Notes on Making Music, Making Money

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Making Music, Making Money was a panel session and live showcase at the Getty Images Gallery in London’s West End. All part of the Performing Rights Society centenary celebrations which included a special photography exhibition celebrating 100 years of great music.

Ruth Simmons, managing director of  independent music-synching consultancy The Sound Lounge, got proceedings underway with a presentation called ‘So you want to sell your music to advertisers’. This provided a snappy introduction to the art of ‘synch licensing’, technical slang for licensing music for advertising or other visual media.

First she asked members of the audience to raise a hand if they had purchased an album this year. Not many did! “And how much does a ticket to Reading cost … £200!” Then she highlighted some of reasons why it is so difficult to make money in music these days.

  • You don’t sell albums any more
  • Downloads are declining
  • Streaming is winning
  • ‘You will be 180 years old before you see any revenues from Spotify’
  • Playlists for free
  • Production for peanuts
  • Give publishing as a gift

And then she pointed out that why there are opportunities to make money from advertising. Brands want personality, values and principles and music can deliver this like no other media. She gave five good reasons to use music

  1. It grabs you like nothing else
  2. It’s a universal language
  3. Soundtrack of your life
  4. Engages your body
  5. Connects with the heart beat

She took a trip down memory lane, back to the 1970s when jingles were ‘the bottom end of the advertising world’ but still extremely powerful. Some of the big successes were Shake n Vac, Fairy Liquid, and Mars. Artist earned royalties on repeats and in the case of Mars, this was enough to retire on.

Everything changed in the 1980s with the success of the Levis 501 ad featuring a young man in a launderette undressing to the sound of ‘I heard it through the grapevine’. Not only did the ad sell jeans, it also took the song back to No.1 in the charts … and it wasn’t even the original version but a sound-alike.

This convinced many in the business that a new era, and associated revenue stream, had arrived. Other advertisers copied the approach but often failed to deliver the same kind of creative values.  They scrimped on budgets and the music licensing opportunities turned out to be far less lucrative.

It seems that music has always been the poor relation. A recent study by leading brand agency Millward Brown found that in a typical advert, impact was fairly evenly split between the visuals – 58% – and sound – 41%.  Sadly, relative parity did not carry over into productions budget: 84% for visuals and just 12% for sound.

Ruth thought this might be because advertising ‘creatives’ tend to have a visual background. Even so her message was that opportunities for music in advertising were growing but composers needed to learn the art of negotiation if they were to make the most of them. She provided five tips on a theme of ‘What’s in it for me?’

  1. Find out what is in the budget for music? Talk to your peers and then negotiate.
  2. Ask what else can the brand give if not money, what is guaranteed media and what happens if there is no PRS cheque?
  3. Ensure track title and artist are credited on the brand site and YouTube. Make sure the music is available for download and link back to your site. And get it in writing.
  4. If they can’t give you any of the above ask yourself if it is worth it. And if it is and you do go ahead, make sure you have enough time to optimise the association and align your marketing plans.
  5. And if none of these boxes are ticked, ask again, ‘What’s in it for me?’

Ruth provided an engaging and useful insight into this part of the business. At one point in her presentation she replayed the Levis ad without the music. More than anything else this demonstrated the magic that musicians bring to the world of advertising, and it is a magic that they need to sell more effectively.

Check out more from the The Sound Lounge on the blog and juke box. Also worth exploring is the Millward Brown website which has lots of industry research and intelligent stuff around branding and the music industry.

Panel session

The second session provided a mixed bag of top tips and anecdotes from a panel comprised of PRS experts, a music lawyer, manager, music label; half of them musicians in their own right.

  • James Endeacott – Manager & A&R
  • Pete Bott – Media Lawyer
  • Kat Kennedy – Manager & A&R
  • Alex Sharman – PRS for Music
  • Andy Ellis – PRS for Music

On the legal front, the top tip for early on was don’t let the legal stuff interrupt music but if it is a band sort out legal issues early on particularly share of profits and liabilities. Make sure you copyright the work. And it is may be worth getting in touch with a media lawyer for an exploratory. There’s a chance that he or she may provide some free advice on the basis that you may come back when there is some money in the bank.

