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UK Artists: DIY Day at The Great Escape – Brighton, Saturday 21st May

By Sam Taylor, TuneCore UK

Taking place in Brighton from Thursday, May 19th to Saturday, May 21st, The Great Escape takes over the whole of Brighton, staging hundreds of gigs from more than 800 artists in dozens of music venues. Some of these gigs are part of the official Great Escape programme, and others part of the “Alt Escape” line up of showcases and stages organised by blogs, venues, country hosts and music companies from the UK and beyond. As Europe’s biggest new music showcase, The Great Escape brings together a huge number of bands, artists and industry professionals in one place, and offers an unrivalled opportunity to meet and network with like minded people.

Described by Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq as “The Cannes Film Festival of the music world”, The Great Escape is one of the most significant events in the UK’s musical calendar, and for independent and emerging artists it offers a great opportunity not only to be seen and heard, but to learn genuinely useful tips from industry experts.

This year, to mark the launch of TuneCore’s UK office, we have partnered with CMU:DIY at The Great Escape to deliver a day of content aimed at guiding independent and emerging musicians through the complexities of the modern music industry.

This day of content – led by industry experts Chris Cooke, (CMU), Jen Long (Dice FM), DJ John 00 Fleming and supported by TuneCore – brings together a wide range of people from across the industry to share their knowledge and expertise. Taking place on Saturday 21st May, CMU:DIY at The Great Escape tickets are only £25to book, click here.

great escape UK

The focus of this year’s DIY Day is “Going Live” – once you’ve written songs and honed your performance, the next task for artists is building their fanbase, and live performance is one of the best ways to do this. I sat down with three of the experts sharing their advice – Dave Gamble, Programming Manager at the Royal Albert Hall; Rosie James, Head of Press & Radio at Tru Thoughts/DEC Promotions; and social media strategist Aria Alagha who works with a range of music festival and artists, including Lee Fest, Lovebox and Wilderness Festival.

“One mistake I see artists make is going into things unprepared,” says Dave Gamble. “It might seem boring, but making sure that you’re properly prepared is really important. I don’t just mean for the performance, but everything that surrounds it – making sure that you’ve got good press shots in the right size; having a good paragraph written up about who you are, what people can expect, and that clearly communicates how you want to be portrayed as an artist. If your photos don’t portray you properly, if the information you send out doesn’t communicate what you’re about, then you’re missing your first opportunity – before people see you live – to cut through and capture people’s attention”.

Rosie of Tru Thoughts agrees, saying, “It’s important when you’re starting your promotional campaigns that you really think about the sort of tracks you are sending, and the kind of music you are putting out there – that it’s working to show off how you want to be seen.”

“I think artists who are fully prepared do tend to be the most successful,” continues Dave. “Artists who have an idea, a strong artistic vision, and have crafted their narrative as artists tend to be able to cut through. By understanding what you want to say, you become comfortable presenting yourself and your material to an audience who have come to see you – or more importantly, an audience who haven’t come to see you but just happen to be there, or came with friends, or whatever”.

Aria says that these core principles apply as much to the on stage performance as they do to your digital presence. “A lot of emerging artists target their social activity in the wrong way – so often, I see people creating adverts on Facebook, which are targeting towards people who like similar artists. People don’t really respond well to that, because they have a much more emotional connection with music. Go too much down the route of saying ‘OK, I sound like this artist you like so you’ll love me’ and it can be too sales-y. Inject a personal element into things, communicate something about yourself, and be more creative in your approaches. Facebook is a really powerful promotional opportunity – and so is Twitter, and Instagram – but I think you need to be quite creative in how you can engage people effectively. Video is very engaging on Facebook – creating really great video content and promoting that can be really powerful when you’re trying to get your foot in the door. It doesn’t need to be expensive; pull in people from your wider network, use illustrators, animators, create great content that captures people’s attention quickly.”

Content doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming,” says Rosie. “I think everything you do should be focused on driving things forward – if you get a radio play, or a piece of coverage on a blog, you should be putting that out on your social channels. That’s content in its own right, it’s something that people who follow you will probably be interested in. I often say that one thing that is as important as getting some coverage is telling everyone about that coverage when it happens. A lot of online publications, the coverage can be really fleeting – even if it’s a site that is getting 50,000 readers a day, it may be that a much smaller number of people actually see that. So by taking that coverage and using it as a new piece of content for your social channels means that you’re maximising the value”.

Scenes from 2015's Conference - c/o The Great Escape
Scenes from 2015’s Conference – c/o The Great Escape

The most powerful thing is to hyper-target things,” says Aria. “If you have even a micro-budget, you can take a particular piece of content and get stuff seen by specific people, people who are going to really bring you something. Through Facebook, you can target people based on where they work and what job position they hold. You could target people who work at Sony or MTV or who work in talent agencies, or management or anything like that.”

“Making that personal interaction and connection is key,” says Dave. “Word of mouth – whether spoken or digital – can be one of the very most powerful tools to find your audience, find your network of people. I’m convinced that word or mouth is still the best way to get the word out and get known, find new fans, get more gigs, and get in front of the people you need to to progress your career.”

“I think especially at a smaller level, having a personal interaction with your audience AFTER your set can be incredibly important,” continues Dave. “Fans can become friends, friends can become fans – when you’re playing in rooms of 50 people, 30 people, 100 people, those are the people who are out at gigs and are talking about music, and are going to become your strongest evangelists. You need to engage with them, connecting through your music, and then enforce that connection. Get an email address, tell them about what you’re doing next, where they can find out more about what you’re doing.”

“It’s the one most important thing,” agrees Aria. “Every emerging artist – every artist at any level – should have a rock solid email list. Build up on that, make sure you are telling people about things you have coming up. It’s useful as a channel in its own right, but also, you can take that list and plug it into Facebook, and find your fans there as well. Email is so powerful.”

For more information on CMU:DIY at The Great Escape click here.

CMU: DIY at The Great Escape takes place on Saturday May 21st in Brighton. To book tickets click here.