A few years ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a major music producers house in the USA to listen to some demos of a new international artist’s album due for release the following year. One of my music colleagues and good friends asked the question ” In these days of social media, are record labels still important for artists? The reply was “Its all about reach” and finding new ways to connect to a wider audience! I’ve often commented that I’d never want to rely upon music solely from my income and am in a great position in that my non musical work and international profile as a communication specialist allow me to fund music projects for myself and others. It also allows a terrific freedom which means I have 100% control over all my material and when and where I choose to play live. I have the greatest respect for anyone wanting to work as a professional artist, its not an easy task. Below are some personal observations and thoughts. Feel free to agree or disagree!
Building a fanbase
Frank Wilkes from Kycker gave some good tips in one of the Green Eyed Records videos on building a fanbase
One of the reasons I set up Green Eyed Records was to encourage collaboration and discussion between artists and to look at sharing resources. Of course not everyone gets the value of this and to my great surprise I’ve seen all manner of individuals literally “snatching failure from the jaws of success” insisting that they know better than anyone else while moaning about their financial state as an artist, mostly as a result of a limited audience reach.
Yes, some may have a core base of fans and seek financial support from these individuals, but there is of course a ceiling to what is possible if you are not reaching out to a wider public. In recent years I had two solo performers actually voice their annual earnings (I didn’t ask for this information!) both indicating that their entire earnings for the year was less than the average UK salary!
Both these artists have had to date a small loyal following, but constantly in my view miss excellent opportunities to reach a wider audience due to their own narrow thinking. When challenged the response is usually something like “I’m not interested in chasing money or being commercial. I’m following my own vocation” which enlists lots of sympathy from core fans (nothing wrong with that) but they are mostly heavily dependent on the good will of a few people which is always somewhat precarious in the long term. Of course there are no rights and wrongs in such matters, but all the successful artists I have spoken to appreciate the value to collaboration and delegation in reaching a wider audience.
Choosing a band/artist name? Always check before you start marketing
Before creating and launching a website and ramping up social media, its a good idea to check that your band/artist name isn’t already being used by a Las Vegas Strip joint or lingerie clothing line! Sounds like basic common sense doesn’t it, BUT I’ve seen countless examples of this kind of mistake. This can cause all manner of confusion online and in the worst instances mean that you can be sued by another party. As always its the details that are important here and it doesn’t take a great deal of time to check domain names and do a proper search online to see if anyone else is using that specific name. In my non music capacity I advise on branding and marketing and run trainings for other professionals in UK, Europe, USA and Asia. The name of a band/artist is crucial in the same way as the name of any business.
Common misconceptions about social media?
Not a week goes by when I don’t see somebody moaning on social media about social media and especially with Facebook. What these characters don’t appreciate is that
“THE CUSTOMER IS THE ADVERTISER, EVERYONE ELSE IS A USER OF THE SERVICE”
The expectation that FB will accommodate all your commercial needs for NOTHING, is totally delusional! These social media platforms are businesses in their own rights and like any business are there to make money. Its also not compulsory to appear and spend time on these platforms. Yes, the argument can be made that the users supply data for the platforms, but its extremely naïve to imagine that these platforms are going to be charitable concerns for those who don’t pay to use the service. In recent times I noticed a post from a business owner flagging up that social media is all about “engagement” This is not news unless you’ve been living in a cave in some remote part of the world! There are many benefits of using social media, BUT it requires learning some time and financial investment to really discover the benefits. Simply moaning about the platforms on the platforms is quite frankly bonkers.
Always watch the figures to avoid car crash scenarios
I’m lucky to come from a business background and have an awareness of the need to watch margins. A great example of this was running the first two Music for The Head and Heart events. I’m always keen that the artists get a good deal for playing and the audience get good value. This was a challenge when we had a maximum capacity of just 78 people in the room. Assume there are 3 artists playing at these MHH events and they each bring a guest. That immediately means we are down to 72 people. With myself and the sound producer, we are now down to 70 people. One artist suggested “Nick, you can’t charge more than 6 quid for anyone to attend” If I went that route, The maximum income from that evening would be 420 and out of that I need to pay all the artists, sound guy, the venue and all promotions.
I suggested to another performer that they move an event from one with 120 max capacity to one with 230+ capacity. That immediately would have created more “headroom” for sales as well as meaning there was more space for covid considerations. Past the initial break even figure the evening then had the potential to generate the artist substantially more income. Of course its down to each artist whether they want to limit numbers or expand their audiences and potential earnings. Either way, its always smart to look at margins, so you make live work financially viable and often this attention to detail at a most basic level simply is not there. People who bang on saying “Its not just about being commercial” are often the exact same characters who reply massively on the good will of others and bemoan their lack of income! There’s no rights or wrongs, but as always attention to detail will always make for avoiding car crash scenarios.
Most of this is of course common sense, but as an old boss of mine used to say “Sense ain’t that common” Again each person needs to decide for themselves what works and these are simply my opinions, but they they are informed opinions from a proven business background and a fair bit of discussion with a wide range of musical artists from those scratching a living playing to a small fan base to those selling out huge stadiums internationally.