Thursday, 26 May 2011

Resident Advisors Tips: On increasing Listenership

Anyone can make a record these days. The costs of buying the gear required are lower with each passing year. Whereas the content bundled with any of the major DAWs would, 20 years ago, have run to several thousand pounds, a few hundred can now buy you a set-up capable of releasable results.

But there's the rub. With more people taking advantage of the falling cost of gear and creating high-quality records, it's what you do with your finished product which is all-important. Towards the end of last year, I attended a seminar organized by a group of music organizations in the UK at London's Metropolis Studios which covered all kinds of topics, from rights of artists to advice on self-release. The standout quote for me came from producer Tommy D who said that, for a record to be successful, equal time needed to be dedicated to creativity, marketing and "business." The final slice of the pie covers balancing the books of a release but this got me thinking—how many of us actually only spend a third of our lives making records and dedicate twice as much time to marketing and business?

Not many, I'd guess. Through the early years of a producer's life, simply achieving the required standard is the be- and end-all and it's easy to get trapped into the pattern of only working to improve your skills. However, for those who do rise to the required standard, it can take a real mental shift to accept that the work is good and that the hard yards now need to be dedicated to furthering the possible outlets for your tracks. It can be daunting enough just figuring out where to start.

Obviously, the avenues vary depending on what sorts of tracks you're creating but it's fair to say that some clever marketing, or what I call "creative entrepreneurialism" will be essential if you want to get your records heard. But the truth is there have never been so many opportunities for new music, no matter what state the major labels might be in. For starters, there is a healthy independent label scene and, of course, it's relatively inexpensive now to self-release. Couple this to the fact that digital radio, cable TV and web-only channels are available for makers of high-quality product in ever-increasing numbers and it's not hard to begin to see where opportunities might lie.

What always surprises me is how frequently musicians fail to take onboard how other artists entered their own consciousness, as they begin the process of raising their own profiles. A good place to start is to write a list of five artists and then try to remember how you first heard their work. For the older generation, this will no doubt extend to radio or TV campaigns but for the younger crowd, it's likely to include content discovered online.

What was it about that content which piqued your interest? Doubtless the quality of the records but what else? A quirky video? An off-the-wall photo shoot? A carefully created and regularly updated fan page on Facebook? A Twitter campaign? Perhaps being invited to join a mailing list at a gig that you went to and which stayed in your mind through the next few days?

Next, work out what you'd (realistically) love your favourite artists to do to reward you as a fan. Obviously, they're unlikely to come and play a gig in your living room but imagine receiving an email, the morning after a gig, thanking you for attending and attaching a free live recording of a track played that night. Or maybe receiving a free track having signed up to their website newsletter. Perhaps you'd enjoy participating in a remix competition where the parts for a track by the artists were distributed, with the winner securing a B-side release on the next single. Simply opening dialogue with your fanbase is a major winner. These are but a few suggestions but they're ones we could all offer our fans and, in the context of playing a few live gigs to build a following of even 10 people, could lead to an exponential growth in popularity. How you approach the marketplace requires as much of your creativity as your time making records does and, if you can find a direction which rewards fans while offering a memorable user experience, your exposure will grow accordingly.

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