Leading figures from the music industry discussed the skills artists needed to break through in 2011. The panel acknowledged that new artists are increasingly being told to adopt a DIY approach to launch their careers.
But can they really do it on their own or do they need a team of professionals around them? What advice and skills do aspiring artists need to develop or access, and how does raw talent become ‘industry ready’?
On hand to discuss these issues were Columbia Records A&R Ollie Hodge, Six07 Press director Ritu Morton, Tam Coyle of the Scottish Music Industry Association and Angela Dorgan of Music From Ireland and First Music Contact.
The chair was Jim Mawdsley, chief executive of leading music development agency Generator, based in Newcastle.
Jim Mawdsley: How can bands do it on their own?
Tam Doyle: The DIY approach is changing. It’s not about saving up, getting a demo done and rushing out to play it to everyone anymore. It’s about building slowly and surely. But I think bands have always done it themselves.
Angela Dorgan: You should know what questions you need to ask. All that info is out there for free. You need to do some research. Everyone is asking the same questions as you. No one has a magic wand, but someone who will distribute your music is important. The DIY ethic is about knowing where you want to go and working hard to get there. Have someone in the band who is also acting as the manager.
Jim Mawdsley: Who develops acts now?
Ritu Morton: Bands need to be up and running before they get to the signing stage. Usually the bands themselves have got the songs pretty much ready by the time I start to work with them.
Ollie Hodge: Take our signing, The Vaccines, as an example; the band’s manager organised an event in a rehearsal studio when they had 10 songs to play that were perfectly prepared. The manager invited industry people down to see the show, and it really worked. We are always looking for bands that have created a world around themselves.
Angela: Go into a rehearsal studio and each stand in a corner of the room and write down what you want. Share your thoughts with the other members of the band. What you all come back with is very important. It’s essential to see what you all want to get out of it, and it will be the conversation that you draw upon when meeting the person that will become your manager. It’s one of the most important conversations that a band will ever have.
The best investment you can make is to take someone with you to all your gigs who is really friendly and who can make friends with the crowd and gather emails for you.
Also, play the same gig to three people as you would 300.
Tam: The more self reliant a band is the better. For example, only get a manager when you can no longer do it yourselves.
Jim: What about lawyers?
Tam: Get a lawyer involved as late as possible – they cost a lot of money!
Ollie: The first time someone puts a piece of paper in front of you and asks you to sign it – that’s when you need a lawyer.
Angela: So much can be done on your own now. You can inform yourselves about so much more through the internet than you could a few years ago. It’s all about education. The days are gone when you need to go to a lawyer the first time and A&R comes to your gig. It’s more scary but also more exciting, because the band has more control.
Ritu: But lawyers also act as A&Rs or labels or managers, and can bring kudos to bands. Its not ‘amateur time’ if you have a lawyer. Many unsigned bands are in a kind of kindergarten and they need to build their CV.
Find out more about Generator music development agency here and tap into online resources in your area.
Make it Happen is an online resource to help you make your mark in the complex music industry.
Previously in the Make it Happen series…
Make it Happen 1 – using social media
Make it Happen 2 – your music and the net
Make it Happen 3 – five ingredients of a hit song