Terry Tyldesley, Jim Boggia, Marcus Ryle, Jeff Price, Craig Anderton
What’s Next Musicians’ Conference Keynote Speech and Panel
The conference kicked off with a great keynote speech from music industry guru, the amazing Craig Anderton, looking at where the industry is going. Craig has been working with Line 6 and is also Executive Vice President, Evangelist for Gibson, as well as former Editor in Chief of Harmony Central.
The panel discussion that followed, included Kitmonsters founder Terry Tyldesley, US singer-songwriter Jim Boggia, Line 6 co-founder and tech hero Marcus Ryle, and Jeff Price who founded TuneCore and has recently co-founded Audiam which enables artists to get money from their music on YouTube.
Craig said that the ‘goal of live technology is that you don’t have to think on stage’. The panel talked about the importance of live music in today’s climate, and Jeff said that a lack of artist development by major labels in the 90s has left a vacuum of younger bands to headline festivals.
House concerts are a key trend in the US said Jim, and a good source of revenue, and Terry said that was the case in the UK too. The panel discussed how musicians can explore avenues of funding such as library music, and canny Craig advised musicians to keep their copyright and not be afraid to rewrite contracts. Jeff said that new technology has given everyone a lottery ticket to a career in music.
Then Kitmonsters hosted a session on ways of making social media work for you, and how to promote yourself.
After a quick video showcase of clips from our website, the mighty Marv-ill Superlungs gave a demonstration of his beatboxing skills.
Marv-ill wowed the room, performing with a Line 6 XD-V75 mic and StageSource Loudspeaker System, and nothing else, and later did a special impromptu performance for Marcus Ryle.
Saint Saviour - the Internet Generation and connection with fans
First to speak was Saint Saviour also known as Becky Jones. Becky was previously involved with Groove Armada, as lead vocalist and songwriter on the Black Light album, and famously put out her own album Union by means of crowdfunding.
Becky explained how being part of what’s been called the Internet Generation worked for her, and how discovering MySpace inspired her to start making music of her own. Her working relationship with Groove Armada came about via the Internet and her former band, the RGBs. When the time came to release an album of her own, she had an existing fanbase she had built up over a couple of years, and was able to raise funds through a package put together by Pledge Music.
‘I was gobsmacked at the power of having that connection with fans. Just by having them ready, waiting for it and then Bang! They give you the things that you need.’
She stressed the importance of having a close relationship with her fanbase, to the point of sending them handwritten cards and little gifts as well as communicating with them digitally, but also pointed out that, to build a fanbase, you have to have something good to share with them in the first place.
‘You need to set yourself an aim of having a repertoire, even if it’s just five songs that you know are good. Once you’ve got enough to start a Facebook page, maybe share one, two weeks later, share another one, but you’ve got to have some good stuff to share. You can’t just invent a fanbase by having a Facebook page, you have to have good stuff.’
People like being part of the journey and knowing how you are progressing, she believes, but she cautioned against using social media to bitch and moan and air your squabbles, as that can be offputting.
Matt Errington - Bands should always be paid to perform
The next speaker, Matt Errington from Merrington Music Management, started out as a music journalist and now works with acts such as Planes and Waylayers. He has a development company which gives bands the leg-up they need. He offered a five-part strategy for getting attention and reminded everyone that the first stage is obviously writing and demoing some music, but that you should consider your brand while you’re doing that. The second stage he regards as essential is the gigging stage.
‘As soon as I start working with a band I send them out on the road, Five shows in five cities on five consecutive days and they’ll come back a different band. Usually better.’ However, he would never allow any of his bands to play for the sort of promoters who sell the artist a lot of tickets to sell on to their fans.
He recommended that only after enough live experience should a band start devoting time to their online presence, with the three priority sites being Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud. Once that’s established, Matt explained, it’s time to build a support team and to do that, you need to monetise the band. Bands should always be paid to perform, because they will need to pay other people to do all the other necessary things, and it is perfectly possible to make a living from performing - his artists do.
Hiring a publicist, he said, is the fifth and final stage.
Matt revealed that he never approaches record labels. ‘Getting signed is about building a band to the point where labels approach you, not the other way round’.
Matt Errington & Joe Parry
Joe Parry, Division PR - Music bloggers love being the ones to discover a good act
Appropriately enough, the discussion was then handed over to Joe Parry from Division PR, who has worked on publicity for the likes of At The Drive In and Blood Red Shoes. Joe stressed the importance of bands doing it themselves at the beginning.
‘I don’t want to take on any bands who have nothing going on. You need to be able to make yourself conspicuous, not just to fans but to managers and agents.’ He offered loads of useful tips on emailing journalists and bloggers as well, advising people not to neglect music bloggers who generally love being the ones to discover a good act. When it comes to contacting people, Joe explained that it’s a good idea to do enough research to make sure you’re not sending country and western music to a death metal specialist, and cautioned against hounding people if they don’t reply immediately.
Like Matt Errington, he emphasized that Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud are vital social networking tools for any band looking for attention and more fans, and strongly recommended embedding your music.
‘You need to make it easy for people to listen to music. Don’t send emails with attachments. Don’t send download links. You need to email someone something they can listen to with one click.’
Marv-ill Superlungs - you need business skills and social networking skills as well as talent
Last up was Marv-ill Superlungs, a Beatboxing Champion who recently starred as the voice of the beatboxing bird in the First Direct ‘Unexpected Tweet’ ad campaign.
Marv-ill freely admitted that he spent years missing out on the potential of social media, preferring to work on his craft and then wondering why no one was listening.
‘It was an interesting transition for a kid who thought: I’m doing everything right, the world’s wrong,’ he confessed. Like Saint Saviour, he believes that people need to ‘see your journey.’ He also stressed the need, these days, for people to have business skills and social networking skills as well as musical talent, with all three skillsets being of equal importance.
Joe Parry, Matt Errington, Saint Saviour, Marv-ill Superlungs
Breaking out of a niche
After that, questions from the floor brought up some interesting points about whether it’s worth trying to break out of a niche where you’re doing well, with Matt and Joe suggesting that the trouble with going too mainstream is the mainstream will move on to something else and your own scene may lose respect for you. Marvill suggested that the best way to break out of a niche is to collaborate, and cited Run DMC and Aerosmith’s Walk This Way as a great example.
The panel agreed that the music world and the music business has changed enough for it to be perfectly possible to make your band sustainable – if not a multimillion-earning household name - on your own.
Saint Saviour said bands can be more like a boutique business and sell direct to fans. Matt predicted that more labels will look to take a cut of publishing and merch in order to recoup their costs. While Joe said massive rockstars were on their way out. ‘I don’t think we’ll see another Mick Jagger’.
The industry may be changing, but all the panellists were positive about What’s Next!