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Get our insights on the music industry. A&R Factory covers the latest trends, analysis, and predictions in music. Join us as we explore the pulse of the music industry. Whether you’re a music lover or industry professional, A&R Factory is your go-to source.

How to Promote a Concert in a Fragile Live Music Industry

Gig Promotion

Whether you have been asked by a promoter to sell tickets to an upcoming show or you have put on your own gig, there are a few golden rules on how to promote a concert you should follow to boost your attendance, and hopefully avoid every artist’s fear – playing to an empty room.

While it is true that artists are currently struggling to sell out their tour dates with 2022’s Mercury Prize winner, Little Simz forced to pull their tour due to financial constraints along with Animal Collective also struggling to budget for their tour, this isn’t a sign that you should give up the ghost just yet.

Before you put your blood, sweat, tears and own funds into playing live, make sure you are playing smart. A common mistake new independent artists make when they don’t have a band manager to push them in the right direction is playing too often in their hometown.

Times are tough, and even if you have a loyal fanbase that will do their best to support you, if you’re playing every month in your hometown, don’t expect to magically find new fans that will come out in support of you. Or that your most loyal fans will shlep from their busy lives time after time when they know that they will probably see the same show they’ve already paid their good money for.

Circle-jerk gigs are killing live music scenes up and down the country – don’t be a part of the problem! With that warning out the way, we will move on to how to effectively pull a crowd to your live dates to make sure that the attendees aren’t solely the support acts and people working at the venue.

8 Ways to Promote a Concert

1.       Circulate Videos of Your Past Live Performances

We have all been to gigs after falling in love with a band’s records, only to be sorely disappointed by what the live show entails. If you thrive in the domain of live music, make it known to your fans by creating promo videos for your live dates using footage of your past shows that can be posted across your social media channels. Additionally, share any good quality fan-made videos from your last gigs and post live content to YouTube and other streaming platforms.

2.       Reach Out to People Individually or Offer a Cheap List to Friends

Many independent artists boost their attending lists by offering access to a cheap list for their friends, family, and industry figures, such as journalists, photographers, and A&R reps. That personal touch can be what it takes to convert someone considering attending the show into a ticket holder. Go carefully with this approach; don’t hound people into paying for a ticket! Always use discretion.

3.       Utilise Gig Listing Platforms and Publications

Many local newspapers and online music publications run features every month to let readers know what is happening in their city. Rather than sitting and hoping that your gig will be picked up by the editorial team, be proactive in your gig promotion efforts to make sure that your upcoming shows have the best chance of being noticed. Using Manchester as an example, The Skinny, All Gigs, Visit Manchester, and Manchester Gigs all promote upcoming live events, along with other national sites, such as Skiddle and Song Kick.

4.       Choose a Crowd-Pulling Support Act

If you have free reign over who opens for you, decide wisely. Book a local opening act that has a proven fanbase and is willing to put the effort into pulling a good crowd. Rather than just roping in your friend’s bands in an act of nepotism, consider if your fans would want to watch this band too. After all, gig-goers are far more likely to stump up the cash for gig tickets if they think they will enjoy the entire evening, not just an hour’s worth of entertainment they will have to go out of their way for.

5.       Plaster Your Gig Dates Everywhere

If you have Spotify for Artists, you can easily upload your tour dates to the platform, so the next time someone flicks through your discography, they will see all of your upcoming tour dates. As Spotify is one of the main ways music fans discover music, it makes sense to use Spotify as free advertising for your upcoming gigs. Similarly, if you have an official artist website, which every artist definitely should, all of your upcoming (and past) gigs should be listed here too.

6.       Create an Event Page on Facebook

Even though you may not be able to trust who is coming to gigs via the attending and interested lists on your Facebook event pages, Facebook events are one of the best ways to circulate news of new gigs. Be sure to keep the page updated with the necessary information, such as who is opening the show and the set times. Many disagree that set times should be published as this discourages gig goers from watching all of the bands, but by publishing set times, you’re more likely to boost attendance by letting fans know how to arrange their travel plans.

7.       Get to Grips with Digital Advertising

If your budget allows it, promote your gigs and tours via Facebook, Instagram and Google adverts – just be sure to set the appropriate parameters. For an efficacious digital advertising campaign via sponsored ads, ensure that you are only targeting the right geographical audience and people who have seen your posts before. For bands who can’t afford paid ads or are reluctant to use them, email marketing and using local hashtags can also increase the number of ticket-holding gig goers.

8.       Don’t Rule Out Conventional Means of Advertising

Social media may dominate a worrying proportion of our daily lives, but that doesn’t mean that gig promotion solely has to happen across digital platforms. Team up with talented graphic designers to create an eye-catching gig poster that can be used online and printed and plastered across the town or city you’re playing in. Ask local businesses, such as bars and shops if they would mind putting your tour poster in their window – the worst that could happen is that they say no.

