We discuss all things vocals with music producer D.Ramirez

This week we caught up with music producer Dean Marriott, better known as D.Ramirez, talking all things vocals.

Ivor Novello nominee D.Ramirez is responsible for a multitude of ground breaking releases. These include 2009’s #1 underground anthem ‘Downpipe‘ with Underworld & Mark Knight, plus ‘that’ genre defining remix of Bodyrox’s ‘Yeah Yeah‘ Top 40 #1 in the mid-noughties. You may even remember him as The Lisa Marie Experience.

One not to be missed.

We discussed his experience of working with vocalists & topline writers (as well as vocal samples) in the studio, plus his comprehensive approach to vocal production.

This inspiring interview is brought to you straight from his London studio and is jam packed with useful tips and information whether you are a vocalist, topline writer or music producer!

Watch the interview back here now.

Tips for optimising your Instagram as a music artist

An Instagram employee takes a video using Instagram's new video function at Facebook's corporate headquarters during a media event in Menlo Park, California on June 20, 2013. AFP Photo /Josh EDELSON        (Photo credit should read Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

If Instagram isn’t a platform you are already using as a music artist then you should be.

Not only is it one of the most used social media platforms in the world (300 million users log on every day – that’s a lot of music fans), but you also get a higher level of engagement on Instagram than you do on Facebook, which is crucial if you are focusing on growing your audience.

Finally, Instagram’s features lend themselves really well to music artists as you can not only photograph all the behind-the-scenes of what you do, but also share video and audio (albeit in small clips) and now that it’s launched Instagram live, it also allows you to broadcast activities and performances at any time you wish.

I want to highlight why you should be using Instagram as a music artist and how to optimise this so you’re getting the most from this incredible tool.

 

Treat your Instagram account as a music blog

As with any social media platform, it’s best not to think of your Instagram account as a promotional platform or a way of selling your music.

Instead, think of it as a way of building a relationship with your audience and sharing things which will be of value to them – things they’re going to be passionate about and enjoy. These are likely the same things you are passionate about and enjoy, namely music.

It follows that showing what you do as a musician – rehearsing, recording, songwriting, singing, performing – is going to be of interest to your online followers.

Instagram allows you to document your day-to-day musical journey, easily & quickly, creating a blog all about your music. However unlike a blog you don’t need to write long-form, as the emphasis is on the visual.

And because you are documenting rather than creating content with this approach, Instagram provides new and independent artists with a way of sharing value and telling your story in a sustainable way.

 

Use hashtags

Why? Simply put, hashtags allow your audience to find you when searching for content via hashtag. This means they immediately give you more visibility to those already seeking out #singers and #newmusic, for example.

It is worth doing some research on which hashtags are most used within your field or genre. A tool you may find useful for choosing the relevant hashtags for you is websta.me. This allows you to search hashtags relevant to your field to find the most used ones.

In fact, if you go to websta.me/hot you can also search the top 100 hashtags being used on Instagram right now. At time of writing ‘Music’ is currently number 42 of the top 100 used hashtags on Instagram.

You can also create your own hashtags, related to any current campaigns or musical activity (for example, a song name, EP release, a catchphrase you use, or something you’re known for).

Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags per post, however this can end up looking a bit untidy (and some would say spammy) if all added into the body of the post caption. To avoid this you could use 4 or 5 hashtags  in your main caption, but you may then also want to add a further 25 in a separate comment underneath to help ensure your post is ranked and seen by as many people as possible.

 

 

Make use of the features Instagram is pushing

At the moment, this means Instagram stories and Instagram live.

Don’t shy away from using these great tools, especially as engagement in the stories and live feeds tends to be higher than engagement on individual posts. They allow you to engage more directly with fans, especially in the live videos where you can address people’s comments and questions live. And how fantastic for fans to be able to open up their Instagram accounts and hear an artist they love, live from their living room! As a music lover, for me this is something that never gets old.

Instagram stories and Instagram live are also a great way of sharing several moments from your day, as opposed to feeling like you are spamming followers by posting 12 photos a day. This is particularly useful of course on a day such as an EP release day or the day of a big show, allowing you to document the day from start to finish, including all the behind-the-scenes.

 

Quick tips…

1. For brand consistency, use the same profile picture that you do elsewhere online and create a relevant biog.

2. In order to space the biography as you would like, you may need to type this out elsewhere (for example in ‘notes’ on your phone) then copy and paste it into your Instagram biography as the app doesn’t allow you to do this within it.

3. Link it to your main social media platform and/or place to hear your music (Youtube, Spotify, Soundcloud etc).

 

4. Add your location to your posts wherever possible too. This further adds to the blog-like element of your account, and helps others who’ve visited that same location find you.

5. As a time saving tip you may want to type the 30 hashtags most relevant to your posts into the notes on your phone and then simply copy and paste these into a comment on your Instagram posts each time you post.

6. Engage with people – if followers ask questions, answer them, if they like or comment something you’ve posted, acknowledge them, and get involved with others on Instagram who you like (for example, fellow music artists). In short, show your appreciation.

7. Finally, Instagram is one platform that I think is best not scheduled in advance – for a more organic and natural blog feel, simply snapshot your musical activities as you go!

