Published on August 13th, 2010 | by Hugh Hession1
Interview with promoter and industry coach Simon Adams Pt 2
This is the second part of the Simon Adams interview on Making It In Music. The first part of this interview includes background info on Simon in addition to questions pertaining to how artists can distinguish themselves from the pack, what not to do as an artist, DIY tips and more. Adams is a leading author, promoter and industry knowledge coach from The Netherlands.
HUGH: DIY is such a subjective term. Some define it as completely going it alone, while others see it from more of a synergistic standpoint. The reality is that many artists have to start somewhere to build their career to a point where others start to take notice and to ultimately, build a team. What is your definition and views on DIY?
SIMON: Amanda Palmer is the best example of DIY; she builds her tribe, puts out some crazy ideas, throws a party on the internet and sells loads of stuff. That’s totally the way to do it.
The best book I have ever read on speeding any project ahead is Mentored By A Millionaire by Steven K. Scott. I urge everyone reading this to go buy it from Amazon right now. His “Vision Mapping” processes are nothing short of a miracle method on building a team and getting projects complete. The book helps you discover what you do best naturally, and what sort of personalities you need to get on board to complement your own working personality. It also gives you some creative plans for getting over obstacles whether they are financial or physical.
DIY in my view means taking responsibility for your music career, being the leader regardless of who does the actual work. Every team needs a leader, whether you are a solo artist or a band, someone has to be leading. Labels no longer lead, artists and bands have to lead themselves (and the good news is that this is that leadership is also totally learnable, it’s just something that indies didn’t necessarily realize they needed in their skill set before).
HUGH: There are so many varying views on marketing music vs. the artist. I’ve had some heated conversations with others in the past who literally downplay the music and focus on branding the artist instead. Of course, there are many examples of artists who have built their careers on marketing alone, however to me, music and image should work hand in hand. If it were solely about the artist, why do so many acts suffer the sophomore jinx? What are your thoughts?
SIMON: As with anything you do, if you are not in it for the long term with commitment drive and passion, then it’s not going to last very long. If you don’t have any substance as an artist then no amount of marketing will sustain a music career for very long (whatever happened to Sigue Sigue Sputnik?). If you really believe in what you do, and can connect to fans in a genuine way, you’ll get support, especially through social media. You can’t downplay the music or the personality of the people that make it, that’s what will unify your tribe; however you do have to diversify and think about connecting holistically to other areas of your fan’s lives.
One good example of this is finding out what other things they might be buying in other parts of their lives and offer these for sale through your own channels. If 80% of your fans are also buying a certain brand of watch for example perhaps you can become an affiliate and get your fans to buy it through your website, generating a small commission for your band on each sale. That’s the sort of marketing ideas that will permeate through the new music industry in the future, becoming part of the fan’s lifestyle.
Complementary marketing is something that independents should embrace as it’s an untapped source of new income, and done with the right partners it doesn’t have to compromise your values. If you want to commercialize your music it has to be marketed, that’s a basic fact, art and commercialism can co-exist, as long as you make sure that you have relevant synergy on both sides of the equation.
HUGH: I’m in definite agreement when it comes to substance and career longevity. There are always exceptions, but few, far and between. Speaking of longevity, artists who stay ahead of the curve are going to place themselves in a better position than those who don’t. What new trends do you see emerging right now in the music business?
SIMON: Direct to fan mobile marketing is about to explode, check out Music2Text.com to see some innovative stuff that’s going on in the mobile market, and more and more bands are getting mobile apps built, which are becoming cheaper to produce every day. QR codes are big in Japan and I see some great uses for these with indie bands here in the west.
How about giving visitors to your next gig a free download with a QR code on their ticket that they can scan in straight from their phone. You can get free QR code generators on the web and free readers for most handsets too. Check out beetagg.com for everything QR codes.
HUGH: Let’s turn to radio. Conventional radio formats are so controlled with ever-shrinking playlists. Indie artists virtually have no chance on this medium. A whole different subject in itself, no doubt. What are the best ways for an artist to gain exposure through radio, whether it be Internet, satellite, college or mobile?
SIMON: The challenge with radio is that it’s a one way medium. Traditional FM radio plays your track but doesn’t collect demographics. Online radio and custom radio such as Jango Airplay collects stats on the listeners, who they are and where they come from. This is much more powerful than broadcast radio.
Apart from college radio in the US, and regional and community radio in the UK and Europe, indies should be concentrating on getting their music onto podcasts and online radio, which is where the growth of listeners are. With the advent of always on 3G networks and smart phones, more and more people are listening to online radio in niche markets. This is where indies need to be, and the good news is that because large conglomerates don’t own these networks radio promotion just got a whole lot easier.
Thinking about the future, I almost wonder if the word “radio” will leave the dictionary forever in a few decades.
HUGH: Well, looks like we are coming to the end. Thank you so much, Simon for you willingness to do this interview. On a final note, how do you see the music business in 10 years?
SIMON: As Peter Drucker famously said “The only way to predict the future is to create it.” Indie artists have the tools at their disposal to build an exciting future for themselves, but only if they take the bull by the horns and learn to manage the changes they face in the new digital economy. The opportunities are out there, the knowledge is out there, but opportunities frequently present themselves as a whole bunch of hard work. Those that grow themselves into entrepreneurial musicians will continue to succeed at what they do.
The only thing that needs to change is the way that artists view themselves; they need to become much more self management orientated in their approach to their music careers, less ego centric and develop leadership skills, including team building skills. Just because you have to manage your time and skills more carefully doesn’t mean you still won’t have time to actually create music. You just need to plan what you do and when you do it, more carefully. It takes being more organized about the whole structure around your creativity. In fact, if done in the right way – getting organized and focused about your goals will actually give you more time to create more music in the long run.
Artists also have to become creative in areas that they have never experienced before, and its never a case that your not good at these new skills, you just need to commit to learning them.
The human brain has an amazing capacity to learn new skills. This is the very area that I want to help artist much more with in the future with our books, seminars and other learning tools. Barriers are breaking down every day, and we’ve seen 10 years of experimenting in the music industry. We’ll probably continue to experiment for some time to come, but that’s the exciting part.
I don’t think we’ll ever return to the static controlled music market that we saw before the millennium. I, for one am thankful for that. I don’t think that major labels will disappear; they’ll probably turn into catalogue companies administering evergreens. How long they can sustain, that only time will tell.
For independent artists, I am very optimistic about the future, I truly believe that contrary to the naysayers, the best years for indie music are ahead of us. Also I can’t put my finger on it but something deep down tells me that there is something around the corner for independent musicians in the near future that will make sense of the changes we are seeing in the industry right now.
The commercial music landscape of the future will be different for sure. Forget comparisons with the past and leave better / worse ideology behind.
Just enjoy the journey. Accept the new starting point as different, and learn to embrace change; it’ll be a much more enjoyable ride if you do!