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March 6, 2018

Decoded: A complete guide to branding yourself as a musical artist

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How to write the perfect artist bio

How to write the perfect artist bio for fans, press and A&R

Creating the perfect bio is a vital part of how you present as an artist. Many of us make the mistake of thinking “hey, why should I take time out of my busy schedule to draft a piece of copy hardly anyone is going to read? I’m far too busy crafting songs here,” right?

The truth is that a pitch perfect bio isn’t going to make you famous on its own but a bad one will almost certainly put some people off. And at this stage of your music career, you simply don’t have the luxury of risking that. Not even slightly.

To help you tackle the sticky topic, we’ve put together this quick and easy guide to writing the perfect artist bio (aka biography).

We’re going to cover the following topics:
  • How to approach writing an artist bio
  • What is the perfect structure for an artist bio?
  • The difference between writing for print and the web
  • Cool hacks, tools and tips

How to approach writing an artist bio

It’s vital to approach your artist bio with the same kind of professionalism that you would a recording session or photoshoot.

It’s one of the first points of contact you will have with new fans, demanding A&Rs and those busy, ‘heard-it-all-before’ music journalists.

In the age of streaming, people’s first introduction to you will often be via your artist page on stores like Spotify, Apple and Deezer. These pages provide little other information about you compared to say, your Facebook page, so the artist bio here is more important than ever.

All professional writers start-out by thinking carefully about who they are writing for; defining that all-important ‘target-audience’. This is the cornerstone of good writing.

Have a long think about who you would most like to read your bio. It could be a successful artist, a producer you greatly admire, or the boss of a particular label. Prepare to write your bio as if you are speaking to them personally.

One of the key things to keep in mind is that people who read your bio at this stage are likely to be real music fans, much more than general members of the public. So, it’s vital that you come across as authentic, genuine and deeply passionate about what you do.

Industry professionals and ‘early-adopter’ fans tend to know their music scene like the back of their hands. They’ll know their history, references, and have their own strong opinions about what’s going on out there.

They aren’t going to be impressed with silly jokes, big-headed claims about being the ‘best fookin’ band in the fookin’ world’ or loudmouthed attacks on other artists.

Keep it real and very focussed. Be prepared to spend time thinking deeply about what drives you as an artist, jotting down notes on a piece of paper.

Above all, don’t start writing until you are 100% clear in your mind about what you intend to say.

What is the perfect structure for an artist bio?

The key here is to keep it nice and short. Aim for 200 – 300 words, max.

Don’t preamble. Start off with a 25-word intro that gets everything you care about across. Think about it like writing your introduction as a summary of everything you are going to say.

Aim for one thought per sentence. One sentence per paragraph.

Get the most important stuff up first, least important last. And don’t forget to include all your key information at the end.

“For me, the most important thing is the story of your music: what does it mean, what made you create it, what are you trying to say or achieve? That is what people will want to write about.”

Joe Zadeh, a professional copywriter who has been enlisted by labels such as Universal Music, Warner, Sony, PMR, and Disturbing London says, “The best advice I would give to an independent artist writing their bio is to really think about what the story of their music is.

Quite often, bios become crowded in where someone grew up, how they learned to play music, who their influences are, and what genres they are. For me, the most important thing is the story of your music: what does it mean, what made you create it, what are you trying to say or achieve? That is what people will want to write about.”

Journalists want names, dates, places, and your bio is where they’ll look for these details if they are writing about you. It’s probably best not to irritate them by not including it at this stage (don’t worry, you can irritate them as much as you like once you’ve gone triple platinum!).

In short, think about it like this:
  • Intro/Summary – think who, what, why, where, how
  • A couple of short, snappy one sentence paragraphs
  • Core band/artist names, achievements, dates at the end

Try and make your intro stand alone. If all someone read were the first 25 words, would that give them a true sense of who you are as an artist?

The sentences that follow should be all about your music and what inspires you. Remember that influences don’t just have to be other artists – although this is important; you can be just as inspired by the people around you and the landscape where you grew up.

Try and give people an angle, something unique and interesting that they can hang their hat on. You have to show them why you are unique.

Pro tip:

“It’s a really good idea to start your bio with a great quote about you, if you’ve got one. No-one’s going to care if you tell them you’re amazing, but they might if somebody else does.”

The difference between writing for print and the web

It’s worth thinking about this. In general people read much slower on the web than they do in print.

This is because of the way our vision has evolved. We are used to seeing things with light projecting onto the surface from behind us, rather than having light coming from behind the words into our eyes.

