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March 25, 2018

You’ll definitely be told ‘NO’ – but so did Kanye

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The role of Soundcloud in your career

Which streaming platform is the best one for you? 

Finding out how and where to share your content on the major streaming services, is a real headache for independent musicians, which is why Spinnup we do our best to take your distribution worries away. Our simple upload process and dedicated support team mean it’s easier than ever to share your content to stores, and earn money from your music being downloaded and streamed. For independent musicians, Soundcloud is often the first platform that is used to share music, and get it heard for free. But how do you graduate from Soundcloud to the big leagues, and what role should Soundcloud continue to play in your career?

In this article we’ll be outlining: 

  • The role of Soundcloud 
  • How to balance your presence on Soundcloud and the major music stores

Since its birth in 2007, Soundcloud has become one of the leading online music communities, one which completely disrupted the music industry. Soundcloud might be slowing in the press, but with over 175 million active and unique users, it is still an important platform that allows artists to independently promote their music, directly connect with their fan base, and get instant feedback from other passionate music lovers. 

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It is now a go-to music service for independent musicians, and rightly so, with many of the biggest artists of today owing their commercial success to the service. Artists from Post Malone, Snakehips, Chance The Rapper Kaytranada, to Lil Uzi Vert, all blew up from the Soundcloud community, and are paving the way for other upcoming artists to be discovered. But with the arrival of the other steaming giants like Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Unlimited, and now most recently, YouTube Music, it’s hard for all of us to decide how relevant Soundcloud is in the midst of it all. 

Luckily, we’ve come up with a tool kit, which breaks down how the different streaming services fit around your content, and how you can get the most from them.

1. Understanding the different platforms and fan bases

SoundCloud is a haven for upcoming artists, especially when it comes to releasing covers, and remixes of current hits and old-school classics. Despite the arrival of Soundcloud Go, the Premium tier, the platform still very much remains a tool of discovery for the unknown, and less so, for commercial artists and popular chart music. This is why Soundcloud is typically associated with select genres, like future beats, EDM, and Soundcloud Rap. 

SoundCloud Rap is a niche sub-genre of Hip-Hop, inspired by 2000s emo and pop punk, and the latest variations of Trap. Yet we’re seeing as the other digital streaming partners like Apple Music become more invested in Hip-Hop with The A-List: Hip-Hop playlist, and Spotify, with Rap Caviar, the so-called ‘Soundcloud Rapstars’, are starting to phase out of the system and focus on paid music services. When you feel ready to take the same step up from Soundcloud, you can diversify your content across these digital partners by distributing your music with Spinnup, which can help you to open up your fan base, and give you a better chance of tasting commercial success. 

But every platform has its purpose. If you’re serious about making a career out of your music, we recommend you think about putting more of your newer music on the major streaming platforms, and utilise Soundcloud as a place to catalogue more of your older material, remixes, and covers. It’s a great place to build a community and a fanbase, but it’s not where your career should live. Prioritising your content on the stores like Apple Music and Spotify gives your music legitimacy and also earns you money. At Spinnup we will help you get your music onto the best music services without ever signing over any royalties, you keep them all.

2. Avoid restricting all your content 

Soundcloud has a huge online community, but doesn’t compare to the combined audience of total streamers for both Spotify, and Apple Music, that amounts to over 200 million subscribers that you can expose your content to. One of the biggest differences between Soundcloud and Spotify/Apple Music is that the latter has a stronger focus on Playlist Curation, which is based around tons of different themes, ranging from genres, to moods, seasons, noteworthy events, and more. 

These streaming services have fundamentally changed how people listen to music and therefore how artists and songs break. Listeners now spend about half their time on Spotify listening to playlists (as opposed to albums), either of their own creation or curated by Spotify’s editors and other tastemakers. Tastemakers are popular users on Spotify who have playlists with a high audience. 

Universal Music has their own brand of playlists under the name Digster, which has a range of playlists under its large umbrella, and in many markets. At Spinnup, if your tracks catch our eye, it’s not unusual for our local teams to pitch the track to the UMG playlist team, which could see your music being exposed to hundreds of thousands of new fans.

3. Baby, I Got Your Money

We all know that you’re not going to become overnight millionaires relying on streaming revenue alone, so it helps to maximise all efforts! For just a small annual fee per release we distribute your music to all the major streaming platforms (45 in total!), and see you keep 100% of your royalty payments. 

