The Business of Making a Record (Part III)

[Editors NoteThis is the final installment in a three-part series of guest articles from Coury Palermo. Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you need to catch up. In this final piece, he guides first-time music makers as they navigate the world of defining their promotion and release strategy, as well as defining what success means to them. Coury is a songwriter, producer and musician who is currently one-half of duo love+war.]

 

Ok. The champagne’s been popped. You’ve listened to your album on repeat since receiving the master, ordered your physical packages, and now you’re ready; ready to share your masterpiece with the world. Before we get to the grit of “Now what?”, let me start by talking about the last part of the previous sentence.

A large part of your success as an artist rests in the tenacity of your belief – the belief you are creating something of worth. When I say “masterpiece, I mean masterpiece. You have, in whatever large or small way, created something that is uniquely you.

Remember that at every turn.

When you’ve spent hours sending your record to hundreds of blogs for review, and one blogger bites – remember that. When the “likes” on the debut of your “sneak peek” for the first single don’t stack up to “industry standards” – remember that.

We don’t create for praise. We create because we know no other way. It is the life of an artist. In this self-assured approach, do not mistake arrogance for quiet confidence; this is never a good look and will only lead to complications. Now, let’s get to the meat.

There are as many ways to market an album as there are to record a song. Some grand and proven, others outside-of-the-box and risky. The only way you “fail” in this pursuit is by not truly planning out your approach. Throwing something in the air and praying a stranger knows to look up is foolish.

In the same respect, a scattered, unplanned marketing strategy will only lead to an annoyed audience and wasted opportunity.

What is within my reach?

Start here. Don’t compare your album rollout to anyone else’s. New duo Levv is probably not going to have the same access or promotional reach as say Macklemore or Sia. Creativity is key.

With so many avenues of approach at our fingertips, it can be daunting for a new artist to decide the path that best suites her or him. This process is extremely important to your success. A well-thought out plan of attack is almost as important as the product you have created. Here are a few ideas that may help jumpstart your upcoming album release.

Find the “comeback”.

When people suggest social media is the best way to begin promoting your release, don’t assume you already know this little gem of information because you’ve posted a Soundcloud link of a song to your Facebook wall. The world of social media is a much more complicated arena than the occasional “Get ready for our latest single!” status/tweet, or a picture post from the studio. You have to create the “comeback.”

What about your music brings people back to your page – pulls their finger to the “like” button – and what has them waiting for what’s next? People enjoy having something to look forward to. This can come in the form of revealing different pieces of your artwork, teasing songs from the album through video or audio posts, playing one song from the record live in the weeks leading up to the release, doing a pre-release on iTunes or Bandcamp, making a new song available each week as the release date approaches – the possibilities are limitless. It just takes some imagination and hard work.

Press: The ask.

For an independent artist this may be the most difficult part of the equation. If I’ve learned anything from my time in the industry, it’s this: the ask will get you further than the fear. If your goal is blog supremacy, then roll up your sleeves, and get to work. This is not for the easily winded.

Step 1: Compile a list of your favorite music blogs and publications. Begin following the sites and make a habit of regular visits. Be invested in the platforms you hope invest in you.

Step 2: Pick your most commercially viable or best song (TIP: send out an email to friends and family with a private playlist of the album, and have them vote on their favorites) and formulate a personal email to EACH of these outlets. Yes, personal – yes each. No blogger or music content editor with any clout is going to waste time reading, or listening for that matter, to a mass email talking about a song /record from an unproven, unknown artist when their inbox is full of known acts looking for the same spot (and usually sent from a reputable publicist).

This is work, my friends. You can’t decide one day that all you need to do is send out an email to 200 of your favorite online outlets and expect the rest to just fall in to place. Start this process early – long before your rollout is to begin.

The day after…

You’ve come to a crucial point that few talk about, but everyone experiences. I call it “the day after.” The album has been released, and you’ve spent an ungodly amount of time promoting and planning only to find yourself a month in and feeling as though all your hard work is already forgotten. Stop right there.

I am a firm believer in defining your OWN idea of success. Those in the arts, or most human beings for that matter, get caught up in numbers. Societal bars that dictate whether or not we are successes or failures. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

The easiest way to avoid following the lemmings to this destructive cliff is two-fold.