Article by Amelia Vandergast

From Pre-Saves to Playlists to Spotify & SoundCloud for Artists, How Independent Artists Can Make the Most of Streaming Platform Tools

Music Marketing

Standing out in a crowded digital music landscape has become one of the biggest hurdles for independent artists to overcome. Distributors and labels used to stand in front of the gates of the music industry. Now there is a bottleneck of other artists trying to get through, leading to talented artists getting a fraction of the renown they deserve.

The platforms that enabled the democratisation of the music industry have facilitated an oversaturation. However, there is a silver lining in the marketing tools that, if used properly, can allow artists to connect to the right audiences and open up a wealth of opportunities.

Distributing all of your music onto the most popular streaming platforms is just one small step. While utilising the marketing tools can take you the rest of the way. This article will cover some of the most effective music marketing tools that will allow you to reach the right music fans at the right time.

Spotify & SoundCloud for Artists

Unlike social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, Spotify makes it easy for all artists to become verified. Once a Spotify artist profile has been claimed, artists can take advantage of the in-depth analytics, which helps artists to understand listener demographics.

Through Spotify for Artists, it is easy to see the age, gender, and location of fans, which can aid marketing strategies both on streaming platforms and off them. For example, the analytics could highlight prime locations for gigs that you may not have considered otherwise! Or these analytics could show you where to invest the rest of your marketing budget. Beyond the analytics, there are profile customisation tools, and Spotify for Artists gives all artists a direct line to the Spotify editorial team, who curate the official Spotify playlists – more on that later.

In October 2022, it was announced that the exec behind Spotify for Artists launched SoundCloud for Artists, which works under a similar premise in that it aids promotion, monetization, and distribution on the platform, which is steadily amassing a stronger reputation. Even though SoundCloud hardly has the rep of being a premier music streaming platform, it is still one of the strongest digital music communities, with over 40 million creators contributing to the site.

Playlist Placements

What record labels were to the music industry in the 90s, playlist placements are in the 21st century. The royalties might seem like a slap in the face, given all the hard work put into music. But if you view streaming platforms as a marketing opportunity rather than a revenue stream, they instantly become more attractive! There are five different types of playlists on digital streaming platforms; here is how they work and how they can boost the signal on your new releases.

 

  1. Official Playlists are curated by the editorial teams of each streaming platform. Generally, these editorial teams consist of genre specialists and music experts. Even though many artists make these playlists their playlist goals, the users are much more passive!
  2. Major-owned Playlists are curated by ‘major’ brands or record labels, such as Sony, Warner and Universal. These account for 70% – 88% of Spotify playlists, which proves that major-label backing still goes a long way in the domain of digital music!
  3. Third-Party Playlists curated by independent influencers. These playlists can be just as popular as Major-owned playlists and official playlists, and they accept submissions, which either come at a cost or are free.
  4. Personalised playlists created by algorithms, such as the Release Radar Playlists and Discover Weekly playlists. These playlists reach listeners that are almost certain to love your music.
  5. Fan-Generated playlists. These are usually the least popular playlists, but every time your track is added to one, this will provide the streaming platform with data, which can lead to your music being suggested to other music fans.

When it comes to playlists, bigger certainly isn’t always better. The key to success via playlist placements is to find a niche, identify your target audience and grow your fanbase. Before pitching to any random playlist, analyse your music to ascertain which mood, experiences, and emotions it correlates. If you can’t do that from an objective standpoint, get feedback from your fans and music-minded friends.

Promote Your Pre-Saves

In the run-up to any new release, ensure there is a massive push across your social media pages to pre-save your singles, EPs, and albums. If you have seen artists promoting their pre-saves and have no idea why it is so important, you may be surprised to learn how much of an impact it can have on the success of a new release.

Pre-saving music ensures that the new release will be ready and waiting on the day of release. It also improves the odds of a new release getting more streams on the first day of release, and in turn, being added to career-making playlists! Additionally, the fans who pre-save your music are likely to be your most committed fans, so you will know exactly where you should be planning to tour next.

Just be sure to let your fans know how pre-saving can help your music career – a point that is not always reiterated on pleas for pre-saves.

In Conclusion

The necessity for all independent artists to become marketing pros in addition to creating stream-worthy music may be a big ask. But for any chance of success in the 21st-century music industry that is becoming increasingly more precarious – especially in the realms of live music – getting to grips with free marketing tools is one of your best chances of success. By utilising free tools, such as Spotify for Artists and harnessing the powers of pre-saves, artists can make an impact on their target audience which is eagerly awaiting new music to lap up while not breaking the bank.

Article by Amelia Vandergast

 

The Relevancy of Live Stream Gigs in 2022 and Beyond

Livestream gigs

The concept of Livestream gigs may never fully break away from its synonymousness with lockdowns and COVID-19. They were a small collective comfort when venues were out of bounds, but for the same reasons they became popular in 2020 and 2021, there is still a place for them in post-pandemic society.

