Studying Music at University – Advice from Music Graduates

If you are thinking about studying music at University, you need to make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, and making the correct choices for your career.

Choosing the Right Course

There are so many music related courses available how do you find the one that suits you?

There are many things to consider:

  • Which university has the right facilities?
  • Are you set on specialising in a specific area of music or do you want a broad and varied course in order to expand your knowledge?
  • Do you need / want hands on experience or do you need to brush up on your knowledge of theory?
  • Where do your personal interests and passions lie?
  • What transferrable skills will you gain from a course?

Making the Most of Studying Music at University

University gives you opportunities that you may not find anywhere else so make the most of it! Here’s some advice from people who have been through it and come out the other side.

“Make sure that the course gives some vocational experience towards what you want to do as a career.”

If I were to go back to university knowing what I know now I would… “have looked for a course with more elements of music business. This will be at the core of any career you go in to so it’s important to learn about.”


“Think about what skills you actually want to learn and whether these will help you do what you want to do after university. There’s no point going to university for the sake of it, really think about what you will get out of it. Also, if you do go, make the most of all the opportunities given to you. It’s the perfect time to start building up contacts in the industry.”

If I were to go back to university knowing what I know now I would… “have done more gigs in my spare time because I definitely had more time to do it while I was at university… not so much now I’m working full time!”


“Make the most of it and get involved in different activities/events. Find out if there are other opportunities available through your course too.

If I were to go back to university knowing what I know now I would… “try to spend more time focusing on creative / composition tasks.”


“JUST DO IT! There are so many areas of music for you to explore in a university, and many institutions offer you the opportunity to tailor the course according to your interests […] frequent the library and make use of any resources the university provides you with. Some universities might place a stronger emphasis on academic modules rather than performance, so it’s really important to do your research. Check out the department’s course structure on their websites before applying or email admissions tutors, they’re there to help!”


“Music courses usually house a lot of transferrable skills and knowledge, but you need to be dedicated to make the most of it. You need to be willing to stay late or spend weekends in the studio or travel out for a field recording. Don’t spend your whole time at university working on assignments. You may never have access to such a wide range of resources at your disposal ever again. Work with students to achieve personal goals and work on your own projects. Studios tend to be free at the start of the academic year or in the summertime, use this time to get comfortable using the equipment and make lots of stuff.”

If I were to go back to university knowing what I know now I would… “Work on assignments as soon as they were set and make the most of all the resources available.”


“Go for a really broad course and experience all different parts of the industry in your first year and then you can narrow it down on your second and third years. There are so many different types of jobs in the music industry and it will probably surprise you. Also take every opportunity you can get make sure you’re signed up to find out about any extra curricular activities you can do like helping with festivals etc. You need to start thinking about your CV now. Remember to work hard and party harder.”

If I were to go back to university knowing what I know now I would… “Drink and party less and study a bit more I imagine. My time keeping is much better than it used to be so I’d probably not leave my assignments to the last minute.”


“Try to find the balance between doing something you really want to do and are passionate about while also thinking about future prospects, after all this is costing you a lot of money. This will differ for everyone. Just make sure you are willing to pull your weight in order to get out what you put in.”

Your Dissertation/Final Project

Your dissertation or final project is what you work towards throughout your time at university. It also has a lot of control over your final grade, so what do you need to think about?

We cannot stress enough how important it is to be truly interested in the topic you choose. You are (hopefully) going to be spending a lot of time on this, so try to choose something that doesn’t feel like a chore. It is very likely that the end product will be a lot better too!

This is an opportunity to put everything you’ve learnt into practise. You have so much new knowledge that you can put to use in whatever way you like.

It’s a final chance to learn something new but with all the support of the university facilities and lecturers. Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn more about? Here’s your chance.

Do you have the choice been a practical and theoretical project? Which one suits you best and which one will help you get the most out of your topic?

Good Luck!

How to Build Your Own Network

Everybody knows that starting as an artist isn’t easy. The one thing that most new artists forget (or rather don’t know they should do), is to network. By networking you can create your own team. Here are some tips to build your own network or team.

Networking

The first step to a career in music, is networking. Go to networking events like Eurosonic or Midem or even SXSW. It does have a price tag on it. But, isn’t it worth it so that you can get so much more out of it?

