June 05, 2009

Unconvention Manchester... Thursday Opening Thoughts

Thursday afternoon got off to a great start, meeting up with a couple of people whom I've been in contact with but not met before in person. Putting faces to blogs and tweets is always a nice thing, and at a relatively small event like this, it is easy to go around and introduce yourself to new faces too.

The artist's panel on Thursday afternoon was a lively one. The discussion seemed to start from building a buzz around your music / band / etc, touching on PR companies and if they offer value for independent artists. Cutting through the networking and get those CDs to the all-important ears of magazine and radio tastemakers is an crucial matter. Personally, I would say that if you are truly dedicated to your niche genre then you should already have been in touch with these people directly. You listen to the specialist podcasts and shows with similar sounding artists, go direct, send an mp3, send a CD, chase it up, meet the people at shows and events, build a relationship DIRECTLY with your industry peers and the job of PR companies is not only defunct , but you can do a better job by being genuine and approachable.

The topic of musicians 'working' for 'nothing' was brought up; in other words, free downloading. I have to say that I think a couple of the artists missed the point of how to reap not only useful information but also indirect revenue from free downloading, be that legal or otherwise. Some of the older artists (no offence, but there is a certain amount of generational differences relating to how to conduct your online strategies), were sticking to the old mantra of 'if you don't pay for the musician's music then they will not / can not make any more music'; believing that you cannot build a successful project from giving your music away for free means that you should re-evaluate your ideas of 'success'. Success is not just about selling records anymore. If you do not consider other factors such as building extensive mailing list, concert ticket sales, a busy gig diary, steady merchandise sales and a strong online presence (be that youtube views, twitter followers etc), then you are missing out on great opportunities to build your reputation and career. As an independent artist, you should relish the fact that you can distribute 10,000 digital copies of your song for the same cost as distributing just 1. The tools and advice are all available online to help you promote your music to an immense audience, and you should try and learn to see success in the fact that if, after giving away 10,000 copies, some of those will pass onto friends, create further fans and so on, to the extent that your music can reach more people in more places than ever before. Just because you don't receive a measly sum from a profitable record label in return doesn't mean that you are not achieving results (many of them tangible, too). Following the artists panel, I stuck around for a few of the bands, chatted with the Un-convention Belfast contingent for a while, and then headed off for dinner.

On a side note, I didn't quite expect so much swearing at the discussion - not that i'm adverse at all, but our venue for the discussion is The Sacred Trinity Church in Salford(!) Then again, I had been drinking beer throughout.

Stay Tuned for Friday's thoughts :-)

Lee Jarvis.

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