Advice for Emerging
ARTISTS & MUSICIANS
According to ABBA, money is a thing of hilarity if you are lucky enough to have plenty of it in the first place, but as the majority of artists I know are yet to have written enough über hits to fill a musical and then some on top; it appears to be more of a thing of worry than joviality.
Here at Sentric Music we’ve distributed a significant amount of money to a lot of artists around the world ranging from two figure to five figure sums and deciding what to go and spend it on can be a bit of a tricky decision. Unless you're a certain Northern Irish act who'll remain nameless that, after I sent them some sync royalties, informed me they were going to 'get as much Buckfast as they could carry'. Lovely.
So with this is mind I thought I’d ask a lot of lovely people in various parts of the music industry what they’d spend £1,000 on if they were an emerging artist. Hopefully their answers will fill you with some inspiration of sorts and within 12 months of reading this you’ll have changed your blossoming musical career for the better in one way or another.
A few justifications before I begin.
Firstly: Why £1,000? Because basically it’s an attainable figure to achieve for the majority of emerging artists reading this blog. If you gig regularly, land a few radio airplays, maybe get your music used on TV, sell a few CD’s & t-shirts at shows etc. (basically put in the work, yeah?) and then if you look after your finances you should be able to get a cool grand in the bank within a relatively surprising short space of time. Alternatively just go put £15 on red 16 on the roulette table at your nearest casino and pray to whatever god floats your boat.
Secondly: Every artists' situation is unique and there was no ‘starting point’ for this scenario when I pitched this question to the lovely folk who answered. Hopefully though, at least one of the areas mentioned within this post may make you consider a potential avenue for your cash.
Thirdly: Money is highly more effective when used within conjunction with a strategy. It’s all very well having a grand in your pocket, but if you randomly piss it up a proverbial wall without a plan to accompany it then it’ll be far less useful then if you did.
Fourthly (PLUG): Don’t forget that if you keep your Sentric Music profile up to date then we’ll regularly start sending you money. Simple enough, eh? (If you’re an artist and don’t know who we are or what Sentric does then go hither and we’ll put some cash in those skinny jeans of yours, you trendy bugger you).
So let’s begin with muggins here, eh?
Simon Pursehouse // Sentric Music // @Pursehouse // Book a rehearsal space for as long as £1k can get you and spend every waking possible millisecond in there working indefatigably on writing the best songs you can and practicing them over and over and over and over again until you’re aggressively bored of playing them... And then play them some more. You simply cannot underestimate how important and difficult it is to write truly brilliant songs and then follow it up by blowing people away when they see you live. Do those two things well enough and you’ll having people queueing up round the corner to throw more money at you.
Tim Ingham // Music Week // @tsingham // I'd put it in the bank, to begin with. See how far you can get in a few weeks without spending a penny, setting realistic targets for growth in social media numbers within a set timeframe. This will train you to use money judiciously when you eventually decide to dip into your funds. I'd then spend the majority of the cash on the recording of two or three tracks to a high quality, as well as getting some good pictures taken, the creation of a logo and a professionally-written (short!) biography. Voila: you now have a product, a brand and promotional assets. All of them are vital - just never use those words in public. The only way is up.
Peter Robinson // PopJustice // @PopJustice // I’d put it towards the deposit on a flat. If I had to spend it on getting my career off the ground and presuming I’d already recorded my song I’d spend £200 getting a producer to spend a few hours tarting it up to sound proper, £400 on a video and £200 on a photo shoot. I’d ask a decent online PR to make sure the right people knew when I whacked it up on SoundCloud and YouTube and if nobody liked it I’d change my name and do the same twelve months later. If it hadn’t worked after three suitably contrasting attempts I’d get a proper job.
Jen Long // Kissability Records // @JenLong // If I was an emerging artist and I had £1,000 to spend then I'd take a look at the ways my music connects with an audience best and put the money into that. It could be paying for petrol on the road, it could be hiring and online PR, but I don't think there can ever be a hard fast rule for these things.
