As we enjoy the last days of 2017, we want to reflect on some of the articles and interviews featured on the Music Consultant blog this past year. We selected the interviews below because they were some of the most shared on social media sites and the Web. They also touch on some of the important issues artists and other industry professionals need to focus on as they build solid careers in music in the current climate.
In May, we chatted with Brian Viglione, drummer for the band Scarlet Sails and also known for his work with the Dresden Dolls, the Violent Femmes and Nine Inch Nails. A multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer, Brian has often aligned himself with groups who incorporate eclectic musical styles and theatrical elements. In addition to his various recording and touring work, he also gives drumming workshops to help participants develop personal creativity on the instrument.
In Part 1 of the interview, Brian talked about the life of a major label artist vs. the life of an independent artist. He also delivered some tips for artists looking to make well-informed decisions about their careers:
“Finding solid opportunities is really about identifying what’s important to you as person, and then getting out there. Start with the basics: hone your craft; do as great a job as you can every night you can; treat people with respect; follow up in your communication with people and maintain those relationships … That being said, there’s not just one way to do it. But it’s important to follow those general principles of how you conduct yourself and how you maintain relationships with people, how well you do at your craft and how much work you dedicate to your craft. Then, the ‘x-factor’ of luck and timing come in.”
In Part 2, Brian talked about the art of building a fan base via crowdfunding:
“In the end, it’s about how we use the money that we generated from Kickstarter to build on the band’s whole vision of what we want to put out there visually and musically and the collaborations we’re involved in. It’s also about finding fun ways for our fans to stay involved with the band … The one main thing I can say has aided me is a deep commitment to what I know I want to associate myself with and the joy I know I can derive from that experience.”
Then, he gave some additional advice to those looking to find opportunities that line up with their creative vision:
“As an artist, you have to learn to watch out for things that can take you off of that track. You want to stay away from the drug scene. You also want to stay away from people who are overly-controlling or don’t allow you to express things in your particular way …You also need to have a really clear vision of who you are, what you want to do, what you know you can give to a situation and where you would like to see that go. The more clearly you have all that articulated, the more it helps you in your day-to-day steps of getting work done and moving forward with a project.”
August brought us to a conversation with Kenny Aronoff. Kenny is a much sought-after drummer, professional speaker and author. He began his rock career performing with John Cougar Mellencamp for 17 years. Throughout his 40-plus-year career, he has also toured or recorded with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, The Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Sting, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Elton John, Dave Grohl, Johnny Cash, Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart and many more. Today, Kenny spends time touring, performing in the studio and teaching people how to embrace adversity and gain confidence in their personal and professional lives. His life lessons, stories and music have made him one of the most sought-after speakers and entertainers in the world. His memoir, Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Hardest Hitting Man in Show Business came out in October 2016 and is already in its second printing.
Kenny discussed how he has turned career challenges into major opportunities:
“Continuing to find work in the industry is about saying yes all the time and doing your best to be available. And it’s also about keeping your commitments … Success in music is definitely a combination of talent and hard work.”
And he provided some tips for developing rewarding careers in music:
“The bottom line is, if you want to work a lot, you have to be willing to please the person who is hiring you and give them whatever they want … If I had every gold, platinum and diamond record I played on, I would have 1,300 records. But when somebody hires me to play on their track, it doesn’t matter who they are; I’m working for them. I might make some suggestions. But, ultimately if they don’t like what I suggest, they’re paying me to play on their records. It could be a 10-year old kid or a 90-year old lady. When they’re paying, my goal is to please them. That’s what keeps me working all the time …That being said, getting work is always about communication skills and being able to get along with the people who hire me.”
In October, Joel Jordan gave us some information about the sync market. Joel the Founder and President of Synchtank, a New York- and London-based software company that creates powerful cloud software to help rights holders and broadcasters improve catalog management and efficiently organize marketing, licensing and sales processes. Joel started well-known punk and hardcore label, Watermark, with his identical twin brother, Jason over 25 years ago, releasing vinyl records out of his parents’ South Jersey basement. This later developed into a diversified master catalog and a prolific joint venture publishing company with Rykomusic. Joel still currently signs new artists to his new publishing company and runs his collectible digital and vinyl-only indie labels, The Savant Guard, Watermark, and Warmth. Joel’s clients include Disney, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, BT Sport, Music Sales, TuneCore/Believe, Silva Screen, Sub Pop, Ghostly, Adult Swim, Red Bull Media House, Cutting Edge, Naxos, peermusic, Format, Position Music, Cuesongs, Bucks, Imagem and many others.
Joel provided some important background information about the current sync licensing market:
“[The sync licensing market] is still growing. It’s currently over a 2 billion dollar business worldwide. In terms of the split between major label and indies, if you look at each different market share, they’re probably skewed one way or another, so I’m not sure exactly who does better in each market. I know the indies have quite a large share of the sync revenue right now, so it’s not strictly a major label game at all … You could probably look and see a lot of correlation between what’s popular or what’s trending on Spotify and YouTube and what’s on the TV three months later. And music supervisors are onto artists and songs way before they happen, almost like A&R guys themselves, discovering gems for the rest of us, so it’s probably already been on their radar for even longer.”
And he talked about how artists can find sync licensing opportunities:
“I think the most important thing for artists is to get to know as well as possible the people who might use your music. A blind email to a music supervisor doesn’t help at all … The best way to get more placements is to make sure your music is phenomenal, if it’s not then don’t bother with step two: network as much as you can. Make friend show potential partners why you’re different, valuable and what you can offer them. It’s still all about relationships in the music business, and your reputation as an artist and creator is your currency. As long as you’re cool to people, they will be good to you … If you have the opportunity to meet someone and make a connection, and you have great music, then you’re 80% there. The rest is down to luck, specific need and timing.”
Earlier this month, we talked to Dustin Bates of the Columbus, OH-based band Starset. Starset has found success in expanding the ideas of its concept albums through social media and YouTube, where they generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from views. Dustin signed a record deal with Razor & Tie in March of 2014 after releasing a few songs on his own. Starset’s single, “My Demons,” and its related user-generated videos have accumulated nearly 300 million YouTube views. The band’s most commercially successful song, “Monster” peaked at Number 2 on the U.S. Billboard “Mainstream Rock Songs” chart in May 2017. To date, Starset has more than one billion views on their official videos and user-generated content combined.
Dustin talked about some of the ways Starset has been able to crack the YouTube code to find success on the platform:
“… We’ve been very picky with what we put up. Our videos are not just things we threw up on the channel. Because of that, everything we put up trends across the board of YouTube in the 20s. We really try to keep the quality to that deserving of that level and then push it that way on all our channels … I think another thing that’s contributed to our success is that our fan base is very global. There’s almost uniform distribution around the world, which sets us apart from a lot of our contemporaries and means that we’ve been able to be successful on YouTube, since that is where global fans go to consume music. In that regard, it’s not even really about the video itself.”
He also shared some tips for artists looking to engage their fans on social media platforms:
“… Strong branding and finding certain communities within YouTube or within whatever social media platform you’re trying to build up really work. And you really have to be creating high-quality content that is uniquely your own, which means having a strong understanding of what your brand is and who you are. And once you have clarity on that brand, you need to strengthen it and make it tangible to people so they can latch onto it … I think it also helps to keep an open mind. When you see something connecting a certain way with fans, learn as much as you can about who they are and why it’s working and then embrace it. Let them know you appreciate what they are doing and look for ways to expand on it that are not only good for the band, but also for the fans.”