 

Learn more

For even more tips and information on how to optimise Instagram as a music artist, you can watch our AR Seminar on this topic here.

 

Not giving up on music: How to stay motivated

In this week’s blog I am going to be talking about not giving up on your music and how to stay motivated when times get tough. And by tough I mean those times (which can last hours, days, weeks, months, and beyond) where you feel stuck in your music career, you may have faced a rejection (or, let’s face it, several rejections), the actions you’ve been taking haven’t had the results you’d hoped for and you’re left feeling demotivated, disheartened and uninspired.

When that happens, it can be easy to temporarily lose your faith in the career path you’ve chosen, and worse, your love of music.

I don’t think there is anyone who has embarked on a career in music and not felt like this.

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to stay motivated.

 

  1. Recognise that every music artist feels like this (even super-successful ones).

Recognise as fact that no one following a career in music escapes the feelings of rejection, demotivation or lack of inspiration you experience from time to time.

I can tell you from experience of working with new artists, right through to globally successful acts, that even artists who have achieved recognition and sold millions of records still face rejection, still have to carve out opportunities for themselves, and certainly still suffer periods of demotivation. I have had more than one conversation with very ‘successful’ artists who have been on the verge of quitting.

It’s simply not possible to avoid when you are doing something that requires courage and tenacity, and you’re doing it in an industry which can feel very uncertain. However, there are some ways you can lessen the impact of these – which brings me on to the remainder of my tips…

 

  1. Expect rejection

By the very nature of life, never mind the music industry, you are not going to get every opportunity you go for. Not every song you write will be released, not every song you release will be a hit, not every performance you give will be your very best.

Unfortunately, just because you’ve put lots of work in, you’ve spent the time, or you’ve done the research, doesn’t always mean something is going to go your way. There are other factors and variables of which you have far less control – timing, market trends, other artists and organisations, the music industry at large, world events, luck if you believe in that – which all play a part to some extent.

If you learn to expect that and become comfortable with the idea, the rejections have far less impact and the successes become that much sweeter.

However, what you can control – you should. The reason for this is that if you are rejected, or a performance or a release doesn’t have the impact you hoped for, at least you can walk away from it knowing that you did your very best. That you worked your hardest, or produced your best work. Because that’s all that any of us can do.

This brings me neatly on to my next tip:

 

  1. Have an objective for every action you take

For each action or activity you take, set a specific objective that you would like to achieve from it. Know why you are taking a certain action, and what return on investment you are hoping for from it.

Try to make this objective achievable (whilst still making it something you may need to stretch to reach) and find a way of being able to measure it. In other words, make sure there is a return on investment from every single thing you do.

For example, if you are playing a gig, your objective might be to test out a new song you’ve been working on in front of a live audience. Or to convert five members of the audience into subscribers to your mailing list.

If you reach your objective, you can be satisfied that you got what you needed from the exercise and it was a ‘success’, regardless of whether it then leads onto something further or not. If you feel you have achieved your objective and that it was worthwhile doing, then it was worthwhile doing.

In last week’s blog ‘How to prioritise tasks as a developing artist’ I talked more about having an objective for every action you take, and why you should only undertake tasks which have a return on investment. You can read this here.

 

  1. Take a practical approach

I am not one for telling and reminding people that the music industry is tough, or that there are no guarantees, or that you should have a back-up plan. To me, those are negative messages and falling back on them when things don’t seem to be going right doesn’t help you.

Instead, try taking a more practical approach and assess why something hasn’t had the response you wanted. Look for gaps in your knowledge, or mistakes that may have occurred, or shortfalls in your offering.

Because once you know these you can fix them! This should make you feel better immediately, because this means that most challenges do also have a solution. A solution which you can find, research and become better at.

Assess and then adjust for the next time. This is how you learn and grow.

 

  1. Be clear on why you are doing it

If you are a regular to this blog or the AR Seminars, you will have often heard me compare being a music artist to running a small business, and it’s true. You have to believe in your offering, you need to be entrepreneurial, you need create a great brand, implement a strategy and build an audience for your ‘product’ (your music).

You will also no doubt have heard the whopping statistic that 90% of all small businesses fail. In fact, I checked and according to 2016 statistics, 93% of all small businesses will eventually fail and that there is a 1 in 200 chance of succeeding overall. Now I couldn’t find any data, but I’d be willing to bet that the statistics for having a successful music career sound ominously similar.

Of course, when you are thinking about going into business everyone tells you this statistic, and I am guessing that as someone who has aspired and persevered with following a career in music you’ve no doubt been warned countless times how competitive it is; that you should have a back-up plan; that your goals are unrealistic. Am I right?

So, what makes us persevere, even with the odds stacked against us?

It’s got to be a bigger why. You must (subconsciously or consciously) know that this is something you want or need to do, that it’s a risk worth taking, that you believe deep down you can do it, and you must have an idea of why that is.

Think about your own personal why, write it down somewhere, and in times of doubt and demotivation, get it out and remind yourself of why you’re doing it. Consider what the alternative to following your dream is for a minute.

This is usually enough to re-gain perspective and drive you forward in following that why.

