6 – Should I want to sign with a label?

As with many questions these days, those asking this question don’t have quite the up-to-date awareness they should have.  What can a label offer you?  support, advice, distribution, marketing, expertise?  Maybe, and all at a price usually.  The way larger labels recoup this money is quite vicious.  

So what next?  Small labels have less of everything including money, expertise and professionalism although there are some that are great.  It is all about relationships – if you work closely with a label, they will understand you more and be able to do more for you.

It may come down to starting off with self-release.  You have control over the product from the writing and recording stage through to the dissemination.  You get to make all the decisions and that’s the drawback.  It requires hard work to develop a business plan and that means knowing where you want to be by such-and-such time and discovering the tools and resources that will help you to achieve your goals.

The Internet doesn’t solve all the problems for ‘unsigned’ artists, it merely provides a set of tools that will enable you disseminate your work without having to press thousands of CD’s.

What to do next:

1 – Draw up a list of things you want to achieve in 1, 3 and 5 years (or short, medium and long term if you prefer)

2 – Decide what resources you might need i.e. manager, money, luck, training etc.

3 – Network – and that doesn’t mean attending stand-up meetings with bad warm white wine, but a place where you can meet those people that could help you advance your plan.

4 – Now go do.

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5 – How should I make audio available on my website?

Promoting your music through a website is all about striking a balance between supplying the needs of the customer/consumer/listener/fan and retaining your rights.

First of all, ask yourself some questions

1 – Do you hold the rights to the music?  If not, then you must seek permission to stream or otherwise make available the audio by contacting MCPS for a licence. 

2 – Is the music original?  Still, you must ascertain if you have the permission of the performers to disseminate the track.  If you paid them for the session and they signed a waiver, then you may well be okay.  If in doubt, seek permission first.  It’s all about communication.

So, you have permission of the rights holders to use the track – how to proceed?

If you make the track freely available, then be aware of what the possible consequences may be.  It is very hip to suggest that you give away everything, but this is only suggested by people who produce no music of their own.  You may wish to give away one complete track and stream the rest.  You could stream everything or make a compilation track available.

Which model you use is up to you, the important thing is to be aware of the different options and what each one means to you as a creative artist.

If you employ effective methods for user feedback, this will tell you whether or not your chosen model of offering audio dissemination is any good.

4 – How do I get funding?

Start with a very clear idea of what you want to achieve with the money and stick to a plan.  Tweaking your plan overmuch to suit every different fund you apply too will not work.

Read a lot of stuff first – start here with the Guide to Arts Funding in England

The big funds have strict criteria and painfully long forms and may not pay out money except to a registered charity.  In this case, pick the funds that suit your aims and objectives and research a charity that might be able to facilitate.  Specifically, offer to write a bid for funding for a charity that may want a music project you can provide and write it in such a way that you end up as the deliverer of the project as well.

There are small funds in existence, often with less criteria but with a small geographical remit.  Local Authority Arts Officers are a source of information on this and some contact details can be got from the Voluntary Arts website

It is a good idea to contact the administrators of the fund in advance and discuss your application in advance.  They know the common mistakes and can provide invaluable assistance.  It always pays to take their advice.

Final tips: research, honesty, read everything, give them exactly what they ask for – no more, no less.

3 – Should I do a gig for free?

Many musicians are faced with the dilemma of whether or not they should do a free gig.  Many musicians have no choice, starting out and doing certain kinds of music will have to do a gig that does not include a fee.  If it helps, try and remember these things:

Just because there is no fee does not mean the gig is valueless.  

1 – It is an opportunity to sell CD’s and vinyl

2 – You just do not know who is listening

3 – It could be a worthwhile cause and having principles as a band is laudable

4 – The shop window gig is something you can invite potential clients too; set up a show and invite loads of mates round to generate a buzz, you stand a chance if a journo or promoter turns up that they see a kick-ass gig.

The free gig is wrong when you know you are playing a venue that normally pays wedge to bands – you will be undermining the whole economic system.

You might also meet the boy/girl/creature of your dreams as well!

2 – How do I get on iTunes?

Question – Why? Do you sell lots of CD’s already? Then it might be right for you, but only if all your fans tend to buy music online.

So, if you want to sell stuff online you need the e-equivalent of the traditional record distribution deal. Online distribution is done by aggregators.  There is no overall great aggregator, the only thing they have in common is that they are all different.  Try to avoid those that require an up-front fee or an ongoing monthly subscription.  Go for those that would get your tracks in as many territories and online stores as possible to maximise your chances with as many different fans.

You might want to consider looking at distribution via sms download at live gigs.

1 – How does copyright work?

There are 3 kinds of copyright in a piece of recorded music.

1 – The author/composer/songwriter copyright

2 – The recording copyright

3 – The performer copyright

1a – If you write a song, then the copyright lasts for 70 years after your death.  You can loan it to someone (assigning) via a publishing agreement or similar.

2a – If you own the recording copyright, it lasts for 50 years after the year of production.

3a – If you perform on a recording as either a featured or unfeatured performer, it lasts for 50 years after the of production.

Your music activity can earn you money called royalties when someone uses it.

1b – MCPS/PRS collect royalties for the first copyright when a piece of music is sold, covered, performed or otherwise used in public.

 2b – PPL – collect royalties for record companies when a recording is publicly used.

3b – PPL collect royalties for performers when a recording is publicly used.

MCPS/PRS – www.mcps-prs-alliance.co.uk

PPL – www.ppluk.com