A Beginners Guide To Music Industry Business:
Music businesses are struggling due to COVID-19. It’s now coming close to a year with the first lockdown having come into effect back in March, and businesses all over the world have been hard pressed to break even, let alone make a profit. More so hospitality and entertainment; particularly businesses operating within the music industry have been hard hit. Business in the music industry such as in-door events, raves, nightclubs etc. have been off-limits, with an exception of a few businesses such as Lakota for instance in Bristol starting outdoor events to keep in-line with government guidelines on social-distancing.
Few music businesses are able to properly rely on furlough but the fact is that it took time for any sort of support to be arranged for the UK’s cultural industries. Only a select few received financial support and many have turned to crowdfunding, whilst many others have had to close-up shop or look for other means to diversify their businesses to stay afloat. Those businesses are not the only ones struggling though. Managers, radios stations, festivals and the artists themselves are all facing a crisis at present with live events having become the bread and butter for many since online piracy first became a thing in the early 2000s.
Things haven’t particularly changed much with the introduction of Spotify, as streaming doesn’t really pay the bills unless you're big, like Chris Brown or David Guetta big. We know artists, event organisers, managers, labels and clubs aren’t really doing particularly well at the moment due to current circumstances as most of the money to be made is at live events, so what now? Whether you’re trying to figure out how to start a music business in the current climate or are one of the many businesses plagued by the impact of COVID-19 in the music industry, we’re here to share some advice and opinions from ourselves and some of those in the scene!
We’ll look at the following and you can click these links to skip ahead:
HOUSE OF HI-FI
First, Shoutouts To:
DJ Hybrid; owner of Audio Addict, a UK based record label; distributor of some of the hardest hitting new music in the scene and a major supporter for new and emerging artists in the scene!
Alex; an owner of Bass Face (an event put on to showcase those funky b-lines when a DJ’s mashing that Q button and blends bassline, jungle or DnB and they’ve got something to suit everyone’s taste and in the current climate have been patiently waiting to put events back on for eager ravers)!
Arletta from House of Hi-Fi telling us about her and her team’s experience in the current climate. FYI, House of Hi-Fi is a female run brand, as a collective. They work to produce some serious underground Jungle, and Drum & Bass events and give artist management services. Our aim as a brand is to challenge the gender imbalance within the scene, push the confidence of up and coming womxn DJs and producers alongside offering a supportive network to help girls with their musical careers. Our current resident artists are AMA, KIRA, KYRO, Sheba Q and La Lune!
Greg with the rest of his team from Tribe UK; are an event organiser based in Loughborough, showcasing the best of UK Bass, DnB and UKG artists. We would definitely recommend checking out their ‘Tribal Tapes’ mix series! For them, events have never been about money. Profit made gets put straight back into booking new names or improving decorations and the experience for those who attend! They had two events planned in the lead up to xmas but they’ve both been cancelled now, so it has stopped their plans for a bigger returners event in the new year. They did manage to squeeze in a sat-down garden party with Minista, which was really good though!
Organisations like House of Hi-Fi have kept things simple, working to maintain finances and minimise outgoing expenditure, so a takeaway would be to simply manage your finances properly, whether it’s on merch, promoting releases with marketing or on buying new equipment - think about the long-term use and any outgoings that you must maintain to keep the business afloat!
Where possible for events in the break periods between lockdowns and when things get back to normal is it possible for you to set up an outdoor event keeping to government guidelines, setting up a livestream and crowdfunding page OR if you and your team have other skills can you work outside of music in a different industry; for example if you make music can you make it for commercials. If you design graphics for musicians you can work for people in a different field on sites like fiverr. Photographers and videographers, why not work in fashion or with commercials for companies to help them showcase their products and services?
Quite simply the music industry isn’t performing as it relies too heavily on live events so the best thing for anyone to do atm is to play to their strengths and bide time until we’re able to get back to another rave, simple as that but don’t forget to support each other; friends and connections you made networking in the scene! Whatever your role is in the industry people will always come back to you if you’re known to do good work at the right price!