Jack // Alcopop Records // @ILoveAlcopop // If I was an emerging artist and I had £1,000 to spend then I'd not waste it the first PR or plugger that came calling. It's really important that you build yourself a platform to kick on from, rather than feeling you immediately have to buy into an expensive press company because they tell you you should. PR and pluggers are wonderful when they work out well, but to ensure they've got a lot to work with, make sure everything else is in place too. Get gigs rolling in, sort out some key indie festivals, build your own buzz and think about what you've got to tell the world.
If you're paying someone to sell your band, make sure they've got a compelling tale to tell - and don't be afraid of kicking on yourself! Then hopefully someone else will notice and pay good people for you :-) Then you've got a spare grand, and I'm thristy. Lets hang out x
Darren Hemmings // Motive Unknown // @Mr_Trick // If we were starting on the assumption that you've written and recorded some amazing music (no small caveat right there!) then I'd probably allocate that money across a combination of PR and to some extent promotion, purely to drive awareness and get people understanding who you are. PR can ensure coverage that has the kind of reach you won't get with ads and that kind of budget. Ergo, PR is a better use of your money if we're talking about a "pounds-to-eyeballs" ratio here. Then, assuming your PR person has landed you some placements, I'd put a bit of money to promoting posts on Facebook and/or Twitter (both have solid self-serve ad platforms now) just pushing your coverage on those sites. Coverage is all about endorsement: if no one has heard of you, an advert saying "listen to our music, its great!" will fail because its a given you would think your music is awesome. As a qualifying statement to someone who has never heard of you, that means nothing. Having, for example, NME.com, The Quietus, Brooklyn Vegan or any other relatively influential site saying "check out X, his/her/their music is amazing" is worth infinitely more, because those are established, trusted sources.
On this though, I think someone should also do a post to the effect of "10 ways to avoid cutting into a £1000 budget", because I think there's innumerable ways in which you can save money to then spend it more wisely elsewhere. A google account, for example, ensures you have not just free email, but also 5Gb of cloud drive space to share and distribute files. Combine that with Cash Music and you can even then sell your music, with the only commission going to Paypal for payment (ie less than anyone else, anywhere!). Equally, if you sign up for Google AdWords then leave it alone for about a fortnight, they'll offer you something like £75 of free AdWords to get you started. Mailchimp will allow you to have up to 2000 subscribers before you have to pay, so again you can build a sizeable database and make use of this incredible platform for free. You can even combine Mailchimp with Cash Music to create free email-for-media downloads. There's LOADS of awesome ways to use services without paying a penny - all of which ensures that you have more cash left for PR, decent promoted posts or indeed anything else that comes along. Never overlook the Dischord-style thrifty punk rock approach!
Steve Levine // Producer & Hubris Records // @MrSteveLevine // Put it on a horse! It's not about the money. Without a great song you have nothing, so if you have £1,000 or £100,000 without that great song idea you are wasting your time.
James Walsh // Ditto Music // @JW_DittoMusic // I'd hire the best possible PR. Most will be monthly retainers and the very best may be more than £1,000 but even if hired for just 1 month, your music getting featured on Pitchfork, Indie Shuffle, Line of Best Fit, Pigeons & Planes and charting on Hype Machine will ensure it gets heard by A&R Scouts, Publishers and labels. Will also provide you with numerous unbiased critiques of your music which can aid your development.
Marsha Shandur // Music Supervisor for The Inbetweeners, ex-XFM DJ & YesYesMarsha.com // @YesYesMarsha // I would take two days to research the people in the music industry who I most wanted to think I'm awesome - whether that's radio DJs, music supervisors for my favourite TV shows or people at record labels.
I would find out the best ways to add value to them - especially those that aren't to do with their jobs - and then email links to relevant articles, film trailers or organisations. Maybe I'd even spend some of that money sending them a book I think they'd like, or their favourite bar of chocolate.
This isn't about bribery - it's about making yourself stand out, and making the person whose attention you want know that you are interested in THEM in particular, and not just sending the same email blanket out to everyone.
If that didn't cost 1000 quid - if I didn't have to go to the internet cafe to do this - then I'd spend the money on really nice physical cards to send them. No one gets any nice real post anymore.
