The Make it Happen session at The Great Escape brought together a panel of artist managers and social media experts to offer practical advice for artists wishing to take their career to the next level.
Panellists Anna Russell from AR Management, Marc Emert-Hutner from US collections society ASCAP, Neu Management’s Henning Dietz and Rhiannon Price from Green House Group took questions from the audience about how to build an internet presence, connect with fans and organise tours. The panel moderator was PRS for Music’s Jules Parker.
- Getting started with social media
Rhiannon Price: I think there is a lot of potential with social media but you need to reach a certain level before you can really use it and reach out to fans. It’s a slow build. With social media people think they have to be everywhere at once, but you need to work out where you can represent yourself best and how you want to communicate with your fans.
What you really need is your own website, so people can find you and hear you. You also need to think about putting your music on SoundCloud or Bandcamp or FaceBook – there are lots of other ways for people to hear your music.
Anna Russell: There is no one strategy or plan, and there’s no one particular activity you can do. Yes, building up your music career definitely includes social networking, but also gigging and other marketing methods are important. It’s a case of chipping away at all those things all at once. With social media it’s about having really good content, giving away a fantastic track, or keeping a tour blog – things that are of interest to people.
RP: Whatever you do, it has to be worth me telling my friends about it. Word of mouth is still really important. You need to make other people want to tell their friends about you, whether that’s with online gimmicks, great songs, whatever.
- Get the bloggers on board
Henning Dietz: Apart from having all the social media in place, it’s important to reach out to the right tastemakers. You’ve got to send out your music to the right bloggers, and you need to reach them early on. Don’t be scared to give away music. It’s all about people hearing your music.
Marc Emert-Hutner: For me, in the US, and living in New York, the Brooklyn Vegan blog is still king. Bloggers are definitely important, but not as much as they were a couple of years ago. But a lot of what I hear still comes from tastemakers.
Henning Dietz: You can reach out to tastemakers with selective giveaways of mixes and remixes.
AR: There are so many different bloggers out there, so the most important thing is to do your research and find the ones that are into the same stuff as you. Also, don’t be scared to reach out to radio stations. Contact the people at the station and the DJs. It’s not always as easy as that, but don’t be put off having a go.
- Connecting with your fans
RP: Your most important tools are your website and your email account. Look at the analytics of these, how many people are clicking through from your email to the website, where they are coming from. Use these facts to build relationships. FaceBook gives you very good metrics. You can get in-depth information about where people are coming from. And on Twitter and YouTube you can start gauging how your fanbase is interacting with you.
AR: It’s about sending millions of emails to blogsites. Once you know which ones you have support from then you know you can go back and start building a relationship. Bloggers are just music fans – they either like you or they don’t.
RP: Yes, bloggers are just people, you need to connect with them like they are too. Be yourself when you send emails, and think ‘would I read this if someone sent it to me?’ Make your emails short and behave like a human!
- Out on the road
MEH: When my bands used to go on the road it was all about strategic touring if money was tight. Play two or three places and then come back. A couple of weeks later go off to two or three more places. Build it up like that, and be sure to spread it out a little.
AR: You have to weigh up the pros and cons. You need to think about what you are getting out of playing live, because it can be a costly business.
RP: But even if you end up playing to six people in a room, make sure you capture those people – speak to them, connect with them. Don’t be scared to ask festivals if you can play.
HD: It can be disheartening for new bands in the UK because you don’t get paid a lot. But in Europe musicians get paid much better for doing shows. Look into playing a few shows on the continent.
Jules Parker: Holland and Belgium are particularly good for new bands starting out. Traditionally that’s where you would go to cut your teeth and try things out, and both countries aren’t very far from Britain.
MEH: The Pledge Music website is something I’m really impressed with. Bands go there to reach out to fans for funding. People pledge help for bands wanting to tour, or record their music, and lots of other things too. You set a target amount for people to donate and 75% of pledges make the money they need to make.