As much as we’ve moved on from the restrictions that dictated the limitations on our social lives, our behaviours, especially those around music consumption, haven’t snapped back with quite the same vigour as predicted. A review of the impact of COVID-19 on music consumption and spending was published in May 2022. the report highlighted a 45% decline in consumer spending compared to pre-pandemic levels. Along with physical sales taking a direct hit, interest in purchasing gig tickets has also waned.

It is a decidedly difficult period for up-and-coming artists, with the new normal being not quite what it cracked up to be. But if one thing has remained a constant, it is that musicians thrive during live shows, and live shows still give artists the perfect chance to connect with their fans on a more meaningful and intimate level. That goes for livestreams as much as it does traditional tours.

5 Reasons Why You Should Still Play Livestream Gigs

1.       The Cost-of-Living Crisis

With the cost-of-living crisis hitting music fans just as hard as it is musicians, fewer music fans are inclined to or have the funds to buy gig tickets. Even if gig tickets to a local show are free or cost as little as £5, the ticket cost is usually a fraction of the cost of attending a show when you account for travel and other expenses.

With so many households worried about how they will heat their homes or cover the costs of inflation that are sending their food bills through the metaphorical roof, there is a massive issue with consumer confidence, which all artists should consider. The income via traditional tours may be a vital revenue stream, but in 2022 and beyond, gigs and live streams do need to be mutually exclusive!

2.       The Digitalisation of Music

The infrastructure which shaped the music industry has been transforming ever since Napster. The digitalisation of music has been something that has been slowly creeping up on us. Traditional modes may be more desirable, but artists have to ensure that they’re not operating within an obsolete framework.

Every facet of the music industry has been digitalised, from distribution to creation to monetisation. While no one wants to embrace the idea of music only being consumed in isolation and within the confines of our own homes, there is a lot to be said for playing live online. From the ability to connect with a wider international audience without thinking about travel logistics to the increased chance of interaction with your audience, playing live online will help you to stay connected while music fans are less inclined to go to as many live gigs in venues as they used to.

3.       Live Stream Gigs Are an Income Opportunity

Even if you livestream your gig on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube for free, playing live online can be a great way to get more cash into your revenue streams. During the live stream, you can point your fans towards a digital tip jar, post your Venmo tag, or promote your new merch, physical music or gig tickets.

Music fans are far more likely to spend money on music-related purchases when they have gained something from an artist in an emotional sense. For example, if you go live on a Sunday evening while everyone is tackling the back-to-work blues and then point out how tips or other purchases could help, you’re infinitely more likely to tempt them into investing in you as an artist.

4.       Live Streams Are a Cost-Effective Way of Promoting New Material

In 2022, independent artists are spoilt for choice when it comes to how to promote their music. For those on a budget, options are slightly more limited, but playing live from a practice room or wherever you can get away with turning up your amps can be a cost-effective way of making your fans fall in love with your new singles, EPs, and albums.

While many artists choose to launch their music with a gig in their hometown, or a national or international tour for artists who have a wider fanbase, this isn’t feasible for every independent artist. Furthermore, there are massive geographical constraints on who can make it to your new music launch shows. If you choose to stream a live launch show, no matter where your fans are in the world, they can celebrate with you!

5.       Connect with Your Fans!

Before and after you have played through your livestream set, you have the chance to connect with your fans and make them feel included. It is a great way to get feedback or get to know your fans better. Before the livestream, you can even reach out to your fanbase to ask them what songs they would like to hear during the livestream. If you’re feeling especially daring, you can even put it to your fans to suggest which covers they would like to hear.

However you interact with your fanbase in the run-up to a livestream or following it, remember, even the smallest interactions go a long way when nurturing new and long-time fans!

To conclude, I would like to clarify that livestream gigs will never be a substitute for the real thing; the live music industry, no matter how fractured and precarious, is still the lifeblood of the music industry and music-centric communities. However, by holding the occasional livestream gig to supplement your live touring schedules, you get the opportunity to promote your music to a wider network, and you include your fans who wouldn’t be able to make it to see you live. Livestream shows are impervious to geographical and financial limitations. Not to mention the music fans who miss out on gigs due to social anxiety or because they have no one to go with!

Article by Amelia Vandergast

The Fall of Collectivism & The Rise of Commodity in the Music Industry

Counterculture

There has long been the somewhat naive belief that hard times create good music. Awaiting the influx of aural gold has been a silver lining many have clung to since the pandemic. But with the economic collapse threatening to close music venues and recording studios, pricing many punters out of gigs, and generally reducing consumer confidence, it is becoming increasingly more evident that in its current commodified state counterculture only thrives in stable financial times.