This is why reading on a laptop or mobile device makes people feel tired faster, giving them much shorter attention spans online.

A good way around this is to break up your text with short sentences, quotes, sub-headings and bullet points.

Above all, just remember that nothing puts online readers off more than seeing a huge block of text.

Cool hacks, tools and tips for writing your bio

1: Hemmingway App

Named after the famous writer who pioneered a minimalist style of writing – paste your article in here and it’ll show you where you are going wrong.

2: Answer the Public

Another great free tool. Stick any topic you like in and see what people all over the world are asking about it.

3: Friends and bandmates

A newspaper article is typically read by at least three different people before it gets published. Ask a few people to read through your bio before you publish it.

4: A good night’s sleep

Always have a break between finishing any writing and publishing it. It’s always best to come back to it with fresh eyes to spot any typos or mistakes.

5: Read old record sleeves

Back when records generated vast sums of money, a record sleeve could be a thing of majesty. Get into some old sleeves of artists that inspire you and see if you can recapture that unmistakeable tone of voice.

Summary

It may seem a small thing to write a few hundred words on your bio page, but to industry experts and real music fans these are the small things that build a picture of you. They matter.

Of course, it’s your music that has to do the talking but don’t let that stop you from using this space to tell your story and really put across what it is about making music that makes you different.

Be passionate, be earnest and show you care. It’s your chance to pique some interest and could be the difference between a journalist or A&R hitting the back-button or getting in touch.

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YouTube

Decoded: A musician’s complete guide to YouTube

You know that YouTube has the power to propel artists to new heights. The problem is, so does everyone else.

It’s an incredible tool, free-to-use (sort of), and available to all. But how do you approach it in a way that gives you the best chance of standing out above other talented artists?

If 300 hours of video gets uploaded to YouTube every minute, how can we you make your 3 minutes count?

Well, fear not Spinnup artists, we’re going to give you some expert advice here that has the power to set you apart from at least 99% of all videos on YouTube.

We’re not promising a guaranteed formula for viral invincibility, that comes down to your skill and artistry, but we can promise that these techniques are recommended by the experts and that learning them will give you the best chances of success.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • How to plan your video like a pro
  • Shooting from the hip – smartphone techniques for great results
  • Top dos and don’ts of video production
  • YouTube video optimisation hacks
  • When to publish YouTube videos for best results
  • How to market your channel like an expert
How to plan your video like a professional

The biggest mistake artists make when shooting video for YouTube is adopting a ‘spray and pray’ approach that doesn’t works for anybody.

Planning (AKA: ‘Storyboarding’) is everything.

A storyboard is a graphic representation of how your video will unfold. It might sound a bit ‘Spielberg’, but all you really need is a piece of paper and a pen.

Break each section down into frames by drawing a box for each one, then roughly sketch the shot and describe underneath what will be happening in it.

Make sure that you know all the shots you’ll need to complete the final edited piece in advance. Do not start until you have this.

Timings

YouTube penalises videos that can’t hold viewers’ attention until the end by showing them lower down in search results.Therefore, it’s vitally important that you keep your videos, short, punchy and on-point.

Aim for 90 seconds for a short film, interview or behind-the-scenes clip. 180 seconds for a track. Try and avoid anything longer than this, especially if you don’t have a dedicated following yet.

Storyboarding is a great opportunity to get your timings right. For example, if you have 90 seconds and want to include 8 shots, you could set aside 10 seconds for the intro and 5 for the outro, leaving you 75 seconds to divide between the remaining shots.

Another tip, if you’re writing a script, is to work out timings at 3 words per second. So, a 90 second film script should be no more than 270 words.

This might all sound like a lot of extra work, but it forces you to get focussed and not waste a second of your film. This will give you better production results which will lead to more YouTube views.

Shooting from the hip – smartphone techniques for great results

Here’s a question that media organisations expect their journalists to know the answer to straight away: How much free memory do you have on your phone right now?

It’s critical because you never want to be in a position where you can’t capture something if you’re out on tour, working in the studio, or just hanging around with fans or bandmates and collaborators.

Those spontaneous moments, when edited into your videos, are the storytelling moments we all love. Just think of Jimi Hendrix playing his guitar in his Notting Hill kitchen whilst frying an egg or Cardi B freestyling ‘For That D’ backstage. Priceless.

Luckily, we all have an entire camera crew in our pockets these days.