Andy Malt // CMU // @AndyMalt // Buy a van and then drive it to all of the country's most depressing venues and play shows in them. Probably best to clear that last part with the venue first, but otherwise you're ready to go. Try to buy a van that will last a good few thousand miles without falling apart, but try to do a deal that leaves you with some change left over to invest in some other things.
Thankfully, these days you need less money to get your music 'out there', so use all the free services you can. Let's assume you already have some music recorded, or that you can record it to a usable standard yourself. Stick that on SoundCloud and Bandcamp.
Pay a friend with photography skills to take some nice photos of your band. Never underestimate the importance of having good photos. You can use them on social media, for one thing. And if people write about your band online then they can use them too and you'll look really cool.
Maybe pay another friend (or even the same friend) with video skills to make you a video on the cheap that you can put on YouTube. Unless you have video skills yourself, in which case tell that friend they can't have your money. Maybe stop speaking to them entirely, you don't need them. Unless they can drive a van and you can't.
Hopefully buying your dirt cheap super van will leave you with enough money to make some merch. Get some t-shirts made up. And a short run of CDs, maybe. And some badges. Try to sell the t-shirts and CDs to the people who come to your shows. If and when they refuse, give them a badge and smile. And get their email address. Always the email address. Getting an email address costs you nothing but is of great value to you. Build a mailing list, tell people when you're coming back to their town, occasionally suggest that they might like to buy something from you, and then get back in that van again.
Al Groves // Motor Museum // @MotorMuseum1 // I would find a shit hot emerging producer to help take my tracks to the next level. £1000 should give you access to a producer and studio with a really good local track record, and if you go for somebody who is up and coming they will be giving 110% to every project and you will catch them at their best.
Annika Walsh // Blinkbox Music // @Annikakaka // I’d spend the money on the music. If I don’t already have a great track, I’d stalk my favourite songwriters online & in person and charm them into working with me. I’d find a great studio who offer special rates for unsigned bands (like Metropolis) and record, mix and (importantly) master my track. I’d spend any remaining money on EPK assets - a strong band bio, good images etc. would make my band look professional.
At the same time, I’d make the most of all the free opportunities available to me: Create & maintain strong Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, YouTube profiles, Vlog regularly, from songwriting to recording to performing - all from an iPhone, Go to as many free showcases in London as possible to meet people & learn from other new emerging bands etc.
Joe Frankland // PRS For Music Momentum Fund Manager // @Joe_Frankland // I’d record that killer song I’ve been working on with a producer who would bring a new dimension to my music, helping with pre-production and fulfilling the potential the song has so I can approach radio, attract blog coverage and secure sync deals with a single release. I’d take plenty of time planning a release, with a strategy in place to send my music to media targets 8-10 weeks before my release date. Before announcing, I’d confirm a string of dates across the UK and a single launch in my hometown. I’d use whatever is left over from production, mixing and mastering to cover the loss I’ll probably make on the road. But it’ll be worth it as I’ll make some genuine fans, will prick the ears of the industry and will be all set up to do it again, potentially with industry backing or money I’ve made from fans.
Gareth Allison // Music at BT Sport // @GarethJJAllison // Assuming my band sounds as shit-hot as I imagine them too and that we put on a show that’s comparable with The Hives then I’d spend my £1000 on a print and online PR.
We get sent 100’s of tracks every day and it’s impossible to listen to everything so we rely heavily on what people we trust are saying about those acts before we decide to check them out for ourselves.
I think the same can be said for managers, agents, promoters, labels and publishers and so having your music showcased in the right places can put you at reach of all the important players in the industry and it’s those people that can turn a hobby into a career.
Obviously anyone can send a CD or a soundcloud link to a blog or the NME, but a really good PR has the relationships in place to get bloggers and journalists to talk about your band in a way that will engage with both fans and the industry. PR’s are basically gatekeepers for the gatekeepers and a good one is well worth the money.
Jonathan Kerr // Universal Music // @JayKerr // If I was an emerging artist and I had £1,000 to spend then I would invest where my fan base are investing. Whether that be shows and finance tour support, or sales and manufacture merch or product (physical/digital). Find your top grossing revenue stream and expand it.
