Top tips for getting ahead in music in 2017

PRS How To

Earlier this week, PRS for Music held a How To event bringing together songwriters, producers, artists, DIY labels and managers with leading industry experts.

The session, which took place in Hull, was curated by Daniel Jones, PRS for Music’s North of England Education and Outreach manager, in partnership with not-for-profit Warren Records and The Warren Young People’s Project.

Panellists included Alan Raw (BBC Radio Humberside and Leeds), Pat Pretorius (The Talks/All Our Own Records), Steve Burton (Big Fish Little Fish), Andy Ellis (PRS for Music) and Naomi Belshaw (PRS Foundation).

We went along to glean their top tips on getting ahead in today’s music business…

What makes a song standout and get on your playlist?
Alan: I like a social commentary and I do like to hear interesting arrangements, something that connects. I like songs with space in it. You don’t have to fill every moment of a song with words.

What about the quality of the mastering?
Alan: If it’s too rough we might not play it, but if it’s interesting we may get them in for a session.

What do you think of streaming? Is it still primarily a promo tool or has it now because a viable money maker?
Steve: I’ve noticed that streaming income has become a really big thing and has overtaken downloads for my artists. The back catalogue keeps things ticking over.

When does an artist need a manager and why?
Steve: In theory no one ever needs a manager, but having the right representation however can been seen as having an extra band member. You can’t realistically manage all aspects of admin and also concentrate on your creativity.

For sync opportunities, is it worth having instrumental versions of your songs?
Steve: Absolutely – every track we sign we have different edits, we have a specific sync edit of your track. A 30 second edit will work far better than a 5 minute long song.  A good exercise is to try and edit one of your tracks into an existing advert.

Can up and coming artists actually make money on the road playing live? Is being a good live band still important?
Pat: It’s massive. You can make good money touring. Don’t be scared to negotiate deals with promoters and build that relationship.
Andy: Selling merch at gigs can make you a lot of money and is a fantastic way of building a relationship with fans. The old school approach of obtaining email address on a clipboard is still massive and a direct way of engaging with your fans.

Pat you run your own record label and self-release your records. Why did you take this approach?
Pat: We were signed with a big label, but things have changed dramatically. We have a direct deal with digital distributers and can negotiate licencing details around the world.
Steve: It’s good because you can maintain your copyright ownership in your recordings rather than signing them away for lifetime.

Is having some form of DIY aspect essential today?
Andy: It depends on what kind of artist you are. If you’re a pop artist probably not, but otherwise DIY should be the cornerstone of what you do. It helps you slowly build a career and it gives you the opportunity of deciding who you want to work with and gives you a chance to understand the music industry.
Alan: If you want longevity then DIY helps your growth and it supports your artistic endeavours.
Naomi: DIY is why the PRS Foundation exists.
Pat:  It develops your transferable skills – you might decide one day to move away from performing and steer towards admin as you decide you prefer that side.  

What would you say are the three steps you should do after recording an album?
Pat: Put it on the BBC Introducing uploader
Daniel: Make sure you register your works with PRS for Music so you can get paid for any performances
Andy: Identify and understand your audience.