Realising that counterculture relies on the whims of a late-stage capitalist government is a pretty bitter pill to swallow; it is better to choke it down at this stage of the game before our respective culture bubbles burst completely. Scenes around the UK are already starting to feel increasingly fractured, with many artists only going to local gigs if their names appear on the bill – something that I haven’t been able to ignore since the return of live music in July 2021.

Creativity is infinite, but as we start to move away from community and collectivism toward individualism, it is painful to see acts of creativity existing as random, isolated feats of ingenuity as opposed to the lifeblood of anti-establishment movements. And I am not alone in being aware of the fragmented state of the music industry and its respective scenes.

The author, academic and musician Alex Niven pointed out that even if we look to the 70s, a reportedly bleak chapter in UK history which saw the rise of the UK punk movement, we still had a well-funded public sector and it was the height of equality in Britain. The same can not be said for 2022, following the last mini-budget that has desecrated the pound, widened the rich-poor divide, and instilled even more fear into minds already frantic with anxiety.

While some artists are still able to amass staunch followings, sell-out tours and their physical music releases, the music industry as a whole is suffering under the weight of the crumbling infrastructure. The void of anti-establishment counterculture is also painstakingly evident when we look at the lack of protests in the UK. Our protestive apathy puts plenty of weight behind Simon Reynolds’ 2009 statement, “The next big thing could be that there is no next big thing… just further entropy”.

I have previously written on how to recession-proof your music career, but it is becoming increasingly more evident that the community side of music is disintegrating around the pervasive self-interest of many independent artists. Music has been bringing communities together for far longer than it has been a commodity for artists to make money and grab glory off the back of. Music and society have always been interlinked; music has helped to promote and protect human rights, drive social change, document history, and facilitate communication. Given our precarious current times, we need more of that than ever.

In commercial terms, it is clear that things are going to get worse before they get better, especially if we heed the warning of the CEO of UK Music, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, who is already anticipating 2023 to be worse than 2022 for the music industry. What better time for artists to reevaluate their positions in their scenes and start to find ways of bolstering communities? In this era, it will be the artists able to bring meaning to their fans’ intrepidly anxious existence who get to thrive.

Article by Amelia Vandergast

Have Gen Z Killed the 3-Minute Pop Track?

3 minute pop song

Following the 3-minute formula used to give artists the best chance at creating a chart-topping hit, but in 2022, it is official, hit songs are getting shorter. The rise in micro-media platforms and the abstract idea of the limited 8-second attention spans of Gen Z are often said to be the main driver behind the durations of songs getting briefer. As much as older generations love to moan about the youth of today and their technology, which reportedly disintegrates popular culture, there is a bigger factor at play.

Much of the cause behind the inclination to condense singles into shorter packages can also be attributed to how we all discover and consume music: on streaming platforms.

The History of the Three-Minute Pop Track

Traditionally, pop tracks were kept to three and a half minutes and under so they could comfortably squeeze onto one side of a 7-inch record in high fidelity. Shorter pop tracks would also get the best chance of being spun on the radio. Radio stations have always been wary of losing the listener’s attention, often sacrilegiously using the intros and the outros to talk over them. Today, radio is much less of a music discovery medium, with streaming platforms and social media being a much bigger part of the music culture picture.

There are also fascinating urban legends of the mafia owning jukeboxes in the 40s and 50s. It was in their best interest to litter the jukeboxes with shorter records to maximise their income. Fast forward 70 years and not much has changed from the mobster’s reign. The cigar-toting mobsters have been replaced with the likes of Danie Ek, the CEO of Spotify, who now earns infinitely more than the most powerful mobsters in history and gets a fraction of the respect for his mercenary desecration of the industry.

The Influence of Streaming Platforms on Song Durations and the Rise of the Earworm

To immediately capture the interest of attention-deprived music fans who are all about instant aural gratification, independent artists and label-signed artists alike are becoming increasingly wary of how they construct their music. Heaven forbid artists let the tension build through inventive interludes; in modern pop culture, it is less about the artform and more about the capacity to endlessly entertain the listener.

More and more artists are cutting the intros to their songs and starting with hooks or choruses to prevent listeners from bouncing to another track on streaming platforms out of boredom.

For songs played for less than 30 seconds on Spotify, no royalties are paid to the artist. That may only be a loss of $0.004, but the detriment doesn’t stop there. The Spotify algorithm notes each song skip as a signal of dissatisfaction. Enough skips could lead to the artist and their music getting put in front of fewer fans. Regardless of at which point the song is skipped. Meaning, that if you opt to use an extended outro or an ambient middle eight that your listeners get bored of, your track has a far greater chance of being skipped and underperforming on streaming platforms and in the charts.

Furthermore, the royalties for a 31-second song are the same as a 3-minute song and the longest song on Spotify, which spans 48 hours, 39 minutes and 43 seconds. So, it literally pays for artists to monetarily maximise their listeners’ time by creating shorter tracks.