 

  1. Successful artists are the ones that don’t give up

This is stating the obvious, but bear in mind that any music artist who you deem to be successful, or even just slightly further on in their journey than you, is an artist who didn’t give up.

We’ve already discussed that there is not a single person following a music career who hasn’t faced rejections, or negative feedback or hitting dead-ends. With that knowledge, you can be sure that any music artist who is sustaining and succeeding in their music career, simply didn’t give up during the tough times!

In my experience, it is this single factor that often defines the difference between a successful artist, over and above their talent, music, or brand. Food for thought…

 

Learn more

To register your interest for the AR ‘Self-Manage Your Music Career‘ online course, which leads you through how to create your brand, build your audience, implement a strategy to follow for your music career and monetise your music, click here!

 

How to prioritise tasks as a developing music artist

There’s no doubt that juggling the many tasks you need to do as a developing music artist is challenging. This is particularly tricky if you are also working around a full-time job or studies at the same time as trying to move your career music career forward.

However, prioritisation and time management is challenging at every stage of your career. As you become more established and more successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean it becomes easier. In fact, if anything, it can become even tougher – you’re more in demand, your team grows and then there is even more people and schedules to be managing. Priorities need to be clear and time management needs to be slick across the board, so that the entire team is working together cohesively.

How you prioritise the tasks which are most important and how you manage your time is an ongoing balancing act throughout a music career. But if you are working independently or are perhaps at the very beginning of your careers where you’re doing everything by yourselves, I know that this can feel even more overwhelming than usual. It’s sometimes difficult to find the energy to devote consistent time to your music career around everything else you have to do.

As an artist manager, I’ve had to perfect my time management and prioritisation skills down to a fine art – teaching my artists techniques and helping them to focus on priorities effectively. Times that by 3, 4 or 5 different artists you might be managing and you get the picture as to how crucial this is.

Here’s how to prioritise tasks as a developing music artist:

 

1. Focus on the music first

If you’re at the very beginning stages of your career, you feel you’re still a new artist, or your sound is still developing, really focus on getting a clear sound identity down first.

If your sound identity is still unclear, i.e. you haven’t been able to narrow down and define exactly what your genre/style/defining musical motifs are, and what you want to be communicating musically as an artist, continue focusing on this until you’ve defined it.

Then focus on getting a really great product (and when I say product I mean high quality recording of songs that you’ve written or performances of your voice/instrument) under your belt. If you don’t yet have high quality recordings of songs or performances that you’re proud of, this is your starting point.

Make sure you focus on the music first. This is absolutely your top priority in the beginning stages of your career, because until there’s some singing, playing or songwriting of yours to showcase you can’t drive anything else forward.

 

2. Make audience-building part of your daily routine.

Audience building is one of the most important tasks of your job as a music artist. However, lots of artists make the mistake of thinking that audience building can’t start until they have a release to promote, or have played X number of shows, or until that have a manager – in truth, if you don’t begin building your audience til this point you are likely late.

A small and sustainable way of starting to audience build is to document your musical journey. For example, what are you working on each day that is a part of your music career that you can give a snapshot of for anyone who’s following you on social media. Been writing lyrics? Photograph them. Been rehearsing? Film a clip of it for your followers to hear. Playing a gig? Livestream a song from it for those that couldn’t attend.

Choose a social media platform and share just one behind-the-scenes look at what you’re working on musically each day of the week. By the end of the week you’ll have shared seven pieces of content that have given people some insight as to where you are in your music career, what’s coming in future, and what’s going on the behind-the-scenes!

There’s lots of other audience building strategies and approaches you can take further on down the line when you start putting campaigns into place around your music releases. In the meantime, you can start building your audience in this simple way now. You can even do it on the way to work!

 

3. Batch your tasks

Make a list of everything you need to do of a week – that might be songwriting new lyrics or material, recording, rehearsing, curating social media content, collaborating with co-writers and producers.

Then try and batch those so that you’re focusing on one thing at a time. For example, if your focus is on the music and you know that you need to write or record new material, make sure that you set aside a specific time to do that.

Maybe Saturdays are specifically dedicated to songwriting, Mondays are the days when you contact promoters and open mic nights about coming to perform, Tuesdays for a half an hour is the day that you really focus in on your social media.

During each time you will only focus on that time slots allocated task, rather than flitting from one task to another. Otherwise your focus becomes very diluted.

If you can, avoid trying to complete 20 different things that are your list all at once, or split your focus amongst lots of different tasks. I find it’s much more productive to spend intensive time focusing on just one task at a time.

Knowing in advance what you will be working on at a given time also allows you to prepare and organise around it much more easily. Crucially, you should find this allows you to complete tasks more quickly.

 

4. Eliminate unnecessary tasks

As a developing music artist, yes there is lots to do. But it can also easily feel like there’s even more to do than there really is – I’ll explain why. Instead of just keeping busy, you should really be thinking about if I task has a return on its investment of time. Is it a necessary task, in other words? Much of the work you undertake may not be. But how do you tell?

