The days when a relatively unknown band could sign for a huge advance from global record labels are largely dead. The music industry has changed massively in the last ten years, with traditional major labels altering the deals they offer artists and generally reassessing the way they do business from the ground up.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Alongside changes at the majors, advances in technology have made it easier than ever to go it alone. Bands can record, release and distribute music, sell tickets and merchandise directly to fans, and take control of their own careers in a way that was never possible before. Great numbers of artists are choosing the DIY approach, and globally recognised acts like Amanda Palmer and Blood Red Shoes are proof that going DIY can be a shrewd business decision and not just necessity.
Here are some useful tips for DIY artists, put together by the UK’s fastest growing gig booking service, BandWagon:
1. Have a plan. First and foremost you are a musician, but you are also in business, so be prepared to behave like one. Lay out your strategy and goals. Portion out different organisational duties to band mates or other people best suited to perform them.
2. Get real-world fans – online isn’t enough. Every gig is an opportunity to win over more fans, so make sure you let them know how to sign up to email lists or stay up to date through social media.
3. Play live. Live has always been the cornerstone of DIY. Almost every band and musician starts out on their own as a proto-DIY outfit, organising their own performances. Put your all into every performance. People will respond to your passion – and you never know who might be in the audience.
4. Make sure you’re getting all the money you’re due. Sign up to collecting societies PRS and PPL as soon as possible to start making money through your copyrights.
5. Take things into your own hands. Can’t get booked for the sort of gigs you want to play? Get together with other bands and promote your own nights. Need money to organise a tour? Raise it through services Pledge, or by selling music and merch direct to fans at gigs, or online using services like BandCamp.
6. Find a reliable and trustworthy manager. In the world of DIY, managers are no longer just middlemen, they are entrepreneurs and organisers. Consider a contracted trial period to make sure you can work together well. A strong band-manager relationship is essential, but an open relationship where everyone knows what they are doing is even more important.
7. Be nice. It is a small industry and people talk. If you are professional and likeable, people will want to work with you again. The opposite is equally true. Being friendly with bands that make it big can also help to boost your profile.
8. Value your music. Don’t fall into the trap of playing lots of free entry gigs – you risk not being taken seriously by promoters and creating a fan base that resents paying to see you play. Don’t be afraid to play for free early on – it can offer valuable experience and exposure – but make sure people will be prepared to pay when the time comes.
9. Get things in writing whenever you can. It may seem like overkill but can help avoid disputes at all stages in your career. Even if it’s just an agreement about what split of the door you’re getting at a gig, it’s better to have it written down before you play.
Here endeth the lesson. Good luck!
BandWagon is an online platform for bands and artists to find and book gigs with promoters and venues across the UK. Bands can organise their bookings, search for new opportunities, book tours, showcase their music and manage their own live careers. In addition, it offers promoters a simple way to complete gig line-ups, scout new acts, or create and curate entirely new events. Get started for free at www.bandwagongigs.com
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