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5 reasons why every ambitious artist should have a manager

Here at Spinnup we often make references to managers, kind of assuming that they’re an essential part of the music business. But are they really?


Well yes, yes they are. That doesn’t mean as an unsigned artist without a manager you should stop everything until you do, not at all, but you should absolutely have in your mind that one day you’ll be wanting and needing a manager to help your music career progress. Why? Well things like…


1. You can concentrate on being a musician
Becoming a successful musician is a vocation, a time consuming, all encompassing way of life. However actually being successful isn’t just about having amazing music, although that is generally a pre-requisite, but there’s all kinds of other stuff that has to be taken care of that really doesn’t have much to do with the actual business of writing, recording and performing music. And that’s where a manager comes in. You take care of the music, and they can take care of all the other stuff. You didn’t get into music because you love dealing with contracts and business negotiations and travel plans and all other kinds of admin did you? If you answered ‘yes’ to that maybe that’s because another good reason for having a manager is that…


2. A manager is your person for saying ‘No’
Let’s be honest, saying ‘Yes’ is usually pretty easy. Everyone loves to hear a ‘Yes’. It makes them feel valued and loved and generally good all round. ‘No’ however can be harsh. A cold and unforgiving word (although not one YOU should ever let stop you – these guys didn’t), but there are times that while as easy as it may be to say ‘Yes’ to something, the best answer for you is actually ‘No’. And if that’s not something you feel able to say, or you can’t trust yourself to say ‘No’ when under pressure, leave it to your manager. Knowing when and how to say ‘No’ properly is a critical part of their job.


3. Having a good manager shows that you’re serious and are taken seriously
Note ‘good’ here – having a terrible manager is much worse that none at all, but assuming you can get someone who knows what they’re doing (see here [] for our advice for going about that) a good manager will make a world of difference. It’s a clear sign that you are part of a professional set-up that expects to be and will be taken seriously. Because you’re serious about your music, and expect the same in return from your business and commercial partners. Not least so that…


4. You get paid properly
Being an artist is not like a full time job where you get a regular pay check every week or month. It’s more akin to being a freelancer or a consultant. You get paid by the job or according to certain goals or achievements. And as every freelancer or consultant can tell you, sometimes you have to chase people for the money you’re due. Not because they’re dishonest or not going to pay you, it’s just that some times you have to remind people that they owe you money. And that’s what a manager will do for you. Not only is it their job to do that, but they don’t get paid if you don’t.


5. A reputable label won’t want to deal with you unless you have a manager
And finally and perhaps most importantly, no label that knows what it’s doing will sign any artists who are not properly represented. They want to know that the person they’re signing a contract with is fully aware of what they’re agreeing to. That’s what a manager does. They help advise an artist on how to get the best in any deals on offer, and avoid terrible ones that aren’t in your best interest (see here for some examples of those.

 For a complete overview of this see Artist Management – Decoded.

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5 Good Habits Every New Artist Should Get Into

As with success in any field, developing good habits is key to making it as far as you would like to go. Get into a good daily routine and you are half way there. Here are some things that, as a musician, you should try to establish as habits.

1. Respond To Emails

One of the most irritating things for a promoter, agent, manager, label or any member of the industry to have to deal with is the disorganisation of artists. You must make sure you keep your inbox nice and empty, when people ask you a question make sure that you get straight back to them with a response, even if it doesn’t seem important at the time the more reliable you appear the more people will be inclined to email you in the future. One of those emails might be an opportunity that you would otherwise not have received.

2. Practice 

There is not a single successful musician, sportsman, potter or any person whose job requires a skill set, that did not practice hard to get to where they are today. It is essential to never lose sight of your craft, work on it and respect it, you will reap the benefit. The world of music that you are trying to break into is tough and there are lots of things to learn for everyone who wants to make it, but no manager, record label or anyone that matters can deny someone who is good. Practice makes perfect, as long as you never think you’re perfect.

3. Exercise

This is not specific to musicians but it will help. Do 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise everyday and it will make you a more energised, functional and happier person. We promise, this will help your music career even if it seems like an incongruous thing to have on the list.


4. Write

You should be writing everyday. It does not matter whether you are a vocalist, lyricist, bass player or percussionist, you need to dedicate yourself to writing new material. A new bass line, set of lyrics, guitar hook or melody. As long as you are being inventive everyday, you will remain hungry and your music will stay fresh and innovative. Also studies have shown that the creation of new music is one of two things (the other is learning a new language) that activates new areas of the brain in adulthood and can help keep Alzheimer’s and dementia away. That’s just a little bonus.


