Just last week, Camden’s very own Roundhouse opened its doors to artists and industry professionals as part of their Artist Toolkit Day. The event included a series of performances, clinics, talks and collaborations during the weeklong Roundhouse Rising Festival.
I made my way to the iconic venue on Sunday morning, collected my wristband and nestled into a seat amongst roughly forty others, pen and notebook in hand, starry-eyed and eager to learn something I didn’t know about the world of music. Around me, others eyed up their peers. Some made a daring effort to stand out with 90s inspired bowl cuts, snake skin knee high boots and in one instance, a Hello Kitty bomber jacket. Others were social butterflies, floating from one guitar slinging twenty-something year old to the next with the oddly familiar: “what kinda music do you make?”, or “what genre do you listen to?” More often than not people smiled and shrugged: “A bit of everything y’know?”
Soon after, lights were dimmed, and the talks began with the familiar squeal of mic feedback and a unanimous wince. We were taken through the various gears and cogs of the music industry. First with an introduction to the world of PR, then licensing, management, publishing, booking agents and finally the label industry. The panel included speakers from Coda, Imagem, BBC Extra and Universal Music each with their own set of tips, insider secrets and almost always a story of struggle, opportunity and eventually success.
Throughout the day we were reminded that though there was no fixed recipe for success, you could only go so far without a manager, label, PR agent and yada yada yada.
“Can I send in an application to a PR company or publisher?” Someone asked. “Not really” replied the speaker, “we don’t accept unsolicited mail.”
“Can I apply in hopes of getting picked up by a booking agent?” Another hopefull asked. “Not really” replied the speaker, “we don’t accept unsolicited mail.”
Soon enough, there appeared to be a trend and we were left baffled by the catch-22. With the means to make music becoming far more accessible and with music itself becoming far more available, industry professionals have had to shield themselves from the resulting fall out. It appeared as though companies across the board gradually started relying on stamps of approval from their contemporaries as a means of time and resource management as they sifted through the heaps of emerging new music.
Surely this makes it more difficult to land a deal with anyone in the industry? Nope. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Instead of having to impress multiple members the industry with your singer or songwriter skills, now you merely need to impress one. A manager.
Managers comfortably sit right in the middle of a web of industry professionals, they curate their roster, represent their artists, but most of all they deliver consistent talent to their peers. A manager with a solid reputation are your keys to the industry. This way, PR representation, licensing, and booking gurus are simply an email away. So instead of trying to win over your allies one by one, simply get yourself a well-respected manager.
“Can I email a management company and ask to join their roster?”
Ironically, management companies too do not accept unsolicited mail. However unlike their industry counterparts, these guys can be found floating around the live music scene keeping their eyes peeled for the next big thing. And that’s not all. In fact, behind the scenes industry professionals will frequently share hotly tipped artists to one another, trying to gauge the interest of their peers. With their ears pressed up against closed doors, managers will listen out for chatter. The louder the chatter, the more appealing it becomes to add the artist in question to their roster.
So where does all this chatter come from?
Lets say you play a gig, or you upload a track to a streaming website, or you collaborate with an established artist and somehow word gets around. More likely than not, the news will be picked up by the safety net we called A&R scouts. Scouts dwell in the corners of dingy clubs and gig venues and will often look unassuming, sipping on a pint of lager. The difference is, once they’ve finished that pint, they report straight back to HQ. Good, bad, or simply weird, the message gets back and nothing goes unmissed. Why? Because nothing is worse than missing the next big act. So what does that mean for you? Not much really. But understanding what goes on behind the curtain is a nice little reminder that you and your music do the talking. With a couple of solid tracks under your belt and a stirring live performance, you too could be the next big thing. Just remember, “We do not accept unsolicited mail”.