It’s worth saying that an artist you are also a marketer, so you should never scrimp on your phone. It’s a business expense and money well spent. Just make sure it has enough spare memory to capture those moments!

With that in mind, here are 10 tips for creating mobile video content on the fly:

Smartphone video tips:
  1. Turn on airplane, flight mode or do not disturb.
  2. Clean your lens!
  3. Hold it the right way. For example, Snapchat is portrait, YouTube is landscape. If you are unsure stick to landscape.
  4. Always zoom with your feet (that means walk!) Phones don’t optically zoom.
  5. Hold it steady. You carry all the weight in your wrist so wedge your elbows in at your sides.
  6. Place the phone on palm of your hand, lift it up and steady with your other hand. This is known in the business as the ‘human tripod’.
  7. Alternatively, buy a cheap mini tripod and keep it to hand.
  8. Lock your focus and brightness. You should never let the camera decide what you’re interested in.
  9. Shoot in short focussed sequences (don’t spray and pray).
  10. Make sure you have enough memory to save your footage and never leave the house with a low battery!
Top do’s and don’ts of video production

There are some other key things to consider when shooting your video. Let’s start with the most important:

Audio quality

Viewers will forgive a momentarily shaky hand or some dodgy lighting, but they will never forgive bad audio. As an artist this is especially important to you.

Carpeted and curtained rooms usually offer better sound quality than kitchens and open spaces.

Check your audio quality and make sure you are happy with it. If using a smartphone, remember that your headphones will have a built-in mic.

Alternatively, pick up a good mic like the BOYA by M1 or RODE iRig iXLR. For radio broadcasting quality, take a look at the Zoom H1.

Lighting

Good lighting is tricky, but fortunately YouTube is an organic platform where fans are not expecting the earth here.

As a rule, use natural light as much as possible and try to shoot in the day to avoid that grainy look.

Sequence formula

A lot will depend on the type of video you are producing, but a simple shoot sequence formula, like the one below, can be used as a template to enhance any video content you create.

  • CLOSE UP OF HANDS: eyes drawn to hand/motion – 8 seconds
  • CLOSE UP OF THE FACE – 8 seconds
  • WIDE SHOT – 8 seconds
  • SEE THEIR POINT OF VIEW: over the shoulder 8 seconds
  • UP HIGH, REFLECTION, SOMETHING A BIT DIFFERENT: any reflection or arty idea – seconds

Collaborate!

We’ll keep saying this on our decoded guides. Collaboration leads to great things!

As an artist you have an opportunity to reach out to filmmakers and videographers who are at a similar stage to you and looking for subject matter.

Check out your local film schools and colleges or network with start-ups. Not only will they help you make better content, they’ll also be an extra promotional channel for you as they’ll want to promote their work too.

YouTube video optimisation hacks

YouTube is a search engine just like Google. It’s owned by Google. It’s also the second biggest search engine in the world after Google.

As such, you should follow these simple optimisation hacks to:

  1. Make sure YouTube understands exactly what your video is about
  2. Make it easier for people to find your content
  3. Make it more likely that YouTube will favour your videos over others

———- 

  1. Video Titles

These are important for telling YouTube about the content of your video. Include any keywords that people might search for as close to the beginning of the title as possible.

  1. File Names

Before uploading your video, save it using the file name of the video title or using keywords, rather than the stream of numbers and characters it uses by default.

  1. Description box

Use all the space you have. Write as much detail as you can about the video in the description box. YouTube will crawl and index this content so it’s a great opportunity to give your video more chance of appearing in search results. Think along the lines of terms that describe your music, like ‘atmospheric strings’ or ‘dirty guitar riffs’.

If it’s a track, you could also add some memorable lyrics in here. People often search for a song by typing in a few lyrics they remember.

  1. Pick the right channel category

Type your main keyword into YouTube and check out the top-ranking videos. This will probably be a genre of music. Pick the same category as the top-ranking video for the keyword you have chosen.

  1. Tag it up

You can use tags to add more keywords to your video, which will help more people discover it through the search bar. Enter things like subject matter, location and music genre.

  1. Use Thumbnails

Thumbnails are little images you can upload that sit on the preview of each video. Pick some nice shots that will entice people to click on the video or you’ll end up with a weird mouth-half-open-eyes-half-shut thumbnail. Or if you’re handy with Photoshop design a bespoke one. Remember to save them at 16:9 aspect ratio.