Redefine what success looks like within your reality, and never assume quality work doesn’t require hard work when it’s finally time to release it.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you refused to carry the weight of living up to expectations that were never yours to begin with. All you’re in control of is the quality of your work and how much time you’re willing to put into making it a success. Before one album or song is sold or streamed, decide what your goals for the record are according to where you are in the journey. Build your brand and career with the knowledge that it may take some time before the work reflects the prize.

This business is a killer. It’s sleepless nights and dive bars – working two jobs mixed with moments of creation.  Remain true to what you feel makes you great – different from the pack. When you discover your unique point of view, create with intent. Be the best at what you do, work hard, and people will take notice.

For all the advice and careful planning one can give or receive, there is no perfect guidebook to the world of creative arts. It is a place for the dreamer; a road of self-discovery that will lead to triumph and loss – failures and success. Resolve to create because you must, and the rest will fall into place.

Thank you for allowing me to talk a little about my thoughts on making a record through the lens of my personal experience. These are challenging times for artists, but remember, we are the pulse of each generation. Without art, music, or words, we are left to brave the world in silence. So play loud my friends, because whether or not they know it, they need us.

UK Artists: 4 Tips For Getting Your Music Heard

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog, written by Louise Dodgson, Editor at The Unsigned Guide, an online music industry directory. Since 2003 The Unsigned Guide has been used by emerging bands, artists, producers and music managers to search over 8,500 UK music contacts across 50 sectors of the industry.]

So, you’ve recorded some great tracks and now it’s time to share them with the world, including the music industry. Check out the Unsigned Guide’s top four tips to start spreading the word and get your music discovered.

Get some gigs

There’s no better way to introduce your new music than by playing live. Contact local gig venues and promoters to book some shows, and once you feel you’ve made an impact in your local scene, spread your wings further afield to another UK city or town.

Getting slots at festivals is another good way to play your music to a crowd of potential new fans. Again, you can check out local opportunities to play festivals but there are also plenty of more established UK music festivals that accept applications from emerging bands and artists. Why not give it a shot?

Send your music to blogs, radio, and press

Getting airplay on radio for your new single, reviews on influential music blogs or in local press and magazines is a huge step in getting your music out to a new wave of listeners.

Starting local is the key. Contact local radio stations who are keen to push bands and artists from the area. BBC Introducing is also a fantastic way for UK bands and artists to get national radio airplay so make sure you upload your track to them.

In terms of blogs and magazines, it’s unlikely you’ll get coverage from the likes of NME and Clash straight off the bat. Focus on creating a buzz amongst smaller, regional music blogs and magazines. Once they are championing your music, it’s time to contact the big guns who will pay far more attention if you already have lots of favourable press and reviews to share with them.

Connect with fans digitally

Every band and artist should avidly work to grow their fanbase. There are a few fundamental things you should have in place to help enable this to happen. An up to date website for your band is somewhere you can direct people to. Social media profiles such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter are also a wonderful way to engage with your existing fans, plus allow your personality and music to shine and hopefully win over some new fans.

Creating an email mailing list is essential for any band. With interaction on social media being so fleeting – if you’re not online when something is posted it can easily be missed – regular emails to your mailing list allow you to keep in direct touch with personal updates. Whenever you meet new fans at gigs or festivals, make sure you jot down their email address and add them to your mailing list so it continues to expand.

Get in touch with the music industry

Yes, it’s time to knock on music industry doors with your new music and there are a number of specialist contacts that will be able to take your music to the next level. Working with a record label will allow you to release your music with financial support, plus their expertise in marketing and the industry.

Music publishers and sync agencies can help get your music featured on TV programmes, adverts, films and games; another great way to get your music to fresh ears. Digital distributors will make your new single, EP or album available across digital music stores and streaming services such as iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Apple Music.

To get in touch with reputable music industry folks in these areas, you can firstly start by doing research on the web. Also ask around other bands you know or your own existing music contacts to be pointed in the direction of recommended music industry professionals who can help you out.

Alternatively, The Unsigned Guide online music industry directory is a great starting point and contains contact details, all in one easily searchable database, for over 8,500 UK music contacts, businesses and organisations that work with emerging bands and musicians to help further their music careers.


To save 30% on an annual subscription to The Unsigned Guide music industry directory, use discount code TUG30S at checkout. (£20.99 instead of RRP £29.99)

Untitled-1Since 2003 The Unsigned Guide has been used by emerging bands, artists, producers and music managers to search over 8,500 UK music contacts across 50 sectors of the industry.