Before you go to the event, try to make some appointments with people. If you don’t know how start by checking the event’s website. Events like Eurosonic, have a list of people that are going to be there. It’s easy to Google the names and see if they are the right person/company for you. Because there is nothing worse than being a metal artist and contacting someone that specialises in classical music.

Always be ready to hand over a business card. You never know who you’ll meet! Always have your music with you too. This way, whenever you have a meeting with someone, you can instantly show them what you’ve been working on. It’s easier than giving a CD and waiting for replies that will never come. These networking moments are perfect to build your career on. If they don’t like what you’re working on, ask them what needs work and show you’re ready to get some constructive feedback.

Connections

Another way of meeting people in the music industry, is looking at the liner notes on CD’s. There are always some useful names on it. Once you have a good list, try and contact them. It can be as easy as that!

Build Your Professional Team

First things first, you have to start with one person in your team – like a manager. In most cases, this can be a friend or family member. Be careful with adding someone of your family in the team, though. Sometimes family and money don’t mingle well.

Also, try to work out if the managers’ personality matches up with yours. You don’t want to be stuck on a contract with someone you can’t stand for the coming year or so. It seems bad to do this, but do you really want to be fighting all the time with your manager? They’re the ones who book your shows and get your money in. You don’t want to feel like you’re constantly fighting each other.

Before you say ‘yes’ to the first person with a great pitch, make sure you’ve checked a few things. Ask for references, check those references and ask a lot of questions.

Some questions you can ask are:

  • Do they have experience in the music industry?
  • Do they have clients that are in the same genre as you? If so, they are more likely to have existing contacts which could be useful to you.
  • Do they do the work themselves? Make sure you know who you’re paying to do the work so you don’t get left with any nasty surprises.
  • What is their fee? This is a normal question to ask in a meeting.
  • Do they have a written agreement? This can be very important further down the line, so make sure everything us written and agreed to before any work starts.

If you already have a team ready, great! You’re halfway there! If you are thinking about adding someone new to the team, ask the same questions above and ask your existing team what they think too. You’re a team after all and everybody needs to get on with each other before they form your professional career.

Smart Links 101

The following includes sections from a blog written by Music Fibre – an online music industry directory and blog posting tips, tutorials and useful information for anyone working in the music industry. In this blog, they have delved into the world of Smart Links. This may be something you are already familiar with, or you may never have heard of them; either way, this blog will tell you what they are, why you need them and how you can use them to drive more sales of your music.

What Are Smart Links For Music And Why Should I Use Them?

The internet has made the world a very small place. Even if you are making beats in your bedroom or recording from your mates shed, your fans can be anywhere in the world.

Smart links will help you make sure that when they find your music, they are taken to the right music download or streaming site and can shop in the right language and currency. A smart link can offer your fans a choice of store or you can automatically direct them based on their location or device (e.g you may wish to send iPhone users directly to iTunes.)

It’s not just about making sure the shopping experience is good for your customers, it’s also an opportunity to track and monitor your fans. You can find out which stores they like best, find out where in the world your fans are and keep track of your marketing. The advanced analytics that smart links offer let you see exactly how your fans are discovering your music. If you have ever wanted to know if your Facebook campaign is working or if you should stick to Twitter, this will help you find out.

How Smart Links Can Save You Time

Smart Links save a huge amount of time. To get started you simply enter one link to your music in one store. The smart link provider will scan other stores for the same release and you then decide which stores to show on your landing page. When promoting your music you simply share one link instead of having to enter details for Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, Beatport etc.

What Do Smart Links Look Like?

Help For Bands is aware of the ins and outs of Smart Links because Horus Music use them for their marketing campaigns. These are created for the artist to post and makes it easier for fans to access the artist’s music.

They also make it easier for publications to talk about the artist and their music. By having a smart link ready to go, a publication will find it easier to integrate into anything they write. Overall, it makes it much easier for anyone to listen to an artist’s music on their preferred platform. The easier the process is, the more likely someone is to listen to the music on offer.

Below, you can see an image that shows how the smart links work in the Soundplate Records website:

Smart Links

 

Want To Create Your Own Smart Links?

There are several providers that can help you create smart links for your music. These include SmartURL, LinkRedirector, LinkFire and Hive amongst others. The best part is, they are free to use! If you want to make it easier for fans to listen to your music, Smart Links are the way forwards!