When to publish YouTube videos for best results

There are lots of studies out there that try and work out the best time to publish videos. When it comes to music we would recommend scheduling for 2-4pm local time on either Thursday or Friday as this is when YouTube has the highest engagement levels.

If you are planning on publishing at weekends, I’m afraid you’ll have to set your alarm. The best time on Saturday and Sunday is between 9-11 am. No-one said this would be easy!

How to market your channel like an expert

The best way to promote each video is to approach it like a professional media company. Stick to scheduled times and be consistent. If fans expect content from you at a certain time it will help to build momentum and lead to more views over time.

You should also adopt an integrated approach. Promote your video widely across all your other social channels and make sure to talk it up in your newsletters both before and after release.

If you are really interested in maximising views, study the methods of artists you admire. Join their newsletters and subscribe to their channels to see how they do it. Above all, be consistent and passionate, there’s not point putting out something that isn’t perfect.

In summary….

You want a summary? Why? What are you waiting for? You have the tools now go; go and make amazing videos and share them with the world. We’re waiting…

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Branding_for_Musicians

Decoded: A complete guide to branding yourself as a musical artist

In your capacity as performer, musician, lyricist, tour manager and business strategist you also need to fit in the small matter of becoming a branding expert.

Nobody said this was going to be easy!

Although some musicians might see creating a brand as a something akin to exam revision, we’ve created this guide to hopefully show you that the creative process of devising and developing a brand is nothing to be feared.

In fact, it should be as absorbing and artistic a process as song writing itself!

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

Why some artists shy away from branding

How to begin creating a brand as an artist

The ‘3 Es’ of branding (careful now!)

Key takeaways

But before we begin… what actually is a brand?

We interact with brands all the time. In its simplest form it’s a logo, along with a name, tagline, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes it from its rivals in the eyes of fans or customers.

However, many will tell you that a brand is much more than that. It’s engrained in our tribal psyche as human beings to gravitate towards badges, flags, symbols and ideas– to claim allegiance to a cause, and literally ‘nail our colours’ to the mast.

Brand is visual representation of identity and the best artists in history are all about identity and identifying with their audience. So, as a musical artist starting out in a career you are already a brand whether you like it or not.

The question is whether you are a good, bad or just plain ugly one (in many cases this is no bad thing; check out those early Rolling Stones album covers!)

Image Credit: BP & O
Why many artists shy away from branding

A common mistake some artists make is to confuse authenticity with branding. ‘But isn’t it supposed to be about the music’ is a common complaint when discussing a band’s image, for example.

There’s a fear that credibility can be lost by taking any focus away from the music and concentrating on image.

While there’s no doubt that style over substance always causes problems, even the most credible artists in history have cultivated a strong, defined image, story and visual identity (AKA a brand!).

The Sex Pistols are credited with turning the entire music industry on its head; a vital disrupting force that led to one of the most creative and exciting periods in music’s history.

They were also entirely manufactured by Vivienne Westwood and her then partner, Malcolm McClaren. Does this make their music less credible?

The best artists have always understood that being a successful artist is about more than having well-crafted songs. Remember Nelly’s face band-aid, Madonna’s cone bra and Lady Gaga’s crazy, well, everything? All those quirks and styles helped created their image and brand as an artist. (If you want help finding your trademark style, we’ve got you covered.)

Artist branding is about taking that music and channelling its energy through a consistent visual style and identity. In a way that, hopefully, builds the kind of tribal loyalty that causes normal people to sell everything the own and follow you on tour for the rest of their lives.

Your brand should be considered as much a part of who you are as your music. It should be respected and nurtured just like any other valued artistic element. A Spinnup act we think really nails this is Swedish songwriter/producer/performer duo Vaz, who put a huge amount of effort into their brand, from their album artwork, to artist imagery and outfit styling. Check out their Instagram to see what we mean.

VAZ COVERART_BIG
How do you begin creating a brand as an artist?

Paul Wilkinson, former Creative Director at MTV, believes that the trick when starting out is to take inspiration from your idols:

“When most artists start out they tend to emulate the people they admire as they find their own voice. The best place to start is to think about who inspires you and look at what they’re doing. Don’t directly copy what they do, but study them carefully and introduce your own ideas. Keep it simple.”

Quite often there will be someone in your band or close to you that has a natural affinity for creating a visual identity. If not, it might be worth enlisting the support from someone who can.

Good artists collaborate, so find some inspiration from artists or designers who resonate with you and even see if one can help you begin to create a brand that will elevate your music to where it deserves to be.

