The following MBW blog was written by UK-based Absolute Label Services’ Label Manager James Cattermole (pictured). Founded in 1998, independent label services company Absolute has worked on high profile album releases from artists and labels including Steps, All Saints, Jake Shears, Kim Wilde, Alice Cooper, 67, Dappy, Ay Em, RAM Records, Danny Jones, Ferris & Sylvester and many more.
We are experiencing an unprecedented moment in history right now. The last few weeks have seen Covid-19 affect our daily lives, bringing huge uncertainty and numerous challenges for everyone in the music industry.
Campaigns have been forced to pivot, live income has been cut off overnight, and people are confined to their homes during isolation.
Now, more than ever, people want to maintain a connection with the outside world, and find a sense of escapism from the daily grind of email conversation and breaking news notifications.
For many musicians and the people around them, on top of the need to create, staying afloat financially will be an even greater challenge over the next few months.
For all of these reasons, there has never been a more important time to keep active as an artist in order to stay afloat but also to help create a feeling of solidarity in their community.
“There has never been a better time for artists to control their own destiny. In this unfathomable situation, creative minds are starting to see just how far they can take that mantra.”
The crack of light between the clouds is that we do have the tools needed to carry on. For years, we have talked about the power artists possess to build careers from their bedroom.
Social media provides a platform to discover and connect with fans; technological developments have broken barriers to recording music and content; and there are numerous options when it comes to finding an independent route to market.
There has never been a better time for artists to control their own destiny. In this unfathomable situation, creative minds are starting to see just how far they can take that mantra.
Since the start of the outbreak, we’ve been helping our artist and manager clients increase their online focus and run their businesses in isolation.
This is what we’ve been telling them…
Constant social media activity alongside creative content has always been important in developing and maintaining relationships with fans, whether you’re in campaign mode or not. But now, with everyone at home and on their mobiles, it’s even more vital. Fans are looking to their favourite artists for a connection, they’re looking for entertainment and, to be honest they’re looking to procrastinate.
Everyone is coping with isolation in different ways. Start a conversation. Ask your fans how they’re staying busy and more importantly keeping their mental health in check. Try and create a sense of community and pool everyone’s ideas together.
Regular Instagram Live updates work great. Think of them as digital entries into your own isolation diary. Fans will want to know how you’re keeping busy, too, so let them know. Be open. Perhaps you’ve levelled up your cooking skills, started meditating, or rekindled that Football Manager addiction. Open yourself up, give your audience deeper access and create a deeper connection.
“With little to no access to videographers and equipment, you’re going to have to get creative with the tools at your disposal.”
With little to no access to videographers and equipment, you’re going to have to get creative with the tools at your disposal. Film your own session videos in your living room, ask fans for their favourite instrumentals and start a daily freestyle series, shoot your own ‘MTV Cribs’ episode of your isolation set-up, do a ‘making of’ series breaking down each track on your latest album. All you need is a camera phone, there really are no excuses these days.
There are also a lot of talented people sitting at home twiddling their thumbs, so give them something to get creative with. Create your own bespoke sample pack, offer it as a free download and see what comes back. Drop the stems to your latest single and run a remix competition. Get creative with prizes too. Instead of a signed LP, how about one-to-one production lessons?
Albums have been pushed, access to your favourite recording studio is restricted, but you can create, record and distribute with a laptop from your bedroom – so do it! Don’t worry about polish, it’s creativity that counts. Keep that constant flow of new material coming and give your fans something to be happy about.
A bare bones, home studio set-up naturally lends itself to a more stripped-back, DIY style of record. Work with the situation, re-format previously released material into acoustic/stripped style versions. Film and document the whole recording process as it happens, live stream it… The options are endless.
Covers are also something to be considered. Similar to stripped-back tracks, these are nothing new, but they’re something you can put together with ease. As always, start with your audience. Ask them what they want to hear you cover, run a poll, take requests on a live chat etc.
If acoustic versions and covers aren’t your vibe, why not start producing a beat tape? Film the production process as it’s happening and drop tracks as they come out of the studio. Ask fans to suggest records and films for you to sample, live stream in the studio, get them involved in the creative process – think of it as a co-writing session with your entire fanbase (good luck sorting publishing splits!).
“If you don’t have the means of recording new material at home, then work with the recordings you already have.”
If you don’t have the means of recording new material at home, then work with the recordings you already have. Everyone is sitting on a plethora of demos for released and unreleased tracks. Sharing demos as part of a wider campaign is something that is becoming increasingly popular. If you have some of your own, get them out into the world – fans really love exclusive ‘behind the scenes’ content.
There are a number of ways these ideas can be formatted and released. If they’re up to standard then go via your distributor for a DSP release – there plenty of editorial opportunities for covers and acoustic tracks. If they’re a bit rough round the edges, then why not look to build your mailing list and have them as a sign-up incentive/free download? Or have them sit solely on SoundCloud or YouTube so they’re not judged amongst the rest of your catalogue in the future.
Tours and festivals are off the table for now, so offer fans an alternative. Start performing live from your kitchen, your bedroom, or bathroom.
“There are many free-to-use apps and services to help fill the live music vacuum, just click broadcast, start playing and make a connection.”
There are many free-to-use apps and services to help fill the live music vacuum, just click broadcast, start playing and make a connection.
Housekeeping, Healthchecks & Admin
With no meetings, writing sessions and rehearsals in the diary, has there ever been a better time to finally work through that laborious to-do list? Take some time each day to tackle some long-overdue admin, and get yourself ready to hit the ground running on the other side of this crisis.
Biographies and one-pagers are often put on the backburner during campaigns. Now is the perfect time to give them some much-needed TLC. Make sure everything has the most up-to-date information, stats and quotes. Aim to get these key documents updated ready for your next campaign. Trust me, your team will be very grateful!
“Take some time to give your social media channels a well-deserved health check.”
These days, most artists and teams are clued up when it comes to social media, but mistakes and inconsistencies often creep in due to the seemingly endless number of channels to maintain. Have you missed a header that’s pushing a pre-order for an album that was released last year? Take some time to give your social media channels a well-deserved health check.
As the smart speaker market grows year on year, lyrics are quickly becoming an important asset. If you haven’t already, get lyrics written up for your entire catalogue and send them to your distributor. While you’re at it, sign up to Genius. You can add official lyrics for your entire catalogue, along with annotations and song facts, and get your fans involved by adding their own annotations and questions as well.
Now is also the perfect time to have a complete neighbouring rights audit. Are all of your recordings and performer claims registered correctly at PPL? How about your song and co-writes at PRS? There are so many artists, songwriters and performers missing out on potential ancillary income, so get clued up or partner with someone who can handle it for you.
Stay Inside, Stay Healthy
Above all in this current crisis, it’s important to stay healthy. Isolation on any level can have a negative impact on mental health. Make sure to keep talking to those around you and, if you feel you may need more support, charities like MIND and CALM provide tailored advice.Music Business Worldwide