4 Major Live Music Trends Changing The Industry This Year

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rachel Grate and originally appeared on the Eventbrite Blog.]

 

We’re just one month into 2017 (ed. – this was originally published in February of 2017), and it’s already proven to be a year of big changes — and the live music industry is no exception to the rule.

To stay on top of your game in a shifting landscape, you need a firm grip on the music trends that will shift the landscape in 2017. But don’t take it from us — take it from the nineteen industry pros we interviewed, including Newport Folk Festival, Afropunk, National Sawdust, and more.

Here’s how tastemakers predict the live music industry will change in 2017 — and how you can use those trends to protect your business.

1. Activism will revive the live music community

“Music has recently been more about escapism than activism,” says Jay Sweet, festival director and talent buyer for the Newport Festivals Foundation. But with major political changes coming in 2017, fans may be looking to their favorite artists to take a stance. “I’m excited because I think this could be the year where musicians could… try to affect positive change through music,” Sweet says.

Matthew Morgan, the co-founder of Afropunk, believes fans will look to live music as an opportunity to make sense of the world around them. “We’re in line for some really great art over the next four years, [and] what we’re doing is going to be even more important,” Morgan says. “So many people are looking for things that are positive, that give them something meaningful in their lives.”

“We’re in line for some really great art over the next 4 years.” — Matthew Morgan of @afropunk

In this quest for self-expression, fans and artists will use live performances as an opportunity to build community around shared causes. “Festivals are a place for people to congregate safely — a place to share a common, collective experience,” Sweet says. It will be up to independent promoters and producers to create these safe spaces for activism.

2. Immersive theater will influence live music performances

From popular events like The Speakeasy in San Francisco to the topic of breakout HBO show Westworld, immersive theater made a big splash in 2016. These shows make audience members a part of the performance, and this year, we’ll see their influence begin to make live music performances more multidimensional.

“The world of immersive theater is about to explode,” says Nick Panama, the founder of Cantora. “We’ll be seeing a lot more experiential storytelling, and its influence on live music.”

Panama predicts live shows will expand the storytelling from the music itself to other senses. Instead of relying solely on audio cues or a screen behind them to tell a story, performers will begin to activate the entire room or stadium with immersive sensory details. Using a variety of new technologies, fans will become part of an alternate reality for the duration of the show.

3. Venues will band together to establish more sustainable economics

With rising rent prices in cities across the country, venues are facing a serious financial challenge in 2017.

“Venues will either buy the land they sit on, or they’ll move,” says Brendon Anthony, the director of the Texas Music Office. “We’re not going to see our favorite venues in the same place unless they own the land. The venues that are iconic and last [will] need to control their rent.”

“Venues will either buy the land they sit on or they’ll move.”@Brendon_Anthony of @txmusicoffice

But venues may not be able to crack the code to sustainability on their own. Venues will have the most success if they band together to protect their businesses.

“There are real ways venues can work together to make their margins a bit easier to handle,” Anthony says. In Texas and other states, for instance, venues, bars, and restaurants are all taxed in the same way, even though venues have to put more of their money back into infrastructure. There could be a way for venues to reduce their tax rate, “but for that to happen, venues would have to define what being a venue means, and then go to work to lobby as a group for the change.”

Fighting for this recognition won’t be easy, but it’s the best way for rooms to protect their business. Venues in the UK have already seen success with this strategy, led by the Music Venue Trust and their annual Venues Day, aimed at raising awareness and advocating for venue rights. Venues in the states will need to follow suit, banding together to protect the future of live music in their respective cities.

4. Brands will become even more intertwined with artists

Sponsors spend $1.4 billion on the music industry in the United States each year, and that number is only going up. Instead of investing in large activations or stages at festivals, our experts predict that brands will focus more on building relationships with specific artists in the next year.

Mark Monahan, the festival director of Ottawa Bluesfest, has seen this shift firsthand. “In the last few years, most sponsors want to activate around artists,” Monahan says. “Five years ago in the festivals space, that was a nonstarter. Artists are recognizing the role sponsors play in helping to fund festivals, and are more willing to participate in auxiliary activities.”

Currently, most of these artist activations look like meet and greets, or small, private shows with festival headliners. But these activations will need to evolve and become more natural to succeed in 2017. It is likely we’ll see more activations like last year’s Lady Gaga’s Dive Bar Tour, sponsored by Bud Light. The series focused on one of the most important roles a brand can play for an artist: delighting fans by bringing them in more direct contact with their idols.