5. Network

Yuk! Oh my god, what a horrible word. Lots of people hate this word, almost understandably. It betrays the natural honesty of conversation and conjures the idea that the only reason you would talk to and eventually befriend anyone is if they could be of some use to you in the future. But really it doesn’t have to be that bad. People in the music business need to know each other for the whole operation to run cohesively and effectively. Try not to think about it as a sordid activity, really the name makes it sound worse than it is and once you get to know people, most of them are nice. One of the wonderful things about the world is that most people are good. It might be scary, it might be odd, but everyone needs to know each other and whoever you are talking to will see the value in you too.

Another good habit is to be informed. We’ve tried to make this as fun as possible but it is still Intellectual Property – Decoded

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5 really annoying things unsigned artists shouldn’t do

As you’re serious about this music thing, about making it as a recording artist, here at Spinnup we want to help. It’s not easy being a successful musician and so the last thing we want to see you disadvantaged by easily avoidable mistake.

Through the team here at Spinnup, our amazing scouts and our friends at Universal Music we’ve seen and been on the receiving end of a lot of things done by unsigned artists that not only don’t work but can actually set you back. So we strongly advise against any of the following…

1. Make it really hard to find you and make contact
You’d be surprised how often this is overlooked. As an unsigned artist your number one priority is to make sure people can find you – whether that’s fans and potential fans, promoters, managers, labels, whoever. If you are getting yourself and your music out there, for example through Spinnup, then it’s crucial that if you do catch someone’s interest they know how to get hold of you. Make sure contact details – e-mail, mobile, whatever, are on everything, easy to find and guarantee a private way of reaching you.

2. Don’t make any music easily available for people to hear for free
Music is obviously an audio medium – it’s something first and foremost you hear. So it’s imperative that you make it really really easy, and free, for people who are interested in you can actually hear what you and your music sounds like. Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, it’s up to you. You don’t have to post loads, and we don’t actually think you should, but there has to be something, a least a few tracks to show what you’re capable of, and only one click away from all your main online profiles.

3. Like this? Then you’ll love me!
Some people think that by trying to hijack another artists’ fans and social media by claiming to be similar and posting a link to their music they will gain fans. They won’t. They’re just being really annoying.

4. Send pleading or aggressive ‘Follow me’ Tweets
Similarly people choose to follow a Twitter feed because something about that person interests them and appeals. There could be shared interests, common areas of communication, all sorts of reasons for the follow. What there won’t have been is a tweet from someone completely unknown to the recipient begging, or worse, angrily demanding or threatening, a follow. You wouldn’t follow someone who popped up out of the blue like that. Neither will anyone else.

5. Spam
Yes getting people to pay attention to you and to take an interest can be a long road indeed. Taking the spam lane may feel like you’ve hit the accelerator because you are doing something. And you never know right? Someone might pick up you who wouldn’t otherwise. Got to be worth a try hasn’t it? Well, no, it’s not. Nobody you want to reach responds to spam. You may not have suddenly joined the ranks of the professional spam merchants, whoever they are, but if you’re sending off countless generic e-mails to people who’ve never heard of you, then sadly you have become just another spammer. And that’s not who you are – you’re a musician. So stick to music, not spam.

Steer clear of that despicable time and we’re sure you’ll be signed in no time. So you’ll need to read this Record Deals – Decoded.

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5 artists who didn’t take ‘No’ for an answer

You’re ambitious, you know your music is amazing and going to change the world. Unfortunately not everyone you meet might share that view and may in fact decline to help turn you into a global superstar.

But fear not, everyone hears an unmistakeable ‘No’ along the way at some point. Just look at these now super famous artists who felt the cold hand of rejection only to emerge much better off later:

1. Destiny’s Child

Multi-million selling mega-band was not how the judges on US TV talent show Star Search saw six piece all female band Girls Tyme in 1992. They lost. Undeterred, Matthew Knowles, father of one of the group, a certain Beyoncé Knowles, gave up his job to manage them full time. Three years later everything paid off when the band, now a quartet called Destiny’s Child, signed to Elektra Records. Until the label dropped them a few months later feeling they were “Too young and undeveloped”. It wasn’t until the following year that they signed another record deal and the future entry of ‘Bootylicious’ into the dictionary was secure.


