Back to basics: If you’re a new unsigned artist, this is where to start

‘New’ – I think this might be the broadest term in the music industry. It can mean writing your very first songs, or perhaps taking your earliest steps into performing live. These would certainly define you as a ‘new’ artist. However, equally you can be a ‘new’ artist if you are newly signed to a major record label (and perhaps not even for the first time), at least by the wider music industry and most definitely by the media.

There is of course huge disparity between this first type of new unsigned artist and the type of artist that the media and mainstream often refer to as new; artists who are signed to a major record label, and have gone through years of development with a manager to get to that stage. And that’s not including the many years of early development they had to do by themselves first.

For the purposes of this blog, I am referring to the former of these two differing stages of ‘new’. The newest of new artists – unsigned and unmanaged. If this is the stage you identify yourself as being at right now, keep reading.

 

Where to start?

This stage of newness can last quite a long time. Throughout your musical career (where development never really ends), this is often the most intensive period of growth you will go through. It’s also often the most bewildering because everything is, well, new.

So when you’re feeling a bit uncertain and at times overwhelmed, where do you start to build a successful music career?

 

1. Musical Development

The very first thing you should be focused on is your musical development – mastering your craft as much as you can. With that in mind, investing in lessons for your instrument or a vocal coach is never a bad idea. You might want to attend songwriting courses, or learn how to record and produce your own music – anything you can do to challenge yourself and expand your music skills.

Regular practise and performance will also help to get (and keep) you match fit, as well as increasing your comfort and confidence on stage. If you’re also a songwriter, attend open mic nights to help you test out new songs, and ensure the final arrangements are right before committing them to recordings.

NB You may find some local open mic nights herehere and here.

Go to gigs and see other artists play. Connect with them whenever you can, and ask them about their career experiences so far – peer support is vital as a new, unsigned artist and will make you feel less isolated.

Better yet, collaborate with other musicians, songwriters and music producers whenever you can – of all types and genres. Experiment, become adept at styles you’re not yet familiar with, adopt versatility. Again, not only does this help further hone your craft, but it also helps you to form your musical identity as an artist.

Doing so is a process and you may find your musical identity jumping around quite a bit during this time. But that’s what this stage of musical development is all about – learning who you are as an artist, what your musical strengths are, and where on the musical spectrum you feel most comfortable.

Crucially, for the day when record labels do come knocking, you want to become crystal clear on who you are as an artist and able to stay confidently rooted in that.

 

2. Business Development

If you’re a regular to AR Artist Management content, you’ll know that I am a strong advocate for artists learning as much as they can about the music industry and it’s business aspects. Empowering yourself with knowledge is essential to give you the best possible chance to succeed, and sustain, in music.

This is especially true when you are a new artist and are working alone, without mentorship or guidance from music industry experts. This book is the perfect place to start learning (make sure to get the most up to date edition – the music industry changes frequently and quickly).

Over time, this knowledge will prove invaluable once you are a more established artist, so you can make informed business decisions alongside any managers, labels, lawyers, agents or publishers you work with.

Make sure to look up music industry networking events in your area too, and attend when you can. These are the perfect place to make contacts (whom you may need to call on a little further down the career track) and pick industry brains.

And while you’re at it, learn as much as you can about how best to use social media…

Even as a new artist, you can begin building and growing a substantial audience if you know how to use social media effectively. It’s an area the music industry, even very established artists, often don’t get quite right. With that in mind I’d like to direct you to business, digital marketing, and social media do-it-all Gary Vaynerchuk for guidance. What he teaches is absolutely applicable to music artists.

The more you know about how to manage social media as an artist and utilise it to reach an audience, the better position you’ll be in. Start today.

 

3. Say yes to all opportunities

Yes, all. Ok, almost all. But basically, if you get the opportunity to practise/play/perform/sing/songwrite/collaborate/network/learn/meet/grow – take it. Don’t worry too much whether or not they are the ‘right’ opportunities yet. At this early stage of your career you’re unlikely to be able to clearly identify which opportunities are ‘right’ for you as an Artist, because who you are as an Artist is still forming. You will take many detours along the way to discovering that.

Instead, challenge yourself to learn and improve consistently for the time being. How else will you gain the experience you need to progress to the next stage of your career? And with that, I reach my final point – make sure you don’t plateau or get stuck at any one stage of development. Look to set yourself goals to strive towards so you can ensure that your development is actually moving you forward, rather than becoming a place of procrastination.

