How to be an accomplished artist in a working world

By: Richard L.B Etienne

Everybody’s gotta work right? Upkeep on the necessities and various ‘treats’ in life. Even the pushers on the street corners or runners on push bikes at 4am say they’re ‘on the job’.  Reality is, in order to get through in life you need to have steady income. And the music world is no exception. If you want to succeed in this industry you need to have some money put aside to execute your conquest.

Yeah but L.B I know this, that’s not why I’m here. My problem is with my 9-5, studying or shift work conflicting with my music venture; I’m finding it hard to balance the two.

Before I can speak about that it’s important to go through what is needed for an independent artist to market his/herself and see how we can use resources at work and home to accomplish this.  What  Marketing tools are available for an independent artist these days?

It a known fact that PR companies are reluctant to take on unsigned acts as usually such persons either cannot afford to pay them or they are not fully convinced you will have a successful career that they can make money from If a PR does decide to take you on, you will be expected to meet their expenses which will usually be for phone calls, printing and mailing costs.

The Internet has lowered the immediate need to have a PR company push your initial material, but there are still areas in the industry that having a well-connected PR rep will benefit immensely. However, don’t feel you’re disadvantaging yourself if you don’t hire the services of a PR rep. Remember, the more you do for yourself, the more attractive you are to the industry, so build that hype!

Now unless you are well-educated in the world of Flash and HTML, producing a well put together website can be very expensive. Ranging anything from £300 - £2000. Aim to spend no higher than £500 if with Flash, and £350 without.  I can’t stress how important it is to have a website. Labels, A&Rs, Promoters and other artists take you more seriously, because (not knocking MySpace) but anyone can make a MySpace account. My 12-year-old sister has one. Also you can sell merchandise from an artist Website. MySpace should be used as an accompanying marketing tool (I’ll expand later).

A very good list of promoters can be found in the Unsigned Guide. Think of it as Yellow Pages for the independent artist (see If you have a telephone/email at work, wisely use these tools to go through the list of promoters that can help you get a gig.

Radio Airplay
As Gigs.  Credible underground stations such as ITCH, Dejavu, Rinse etc will not be listed in the directory so Google them.  Failing that; listen out to ads on their stations of ways to submit info.

Now I’ve been blessed enough to have a national release and regular radio airplay in both Australia and New Zealand, but that was through some clever marketing techniques on MySpace which I will share with you.

How to use Networking websites like MySpace efficiently.

Two songs max!
When submitting demos to major labels, they usually only require demos with no more than two or three tracks with your 1st song being the strongest. Use this same line of thinking with MySpace. That way your strongest songs are on constant rotation. Remember you never know who will be listening.  Also having a small list of songs on your page also increases the number of times these songs are played, thereby making your music appear it is being listened to a lot more. Having too many songs thins out the number of plays-per-song.

Top Friends
People are placed in TF for a reason! For example, if a well known DJ has a list of top friends, investigate these persons. Find out their job role; send them a message politely asking an opinion on one of your tracks. You’ll be surprised who you find: Managers, Media reps, other big DJs. Remember, just because you don’t know them, doesn’t mean they’re not important.

HTML Comments
If you’re able to leave a HTML banner, flyer, ad – do it. Especially on pages that are regularly viewed (i.e major artists, DJs and celebs)

Message when Friend Requesting
People get FR all the time – especially your major artists, DJs and celebs. Doesn’t mean they’ll add them though, which consequently means you’re unable to advertise on their page. But you don’t need to be someone’s friend to mail them…Here is where you can use a little pro-activeness and send a brief, yet direct message asking for a professional opinion on one of your tracks. Show respect and make them feel important – especially if it’s a man. We like our egos massaged.

Get your Legal game up
The music business is called such because you can’t have one without the other. Here are a few things I advise you consider before searching for major gigs or commercial radio airplay.  The PRS (Performing Rights Society) and MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) are two of the world’s largest royalty collection societies. MCPS licenses the recording and use of music in all areas of media whilst, the PRS ensure royalties are collected when your music is being performed live infront of a listening public, and you as the artist is entitled to this money.  Membership is £100 and you can backdate your work for up to 12 months.

The Next Step – Management
Once you have your marketing and legal basics in place and interest/business begins to flourish in terms of radio airplay, CD sales and gigs (to name a few), you will begin to feel the strain of upholding both the secure job and now your new musical career.

To keep a firm grip on this momentum and help nurture and nourish this ‘baby’ that is your music career, you will need to employ the help of a manager.

Factors to consider when choosing a manager

1.      How experienced a manager is he/she?

2.      Has he/she successfully managed other artists (not producers or songwriters)?

3.      What is his/her background? Has he/she worked for a long time in the music industry? If so, for whom? How helpful will that experience be?

4.      Does he/she generally have a good reputation?

5.      Is he/she primarily a “business manager” or a “creative manager”?

6.      If he/she currently manages other artists how long have those other artists been represented by him/her? Do those relationships appear to be successful and happy ones?

7.      How affable is he/she? Will he/she be able to get on with, for example, the record company staff?

8.      Where is he/she based? In London? If outside London, will that become a problem to you?

      9.      What other commitments and distractions does he/she have?

How to get a manager
Do some research. Talk to your musician friends; read any relevant publications; speak to a solicitor, accountant, agent and, if you know any, people working in record companies and publishing companies; ask for recommendations. Try to attend industry networking events as you never know who you may meet. Many a manager has been chosen from such events.

In closing, try best to use your working environment to your advantage. These resources can include Email, Internet, Post, Phone etc. Now by this I don’t mean abuse the system, but if you’re giving access to resources that can help you, by all means use them within the capacity available ensuring you keep your job.  The music industry is a tough one, and can seem like a constant uphill struggle, but believe in yourself, get others to believe in you, put the work in and you will reap the benefits.

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About the Author:

Article Source:  Few can say that L.B's musical talents have gone unheard, infact, the 23-year-old emcee/songwriter from North-East London has begun somewhat of a global stir. From the UK to the Southern Hemisphere there has been a buzz forming around his soulful Hip-Hop track 'Smooth' which was released on 'Soul Control', the compilation album put together by Australian DJ Carl Alley in January 2007.

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