Jhon Cosgrove // Awesome Merchandise // @AwesomeMerch // If I was an emerging artist and I had £1,000 to spend then I'd invest it in merchandise. Obvious answer from someone who works for a merchandise company, but also a sensible one from someone who has also been in a touring band for over ten years.
Here's why: You're an emerging artist, people are getting to know you. You're playing some good gigs, people are buying your CD and downloading your music. How else can you promote you/your band and your face-melting tunes? A whole range of excellent merch of course. Buying merch is an investment in your future as it's a sure fire winner to making more money and funding what you do... being in a band is not cheap. People envisage bands to be sitting around smoking fifty pound notes and drinking bottles of JD inside their gold tour buses but in reality it's a lot of hard work and money. Practice costs/travel/equipment and then recording are all constant money pits.
Use that £1,000 to spend on some good design (this bit is very important) and then on some awesome merch. Think about what your fans would want and cater for them; tees, stickers, badges and posters are a good place to start. Get the merch online, promote it hard via social media sites and help fund your band's future. In today's world it's just as important that the band is run as a business as it is to having good songs (cynical, but factual). Once you've spent that first £1,000 then make sure you've saved up the profits in the bank and invest in some more. Soon enough you'll be smoking those fifty pound notes on that gold tour bus.
Revo // Liverpool promoter & booker for Liverpool Sound City // @ClubEvol // I'd book in some studio time and record my best songs to a professional standard. Once you have your songs you can do everything else online yourself, with or without a label.
Andrea Madden // Music Supervisor for Made In Chelsea // @MissyAmKm // My advise would be....the sensible me would put the money into promotion, you could have the best track in the world but if no one hears it it's a shame. Maybe look at a radio/tv plugger...they could open doors for you. The not so sensible me would buy a Fender Jaguar and a couple of FX pedals :-)
Alex Kennedy // Music at Sky TV // @ajkendo // If I was an emerging artist and I had £1,000 to spend then I would find some very creative young buggers and get them to make an utterly unique and compelling music video for me. I had the pleasure of being on a panel recently with the two little geniuses (Brendan Canty and Conal Thompson from Feel Good Lost) who made the astonishing video for Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” and it just reinforced my long held belief and something I work every day on, that putting the track that you have put your blood, sweat and tears into alongside some stunning audio-visual footage is the single best way to impact people outside of getting someone in the front row of your gig and blowing them away with some 80’s power chords!
Kevin Douch // Big Scary Monsters // @BSMRocks // I would head down the bookies and stick it all on Coventry to lose their next game and double my money. I'd then spend £10 on 100 blank CD-Rs, £20 on some paper and other tools to create awesome, eye-catching DIY artwork, £200 on 50 t-shirts and a tenner on a bucket of chicken, before sitting down in front of my laptop for a day researching labels, magazines, promoters, booking agents, PRs and radio pluggers I genuinely think might like my band. The next day I'd send them all streaming links to our best songs along with a short, friendly, non-arrogant, personalised note, telling them why I'm getting in touch, a little about my band and offering links to more information should they be interested. If a PR shows genuine enthusiasm for the songs I would ask if I could pay them a small amount of money to employ their services, book a few gigs (perhaps using a little more cash to help offset the unfortunately low fees), sing my heart out and flog by wares. The remaining money would be spent recording our next batch of brilliant songs and repeating the process, bookies and chicken included, until I was fat, rich and top of the pops.
Matthew Williams // UK Music Jobs // @UKMusicJobs // If I was an emerging artist and I had £1,000 to spend then…..i put it towards building a decent website that includes a mailing list. It will make you look professional & you can build a database of fans. BOOM!
Liam Keightley // International Talent Booking // @reggiekite // I’d put it towards a splitter/van. You just need to get yourselves and your gear to the venue. That's it. Growing up in a band we used to have 2 or 3 cars/taxis’ to get us to gigs. You’d have spent all your fee before you got to the venue! Someone always has to drive, but you can get a mate to do that, roadies start somewhere too :)
You could get to gigs further away, saves you on a hotel and if you are mates with a couple of other bands, then something you can make money on. It's not going to be luxury, but it’ll get you to gigs; one of the most important aspects of an emerging artist.