With Soundcloud’s different subscription tiers, it can vary how much you can take back from your track streams, especially if you want access to certain level of data on your fan base, advertising revenue, and so on. This is great if you have a solid fan base on Soundcloud alone, but in most cases you’re freshly starting out and people are listening to your music for free. And always keep in mind that you don’t want to limit yourself to one platform. 

Plus once you’ve uploaded your music through Spinnup and it’s live on the stores, you can access our in-house analytics tool to track your earnings, sales, streams, and social media, all included in your artist account! We believe unsigned artists deserve to get paid fairly and stay in control of their music. That’s why we make sure that all Spinnup artists keep hold of all of their rights, and can remove their music any time they want. 

Armed with the low-down that we’ve provided you with today, start having a play on the various streaming platforms and see which one gets the biggest reactions from fans. Here at Spinnup we’re always on the lookout for fresh talent, so if you’re ready to get your music out there create your new release today! 

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Apple Music For Artists Guide

Updated 11th July 2018

Apple Music has undergone some changes recently when it comes to how they interact with their artists, in the form of their new artist account and stats tool, Apple Music For Artists. This tool has replaced the previous platform, Apple Music Connect, and we’ve got the lowdown on what it’s all about.

In this updated post we will explain what Apple Music for Artists is and how you can use it to make the most of the streaming giant’s new tool for artists. We’ll also take you through the steps to claim your profile and use all the features.

What is Apple Music for Artists?

Apple Music for Artists is essentially a dashboard where you’ll find all the useful data on your tracks in Apple Music. It’s currently still in beta mode, which means new features are likely to be introduced soon.

What can I do in Apple Music for Artists?

In the platform you can easily access your main stats in a recap on your ‘Overview’ page. You can then see more detailed information on your releases in the ‘Trends’ and ‘Places’ pages.

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In Trends, you can check how each song of yours is doing, and see which types of fans like it best. For instance, you can view fan data in terms of age range, country, continent, gender and plays by playlist you’re in.

These insights can give you ideas on where to tour particularly and who to target on any social media ads when you have news or release a new track.

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You can also view all of this data for song and album purchases (downloads), and radio spins!

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Take a look at the map to see in which cities (or countries) you have the most plays to better know where your music is reaching fans.

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It’s a great place to check your stats and see how your tracks and releases are doing in detail. You can adjust the way you see the stats to match your needs in graphs or maps.

Previously with Apple Music Connect you had the options to add content, videos and images to make yourself more accessible to fans. With Apple Music for Artists it’s a bit different, this time it’s more about checking your stats and analysing what your fans enjoy most and how they consume your music.

How do I create my profile?

Just like in Spotify For Artists, to create your Apple Music for Artists profile you have to make sure your music is already on there. At Spinnup we’ve got you covered as we distribute your music on all major music services – including Apple Music and iTunes.

You can then claim your artist profile by signing into Apple Music using your Apple ID. If you don’t have an Apple ID yet, create one here.

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Once you’ve logged in, you should click “Request artist access”.

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It will take you to a search bar where you can look up your artist name or band name.

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Once you’ve found yourself, you then select one of your releases and your role as the artist, manager or label representative.

If you have a manager, you can add them as an administrator to your profile and they’ll be able to see your stats as well. But don’t worry, you can always choose what they have access to.

And if you’re a manager, you can add multiple artists from your roster in your account.

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You then enter your contact information, management contact and social accounts for Apple to review your profile and make sure you are the artist you say you are. The screenshots are an example, please don’t try to claim Drake’s profile!

Getting approved may take some time but you will receive an email confirmation when you are free to login.

Don’t forget that you have access to loads of music data in your Spinnup artist app too! In your Stats page we have data and graphs from SIX of our biggest distribution partners, including Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, Amazon, Google Play and iTunes. This makes it easy to compare how you’re doing on the stores and where you can capitalise on your efforts, or where you have opportunity for growth. Here you can also see streams and downloads by country and access your sales in the balance page.

Please note that Apple Music for Artists is still in beta mode, so we’ll make sure to keep you updated on any new features to come, and if a mobile app is introduced!

 

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Building Your Team – Managers

Following on from our last instalment in Building Your Team series, today, we are going to look into perhaps one of the most important roles within your team; the manager. Hopefully, within your career, you will be presented with many opportunities. Your manager will either help to procure, navigate or maximise these opportunities, advising and guiding you through the business endeavours of your music whilst enabling you to focus on your creative.

