Much of the work that labels and managers have traditionally taken care of in the industry, such as distribution and recording/mastering, can now be done by the artists themselves, and for significantly less money. Marketing and publicity, on the other hand, are both areas where it can be beneficial to hire an outsider provided, that is, they know what they're doing.
Guest Post by Tyler Allen on W. Tyler - Artist Consulting
Labels and Managers: What are you offering your artists?
Let’s think about it.
Distribution is incredibly DIY and accessible.
Ten or twenty years ago you had to go through a lot of red tape to get your work in stores and online. These days it’s as simple as a CDBaby or TuneCore account. Or, even easier– a SoundCloud page and a good social media strategy.
Recording and mastering is more affordable than ever.
In the early days, you had to know someone to get into a studio. But today, it seems like everyone knows someone with a studio. Plenty of towns and cities also have studios with open door policies, that are pretty affordable and very professional.
Marketing & Publicity– now these two are tough. But it’s certainly a viable skill that savvy artists are picking up on.
In the days of social media and digital branding, a lot of artists today may not be experts on how to get their reach and engagement levels up, but a lot of artists are consistent in their online presence, which goes a long way for their brand.
Now, all that being said, a solid label and an organized manager can really make an artist's career. And yes, even in today’s do-it-yourself landscape. Some would even argue especially in today’s do-it-yourself landscape. With everyone now having access to the above tools — distro, recording, and social media — it’s even more difficult for an artist to stand out from the static.. because everyone’s doing it. Everyone’s dropping a mixtape, going on tour or making a video. An artist has to stand out these days in order to survive.
And standing out is something a label and management team can assist with.
A large part of my day-to-day work is teaming with labels and managers to make sure their artists have a solid digital profile, and that they have the proper marketing structure to attract fans, media and other influencers.
While I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with some amazing managers and labels — I’ve also been met with situations where the managers or labels were just going through the motions. Which can sadly stunt an artists growth and career.
So, are you really helping your artists?
Here is how a manager or label can be..and should be..vital to an artist’s career.
In other words: this is what you should be doing!
Giving Structure: Your Artist’s Happy Meal
Step one when I’m working with an artist or label is giving them their “happy meal”. While I wish I can take credit for this term, I can’t. A good friend and mentor of mine, John Ferguson — former A&R of Tommy Boy records did and I absolutely love the phrase and it’s been a go-to tactic in my projects.
It’s called a “happy meal” because you know what you’re going to get each time. You know that once you’ve left that drive-thru you have a cheeseburger, fries, toy and a drink in that bag.
Similarly, when doing a release or tour you need to know what your artists are getting every time. What’s their happy meal going to be for that release? That tour? That video?
It could be:
- A Media Releases to XY and Z outlets.
- $X amount in Facebook Ads, $Y amount in Twitter ads, and $Z in
- “Out Now” Graphics sized for each social media outlet.
- :15 and :30 Video Clips for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where the artist hypes up the release as it’s playing in the background.
- A lyric video for YouTube content.
- A making-of montage for further video content.
And that’s just the marketing aspect of it!
It’s an organization tactic so you know that you’re hitting the key-areas time and time again.
And just like a real Happy Meal, sometimes you might want a Chicken McNugget meal, and sometimes you might want a Cheeseburger Happy Meal, but no matter what — you know what you’re getting. You may have to make small tweaks depending on the artist, or depending on the project, but the main themes are going to be there. This really helps focus your efforts, while also saving time and energy.
Structuring and project management is certainly one thing that an artist is typically too overwhelmed or bogged down to handle. So by having a dedicated Google Sheet or other check-list handy, you will not only be prepared each time your artist drops a release, but you’ll also be effective at it. Not to mention your artist will see the worth in having you on their team as they are seeing your constant movement.
Your Network is Your Artist’s Net-worth
Distribution is doable on one’s own, I discussed that already. Recording is doable, discussed that already, too.
However, what’s really going to make your management team or label worth it — is your network. That’s the main advantage of signing to a major these days: the publicity and the reach.