(DJ Hybrid from Audio Addict):
“I’m a DJ, Producer and Record Label Owner, the DJ bookings obviously have disappeared due to the pandemic so I’ve had to change my business model to online tutorials/content via subscription services like Patreon and also selling more products online such as sample packs, merch and exclusive usb's”.
(Greg from Tribes):
“I don’t think that the changes we are all experiencing right now could have been anticipated but I think its important to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best, things will improve. Since COVID started our original venue closed down, so we planned a move to a new, bigger venue which meant investing more into our events and it’s been more important to do the maths and work out what we can do sustainably when regular events are allowed”.
(Arletta from House of Hi-Fi):
“I guess diversifying more, so when things get back to “normal” or whatever the new normal will be, still invest the time into doing live streams, creating online content and always having the back up option of utilising technology and the online world alongside the usual strategy of putting on live events”.
(Alex from LDN DV8 & Bass Face):
“We have not diversified our business throughout lockdown as we don’t yet feel ready to start on new ventures under the brand LDN DV8/BassFace. Our main focus at the moment is making sure we’re ready for our expansion into new cities when the government gives us the green light to go back to normal. Having said that, there’s definitely plans and ideas that we’d like to implement to make our business more than just an events company in the future”.
TOP TIPS FROM OUR EXPERTS IN THE SCENE:
(DJ Hybrid from Audio Addict):
“Again I think it really falls down to engaging with your followers and trying to build a more personal relationship with them as i think people are happier to support a business then. You have be creative with what your post online too especially on fb as the algorithms can make it nearly impossible to promote a new business unless you pay to boost your posts and even that sometimes doesn't have great results. So i suppose my top 3 tips would be:
Engage with your followers and maintain a healthy online presence.
Be creative with your advertisements and posts people will just ignore you if you keep posting the same link over and over.
Be generous and do the odd giveaway whether its a free download, some stickers or a t-shirt people will genuinely appreciate it”.
(Alex from LDN DV8 & Bassface):
“I would always say that the best tip I could give, no matter what field you’re working in within the scene, is to network like crazy. Just reach out to people on social media or talk to people at events. As I said, from my experience, people are always willing to help each other in our scene and that’s something that everyone should use to their advantage. I’d also recommend trying to find people that will tell you when they think you’re doing something wrong. Friends that give you an honest opinion are so underrated! If you can take on board constructive criticism it will benefit you massively!”
(Arletta from House of Hi-Fi):
“Collaboration, networking and supporting other brands, labels and people is really important to let everyone know who you are and what you’re about”.
“In current times more than ever, online presence is super important, so creating engaging content and focussing on growing your socials is key!”
“Refine what you are trying to achieve as a company, constantly analysing and adapting your goals and how to achieve them. Find artists, music and creatives that represent your brand and what you believe in, if your ideas are great, people will notice you”.
(Greg from Tribes):
“You can never plan too much or be too prepared, scheduling and regular team meetings are a big part of how we operate and we have a great promotional group who have helped us a lot in the past months with our mix series. A great event 100% does not need to have the biggest names in the scene on the lineup, the up and comers bring so much energy and enthusiasm to our events, I think it’s personally a better result for everyone. Finally, continuously look to invest into improving your decorations, branding/graphics, content and team”.
“Let the people who support your events know that they’re appreciated, it will take twice as long to grow if you’re on a solo mission”.