When it comes to pitching your work to the business, how do you make your introductions? The advice from a former tour manager for the Strokes was don’t overdo it. “Make your work and you a bit mysterious and exciting.” The best he had received was a CD with one very good song and an email address. “It’s all about the tune!”

There was agreement that even in this day and age there was a still a good case to be made for a deal with a record label and having management. But musicians still need to do stuff themselves so they understand how the business works. “You can’t get away with just making a record”.

Typically musicians should be looking to build their online profile using facebook and other social media. And make the most of any opportunities to showcase your work. For example by submitting work to BBC Introducing which has broken a few artists in its time. There’s some additional thoughts and ideas on this in an earlier post called Rough Notes on Music and Social Media.

People and links

As well a formal presentations, there is much to be learnt from the people you meet at such events.

Folk musician Glen Hodge recommended the open mic at the Betsy Trotwood in Clerkenwell and explained how he has begun to make some money by organizing his own evenings.

Elliott Jett told how he had put his IT entrepreneurial ambitions on hold to explore the opportunities in his first great love, music. We got talking about the importance of the name and how the switch from Elliot G to Elliott Jett had eliminated some gangsta confusion.

Another who was working hard to bring a new brand to market, was SmithLDN. Great combination of the most common English surname with the abbreviation for London to create a brand name that looks like it could travel worldwide.

PRS Centenary Photography Exhibition at Getty Images Gallery in London

PRS Centenary Photography Exhibition at Getty Images Gallery in London

Rough Notes on Music and Social Media

Great meet of the London Bloggers at the Elixir Bar behind Euston. This one was all about music and social media; how the industry is changing as a result of blogging and social media, examples of artists using blogs and anything music industry related. Three very knowledgeable guest speakers each had ten minutes to share their knowledge; and these are my notes on what they said.

Tasty Tunes from Terry

Picture of Terry Tyldesley

Terry Tyldesley says Kitmonsters aims to be accessible, authentic, artist-led and independent.

Kitmonsters is a very successful blog that celebrates musicians and the kit they use to get their sound. Founder, Terry Tyldesley gave us some notes on what resonates with their audience.

The blog is all about musicians and how they make their music, videos, pictures, etc. It provides an in depth look at the ‘cool kit’ that ‘hot bands’ are using in a ‘monstrously simple’ format.

Check out some of the profiles: folk singer Sam Lee, Martin Ware of Human League and Matt Black of Cold Cut.

So what is the secret to success? Be accessible, authentic, artist-led and independent. Terry stressed there is no ‘gig speak … it’s written so that everyone can understand and dip in and out. It aims to provide a truly 360 degree view of an artist and reflect the grass roots … and its very female friendly!’

It’s documentary style with just a few questions that prompt artists to talk about their guitars etc and how they make their music. This artist-led approach has created a kind of family feel for those who have been involved.

The blog has a good look, feel and functionality; great pictures, good sounds and nicely filmed interviews. The content management system is the work of Gary Hill, Bafta award-winning designer of the Design Museum’s website.

Terry name-checked a number of other sites which are either great blogs or where blogging has created a community> I found these and they were all really interesting and full of ideas: Riot Grrrl, Techno Kittens, She Makes WarSteve Lawson and Tom Robinson.

Terry mentioned that producer Jagz Kooner reckons that today ‘the music scene is more punk than it’s ever been’.

She noted that it is difficult to keep up with all the social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud are the three ‘must haves’. Others to consider include: Google+, Pinterest, Mixed Cloud, Last FM, Vimeo, Vine (twitter for video – 6 seconds), Blip FM, Flickr.

And some tips for musicians:

  • Cross post everything to other social media sites like Facebook, Flickr, Instagram because it is the only way to keep up;
  • Use Google metrics to see who is visiting your site and what they are interested in and use this to fine tune what you do;
  • Be strategic and make sure you have all the things you need to promote the band in place such as ‘biogs’, pictures, your own mailing list, fliers, etc.