But this integrated relationship between artists and brands could be in conflict with another trend — that artists are more openly expressing their political beliefs.

“I’m hesitant about what the branded content space is going to look like in the next year,” Gaston says. “If artists get more politically involved, will that impact how brands interact with artists? It’s going to be really tricky if that spending shifts, especially since brand dollars have become more important to the bottom line for both artists and labels.”

5 Reasons Teaming Up With Another Band Means a Mutual Boost on Tour

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Jhoni Jackson, a music journalist and Puerto Rico-based venue owner.]

 

Heading out on tour with your band has the potential to bring everyone in it closer together. Co-existing and constantly collaborating, playing together night after night—becoming a tight-knit troupe in the process is almost inevitable. But why not double the bonds you could solidify by bringing another group into the picture? Organizing a joint tour means you’ll connect with even more fellow musicians—and that’s not the only benefit, either.

The notion that there’s strength in numbers is inarguably true for independent and DIY bands. Touring is one of the toughest parts of the gig; in that effort especially, you’ll accomplish more working together.

1. You’re sharing fans

Even if you hail from the same city, chances are you don’t share the exact same fanbase with any other band. That means pairing up in any capacity is an opportunity for exposure to new listeners; touring together is a maximized version of that.

Whenever possible, tag your tour-mates in related promo and other posts—and they should do the same, of course. Collaborate as much as you can: Both bands should be reflected in promo material like tour posters, promo videos announcing dates, Facebook events, and so forth. Every time you promote together is another chance to appeal to each other’s fans.

One result of two separate camps collectively pushing the promo could be increased show attendance, and there’s some strategy within that for increased effectiveness. If either group has toured before, include spots in your schedule that one has played and the other hasn’t; the band visiting for a second time can help carry the newcomer in terms of pull. Even if both bands are embarking on first-ever tours, though, you can also use Insights on your Facebook page to learn about the demographics of your fans. Their locations could help you choose which cities you visit, or what kind of marketing effort will work best based on your existing (or yet-to-be-built) audiences.

2. You can pool resources

Lug around less by sharing gear, particularly the bulkier items like amps and drums. Go in on groceries together to save money, and share the burden of cooking and preparing meals by rotating responsibilities. Depending on how big your group is, you might even travel together in a single vehicle, so there’s only one gas tank to fill to be split among all of you. And when you’re reaching out to friends and acquaintances as you line up places to crash on tour, more musicians in the mix means a greater potential number of generous hosts.

3. Two networks are better than one

Maybe one of you knows a booking agent in a particular city and the other doesn’t, or perhaps you’ve established a rapport with certain outlets that your touring mates haven’t. Knowing the right people in any given city can be a boon to a DIY tour. Whatever the effort, your connections combined are obviously doubly powerful.

4. Collaborating sparks creativity

Working together on any type of creative strategy, the sharing of influences and obscure discoveries, even casual conversations about art and music—something special happens when separate imaginations meet. New ideas pop up seemingly from nowhere; you gain fresh perspectives about other people’s work and your own.

Creativity fuels creativity, and in the close quarters of tour life, there’s no doubt you’ll find inspiration in collaborating—and practically living together—throughout the trip.

5. Through the camaraderie, you strengthen community bonds

Touring together is one of those shared experiences that facilitates deep connections and meaningful, lifelong friendships. The struggles, triumphs, exhaustion—incredible shows, bad turnouts, strategizing for press, the perpetual uphill battle of financial sustainment—are all collectively endured or celebrated.

Camaraderie develops naturally, and that, in turn, helps you strengthen your overall ties to your scene, whether that community is local or built around a genre and spread throughout different cities.

How Open Mics Can Open Doors in Your Local Music Scene

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post written by Mason Hoberg. Mason is a freelance writer who covers music-related topics and is a regular contributor to Equipboard.]

 

A hard truth of the world is that it’s never what you know. Rather, it’s almost always who you know. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, or how much time you’ve put into honing your writing or performing talents. If you can’t make valuable connections in your local music scene, odds are you’re going to have an incredibly difficult time in making any significant process in your career as a musician.

With that being said, there are a variety of different ways that you can open doors for yourself. This article is going to focus on open mics, and since this is the exclusive focus of the article we can get into the nitty gritty of how you can use them to help start your career as a musician.

1. Friends Talk To Friends Talk to Friends (Etc.)

If you’re looking for a talented musician, who are the first people you’re going to ask? Odds are, most of you are going to talk to friends who either are musicians or who are in contact with people in the local music scene.