“Try reaching out to your own fanbase,” says Paul. “If you have a few hundred followers ask them for feedback and see if any of them can do better. There’s bound to be someone amongst them who will step forward and offer good creative ideas. It’ll also help foster a sense of community, which is vital in the early days.”

One word of warning. When starting out remember that everything you post online will still be there a few years down the line, so take this stuff seriously from the start.

“Everything stays online these days,” says branding expert Bridgette of Zambesi Digital, “so think carefully before you put anything out there.”

“Are you going to be embarrassed in a few years’ time? Is it going to come back to bite you?”

Don’t get caught up in the moment. Guard your image jealously.

Image credit: Toward Music

What are the ‘3 Es’ of branding?

The 3 Es of Branding are often highlighted by branding agencies when helping companies to devise a new brand identity.

The Es stand for Enabling, Elevating and Enriching – and don’t just apply to the logo design and colour palettes, but are used to inform everything from imagery choices to the tone of voice.

We aren’t saying that these principals will always be applicable to every artist, but they help to give you an idea of how a professional agency might approach branding an artist.

  1. Enabling

In other words, whatever brand you choose should feel simple, effortless and accessible for anyone who is attracted to it either directly or through your music

  1. Elevating

Your brand should aim to create an experience through the senses. Think about textures, colours, environment and storytelling.

  1. Enriching

Fans should be able to feel part of what your brand represent. It should resonate with them and create that sense of tribe and community that they seek.

Think of what you can provide your fanbase with that will help this. What tangible objects can you give out at gigs? What different ways are there to interact with them?

When you get these three elements right it can create a catalytic effect that delivers real magic – which is all your audience is really looking for.

Key takeaways

  • Keep it simple
  • Study your idols; be inspired by them
  • Collaborate!
  • Take your time, get it right – you wouldn’t put out a half-arsed song!
  • Be careful what you post on social media – will you still be proud of this in 5 years’ time?

Branding is a living, breathing thing, so expect it to evolve over the years as you become more successful. Coldplay, for example, evolved from a simple scruffy busker look to the colourful and distinctive visual identity they enjoy today.

The most important thing is to take it seriously, and not dismiss it as some sort of inauthentic corporate exercise. It’s really all about visual communication and a chance to stand out from the crowd. And remember, enjoy it and your fans will too!

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Teaser_Decoded_Data_Spinnup

Decoded: Data for independent artists

Making the most of your data as an unsigned artist; the complete guide for 2018

As a fledgling artist in today’s music industry you have a lot on your plate. Booking gigs, building a fanbase, liaising with the press, making sure your drummer turns up to rehearsals, and the small matter of crafting drop-dead-gorgeous tracks that stun the world into awed reverie. You probably think that adding ‘data-management’ to that list is a little unreasonable.

We do sympathise, but if you want to forge a music career today, whether as an independent artist or by signing a record deal with a label, it’s vital to have a good handle on your data.

To help you get to grips with this most un-artistic of topics, we’ve created this detailed guide to the state-of-play in 2018.

It covers everything that’s happening in the music businesses with regards to your data, how it’s being used to influence major decisions, and what you can be doing – right now – to ‘own’ your data and make it work harder for you.

Regardless of where you are now in your career, the more you understand your data and how to use it your advantage, the bigger and better things can become in the months and years ahead.

How your data is being used in 2018

Like it or not, data is now a key part of who you are as an artist. It influences how you are perceived by your peers, can open and close doors and windows of opportunity, and could ultimately hold the key to all your hopes and dreams around your career.

No biggie then!

The mountain of data produced by streaming services, like Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer, combined with social media mentions and YouTube views, has created an avalanche of information.

It’s being used every day to make important business decisions, from which tracks get released and where artists tour, down to simple design and merch ideas like which lyrics get printed on a t-shirt.

2016/17 – a watershed moment for the music industry

One of the biggest changes in recent years has been the explosion of streaming.

After years of struggling sales and fretting about the disruptive influence of digital technology, the music industry posted double digit growth for the first time in over a decade, and this is almost entirely down to streaming’s exponential growth.

Streaming now accounts for more than 50% of all UK music consumption. Meanwhile, in one day alone, more music is streamed in the US than downloaded in an entire year.

Although Spotify has been around a while now – it launched in 2008, followed by Deezer in 2009 and Apple Music in 2015 – something happened recently that’s tipped streaming over the edge.

This means that your streaming data, more than social media and YouTube, is probably the biggest indicator for any record company, artist management, tour organiser or venue promoter of your perceived value as an artist.

