The reality is that cash is tight in the music business, as it is in business as a whole. The reality too is that businesses have to have some form of ongoing investment that assists in keeping them afloat. The music industry is no exception. Times couldn’t be harder for both aspiring and established musicians alike and the cost of certain essential elements for their betterment makes them break into a cold sweat.
The challenge for people offering services such as PR, production, sound and lighting and the like is that these elements are seen as expenses or luxuries and not as strategic investments. Yes, money does go out of the bank account and often hefty sums of it, but what are the long term repercussions of the spend? If they have a positive impact on the quality of music and the good reputation of an artist, then they should be considered an investment in to the business and not an expense.
What can be considered as wise investments?
Great songs are often screwed up by bad production. An excellent song backed by great production is going to get radio play, which will in turn generate revenue through bookings, sales and royalties. English artists are competing on a global platform and supreme production quality is a non-negotiable. In fact, there is no excuse for bad production in any genre. Rather invest a larger sum of money in one great song than spend the same amount of money on four or five cheap quality recordings that sound like demos and can make an artist look amateur.
Radio play is crucial. It gets your music to the masses, generates revenue through royalties and often gigs are generated through people hearing music on radio. Work with a professional who knows the radio landscape, who understands who is play listing what and has the relationships with the music managers, which ensures material at very least gets heard. There are over 50 relevant radio stations that need to be sampled and followed up with and this is a daunting job for a manager. A manager can handle radio plugging, however there are bound to be gaps in the sampling distribution, which will have an impact on the artist in the long term.
Building, maintaining and managing an artist’s reputation capital is an element that works hand in hand with the brand, the music, the radio campaigns. A favourable presence in the media is a conversation starter and a publicist maintains that conversation through identifying and communicating talking points, and if these points of conversation are on the low-down, then they can be strategically created though developing angles. A publicist is also on hand the manage issues when they arise and assist in keeping the artist’s reputation in tact if, for whatever reason, the chips are down.
Live gigs are one of the main revenue streams for any band or musician. People won’t support an artist if the sound quality is bad – for some reason, the band is blamed and not the venue or sound technician. Hire a sound engineer who can make a venue with the acoustics of a paraffin can sound like those of the Royal Albert Hall. A sound guy is as important as the drummer and bassist and should be seen as an additional member of the band and paid industry rates. In house sound engineers are great at knowing the venue, but a great sound engineer will know the music and will be adaptable to whatever live scenario that is presented. They often do come at a premium cost, but putting on a great show is essential and sound is the number one element in doing that.
This covers everything from logos to CD artwork to photography to the all-important websites. Quality is key, as is consistency.
Hire a professional photographer who gets you and your music and preferably one that works with a stylist. Check out the portfolio before making a decision. Meet with him or her prior to the shoot – there has to be chemistry for good photos to be taken.
Commission a professional graphic designer who understands visual brand development, who also gets you and your music, a person who is able to translate who you are and what you do in to visual art be it a logo, a poster or an album cover.
All of this needs to be present on the Internet, therefore hire a professional who can pull all these elements together. A great a web presence indicative of who you are and in the day an age where all online elements including social networks are integrated, can become a central hub and online community for a fan base.
If done properly, all of these elements have longevity and the initial investment will actually work out less expensive in the long run, but only if done correctly first time. A family friend with a nice camera, or an aunt who did a web design course five years ago, or a clip art expert will all end up costing you money and reputation capital.
To conclude, expenses don’t have a shelf life, whereas investments do. Spend your hard earned money wisely and, even though more money may be spent than anticipated, do things properly and see these elements as mandatory investments into growing towards and sustaining a successful presence in the music business.
Tim Hill is with Tuned-In Publicity.