The manager role can be somewhat all encompassing as more often than not, managers will work with artists as A&R’s, PR, agents, creative partners whilst also being your manager (particularly when you are first starting out). Perhaps being one of the most trusted members of your team, the difference between a good and bad manager can have a catastrophic effect on your career, so it is important you conduct your research and choose carefully.

LET’S DELVE INTO THE ROLES OF A MANAGER:

WHO ARE THEY?

Managers are the ‘hub’ of you career. Essentially acting as your ‘go-to’ person, your managers will aim to represent you successfully whilst carrying out your business affairs, keeping your contacts in order and your strategy in motion. To represent you successfully, this entails fulfilling an achievable aim/s such as ‘playing X amount of shows’ or ‘making X amount on money in X amount of time’ whilst remaining respectful to your vision. Music managers can come from an established management company or can be freelance individuals, neither of which is necessarily better than the other. It truly depends on your needs as an artist as some of you will be more business orientated, and thus require more exposure and assistance, whilst some of you will be new to the industry and lack the understanding required to be involved in such business decisions and career strategy.

With that said, there are different types of music managers including Personal Managers (day to day managers), Business Managers and Tour Managers. It is very easy to assume that once you have a manager that your career is set, but in reality, the question you should really be asking yourself is “what do I need a manager for?”. If you have nothing to manage; no live gigs, no music, no social media, no demos, what will a manager actually manage?

Although managers can open doors for you as an artist, you also need to work as hard (if not harder) and so, if there is nothing to push through that door, you probably don’t need a manager right now.

Some artists/creators opt to self-manage themselves which, although is usually only successful to a certain point, can work to educate yourself on the business. Although having representation provides and allure of professionalism to other potential investors such as labels, whilst also providing support to you as an artist, there is no shame in being self-managed for a bit.

EXAMPLES

Managers come in many different forms, whether they be one of your close friends (how Lady Gaga started), a parent (Brandy, Miley Cyrus, Usher), a freelance manager or industry figure with experience and keen to get involved, or from a management agency. The biggest and arguably most important factor in all of these potential managers is that they are a fan of yours, regardless of their past experience in the industry.

WHAT DO THEY DO?

Managers perform an array of tasks in an effort to execute your artistic vision in a successful manner. From arranging photo and video shoots, having your music playlisted, getting heard by tastemakers, labels or publishers to be signed, developing your artistic vision, securing blog and press coverage, negotiating business deals and terms and/or answering emails. Managers are one of the most consistently active people on your team requiring large levels of organisation, commitment and communication skills whilst showing an ability to cope well under pressure.

At its simplest, your manager will assist or spearhead the process of bringing together the people and projects to match the vision and aims set either individually by yourself or collectively with your manager. As discussed, a manager’s role will be different depending on what you need and what they can offer – and you don’t always have to stick with one (but of course, this must be discussed prior), as you may only need a manager to advise you on business matters or creative advice.

The roles of a manager largely depend on what point in your career you are as a client and what you want to achieve. Dealing with different aspects of your career, managers will strategically manoeuvre around the different characters and organisations in your career which all carry their own demands and challenges. With that said, having such an instrumental role in taking your career to the next step, a new manager with less experience is not always the worse option for you as an artist as they can provide a new strategy or insight into your next moves.

A good music manager will advise you whilst taking into account your best interests and will usually act as a point of contact between yourself and the outside industry and are therefore often the middleman. It is vitally important that a manager is diplomatic, able to problem solve and strategic in their representation of you.

WHEN SHOULD I GET ONE?

Managers can approach you quite early on in your development stages, when you have a buzz or before the buzz (and even after the buzz). Some artists get a head start without managers, and for many, managers are the first members of your team.

Some managers and management companies do not accept unsolicited demos, so it is sometimes not the best option to contact them first (although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do). Usually, it does work better in your favour if you are approached by them as you know there is a vested interest and passion in you as an artist and you are able to talk on more of an even playing field (people often want to discover and act rather than approached).

Similar to the previous article about lawyers, we would suggest talking to a few and keeping your options open before you commit to one. Talk to as many others (and consult lawyers) as you can, research the representation of artists/producers/bands you like and would compare yourself to and politely reach out to them. You are not always guaranteed a response but it is helpful to be on people’s radars.