If a task isn’t either improving your craft, strengthening your brand, building your audience or making you money, it is likely an unnecessary task. Sure, there’s lots of little things you can do that might make minimal improvements in a certain area, but if it’s not having a specific return on investment it may not be worth the time it takes. For example, if you are playing a gig to help build your audience, does that gig attract audiences who fit your own audience demographic? Does it get good numbers of people through its doors? Are they likely to be responsive to the style and type of act you are? These are the types of questions you should be asking to determine whether this is a task worth undertaking.

It isn’t possible to do everything at once, especially if you’re working full-time or you’re studying so it’s important to prioritise. When time is at a premium, if a task doesn’t fit into any of these categories you can probably eliminate it.

 

5. Take one action every day (no matter how small)

If you want to make sure that your music career is moving forward consistently, make sure that you’re taking one action towards it per day. Whether you have 10 minutes to spare, or you have two hours to spare, make sure that you’re doing at least one action per day. This ensures that momentum is kept even when working around a busy schedule, and allows you to fee that you are not neglecting your music career.

If you save all your music tasks and do them on one day at the weekend, it can become quite overwhelming and very easy to procrastinate (hence falling behind with your goals) instead of breaking these into more manageable chunks. As a result, quite often what that means is that nothing happens because you don’t get around to it, or something else comes up and the time that you set aside to focus on your music career falls by the wayside. Sound familiar?

Break down your to-do list of tasks that you need to do that week into small chunks and do one of those things a day, even if that’s just sending one email or posting one thing on social media. That way you know that you’ve at least done something, focused a little bit on your music career that day.

 

Learn more

Those were my tips on how to prioritise tasks as a developing music artist. I hope they help. If you have any more tips that you have found help you prioritise tasks in your music career, please do leave them in the comments to share with fellow developing music artists.

For more on this topic you can view a previous AR Seminar on this topic here and for more information on the ‘Self-Manage Your Music Career’ course, please register your interest here.

How to make money from your music: Get in the right mindset

It is often said that profit follows passion – implying that if you simply focus on doing what you love, the ways in which you can make money from it will manifest over time. As an Artist Manager I disagree.

If you are a musician of any kind (be it artist, vocalist, songwriter, or music producer) you are already following your passion, but many of you may not be making the salary you need to live, never mind want.

Whilst those who are committed to making a career out of music may persevere until such a time they are afforded to be able to continue doing so, the journey needn’t be any harder or longer than necessary. Monetising your music is something you should be purposefully focusing on, as opposed to waiting/hoping/wishing to happen. This is why one of the modules in my Self-Manage Your Music Career course is dedicated entirely to monetising your music.

Yes, you love what you do, and perhaps would (and no doubt have) done it for free. But just because you have chosen to turn your passion into your career doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expect or want to be paid for it. We tend to think of ‘jobs’ as work we don’t like so if you love what you do there can be some resistance to expecting to make money from it.

This is the first thing you need to remedy to make money from your music – getting in the right mindset. Without this, it will be hard to ever turn your music into a profitable, sustainable endeavour.

Here’s how to make money from your music:

 

Get in the right mindset

As a music artist you need to think of yourself as a business, and no business would launch without a clear idea of how they were going to make money, how much they needed to make and when they might expect this to happen. I want to encourage you to do the same.

You can’t simply follow your passion (creating and performing music) with a view to making a living from it, whilst neglecting the how’s, when’s, why’s and where you’re going to make that living. This is generally the first mistake Artist’s make when it comes to monetising their music.

You are the owner of the business that is ‘you’, so how are you going to make money from that business? It’s important to have a sense of the how and the when.

 

Know how you can make music from what you do

Do you know all the ways in which music can be monetised? Are you aware of the various potential income streams, and which of these might apply to your medium and skillset as an Artist (for example these may be different for a singer than they would be for a music producer)? If not, this is a good starting point.

At the time of writing, the top 3 income streams for Artists in commercial music are touring, songwriting royalties, and brand partnerships. These will not be applicable to all Artists, and it’s also important to remember that these may not be profitable before you have built up a strong brand and an engaged audience. However, understanding how Artists do monetise their music is important so that you can focus on the income streams which apply to you.

Viable income sources include streaming and sales of your music (recording), publishing of your songs, live performance, selling physical products (merchandise), music synchronisation (placement of your music in media, such as films and TV), revenue from social media and session singing or playing.

 

Be entrepreneurial & diversify

Having read the list of income sources above you may now be panicking slightly when you realise that, to make a living from any of these, you’re going to need to be able to do at scale – which means with a sizeable fanbase behind you. The good news is that there are far more ways to make money from your music than you may currently be considering.

It’s important to try and think outside the box with this. Using the musical talent and skills you already possess, what else could you do, create or facilitate that would provide an income stream from your music? This might be creating a product, turning one of your services into an online course, or facilitating music workshops either locally or online, which might not be as difficult as you think. Are you already doing something (or have a great entrepreneurial idea) based on your music skills which you could turn into a new income stream for your business? Get creative and innovate.

Also, diversify where you can – Artist’s rarely make a living solely from just one income stream, which is just as well given the impact that the internet had on record sales, for example…

 

Aim to make 100% of your income from music

If you do need to have a job that facilitates (and perhaps provides much needed funding) to support your music career, why not make this something music-related? In my experience of working with Artists, at times when they need a second job to help pay the bills, it often feels far more positive to them if this is music-related.