You can see the original blog post by Music Fibre here: http://musicfibre.com/smart-links-music-101/

Advice for Lyricists: Part Two – Once You’ve Started Writing

So, you’ve found the inspiration and you’re ready to write (see part one). Great! Now what? There are a lot of factors that go into writing a song, many of which are down to personal style and preference but your choices and decisions during the writing process all affect the end product so it’s worth knowing some of the basics!

Avoiding Clichés (Or How to Make Them Work for You)

Songs are interpreted in many ways and if you want to make your meaning clear you may fall into the trap of clichés. In fact, this may have the opposite effect, by using clichés you run the risk of your song losing not only it’s effectiveness, but its meaning too. A way of avoiding these clichés is to flip them completely on their head by changing an aspect of the line so it has a completely different meaning. For example, take an idiom such as ‘water under the bridge’ find the opposite of water, perhaps fire, so that it becomes ‘fire under the bridge’, which switches the meaning and then brings up connotations of a bad break up, a fight etc.

Another example would be taking ‘wearing your heart on your sleeve’ and altering it be something such as ‘wearing your heart under your coat’, for example, which has completely the opposite meaning. This way you give a nod to the original cliché so your meaning is clear but also can create double meanings and avoid the lyrics sounding too contrived.

Clichés can also be used ironically, this depends on the phrasing of the line and the surrounding lyrics. This can create a kind of self-aware humour within your lyrics.

This idea of clichés doesn’t just apply to the lyrics but also to the phrasing and structure. Don’t feel pressured to conform to standards of song and rhyme structure and don’t force rhymes just because you think it should! It will sound forced if it is and this will ruin the flow of the song.

Structure

Below we will be listing the typical definitions of song elements but this does not mean that you cannot use them differently.

  • Introduction – The section at the beginning of a song generally before the lyrics start.
  • Verse – Usually recognisable due its melodic repetition although the lyrics usually differ. Typically uses rhyme in an AABB or ABAB format. This is where you can be more wordy and detailed, verses can tell a story.
  • Pre-Chorus – A transitional section between verse and chorus which can create a build up to the chorus.
  • Chorus / Refrain – A repeating section heard throughout the song that contains the hook and the main idea / theme of the song. This is where you want to keep the lyrics more simple. A refrain may also refer to a shorter repeated passage (such as ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ in basically every pop song ever).
  • Bridge – A contrasting and transitional section of the song which breaks up the repetitive pattern of a song.
  • Middle Eight – Named so because it is typically eight bars long, a type of bridge that has different characteristics to the rest of the song.
  • Outro / Coda – A way of ending the song, how the song winds down or fades out etc.
  • Interlude – Defined usually as a break or a gap, in music an interlude can be part of a song or a whole song that is part of an album (‘Interlude’ on My Chemical Romance’s album ‘Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge’).
  • Instrumental Break / Solo – Pretty self explanatory; similar to an interlude but may be longer and more involved. Can be a showcase of a certain instrument and can tell a story. As with an interlude, it can be part of a track or a whole track itself.

We find it best not to force it. Let the words come first and then arrange it because, let’s be honest, that’s the fun part. Also don’t be afraid to stray from the norm, let it happen naturally.

Making it Scan

Making words ‘scan’ in a song is making them fit well in the melody. There should not be any awkward jumps, gaps or change in tempo due to the amount of words in a line. This can be the most difficult part of writing a song. It doesn’t matter how great the line is on paper if you cram a load of words in and it doesn’t scan it will not sound good.

If you can’t bare to part with your words, you may be able to change the melody to fit. Sometimes it is best to compromise; changes that you make don’t just affect that one line but also the surrounding lines.

Repetition

Sometimes known as an ‘earworm’, a catchy song is usually created through the use of repetition. There have even been studies on it which should tell you how effective it is! Quite simply, the repeated exposure to a line or melodic phrase will make it more likely to stick in someone’s head.

This kind of repetition is usually the hook which is usually found within the chorus. There is no hard and fast rule and nothing is stopping you from having multiple repetitions or hooks within the song if you wanted.

You could run into issues, however, if the song is overly repetitive. Eventually, if something is repeated too often people will just stop listening. So finding that middle ground is important.

Finding the Hook

The effectiveness of the hook will be shown in how recognisable your track is. There are a lot of factors to aid the recognisability of your song, but a main one is the hook.

