How to...Quick tips

The Empowered Musician 'How to' series

The How to… series builds on the practical industry advice on offer at The Empowered Musician event, highlighting the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in your music career. In our first guide, CMU tackles the world of streaming, with a guide to music rights and the websites and services that will get your music heard.

How to... Connect with a digital audience

Getting your music and finding an audience online

The single biggest revolution in music caused by the shift to digital is that artists can now get their recordings to a global audience and communicate with a global fanbase by themselves. Doing so does require signing up to some platforms, buying some distribution services and joining a collecting society, but all of this can be done with minimal cost and minimal expertise.

Which means that early-career artists can release music and start building a fanbase without having any traditional music industry business partners - like management, a label or a publisher – in place. As the artist’s career progresses and their own artist business starts to grow they will probably want a manager, a label and a publisher on their team. But none of those partners are needed to get started. And, indeed, these days most managers, labels and publishers will expect an artist to have set things in motion before they come on board.

Some top tips on digital streaming:

  • Spotify and Apple Music are the biggest global premium streaming services, but you want you music on all the platforms all over the world, including the ones you’ve never heard of!
  • A distributor can help you get your music on and earn money from most of the streaming platforms. But if you wrote the song, you are also due extra royalties which will likely come from PRS and MCPS.
  • Everyone talks about per-stream rates, but the way streaming services pay-out is more complicated than that. However, one simple fact is that when a premium subscriber streams your music you earn lots more than when your track is played on a free service.
  • Streaming only works if people listen to your music again and again and again. What can you do to persuade people to keep coming back to your tracks on Spotify or Apple Music?
  • Most fans will want to stream your music on their streaming service of choice. But some fans will want a more direct relationship. That direct relationship is really valuable. So make it easy for those fans to connect and spend money.

'Copyright is about control. It allows you to control what happens to your songs and recordings.'

How to...Connect with a digital audience

What else is in the guide

  • Understand the different types of copyright
  • Collaboration (with producers, remixers etc) and what that means for your copyright
  • Understand the music collection societies that will organise your royalties
  • What is meta-data and why it’s important
  • Soundcloud and YouTube, their marketing power and upgrading your account for monetisation
  • Using a distribution service to get your music on as many streaming sites as possible

Wicksteed Works, music marketing specialists, have written a practical counterpart to the text – a step-by-step DIY release marketing plan to help you structure your campaign.

'[Getting your music online] is the easy bit. The real challenge is getting people to listen to your music, instead of the tens of millions of tracks available on each platform.'

How to...Connect with a digital audience

  • Marketing your release and ongoing marketing
  • The power of playlists
  • Using your fan data
  • Building on your relationship with listeners and turning them into fans

'Data about where your fans are based can inform where you choose to gig'

How to...Connect with your digital audience

How to… Work with an Artist Manager

  • Your General Manager is your Chief Operations Officer, your negotiator, your sales person, your artistic advisor, your legal and business affairs expert, your business development and project manager, your branding and communications guru – and your champion, confidante and business partner.
  • A manager will look for an artist who presents themselves in a professional manner, communicates well, is personable, responsible and, increasingly, entrepreneurial.
  • When looking to obtain an Artist Manager, the first thing to do is your research. There are as many approaches to Artist Management as there are Artist Managers. Whilst all managers look after the strategic development and direction of your professional activities, each manager is unique in their approach and style. It is of vital importance that you understand who you are as a musician, that you are honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and that you have invested in time in thinking about your career ambitions.
  • You should be mindful of conflicts of interest. If a specific manager represents an artist with whom you share a similar profile and career level, that manager may not be able to represent you.
  • When contacting Artist Managers for the first time, remember to leave them wanting more. This introductory note should be an intriguing teaser – not an epic tale. Not only does a straight-to-the-point note show professionalism and respect, it opens the door for further questions and correspondence.

'In addition to taking care care of the strategy, business and logistics of your career, your Artist Manager will be your counsellor, cheerleader and most trusted advisor'

How to... Work with an Artist Manager

How to....Play at a festival

  • Festivals can be a great way for musicians to try out new ideas and experiment with their performance, as promoters often have some budget to help facilitate this.
  • Make sure you write your e-newsletters or emails in such a way so that they can be easily forwarded, as promoters will often share information with their colleagues.
  • People sometimes don't make the connection to useful contacts who are in fact very easy to reach. For example, if there is an arts officer in your town, talk to them and find out what they know - and make sure they know about you!
  • As soon as a promoter has booked you, prepare a technical rider of what you'll need on the day and email it to them, asking them to share it with the venue.
  • The ability to be flexible in what you are prepared to play or sing will make you extremely attractive to a wide range of artistic directors.
  • If you've been booked for a festival and they offer you accommodation for a few days, take it! Try to throw yourself into the festival atmosphere and make as many new contacts as possible.

Full guides for ISM members

How to... Connect with a digital audience

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Written by Empowered Musician panellist and music industry expert Chris Cooke from CMU.

How to... Work with an Artist Manager

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Written by Empowered Musician partner and global artist management firm IMG Artists.

How to... Play at a festival

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Specialist advice from George Vass (Presteigne Festival) and Empowered Musician partner David Jones (Serious) on how to play at festivals. Includes a guide to preparing a technical rider.