The St Albans rock band, The Pocket Gods, released an album of 1,000 30-second songs to protest Spotify’s unfair royalty rates in 2022. They didn’t exactly end up on the Forbes rich list via this PR stunt, but their protest was an inventive retaliation to how streaming services, such as Spotify, are altering the industry with the unfairness of their royalties. But once again, Gen Z is taking the fall for using the technology they have grown up with.

Are Music Consumers’ Attention Spans Getting Shorter?

Reportedly, in 2022, the collective average consumer attention span is just eight seconds; and people said millennials had short attention spans in 2000 when their attention spans stretched over just 12 seconds. However, it is worth keeping in mind that this eight-second duration is the length of time it takes to win a music fan over – it is not the maximum length of time that we can now focus on a particular medium.

So, to answer my titular question, the 3-minute pop track is not dwindling in duration solely because of Gen Z and their preferred social media platform. In fact, TikTok has come to be one of the best social media platforms for music discovery, consumption and promotion, compared to the graveyard of a boomer favourite, Facebook.

Micro-media is king on platforms such as TikTok and Twitter, but that does not mean that Gen Z is incapable of sitting through longer songs or appreciating classic song structures. Take the popularity of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill as the perfect example. It has a duration of 4:58-minutes, and according to the official charts, it was the most popular song in the summer of 2022. Once you have captured interest, you have a captive audience to impress with your music.

The dwindling attention span is one of the most common misconceptions of our modern age. The main reason for the comparisons between Gen Z and a goldfish is because of the vast selection of stimuli available to the younger generations. Gen Z consumers, like all consumers, have more content vying for their attention.

To conclude, for independent artists releasing music in 2022, it is worth considering omitting needlessly extended intros, pre-choruses and fades to prevent Spotify’s algorithm from demoting your music after too many skips, but don’t doubt music consumer’s ability to appreciate traditional song structures.

The appetite for high-quality music is still there; if anything, the draconian rule of Spotify and other streaming platforms is one of the biggest drivers in ensuring that the music that gets promoted is worthy of consumers’ attention.

Amelia Vandergast

 

Maximise Your Self-Promotion by Taking a 365 Approach to Your Release Strategies

Release Planning for Independent Artists

With the fall of record labels and the increased pressure on independent artists to always stay present and relevant on social media, the necessity of the year-long release strategy is increasing. Extensive calculated planning may not be what you entered the music industry for but if you want your career to be sustainable, it is up to you to create that sustainability instead of banking on dumb luck and the vague possibility of viral success.

For artists that are dropping an album with little to no pre and post-release planning and disappearing, there is little chance of success in today’s cutthroat industry. For artists creating longer-term annual strategies, the likelihood of success skyrockets.

This article will outline the best ways to gain new fans in the run-up to new releases and nurture existing fans by covering how to plan your annual release schedule and how to make the most out of your secondary content releases.

How to Plan an Annual Release Schedule

By planning an annual release schedule, there is less pressure on artists to constantly write, create and record music. By getting savvy with your release strategy and adapting to the new changes in the music industry, such as the rise of streaming platforms and genre-less playlists, the effort you put into your albums, mini-albums, or EPs will reap greater rewards.

In our previous article, we covered how the LP format was fading into irrelevance, but if you have your heart set on releasing an album, consider dropping multiple mini releases from it first. Streaming services, such as Spotify, statistically reward this pre-album release strategy, which is reflected in the statistic that shows that more than 2/3rds of tracks played on the platform were released as singles – not as albums. Additionally, when new releases drop, Spotify chooses particular singles for the discovery playlists. So, in theory, arranging your releases in this way means that every new release is a chance to win the attention of new fans and prime your existing fans for your latest music.

For example, if you’ve got 12 songs on your new album, the material could be broken up into a string of singles and potentially an EP. At a push, one LP release could become six new releases to promote. But it doesn’t end there; following every release, you will get to post about the reception of it as you tease the anticipation for the forthcoming release. For example, every time your new release gets radio play, playlisted, lauded by a music critic, written about, or hyped by a notable artist, that is another opportunity to boost your presence on social media.

The possibilities don’t end there either. As you are leading up to the release of your album or trying to garner more attention around it following the release there are plenty more opportunities to engage a wider audience. Here are a few more ideas to help you to fill your annual release strategies:

  1. Release remixes of your most popular releases. If a particular release has gone down well with your fans, consider a remix of the single. The remix can be created by yourself or by another artist or producer. The remix can be as simple as a radio edit, or you could consider an electronic or dance version of your single.
  2. Record live versions of your popular releases. The live music industry may have taken a hit recently, but that doesn’t mean that music fans have completely lost the taste for that irreplicable intimate live music feel. You can either add live versions of your songs to your releases or create a separate release.
  3. Create unplugged versions of your music. If any of your tracks work just as well acoustically as they do electrically, consider releasing unplugged versions. Once again, this can be a separate release or tied into an EP or single release.
  4. Release the demos of your singles before the final mixed and mastered versions. If you are happy with the more rough and ready versions of your new material, consider dropping the demos before you head into the studio and allow a producer to put the finishing touches on your music. Lovers of Lo-Fi may be more taken with the lower fidelity versions of your music.