In order to create a hook here are some things to consider: Keep it simple. Make it rhyme. Make it repeat. Try to sum up the song in one line and use that to create your hook.

How Genre and Style Affect Your Writing

If you want to write a punchy, memorable, upbeat song then you probably want to keep the lines short and the words simple. Whereas, if you’re writing a ballad, you can afford to be wordier. It is slow and lingering and therefore you can use longer lines and words with more syllables.

Genre is also important, punk for example, is very reliant on it’s topic, usually the theming is quite political. Again, you don’t necessarily have to stick to these ideas completely but it helps if you are aiming for a certain feel.

Your Motivation

Your style may also be affected by your motivation for writing. If you are a primarily a writer and you are wanting to make a career out of writing for other artists, then this doesn’t mean that you can’t write from personal experience but that it may be useful to practise writing to a brief. This also gives you the opportunity write for a variety of different genres and styles.

If you are primarily a musician and a performer and are writing for your own use, then it may be useful be more aware of the style and feel that you are creating for yourself through your song writing. If you have a vision you can completely mould this creation from lyrics, music and sound.

Get your Own Merchandise

Merchandise usually comes as an afterthought to people embarking on the journey of their music careers, but it’s a major revenue stream for many musicians and labels. Merchandise isn’t just a means to make money. It’s how your fans connect with you as an artist and as a brand, show their support and capture memories. Having merchandise allows people to express who they show they are part of your journey

Setting up your own line of merchandise doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to do it alone. You just need the right partners to help you deliver on this aspect of your music business. Before you start, you need to know the five steps to building your line. We’ll walk you through these below.

1. Get your Merchandise Designs Made

Kanye West managed to sell plain white Egyptian cotton T-shirts at $120 a piece, but most artist merchandise needs a little bit of decoration to entice people to buy.

You need to create artwork that captures your values, the emotions you create, your beliefs; your brand, and it needs to connect with your fans on an emotional level. Not to mention your artwork has to be visually appealing and your fans have to be proud to wear it.

Think about what you want done before approaching an artist or designer to create your artwork. The more you can tell your designer about yourself, the better equipped they will be to create merchandise that you will be proud to sell and that your fans will actually want to buy.

2. Decide Which Products you Want to Sell

Once your artwork is complete and you’re satisfied, the next step is to choose which products to sell. Bare in mind, not all products are made the same. There are standard T-shirts and there are premium T-shirts for example.

Every category of products from T-shirts, sweaters and hoodies right through to varsity jackets, backpacks and beanie hats will have various manufacturers and product ranges within them and it’s your job to decide which ones you want to use. Consider the following when deciding:

  • Quality of T-shirt; Standard or premium?
  • Is the garment easy to re-label?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Does it fit nicely? Will your fans want to wear it?
  • What does the fabric feel like and what is it made of?

These decisions will affect production costs which will impact your retail price. Don’t get me wrong, Beyoncé can sell her merchandise on a cheap Gildan Softstyle T-shirt for £35.00, but she’s Beyoncé. We have to be practical here and choose a product that looks and feels the way you need it to in order for you to feel comfortable selling it at the price you’re asking for.

3. Get your Samples or Mockups Made

Now your designs are made and your products are selected you need to be able to show people what the product will look like. There are two ways you can do this.

Get Mockups Made

This is a more cost effective way of showing people how your products will look. You can put the mockups on your website and use them to promote on social media. We can also provide you with images to produce your own mockups on. Just ask for access to our Google drive.

Get Physical Samples Made

Having a physical item that you can take photos of and promote on your social media channels and at your gigs may be a little more costly, but it’s certainly much more effective at getting people to trust and buy your products. Now they can feel the garments before making a purchase. People won’t buy a product from you if they can’t see it – unless maybe you’re Beyoncé.

4. Set Up your Sales Channels

Once you’ve created your products, you need a way for your customers to buy them.

A sales channel is simply a way of bringing products or services to market to make them available for purchase.