2. Sex Pistols

In the 1970s the Sex Pistols blew away established stars and breathed new life into the UK music scene. When they actually managed to stop getting dropped by labels and release music that was. In 1976 the band signed to EMI and released ‘Anarchy In The UK’. One swearing filled TV appearance and a scandalised nation later and EMI backed out of the contract. A few months afterwards, now with Sid Vicious on board, the band signed to A&M Records. Before they too decided to part ways with the band. Finally, in May 1977, the band joined Virgin Records and a punk legend was assured.


3. Katy Perry

The Sex Pistols with their three-record-company run have nothing on the all-conquering Katy Perry who didn’t ascend to global superstardom until her fourth label, Capitol Records, signed up to support the Californian Gurl. As the pop queen herself explains: “There was a lot of the word ‘No’ being thrown my way and I just never accepted that.” It seems that lots of people were of the opinion that Ms Perry should try to emulate other female artists who were successful at the time. Katy Perry however was determined to be Katy Perry and was sure that she knew best how that worked. And boy was she right.


4. Elvis Presley

It’s pretty much impossible now to imagine that anyone could have heard or seen Elvis Presley and not instantly realised that this was probably the most amazing and charismatic rock star of all time. But they did. Lots of them. In 1954 Elvis failed an audition for local Tennessee band The Songfellows because they felt he couldn’t sing well enough. Soon afterwards he tried out for another band who also rejected him, telling him in all seriousness: “You’re never going to make it as a singer”. And then even once he’d released a few singles on Sun Records, after his first (and as it turned out, only) performance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, the venue’s manager told him: “You ain’t going nowhere son. You ought to go back to driving a truck”. Elvis was not in fact his son and thankfully did not go back to driving a truck. Two years later he released ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and nothing has been the same since.


5. The Beatles

Yes, The Beatles. The history defining, sold-more-records-than-any-other-band-ever Beatles. Everyone knows The Beatles now but even they had to deal with people who didn’t see how utterly amazing they were. In 1962 they auditioned for Dick Rowe, A&R manager of UK label Decca. He passed, famously remarking that “Guitar music is on the way out.” Fortunately George Martin at EMI was not of the same opinion and signed the band a few months later, became their producer and a crucial member of team Beatles which changed history forever. Things didn’t end too badly for Rowe though, he quickly realised the error of his ways. When Beatle George Harrison recommended he check out another new guitar music band he sure did that. And signed them. They did alright as well, in fact still are – The Rolling Stones.

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5 ways to lose fans quickly

To be a successful artist, you need fans. Fans support you, watch you play live, buy your stuff. Without them, you are just another person with dreams.

And fans need to be looked after with extreme care and consideration. Even if you’re only at the stage of being on first name terms with your still limited circle of fans, you need to take care of them and never take them for granted. It only takes one or two stupid things and you can lose them forever. So don’t do things like this:

1. Spam them

Building up an e-mail list of fans is one of the most basic and essential things you need to do to nurture your fans. So if someone has been trusting enough of you to give you their e-mail address, never abuse that trust. Once someone requests an unsubscribe or you slip into the junk folder, there’s no coming back from there. Only send out useful information by e-mail and don’t send them out every day, or even every few days. Keep them relevant and spread out. Save the more frequent updates for Twitter. And speaking of Twitter, don’t…

2. Only use your Twitter account to promote and try to sell things

Twitter is a social network, so people reasonably expect it to be sociable, a two-way channel of communication for like-minded souls. Not another promotional or sales channel to constantly try to relieve people of their hard come by money. Failing to realise this with Twitter is an excellent way of scaring away as many followers as possible in a very short space of time.

3. Turn up late for live shows

The audience are the ones paying to see you live. They’re the customers, they’re the ones who don’t have to be there, and if you keep them waiting by being late, they probably won’t bother being there next time. If the promoter who you’ve also messed around by your inability to turn up punctually is even interested in a next time that is.

4. Be a hater

It can feel good to let off steam, vent a little about things that really genuinely make you angry. Other artists or music that you can’t stand for example. It’s also a really effective way of signalling to the people you want to like you that you’re maybe a little insecure and might not be as good as you think you are. Even if one side technically ‘wins’ a fight, they always suffer some damage as well. Keep any really negative thoughts about other music to yourself or to your most private and trusted confidants.

