How to... build your music business acumen

Leanne Page is the founder of The Starling Sessions, an initiative that offers artist development through industry tailored courses and tuition. Here, she talks us through the fundamentals that any songwriter or composer should consider when building their business nous.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 25 Jun 2013
  • min read
The programme has been running since 2011 and brings together a group of mentors from across the industry to coach upcoming songwriters and musicians. Between them, the mentors have worked with artists and songwriters including Mariah Carey, Amy Winehouse, John Legend and Beyonce.

Before The Starling Sessions, Leanne was a performer, ran her own management company, founded The Fundraising Agency and worked as a booker for DJs.

Over the years she has worked with countless unsigned artists, including singer-songwriter and producer Taio Cruz, who she helped promote during his early writing days.

In 2009 Leanne founded the I Am Awards which recognises unsigned and independent artists in the UK.

Here, she talks us through the fundamentals that any songwriter should consider when building their business acumen.

All emerging songwriters today need to be able to...
Cut through the noise and ensure they get heard. To do this, you need to build a support network around you. You need a sounding board for your ideas.

Business insight is so important for songwriters and composers because…
We seem to be in a phase where entrepreneurship is encouraged – anyone in any industry that really wants to make a go of it is turning into an entrepreneur. They are going out there on their own and making it happen. We have come across a lot of musicians who also want to be artist managers, event promoters, and more. You need many strings to your bow to succeed, and you need to explore the way the business works to be able to get ahead.

My four top tips for artists and songwriters looking to break through are…

  1. You have to be 100 percent passionate about what you are doing. You need to believe in your music so that others can too.

  2. You need to have business knowhow so you can take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.

  3. Every successful person has a coach. I think it’s key to have someone on standby that you can bounce ideas off, and who will pick you up when you are down.

  4. Each artist has their own desired destination and being clear about that is very important. Think about what you want and set your goals.

Many songwriters starting out are focused on learning their trade. But they should begin to think about the business side of the industry…
As soon as money comes up in a conversation. To start with, many songwriters we meet are exploring their writing and hooking up with producers to see what they can do. As soon as they get the thumbs up on their writing they need to start thinking about the business side of that opportunity. Sometimes it can be too late – the excitement can take over and a writer could end up with a deal they don’t necessarily feel comfortable.

Artist managers are important but…
It really does depend on the artist and the path you wish to take. You may be in the position to self-manage for quite some time. In terms of someone starting from the ground up, I think it’s good that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve before you bring in a manager. You need a manager that will support your goals, not the other way round.

Marketing yourself is important but…
How you do it depends on how you want to further your journey. For example, using social media to market yourself is the way to go if your target audience is teens and young adults. It’s all about being clear exactly who you are and who you want to attract. From there you can find the marketing medium that suits you, whether that be social media, email, face to face networking, live shows…

Playing live in the early days is hugely important...
You need to get out there in front of people because you have that connection. People take away the experience and talk about it. It’s great for word-of-mouth publicity.

The Starling Sessions offers courses and drop-in sessions covering funding advice and marketing tips right through to the legal and business aspects of a music career.

Alongside the fundamentals, the programme offers advice on creating a brand and live sessions where mentors critique the performance aspect of the artists involved. To find out more, visit