E-Commerce Website

Selling online is essential if you want to reach more customers than you could offline. Get an e-commerce website built so that your customers can buy your products online. Research on the range of e-commerce platforms available and choose the right one for you. See suggestions:

  • Squarespace
  • Shopify
  • Prestashop
  • Etsy
  • Big Commerce
  • Woo Commerce
  • Wix
  • BigCartel

Selling Merchandise at Gigs

If you have a gig and you have a chance to take some of your merchandise with you, then do it. This is a chance for you to connect with your customers, talk to them, sign copies of your EP, take photos with them and make it a memorable experience.

If you can’t get a table, then wear your own merchandise. Bring a duffle bag or two and sell your merchandise to people straight out of the bag. After you’ve delivered your performance, people will want to become a part of your brand and your story. Don’t deprive them of this. Not everyone will have cash, so be prepared and get a portable card reader. We recommend the iZettle.

5. Production & Fulfilment

You will need a means by which to produce and distribute your products so that your customers will receive them. There are a few ways to approach this depending on your circumstance.

Print-on-Demand

You can sell your products online without having to get them made in bulk and keep inventory and still earn a profit on your sales. You sell the product first and then we print and ship it to your customer on your behalf with you lifting a finger. It’s a good way to get started on a low budget and test out which of your products are most popular. Learn more about print on demand here.

Bulk Ordering

Ordering in bulk is higher risk due to more cash being spent upfront, but will give you a higher profit margin. If you have a growing fan base and you’re selling regularly, this may be the route for you. Paying £5.00 per T-Shirt and selling them at £20.00 will give you pretty good margins with a relatively low breakeven point. It’s a good idea to learn about the different printing methods as well, which you can do here.

You can choose to keep your products yourself and ship them to your customers manually, but may consider outsourcing to a fulfilment centre when your operation grows.

So now you have everything ready, why not get started?

It can take a while to get everything prepared to start selling your merchandise, but once you’ve reached that stage then you’ve crossed a real milestone. Having the right guidance during the process is essential, and that’s why we’re here to help and offer our expertise.

We believe you should be able to earn a living from your craft and want to help you do that, so get in touch and let us know what we can do for you.

Get in touch with us at info@wearyourheartout.co.uk or give us a call on 0116 350 0321.

Happy merching!


Written by Kieza Silveira De Sousa from Wear Your Heart Out

Inside a Record Company

The UK plays host to hundreds of record labels including the three major record companies and a thriving community of hundreds of independent labels and music companies (also see the role of a record label in a previous blog).

The three major record companies are Universal MusicSony Music and Warner Music.  And each of these organisations are home to smaller labels. These often group together musicians of a specific genre which can be served by the label’s expertise.

Regardless of the size of the record company, there are various roles that need to be fulfilled in order to discover talent, make a record, market and distribute a single or an album, and finally deliver that content to music fans. Behind the end product is a whole range of people who work with an artist to ensure that their creative vision is brought to life.

How Can a Record Company Help

Whilst a Chief Executive will be the person in charge of the entire company – and a President may be appointed to look after the affairs of a specific label – the success of an artist will need the support of those within the sales, publicity, promotions, marketing, legal, business affairs, and A&R departments. And, of course, every company requires financial and IT experts and secretarial staff.

Record companies provide the money for the recording and manufacturing processes. They also find producers for artists to work with and pay to promote the record once it is finished. Because they pay for everything, artists may find themselves with less control and also receive less royalties as a result. The company needs to recoup their costs first before passing on any additional royalties.

Whether an artist used a record company or remains independent depends on their situation and what they’re hoping to achieve. An artist should weigh up all of their available options before deciding to sign with a record company. It is important to sign with the right label, not the first one that comes along.

10 Musician Accounting Traps and How to Avoid Them

You are first and foremost a musician, and your attention should of course be focused on developing your art. But as your career and earnings grow, the financial aspects can become increasingly complex and you’ll need a plan. This should be flexible enough to facilitate your successes and protect your earnings over the long-term. It starts by getting your accounting processes in place from the outset, which can save you an enormous amount of time, money and frustration further down the line. Don’t get caught by the typical accounting traps.

Get Ahead with Accounting

At the start of your career, it makes sense to handle your own business administration, mainly to save on costs. But we also encourage people to develop a financial understanding of their music business from the outset. A firm understanding will help you with making tough business decisions in the future. But more often than not, this gets relegated to the bottom of most people’s to-do-list.

