While creativity will always be the most integral part of being a professional musician, getting and then staying organised on the admin front is almost as essential when it comes to making music a viable and sustainable career choice.
‘Bandmin’, as it’s come to be known in some circles, refers to the vital administrative tasks that come hand-in-hand with the business of being a professional musician. Two such tasks can be accomplished through your PRS membership: registering your music and reporting all of your live shows to PRS. Getting into the habit of correctly and regularly reporting this information means that you’ll get paid whenever your music is used and maximise the royalties you’re entitled to.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a management team in place, then it’s likely that they will take on the ‘bandmin’, as Modern Sky's Day to Day Manager Mike Woolridge explains to M. ‘Ultimately, having someone take care of this side of the artist’s business will allow the artist to focus their time on writing music and playing shows,’ he says.
It’s imperative, though, that all artists at least understand the importance of these administrative responsibilities. J Fender, who fronts the Manchester band Afflecks Palace and manages the shoegaze band Pastel, argues that ‘many artists aren’t encouraged to know how royalties, registering works and reporting live shows work, so that managers can have more power and knowledge’.
It is entirely possible, though, to operate as a professional musician and conquer ‘bandmin’ at the same time: take Hannah Merrick of Liverpool duo King Hannah. For Hannah, the key lies with prioritising her time. ‘If there’s a lot of songwriting going on, then that is my absolute priority: it comes before anything and everything,’ she explains. ‘I work best first thing in the morning, so that’s when I do all my songwriting. Any admin then comes after that.’
She’s also keen to emphasise that the more songs you register with PRS, the easier the process becomes. While you don’t have to understand all the intricacies of ‘bandmin’, a working knowledge of the basics is fundamental to making a living from your music. ‘At the end of the day, a songwriter’s quarterly PRS distribution pay out is where a big chunk of their money comes from,’ she tells M. ‘So learning how to register your songs and report live shows correctly is critical. It will pay off in the long run.’
J echoes this sentiment. ‘It’s hard enough as it is to make money from music, so if you’ve got to the point where you’re earning royalties, you’ve got to make sure you’re claiming them,’ he says. ‘The only way you can do that is to make sure they’re registered in the first place.’
‘If one of your songs is shown any love or you get a sync deal, those royalties will start to trickle in — but only if you’ve done the admin first!’ - J Fender
Live shows can also be a multi-generative source of income for musicians. ‘I don’t think a lot of artists realise that when they play live, if you report your setlist to PRS they’ll pay you royalties for that show,’ J continues. ‘For anybody going on tour, regardless of how many people you’re playing to, make sure you register your songs and report the live shows because royalties will make their way to you.
‘You’ve got to keep on top of registering [your music] as you write new songs and reporting as you play more shows, which can be easier said than done!’ he adds with a laugh. ‘If one of your songs is shown any love or you get a sync deal, those royalties will start to trickle in — but only if you’ve done the admin first!’
If you’re a music creator looking to take on the ‘bandmin’ side alongside your creative pursuits, then a good place to start, as Mike at Modern Sky advises, is making sure that the bank details associated with your PRS membership are up to date. PRS has four deadlines throughout the year for members to register their works and update their bank details, so it’s essential to do this sooner rather than later.
Reflecting on the period when he looked after numerous artists’ ‘bandmin’ and publishing catalogues, Mike recalls having a year's worth of live claims to submit (‘I found the setlist uploader template provided by PRS very useful!’). His advice is to wait until the end of a tour before uploading your setlists: this way you can go through each tour date and setlist to report each and every live show correctly.
‘If it’s a big tour where the songs performed don’t change, saving the setlist on the PRS portal can save a lot of time as well,’ he adds. ‘Although the income can take up to six months to come through, it makes all the difference when looking to cover daily tour costs and can help with cashflow throughout the year.’
As an artist and a manager, J sees both sides of the coin in his day-to-day interactions with the music industry. It’s not surprising, then, that he advises any artist to get clued up on how the industry functions and how royalties are generated, particularly in case they get blindsided by a ‘rogue manager’ who might see this lack of knowledge as something to exploit.
‘You need to know what PRS is and what it does, what a record deal is and what sync is,’ he says. ‘That information gives you an insight into what a manager can offer you and bring to the table.’
He’s quick to point out that he knows all too well how complicated the industry can seem (‘there are so many facets and mechanisms in the music industry that you only come to know about once you’ve tripped over them’), but if music creators can empower themselves with knowledge of these basics, then they’ll stand in good stead when it comes to negotiating record and publishing deals. After all, as J says, ‘the primary objective is to enjoy what you’re doing, because music owes you nothing’.