Now believe it or not, the best way to take advantage of this, (aside from showing up and playing at least competently, obviously), is to always be professional and kind to those around you. Just about any band in the world would rather have a nice and dependable member than one who’s a jerk and causes the band problems.

Never talk down to your fellow performers, and for the love of God, don’t heckle. If you’re a musician who heckles your peers, get up right now and go look in a mirror. And then smash your face into it. The scars you gain from doing so will definitely add an element of mystique to your next performance. (Note: TuneCore is not liable for any heckler who smashes his/her face into a mirror. Even if it is kind of funny).

2. Networking With Other Musicians

While word of mouth is a powerful ally, it’s just as important to actually make connections with your fellow musicians. Imagine this scenario: You’re looking for a place to play gigs and you see a local gigging musician at an open mic night (which believe it or not, a lot of them do actually show up there to work on new songs or just to stay in practice with performing). You two get to talking and you mention that you’ve been having a hard time finding gigs, and then you ask if he/she would be able to recommend any venue owners who are pleasant to work with. Now you have a focused list of venue owners who host live music, and an idea of how it is to work with them. You can also ask about how the crowds were in different venues throughout town, giving you an idea as to which venues you should work on based on your genre.

While doing this once is helpful, doing it a dozen times is probably going to give you a pretty comprehensive list of the venues in the area, the type of music that works best in them, and how these venue owners treat their musicians. This is incredibly valuable information to have, because one of the most important parts of putting on a good show is finding a venue that works well for your music.

3. It Shows You What Type Of Music Is Best Received In The Area

Something many musicians don’t think about is how their audiences are going to react to the music they play, and not in regards to its quality. Rather, what is the demographic of listeners in your area like? Do they prefer metal? Soft acoustic music? Country? Folk? Do you have an idea of what these percentages are like?

While open mics are going to give you pretty skewed results due to the fact that most of the people who attend are likely to be more interested in acoustic music, odds are the overall reactions are still going to be at least somewhat representative. For example, if the crowd present likes Garth Brooks covers odds are that there will at least be some venues in town where country is well received.

Likewise, if the crowd loses their mind over a particularly inspired “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” cover for example, you can be pretty sure that there will be areas where Green Day will go over well.

4. You Get To Learn A Variety Of Approaches To Working A Crowd

Working a crowd is an art, and just like any other art there are a variety of different ways to approach it. Learning to time jokes well, figuring out how to introduce a song, and learning how to build a set-list are all fundamental skills for a musician.

While practice is important, so is being exposed to a variety of different approaches. You always want to be learning and trying new things, and there’s no better way to think up a new approach than to see what others are doing. Odds are they’ll do at least one thing that you never do that goes over well, and if they happen to be really bad at working a crowd, you get a few lessons in what not to do.

Wrapping It All Up

Being a musician requires a collection of several different skills, and open mics are a good place to hone them – aside from being an awesome place to make the connections that you’ll need to advance your career. They’re not always pretty, and the musicians who attend them may not always be the most pleasant to listen to, but there are a variety of things to learn and a huge population of musicians to network with.

An Artist’s Take on the Importance of Authenticity

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Ellery Bonham, a TuneCore Artist performing as EZA. She’s acquired millions of streams across platforms, and you can check out her latest EP, Dead Reckoning, on Spotify here!]

 

When I was sixteen-years old I went on American Idol. (It was quick, seriously.) Back then in 2009, it had been a dream of mine since I was nine years old and Kelly Clarkson won the first season, closing the finale with that-song-we-say-we-hate-but-secretly-still-love, A Moment Like This. I don’t even think I auditioned hoping to win the show; what I really wanted was to see what three legitimate music professionals might think of me – a young girl from Rhode Island who grew up in a small town, a small church, and was raised by incredibly supportive, but very conservative parents. Outside of that world, I had no idea who I was, and I was finally at the age where I needed to find out if I really wanted to take music seriously.

When I arrived in California for ‘Hollywood Week’, it took about half of a second for me to realize I had nowhere near the self-awareness that the others did. After all, I was wearing clothes my mother and I deemed “nice” and “professional,” singing songs that were “sweet,” and “appropriate.” I was a singer, and just that. The other contestants were different. These people had ‘I-don’t-give-a-****’ hair and assertive style. They were the epitome of effervescence; their spirits bled with fearlessness and individuality.

I remember feeling so envious of the freedom that they allowed themselves. I wanted to know what it was like to wear clothes solely based on how confident they made me feel. I wanted to be on stage not to entertain, but to share a moment with the audience that could make a stranger feel known. I wanted to perform songs that expressed my soul rather than stroked my ego.

