Becoming a Music Artist
Top 5 Tips for Every Musician Starting in the Industry
You’ve got the talent and the passion but is that enough to make a career as a musician?
Here is a quick guide on how to make it in the industry!
1. Your Sound
The key to every artist at the start of their journey into music is defining your sound. This is more than deciding what genre of music you would like to produce! While this is important, your sound is bound to evolve as you mature, so the focus here is to find your purpose in music.
What would you like to achieve by producing music? What impact do you hope to have? How do you want to be remembered?
These are pretty deep questions which will push you for greatness in your low times and keep you level-headed in your times of success, so dig deep and evaluate why you want to be a musician. Once you know your purpose in this game, your sound will come easily.
The rest is then up to you, consider what your unique selling point is and build on that. Do you want to be known for your pace, wit, control, range, musicality or lyrical prowess? Don’t forget, if we’re all unique then we’re all the same, so you need to define exactly what it is that makes your sound stand out from the rest.
2. Your Quality
When playlist curators and radio DJs are reviewing music, there are individual preferences, but three items are the foundation to the selection process: Diction, Dynamics and Blending.
When it comes to Diction, ask yourself the following:
- Are my vocals clear on the track? This can be about your articulation, but it can also be based on the pre-sets applied by your sound engineer when mixing and mastering your music
- Are the lyrics catchy? Every successful song has a repeatable hook that acts as an earworm to the listener. You want them to be humming your song subconsciously
- Are you annunciating? Do the lyrics have the right level of texture and tone for the subject matter?
Dynamics refer to the pace and peaks of the song. By adding variation to the track, the listener can vibe to the song without becoming bored. You achieve this through the delivery of your vocals:
- Does the song paint a picture? Does the song take the listener on a journey?
- Are there elements of crescendos (gradual increase in volume), diminuendos (gradual decrease in volume), accelerando (a gradual increase of speed) and rallentando (gradual decrease of speed)?
- Have you applied the right energy and attack for the subject matter?
Blending can be split into two main buckets:
- Vocal delivery: This refers to the melody of the song, harmonies, adlibs, syncopation and placement
- Production: The levels of your vocals against the beat, as well as the mixing and mastering of your track
3. Your Brand
Have you ever come across a song on a playlist that you’re not too fond of? We all have. How does your reaction change when it’s from an artist you love? You give it a second, a third, a fourth or a fifth go and before you know it, it’s grown on you.
The fact you have given it repeated chances to make an impact, reflects on the strength of the artist’s brand. You have bought into them and their music, so you convince yourself to give them another shot. This is a quick example of how important a strong brand is.
In every instance, brand beats product. Have a great product but a weak brand? You’ll get nowhere. Have a strong brand and a mediocre product, and the masses will flood in. A strong brand provides assurance, consistency and reliability.
That may sound boring to the daring and the rebel but the reality is, for you stand out amongst the hundreds of talented up and coming artists, you need a unique selling point that is consistently on display to differentiate from the competition.
Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, said that “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” The question is “what do people say about you when you’re not in the room?”
Your brand includes your logo, colour scheme and slogan, but it isn’t founded on this. Consider your brand values, brand vision, brand mission, brand voice and brand personality. To unpack these, feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Your Marketing
It’s great having an amazing song but it nobody hears it, everyone involved is at a loss. The world deserves good music, and you deserve to be heard. So how do we get your music heard? Be visible, be valuable. This is the key to marketing.
There are several ways for your music to be seen and heard, but an effective marketing campaign will include these hallmarks:
- DJs: Radio, Hospital, University, Weddings, Virtual (Soundcloud, Mixcloud)
- Radio: On rotation or via interview
- Digital Streaming Platforms (DSPs): Playlists or Ad space (as a featured artist)
- Social Media: Sponsored posts, Dance/Music Challenges, Influencer Campaigns, YouTube soundtracks and many more across all platforms (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tik Tok, Triller)
- Ad space: Prominent banners on websites and blogs
- Print media: Flyers and posters
Now that you know what to include in your marketing campaign plot out an 8-12 week strategy, and plan your activities accordingly. Define your budget and generate content. Consistency is key, so it’s best to share daily images and videos during this time with overt or subtle references to your newest release.
Outline what you can complete yourself and where you need support. This may be in the form of a graphic designer or a PR Officer.
The latter have access to a wide network of influential people like on-air personalities, and they can be critical in your music being picked up for rotation or not. If the budget doesn’t permit, be brave.
Reach out to as many people as you can and ask your current family, friends, fans and following to spread the word! Remember, you have to shout the loudest to be heard and seen – never be too shy to promote your work.
5. Your Retention
Now that you’ve defined a distinctive sound, built a recognisable brand and attracted people to your music, how do you convert them, casual listeners, to super fans? You’ve got to create some brand loyalty.
Most acts do this by consistently engaging with fans via social media, offering exclusive content on personal blogs and sharing unreleased/early releases to a bespoke mailing list. The idea here is to incentivise the listener to move from being ‘interested’ in your sound, to being an ‘advocate’ for you. You’ve garnered their interest; now you have to keep it.
The superfan knows your age, birthplace, favourite colour and favourite food. They have heard all your radio interviews and seen all your TV appearances. They can recite your biggest influences, and they know your album tracks as well as your major releases. For each listener, the progression from one step to another means that there is an evolution in interest.
When the change occurs, the landscape changes from convincing the listener to support you, to having them convincing others to do the same. At this point, they are referring your music to others; they are your biggest form of marketing. Even in a digital age, word of mouth is still the most trusted form of marketing.
The biggest question from every artist is, how do you achieve this? It’s easy. Effective, engaging, high-quality branding. You have to consistently reinforce the image you have built through your image and sound.
We are all creatures of habit, so the listener wants to be able to depend, on you to evoke a certain feeling or emotion whenever they interact with your brand and product.
Now that you’ve got the basics to feel free to apply these along your journey. Don’t forget; you never get a second chance at a first impression, so always put your best foot forward. If you would like more assistance in taking this theory to reality, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
See you at the top!
Lastly, stay up to date with all you need to know about African music at SOA, right here.
Gracey Mae – I’m a London-born Nigerian and serial plate spinner which is excellent as I’m also a big foodie.
Faith comes first, and I balance this with my 9-5 as a project manager in IT, The Afronation Show: my weekly radio broadcast and Frobeats: my weekly Afro-Pop podcast.
I keep busy with my weekly music reviews and ad hoc interviews for publications such as Pause Magazine, The F Word Magazine.
I offer Branding and PR Services with Laude London: a music management consultancy firm, as well as, curating My Dream Wedding Fair: the largest bridal show for couples of African and Caribbean descent in the UK. Both businesses I co-own.