5. Disappear

There are so many platforms and channels for artists and fans to engage and communicate now, not least all the commercial music services  you can reach with your music worldwide through Spinnup. And critical to building your profile both online and offline is to keep regularly updating with news and releasing music and doing as much else as you can (obviously as per no.1 in this list, there is the spam line that you must never cross). Fans want what’s new and interesting and you must constantly feed their interest. If you don’t, don’t be surprised if they switch allegiance to someone else. Silence is most definitely not golden!

On a more positive note, here’s how to gain fans, Building A Fanbase – Decoded.

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5 scams bad people try to pull on unsigned artists that you must avoid

Spinnup is here to distribute your songs all over the world and together with our Scouts help you promote your music, develop your career and hopefully get you discovered.

Unfortunately there are people out there who, for reasons that range from massive greed to pure scumbaggery, see ambitious unsigned artists as something to be exploited and ripped off. These people are evil and you shouldn’t ever have anything to do with them. So here are a few tips on what to look out for and avoid.

1. Fees for A&R introductions or other industry contacts

There are people out there who claim to be A&Rs, or to know some, and for a fee of money will help broker introductions even get a deal. But only if the unsigned artist pays this person first. These people are what are known as LIARS. A&Rs are the people in labels who discover and sign new artists, working with them to help create and develop their craft. They do not get paid by unsigned artists. Ever. Anyone who suggests otherwise is simply not a legitimate music industry professional and should be given as wide a berth as possible. Real A&Rs find exciting new artists. They don’t need to fleece those artists for cash before they’ll listen to or work with them.


2. Pay up front to be represented

Managers and agents are paid by commission, in other words, they only get paid if the artist they represent gets paid. So if someone says they want to represent you as your manager or agent, but they first they need to be paid by you in advance of doing anything, they are not a manager or agent as understood by the music industry.


3. Charges for playing live

Gigging is an essential activity for almost all unsigned artists, and as we’ve said before it’s very important to get right  if you’re serious about this whole music thing. It’s also very important to not get ripped off in the process. Some venues may determine their fee based on how many fans you bring along, and there may be a minimum guarantee of tickets you have to sell. If that’s the case, once you pass that minimum you must have the ability to actually earn a share of the money from the sales you bring in. And it should be completely clear upfront what that break-even point is. Think about what is realistic for you and that you’re comfortable with that.


4. Buying tickets for mystery unsigned artist nights

This is a scam that pops up from time to time – unsigned artists are approached by a supposed promoter who has supposedly selected them to appear in a night of unsigned artists. All the artist has to do is buy tickets to guarantee their appearance, they will then get more tickets to sell for themselves, and never see their money again or hear any more about this supposed gig. There are lots of nights out there for unsigned artists and you should absolutely be trying to get on the bill and many will expect you to help sell tickets, but make sure the gig is legit before getting involved.


5. If it sounds too good to be true…

Then it probably is. Building a successful music career is a long hard slog. The rewards can be varied and immense, but they have never come to anyone without lots and lots of hard work. So if someone is offering something that seems a little too easy, just too good to be true, be on your guard. And if they’re asking for your money up front, without the guarantee of anything, be even more careful. Being a successful musician is hard enough as it is, don’t make things harder for yourself by falling victim to a scam from a terrible person.

One lovely group that are not too good to be true are collection societies. Find out more Collection Societies – Decoded.

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5 things Lady Gaga did that every new artist should learn from

As the unique and inimitable Lady Gaga storms to the top of the charts with her new album ‘Artpop’ here at Spinnup we’re always on the look out for inspiration and experience from successful artists.

Spinnup will get your music online all around the world which is an essential requirement for all ambitious musicians, but what can you as an unsigned artist learn from the example of the good Lady Gaga in terms of building a winning musical career? Here are a few we’ve come up with.

1. Be a really good musician
As well as being a highly accomplished performer and songwriter, style icon and all the rest, Lady Gaga is first and foremost an extremely talented musician. She’s been playing piano and singing pretty much her entire life. Every artist needs a good haircut and the right clothes but musical chops always come first. And once you have that, the next thing you need is to be an amazing performer…

2. Gaining experience of performing is more important than where you perform
One day when you’re mega famous and successful and headlining your own world tour you’ll be playing in world famous venues like Madison Square Garden, Wembley, the O2. But before you get there you need to build up the experience. And pretty much any experience of performing in front of real people (ie strangers) is worth it. Lady Gaga performed in all sorts of tiny bars and venues when nobody apart from her knew she was going to become Lady Gaga.

