Strategies for increasing your income

Having a sort out over the Christmas break, I came across some notes from a Music Week conference session with Terry McBride, CEO and one of three founders of the Nettwork Music Group. McBride was talking about ‘Millennials’, a new generation of music fan who have the power to ‘pull’ music. Songs ‘belong’ to them as an emotional memory that they want to share. Consumption is ‘get it when you want it’. Music used to have a scarcity value. Now digital is always available.  Fans do not need to own music. What they value is access.

McBride spoke a lot about strategies to maximise income. His conclusion – create a continuous supply of music to buy, not a piecemeal one album a year, but a track every month. That’s 12 tracks a year with a constant presence rather than one album a year with a short blip then forgotten presence. Versions of songs can generate multiple sales to different fans, including multi-lingual releases (Averil Lavrine: 7.5m downloads of one song, 200 million hits on Youtube). Releasing stems may work for fans who are musical. Use releases to grow your fan base.

But where does scarcity come in? The value is in creating scarcity of access to the artist from loyal super-fan gig tickets to special one off concerts and merchandise and access to ‘backroom’ activities like rehearsals, and songwriting sessions.

Someone in the audience asked McBride for his predictions and observations: brands will sign acts – especially acts that will align their tribe to the brand.

And the year? 2008.

A master plan to break into the UK charts

Bitter Ruin

Ben & Georgia, Bitter Ruin

Bitter Ruin are on a mission to get their music into the UK charts on Sunday 9th October.

“We all want that so what’s new”, I hear you say.

Well of course it’s not new but what’s different is Bitter Ruin are seeing the results of a very good piece of planning that everyone can learn something from. Plus there’s the fact that they’re unsigned and doing all of this themselves with grace, enthusiasm and a good pinch of strategic thinking.

Bitter Ruin formed in 2007 in Brighton when Ben Richards and Georgia Train met at music school. Although they understood each other musically through their classical training, they had dramatically opposing music tastes. Georgia listened to Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor and The Talking Heads whereas Ben preferred rock and bands like Metallica. The result? ‘Contemporary Expressionism’ with passion and musical intelligence at the heart of what they do. Their songs are about the darker side of life and their innovative performances come alive with theatricality, strong sparing vocals, harmonisation and raw instrumentation.

Bitter Ruin put in the hours and are persistent. They have a strong belief in themselves. After doing over 500 gigs they were good enough to be paid and they started getting great support slots in bigger venues. They’ve toured before now but it wasn’t the right time for them. This time it was very different.

Their plan was masterful and it payed off. They recorded their single and made a video (the first thing you see when you visit their site They decided on a release date for the single and went on a three month tour in the lead up to it. During the tour they concentrated on growing their email list and afterwards, back home, they plugged the single using Facebook and Twitter. They are clear about their mission and give their fans clear a ‘call to action’ to support them. Their single, ‘Trust’, is only available in outlets that notch up sales registered in the charts. They know how many sales they need to get to number 1.

All good stuff. Their big break came when Stephen Fry got involved. Then followed radio and TV interviews on local stations.

And their ultimate goal? To have someone do the leg work for them so they can spend more time doing what they love - creating great music for their fans.

10th October update : Bitter Ruin achieved a #19 placing in the Official UK Independent Singles Chart. A fine achievement.


UKTI SXSW/Midem Briefing, London

Notes from the recent SXSW/Midem Briefing in London hosted by UK Trade & Investment.

Midem, held Cannes, France at the end of January, is more business oriented. It focuses on the ‘relationship between people and music’, aims  to ‘transform audience engagement’ and to provide opportunities to ‘form new business connections’. One of its strengths for bands, in my opinion, is the focus on brands and the opportunities  to meet them. To showcase at Midem you need to win a spot or sort out your gigs yourself. And the venues charge you to play.

South By Southwest (SXSW) held in Austin, Texas in mid March has interactive and film themes as well as music – there’s a lot of cross over between these three themes these days creating something pretty unique. If you’re a UK band, SXSW is for you if you have great career potential, are “bursty out of your home market” and wanting to launch your career in the US.

For both SXSW and Midem, the UK Trade & Industry representatives at the Briefing in London stressed the need for a plan of how going to one of these events will develop your act. Even more so if you need funding (and you would need it for SXSW for sure; the US Performance Visa alone costs about £800 for a four-piece act).

The British Music Abroad scheme is funded by Arts Council England, UK Trade & Investment and PRS for Music Foundation. The scheme offers financial support to emerging UK acts that have been selected for key overseas industry facing events which will enable them to develop their international market.

If you are thinking of going to one of these events don’t leave it too late to register - early bird rates expire very soon and to get a musician’s visa for the States you need to apply before Christmas. You also need to put in a serious amount of work outside of doing the gigs.  It’s a blast being there but maybe you could spend the money in better ways? Depends on where you are in your career.  There are showcase opportunities nearer to home. What could you do locally with that amount of cash?

If you do go, be realistic - there are a lot of gigs going on at the same time so you need to get noticed. One very simple thing you can do is make sure your listing clearly states what you are about so your audience comes to you.

If you do go make the most of it back home. The qualifying criteria for SXSW, for example, is very high so if you are selected you can  make a noice about it back home (add that into your plan).

UKTI specialise in helping bands expand into markets abroad. They offer a lot of help and advice. Take advantage of it.

And one final tip – the best accomodation (location-wise) goes very fast. Book early.

Good FAQ on the SXSW site