And most important, make sure you have a ‘googable’ band name so people can find you easily.

Algorithms by James

Picture of James Howard of Google+

James Howard of Google+ says get in touch with ideas on making music with Google+

James Howard heads up music for Google+ in the UK. James’ advice was to focus on what works well and to consider a presence on Google+. He was interested in the use of the platform to enable more sharing via YouTube and Maps. I didn’t really get the Google+ pitch and was interested when he called Google an ‘algorithm company’. Google is many things to many people and there is an open invitation from James to get in touch with creative ideas for making music with Google.

Dubber’s Jazz 

Andrew Dubber is Professor of Music Industry Innovation at Birmingham City University, author of ‘Music in the Digital Age’ and ‘Understanding the Music Industries’, and advisor to Bandcamp.

Andrew Duber

Professor Andrew Dubber reckons that when it comes to music, ‘participation is more important than popularity’

Now here was a man who had a lot of interesting things to say. Andrew ‘loved Google’ but hated this idea of ‘content’ or what he called ‘meaningless communications’. And when it came to Google Analytics it just didn’t do it for him. In Andrew’s world, communication is all about the value of the conversation and not about numbers.

There was a reminder to engage with the topic of the moment when he mentioned a post he had just written about the death of Margaret Thatcher. It’s so obvious but not so easily done …  here is the post ‘Nothing really died today’ with a lovely and appropriate comment on Thatcher’s legacy delivered by bandmaster Peter Postlethwaite in a clip from the film Brassed Off.

Andrew comes from a place where social media and music is much more than marketing; friendship was mentioned and a band called Hope & Social which exists with aim of making people happy. I checked them out. The band’s website is definitely a place to visit, enjoy, and be inspired by. It shows how to make sense of making music today and how music can really make a difference! Check out their Crypt Covers.

Andrew made a nice distinction between making music back in the day and today’s situation. In the halcyon days of vinyl you were either a ‘lottery winner or a nobody’. Then it took a £250,000 to make and distribute a record whereas today you can do it for about £250.

He argued that when it comes to music, ‘participation is more important than popularity’. Many is the time I have listened to an open mic singer where the music was not so good but the passion and authenticity more than made up for this. I think he has a point!

And he had some advice for bands in search of their audience.

  • If you are finding it difficult to attract followers, question whether you are as good as you think you are.
  • Make sure you have an extra band member who doesn’t sing or play but manages Internet presence and goes out and promotes the music.
  • Find out where your audience is and communicate with them

At which point someone pointed out that we were right back in the world of ‘marketing’.

Final point was that social media is a by-product of what you do as a musician or anything else you do. It is not an end in itself.

To conclude there was also a short set by singer / songwriter Toufique Ali.

Postscript: I was talking to Bernie Mitchell, who along with Andrew Bargery, organizes London Bloggers (let’s have a round of applause for this) and he pointed me to an interesting TED talk by Amanda Palmer called ‘The Art of Asking’.

 

Mind Mapping Will Make You Better

If you feel overwhelmed when it comes to organising yourself, organising work, and particularly when it comes to organising information, then mind-mapping may be for you. And specifically, an open-source programme called FreeMind.

This blog is about FreeMind and how it can destress you and make you more effective in your work.

The biggest challenge facing most of us today, is coping with information and our tendency to multitask. It reaches a point where the brain ‘hangs’  like a computer with too many programmes running’. The result can be:

  • Stress that leads to more stress and an inability to cope;
  • Written work that is confused and jumbled;
  • Plans and proposals that lack a logical progression;
  • And a linear way of thinking that stifles creativity.

So we need to free up the mind with FreeMind. This is a free open source software for creating mind and concept maps. It lets you generate, visualise, structure and classify ideas. And its also a great aid to studying (note taking) and organising information.

I like FreeMind because it lets you clear the mind and that gives you back control. You manage information more efficiently to produce coherent and compelling written materials. You can build and re-engineer your projects and proposals until they are perfectly structured. It enables a more fluid way of thinking and capturing thought because it uses pathways just like the brain. Finally it lets you create the BIG PICTURE and share it with colleagues.