3. Take amazing care of your fans
One thing we know about Lady Gaga is that she loves her fans. Really loves her fans. Her ‘Little Monsters’ are such an integral part of who Lady Gaga is that she constantly engages with them on social media, phones them up and brings them on stage during her gigs, and defends them to the hilt. Every top artist knows how much they owe their fans for their success, but Lady Gaga has taken showing that appreciation to a whole different level.

4. Experiment musically
Every successful musician has their own identifiable sound – that’s what makes them, well, identifiable. We all know what Lady Gaga sounds like, even when she tries new ideas and directions. There’s always that essential Lady Gaga-ness about her music. But she isn’t afraid to try lots of really different ideas and directions with other artists as well – jazz with Tony Bennett, guesting with the Rolling Stones on ‘Gimme Shelter’ or dueting with Elton John at the Grammys. She’s still every bit Lady Gaga but she’s taking the opportunity to sound somewhat different to how she does on record.

5. Find and control your look
We’re not even remotely worthy to say anything about the magnificence that is Lady Gaga’s style and look – can you think of anyone who is so endlessly inventive and striking in her choice of outfits and image? Whether or not you can see yourself strutting your stuff in one of her numbers, Lady Gaga has made the visual side of her wholly original and innovative and she is in complete control.  She has her own team of designers and consultants and they all work together with her and for her. She’s a style icon and no one else even comes close to stealing her thunder, ever. Lady Gaga we salute you!

For more information on success in the modern world, Digital Music Services – Decoded.

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5 solo stars who started out as backing singers

As an unsigned artist you want be successful and known for your songs, your band, your music. That’s great, that’s why you’re doing this and here at Spinnup we sincerely wish you the very best. Not least so we can boast to our friends that we knew you before you were famous.

But musical success is a long and winding road and you want to be open to every opportunity to advance that you can possibly find. For example don’t think that you have to be the the featured artist right from the word go. Some of the most successful solo artists we know and love today started off doing backing vocals for other people. It can be an excellent way to build up experience and contacts, so keep in mind it’s something you’re doing on the road to the limelight, not instead of it.

1. Mary J. Blige

Before her first album came out in 1992 on Uptown Records, Ms Blige was a backing vocalist for the label’s roster of R&B singers including Father MC and Jeff Redd who were big shots in what was known as ‘New Jack Swing’. In fact it was Redd who brought the young Mary J Blige to the attention of the label in the first place having worked alongside her father in a car factory.


2. Whitney Houston

With a voice like Whitney’s it’s no surprise that lots of other artists wanted to share some of that vocal power. As a teenager in the 1970s she performed back up duties for soul and R&B artists including Jermaine Jackson, Michael Zager Band, Lou Rawls, Material as well as Chaka Khan’s monster hit single ‘I’m Every Woman’ which Whitney herself later turned into an even bigger hit courtesy of The Bodyguard soundtrack.


3. Luther Vandross

Ok deep breath… David Bowie, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Carly Simon, Judy Collins, J. Geils Band, Ben E. King, Ringo Starr and Chic all benefited from the silky smooth-as-chocolate voice that belonged to Luther Vandross before anyone outside of the music industry really knew who he was. In fact it was only after he featured as one of the main vocalists on early 1980s studio project/dance act Change that his solo career finally took off.


4. Sheryl Crow

When the 1995 Grammy Award for Best New Artist went to Sheryl Crow for her breakout album ‘Tuesday Night Music Club’ if the artist herself was a new name to many her voice certainly wasn’t. Not only had she sung with the likes of Don Henley, Stevie Wonder and Rod Stewart but had spent the latter part of the 1980s touring the world as Michael Jackson’s backing vocalist including being his duet partner for each night’s performance of ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’.


5. John Legend

Now a very successful American singer-songwriter with no shortage of awards and honours. Before all that he could be heard in the background of hits from artists including Kanye West, Jay-Z, Dilated Peoples and Alicia Keys on her 2003 hit ‘You Don’t Know My Name’. He also let his fingers do the talking, so to speak, when he was brought in to play the piano on Lauryn Hill’s hit from her 1998 album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’.

Check our The Music Business – Decoded section for an essential guide to the music business.

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