Plan for Secondary Content Releases

Moving away from how you can maximise the impact of your recorded material, there are also ample opportunities to gain more traction from secondary content releases.

Music Videos

If you have the budget to create official music videos or official lyric videos, always release these after the single, EP or LP release they support. It may be tempting to drop them simultaneously, but by staggering the premiere of your music video/videos, you will create another talking point.

In addition to the more traditional official music video formats, embrace the hype around reels on TikTok and Instagram. Create teaser videos for all of your upcoming releases, promote fan-made videos, or turn on the camera and create behind-the-scenes or live videos.

Artwork & Imagery

The artwork for your releases can do far more than solely serve as single/EP/LP artwork. It can also become pre-release content for you to flaunt to your followers and fans. For the best chance of making an aesthetic impact, work with a talented graphic artist that can create poster-worthy images, NFTS, and other merch, such as t-shirts, totes, and whatever else you want to slap your album artwork on! Merch drops are yet again another great opportunity to take to social media and make the world aware of your presence!

Tour Your New Releases

One of the best ways to sell an album is to tour with it, but in 2022, touring can create even more content for social media. Fans who couldn’t make it to the show can live vicariously through the images and videos uploaded afterwards. Or you can give your fans a front-row view by live streaming your gigs. Don’t forget the obligatory gig selfie with all of your fans behind you on stage.

Amelia Vandergast

Eps vs LPs: Which Format Should You Choose for Your Next Release?

EP vs LP

Video killed the radio star; now, EPs are taking over from where LPs left off. The final nail is yet to hit the album format’s coffin, but it is official, as of 2016, EPs and singles are on the rise while the LP format is in decline.

For independent artists considering their next move in 2022 and beyond, it can be tricky to know how to push forward; there will never be one size fits all answer for every artist. However, by looking at the data and trends driven by digital streaming, independent artists have the best shot of success with their next release.

Don’t be fooled by the reports that vinyl record sales were rising in 2021; overall, there has been a continual annualised decline for the LP format. While some music fans continue to appreciate the art form of the LP, EPs are quickly becoming more advantageous for independent artists across the board.

In a global streaming study by Deezer, it was reported that 54% of the 8,000 people interviewed admitted to listening to fewer albums than they did 5 – 10 years ago. One of the main reasons behind this is fans prefer to listen to a mix of tracks from different artists – a mix of tracks that are often curated by mood. However, this varies greatly by genre. Pop, rock and RnB fans were the most likely to listen to an album in full, whereas dance and gospel fans were less likely to sit through an entire album.

Why are EPs becoming more popular than LPs?

  1. Cost

For artists operating on a shoestring budget, it is far more economically viable to release an EP instead of an LP. This is why, before the 21st-century decline of the album, EPs generally existed in the punk and indie domains.

An EP generally consists of 4 – 6 tracks, while an LP can contain 7 – 29.  Naturally, recording an EP is infinitely cheaper for artists paying for production costs, session musicians and studio time.

  1. The Decline of the Superfan

How music fans engage with music is undergoing a rapid transformation, which is mainly due to digital streaming influencing artist-fan relationships. Rather than trying to maintain your relationship with the dwindling numbers of superfans with albums, work on casting the net wider with shorter releases that are far more efficacious at attracting new listeners.

  1. The Power of the Playlist & Other Streaming Platform Services

Playlists on Spotify and other music streaming services are one of the best ways for music fans to discover new music. Getting onto a major or official Spotify playlist can introduce artists to thousands or even millions of new music fans. However, there is a downside. Music fans are also being conditioned to consume shorter collections of songs.

For artists pouring their energy into a longer-form album format, there is a greater chance of the featuring singles becoming digital clutter on a platform, while 1 or 2 singles get all the limelight.

  1. EPs Allow Artists to Be More Prolific with Their Releases

For independent artists hoping for a sustainable career, the Extended Play format allows them to maintain a regular schedule with their releases far more than the LP format does. It is hard to stay relevant and keep your fans engaged while you are locked away producing a 12 – 20 track album!

With that in mind, EPs can act as the stopgap between LPs; they can also test the water for a new evolution in sound. What is the point in producing an entire album that is going to go down like a lead balloon with your fans when you can test the water with a single or an EP?

  1. EPs Help Artists to Predict the Outcome of an LP Release

New independent artists financing their careers may be eager to release their debut album, but jumping the gun is a risky move, which may not pay off in the long run.

With a few single and EP releases under your belt, you will be in a better position to predict your LP sales. This Is especially important if you’re selling physical copies of your LP. Lastly, you won’t get a second shot at releasing your debut album; make it a reflection of your best work.