Before committing to a manager, I would also suggest a trial period before signing anything to establish a working relationship. Often, this will feel like dating, however please don’t treat this as such (i.e. entering into a meeting with 30 character questions about their life). Some managers like to befriend their artist whereas others prefer to have a strictly working relationship. Making the choice between which one you prefer is down to you. Some great questions to ask a manager initially can be found here:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-choose-a-manager-for-your-band-2460419

HOW MUCH DO I PAY?

The standard rate is 20% commission of your gross income (money you make before taking off costs) which does have exceptions and can be negotiated. If a manager asks for a fee upfront, this is a major red flag to walk away – QUICKLY. Managers can claim back expenses and put in their own capital (if agreed to) as can you, but, managers work from commission.

UK management company High Time work on a 50/50 commission which is very uncommon, but understandable in this instance for what they offer their artists. Some managers work on a specific commission rates, i.e. only taking 10% on income less that $50,000 and taking 20% on income over $50,000 but again this is all negotiable.

Essentially however, 15%-20% is the general figure depending on how much revenue you bring in – the more money you make, the smaller the justifiable commission rate requested). There are some other rules regarding live shows and advances you receive if signed to a label which can be waived, for example your manager only making money from a show after costs have been deducted, but you must speak to your lawyer about this before agreeing to anything.

DO I NEED THEM?

Honestly, yes. But for what purpose and when in your career is completely up to you. In the age of DIY, more power is in the hands of artists, meaning there is less of a need for publishers and labels, but even more of a need for managers to be able to generate creative and innovative ways for audience consumption.

Having a manager is not an indicator of success, but it is an opportunity. It is easy to feel comfortable once you have a manager, but really, the hard work increases tenfold as you are now responsible for someone else’s salary alongside your own. It is better to be approached by a manager rather than be approached, and it also important to know what you want and what you require from the relationship.

Having a manager can mean you are taken more seriously, but working with the wrong manager, one who is not passionate about your work, does not understand the vision, or has no plans for you can be damaging to your career. Do all you can for yourself to create a project that a manager would want to get vested into to give yourself an advantage, set some goals and get to work on some trial periods before you commit to just one, unless your first manager is the best for you which does happen!

You’ve reached the end, what a ride! I hope you’ve found this helpful. Now go make some stuff to manage – I’ll catch you next time when we talk about music producer/s.

 

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Collaborating with other musicians; a success strategy for artists

Artist collaboration is one of the biggest creative forces driving music today. And if you’re an independent artist looking to project your talents onto a wider audience, it’s probably one the best success strategies out there.

It could hold the key to your entire career!

So, with that small matter in mind, we’re going to look at the following:

  • How collaboration works in the music industry today
  • Why you should be doing it
  • How to find likeminded artists to work with
  • The rules that will make your artistic collaborations a success

How collaboration works in the music industry today

We’re living through a significant era of music collaboration. w. Collaborations are providing breakthrough opportunities for new acts and reinvigorating the careers of more established ones.

What’s making that happen?

The main driver for this is the massive rise in online streaming, which now accounts for around 50% of all music consumption in the UK and US markets alone. With social media playing such an important role in promoting artists’ work, producers and musicians are taking advantage of the obvious benefits that ‘piggy-backing’ on each-others fan bases can bring.

Both phenomena lend themselves well to collaboration, so you can see why it’s now being regarded as the best pathway to launching a successful track. It’s worth pointing out that the bulk of collaborations are taking place across hip-hop and EDM, with producer/artists seeking multiple collaborations with solo musicians and singer/songwriters. Bands tend to be build a more defined, tribal identity with their fans and this can get diluted when you start bringing in other artists on a regular basis.

But that’s not to say bands don’t collaborate! Let’s not forget, the most significant collaboration in the history of music ever was ‘Walk this Way’ featuring Run DMC & Aerosmith waaaay back in 1986. That collaboration brought hip-hop to the masses. I’m sure you’ll agree, that makes it a fairly big deal!

Why you need to be collaborating with other artists

At this stage in your career, it goes without saying that the biggest challenge you face is being seen and heard by a wide enough audience. The beauty of collaborations is that you can work with other artists in the same boat, allowing you to pool fan bases and promote each other to your fans, whilst also inspiring each other with your creativity and ideas at the same time! If you find the right partner, it can open-up a whole new world of sounds, styles and opportunities. You’ll certainly learn more and grow faster than you ever could sitting alone in your bedroom.

Furthermore, as we’re about to find out, discovering artists to work with has never been easier.