I never knew the difference between an ‘artist’ and a ‘singer’ until I met some of these people. Understanding the distinction was just the beginning of the agonizing journey of authenticity that lay ahead. When I finally returned home, I brought with me an understanding that branding and vulnerability were just as important as one’s talent in order to achieve success in this field. So a few years later, I moved to Nashville to study the entertainment industry and learn how to pursue a career as an artist.

I’m now about to be 24-years old, and EZA has been my artist project for three years. I’ve been doing it full-time for the past year-and-a-half, and have learned more about music business and authenticity than I ever thought I could handle. I can’t even count the number of times I have gotten my ass handed to me because I didn’t do my research, I jumped the gun, or tried to operate with my walls up. Talent aside, you cannot do this job if you’re uneducated about the field and you cannot do it as a fraud.

That is the kicker in this industry – why being an artist is the ultimate paradox: Creating music requires your heart, sustaining your career requires your mind, and each are constantly threatened by the the other. I think if anyone followed an indie artist around for a year, they wouldn’t believe how or why we still wake up every day and keep trying to find the balance.

Over the years, I’ve come to a really difficult conclusion that might slap you across the face just as hard as it’ll kiss you with encouragement: Those of us who master the heart and mind paradox will be successful. I truly believe if we are good enough at what we do (music and vulnerability) and want it bad enough (work ethic and business) we will find the success we are so desperately chasing.

I know that sounds too simple to be true, perhaps even too cold to be true. But it is. Many of us have been told that luck is half of what makes a person in the music industry successful. (It’s true that for some, luck helps speed the process along.) However, I don’t believe that we find luck so much as we make our own.

We cannot give up the wheel and stop taking responsibility for our own careers. Relying on anyone else to make you successful, or blaming something/someone for never becoming successful is simply a defense mechanism; it is a deflection to avoid taking matters into our own hands.The truth is, when you’re doing something right for long enough, it is impossible to go unnoticed. As Steve Martin says, “Be so good, they can’t ignore you.”

If you’ve never read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, stop what you’re doing, open Amazon right now, order a copy- and then continue reading. More than anyone I’ve ever read, Pressfield puts words to every internal-struggle a creative individual has ever faced. He teaches the deception of “Resistance” and the different ways our mind tries to distract us from doing the very work we feel called to create. The entire book is a collection of small chapters that speak truth after truth about why we aren’t where we think we should be. Accepting that we are the only one in our way is a jagged pill to swallow, but there is also unimaginable freedom when we embrace it. In the end, those of us who strip away the B.S. and really figure out who we are and how to do it well are going to end up where we want to be.

If you’re still unsure about hopping on board, I’ll close with some send-off questions:

  1. What am I really trying to say in my songs? (What am I not saying and need to?)
  2. Who am I afraid to let down if I reveal my true self?
  3. Am I vulnerable enough to confront what “my best” looks like right now? Do I hold back from giving 100% of myself to my work because I am afraid to see that “my best” is in fact, disappointing?
  4. What would it sound like if I only released songs that brought me to tears of joy, sadness, or anger, when I wrote them?
  5. What would my band/project look like if I started over right now and only committed to ideas that I would bet my career on?

I’m curious to hear how this sits with you. Feel free to reach out at contact@ezamusic.com or hit up the comment section if you’d like to keep the discussion going.

Part 2: The Artist & Manager Relationship – A Look At Recording Industry Management Agreements

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq. Justin is an entertainment and media attorney for The Jacobson Firm, P.C. in New York City. He also runs Label 55 and teaches music business at the Institute of Audio Research. Read the Part One of this two-part installment here.]

 

We will continue from our prior installment on “The Artist & Manager Relationship.” We will now explore some additional contract clauses included in most management agreements as well as a few negotiation tactics for these clauses.

Another essential matter that needs to be ironed out is the “term” that the artist is signed to the manager. Typical language outlining the term and options is below:

Term – The term of this agreement will be for an initial period of one (1) year commencing on the date hereof (the “First Contract Period”) plus the additional “Contract Periods” if any, which Term may be extended by Manager’s exercise of one or more of the options granted to Manager below.

Options – Artist hereby irrevocably grants to Manager three (3) separate consecutive options to extend the Term for a “Second”, “Third”, and “Fourth” Contract Period. Each such option consist of one (1) year each and will be exercised automatically by Manager at the end of the then current Term unless Manager gives Artist written notice to the contrary no later than thirty (30) days prior to the date that the then current Contract Period would otherwise expire.