 

Securing Your First Press

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post written by Gav Duffy, publicist & owner of Raised By Wolves PR.]

Many new artists ask the simple question – where do I start? With the music industry moving so quickly, it can be hard to keep up and know how not to waste precious time. In my opinion, the key lies with press. Before the internet’s impact on the music business, the main route for seeking new fans and industry interest was by playing live. The live sector is now even more lucrative than recorded music sales, but is rarely the best starting point for new artists in 2015.

In large cities such as London or New York, there are any number of concerts taking place every night of the week. So how do you ensure people go to see your show? This is where press publicity comes into play. Music PR, press publicity, whatever you want to call it, is simply the process of advertising your music to the public. Blogs and online radio tend to be the first places to champion new artists. Artists usually hire a PR company to help publicise their music but if you cannot yet afford to hire PR services, you can make a start by yourself.

Before we get started, remember the number one rule – You will not always get a result. Don’t take this personally. Often your email may not even be read amongst the hundreds of emails blogs receive every day. A result can often come after some follow-up emails.

1. Who to contact?

Firstly, make sure you are emailing blogs that fit your style of music. A simple Google search will help get you started – such as ‘Synthpop blog’ or ‘Best rock blogs’. One major benefit of hiring PR is they will already have a well-established list of appropriate blogs and relationships with those bloggers but, again, you can still begin the process by yourself.

Bloggers like to feel you have taken time and approached them specifically, so be sure to read their individual music submission guidelines and avoid mass emails. Sometimes the submission guidelines can be a little pompous, but it is best to play ball. Take time to craft each individual email, address them by name, and even casually mention a post of theirs that you enjoyed. Yes, this is time-consuming but an hour or two of work in this way will significantly raise your chances of being reviewed. It will make the pitch more personal and make you look like you’re taking this seriously.

2. What to email to them?

A well-structured email to bloggers will heavily increase your chances should your email be read. It is best to keep subject lines simple and descriptive. If you are approaching Indie Shuffle about the new release of your band The Whatevers, then try something like ‘Indie Shuffle – The Whatevers’ or ‘The Whatevers – New Release’. Avoid caps lock, and the term “Press release” in the subject line.

For the body of the email, keep it personalised; for example, starting with ‘Hi John’. Then, most importantly, keep it to the point. Your main body should generally be no more than four-five sentences. Say who you are, why you’re getting in touch, and what you would like. Next part of the email is the more detailed ‘press release’ part. Avoid attaching this, as there is a better chance of being reviewed should it be written within the email and below the signature line of the main body. The press release should include a hi-res photo/artwork (again, within the email and not attached), and one or two paragraphs about your “story”. Tell them if you have a release coming out, if you’re a group or a one-person act, if you produce or play instruments, share the story behind your song or list some similar sounding artists. Once you start getting some press recognition, be sure to include that also – interest breeds interest so mention who is already supporting you. And be honest.

Lastly, if your email has engaged enough, the blogger will want to listen to some of your actual music. Always, always, always include links rather than attaching mp3 files. So clearly show your Soundcloud link (to your best song), your Facebook page, your Twitter handle and your main website domain.

3. What can I do once the mail is sent?

Well, once that bad boy of an email is let loose, it’s not a bad idea to jump over to Twitter and follow your target blog on there, even the individual bloggers should you know their handles. This can help your name be recognisable when they see it in their inbox. Follow-up emails are also standard practice. Don’t worry if you step on a few toes, just try and be respectful when it comes to these. They should be appropriately worded, possibly using terms such as ‘friendly reminder’, and well spaced out. To email a publication every day may be seen as pestering, but if you leave a week to ten days between email approaches, this is usually seen as respecting the publication’s time and workload.

Remember, even if you follow all these directions and spend hours a day submitting your music to blogs, there’s still a chance you won’t get posted. Don’t let it get to you, there could be any number of reasons as to why – and even if it is a case where they just didn’t like your music, so what? Music is subjective and you can’t please everyone. Shake it off and move on to the next batch of emails. Persistence will pay off and once you have a blog post written about your music, don’t forget to be polite and to thank the blogger for their time. So there you go, all you need to know to get some attention for your music and get your career up and running.


Raised By Wolves is a London-based music PR firm, who has represented clients such as Antix, Ella On the Run and High Focus Records. Be sure to check out Raised By Wolves on FacebookTwitter and their site. You can also email them here.

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(photo credit: Anna Orhanen)