To sum up, albums will always have a place in the music industry, but for independent artists that are still growing their fanbases in 2022, the benefits of EPs outweigh the benefits of LPs. They’re cost-effective, and it is infinitely less likely that the tracks you have poured your heart and soul into will get discarded in the ether.

Instagram’s Algorithm Has Changed, So Should Your Self-Promotion Campaigns

Instagram algorithm 2022

If you have noticed a drop in likes and comments on your Instagram posts this year, it can be easy to assume that no one cares about your music anymore. To recapture your audience, get your head out of the digital sand and brush up on how to appease Instagram’s brand-new 2022 algorithm.

The Instagram algorithm determines what shows up on feeds, reels, explore pages and hashtag pages. To do this, the algorithm analyses every image, video and reel uploaded to the platform by looking at captions, image alt-text, hashtags, and engagement metrics. The aim of this cross-referencing isn’t to censor; it is to put the right content in front of the right people to make it harder for users to tear themselves away from the app.

There are numerous ranking factors within the current Instagram algorithm. The three main ones are viewer interest, relevancy and the relationship between the content poster and viewer. Considering mutual follows, private messaging history, comments history, and all other forms of repeated interaction.

How Artists Can Master the Instagram Algorithm in 2022 

It is still the case that Instagram promotes high-quality and engaging content in 2022. However, there are additional rules that you have to play by if you want to make the most out of your Instagram campaigns.

For the best chances of gaining significant traction and getting your posts in front of more of your followers, here are some of the best ways to go about it.

1.        Brush Up on the Community Guidelines

Posting ‘edgy’ content on Instagram is a surefire way of ensuring that you get shadowbanned or banned entirely. It may not be rock n roll to respect the community guidelines by refraining from getting political or posting anything people could take offence to. However, it will help you to promote your music in the long run. Even if your posts fall into the grey area of ‘acceptable’, you risk being ‘down-ranked’ or hidden entirely.

2.        Get Reel

Following the hype of TikTok, Instagram has moved away from solely being a photo-sharing app. By jumping on the trend of reels, you will boost the visibility of ALL your Instagram content. Reels can be an excellent tool for music marketing; rather than just posting video teasers of your new music that feature in the gallery, create reel teasers of your new music or give your fans some ‘behind the scenes/song’ content to gaze at.

If you are struggling with new content ideas, recycle older video material. Instagram reels have opened up a whole new world for engagement – some of the most popular viral videos are from clips that are years or even decades old!

3.        Don’t Post Prematurely

This secret to appeasing the Instagram algorithm isn’t new, but it is still crucial for artists to consider in 2022. Scheduling posts for the right time is one of the best ways to boost engagement and ensure maximum organic reach – which means there will be less need to pay for sponsored posts!

Regardless of what some blogs will tell you, there isn’t a universal best time of day to post your Instagram stories, videos, and reels. Instead, you will have far greater success if you use a tool such as Hootsuite Dashboard to analyse your audience’s behaviour.

4.        Engage Your Followers

Like independent music, Instagram is all about the community, as proven by the importance of engagement to the Instagram algorithm. Stop trying to seek adoration and start trying to start a conversation. If you’re struggling to engage your followers, review your captions; are they worth responding to? Or are they a dead conversational end?

Comments are one of the most powerful engagement signals to Instagram’s algorithm; likes, shares, and saves also do their part. For perspective, engaging 1 – 5% of your audience is considered “good engagement”, and remember, responding to direct messages is just as important as responding to comments on your posts!

5.        Don’t Be Lazy or Spammy with Your Hashtags

With hashtags, less is more, and quality should always be above quantity. Even though you can add up to 30 tags per post, limit yourself to 7 – 10.

If there is anything that the Instagram algorithm knows like the back of its metaphysical hand, it is hashtags. Your first port of call is to ensure that all hashtags are descriptive and accurate – Instagram will know if they aren’t! Always play to your niche with hashtags. Never use generic music hashtags; dig deep into your respective niche with ample consideration for your genre and audience.

6.        Keep Your Posting Frequency Consistent

If you take long stints away from Instagram and only pop up to promote a new single or a new tour, this will massively impede the reach of the posts and reels you DO post. Once again, there is a fine line between being spammy and posting far too infrequently.

Bands and artists should attempt to update their Instagram profiles 3 – 5 a week, and keep in mind that just because you CAN automatically share your posts to Facebook from Instagram, this isn’t always the best course of action. If you want your fans to follow you and engage with you across all channels, give them a reason to by mixing up your content.

For your best chances of boosting engagement go live at least once a week and stick to a content schedule. With tools such as Hootsuite planners, you can schedule your posts in advance for the coming weeks or even months!

7.        Get Analytical

It is easy to get caught up in vanity metrics; one of the best ways to avoid this is by using analytical tools, which can tell you what kind of content your audience will come back for.