The main reason is that there are always seemingly more important things to do, like making and performing music. It’s hard to argue with these priorities but it’s something that needs to be taken seriously. You will need to decide who is responsible for collecting income and making payments (usually the most organised member). Sometimes your manager (if you have one) may be able to keep business records for you. Make sure you clearly agree what role they will play and make them accountable by regularly reporting back to you.

Avoid These Accounting Traps

Avoid the musician accounting traps and learn how to be better prepared.

  1. Not doing any organisation of paperwork until it’s too late. This is probably the most common mistake. The work piles up – probably in a shoe box – and you get further and further behind. Don’t let this reach the point where you never have the time to catch up. The more you try to hide from the problem the more it will occupy your thoughts.
  2. Not using cloud accounting software. There are many electronic and cloud systems that are easy to use for people with no bookkeeping or accounting experience. Cloud accounting systems allow your accountant to take a look at your numbers at any time. This gives them a ‘real-time’ perspective which will inevitably lead to you receiving better and more informed advice.
  3. Not having a separate bank account. If you mix your business and personal finances you’re just making life more difficult. Not least because you will have to separate it all out when it comes to tax return time. The first thing to do when you’ve set up your band is to acquire a bank account.
  4. Not filing bank statements in order. It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t do it. What happens? You give your statements to your accountant and they phone back telling you you’re missing statements. This means you’ve just paid your accountant to organise your bank statements, when you could’ve saved money doing it yourself.
  5. Not have a filing system for your costs. Have two files, one for paid invoices and the other for unpaid invoices. When you pay an invoice, write the date and method of payment on the invoice. Once paid, move it to the paid file. Keep both files organised alphabetically.
  6. Not paying by card or transfer. Your bank will do most of your bookkeeping for you for free. If you pay by card, direct debit or electronic transfer, a permanent record of the transaction is provided. This will detail the date, amount and the recipients’ name. In bookkeeping terms, that’s a great start. So try and pay with cash as infrequently as possible.
  7. Not retaining receipts. If you don’t, you risk failing to account for certain expenses, which means paying more tax than you need to. Even relatively modest expenses can mount up, so keep a close record of every penny you spend. Remember to keep receipts for even the smallest costs and record the mileage of all your music-related business trips.
  8. Not budgeting for tax. Although you may not have any cash at the moment, your accounts may show that you made a profit last year, which means you will need to pay tax. Make sure you budget as you go, so you won’t get any great shocks at the end of the year. Open a deposit or business savings account and put money aside for your tax. Saving 25-30% of all income you receive likely means you’ll easily be able to pay your tax bill.
  9. Not registering for taxes. If it’s your intention to make money from your music then you have a business. The tax authorities will expect you to register for taxes and file tax returns reporting your income. If you do not tell the tax authorities you are trading, the situation could be serious. This is because you may be charged penalties for failing to report your income and there’s a risk of prosecution.
  10. Not getting help from a qualified accountant. There’ll come a point when you will need to hire an expert to take care of the legal aspects. This could be registering you with the tax authorities, calculating tax and when to pay it, as well as making sure all documents are filed on your behalf. When hiring an accountant, do your homework and ensure they hold the relevant qualifications and are experienced in your industry. A good music industry accountant will give you much more than you think. They’ll act as a sounding board to your ideas; they’ll be a connector to other professionals, and they’ll quickly become a key player in your team. A good accounting will help you to achieve your personal and business goals.

Why You Should Sell Your Music on Vinyl

The music industry is currently going through unprecedented changes, with an emphasis on digital media instead of the old physical ones. Whereas CD keeps losing market share year-after-year, vinyl has been experiencing an amazing resurgence for nearly a decade.

The thing is, increase in sales doesn’t necessarily mean vinyl is still a suitable platform in a society that relies heavily on digital services. Hence the question: why are some artists still releasing music on vinyl in 2016?

Wax Is The New Trend

Online distribution services guarantee any artist, even independent ones, distribution of their music to every online musical platform (from iTunes to Spotify, including Tidal and Google Play). Vinyl releases have no assurance that their music will actually reach an audience. With high production costs and much lower exposure, vinyl doesn’t seem to be a sound investment at first sight.

Yet everyone knows that money is not the only issue ruling music production. Vinyl production offers strong material and graphic assets – in this instance: large artwork, strong sleeve, and a warmer sound. By engaging the senses, vinyl goes beyond the musical framework.

