The sell-off rights to merchandise aren’t well known to all musicians. However, it is something you should be aware of before you start to work with a merchandiser.
What are sell-off rights?
This simply means that the merchandiser doesn’t have the right to manufacture more merchandise right before the contract is over. They can only sell what is left in stock. Most merchandiser will ask to sell it through retail outlets as it won’t be sold on concerts. The artist will get royalties of these pieces that get sold. There should be no question in that. Before you take this step, there are a few things you, as an artist, need to ask for.
Buy it Yourself
Before the merchandiser sells your merchandise after your contract has ended, he or she should give you the chance to buy the rest of your merchandise back. If you have merchandise that you only sold online, it could be a good idea to start selling that merchandise at concerts too. It gives your fans the chance of having that one shirt they couldn’t order.
If you don’t buy the rest of your merchandise, the merchandiser will get a sell-off period. This can be anywhere within 6 months to a year. Just make sure that the sell-off rights are non-exclusive, so that if you work with another merchandiser you won’t get in trouble. And, the merchandiser cannot stockpile the merchandise. This means that they can’t manufacture more merchandise right before the end of the term. If you’re making an agreement, try to get this in the contract. Ask that they only manufacture a specific amount of merchandise so that this doesn’t happen.
Distress Sales or Dumping
Ask them to put this in the contract too. This means that merchandisers cannot sell your merchandise at very low prices just to get rid of the stock.
If you do get a sell-off rights agreement, they should ask you by the end of the term if you want to buy the remaining stock. If not, you ask them to get rid of the merchandise. With this meaning, destroying it. Or you ask them to donate it to charity.
When you start a band the idea of making the logos and going on tour is the dream, right? But, there’s always a catch. There are things that starting bands always seem to forget, something that can be very crucial for in the future.
Make sure you protect your logo and the band name you use. To find out if your name hasn’t been used before, the internet is your friend in this case. Don’t just Google the name, check social media too, because this is where you are going to spend your time promoting your music.
You don’t want to confuse people and you want to be original as possible.
What If the Band Splits?
Talk to the band about this. Don’t wait until you are in a courtroom. There are different things you need to discus, if the band ever splits. It doesn’t mean that you’re waiting to split, it means that you are preparing yourself for if anything does happen when there is a fight and the band wants to split.
Like, can the band still go on if 2 members have left? Can the remaining members still use the band name? Writing it all down on a written agreement makes things easier for later if this does happen.
That’s not the only thing you need to think about, what if one band member isn’t what you thought he was? And you want to get rid of him? What kind of vote in the band do you need to vote (or fire, it’s how you look at it) a member out of the band?
If you’re in a record label, this means a few other things too. Like, will the band be kicked out of the label if the band splits? What if someone gets out of the band to work on a solo project, will the label push the solo artists to be signed under them?
Remember this When you Start a Band
Ask yourself these questions when you start a band, do it while you’re still friends and everything is done on a friendly note.
You don’t want a split to be uglier than it needs to be.
Some artist or bands may think that getting a sponsor is like making a deal with the devil. You sell your soul for the one thing you most desire, fame. But is that really the case? We don’t think so. You have to be smart and see where the opportunities lay in the industry.
Is Sponsoring Bad?
Some bands have fin with their sponsorship deals. Look at the extreme product placement from All Time Low did in their ‘ I Feel Like Dancing’ video.
It’s a bit extreme, but its a good example of making fun of sponsorship deals. And it doesn’t mean you’d have to sell your soul to do what you love. Yeah, sure, All Time Low probably got a lot of money out of it from Rockstar Energy, but think about it this way; more money, means more investments in your band or music.
With the money you get, you can invest in new materials for tour. Or you could invest in new merchandise. You could even use some of your sponsorship money to pay for new recordings and studio time. Do something special and manufacture limited edition vinyls! It can really expand your creativity and once potential new fans see how creative you’re getting with your sponsorship, and you don’t overdo it at live shows, they could actually start paying more and more attention to your music.
But make sure you do it for the right reasons. It’s good to have some extra money in, but don’t be a sell-out. Be smart and be creative.
So, do you still think that sponsoring is a bad thing?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Every artist knows what royalties are by now. But there are so many different ways to get paid for your music. The term that gets lost in the list is Joint Venture. Not many people use this anymore. But when you’re having a lot of success and a big income, this might be it.
What is a joint venture?
This is just the same as an label deal, except the artist doesn’t get paid any royalties for his contribution. Now, before you panic and try to click away, this doesn’t mean the artist doesn’t get anything. So, hold your horses and read a little further.
This deals is meant for a band or artist with a lot of income in their music. This way, all the costs and expenses (like marketing and distribution) get taken from the income and the income will be split 50/50. This is how it works in most cases, but it depends on whether or not the label is in a good mood when signing the deal.