Or does it?

With FreeMind you can print your maps and export them as jpegs and PDFs, but you can’t export them into Microsoft Office.  If you want to export to presentation or word-processing you will need OpenOffice.org 3 . This is as another open-source solution which is free download and use. it works just like Microsoft Office.

  • Leading office software suite
  • Works on all common computers
  • International open standard format
  • Read and write files from other common office software packages.

Download, and use completely free of charge for any purpose, here.

 

10 Tips for an Aspiring Photojournalist

My son Leo and I walked the Thames Path from the Thames Barrier up river to London Bridge. We both took cameras and these 10 Tips are some thoughts on what more Leo could have done to further his ambition of becoming a photojournalist.  Pictures by Leo Buckley.

  1. Have a goal! We took our cameras but we never sat down and decided what we were going to do. And maybe for that reason, we did very little. So Tip 1 is have a goal. It could just be documenting the walk so that you can show people where you went and what you saw. For example, this is one person’s record of a Green Chain Walk. If you don’t set yourself an assignment, you may enjoy the walk so much that you forget to record it.
  2.  

  3. Get the camera out!  Don’t wait for something interesting to pop up. If you have the camera out, you look for pictures and are prepared for that ‘decisive moment’.  It’s all interesting because you’ve never been here before, your audience isn’t with you, and there’s no going back for the pictures that you didn’t take. Work the camera, find the angles and shoot lots of images.

    Supermarket trolley abstractions

  4. Follow up the wonders! We wondered at the many supermarket trolleys half buried in the silt of the exposed river bed. They made great images but who put them there and why?  Exploring these questions can be the making of a story as we found out when we researched supermarket trolleys later. This article in the Daily Telegraph outlines the size of the trolley problem in Britain and this post presents eight alternative uses for them.
  5.  

  6. Do portraits avoid cheese!  Leo likes taking pictures of people. You can sneak shots of people but its also great to engage with them; explain what you are doing and ask if you can take their picture. You shouldn’t publish pictures of people without their permission – read about model release here. – but maybe you can take their email address, send them some copies and if there is a good one ask for permission to use it.

    A worker in the sand and cement yard.

  7. Ask questions!  The man in the orange boiler suit and hard hat was happy to explain how the dredgers delivered sand to the quayside. How it was offloaded onto a conveyor that delivered it into the yard and from there onto railway wagons that supplied sites all over London. And he was happy to pose for a picture.

    Conveyor belt for unloading dredgers.

  8. Don’t ignore the wonder! From the Thames Barrier to Tower Bridge, we saw just a handful of people.  We wondered if it was because the kids were back at school and other people had gone away for the long holiday between Easter and the Royal Wedding. Because it was so empty we didn’t take many pictures. But the emptiness n that day was something quite special which we should have recorded.
  9.  

  10. Photograph the remarkable! The Thames Path snakes through London and this means that Canary Wharf is at one point across the River and the next moment rearing above the High Street behind you. We remarked on this but we never went right out to capture the phenomenum. If it is remarkable, listen to that voice and photograph it!

    To the Blackwall Tunnel and beyond Canary Wharf

  11. Be cheeky! From Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge you have to leave the river on numerous occasions because of the many property developments. But on one occasion we did vault a chained bridge and went on into the grounds of the Hilton Hotel, rejoining the Thames Path via the lobby of the hotel. It felt good to push our luck  and a shame not to have recorded it.

    The steel and glass perfection of Canary Wharf

  12. Cityscapes and abstractions! The air was clear, the sky was blue, and the sun was bright; a perfect day for the steel and glass architecture of the offices on the north side of the river and the apartments on the south! But it all looked too bright and shiny; like something that had been photographed a million times before. So we didn’t photograph it much but we should have because it was so glacially beautiful and appropriately empty!

    Not everyone likes the development on the Thames.