Not only do they find that this less draining than doing a job that feels a million miles from the musical life they want, it also inevitably provides them with relevant experience, knowledge and – perhaps most importantly – fantastic networking opportunities.

Any job within the music industry is going to provide you with all the above, which will no doubt be of use in your Artist career. This could include music teaching, music shops and venues, or an administrative role within a music company. If 100% of your income comes from your music and/or music-related work, this really helps to put you in the right mindset.

 

Set goals…

Whilst I agree that a certain amount of working for free can be beneficial early on in your music career, try setting income goals for yourself in the same way you would set career goals. If I were to ask you what you wanted to achieve in music this year you’d probably be able to tell me opportunities you hoped to secure, venues you’d like to play, and songs you plan to release. Try also setting some income goals for what you need to make monthly, alongside what you would like to make in the medium to long term.

Of the music work you are currently undertaking, which percentage of the monthly income you need does this provide? If you’re not reaching your income goal, what could you do to make up the shortfall now that you know how you can monetise your music? Be aware of the difference between short term income streams (session playing for example) versus long-term income streams (such as songwriting royalties) here. Your initial focus may be on cash flow, so what could you do with your skills in music that will make money now?

 

…& Prices

Lastly, whatever work you do take on as a vocalist or musician, have set prices for your time across the various work streams you undertake. Do you have an hourly or session rate for each of these that you are comfortable with? If not, drawing up a price list for your services can be a very useful exercise. Unsure what to charge? The Musicians Union have some guidelines on minimum rates for live performance here and recording sessions here.

Learn More

Want to hear more on this topic? Watch the Facebook Live video here. To find out more about how to monetise your music you can register your interest in our Self-Manage Your Music Career online course here, with an entire module dedicated to exactly that!

Here are the 4 things you should focus on as an artist

For any artist trying to ‘make it’ in music, the dream might be to focus exclusively on your passion – that is, the creation and performance of the music – for a living. The reality of course is that you will have found yourself wearing many hats, busy all the time with numerous tasks demanding your attention (from invoicing and managing your social media, to attending industry events and marketing), often whilst juggling a part time job or music studies.

Often this creates a sense of busy-ness without much sense of progression. It can be very difficult to know exactly which things you should be focusing on to move your music career forward.

As a result, many of the independent artists I meet are looking for the exact steps they should be taking in order to succeed. The truth is that this is almost impossible to provide because every artist is unique. They are different in style from one another, with different aspirations, different strengths and appeal to different audiences. The exact steps that may work for one artist can be completely wrong for another.

There are many variables and nuances to be considered, and it is only with full visibility and understanding of each of my artists unique set of circumstances that I can help them successfully navigate these. It is not surprising that every established artist’s route to success is so individual.

However, while there may not be a steps-to-success formula for artists, there are 4 things you need to focus on to succeed (whatever that looks like for you, because again this is also different for each artist or musician).

You should find that each of the individual tasks you undertake as an artist fit within one of these 4 key focus areas. If they don’t, ask yourself if they are essential or is it simply work without a return on its investment?

 

1.Create a brand

Having a strong brand as an artist is key – it is what represents you and your music to the world. If it doesn’t sound, look and feel aligned with the artist you are, you will find it hard to connect with both potential fans and the music industry.

So, what constitutes your brand as an artist? At the very core of your brand is of course your product (the music you create or perform), surrounded by your brand assets (for example your logo, website & social networks, your singles/EP’s artwork, your live show, your image etc).

Understanding exactly who you are as an artist, and making sure that your brand reflects this, will be a large part of your focus in the early stages of your career.

 

2.Build an audience

There is a misconception that you don’t start building an audience until you have the perfect body of musical work, which you release via a record label, to an unsuspecting public who then become ardent fans. This is rarely, if ever, the case. In my opinion audience building begins as soon as you have some music and a brand you feel is as strong as it can be at this current point in time.

It is having an engaged audience which gives you your leverage (and people to play to!) so you want to be building this continuously, starting as early as possible. When you do release music, it will fall flat if there is not an audience already in place ready to receive it.

You should be spending a little time on building your audience every day. A simple way of doing this is to document your day-to-day musical journey – why not share a snapshot from today’s rehearsal, songwriting, recording session or gig on your artist social networks? It is the behind the scenes that will always be most captivating to an audience.

 

3.Implement a strategy

You need to have a strategy – a plan – if you are going to achieve your career goals. It should detail your objectives, the actions you need to take to achieve those, and set clear deadlines for each action step. This gives you the roadmap to where you want to go as an Artist, and can also provide more structure and routine to your working week (very helpful as an independent artist).

No Artist Manager would work without a clear strategy for their artist, so as an independent artist you should be putting this in place for yourself. It will let you to see exactly which activities work for you and which don’t, allowing you to change tactics and direction when needed. More importantly, it allows you to track your progression and ensure you are in fact moving forward.

Without this, you can end up stuck in the rut of doing things as you’ve always done them – which may not actually be working for you.

 

4.Monetising your music

This is often the last thing that artists think about, much less focus on consistently. However, if your wish is to make a full-time living from music, at some point the questions of how and when you can monetise what you do must be considered. There are a few key income streams in music at present, namely live performance, songwriting, brand partnerships and record sales/streams. However, for most artists these are medium-long term methods of monetisation.

