9 things we learned at SoundCheck’s DIY music panel

SoundCheck

SoundCheckWe were at PRS for Music’s latest SoundCheck event earlier this week to learn how artists and songwriters can get their careers off the ground and make the most of the digital DIY age.

The event took place at The Portland Arms, Cambridge, and gathered a range of industry professionals for The Business of Music panel, which dissected the key ways to get ahead in the business.

PRS for Music’s senior education and outreach manager Andy Ellis moderated, and was joined by singer songwriter Mary Epworth, PRS for Music Foundation’s industry fund manager Joe Frankland, artist, label founder and manager Joel Clayton, songwriter Roxanne de Bastion and Musicians’ Union regional officer Jamie Pullman.

Here are their top tips for emerging songwriters and artists:

  1. Decide your songwriting splits up front

Mary Epworth: This is probably the number one thing people go to court for so it’s worth being clear at the beginning.

There are lots of ways of doing it. If you’re in a band and all writing together it’s easy – you can do equal splits.

It can change as time goes on though, so keep an eye on it. In the beginning you may think you are all writing an equal share but it might become obvious a year or two down the line it’s just one or two people… you might have to look at it again.

In some cases you may even know it’s not an even three- or four-way split but it’s just a nice way to look after your team.

Jamie: We have contracts you can use which outline songwriting splits and can be signed, sealed and delivered. They set it all out in black and white.

  1. Pre-recording agreements can be useful

Jamie: You can put together a signed pre-recording agreement which states that a recording can’t be released until you’ve sorted songwriting splits out. It’s a way for everyone to go ahead and say yep we’re going to make this happen but we’re not quite sure how yet.

  1. Band agreements aren’t important….. until you need them

Jamie: It’s then you’ll wish to god you had one.

  1. Education is key

Mary: When it’s just you and there’s no one else helping you, you have to be really smart. There’s lots and lots of things you can educate yourself on to help increase your chances of being played on the radio, or being written about, for example. Things like understanding the print lead times for press and magazines is much longer than you’d imagine. Even to have a single reviewed you need to allow a three month lead time.

  1. Figure out when’s the best time to get a manager

Roxanne: As a rule of thumb, you need a manager when you are missing out on opportunities because you are too busy to do everything yourself, and when you’re making sufficient money to pay someone to be your manager.

There are so many different ‘models’ of manager that can work. Friends, flatmates who are experienced but think your music it’s great and has time and passion to dedicate, or there are established managers.

  1. A manager/writer relationship is like a ‘real’ relationship

Roxanne: There should be a trial period. You need to establish a relationship with that person so there should be a period of ‘courtship’.

  1. When picking a manager, do your research

Jamie: Do your research, if somebody comes to you wanting to represent you that’s terrific, but they’re probably not the only ones interested.

Find out other managers who are working in your genre, who represent bands you like and talk to them as well. See what kind of contract they can offer you. We’ve got contract lawyers that can review your contract and help you negotiate a better deal.

  1. Don’t just post all of your music online without a plan

Mary: Don’t just stick it all on iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp etc. without having a plan because, actually, if it is something great that people are going to want to buy, you might have blown your chance at doing that if it’s already out there all over the place. Think about the long game.

  1. Learn to strengthen your chances of receiving funding

Joe: Not knowing what you need to do next is criminal from a funding point of view. You might have amazing music but what really annoys me as a fund manager is those who have great music but no idea what to do with it. We can’t fund that.

There’s great websites you can go to for help like Fresh on the Net (Tom Robinson’s blog), Musicians Union, BBC Introducing etc. Have a look around.