Major labels and major management teams have ins with media, and also hold clout with press and major booking entities. If you can start building up strong relationships with press, media, booking agents and other influencers (such as music supervisors and producers), you’re going to be unstoppable.
And don’t forget — delegation is also a very wonderful thing as a manager or label-head. Maybe on a personal level you’re having trouble finding the press or booking connections you need and need some assistance. Simply find some great publicists and booking agents to bring on board and work with you. And as they work, be sure that your brand name is growing with that publicity and that movement, too.
For example, take an artist such as Macklemore. Hate him or love him, his story is a pretty good one for DIY management. He did everything he could on his own. He had online buzz, regional shows but he needed that extra push to take him further. So when it came to publicity, he worked hard, landed a promo deal with Warner, and got that extra boost which led to radio and TV appearances.
The same story can be told for plenty of other indie artists, too. It’s all about promo, publicity and networking.
That could be the management team hustling to make connections, hiring a solid publicity and marketing team, or making enough noise that a major offers to assist you. No matter what — networking matters!
If you don’t have the ability — acknowledge it and add to the team. Plenty of majors, indies, and managers bring folks like me on board. Whether it’s for a general consultation on how to get the needle moving or a full-blown monthly campaign, it’s great to ask for help and bring in people that share your vision.
Content Matters: Ensure Content Is Consistent
While most of today’s artist’s are pretty dialed-in when it comes to social media, you still need to keep an eye out to ensure a good content mix. You need to make sure that your artist has a great combination of brand building content, interactive content, and sales posts.
The last thing you want is an artist that pushes nothing but sales — buy my CD, buy my merch — all day, every day. Or even worse, an artist that never even speaks about their music or art.
A solid social media presence is crucial for press and fan interaction, which obviously assists in merch, booking and overall sales. So ensuring that your artists are active and engaged is very important.
I’m brought in a lot to manage artist’s social media profiles, and I’m often met with the issue of not having enough content to work with. A lot of folks don’t realize that content goes stale. Sometimes it’s better to not share anything, than to share that same 6-month-old music video day-in and day-out. You need to be creative with the content you produce. Even if it’s a vlog from the artist saying they are working on new material and to stay tuned.. it’s better than sharing the same work tirelessly.
That brings up another valid tactic management teams and labels should offer — supplying artists with unique content whenever possible. Have your hip hop artists hop on a mix of a hot track, or even take shots of them in the studio as they record. Get some graphic design done, or make some graphics yourself via Canva or another tool.
I generally have my label clients dedicate one day a month to having their artists come in to the studio and work on content. It could be a track, but it’s often just photos goofing off in the studio, or vlogs for their fans.
Having a consistent flow of visual and text content goes a long way, and it’s in the manager and label’s best interest to ensure that an artist has photos, videos and tracks to share with their fans.
When working with an artist I never go in and change up the artist’s image or brand. But instead I go in and advise on how to make tweaks in consistency, content themes, and content types to raise interaction and professionalism. Ensuring a quality presence for your artist is very important!
Your Ability To Go Global Is Everything
I love the fact that so many artist take their crews on their journey with them. It’s usually their home-town friends from growing up. Or die-hard supporters that were there from the start.
I admire and support local managers and local labels doing their thing — but you have to make sure that your work isn’t stuck in that one local corner of the country forever because of it.
I’ve seen far too many artists get managed by their boy from home — which is amazing and an incredible show of confidence and loyalty. However, that manager can’t be afraid to branch out beyond what they know.
Don’t let your backyard be your graveyard.
Ensure that there’s an overall plan.
First dominate your backyard — make sure that you have that local following, then make sure you’re hitting up regional opportunities, and then shoot for those national opportunities, too.
Push your artist and also push yourself as a manager or label. Don’t settle because you think that an indie label or boutique management team can’t go national. Whether it’s a major distro or press deal, or a full-blown label contract, have fun with seeing how far you can take it. Be realistic, but also be bold.
These are just a few small ways that a label or manager should be assisting their artist in their growth and development. If you’d like me to join your team, or even take a look at how your artist(s) can spruce up their overall online presence, let’s chat.
As a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more at wtylerconsulting.com.