It is in creating a strong brand, building an audience, and following a strategy that you can eventually monetise your music. And the more your audience grows, the quicker you can get there. After all, it is your fans who will stream and download your music and buy tickets to see you perform.

This is not to say that making money early on in your career or as an independent artist isn’t possible, but it is difficult without consistently focusing on the four areas detailed here.

There’s no roadmap to success in the music industry

Ok, so each of these 4 areas are broad – this is not an article encouraging less activity, but rather encouraging you to focus on the right activities.

I stated at the beginning of this blog that there were no exact steps you can take to succeed in music. However, I believe each of these four focus areas can be broken down into a series of exact steps artists can take to ensure they create a strong brand, build an audience, implement a strategy (one that is tailored to them) and monetise their music effectively. This is the closest thing you can get to a roadmap to success in music, and it’s a journey you can take independently.

Learn more

Here at AR Artist Management I am in the process of developing an online course, which will allow you to work through each of these four focus areas in detail, ensuring you are focusing on the right things, in the right order. To learn more about this you can register your interest here.

Top 10 Apps You Need To Easily Manage Your Music Career

Working as a vocalist or artist is no different from running a small business – there are lots of tasks to complete which are not necessarily your passion (performing & writing music), but are essential to your career progression.

If you are self-managed, juggling the musical aspects of what you do (singing, songwriting, recording,) alongside the various business aspects (branding, marketing, strategising, travelling, whilst also ensuring you earn a living) can feel overwhelming. Optimising your time and reducing the number of hurdles you need to jump is a priority. What holds most back when they come across one of these hurdles is thinking they don’t have the time, resources, or know-how to move past it.

However, today artists have many of the tools to manage their own music careers more easily right at their fingertips.

We have selected our Top 10 apps which can help (plus some additional ones we recommend checking out) below.

Evernote

For jotting down lyrics, song ideas, or reminders for yourself, Evernote allows you to capture notes using either audio recordings or writing text. Whilst not designed to be music-specific we think this is perfect for when inspiration strikes whilst you are out and about. Anything you make note of is stored to the cloud and so automatically syncs to your other devices, and can be shared with other users. A great organisational tool – think of it as a mobile filing cabinet. See also Slack; perfect for when you are collaborating with others and need to share group messages or files.

Trello

This is our favourite productivity tool, and great for when you have several different projects running at once. The app allows you to create a ‘board’ for each of your many projects (for example, maybe you split the boards into ‘Songwriting’, ‘Session Work’, ‘Accounting’) and under each you can list all the tasks that need completed, with the dates they are due to be done by. We constantly recommend this to Artists to help them keep track of everything they are working across. Crucially, it also helps track your progress so you can visibly see that your career is moving forward – essential in self-motivation. You can share your boards with others (band members or co-writers maybe) so any collaborators can also track how a project is progressing and stay on top of the actions required of them.

Dropbox

For sending and receiving music files directly from your phone try using the Dropbox app which allows secure sending and storage for large files such as mp3’s and WAV’s. This is ideal for exchanging music between vocalists and producers, including vocal stems, especially when you are on the go – not least as you can play the audio files from the app so you can listen immediately. You can also grant permission for several users at a time to access the same files. You will need to open an account with Dropbox (they have pricing tiers to suit all types of usage) however downloading the app is free.

Invoice2go

This app helps you create and send professional quotes and invoices, using a variety of templates which you can personalise with your own branding/logo. We highly recommend this as a timesaving tool, allowing you to send invoices whilst on the move directly from your phone (perhaps on your way home from your gig or recording session). It also securely stores all your invoicing paperwork so you can easily track who has viewed your invoice and when it has been paid. You can follow up with reminders direct from the app, and keep a record of all your receipts and expenses related to each job you complete.

WordSwag

The Wordswag app adds text to images, allowing you to create your own visual content for your social media networks. The app provides several typefaces and backgrounds to choose from, so you can tailor your creations to fit with your artist brand, even adding text to your own photographs or artwork. It’s exceptionally quick and easy to use, and the highest quality app of its kind we have found so far. If you are not able to work with a graphic designer for your visual content this allows you to take it into your own hands whilst still appearing professional. One of its very useful functions is the ability to create images to fit each of your social network platforms individually.

Canva

Similarly to Wordswag, Canva is a graphic design and photo editing app, only more comprehensive in terms of what you can create (social media images, flyers, posters, infographics, electronic press kits, for example). You can upload your own branding to it and then use these as the theme for each of your designs, ensuring consistency and uniformity of your brand across everything you create. A great tool for putting together each of the individual images you need to set up your social media profiles and even website, in the correct specifications.

VSCO

VSCO is a social media network of sorts, with users sharing photography and artwork. That makes it a great tool for sourcing visual inspiration and creating mood boards for your brand/visuals, however we specifically recommend using it to stylise your images for Instagram. You can choose from a wide variety of filters to give your images an original and artistic finish, turning your Instagram feed into a gallery which is fully aligned with your artist brand. If you’ve ever come across Instagram accounts that look particularly stylised and consistent it’s often thanks to this app. Our tip – for some inspiration on which VSCO filter to use for your images search ‘VSCO Instagram themes’ on Pinterest and see what that throws up. If you spot one that feels aligned with your brand, it will detail the exact VSCO settings to apply to your images.