How to find other artists to work with

The great things about collaboration these days is that you don’t need to be in the same city, or even country if you want to work with someone. In many ways it even makes a lot more sense to look for artists who do not share your location, or musical style. In fact, the best collaborations are often the ones that fuse contrasting styles together.

Stepping out of your comfort zone and working with artists from different sides of the artistic coin gives you the best chance of building that creative friction. This has been known to occasionally allow magic to happen. When producer Rick Rubin first pitched the idea of rapping Aerosmith’s original lyrics to ‘Walk This Way’, Run DMC were less than impressed by the idea. In fact, DMC’s exact response was:

“We said, ‘Motherfucker, this is hillbilly gibberish, this is fucking bullshit!'”

If you asked him now, he’d probably admit that he’s glad he changed his mind. So, it certainly pays to be brave in your choices and to keep an open mind.

Useful tools:

There are lots of website’s out there that help you find likeminded artists to collaborate with. Some of the best include:

Kompoz

A platform that lets you produce music in real-time with producers all around the world.

ProCollab

A place to find producers, sound engineers, songwriters, vocalists – everything you need to get creative, basically.

Splice

A dedicated community that lets you seek out and find other artists to work with.

Spinnup

While we don’t have collaboration features, we do have an active community of over 180,000 artists. The best way to discover some of the amazing talent on our platform is via our curated playlists, if you find someone you’d like to explore working with, simply track them down via their social media channels. If you go this route, we’d love to hear more about it!

How to make your collaborations a success

In this age of streaming and social media, the truth is that it shouldn’t be too difficult to find artists you want to work with. The difficulty is making that collaboration a success. The most important thing you need to get right, in this regard, is to make sure you are all on the same page when it comes to establishing how the collaboration is going to work. It’s too easy to rush off and start working with people in that first flush of enthusiasm, only for things to turn sour further down the line.

If there is one thing you all need to do from the outset; it is to be very clear about each other’s goals and your expectations of one another.

Who’s in charge?

This is an easy question to answer if one of you is more successful than the other. If Calvin Harris asks you to collaborate with him, you’re probably going to expect him to call the shots. When you’re both in a similar position, there is a huge risk that one of you is going to become frustrated or that a misunderstanding will poison the atmosphere further down the line.

Over’ communicate

The best way to avoid this is to make sure you have all the difficult conversations upfront.

Bad communication kills dreams so make sure you have discussed the following before you begin:

  • What do they expect for themselves
  • What do they expect from you
  • Are you confident your artistic needs are understood
  • Have you been clear about what you expect from them

It might all sound a bit serious, but we’d even go so far as to write it all down before you begin in an agreement. It will help to be able to revisit what you originally agreed when you’re in the thick of the project and there is a disagreement.

Working with established artists

The brave amongst you might be aiming to set your sights a little higher. And hey, why not? Even the biggest artists on the planet are desperately looking for their next source of inspiration, and there’s no reason why that can’t be you. Access is always difficult. And while there’s no recipe for success, some really determined artists go to great lengths to get close enough to pitch their tracks to the right people.

Writing for artists you admire is a great technique, and if you think you have something they’ll like then you’ll need to find a way of getting it heard by them. Some producers go as far as hiring studios in the same building as artists they want to work with. Others boast of befriending friends of their friends and slowly working their way in from the outer to inner circle. The most important thing you can do is make sure you are always ready. You never know when you might bump into the right person so always keep your music with you.

Finally, if you do see them, keep it low-key and make sure you sell it as something that adds value to them. Every artist is interested in working with people who can help them improve; no-one is interested in collaborating with a crazed super-fan.

Collaboration can be a great tool for success; it can help you discover new styles, grow your reach and inspire you to new creative heights. Get it wrong however, and it can be a waste of time, effort and energy. Take your time to find the right people and follow the above steps before rushing into the heavy commitments of a new projects.

We hope you’ve found this guide useful. Don’t forget to keep coming back for more useful tricks and tips to help you with your musical journey. Hopefully, we’ll soon be featuring your next collaboration on our Spinnup Artists’ Playlist.

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Building your team – lawyers

Today we continue on with our Spinnup Series on Building Your Team, this time we’re looking at lawyers. If you as a music producer, artist, songwriter or band have ever signed a piece of paper pertaining to your music or career, you may have consulted or, have been advised to consult a lawyer. Obviously looking after everything law related, lawyers can actually play an even bigger and more encompassing role in your team.