Anna Sophie Mertens // Live Nation // @miss_asm // I would invest it or put it towards a decent used car/van. Chances are you will be traveling up and down the country with your instrument(s) of choice and the gigs won't (yet) cover your expenses. And you'll be able to earn your performance royalties via Sentric for the live gigs too!
Jim Gellatly // XFM DJ // @JimGellatly // I'd invest it in studio time to help get the best representation of my music, or just bank it ready for a good opportunity. Otherwise putting it on a horse may result in a better return.
Louise Dodgson // Unsigned Guide // @EditorUnsigned // A decent quality recording of your demo or EP is essential. This represents your sound & is what you will be presenting to the industry and fans so you absolutely want to make the best impression possible.
Other fundamental building blocks for your music career that you should consider putting your £1,000 towards are decent images (either photography or artwork). You don't have to spend a lot to get some great results. Membership to the Musicians' Union is a good call, and of course a subscription to The Unsigned Guide to provide you with up to date contacts from all walks of the music industry to send your music onto.
Dot Levine // UK Music // @DotLevine // If I was an emerging artist and I had £1,000 to spend I would hire a graphic designer to help me with my brand identity. I would get them to design an e-newsletter and website for me so I could send out my EP to bloggers, DJs and taste makers, whilst also ramping up my social and online presence. I would want my music to stand out and get me noticed - having a strong identity would stand me in good stead. It’s so important for emerging artists to be unique and professional so their music stands out.
Caroline Bottomley // Radar Music Video // @RadarMusicVideo // I would approach my local art/media college, find the course leader for any film production courses and ask them to tell students I have £100 to pay any director who can shoot me/us playing three songs, cut them well and get them up on my YouTube channel a month before I start my tour. If they don’t hit the deadline then I don’t give them the money and I find someone else to do this pronto.
Meanwhile, I’ll be making lots of little bits of Vines and Instagram videos with my phone - me about to do a gig somewhere, me after a gig, a fan saying what they liked about the gig etc. I’d be building up a sense of community and enjoyment around me. And I’d edit the Vines & Instagram videos into slightly longer videos which I can put on my YouTube channel.
I would put £200 toward transport and accommodation and tour as much as possible. At gigs I would ask the audience to film my gig, upload the best song to YouTube and send me the link. I’ll favourite those videos, so they show up in my YouTube channel. Anyone who sends me video footage gets a free download of my EP and big-ups on your Twitter/Facebook /Instagram. I might have to game this if it’s not taking off, I.E get different friends to come along to different gigs and record me on their phones and upload to kick start the idea.
Then I’d spend £500 on getting a good video for my lead track made via Radar - home of emerging music video director talent worldwide.
I’d spend the remaining £300 on getting a new, small but good PR/plugger to secure a group premier of the video on the four or five biggest blogs they can get (which may well be tiny, but I have to start somewhere and any good press is invaluable) and I would work with them to approach radio and try and get onto radio playlists, referencing the rather nice view and subscriber figures I’ve been buiiding up on my YouTube channel.
Ally Gray // Emu Bands // @EmuBands // If I was an emerging artist and I had £1,000 to spend, how I would spend it would very much depend on what stage I was at. If I was just starting out, I’d hold on to it and concentrate on writing and rehearsing until I felt the time was right to start getting my music out there. I’d then attend as many conferences and education events as possible to learn as much as I could from panels and seminars, and meet some industry contacts at networking sessions. A bit further down the line once I’ve started to build a fanbase, I’d invest a bit (not much is required though) in learning about my current and potential fanbase through analytics, via Next Big Sound, Facebook etc. and then creating a targeted marketing campaign for my next release.
Olivia Hobbs // Universal Music // @OliviaSpitfire // If I was an emerging artist and I had £1,000 to spend, I would probably spend it with a decent engineer in a decent studio to get a couple of my best songs sounding REALLY awesome before using all the free tools on the internet to kick things off... Maybe save a bit to buy myself a KFC or something too as a reward.
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