Social Media

Whether you favour Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or YouTube for communicating with and building your audience, social network apps ensure you can engage (the most important factor in building an audience) directly with your fans. Once you have created content which is of value to them (hint: start with your voice/music) you can share it across the most suitable platform for that content.

Hootsuite

Save time by sharing and, more importantly, scheduling all your social media posts for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all from this one app. Plot out your posts for the coming week and then simply set-up.

Music Week – ten minutes a day spent keeping up with the latest music industry news and market trends can make all the difference. The ultimate UK music news source – read the magazine directly from its app.

 

Other apps to check out…

WhoSampled – we love this app for recognising samples in songs you just can’t place. Will let you know exactly which songs have been sampled by how many other Artists and who.

Shazam – Discover which song is playing in just a few seconds when you hear something you like – especially good for the clubbers! (see also Soundhound, which allows you to identify and play songs from a huge catalogue, even identifying melodies you hum into it).

Hype Machine – see which music is currently being most blogged about globally.

Which Apps have made your music career easier to manage? We’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments.

 

Introducing The Vocalist Network

2016 has been a year of huge transition at the AR Vocal Agency. Mostly, we have been thinking about how to best serve the incredible network of talented vocalists and topline writers we have built up.

AR receives so many questions from our vocalists about how to move forward in their careers, and it is a source of frustration that we haven’t had a platform to address these. Until today.

I have set up a private Facebook group called ‘The Vocalist Network’ and would love you to join us there!

The main purpose of this group is to offer a free source of advice and information for vocalists & topline writers, which you can apply to your own music career. It is also a great support network of fellow vocalists.

What you can expect from the group

Every Wednesday we will be holding a live seminar on topics such as how to secure backing and session vocal work, collaborating with music producers, topline writing tips, and how to market and promote yourself as an artist. Our hope is that this will help you to better self-manage your own career, especially as many of you work independently.

Support & Advice

In addition, The Vocalist Network will allow you to ‘crowdsource’ tips and help from your peers – offering the support of likeminded artists. Who better to answer the questions and understand the challenges you face than those who are on a similar path?

Join

Our aim is to make the AR Vocal Agency the most valuable resource for vocalists and topline writers working within the commercial music industry. Join us there now and help us do so!

Are Topline Writers & Producers equal in the collaboration process?

As you will know we have been putting the finishing touches to AR Vocal Agency’s ‘The Topline Library’ – a service which provides pre-recorded acapella vocal toplines, primarily to music producers. The Topline Library will be launching very shortly, and will be updated with new toplines every month. Since you are a subscriber you will gain exclusive access to the library on the first Tuesday of every month (like today) so mark it in your diary.

In order to make the service the best it can possibly be for both our clients (music producers) and our content generators (topline writers/vocalists), we have surveyed and interviewed several music producers, topline writers and vocalists from our community. You may be one of them. Hearing your thoughts on, and experiences of, the topline process has reaffirmed for us the fact that an industry standard – if one exists – is rarely adhered to. Furthermore, the contribution that both parties make during the collaborative process, and the respective rights attributed to both producers and topliners/vocalists, remains an area of huge misinformation and misunderstanding. This has become a topic of fascination at the AR Vocal Agency and we hope to better understand the opinions and feelings of producers, topliners and vocalists, so that we are able to better inform and add value to those within the music community. With that in mind we would love to hear your thoughts, and open a conversation around the topics which we see sparking greatest debate.

With that in mind, we would love to hear your views and provide a platform for the music producers in our community to converse directly with the 2000 topline writers and vocalists in our community, starting today. So, without further ado, whether you are a music producer (or someone who works with them) or a vocalist/topline writer we would like to hear your thoughts on the following question – in the collaborative process between a topline writer/vocalist and a music producer working together on a track, do you feel that the topliner and the producer’s contributions (skills, talent and time) to that track are equal?

Please comment with your thoughts here.

We hope that this will be both insightful and useful for you to be able to make direct contact with one another. As such, as well as our usual content, this will be a regular feature for the AR Vocal Agency community moving forward.

Join us over at the conversation now.

Know Your Rights: Topline Writers, Producers & Vocalists

The collaborative process between music producers, topline writers and vocalists (who may or may not also be the topline writer) in creating a song, should lead to an end product which all parties can be proud of. However, when it comes to the respective rights of each person involved, it can also lead to conflict and misunderstandings – like this example of Avicii and Leona Lewis.

In the complexed and multi-faceted area that is copyright and royalties it’s not hard to see how confusion can ensue. However, there should be no excuse for failing to recognise the rights of topline writers and vocalists, as well as those of producers, whom have jointly created music together. Unfortunately, we see too many cases where at least one party has not had their rights recognised nor registered with the necessary organisations. These are most often due to a lack of understanding and administrative oversights, as opposed to malice. This is why it is so important that topline writers, vocalists and music producers all take responsibility for being as knowledgeable in this area as possible and ensuring they are discussing terms from the outset of a collaboration. In turn, record labels must also take responsibility for recognising the Rights of all parties involved in the creation of a record and reflecting this in their agreements.

