There is no doubt that the music industry is one of the most competitive industries in the world. Finding a record deal can take what seems an eternity. For many, getting signed to a label means years of hard work, busking on cobbled streets and wearing rucksacks filled with free EPs that are given to passers by.
With the help of online media platforms, marketing and promoting music has become easier and more cost effective. As the industry adapts to technological advances digital sales have sharply increased; with 6 million albums downloaded in 2011, a 24% rise on the previous year. Sites such as Bandcamp and Soundcloud are two platforms that enable artists to distribute their own material. They can do this free of charge and from the comfort of their own homes.
Getting Signed: What’s Changed?
2011 saw the introduction of the popular and expanding media platform SBTV. Founded by Jamal Edwards back in 2006, SBTV has been tagged as the ‘UK’s leading online youth broadcaster’. SBTV is based on a simple concept of filming upcoming and undiscovered talent and posting the videos online. The concept behind Jamal’s idea seems simple enough, however SBTV has somehow managed to accumulate over 166,000 YouTube subscribers and a staggering 92.5 million+ views. Seeing as there are currently only 1,384 videos on the channel, this is a remarkable set of statistics.
With the industry being as vast as ever, many new and upcoming artists have collaborated and toured with artists from other genres. Halifax-born signer songwriter, Ed Sheeran exploited this with his ability to work with different genres such as Grime and Hip-Hop. He began his career at the age of 14, touring London and playing over 600 gigs in 2 years. It all began after meeting his idol, Damien Rice while backstage at a gig. Sheeran has become an inspiration for many artists who choose to use a DIY route. This enables them to step into the mainstream territory and potentially bag themselves a record deal.
Sheeran used simple methods of marketing and distributing music while handing out free CD’s from rucksacks, on tube stations and in popular shopping destinations in London. In February 2010, SBTV contacted Sheeran and agreed for him to perform the track “You Need Me”, live in a studio.
Here is the original footage of Ed Sheeran’s live performance on SBTV:
How Did Ed Sheeran Do It?
Since then, the performance went viral it has now received over 5 million views, becoming an online hit with fans of both Sheeran and SBTV. The platform has given artists the chance to make the step from independent to mainstream. It has also helped talents such as Ed Sheeran, Rizzle Kicks and Jessie J to secure record deals worldwide. In 2011 Asylum/Atlantic Records snapped up Sheeran, 4 days after releasing No.5 Collaborations Project in January 2011. The project featured a host of Grime artists such as Devlin, Wretch 32 and Dot Rotten. Later that year, Sheeran’s debut album ‘+’ hit the shelves, producing a number of top 10 singles.
Artists such as Sheeran, and acoustic sensation Ryan Keen, have been touring endlessly for years. Touring is vital for those who aim to build hardcore fan bases up and down the country. Contacting media platforms such as R&R Productions and SBTV are great ways of distributing new material on a global scale. Online media players like Soundcloud enable artists to upload material for fans download and listen to later. For those who are relying on self funded releases, Facebook and Tumblr allow users to create pages dedicated to promoting video and audio content as well as information on upcoming gigs and tours. For those who are regular performers at local venues, Ustream is an online broadcaster that enables users to stream a live video to worldwide audiences. In 2011 Ed Sheeran used Ustream to broadcast a live gig held in a fan’s living room.
Getting Signed to a Label
With the introduction of these new online experiences, promoting new music couldn’t be easier. For new artists to succeed and develop, new doors must be opened which may lead to unexpected successes. Build up the fan base first; they are the ones who will guarantee sell out tours and sales. Websites, blogs and online profiles related to the artist should be updated on a weekly basis as these will be the first sources A&R will look at. Sheeran has proved to people that you don’t have to attend Brit School to make it in the industry. Constant gigging, saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity given to you and then taking advantage of the new media platforms, have proved to be effective for artists looking to swap busking on the streets to recording in the studios.