Keep learning, keep investing in your musical craft and industry knowledge, and keep taking steps forward. Be patient but don’t get comfortable with being ‘new’ for too long.

All of this is simply preparation for your future music career.

Learn more

Want to learn more? Enrol on our FREE 5-day email course ‘How To Get A Manager (Or Be A Successful Independent Artist)’ here!

 

 

Guest blog: A season in the life of an independent Artist

It’s been 7 months since I quit my day job to work as a full-time artist. And I have not regretted this step for a single minute. The level of fulfillment from knowing that I’m working on developing my talents is the highest I could wish for!

There are challenges though, and that’s what I want to share with you. Not because I want to whine, but because this stage of any music artist’s journey of following their bliss is often not visible, communicated or celebrated. Yes, celebrated because, without this stage, you can’t pass onto the next one. It is one of the building blocks, and it’s an essential part of the foundations.

 

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

Mainly the feeling that I do all of this for nothing… Wait, what? You just said you found the work fulfilling! And yes, I did say it and yes, I do find it fulfilling. What is hard to overcome is seeing that many of the activities I did over the last few months are rather a long-term return on investment (such as building an audience from scratch, recording songs, being paid to perform) – something I didn’t foresee when I set out to do them.

So if I can share something with another ‘new’ independent artist out there, when you set out on this journey, work on your craft, your brand, build your audience and determine your short term and long term goals and income streams. And don’t be shy to put dates next to them. It might look disappointing/impossible at first but it will also give you a better handle on things.

 

SHORTLIST OF THE THINGS I’VE DONE OVER THE LAST 7 MONTHS:

So here’s a short list of things I’ve done over the last 7 months, most of which haven’t added much income to my wallet – mostly because they tend to have a long-term return on investment:

  • Studied and got a certificate from a songwriting course with Berklee online.
  • Written my first custom song for a lady who won it as a prize at an Xmas House Concert I gave. This was a gift since I wanted to gain experience of writing for someone else. The song is in its final production stage (mixing/mastering) and will be released as a single soon. I want to offer writing custom songs for others, too and I thought I would have started this earlier but I set no deadline for myself and so here I am… Did I mention that setting deadlines for yourself is important?
  • I’ve developed the concept of a donation based private concert tour in support of the Rainforest Fund and offered it to my audience via social media and my mailing list. I got a few likes and replies but that’s it… Why? I have yet to find out, but it probably needs more campaigning and a bigger audience than I have at the moment.
  • I’ve created a cover song program called “Pop Gone Jazz”, which meant learning circa 20 new songs. I’ve called about 50 – 60 hotels and event companies to offer them this program, often hearing ‘we like your music and we’ll get back to you when an opportunity arises” – well, so far no one got back to me… Why? It might need more following up, maybe my brand is not developed enough yet, maybe something else…
  • I’ve had one of my songs remixed for “Ibiza Beats Volume 10” Compilation CD (for a very modest flat fee). Nice to know my voice will be floating somewhere in Ibiza beach clubs… yet it probably won’t pay my bills. But hey, it’s a small success to celebrate!
  • I’ve played a number of open mics with a very positive response from the audience, often asking me to come back. It’s great to be wanted but these are all free gigs or they pay tips only. In addition to nominal payment, the challenge I often face is that I’m a piano/keyboard player and if no piano is provided, I would have to rent a car to bring mine… which costs money, while the gig pay won’t cover it. Hmmm, not a good investment strategy. Therefore, you don’t see me performing as often as guitar players do.
  • I’ve updated my website and have kept my social media up to date… While this is fun, it does take up a significant amount of time. And I’ve learned that I have a lot of tweaking ahead of me yet!
  • I’ve spent a good amount of time learning about and researching legal questions concerning copyright/songwriting etc. – which I needed for the contracts for the remix and the custom song. This has been very helpful and revealing. Definitely a good investment of time and money! But it’s still an investment, not a return on it.
  • I’ve done Facebook Live performances of my songs where listeners have a chance to support my music by contributing into a virtual tip jar. This is a great way to perform for people from the comfort of my own home, and gives my online audience a chance to support my music… this needs consistency and development on my part. I hereby pledge to work on it!
  • I’ve attended songwriting workshops and a Musicfair where I made new contacts in the music industry. This has proven to be a very worthwhile step, especially because I am now working on a new single with a producer I met there!

SO WHAT’S NEXT?