It’s so important we recently overhauled our entire Stats & Activity page to include a brand-new trends graphs to show our artists more streaming data than ever.

Whereas we used to show your Spotify streams a few days after the first stream of your track, we now show streaming data from Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Google Play AND download stats from iTunes and Amazon all in the one place.

We also tripled the amount of historical data available, showing three months’ worth of figures rather than one.

modern-music-problems-1078x516

Generation Z; why ‘Young Millennials’ love Spotify and why you should care

One of the big drivers behind streaming has been the coming of age of the ‘Young Millennials’.

Unlike their more piratically-minded older siblings, the latest crop of 16-19-year olds are overwhelmingly positive about paying for music and have made Spotify their platform of choice.

A recent survey found that 67% of them think music is worth paying for, compared to 56% of music lovers overall.

It also found that this age group are overwhelmingly found on Spotify. 53% of 16-19-year olds regularly use Spotify to listen to music, compared to 47% who use YouTube.

If you suspect that 16-19-year olds are going to be your biggest fans, you need to be thinking of Spotify as your main platform for of choice.

Think about boosting your presence by pushing fans there from your social media platforms. It might go without saying, but you should also keep optimising your Spotify Artists Page.

Keep your bio regularly updated, keep posting playlists and make sure you select the right ‘artists pick’ track. We’ve got a great Spotify For Artists Guide that tells you how to manage all of that.

If you are focussing on a record deal, it also means that it makes sense to focus the bulk of your efforts on nurturing your streaming platforms rather than selling digital downloads.

Does this mean that Scouts only care about streaming numbers?

A&R Scouts stake their reputation on an artist when they get behind them. Although your data stats are going to have an influence on how you are perceived across the industry, scouts are still going to make a gut-based decision about you as an artist, and your music.

Although they can bring you to people’s attention they are not the be-all-and-end-all. However, you should be should be nurturing them like a new-born baby.

“Data is invaluable to independent artists who want to create a career from their music, enabling strategic and well developed artistic and financial decisions to be made,” says Spinnup UK Scout Trenton. “At the heart of this however is the actual music, which is without a doubt the most important thing for scouts. Yes, data is useful for driving and maximising independent music, but there is still a huge importance on great artists and the creation of great music in the industry.”

computer group

What about independent artists?

The good news is that big data isn’t just useful to music business executives.

It’s never been easier to build a fanbase, and artists who make an independent living are expected to grow massively over the coming years.

The real value of your data lies in getting a sense of the types of content that resonate with your audience.

Do some platforms work better for you than others? Do some tracks resonate differently on YouTube than, say, Soundcloud?

Understanding this data allows artists to make better strategic decisions and waste less time and effort trying to second guess what will or won’t work.

It also allows you to manage multiple touchpoints with your fans more effectively, especially as you get busier over time.

At Spinnup we’ve included huge amounts of social media stats, so you can track the number of fans and followers you have multiple platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and YouTube.

We’ve also added Plays and Views from SoundCloud and YouTube as well as downloads from iTunes and Amazon.

Good data allows you to connect all the dots and makes sure you are making the most of your key channels; those platforms where new fans are waiting to discover your music.

Computer google analytics

Action Plan; 5 things you need to be doing with your data right now

1: Own it!

If you don’t know you can’t act. You need to commit to taking ownership. Don’t rely on someone else to do it for you, especially in the early stages of your career.

2: Use a data management tool

Keeping on top of your data can be time consuming, particularly if you have to log-in to multiple platforms to get it. Make sure you pick a tool that covers the ‘4 Vs’:

  • Volume – it can handle an explosion of data
  • Variety – it can pull in data from multiple sources
  • Velocity – it can keep you updated in real time
  • Veracity – it provides a picture you can trust

Added to that should be accessibility. Having your data at your fingertips, while you’re out gigging or recording, will help you make real time decisions while you’re on the move.

3: Book tours and gigs in the right places; break new ground

Now you know where you’re popular, you can start booking gigs where it matters. We’re creating a new feature right now that will break down your streams by geography – so you could soon be booking that tour of Serbia!

4: Build partnerships

Smart artists are looking to partner with others, so they can swap support slots where they are not so popular and cross-pollinate audiences.

EDM artists have been doing this for years when releasing tracks. Partnering with artists with big followings in different territories gives them a platform and lets them piggy-back on their partner’s popularity. It’s why you see so many tracks FEAT. multiple artists.