HOW TO GET CONNECTED IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY:
Whether or not you’re a brilliant producer, an upcoming DJ, a vocalist, a sound engineer, record label owner or the manager at a new radio station or even a top class event organiser we all need people to give us a helping hand, book us, sign post for us, give advice/feedback, and support us in our music careers and collaboration is key in our industry. Alex from Bass Face spoke on the subject of collaboration drawing from his own experiences saying that: “We’ve always felt that collaboration in our scene is key. It’s just knowing when a collaboration is the right thing to do. The main thing we have a big focus on is giving opportunities to people that really want to get involved in the scene but haven’t had that initial chance yet. I know first hand how difficult it can be to get involved in the scene to get that first opportunity. Whether that be DJ’s, sound/lighting engineers, photographers, videographers etc., we’ve always tried to make sure we’re giving people their first foot on the ladder to a career in our industry and that’s something we’re very proud of and will continue to do”.
Now collaboration’s a big factor on how to get connected in the music industry and it also helps to network, i.e. attending events, shows interacting with others on social media, speaking to friends, and family for advice, or capitalising on their network and approaching individuals. Research is also critical. You can look at radio stations, find ways to get promo there to market your business or look up the presenters/DJs themselves by checking websites where their information is available on set times and connecting via social media. It’s not the easiest thing in the world but the key thing is to get social with it. You can also use social media to post stories about your business, music, and events, post in Facebook groups that follow a similar niche and ask people to signpost you by sharing as well.
Generally speaking collaboration is a force that has been pushing the music industry forward for years, whatever way you look at it. Artists come together, cross-promote, and collaborate on content, and promote music to fans. When it comes to problem solving working from within and maintaining team communication is key if you’re an organisation. Maneki was literally conceived at a BBQ with a few rave heads coming together to say ‘why don’t we try making a go of it?!’ - communication and working off of each other's strengths was key!
EVENT ORGANISERS SEEKING ADVICE:
When we asked Alex from Bass Face: “Where do you normally turn to to seek business related advice/support when dealing with your business?” His response was: “I’m fortunate enough to have been involved in the scene for a number of years now which has meant that I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of great people from a whole host of different businesses within the scene that are always happy to help with whatever you might need advice on. I think that’s the great thing about our scene. I’d say 99% of people just want to see everyone become successful together, so help is always available. My advice for anyone that might struggle with knowing where to go for advice is to simply ask for it! There’s a lot of great people that will be more than happy to help, including myself!”. And when we asked: “How do you as a business work to collaborate with individuals or other music orientated businesses in the scene?” He replied saying: “We’ve always felt that collaboration in our scene is key. It’s just knowing when a collaboration is the right thing to do. The main thing we have a big focus on is giving opportunities to people that really want to get involved in the scene but haven’t had that initial chance yet. I know first hand how difficult it can be to get involved in the scene to get that first opportunity. Whether that be DJ’s, sound/lighting engineers, photographers, videographers etc., we’ve always tried to make sure we’re giving people their first foot on the ladder to a career in our industry and that’s something we’re very proud of and will continue to do”. The takeaway here is to put effort into building a network and that’s how you’ll begin to improve your chances of success as there are always those that can help provide advice and even opportunities if you’re able to put yourself and business out there!
Arletta from House of Hi-Fi spoke to us on the subject saying: “We started House of Hi-fi whilst at university, so we were surrounded by artists, other event brands, photographers, graphic designers and other creatives. Collaborating with emerging talent came naturally to us and our purpose as a collective has always been to support up and coming talent, collaborating with individuals, event companies and artists. Our advice is to actively support other artists, brands and anyone who is smashing it! You never know where these people will be in five years and if you’ve genuinely supported them from the start, they won’t forget it. Even as little as liking, sharing, giving shout outs, it all goes such a long way and really helps boost people’s confidence, online presence and will help direct people towards yourself and your brand. Being active in this sense is a must” and Greg from Tribe UK responded stating that: “We have been running our ‘Tribal Tapes’ mix series for over a year now, where we have had the chance to showcase a lot of our favourite up and coming artists in the scene. We’re really proud of what we have grown with that, especially whilst events haven’t been happening and we are always thinking of new series ideas, including our recent ‘label showcase’ one. Additionally, like I mentioned, we have collaborated with DBE and Lost In Music, doing big joint events last year like DBE Festival. We have plans to do more in 2021. A tip from us would be to support the events you like, sharing other events on Facebook is not going to make less people want to come to your event and collaborating with events showcasing different genres has always worked out well for us”.
