The Top 7 Things Independent Artists Do Wrong (2011 edition)
Recently, I did a post entitled ‘Artists! Stats Are Your Friends’ which included the musing;
“Stats are basically unbiased feedback. Look at them in that light and you should start to see why they can be incredibly useful.”
So I took a bit of my own advice and had a good old snoop around the analytics of my various social media outlets; blog, twitter, links, podcast, Google alerts etc and I discovered that one of my most read blog posts is one I did back in September 2007, the now ‘classic’ ‘8 Things Unsigned/Independent Artists Do Wrong’.
I’ve been doing the blog for near on four years and hundreds of thousands of you have continued to read it (for which I am eternally grateful), but if that post was the first thing someone read when they discovered this blog they’d instantly think I was as out of touch with the emerging music industry as a certain Liberal leader is with his rather negotiable morals. So after re-reading this article I realised that it’s dangerously out of date so hence thus forthwith hitherto this post you’re reading currently.
So it’s now 2011. Three years and a bit years since I posted the original ‘8 Things…’ and the industry has changed a HELL of a lot – back then; Sentric Music was home to mere hundreds of artists rather than thousands, MySpace was still pretty much *the* only place to have your music online and Willow Smith was, er, was she even born? (On a side note, look at this astonishing video of Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen covering Miss Smith’s ‘Whip My Hair’ – and no, that isn’t a typo).
So, introducing my top 7 things independent artists do wrong (2011 edition).
- Don’t have somewhere to stream a high quality version of their music
I don’t care about CD’s anymore. I really, really don’t. They mean as much to me as The Daily Mail’s opinions regarding [pretty much everything] do, so please don’t bother sending any to me. The next time you contemplate buying lots of CD’s, jiffy bags and postage stamps – stop yourself, go to SoundCloud and pay for a Lite/Solo account as it’s a far wiser investment.
What I do care about though is ‘CD quality’ audio. When I’m being introduced to your music for the first time I want to be able to go somewhere where I can listen to a high quality version so I can firmly grasp the production values of your music. I recommend SoundCloud (as always), but there are plenty of other places that will give you the ability to do this.
320kbps MP3’s get the thumbs up from me. Although WAVs are nice you have to remember the size of them can make buffering rather slow for those with only adequate internet connections therefore the high quality MP3’s are usually more than good enough.
Always bear in mind who you’re sending your music to and for what purpose (read this post for more info: ‘Different People Have Different Ears For Different Needs’). For example I’m looking for music that has sufficient enough production values for TV shows/adverts and that’s why this point is so important to me.
- Think ‘metadata’ is slang for asking a girl out for a drink after only just meeting her
A friend of mine recently told me she’d stopped reading the blog because it had become less anecdotal and all about metadata. She was, of course, being meretricious (I think) and therefore I’m going to ignore her and write about it again here.
So I’ve streamed a high quality version of your music online as noted in the point above and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve heard. So I ask you for the MP3’s so I can send them off to whoever I feel will like them and in return you send me ‘TRACK 1’ by ‘UNKNOWN ARTIST’. Unless you’ve purposely called yourself UNKNOWN ARTIST to (and I quote Jeremy from Peep Show here) “to f**k over people with iPods” then you’ve just shot yourself in the foot.
Learning how to create proper metadata for your MP3’s takes an hour to learn and potentially a few tries to master, but once you’ve done it you’ve gained a skill that will make you incredibly likable to people within the industry. Go here to learn more.
If you don’t know about Metadata and you’ve just gone past that last sentence without clicking on the link then shame on you. Go on, go and open it in another tab so you can read it once you’ve finished this. I’ll wait for you.
Let us continue.
- Don’t utilise and analyse stats
As I mentioned within the intro of this blog, I wrote a post dedicated to stats recently and I implore you to go and have a read if you haven’t yet. All good social media platforms have an element of stats within them (those with Facebook Fan pages will have noticed the inclusion of on-post ‘Insights’ recently) and by keeping track of all these facts and figures you can genuinely hone your online output to be far more concise and fruitful than ever before. To put it quite simply; ignoring them is silly.
- Spread themselves out too thinly over various social media platforms
Each type and element of social media has its own rules and culture; if you’re not going to put the time and effort into learning each individual one’s many, many foibles then don’t bother with it. It’s far better to sign up to one or two and do them well then it is to sign up to all of them and leave them unloved, out of date and borderline mistreated.
For example, if I was a Tumblr addict (of which there are many out there) and I came across an artist’s account that had a handful of posts from months ago and seemingly had been untouched since then I may very well believe that said artist is no longer active. This, of course, may be far from the truth as the same artist might tweet every 20 minutes and be fantastically engaging with their fanbase on Facebook.
You see what I’m getting at; don’t sign up for the sake of signing up and once you’re on a certain platform, take the time to learn about it and use it to its full potential.
- Don’t help themselves
I’m fully aware that as an artist you may only wish to produce art, and fair play to you, but the fact of the matter is you’re rarely going to be able to do nothing except produce said art whilst simultaneously making a living from it so you might as well help yourself out a little bit by at least learning the basics.
I’ve talked to artists that:
- Don’t know what publishing is
- Didn’t know they’re owed money when their records are played on radio
- Think that PPL is nothing more than text speak for ‘people’
- Didn’t know what ‘master rights’ are
- Think that ‘IP’ is the beginning of a punchline to a bad prank phone call
And the list goes on.
If you’re serious about making music, then it doesn’t take more than spending a bit of cash on a well written book for you to understand the essentials. I recommend Anne Harrison’s Music: The Business or Donald L Passman’s All You Need To Know About The Music Business; reading and understanding either of those books will straight away put you within a higher echelon of knowledgeable artists which will genuinely increase your chances of success.
There are also countless events around the country held by various music bodies or conferences designed to give you an insight into the music industry. They’re held often and I’ve spoken at enough of them to know they’re criminally under attended. Major ones include In The City, Liverpool Sound City, The Great Escape, Go North plus lots of events around the country held in conjunction with people like AIM, PRS for Music, MMF, BPI etc.
When I meet an artist or speak to someone on the phone/over email and they have at least a basic grasp on the industry around them, their rights and how they can exploit said rights to generate income, it instantly makes them far more pleasurable to work with.
- Think they’re owed something
AS SOON AS YOU START DOING THIS I HAVE VERY LITTLE TIME FOR YOU. Don’t get me wrong; there is an element of human nature involved here and everyone is guilty of it at some point in their personal and professional life, but if you can’t slap yourself around the face, pull yourself out of this awful place you’ve gotten yourself into and realise you’re not owed anything by anyone then you might as well put down that miscellaneous instrument you stumble yourself around and go get a job within the public sector (because when you genuinely become overworked and underpaid then I’ll feel something for you).
Ready for this?
Out of all the artists I work with there are none more delightful than the ones who are nice.
What a sickeningly obvious sentence that is, yet it is borderline absurd how some people present themselves on the phone/email/face to face. If you have a victim mentality then you’ll gain no respect from those around you and will actually push them away from wanting to help you.
- Forget why they’re doing all this in the first place
Make music because you want to make music. If you’re in the mind-set where you wouldn’t be upset if you never earned a penny (which is near on impossible might I add) then you’ll be fine.
So there you go. Have I missed anything? I’m I wrong? Am I right? Send in your comments as per usual.
Oh, and if you’re based in the UK and are unpublished then go sign up with Sentric Music eh? Call that the missing 8th point if you want.
What I’m reading this week: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Pursehouse (follow me on Twitter)
~ by Sentric on January 26, 2011.