5: Boost your channels where it makes sense to do so

If you see a sudden boost in popularity on a certain platform, use your social media presence to push your fans to that channel.

Conversely, don’t waste limited resources promoting yourself on channels where there’s little or no movement.

Remember, this is about creating and nurturing multiple touch points with your fans. It’s a great opportunity that artists from previous generations could have only dreamed of.

Yes, it’s another thing on your endless to-do-list but do it well and you’ll be well-ahead of the game.

Good luck and remember to keep checking back with our blog for more advice and tips on how to do keep working on your music career!

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Where does copyright come from?

Understanding copyright:

• What is copyright?
• Where did it originate from?
• In the age of Soundcloud, sampling and remixing, does copyright still matter?

Over the decades, a number of artists and musicians have been caught up in messy legal disputes due to issues related to copyright infringement.

As Picasso once said, “good artists copy, great artists steal,” but it’s not exactly fair for artists to benefit or profit from work derived from someone else’s, is it?

There are two schools of thought in relation to music copyright: according to certain music scholars, musical copyright should no longer be considered important as it was initially established to protect literary works. On the other hand, other researchers argue that copyright protection in the current digital era is more important than ever before and needs to be protected for the sake of artists.

Are these claims true? What is copyright anyway?

Do we really need to protect music using copyright in our digitally advanced 21st century?

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To find answers and understand the role of copyright, let’s rewind and take a historical journey to the 18th century, when copyright was first established.

It all began when the statute of Anne of 1710 was created to protect the tangible literary, musical and artistic works of creators enabling authors to exploit their works and receive incentives during their lifetime plus 70 years after their death. Fast forward 300+ years to today and you will find that the same rules apply.

When first establishing copyright policies, the government looked to protect the rights of authors, however also wanted to use copyright as a way of encouraging “citizens to make and share their creative works with the public, thereby enriching society”. This later led to the principle of ‘fair use’, that included a set of criteria which made copying ‘acceptable’ to a certain extent.

However nowadays

The principle of ‘fair use’ is commonly disregarded with technology making illegal music copying significantly easy. According to the MUSO Global Piracy Insight Annual Report of 2017, an approximate 191 billion visits are made to websites which stream pirated music content online. That’s 25 pirated music streams for every single person on earth.

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Not only is this a threat to the identity of artists, but it is also a threat to the value of their recorded music works. With numerous cases of infringement surging, a question we may ask ourselves is how do we use copyright to protect musical works and compositions?

It is useful to know…

That a song or musical composition does not need to be officially registered at the copyright office to be protected; once it is written down or recorded, it automatically receives the copyright protection status. However, when releasing a song or an album it is highly recommended that the musical work is registered at the national copyright office; this will easily enable the owner to sue in a case of copyright infringement. The practice of unlicensed sampling is also a frequent occurrence within the contemporary music industry. The simple act of coping the riff or several seconds of song without an official licence can get one into big trouble; at worst sued for millions of pounds for copyright infringement.

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So, what can you do if you feel as though your song has been copied without permission?

Before pointing any fingers, you will have to prove that you retain a valid copyright licence for your work. Gather in-depth evidence, proving that the infringer allegedly copied your work and if possible find a lawyer to help you build your case. Another route to take is to notify search engines like YouTube about the alleged infringement by submitting a copyright take down notice, which, if thoroughly investigated could led to the removal of the infringer’s work.

Overall

We can say that copyright laws created hundreds of years ago were very important and continue to be a relevant and valuable tool in the world of music today. Copyright is a right for all artists, and creatives should feel motivated to create new works knowing that their rights will be protected and respected, and be profitable for them within an international market ruled by an international law.

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Protecting yourself as an artist – Decoded

Prior to the release of her pop album ‘1989’, Taylor Swift publicised her latest bid to protect herself from being exploited by third party organisations. The move to trademark certain phrases such as “this sick beat”, “nice to meet you, where you been?” and “party like it’s 1989” has once again highlighted the importance of intellectual property in the music industry.

In her own words, there is no naïve country girl here. We all know how essential it is to prevent plagiarism of our own material, but how far does this go? Artists need to be aware of the legal issues around songs, lyrics and artwork, and copyright is the foundation of the music industry. Intellectual property laws can seem overwhelmingly complex however these laws exist for your protection. So, as a Spinnup artist, how can you protect yourself and why is it so important?