  13. Two sides to the story! Having set out on our journey with no clear goal we came back with a hotch potch of images.  If we were thinking to be photojournalists then perhaps we should have gone looking for a story and come back with a balanced report. The image above highlights the flip-side to all those glassy developments. The photojournalist needs to provide a balanced and objective record!

 

Photojournalism

According to Wikipedia, photojournalism is a form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that creates images to tell a news story. It is distinguished from other close branches of photography (documentary, social documentary, street or celebrity) by:

  • Timeliness — the images have meaning in the context of a published record of events.
  • Objectivity — the situation implied by the images is a fair and accurate representation of the events they depict in both content and tone.
  • Narrative — the images combine with other news elements to make facts relatable to the viewer or reader on a cultural level.

And an edited version of Potasky’s tips for photojournalist students:

  • Pick a topic. Some stories can be told with pictures more easily than others.
  • Create an assignment outline with requirements and objectives.
  • Make a list of shots to get so you don’t miss anything important and can tell the story.
  • Look at photojournalism on line to get ideas for pictures that look great and tell the story.
  • Take a lot of pictures using all the composing techniques you have learned.
  • Don’t pose the shots but just record things as they unfold.
  • Afterwards edit the pictures down to tell the story.
  • Judge your pictures in terms of vision, aesthetics, camera technique and final image.
    • Vision:  Is the image original and does it meet the requirements for the assignment?
    • Aesthetics: Does the composition excite and enhance the image?
    • Camera technique: Good exposure, focus, aperture, shutter, and angle?Image manipulation: Is it colour corrected and sharpened

10 Lovely Tips for Producing Great Tenders

Preparing a tender is  a tough job and if you are not careful they can get out of control.  I wrote down these tips after a  traumatic experience; a few simple things  to set yourself up for success instead of heartbreak.

1. Focus on Requirements

It’s worth investing the time in really getting to grips with this. Have a clear idea of what is required and if in doubt go back for clarification. Then measure everything you do against this. Remember those school essays and ‘answer the question’!

2. Brainstorm the Answers

Bring an open and empty mind to the opportunity. Avoid reaching for stock answers and solutions and instead see what fresh thinking the team can come up with. Engage with the challenge and enjoy (and record) the process!

3 Storyboard the Response

Once you have your answers, work together to storyboard your response. Create a document with a natural flow; one that sets up the challenge and then shows how to engage with it and bring things to a successful resolution.

4 Planning the Document

Set a word count for each section and then allocate writing responsibilities.  The rule for contributors is that you deliver on time, the exact number of words (or less) for your section. Be strict or you may receive a ‘cut and paste’ approximation that takes you ages to pull into shape.

5 Setting the Format

Make sure that everyone is using the same word-processing package. For example, different versions of Microsoft Word are incompatible and lead to formatting problems. Consider providing a pre-formatted document (fonts, typefaces etc) for contributors to work with.

6 Standardise on Formulas

To make your document easy to produce and understand, standardise the way you present information. For example:  Tactics (What it is, How it works, Benefits); Profiles (Skills, Successes, Qualifications); Case Studies (Challenge, Solution, Benefits).

7 When in Doubt

Cut it out! If parts of the document seem dull and don’t do the job delete them.  Make it easy and interesting to read. And avoid squeezing information in at the expense of good spacing. A bullet’ed list condensed into a paragraph is a brick wall to the reader.

8 Read it Out Loud

When all is done, get the team back together and have everyone read out their section. Does it have pace, and does it engage? Use this opportunity to further refine and polish the document so that it has vitality and momentum to it.

9 Executive Summary

Now translate this ‘film script’ into an elevator pitch. Your Executive Summary should inspire and delight the prospect. It should give a clear idea of what you are proposing and the benefits of you solution, while leaving the readers hungry to tuck into the document and find out more.

10 Dotting and Crossing It

Now make sure that spelling and grammar is good, sections are properly headlined and numbered; and the index and page numbers are correct. Hard copie,s and soft copies on a disk, will need to be produced and the courier booked to deliver the document to client in good time.

 

So that’s my top ten tips! Did I miss something? What else should we be watching out for? I love to hear your tender tips!