Royalties Vs. Joint Venture
So, is more more advantageous than the other? There is no definitive way of knowing. Our advice is that if you have a lot of success, you can get a joint venture (meaning you’d be the next Taylor Swift). This way, you can earn more of your money back. But you can lose a lot with it too if you’re not ready for this deal in your professional career.
With an ‘ok’ success and a decent income, we advise you choose royalty payments. In a joint venture you get charged more costs than under a royalty agreement. This can both be good an bad.
Royalties get paid ‘per unit’, this gets lost to joint venture and its easy to see that you can get more out of an joint venture. Of course, after all the expenses are deducted from the profit.
As hard as it can be, learning to accept criticism can be the most helpful thing you do. It is the first step in getting people to listen to your music. Although family and friends may want to spare your feelings, they are a good place to start, especially if one of them is particularly musical, creative or you just trust their honest opinion. It might not always be easy, but criticism isn’t always negative or personal and it’s a very simple way to learn and grow as an artist. Nobody says you have to take all (or any!) of their advice on board but putting fresh eyes on your work can give you new perspectives and will give you things to consider.
What Am I Writing For?
Before you can decide where to share your music and/or lyrics it might be important to work out who and what you are writing for. Are you writing for yourself or to sell to others? Are you wanting to make a career out of lyric writing or is it a hobby? What genre/s are you writing for?
Some genres of music lend themselves more to performance, some to public environments and some to individual listening. You should consider these when you begin to think about sharing or selling your lyrics, compositions or music.
Finding People to Work With
If you are looking for people to work with, whether it’s co-writers, performers, or producers, there are many places to look.
If you’re at university, even if you aren’t studying a music related subject, you’re in luck; universities are breeding grounds for creative types. Once you get talking to people it’s likely you’ll find someone that play instruments, are writers themselves, or are studying music in some shape or form.
The same goes for the workplace, although it maybe less likely to find these creative types if you don’t already work in the creative industries, it’s still worth having the conversation! You never know what people do in their spare time, or if not them personally, they may know people who could help you.
Social media is perhaps one of the easiest ways to get your name out there. You could make posts on your own social media pages promoting yourself or asking around for other musicians. Of course there are also websites that specifically cater to ‘musicians finding musicians’ that will be specific to your local area.
It may be useful to look out for music industry networking events. They are a chance to meet with other like minded people and other musicians, you never know where it could lead.
The main take-away from this should be to talk. Keep people in the loop about what you’re working on, what you’re looking for, get your name out there so people know to think about you.
Recording a Demo
It’s easier than ever to record your own demo without spending a ton of money. Firstly, you need to choose where you a going to record. Are you going to book a studio or are you recording at home? If you are recording at home, you may need to consider what equipment you will need and what the acoustics are going to be like.
The next thing to think about is how are you going to be recording and/or producing your track. You can choose to record a live demo; with all instruments and vocals being recorded in one take. Or you can choose multi-track recording, with each instrument being recorded independently. Again, this may depend on what exactly you are producing. You could also use MIDI instruments rather than live instruments and then record a vocals over the top.
After recording, your track needs to be mixed. You may want to get someone to help you with this if you aren’t used to mixing but as it’s a demo a rough mix is fine, so don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money on it. You can then master your track. Nobody expects a demo to be perfect, it just needs to showcase your potential.
Soundcloud, YouTube etc.
When you have your finished demo, its time to share it, which is very easy to do. There are so many platforms online now where you can share music for free – SoundCloud and YouTube as well as social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even LinkedIn.
The main thing to consider when sharing your work in this way is intellectual property protection. Once your content is online pretty much anyone can access it so be sure to cover yourself. This is where copyright comes in.
Copyright allows, by law, an original work to be considered a property that is owned by somebody. Copyright happens automatically once the ‘product’ is created so it is not necessary to register (except in the U.S where there is a registration process). Intellectual property protection comes in many forms (copyrights, patents, trademarks etc.) which must be made tangible in order to be protected. It is important to have proof of ownership. One way to do this is to post a copy of your recording, composition or lyrics etc. to yourself, keep the envelope sealed.
As a copyright owner you hold the right to copy, distribute, rent, lend, perform, show, communicate/broadcast and adapt your work.
Selling Your Lyrics
Music publishers are responsible for ensuring that songwriters and composers are paid for commercial use of their compositions. As a songwriter or composer, you can assign your copyright to a publisher, who will then license, safeguard and monitor the composition, and collect royalties and distribute them back to the songwriter/composer. Publishers also deal with synchronisation, so that the composition may be used for television and film.
If you are interested in music publishing see our sister company Anara Publishing.
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 Music, Sony 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
- Make sure to put out regular, quality content to your mailing list subscribers.
- 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.
- Run competitions exclusively open to your mailing list subscribers.
- 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!