It’s also important to be respectful and just use your noodle, don’t try chatting to people when they’re busy, at a restaurant, on their phone working etc. If you’re trying to pitch someone when they’re busy you’re more likely to get shutdown. Also try to think a step-ahead. You’re more likely to get a result if you’re able to offer something to the person you’re trying to speak to, whether it’s pushing them on social media or offering your know-how to help them solve a particular issue. Try to think about how you can help others, and if there’s an opportunity maybe they’ll help you, so remember to try and build a rapport!
DJ Hybrid -Audio Addict Records
RECORD LABELS SEEKING ADVICE FOR ALL:
We spoke to DJ Hybrid regarding Audio Addict who had this to say on the subject of music business related advice when we asked where he would normally turn to receive advice. The response: “My distributor Cygnus Music LTD have always been great when it comes to advice, and support, I have been working with them for just under 10 years now so anytime I need advice or support I can just ring them up, and they are always available to help and talk you through whatever situation your in so I highly recommend working with them”. We then proceeded to ask how he as a business owner works to collaborate with individuals or other music orientated businesses in the scene and if he had any tips on forming easy collaborations that benefit all parties? The response: “Yeah I think it can be very easy to form collaborations when it's built on mutual respect, and trust there are always a few dodgy people here and there but the majority of people I have worked with in the scene I’m also very good friends with too. In the past I have done collaborations with clothing websites such as Junglist Network where we sold limited edition T-shirts or I have collaborated with big sample pack companies such as Loopmasters who have a very good following”.
CROWDFUNDING - RAISING BRAND AWARENESS:
If you’re unable to diversify and turn in-door events outdoors given our current circumstances then you may have better luck shifting gears and switching to-online events or crowdfunding to stay afloat. Companies such as crowdfunder have helped to support organisations such as ATG Festival who were able to raise over £100,000.00 and The Jazz Cafe over £150,000.00 (https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/start-business). Even a small record shop such as Disc World - Record Shop & Dubplate Cutting House was able to raise £14,000.00 from some 290+ backers via https://www.kickstarter.com/. The key is to create incentives, have a good initiative, explain what the money will be used for, and demonstrate a real urgency for the project, as well as researching and seeking advice on your chosen platform to help promote the campaign. These platforms help put your fundraising campaigns in front of the right people but you should take time to do your homework first.
TIPS FOR ALL - (TECHNOLOGY):
With the emergence of technology and social media it’s become easier to connect with your audience, or so we would like to think. The fact is that marketing has become essential to all, not just those operating within the music industry. Social media is necessary to help us connect with our chosen audience but social media isn’t the only avenue you should consider when marketing new music, mixes, merchandise or events. You should also take into account the value of building a good website, collecting email addresses and becoming familiar with tools like adobe to help create unique content and keep costs down. Tools such as Mailchimp help in connecting straight to your audience, and PPC (Facebook or Google Ads), as well as social media all help to engage with people, and find groups to fit your niche and increase your online visibility. I won’t go into detail but a wise man once told me that: “If you can’t find a how to for what you want to know on Youtube, you’re a lost cause”.
In terms of live-streaming to keep your brand awareness alive, OBS (https://obsproject.com/) for example, which is a great platform to do so, is free and allows you to stream on 3 different platforms such as: Youtube, Facebook and Paroscope for example but there is also Twitch and many other as well, so it’s worth putting the question forward to your audience and seeing what they frequent the most, whilst also doing your own research to expand your audiences. Be aware that a big issue with livestreams are the frequent number of takedowns so invest time into making sure you don’t get penalised by planning ahead.
