9 tips to help songwriters get ahead in the music industry

Throwing Shade

Whether you are a music maker just starting out or about to hit the mainstream, it’s important for you to understand how you can make your creativity pay if you want to sustain yourself.

While money isn’t the bottom line, knowing more about revenue streams and funding opportunities can be beneficial and play a big part in helping you build a career.

We were at the Brighton Music Conference (BMC) to discover more from DJ and producer Throwing Shade, Jarrod Bird from Involved Publishing/Anjunabeats as well as the PRS Foundation’s Bhavesh Patel and PRS for Music‘s Andy Ellis on working in the music industry and how to equip yourself to monetise your creations…

Swot up on copyright…

Jarrod Bird (JB) – As a fledgling artist with an idea for a song in my head, in theory, that’s worth nothing. You need to copyright your music to monetise.

Andy Ellis, PRS for Music – There are two different elements in copyright, the copyright in the sound recording and the composition. We’ve got two different organisations, PRS for Music who pay out royalties to songwriters and PPL, who pay out to performers on recordings.

Agree songwriting splits early on in the creative process

Bhavesh Patel (BP) – I recommend always agreeing splits before going into recording sessions. That’s the simplest way to go about things and means it saves arguments later on after the music is made and released.

Balance art with business

Throwing Shade (TS) – Remember to put that business hat on. Remember you need to balance being creative with business otherwise you’ll end up in a sticky situation.

A lot of times in the arts, whether that be music or fashion, people act casually and often only have a verbal agreement. That’s fine to some extent but when you come up against an obstacle you’ll have no contract. So get everything written down in black and white. I can’t stress that enough.

Target specific DJs if you want your music played on the radio

BP – There is no set way to get your music played on radio. The best thing to do is to get yourself out online to begin with, then target the specialists you know will be into your music.

For instance, if you know Gilles Peterson will play it, then target him and similar DJs. Or go more traditional, get a radio plugger. That’s always helpful, they will take your record round to the appropriate station where your music might fit.

Research your funding opportunities

TS – The PRS Foundation funded me for working on my new record. I’m so grateful to them as it meant I could rent my own studio for the first time. I was also able to play at Canadian Week last year thanks to their backing.

You do an online application which takes a long time so be prepared. So do your research, come up with serious answers for each question. It’s not about ticking boxes. If you don’t get it the first time, then don’t give up. I didn’t get it the first time so you need to keep applying…

BP – The Foundation have up to £4m a year that we give out in grants to musicians – Ghostpoet, Lapsley and Throwing Shade are just some of the artists to benefit.

Persevere

TS – It doesn’t matter which industry you work in – you need to work hard and don’t give up. The music industry in particular is a saturated market so you need to make sure you’re persistent.

Working with music publishers can create more opportunities for your music

J – We represent a small roster of producer writers and our role is to protect and exploit a copyright. Essentially, that’s helping register your songs with collecting societies around the world, collecting income from any exploitations. They are also a creative resource thanks to their sync and licensing team and brand management. They will take your songs to games, ads, films and try and place your music in these areas.

You can only plan so much

TS – I was discovered via serendipity really. It happened that Kassem Mosse tuned in to my NTS show, heard it, googled me, loved the track, emailed me to ask whether he could release my music … I love his work, that label has a strong following, good exposure on RA and Mixmag, those heady music websites. After that other labels started getting in touch. Every time I’d release something, more labels would get in contact…

Live can be a big revenue stream – but money comes from a variety of sources

TS – The main way I make my money is from gigs. For my last record, I got an advance for that EP. But really right now the main source of income is gigs, other promo work or branded content. Sometimes they’ll get in touch when they want a young up and coming talent to be affiliated with.

Read our recent interview with Andy Ellis on the work PRS for Music is doing to support songwriters and composers across the UK.