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!

George Michael: A Tribute – The Songs That Shaped Me

Like many of you, over the last few years I have seen the musical icons who influenced me the most tragically pass away. If you’re of a certain age, and especially if you are a singer or value incredible singers & songwriters as I do, the deaths of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston will have impacted you. In 2016 this has been followed by the loss of David Bowie, Prince, and most recently George Michael. For me all have felt a huge loss, each accompanied with the nostalgia of my earliest musical loves, despite the rich bodies of work they leave behind them.

However, none of these untimely passing’s has impacted me quite as much as that of George Michael. At first, I wasn’t sure why I felt the immense sadness I have in these last few days. Arguably I was a less engaged fan of Michael than others; for example, I never managed to see him play live, though this was very much one of my future hopes. But then I realised George Michael was far more omnipresent throughout my life – he featured heavily at every individual stage of my musical education. I admired different parts of his work at different (and very influential) times, though not necessarily in a chronological order.

An introduction

One of my earliest, clear memories of his music was the release of ‘Too Funky’ in 1992 – it was a constant on MTV and soundtracked an entire family holiday that Summer. I thought the video, which featured many of the key supermodels of that time though almost no Michael, was unbelievably glamourous whilst not taking itself seriously at all. To my 10 year old self that’s exactly what pop music should be about.

Subsequently, my teens were filled with George Michael – with my love of dance music developing at the time, for me highlights included singles Fastlove and Outside. To me, the latter is one of the most important statements a popstar has made, and the evident sense of humour (and perspective) he had never overshadowed the quality of his songwriting. When a song turns into a chart hit or dancefloor mainstay, it can be easy to write it off as being flippant or lesser quality. But with George Michael his lyrics (often melancholy, always pointed) and his vocal performances (world class) ensured it was impossible not to take him seriously as an Artist.

Tour bus staple

This was evident even in his earliest years if you listen to ‘Everything She Wants’. At over six minutes long it’s a brilliant disco record but with a contrastingly dark tale of a dysfunctional relationship. Released in 1984 by Wham! as a double A-side with ‘Last Christmas’ I didn’t come to this til much later in life when, in my first professional Artist Management role, an act I worked with played this as a tour-bus staple.  At the time, I had landed my dream job and as a result this song will forever remind me of the most formative, and perhaps happiest time, of my career.

He was also one of the few Artists myself and my jazz musician Dad could agree on, once he released his album of classic covers ‘Songs From The Last Century’ which showed off just how accomplished a singer he was. And more so, just how classy a singer he was – it always remained on the right side of pop, and was full of soul and jazz inflections. He had a clean, clear, controlled voice with a beautiful tone, and he made it look effortless. I can still remember my entire singing class trying to emulate him on his version of ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’. For many in our vocalist network I don’t doubt that he will have been a large part of your vocal education also.

Thank you

Each of these periods were of huge influence to me and, crucially, to the existence of the AR Vocal Agency. He is undoubtedly one of the singers & songwriters who made me want to work so closely with Artists, and for this reason alone I wanted to pay tribute to him here – I, and many of you vocalists working in the commercial music industry, owe him so much.

Free Weekly Seminars for Singers & Songwriters

As you may know we recently created ‘The Vocalist Network ‘ – a private Facebook group for our extended network of vocalists.

Amongst exclusive content, tips for developing your career and a support network of other singers & songwriters we hold free weekly seminars, every Wednesday at 12.30pm GMT. You can see just one of these here:

 

Answering your questions live (Seminar 3) – The Vocalist Network

 

These are fast becoming our favourite part of the working week!

The free seminars are open to all vocalists, singer/songwriters and topline writers – join The Vocalist Network now to attend.

 

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!

The real cost of a vocal topline – Part 2

On last week’s blog we began discussing the real cost of a vocal topline, having observed a devaluation of singers and topline writers within the electronic music community. We asked if you agreed with this statement or not and received some interesting responses from both topline writers and producers (you can see these and join the conversation here).

In order to gain a clearer understanding of the cost of writing, recording and producing a vocal topline we have broken down the topline process, determining the approximate cost to the vocalist/topline writer for each step. Please note that these are based on average costs and only applicable in a scenario where the vocalist/topline writer is collaborating remotely with a producer.

THE TOPLINE PROCESS – STEPS
1. The vocalist/topline writer writing the melody, lyrics, harmonies and full vocal arrangement
2. The vocalist/topline writer recording demo(s) for the Producer’s approval
3. The vocalist/topline writer making amendments to the topline in preparation for final recording
4. The vocalist/topline writer recording the final vocal topline stems (including comping etc.)
AVERAGE COST TO VOCALIST/TOPLINE WRITER
1. Vocalist/Topline writers time – indefinite; Vocalist/Topline writers training and experience – years
2. Vocalist/Topline writers home studio set-up and equipment costs – several £100 minimum; OR the Vocalist/Topline writer hiring studio time and engineer to record demo(s) – between £100-£350 minimum
3. Vocalist/Topline writer’s time – indefinite, depending on how many amendments the producer may want. Further recording costs may also factor at this stage.

If you are a producer who has requested the services of a Vocalist/Topline writer to feature on your track, recognise that the process alone means that they will be incurring several expenses – often into several hundred pounds. This does not account for possible lost earnings elsewhere, whilst they take the time needed to complete the above process. So, it could be that the vocalist/topline writer has spent largely on expenses and/or lost revenue, long before receiving a session fee and co-writing split, the norm which is usually agreed between the two parties.

Of course, no one size fits all, and every circumstance must be considered individually. The point we wish to make is that the business of making and releasing music is expensive. Whilst the overall return on investment in releasing music has declined, the time, skills and experience required to make a quality track have not. It is here where the disconnect which can lead to vocalists and topline writers being devalued comes.

Agree or disagree that you need to invest in your music, if it is to reach the standard you hope for? Head over to our Facebook page and leave a comment there now.

Next week we will be looking at the overall costs to producers in procuring a vocal topline, but for now we’d love to hear your thought on this topic.

The real cost of a vocal topline – Part 1

So, you want a vocal topline for your track? But you don’t want to pay for it, at least not too much.

But what is ‘too much’? Despite working hard to deliver quality vocals to music producers at reasonable prices, we have noticed a discernible devaluing of singers and topline writers amongst the electronic music community. Many producers feel they should work for free, and be happy for the opportunity to do so. It’s a complaint we often hear from the singers and topline writers themselves too, including many established names. It seems that singing, and even lyric and melody writing (the definition of a topline), are often not considered as skilled a trade as music production.

Speaking with many electronic producers, one of the reasons presented for this is ‘everyone can sing’, by which they mean that everyone has use of their voice – not the same as having incredible natural talent, a distinct tone, and years of singing training to ensure professional technique. By this same argument, anyone with access to a laptop can produce music – but this is not the same as having years of experience, an innovative use of sounds, or fantastic software/hardware, much less a great record. Another reason given is the fact that while a producer may spend several weeks working on one track, the singer and topline writer’s work appears to be done in the few hours they spend in the studio recording the finished topline. Little accounting seems to be made for the many hours often spent developing the melody and harmonies, writing the lyrics, arranging the vocal and rehearsing the performance of it to ensure the topline is captured at its best during recording. Let’s not forget the many years, finances and efforts invested into learning and perfecting their craft, just like the best producers.

That music production is any more-or-less skilled than singing or songwriting (and vice versa) is an argument we simply can’t get behind. We believe mutual respect between the two is vital amongst the electronic music community.

Agree or disagree? Head over to our Facebook page and leave a comment there now.

We will be breaking down, in real terms, the true cost of a vocal topline next week but for now we’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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.

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