With the wonders of the internet the music industry has had some major paradigm shifts over the years with the industry’s answer to online piracy being Spotify. Spotify is a powerhouse. It offers not only music to listeners but everything you can think of that traditional record labels would normally provide when they were the gatekeepers of the industry; even showcasing information on artists such as bios and tour dates. A full profile helps users and the algorithms for those playlists you should be trying to get your releases on to to help you chosen audience better recognise you - and some artists are going one step further, and self-relassing with platforms like spotify and Soundcloud; making a move away from the labels. A lot of artists in the world now choose to do it themselves; promoting, managing and releasing their own music. Record labels also help to push their own catalog of artists on the platform.
Platforms like Soundcloud and Spotify have made that possible although not easy - (on a technical level here are some guides to release with Spotify and with Soundcloud). One caveat - in-order to upload music to Spotify or Apple Music, you’re going to require a distributor. (Here’s a link to Ariestake who provides a comprehensive and thorough comparison for some of the different distributors out there: (https://aristake.com/digital-distribution-comparison/).
Another option is Cygnus (https://www.cygnusmusic.net/) and Hypeddit (https://hypeddit.com/), which is also another good option to use in-conjunction to push your music with paid promotions if you’re trying to increase your engagement and build a fanbase. Spotify for artists is also a valuable tool, often overlooked. It lets you know where your performance as an artist, label or band is falling short. Generally speaking this is more a tool for labels and artists to understand how they’re performing and is worth looking into!
Marketing which is an important practice in any business where you should come to familiarise yourself to improve your online visibility. Using social media is one aspect and PPC is another aspect but building a website is just as key and getting your (Search Engine Optimisation) on point is also important to helping yourself get discovered, whether your an artist, event organiser, radio station (maybe not a pirate radio station) and or a label is key. When you look at all the major players in the scene they often have these areas covered along with staying on top of the latest trends.
It’s also important to properly brand your company, test it out with different groups of people to see if what your providing is sufficient to meet your target market, especially when it comes to music. When it came to the subject of marketing, House of Hi-Fi has a simple but effective approach: “Create good content, engage with your audience, become inspired by all the creatives that exist online and be consistent! A big value of ours is to stay true to what you believe in and practise what you preach. In current times more than ever, online presence is super important, so creating engaging content and focussing on growing your socials is key!”.
We Also asked DJ Hybrid from Audio Addict Records if he had any tips for how businesses in the scene should be looking to market themselves online? Hybrid responded saying: I think at the moment it is very important to keep a regular online presence as people will be spending even more time online if they are furloughed at home. It's also important to try and engage with your followers as much as possible, I run monthly competitions and things like that so it keeps people engaged and they also don't feel like you're constantly trying to spam them with buy links”.
Greg from Tribe said: “I think there’s a clear difference in the events which are just doing it for the money and the ones with a genuine passion for the music. Usually you can tell by the lineups alone but I think providing different content and being consistent helps you grow a loyal fanbase. Loughborough is only a small place but we have consistently sold out our events because we have grown an awesome fanbase there, mainly I think because of our passion for good music”.
When it comes to marketing you have to take into account age range, hobbies, interests, geography and more to really understand who you’re trying to sell to, especially if you’re going to be throwing money at it. I would advise anyone in the scene that isn’t familiar with the concept of marketing to go and look it up on youtube because it’s the only way to help grow a brand in this climate. If you have your marketing on point alongside providing a good product/service it will go a long way, especially when it comes to music as it’s a saturated industry at current and only those at the top of their game survive. Youtube is a good place as previously mentioned and if you have the time maybe take up a proper course on the subject on something like https://www.coursera.org/. Even when it comes to social media you have to figure out which platforms are right for you and watch the trends with your audience. I can tell you now Tik Tok is something a lot of businesses are starting to realise they can capitalise on, whereas platforms like twitter, facebook and instagram have become watered down and don’t seem to deliver a huge amount of engagement unless you throw money at it!