
So I went out and I asked my contacts and those that I know have managed bands and artists signed by labels and who had seen the good, the bad and the ugly to share some top wisdom for artists who might have several pieces of the puzzle but need to organise them into the winning picture.
You must have these pieces in the puzzle IN ORDER to have a shot at industry dreams.
A Distinctive Voice
I didn’t say the best voice in the world, or even the most accomplished singer, but you do need to have a robust technique and distinctive sound along with bags of charisma. By the way, you can start without these and work your way up to them, but in a heavily saturated market nothing other than your best self will do. So stop copying other people, trying to be the next Ed Sheeran or Adele or whoever and make sure your voice has the edge and stamina as well as unique sound to stand the gigging and endurance race you want to enter into. Can there be anything worse than having worked that hard, have A&R coming your gig and your voice packs up – er no! So get your unique sound and vocal stamina sorted – get coached!
Goes without saying really, so work at your craft, write and write and write and then write and learn with others too. You need hooks and systems for writing and you need to write the record you want to hear not limit yourself by writing to a limited ability. Write so well that you have to learn to sing your own songs! If you slip a song you have written into a cover set you are doing (don’t announce it just play it) and if people are still enjoying it then you have a winner but if they suddenly move to the bar, chat to mates or go to the loo, then your song is not strong enough to hook them in. You have to test the market and lose the ego about changing it if necessary. It has to connect with an audience or you have no audience for your music.
5 song EP and an album in the wings
Singers announce their forthcoming EP like it’s the about to launch them, and to be truthful it rarely does, unless you do the following and have a following:
1) You must research the producer you use and create an EXCEPTIONAL recording with only your best songs to launch you. With today’s technology there is no excuse for a lack lustre production. It is common for singer to be a bit sheep like and all follow each other, but you need to stand out from the crowd not rush along with it. You will need a good budget for this and if you are not blown away by the recording, and feel super excited every time you listen to it, then that producer is not for you.
2) Just like the record labels in years gone by, why are you releasing it and where do you hope it will go? You need a marketing plan and a following. It’s not field of dreams – build it and they will come! Just releasing an EP will do nothing unless you do something about marketing it before hand.
Copyright and legals
This is a catch 22, as in some respects there is no point getting a music lawyer on board until you have something people are interested in buying into. So if you are worrying about putting something up on youtube and no one knows you, there is little point. That being said, there are horror stories out there of demos being made and picked up and used without permission by bigger fish who have more clout and money to fight you in court. There are some hard lessons to be learnt here, but copyrighting your music early on if you are serious and beginning to get interest in your work and performances is just common sense.
Killer live show
This is where there can be a big let down. If you have made all the effort to get an amazing EP together and are looking for A&R interest they are going to want to know two things :
Can they hear more?
You need to have more good material ready to go (hint: keep writing rather than riding the crest of a wave).
Where and when can they see you playing live.
Regular band rehearsals are a must as well as videoing you performances so you can see how it looks from the audience’s perspective. I find I am so let down by performances of bands and artists. They don’t know how to introduce songs, keep an audience entertained or even stay on pitch sometimes.
You must craft a performance like you would a great song, in a thought out manner. It’s all part of your marketing strategy to build your presence and build a fan base. It’s not unusual to see singers and bands get up on stage and behave like they would when in the rehearsal room, singing to themselves and the set lacking drive and focus.
You must learn to put together a great set and rehearse like you are about to perform. If all you want is to stand on stage and people love you without you doing much in return to earn that, you are missing the point. Be an entertainer.
A fan base – and somewhere to house them
A big mistake that up and coming singers make is not having their own website in their own name or the bands name. They think they can get away with social media only and you can’t. The website is the home that you want to direct fans to. There must be a sign up box linked to a data collection service like mailchimp, constant contact or awebber (which I use) – it means that perhaps in return for a free download people can put their names and email in (in other words they say “yes” to having emails off you) and you can keep in touch with them and nurture the relationship.
When you are ready to release your amazing EP or announce your shows, you will begin to find you have a ready made fan base waiting for you. If all you are doing is gigging and not collecting names, you are wasting a great opportunity to build your brand. Every one needs customers – and you have to find yours. There is no artist development or magic wand out there in the form of a record label who is waiting to throw money at you, unless you already have a huge following and then you may not need them anyway!
A Social Media presence
If the website is the home you want your fans to find, then social media is possibly one of the main roads in which they travel to get to your door. No one can deny the immense power of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, Youtube and even LinkedIn (which was originally for more corporate business).
Again though, social media has to be part of your overall plan. Think about the end result you want from every post you make. Do you want likes, sign ups etc, more fans to spread the word on your behalf?
But here is a MUST: You will get far more exposure if you interact with the people who interact with you. If all you do is post videos of you singing and never reply to comments then you are not engaging with fans and building relationship. It shows you are only interested in yourself and that just gets old after a while. We have possibly the most powerful platforms in the whole of history to use to reach people, so think about how you want to connect and plan it out.
A network of industry contacts
Yes it’s true, it’s really who you know not what you know that counts in the end, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get started. There is an old saying – treat ’em well on the way up because you will always meet ’em on the way down! If you want to eventually meet the movers and shakers then make sure you do the following:
- Be reliable (make sure people can count on you and they will)
- Be consistent (be good at what you do and keep crafting your skills, no one knows it all)
- Be Visible (get out at gigs and industry events and meet people)
- Be nice (don’t gossip or talk about people – it has a funny way of coming back on you.
- Be cool (don’t be a desperate social climber, chill out, remember names and make sure you follow up)
Business savvy, passion and confidence (be a cool person, not arrogant)
I’ve said it above, at the end of the day you are not just in music, you are in sales and people buy into people they know, like and trust, but if you are really wanting to make a business out of your music you can’t be fluffy about it – like Eric Morcambe (Morcambe and Wise) said show business is always business before the show.
You will need finances (so a job while you get things off the ground is super important) and bags of confidence.
You will need to know how to grow a business with your music and have unwavering passion, self belief that you can learn what you need to know and be a person people want to hang around with or inspire.
No one is born like this, we have to grow into it. You also have to have a strong character if you are not to fall prey to the rock’n’roll lifestyle choices that will lead to destruction. Artists and singers have sensitive temperaments by nature and it’s easy to fall prey to stimulants that help you wind down or pep up, none of which in the long run will see you through the long it will take to become the artist you long to be.
It’s not for the faint hearted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get there. It’s all a risk, no one can guarantee success. I’ve known a millionaire who couldn’t buy success for his son’s band, that is solely down to being able to find, develop and nurture fans, create great music, and become savvy in getting that out into the world.
Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.