A music lawyer (the suits of the industry), alongside other members in your team (including your manager, PR etc) can play a pivotal role in planning and advising your next musical and career moves, expanding on the expected legal advice you may need regarding contracts and agreements.

Let’s Look A Little Bit Closer at Lawyers:

WHO ARE THEY?

Within your career, lawyers can sometimes play the middle man between yourself as a client and the industry (similar to the role of an A&R which we will cover in a future article…). They work to protect your rights and interests and rights of whoever else they are speaking with on your team including musicians, song writers, producers, managers etc. Very often however, these people will have different lawyers as to avoid a ‘Conflict of Interest’.

Existing under the umbrella of entertainment law, you will find that many lawyers you speak with specialise in a particular area of the music industry; for example, some may only deal with music rights, whilst others may expand to digital services and brands and others encompassing live music. It may seem logical to side with a lawyer that covers everything, however as creators, you will all have different needs and therefore, it is important to establish these going forward so you know what you want to achieve and what you require as a result. Think of this in the same way that general lawyers specify in their area (i.e. family law, civil law, criminal law etc) and therefore, if in court for a criminal offence (we hope not!) you would not consult a family lawyer for your representation. Understanding therefore what you need help with and how long the period is that you require this help makes it much easier for you to find the perfect lawyer for your needs.

Examples

SSB 

CLINTONS 

SHERIDANS

RUSSELS

And many more… It is suggested that recommendations from other artists and creators are indeed the best method of locating a lawyer however, you can research into this through online directories and consulting the Law Society (in the UK).

WHAT DO THEY DO?

Lawyers can perform a number of tasks depending on what you require. They can be instrumental in performing activities on your behalf including protecting and enforcing your rights as an artist, registering your trademarks, getting a fair deal between yourself and your label/manager/band members/co-writers/producers and clearing samples to name a few.

A good music lawyer will have your best interests at heart, usually following a code of ethics. It’s quite easy to assume that the roles of a lawyer are restricted to just the legal side of your work involving vetting contracts and negotiations. However, their responsibilities can actually stretch a bit further, looking not only at what contracts you’re receiving but also, the value of these and what they could mean for your future contracts (and therefore assessing your position and point of leverage as an artist).

Typically, your lawyer will work closely with you directly or your manager to gage your aspirations and goals for your career and thus, working to initially offer advice in generating creative short term and long terms plans to actualise your vision by assessing what opportunities you may have. The lawyer can then advise you on what is best, or, take an active role in negotiating agreements in your favour in accordance to your prior defined goals. Therefore, they can do as little or as much as you want and need really (within reason).

 

WHEN SHOULD I GET ONE?

Usually, it is advised that you should start looking for a lawyer the second you are asked to sign anything. The initial consultation (usually free) will work to establish a working relationship between you and your lawyer early on. However, leading UK lawyer Ann Harrison (SSB) suggests that you should start to look for a lawyer even earlier than this in an attempt to create a solid plan prior to being offered anything. Therefore, it is up to you as a creator to make the call on whether you just need a bit of help planning or more.

Before settling on one prospective lawyer, you should meet with as many as possible to find the one for you. It’s suggested that you should let lawyers know that you are speaking to others/still looking for a lawyer if you are (but you don’t have to tell them who) as to keep up good relations. Think about it this way: if you give an hour of your time and expertise for free to someone and think you have secured them as your future client only to be told at the end that they are “still looking and will get back”, you would be a little bit annoyed, right? Better to be upfront.

 

HOW MUCH DO I PAY?

After selecting your lawyer, it is of massive importance to find out if you are actually able to agree to the fee arrangement that they are asking of you (if they have decided they would like to actually represent you). Often, lawyers are paid on an hourly basis but, some will arrange to take a commission/cut from your deal revenues whilst others will charge a fixed rate. Your initial consultation should usually be free of charge but do bear in mind to ask if they accept payment instalments or charge interest on client balances etc.

Lawyers can charge between £100-400+ per hour and so, it’s easy to be discouraged by hourly rates (as they can be quite hefty). Do remember however that not everything actually requires more than an hour and so, depending on what you need them for, it may be worth asking how much they charge on average for specific jobs (i.e. management deals, publishing deals, recording deals etc) as lawyers will work at different speeds and charge different rates and so, sometimes the costlier lawyer per hour may actually work out to be cheaper than the cheaper lawyer per hour as they are much quicker. Do be wary however of lawyers who are not upfront with their costs.