I’ve quickly realised that I need help in determining how best to move forward, and develop my music career. The first step in this has been booking one-to-one consultation sessions with Anna Russell of AR Artist Management.

This is a very exciting step with quite lots of growth and new realisations completed in just a couple of sessions already. As I’ve found out, it can sometimes take much longer (3 years and over) than I hoped to ‘break an artist’ – i.e. get them to a point of a sustainable music career. And that’s provided that things go well, developing the right strategy and being consistent and disciplined in applying it.

Knowing this is both liberating and challenging. Liberating because I no longer hold myself to unrealistic expectations to get it all done within 6 months, and challenging because I realise I somehow need to support myself financially while working on the longer-term goals, alongside my short term goals. That will probably include doing work that is not directly related to my music, which often makes me sad. But giving up is not an option, as the alternative would mean becoming a bitter and disappointed person, and that’s not good for this world. And so I continue to look into my heart when making decisions at each intersection, while the beat goes on

This blog was sent to us by independent music artist Petra Jordan, who is based in Amsterdam. You can follow her development here at her own blog.

 

Learn More

If you would like support in your journey as an independent music artist from AR Artist Management, please register your interest in our ‘Self-Manage Your Music Career‘ online course here.

Vocals We Love – Autumn 2016

We wanted to take the opportunity to share some toplines, vocal performances and vocal production/edits we have been loving recently. In no particular order, the below list have all been on the AR Vocal Agency office stereo on rotation in recent weeks and we hope they provide some inspiration whether you are a topline writer, vocalist or producer.

Robyn – Main Thing (Mr. Tophat Remix)

Emelí Sandé – Hurts

Becky Hill – Warm

Sasha – Track 10

Nao – Happy (Live)

Lady Gaga & Florence Welch – Hey Girl

Fono – Feet On The Ground

Kaytranada featuring Craig David – Got It Good

Disclosure featuring Kwabs – Willing & Able (Live)

The Golden Boy – Good To You (vocalist Jasmine Knight – one of our own!)

Which vocals have you been listening to recently? Let us know over at our Facebook page now.

AR’s Favourite Vocals – Kaytranada feat. Craig David – ‘Got It Good’

Kaytranada‘s new album ‘99.9%’ was released a week ago on XL Records, and it’s all we have listened to since.

It goes without saying that the production values are incredibly high, but this album is also a masterclass in collaborating with vocalists and topline writers to amazing effect.

Featuring both established and emerging artists including River Tiber, Aluna George, Vic Mensa, Phonte, as well as personal favourite artists of ours Anderson Paak, Shay Lia and Little Dragon, each vocal is unique. Together they make for a dynamic and varied album.

However, the standout track for us is Kaytranada’s collaboration with the UK’s own Craig David – featured artist du jour – who delivers a beautiful R&B vocal on ‘Got It Good’. It’s as smooth as you might expect, with an added touch of class, complimented by equally gorgeous female backing vocals.

You can listen and purchase Kaytranada ‘99.9%’ here.

AR’s Favourite Vocals: Moderat – ‘Reminder’

Released last month, Reminder is the new single by Moderat, taken from their forthcoming album III.

Cinematic, atmospheric, melancholic, understated yet somehow dramatic at the same time, we absolutely love the delivery of the vocal for this song and just how much emotion it holds. Recommended listening.

Watch the video here.

Our latest release: Pandaboyz & Nano Bites – ‘Live As Me’

Proud to have produced the vocal for Pandaboyz & Nano Bites new track ‘Live As Me’ which features on Protocol Recordings Miami 2016 compilation – out now.

You can hear a snippet of the track here:https://soundcloud.com/prot…/pandaboyz-nano-bites-live-as-me
Download here: http://prot.cl/Miami2016

This vocal was achieved using the AR Vocal Agency‘s topline consultancy service – contact us for more details.

AR’s Favourite Vocals: Grace featuring G-Eazy – ‘You Don’t Own Me’

We loved Lesley Gore’s original ‘You Don’t Own Me’, and think Grace gives a fresh, sultry and complimentary take on it.

Out already, we’ve been playing this for a while now. With a strong, jazz-tinged voice, we’re looking forward to hearing more from the Australian singer.

Check it out here and purchase here.

AR’s Favourite Vocals: Rihanna feat. SZA

Our current obsession in the AR Vocal Agency office is the first track from Rihanna’s new album ANTI. It sees Rihanna at her very best both vocally and lyrically, with a star turn from co-writer and featured vocalist SZA. That phrasing!

Check it out now.

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