As a vital aspect of making and monetising music, we will be writing about this in more detail and offering resources to topline writers, vocalists and producers on this in future. However, let’s start with the basics. Whether you are a topline writer, songwriter, producer or vocalist, if you have collaborated on the creation of a song in any way these are the rights you need to be aware of and what you can do to ensure these are being administered correctly.

 

Songwriting Splits (Copyright)

If you write any part of a song, whether it is the topline melody, the lyrics or the backing track, you are due a songwriting split (and in turn a share of publishing income – mechanical royalties and performance royalties) of that song. Therefore, this would be relevant to topline writers and lyricists, as well as music producers if their production constitutes songwriting work (i.e. they wrote/produced the instrumental parts of the song, as is typical in electronic music). You would not be eligible for a songwriting split (or any publishing income) if you recorded vocals on a track as the singer, but did not contribute in any way to the writing of the song (please note – in rare cases there could be exceptions to this if you had been expected to do a large amount of vocal arranging, create (write) extensive harmonies or heavily ad lib). It is also not unheard of in electronic music that a featured vocalist who did not contribute to the songwriting may still be offered a songwriting split, in lieu of a session fee, by way of payment.

The way in which songwriting splits are decided are often determined by a few different factors – for example, how many people have been involved in the songwriting process or how much you contributed to the song. Historically, the lyrics and topline melody of a song would make up 50% of the song, while the instrumental/backing track parts would make up the remaining 50% of the song. However, in electronic music these two features of a song aren’t always equal. Furthermore, whilst a song may be split 50/50 between a topline/lyric writer and a producer, it is common practise that both parties will actually own 50% of both the topline/lyrics and the track – despite who wrote what. More on songwriting splits and the complexities of determining each writers split here and here.

Whichever splits are agreed between the songwriters, it is important that this is stated in writing (as early as possible but certainly before the song is exploited in any way) and that each writer then registers their share of the song so they receive the correct publishing income which may arise. To ensure you catch all the types of income which are generated from owning any musical copyright you must register your songwriting splits with both the Performing Rights Society (PRS) and the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) here.

 

Mechanical Rights

Mechanical Rights compensate the writer(s) of a song when that song is reproduced or distributed either in physical form, such as CD or DVD, or streamed/downloaded from the internet. Therefore, you are entitled to Mechanical royalties if you wrote any part of the topline melody and lyrics, or indeed the instrumental backing track, and thus it is relevant to topline writers, lyricists and producers. It is not relevant if you only recorded a vocal without having written any part of the song.

If you have written any part of a song which is due to be released on a record label, you should be awarded mechanical royalties even if you are not the named or main Artist of the song. This is often overlooked if you are a topline writer collaborating with a producer or Artist who signs the song on which you collaborated to a record label. Labels do not always use due diligence in checking how many writers were involved in the creative process and will sometimes agree mechanical splits with the main Artist/producer without including the topline writer. This is a too-often occurrence in dance music.

Therefore, if you are a topline writer you should be ensuring that your contribution to the writing is reflected with a share of the mechanical royalties, and that both the Artist with whom you are collaborating and the label releasing the song are fully aware and in agreement – ideally before the song is signed but certainly before release. You should also be a member of the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) who will collect the mechanical royalties due to you, on your behalf.

 

Performing Rights

Performing Rights compensate the writer(s) of a song when that song is played (in either live or recorded form) publicly at concerts and festivals, as well as being broadcast on radio, TV and certain digital platforms, or played in clubs, venues, shops, and public business establishments such as gyms etc. Therefore, you are entitled to Public Performance Royalties if you wrote any part of the topline melody and lyrics, or indeed the instrumental backing track and thus it is relevant to topline writers, lyricists and Artist/producers (in the context of electronic music). It is not relevant if you recorded a vocal without having written any part of the song.

If you are the writer of any part of a song, in order to receive your writer’s share you need to ensure you are registered as a rights holder member with the Performing Rights Society (PRS) in the UK. You can do so here.

 

Neighbouring Rights

As with the above, Neighbouring Rights also relate to public performance of a song. However, while public performance rights compensate the writer of the song when their music is publicly performed, neighbouring rights compensate the master holder (usually, the record label) AND the performer when a song recording is played in any public forum. Therefore, if you perform on a song (for example, sang the vocal) you should be awarded neighbouring rights even though you did not write any of the lyrics or melody. These rights therefore apply to lead vocalists, backing vocalists, session singers and all instrumentalists who perform on a song recording. This means you will be awarded royalties (the ‘Performers Share’) each time a record you perform on is played on radio and TV, or in clubs, venues, shops, and public business establishments such as gyms etc. If you are the performer on a record, in order to receive your performers share you need to ensure you are credited as a performer at the time the song is registered with neighbouring rights societies – Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) in the UK. You can do so here.

Please note that neighbouring rights aren’t paid in the USA, and therefore not applicable to US plays of your record.

 

Disclaimer: please note that rights, royalties and how they are administered can differ from territory to territory – the above are specific to the UK. Most other territories have equivalent societies as all those mentioned above.

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