 

DO I NEED THEM?

In short, yes you do need an entertainment lawyer on your side. But when and to what extent is completely up to you!

Perhaps you need help with negotiations or understanding your rights or actual representation. Your lawyer should be able to read and approve and explain anything you don’t understand before you respond. Though it’s important to find a music lawyer who you trust to represent you completely in business and legal areas, please do consider the other implications on yourself and your other team members and thus, it’s important to find a lawyer who you click with and who your team also click with. So, if you do it by phone or in person, do prepare your plans and goals and questions for a few lawyers before you find the one. Find out what, and if, they specialise in anything, how quick their turnovers are, how soon they can work, their fee and importantly, their payment terms. But, don’t feel pressured or obliged to side with a lawyer because of their track record: if you get a bad feeling or just don’t click, do not hire.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of this legal lecture! I said it last time but again, it’s important to assess where you are in your career and what are your actual goals when it comes to securing a lawyer before committing. Next on the agenda, managers.

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Photo studio

What makes good artwork? A study

After the music, your cover art is the next most important thing to think about when releasing your music and putting it out there in the world to see. But what makes good cover art?

In this post I wanted to:

• show some practical examples of great cover art from Spinnup artists
• outline techniques, colours or symbols used that make it good artwork
• and include some handy links and info (down the bottom!)

Professor David Machin stated in his book Analysing Popular Music: 

“Artists need to tell us about themselves, about who they are, their meaning as an act and how to understand their music, not just through the kinds of sounds they make, but also through the way they look and move, through the photographs in which we see them and the artwork they use on record sleeves. We are generally able to hazard a guess at what a band will sound like, through a record sleeve or a publicity shot.” (Machin, 2010) 

Our first interaction with an artist or band is through their cover art, which gives us a hint of what the music is going to sound like. Like it or not, many of us do judge a book by its cover and having attractive cover art can be an important selling point. 

 “Album artwork is a statement by the musician on how they want themselves or the music to be perceived.”   

It helps fans to build a visual representation of the artist and the aesthetic that they will be recognised for in years to come. As Samuel Burgess-Johnson (2016), creative director for massive British band The 1975 states, album artwork is “a statement by the musician on how they want themselves or the music to be perceived.”   

In the age of streaming and downloading, album art has turned into more of a formality but that also means developing a strong visual identity is more important than ever.  

Good album art is so important from a marketing sense. Like a website, it needs to get the viewer’s attention within seconds, and it’s also about catching the eye of important industry personnel, such as press and A&R. 

Certain colours, text, objects and settings etc, serve potential meanings and give certain ideas and values. In this post I will analyse cover art from three different Spinnup artists, one that’s more minimal, one photo based, and one illustration. I will show examples of how each of them use certain aesthetics to communicate the music and lyrics. 

PLEASE NOTE: This analysis will pick out ‘potential meanings’, they aren’t fixed but are my own interpretation.  

Cortes – ‘She’s A Machine’ 

The first example is by London based rock band Cortes (you can read our introducing post about them here. 

The cover for ‘She’s A Machine’ denotes a large hand drawn skull with long and the title of the single written centre bottom. 

Shes A Machine FINAL

Let’s firstly look at the colours used – it is a minimal colour palette of black and white. Black is a colour often used in rock artwork and is usually associated with death, darkness and evil. In the context of the album cover, black is used to represent the music’s genre but it goes a lot further than this.  

Black suggests themes of power and in this context, the power that the woman has. In the song, lead singer Andy Cortes sings: “wrapped around her fingertips”, “got me tripping thinking money is power.”  

The colour black often has negative connotations and in relation to the song, the woman also carries toxic connotations, she’s evil and rebellious, as Cortes sings: “here comes trouble”, and says negative thing’s about her: “she’s stealing all of my time”, it’s when he sings: “And I still can’t quit”, it suggests that the woman is like a drug that drains you of your time and energy, and one that you can’t quit.

Being that it’s not a pure black (it has a bit of a grungy texture), could suggest that the music is similarly grungy and not clean sounding – which is true. Black is also a mysterious colour – which links to the mysteriousness of the woman in the song. She is never named, but is visualised by a skull and described as a ‘machine’.  

Let’s also talk about the only other colour used here – white. The opposite to black in tone and meaning, represents purity and innocence, it makes the drawing and text stands out from the background in order to be seen and signify its importance.