Using analytical tools may initially sound like a lot of extra work but think of all the wasted time and effort you would spend on unsuccessful posts otherwise.

Along with telling you when your audience is online, analytical tools will point out which posts, reels, and stories are accruing real engagement, which of your hashtags are working for you, and which ones aren’t!

Amelia Vandergast

How Independent Artists Can Recession-Proof Their Music Careers

Independent Artists in a Recession

Remember when it was perfectly acceptable to post demands across your social media pages on music consumers to financially support independent artists? Yeah, it is a little hazy for me too.

With the economy biting low-income people across our capitalized stratosphere, the collective sense of fear has muddied the creative waters to the same extent as UK waterways that are now pumped with sewage. It feels as though we’re heading to a Dickensian dystopia, where relative financial comfort in the present does little to quell the fear of the future.

To conflate all of this, poverty and financial instability have a major impact on behaviour; it shifts focus almost solely on meeting immediate needs and navigating threats. So, it comes as little surprise that engagement in arts, culture and leisure diminishes with reduced financial stability. In 2021, a study conducted by the department of culture in the UK reported that poorer people felt alienated and excluded by the arts and in their day-to-day lives, art was increasingly irrelevant.

With the cost of living ever-increasing, naturally, there are far more people with reduced inclination to spend money on merch, records, gigs, and all the other expenses that come with them. And on the flip side, artists will be far less comfortable making those demands of their fans. There is a way to move forward, but success will be determined by an artist’s ability to adapt and overcome.

How to Recession-Proof Your Music Career 

The future might seem bleak when you turn on the news or scroll through social media. But remember, a recession doesn’t mean that every revenue stream will suffer a drought. There is always money SOMEWHERE; you just have to be savvier at finding it.

As tempting as it may be to let nihilism consume you and put your creative projects to one side, the power of choosing a glass half-full or half-empty perspective is still ultimately with you. If you take on the weight of the world every time you contemplate how to move forward in your career, you won’t get very far.

If you retain some perspective and refuse to be overwhelmed by the sum of human suffering, you are in a far better position to sustain your music career and add value to your listeners’ lives. If you were looking for permission to throw in the creative towel, you won’t find it here.

Instead, we will point you to some of the most viable income streams for independent artists during the recession, taking into consideration the attention recession, the ACTUAL recession, and how the global pandemic also left its imprint on the industry.

1. Make Peace with Spotify

An independent artist should never expect any given revenue stream to sustain them. It is easy to bemoan streaming royalties, but over time, they *can* add up, especially if you release your music across all platforms with the help of a distro company, such as Ditto, which allows you to keep 100% of your royalties.

At a fraction of the cost of traditional promotion and advertising, streaming platforms are also one of the best ways to allow new listeners to discover your music. Once a new fan has gotten a taste of your sound, there is no telling how much they will invest in you further down the line.

2. Get Over the Music Publishing Royalties Learning Curve 

Figuring out publishing royalties and how not to get shafted may not be the most exciting thing you can do in your music career, but it can be one of the most lucrative. Your compositions and recordings come with publishing rights; every time your music is used, you are entitled to compensation.

Whether that is when your music is played on the radio or physically reproduced, you should be compensated; registering with a music royalty collection agency is often the easiest way to do this. Once again, Ditto has saved the day with their music publishing service. They take a 10% cut, but that is a small price to pay when they also pitch your tracks to sync companies.

3. Be Inclusive with Your Merchandising

In a recession, limiting your costs is vital. But if you have a big enough fanbase to justify creating merch to supplement your other expenses, don’t rule this out as a revenue stream.

Not every fan will be able to spring for an expensive piece of merch or a vinyl record, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in supporting you by purchasing smaller-ticket items, such as enamel pins and patches. If you produce physical copies of your music, make your CDs or cassettes as aesthetically appealing as your vinyl records.

As music fans are now being more careful with their budgets and are limiting the number of live shows they go to, always give your fans an e-commerce option to buy your merch.

4. Get In Sync 

Cultural engagement is becoming increasingly more digital, so even if there is more tumbleweed in your local scene than music fans, that doesn’t mean you can’t cash in on the digital dollar.

Sync deals allow artists to earn money through their music being featured on different forms of visual media, such as TV, films, and video games. The flat fees can stretch up to £10k per placement; that is before you consider the continuous pay-outs for repeat usage.

5. Brand Sponsorships 

If you are good enough at what you do, there is no reason why brand sponsorships and partnerships should be out of the realm of possibility. Not every up-and-coming artist will get the chance to rep their favourite music brand, but those aren’t the only companies that would be interested in brand sponsorships with musicians.

If you can boost the visibility of a brand, which aligns with you as an artist, with your established online presence, there is always the potential for brand sponsorships. Reach out to independent brands with a proposition, and always be prepared to negotiate.

 

Amelia Vandergast