A typical management agreement term can last for as little as 1 or 2 years. But, it can be for as long as 5 or 6 years, or even more. The terms of an agreement are traditionally structured with a minimum of one year followed by several options for additional years. Sometimes, the “term” is based on “album cycles” rather than specified calendar years. In this situation, the “term” starts with the commencement of recording the album and lasts until the end of the tour or associated promotional activities for that album. This time period could end up lasting longer than one calendar year. Similar to the language above, usually the options are automatically exercised by the manager. This provides the manager with the right to choose to terminate the agreement by providing notice to the artist.

If they do nothing, than the option is exercised and the agreement continues. Ultimately, this is a point that should be negotiated between the parties as the agreement could require mutual approval to exercise an option or it could include a set milestone that must be reached for an option to be exercised (i.e. artist must earn $10,000 during the one year term for the option to be exercised or obtain a recording/distribution agreement).

Other possible limitations on the term of the agreement could be that if the artist doesn’t earn a specified amount in a given time frame, then the artist is free to terminate the agreement. If this option is selected, a manager should ensure that any offers that the artist turns down as well as those that are accepted are included in this total amount. This protects the manager as an artist cannot simply turn down valid offers to reduce the income earned in order to get out of the contract. Conversely, an artist should insist that for an offer to count toward this minimum, it must be similar to those the artist had previously accepted. This prevents a manager from simply providing nominal or unsatisfactory offers in an attempt to continue extending the management arrangement.

Since a manager is entitled to receive compensation for any agreement entered into or substantially negotiated during the term of the agreement, a “sunset” clause can be included to reduce the amount that a manager is entitled to after the expiration of the term of the agreement.

Typical language for a “sunset” clause is as follows:

Following the expiration or termination of the Term hereof, Artist agrees to pay Manager for a period of three (3) years a commission of fifteen percent (15%) from any contracts entered into during the Term and all renewals, extensions, additions, modifications, amendments, substitutions or supplements of all contracts, engagements and commitments entered into or substantially negotiated for during the Term hereof. Subsequent to the termination of this first three (3) year period, there shall be modifications downward of Manager’s commission percentage in the following manner: (i) a reduction to twelve (12%) percent for the second three (3) year period subsequent to termination, (ii) a reduction to ten (10%) percent for the third three (3) year period following termination, and (iii) Subsequent to the end of the third three (3) year period the Manager shall no longer be entitled to receive commission.

A “sunset” clause is used to reduce a manager’s commission in the years following expiration of the term of the management agreement. This clause reduces the percentage the artist owes to the manager over time and eventually extinguishes this obligation entirely. This is important for an artist who is leaving one manager and signing with another, as the new manager would typically want their standard commission rate (15-20%) and your prior manager would still be entitled to their percentage under the “sunset” clause (15-20%). This situation severely limits the amount an artist earns; and, therefore, it is prudent to ensure that the prior manager’s percentage reduces and eventually ends at a specified time.

Another method an artist can utilize to potentially terminate a management agreement early is the inclusion of a “Key Man” clause. This clause protects a musician’s relationship with a particular individual by stipulating that the personal manager (the “key man”) must represent the musician or else the musician may terminate the contract.

This applies if the “key man” is deceased, terminated or otherwise is no longer affiliated with the management company that the artist is currently signed to. The particular individual needs to be listed by name in the agreement for this clause to be operative. However, the inclusion of this type of language does not obligate the artist to leave the management company; it just provides the artist with the opportunity to do so if they choose.

A standard “key man” clause could reads as follows:

During the Term, John Doe shall be primarily responsible for Manager’s activities under this Agreement. Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is understood and agreed that John Doe may delegate day-to-day responsibilities to other employees of Manager provided John Doe remains primarily responsible for the activities and services provided by Manager. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained herein, in the event that John Doe shall cease to be employed by Manager or shall cease to be primarily responsible for Manager’s activities hereunder (“Key- Man Event”), Artist shall have the right to terminate the Term of this agreement effective upon the date of Artist’s notice to Manager of such Key-Man Event.

Overall, a personal manager is an essential member of your music business team and one that can truly make or break your career. They can be a driving force behind your success or a stumbling block to your advancement; consequently, the negotiation of a written management agreement helps to ensure that an initial managerial arrangement doesn’t have a negative impact on an artist’s career going forward and that all parties fully understand what they sign and feel protected.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted. Some of the clauses have been condensed and/or edited for content purposes, so none of these clauses should be used verbatim nor do they act as any form of legal advice or counseling.