Your Future in the Music Business. You’ve got your band, you’ve been playing together for years and you’ve all decided to really give it a go to hit the big time. What do you need to do to give yourself the best chance of this happening from a business perspective?
The vast majority of bands that we have come across in our time are ‘all about the music’. This is fine if you’re happy doing a few low key gigs and never really want to get too far within the music biz. (yes there are exceptions, where a musician can be plucked from obscurity and thrust into the limelight. But these are extremely rare and require a lot of good luck! I prefer not to rely on luck too much myself however, and you shouldn’t either) So, what do you need to do to give yourself that edge over anyone else?
1. What are record labels looking for?
Record labels want to make money, they do this by investing in a band. The band returns the money by selling merchandise and music. In 2019, bands will make far more per unit sold, by selling merchandise than they will by selling music. Your interaction with your fans is the single biggest influencing factor as to whether you will sell this merchandise, and therefore make money. Labels will be looking at this interaction, and will ask you for a chart of accounts to see just how much merchandise you can sell. The more interaction you have, both on and off stage, the more merchandise and music you will sell, the more money you will make, therefore the higher the chance a label will get their money back, therefore the more likelier they are to invest in you.
2. How do you prepare the band, legally, for the big time?
One of the most important, and probably the most boring parts of setting up a band for the big time, is the legal structure of it. This can be done in a multitude of ways. However, the most professional structure is to set yourselves up as a limited company (or LLC in the US) This way, 100 shares (your typical starting share capital, can be divided up between all of the band members) For every £100 of profit that comes in, it can be paid out via dividends proportionally to the share allocation. Furthermore, it solidifies the relationship between all the band members, the songwriter will be paid more than the person who doesn’t contribute to this for example. Also, decisions have to be agreed on by 51% of the company shareholders before anything can go ahead, for example, what should the band invest in next? Now there are complications with this, you will have to file annual accounts and are beholden to company law, however, if a label approaches you and you come back with the legal structure in place and full accounts you’re going to be much more appealing than the boy band down the street with nothing legal in place at all.
3. Make sure you have a website, with a mailing list, but social media..?
This is going to be a controversial statement, but I personally, really don’t believe social media platforms like Facebook are worth investing time in anymore. Firstly, the generation that buys music (or streams it nowadays) isn’t on Facebook anymore. Under 30’s have deserted the platform and aren’t coming back. Secondly, the way Facebook pages are structured is purely to make Facebook money, you have to work or pay to acquire likes, but once you have them, you’ll be lucky if you can reach 1% of them regardless of what you do. The only way round this is to pay quite an exorbitant amount of money to Facebook to get your message to your followers. Instead, invest the time and money you would have invested in Facebook, into your own website. Make it slick, ensure you have a marketplace on it, do some SEO work and start collecting email addresses. Yes, even in 2019 email is still the best way to reach your clients, by a long way. Conversely to this, Twitter is worth using as reach is purely based on your tweeting volume. You can sign up with a site like Clickasnap, connect your twitter account, upload your band photos and set the auto tweeting system to every hour. That way, all you have to do is interact with replies when you want to. When you’re at gigs, get peoples emails, and ensure that you have some business cards handy that you can spread amongst the crowd.