1. Your music: Picture this. You’ve finally released the song you’ve been dying for the world to hear and you’re starting to map out your career. As you are eagerly awaiting the response from the musicsphere, you find that another artist has copied your work and is selling it as their own. Copyright laws exist for this reason – to stop people copying your work, distributing it, renting it, performing it and putting it online. For more information, click here.   

2. Your band members: In the eyes of the music industry, band member agreements are always a good idea. Issues such as which rights belong to who, how royalties will be distributed if the band were to separate and incorporation contracts can be addressed and agreed upon in writing in order to avoid arguments later down the line.

3. Your image: Artists should also consider how the use of their lyrics or imagery on merchandise, for instance, can exploit their image. Paris Hilton famously trademarked her “that’s hot” phrase after a three-year dispute over Hallmark selling a greeting card bearing those two words alongside her photograph. Musicians have to be much more rigorous in protecting their image, work and trademarks so they don’t become an advocate of a product they don’t endorse or associate with. Rihanna famously won a court battle against Topshop for selling T-shirts with her face on the front therefore battling the right to control her own image. Click here for the full article.

Be savvy, protect yourself from exploitation and always get proper professional advice when dealing with any legal issues. For more information on copyright laws, check out the following online resources:
http://www.ukmusic.org/policy/licensing-solutions/
http://www.ifpi.se/rattighetsagare/upphovsratt
http://www.musikindustrie.de/musikrechte/

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Recording – Decoded

A successful recording artist has to record music by definition. Without recording, you are just an artist and probably not a very successful one. Recording the songs that you have spent months or years crafting and trying to do them the ultimate justice in days or maybe weeks can be daunting. Being pragmatic in the early stages can make process and result so much more satisfying. 

If you are a solo artist and have written all your songs alone with only your instrument and recording is your first experience of playing with other musicians, you will want to prepare hard and have a very clear idea of how you want your record to sound. Speak to your producer and come up with a shared vision. A good plan might be to create a ‘mood board’ on Spotify. Collect inspirations to formulate ideas of how you would like your record sonically so you go into the studio with some idea of direction.

When you have a stronger idea of how you want the record to sound, you can start planning instrumentation and therefore the amount of musicians you will need to get in.  This will effect the recording set ups and the type of studio you need to record. This is why it is key to know your songs’ arrangements before you book the studio. The Polyphonic Spree could not have recorded in a small vocal booth.

The engineer will be there to, quite literally, engineer the sound to your liking. Most studios that you book will have their own engineer and therefore will be especially suited to the environment. However you may choose to go for an engineer you know or who specialises in your kind of music.

The studio is a very expensive place to be so make sure when you get in there you are ready to play those songs at the absolute top of your game. The recording studio is no place to rehearse, you are hemorrhaging money if you do that. Little mistakes your engineer can ‘fix’ or you can just leave them in if you like the messy, authentic Neil Young sound. Besides, fixing mistakes always sounds a little worse, so either get the part right or leave the mistake. With recording, like anything else in the world, preparation and hard work will see you through, it isn’t too much more complicated than that.

When taking any exciting steps forward you must also try to be wary of scams. For further reading see here.

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Mastering – Decoded

Mastering is the final step in the process, when your music bridges that gap from the studio to the public domain, it’s a magical feeling. To get your masters back and hear how it’s made all the difference in the world and at the same time seemingly little, it’s an invigorating time for any artist. You must be careful when you send your tracks off to be mastered that you don’t make the mistakes that have spoiled so many peoples hard work in the past. Remember these few key things before sending your tracks away to be mastered.

Avoiding over compression is essential, it is an irreversible mistake that mastering cannot fix. Always export you files in 24bit resolution, 16bit will sound dreadful. When mixing your tracks leave approximately 1/2 to 1db headroom in your files, whatever you do, make sure you don’t go into the red, no mastering engineer wants to deal with that.

An important thing to remember before you send your tracks away is don’t be a hero. Do not attempt in anyway to master the tracks yourself, before they are mastered professionally. If you have had to give reference files of your tracks to people and used digital limiting to make them louder, keep in mind that when you send them to be mastered, make sure you send both mixes, both with and without digital limiting. It will allow he or she who is mastering to hear how loud it should be, but still have the original mix to work with.

When you are sending the files to be mastered it’s a good idea to send them in one batch. This way there is no chance of inconsistencies between tracks. If you send your EP or album in separate batches it’s impossible to predict track to track juxtapositions and can lead to a lot of remastering needing to be done later in the process.

Success doesn’t have a magic formula but successful people do have certain things in common. Read more here.

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