Unlike vinyl, CDs have become incapable of attracting customers in stores today. Why would they bother buying an album when they can enjoy unlimited access to music on their computer for the same price? In contrast, vinyl managed to keep them interested in buying music thanks to its classy and appealing nature.

Vinyl is far from being a trivial format. Not only can it be a selling point for artists, but it can also help them distinguish themselves from their peers. By offering their fans the opportunity to buy their music on vinyl, they develop their identity beyond the boundaries of music. Graphic design, packaging, or thematic concepts are some elements that help define their universe – and make vinyl still very popular.

Collectible items, synonymous with vintage and their reputation for sound quality are all reasons that explain the strong comeback of vinyl.

Vinyl sales skyrocketed overseas, with a staggering 1,250% growth between 2005 and 2015 in the US alone! The vinyl market has never been so healthy since its heyday back in the 70s. Vinyl increasingly reinforces its status as music enthusiasts’ favourite physical medium.

What Vinyl Solutions Are There For Artists?

A stronger consumer demand that pushes market players to increase their annual output. However, it’s quite hard for artists to stay competitive without financial support from labels. Although self-production can be an alternative, there still are both major and obvious constraints:

  • There is currently no reliable way to predict sales for vinyl records, which can lead to under/overproduction.
  • Artists generally cannot afford to pay for the high production expenses of vinyl pressing.
  • Similarly, they generally receive very little support from industry’s professionals.
  • Market fragmentation makes it hard to find the best partners, making the production process much more difficult.

Direct involvement from fans within that process is an interesting solution since there’s almost no intermediary. Funds raised by crowdfunding campaigns are fully invested in making a project successful. This makes the financial relationship between an artist and their fans closer as the fans get to directly support the artists they like.

The growing number of successful crowdfunded projects highlights the efficiency and popularity of crowdfunding. This is an appealing model for artists and labels alike, the latter only having to promote and distribute a finished product without funding its production.

The great majority of “regular” platforms only raise funds for a project’s production without actually promoting or distributing the final product afterwards. By connecting artists, labels and fans within a pre-order platform, Diggers Factory aspires to match supply and demand and offers a real alternative to the traditional vinyl distribution circuit.

An Online Pre-Order Social Platform

The artist, label, or rights holder submits vinyl on the platform and sets a sales objective and price. Then the community comes into play. Diggers Factory and its members (“Diggers”) are the ones who bring projects to fruition.

People can support a production project by pre-ordering one or more records from the artist. As soon as the sales objective is reached, Diggers are notified, production is launched and the artist earns their margin. Should the sales objective not be reached on time, Diggers are fully refunded, free of charge.

Pre-orders alone provide the funds for a project’s production and distribution under the condition that it reaches its sales objective. Diggers are then guaranteed to get their orders by home delivery, wherever they are in the world.

By reducing intermediaries between artists and fans, Diggers Factory aspires to make vinyl more accessible whilst favouring independent music. It’s now up to Diggers to unite to produce and fund tomorrow’s promising artists.

How To Build Your Mailing List

To become a successful artist, you need to work hard on building your fanbase, until you reach a point where you can sell your products to sustain and grow your career. A loyal fan is built from multiple, valuable connections with you. Therefore, it’s very important to make sure you get the contact details of those people who have invested their time in you by either watching you live, liking your fan page or browsing your website. It all starts by building your mailing list.

Firstly, get yourself signed up to Mailchimp. This is a free platform that organises your mailing list and helps you create professional looking mail outs. You can create the best looking content for your subscribers.

At Live Shows…

After your performance, make sure to have a printed mailing list sign up sheet prominently displayed at the merchandise stand, or even better, go round the audience asking people to sign up. If you’re too busy after your set to do this, (or too shy), ask an outgoing friend to help you. It usually helps to have some sort of incentive for people signing up, such as a free demo CD, digital single download code or a badge for example. You’ll then need to add in those contact details into your mailchimp list.

Text Marketer

Something that we have found has worked well for larger scale events is a text marketer. This is where you ask audiences to text a keyword (selected by you) to a short number, and they get an automatic text response. The response may contain a link to your website, a free music download or tour dates for example. Think of the old Orange Wednesday 2 for 1 deal on cinema tickets where you texted FILM to 241 and got a code in reply.

