The unsteady and unpredictable climate of the music industry over the last 10 years has allowed different forces to emerge in the techniques bands and artists can use to gain success and popularity. Obviously, many of these contemporary and digitally conceived methods have been overlooked by record companies. The price of ignorance is proving an expensive blunder; from simple self promotion of music to attempts to control copyrighted material, big labels are still struggling to come to terms with the digital world. The Surface Festival bestows all the tools bands and artists need in the modern digital age to gain precious exposure in the discordant music industry. Musicians and artists must understand what principal issues are at stake to their success and survival in the changing face of the UK music scene. Here are our top 5 tips for coming to terms with today’s music industry:
1. Live performance
The main focus of a band and artist is live performance. The sweaty, loud and beer saturated venues across Britain are where bands and artists are born and it’s this aspect that Surface Festival is focused on keeping alive. It’s your live performance that can make you stand out from the crowd and get people talking. Each and every live show presents a great opportunity to reach new fans and meet your existing ones face to face, these people in return will be the ones who download and buy your music. Always remember, with major festivals, stadium concerts and large shows habitually selling-out within hours, there has never been more demand for live music.
2. Social Networking
The importance of social networking and web-based presence is colossal. All bands and artists should make sure they have a MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and/or YouTube page. Connecting to your fans is probably the most important aspect to a band that these can provide; and this should be exploited as much as possible. The social networking phenomenon has meant every artist in the world has a voice to self-promote to the people who can have a direct influence on their success. Policies and rules presided over by record companies for decades have been shattered, and bands and artists should make the most of this renaissance of independent control over their destiny.
3. Online Releases
Never before have bands and artists been more in control of distributing and selling their own music. Before the online digitalization an artist/band would record their music and then depend on their label and the media (radio, press, television) to broadcast in the hopes of finding an audience. Today the model is turned around. You first have to build an audience and then get down to business. Just passively making your music available for download in the hope of finding fans won’t work. Digital release stores are only the means to the sales, it is your responsibility to build and maintain a fan base, who in turn will buy your music. This audience can be built on the live circuit and on the internet. You then have to maintain that relationship through social networking and further live shows. It is still all about making great music, but you need to add the layer of community building which merges into sales.
While generating money is the most obvious benefit of band merchandise, the valuable impressions made from exposure to potential fans is just as important. When your fans wear your Merch there is no limit to how many people are going to see it and/or how many people are going to ask about it. Selling your band merchandise can be done at live shows or online via your web site. Email fan club members and use social networking when new products become available to create hype. Consider offering special packages, bundling your CDs or downloads with t shirts, buttons and/or stickers to drive sales and spread the word about your music. Bring your merchandise to every show. Display your merch on a stand and make sure to stick around after your set (for as long as possible) so that you don’t miss an opportunity to sell. Most importantly at live shows the middle man is left out meaning all profits are returned to the band.
Bands and artists should always try and remain self-sufficient and look after their own affairs as much as possible. Sustainability, the most demanding aspect of longevity, is down to a band’s continued belief in why they formed in the first place – the scene that inspired them and in turn the music that inspires the fan base. A fan base will care for a band and keep them alive, so bands and artists must care for them back with a true to themselves attitude and great music. Nurturing this fan base and realising its importance is crucial.
Surface Festival takes bands and artists at grass roots level and brings them through a journey culminating in an industry showcase. The quality of the sponsors, judges and management lends colossal credibility to this event and should be a breath of fresh air to all bands and artists in the UK and Europe. We are constantly looking at the future of the music industry and analysing the processes and methods that bands and artists will require in tomorrow’s digital world. Alex Baker from the Kerrang Radio unsigned show explains, “the Surface Festival gives bands a genuine opportunity to get their music in front of people in the industry that can help further their careers. The best bands WILL inevitably rise to the top, the National this year was very hard to judge, amazing stage shows, amazing songs, amazing bands – congratulations to Great Imitation who blew everyone’s minds. The prizes offered for the winning band and runners up are just fantastic and the experience all the bands gain from playing larger venues is priceless.”