‘She’s A Machine’, is a song about a woman who is trouble, which is not only presented through the lyrics and music, but the imagery. Skulls often used on covers in the rock and metal genre, for example Avenged Sevenfold’s and Steppenwolf’s covers all use skulls. See images below. 

 

Skulls are most commonly linked to death. In the figure of a skull the woman holds some sort of power over him, as Cortes sings: “made a fool out of me”. In this context, the skull is hand drawn with long hair of a woman, which gives it elegance and characterises it making it less intimidating. Cortes is making light out of something dark and suggesting the idea that the woman can’t make a fool out of him forever.  

A skull is a natural thing, which contrasts to a machine. But could mean that although Cortes refers her as a machine, she is still human underneath.  

It’s interesting to point out that there is no band name on the artwork, which is often the case when a band is very established (see Foo Fighters Concrete and Gold and Bowie’s Blackstar). This is a bold move by the band, although this cover in particular comes as a set of three with all the same visual theme, displaying the band’s own emerging aesthetic.  

 

Cortes have successfully illustrated their music through their artwork, conforming to the colour black associated with rock music and certain imagery to portray a character. 

 

Eif  – Bridges 

For this next one I have decided to analyse Danish artist Eif’s ‘Bridges’ which is a photography based image (again, you can read our introducing post about her here) 

This album cover combines photography with graphic art to create and interesting image. Eif herself has a very unique look, with her pink pixie cut and striking blue eyes. The wavy painted strokes around her draws you into her face, which enhances her importance. 

 eif cover bridges

The colours here are quite pastel but the overall colour is blue – more specifically Copenhagen blue, which is a greyish hue. This colour was suitably chosen because Copenhagen is Eif’s hometown and what the song was inspired by. We can also makes links between the song’s inspiration of Copenhagen’s harbours to the colour blue. 

Album art with a photograph of the artist can carry a lot of meaning. From the way their gaze is, to their body language. In this image, Eif is posing for the camera, her body language is confident and she makes eye contact with the viewer. This is often the case in cover art for big female pop artists such as Beyonce. The gaze that Eif has is intimate, not really smiling, she actually looks somewhat disapproving, with a strength and attitude. The layers of paint around her could represent her thick skin and that to get to know her you have to listen to her music, getting through the layers of blue to a more colourful world where her stunning vocals lie. 

There is no name on the cover art, like Cortes, but there is also no single title either. Again, this is a bold move because having no text on an album cover is usually the case for very established bands such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon. Even when we look at Beyonce’s album cover for there is text but it is obstructed, implying that we already know who she is and don’t need to be able to read her name. Eif is presenting a strong image in order to get away with using no text. 


Mako Road – The Green Superintendent   

Finally I will analysing New Zealand band Mako Road’s fantastic imagery for The Green Superintendent. This super colourful and whacky cover got my attention straight away; they are one of Spinnup’s most colourful visual artists I have come across. Their artwork and music caught my eye so much I wrote about them in this Introducing piece.

It’s not just the bright colours, but the striking text and cartoon-like qualities that make it really stand out. The colours are unnatural, which gives it an otherworldly feeling. Bright colours are often used in pop music, and artists such as Mika, Maroon 5 and Major Lazer have all used cartoon imagery in their covers (just a coincidence they all begin with the letter ‘M’?!).  

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Mako Road have developed a sound that combines acoustic guitar music, with ska and reggae. The band has communicated their interesting sound through their artwork effectively, mainly by the use of colour and settings. Bands within this genre such as The Shamblés have taken a similar approach in their cartoon style artwork with bright colours. And traditionally reggae music is always associated with bright colours. 

When it comes to branding its not just what your name sounds like but also, what it looks like and the message it gets across.  

On the album cover, Mako Road’s name is super bold in the bright colour of cyan, a very calming colour -like the colour of a tropical lagoon. This reflects the chilled out guitars in the songs on the EP.

The typeface is bold and bubbly, giving it a fun, child-like feel. It’s positioned bottom right but takes up at least a quarter of the artwork, which suggests its importance. In contrast the album cover name is a lot smaller and is literally black and white, the typeface isn’t bold – almost like it doesn’t really need to be seen and that the imagery illustrates the album cleverly enough. 

The Green Superintendent is drawn as a character with long hair, a green hat and wears a flamboyant shirt. He’s holding a bottle of beer and smoking a cigarette and points at a pink sky with a colourful planet. This reflects the lyrics “the green superintendent flies to the edge of the sky”.