Look at www.textmarketer.co.uk which is free to set up an account. You then pay a small subscription fee for a chosen keyword and then purchase a number of credits. For every automatic response that sent is out, a credit will be used up. If you then make it so that in order to access the incentive, an email address is required then you can then collect email addresses for your mailing list too. Noisetrade is a useful site for this.

All of the numbers of people texting in are stored on your account, so when it comes to releasing your EP for example, you can send out a text marketing message with the download link to all of those people directly to their phones.

Online…

Website

We highly recommend setting up a Sign Up box to your website. Mailchimp helps you integrate a sign up button into your website easily. Make this prominent on the home page. Add a clear call to action and make it obvious what the benefits are for subscribers.

Social Media

Use social media to get people signed up to your mailing list. With Facebook making it ever harder to reach your fans without spending money, it is well worth working on migrating as many Facebook followers to your mailing list as possible. Again, use incentives such as raffle give aways, priority on tour tickets etc. You can get creative with this!

What To Do With Your Mailing List?

  1. Make sure to put out regular, quality content to your mailing list subscribers.
  2. Send exclusive and engaging content. Anytime you have a major announcement, such as a new release, festival appearance etc – announce it to your mailing list first. They will appreciate being told before anyone else and value the subscription to your mailing list.
  3. Run competitions exclusively open to your mailing list subscribers.
  4. Don’t over do it – You’ll see large numbers of people unsubscribing if you’re bombarding them with promotion. Keep things engaging and interesting, which means you have to keep yourself busy doing fun and interesting things!

The Importance of Imagery and Branding for Musicians

We have all heard it…

“You guys are definitely going to make it”

“You’ve got something special”

“Your music is so original”

So after years of lugging your instruments around the country, playing show after show for hardly any reward and a crowd which thins out when its too far for your friends to make it, its understandable to think to yourself “Why haven’t I/we made it?”.

From experience of being in bands which have been on the cusp of something really great it became quite clear that in the music industry there is something  that most musicians forget or don’t quite understand (and rightly so as music creation should be the prime focus for any up and coming artists).

Your music is a BRAND… and imagery and branding matters.

What is a Brand?

A brand is a set of marketing and communication methods that help to distinguish a company from competitors and create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.

In a market where musicians and labels are fighting to be heard, you need to create content that makes your music stand out from the crowd.

To put it into perspective, your band decides its time to send that demo you’ve spent time, money and effort recording in a top notch studio over to the big industry execs. You have asked your mate Steve to craft you a logo in Microsoft Paint and have slapped it onto a low resolution image you found on google images and printed it using your Mom’s printer before you slide it into a plastic cd case you picked up from Tesco’s a week earlier (We’ve all done it).

Your EP arrives at the offices and gets put into a pile of 350 other demos that have been received over the past couple of days.

On average your music will get 20 seconds before its thrown into the rejection pile. SO FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER! 

Unfortunately, in the digital age we live in it’s not all about the music – you need to have the “Look”.

What Can You Do to Help Your Imagery and Branding?

  • Figure out your target demographic
  • Get a Logo professionally designed (either by a friend or a music centric design agency).
  • Decide on a colour palette and typographical style to use in all collateral. Consistency is Key.
  • Make sure your social media is consistent, keep the imagery the same on all platforms.
  • Don’t scrimp on getting your CD artwork created, this is one of the only things that is a physical representation of your music. So make sure you are super happy with the artwork and the print.
  • If you are ready to submit your music to agencies, labels, publishers etc then get a professionally designed press pack! You will no doubt stand out from the 100’s of CV like word documents that they receive, standing you in good stead for your music to spend a little bit more time in the cd player…
  • Buy a domain and GET A PERSONALISED EMAIL ADDRESS! There is nothing worse than receiving an email from myfirstband1234@hotmail.co.uk.
  • Get professional photos taken.
  • Finally, I know I keep banging on about it but  CONSISTENCY IS KEY!

Written by Alex and Adam from music industry design company, Archetype.

Alex and Adam are musicians themselves, having spent 10 years in a band together. They now focus on delivering high quality branding to musicians, labels, management agencies and other companies/people in the music industry. From their experience as a band, they realised just how important imagery and branding is to an artist’s success. Both of them want to pass on some wise words of advice!

You can find more information about Archetype on their website. See them featured in our opportunities newsletter where they offer an exclusive discount to our subscribers.