The essential checklist for bands & artists starting out

Blog by Louise Dodgson under Artist Managers, Creative & Branding, Finance, Law & Music Business, Live, Media, Music Publishing, Music Training & Careers, Record Labels, Recording & Production, Selling & Distributing Your Music

Getting your music career off on the right footing doesn’t have to be tricky. With some careful thought, a dose of hard work and a few handy pointers you can get things moving.
Tracks of a decent quality
This may be pointing out the obvious, but the key to your music career taking off is some pretty decent tunes. We’re not saying your tracks have to be perfectly polished masterpieces or recorded and mastered to the highest quality in an expensive studio at this stage of the journey, but a selection of good songs recorded to a decent standard should be enough to get the ball rolling. 

Get your web presence up to scratch
In the age of social networking, it’s not necessary to have your own website dedicated to your music, but fortunately these days it’s not so hard to set up a simple and effective website on your own should you wish to. A couple of sites that can help you through the motions are Holodeck, Yola or Bandzoogle.
However, the main point is that wherever you are directing fans and industry folk to find out all about you – be it your Facebook or Twitter profile, Bandcamp page or your Tumblr – it needs to be well maintained and presented. Make sure your profiles are active and up to date, get some nice images and post an interesting biog to give people a taster. Most importantly, make sure there are clear and correct contact details across all your internet portals. It’s not rocket science!
And whilst we’re on the topic of contact details, an email address created specifically for your band or artist is a nice touch. It’s not essential but it does have a more professional edge than contacting from [email protected]. It’s really easy and cheap to register a domain using the likes of and hey presto…you have a professional email address to start sending your music from.
It’s all about the fans!
One of your primary aims must always be to keep that fan base growing! Whether it’s promoting yourself across Twitter and Facebook or gathering email addresses at gigs, make sure you actively expand your fan base as much as you can. And for the fans you already have, keep them interested and engaged with updates on what you’re doing, sharing new music and so on. The personal touch can always go a long way as well - asking their opinions on your music, what new design you should feature on your merchandise and so on can help make fans feel involved and valued.
Get planning
Business plans and budgets all sound pretty boring. The fact is, though, that all successful ventures have them! You don’t need to go to great lengths and include extreme precision detail, but having a basic plan about your aims and goals and how you can achieve them is a good starting point. I don’t mean goals like ‘I want to take over the world with my music’ or ‘I want to headline Glastonbury and then marry Beyonce’. Although you should always think big – try breaking it down into smaller chunks and look at the steps you need to take over a short term period to reach your ultimate goal. Perhaps you could start with ‘booking some out of town gigs’, ‘get my track played on air’ or ‘get featured on a decent music blog’ and then work out what actions you need to take to make this happen. Perhaps you have some cash you can allocate to a certain project? If so, draw up a basic budget and brainstorm the best ways of putting any money you have to use.
Another valuable way of spending your time is educating yourself on the beast that is the music business. There’s not much point getting in touch with record labels if you’re not familiar with what an A&R person does. You don’t need to be an expert on everything, but it’s really not hard to pick up the basics. If you are contacting music companies with no real comprehension of what they do and how they can potentially work with you, then you’re not likely to make the best impression. A little research can go a long way. Look into PRS For Music, Musicians’ Union and similar organisations to see what they can do for you. Their advice and expertise can often be helpful in the long run.
Pad out your little black book
Once you’ve made a plan of action, you’ll more than likely need some contacts to help you along the way. You need to know who to direct your music to, or find services such as studios, merchandise companies or printers to deliver the results you need.
This is where The Unsigned Guide is likely to come in very handy! Our online directory containing over 8,800 contacts spans the UK music industry, ranging from record label A&Rs, artist managers, gig promoters to rehearsal rooms and van hire companies. Our
Top 5 Tips on Approaching Music Companies blog may also help you out if you’re planning to send out demos in a professional manner, so take a look. As well as seasoned experts, the directory also contains contact details for people in other fields who are also starting out – for instance aspiring music photographers or newly set-up independent video production companies who can work to smaller budgets or who are willing to collaborate on ideas in order to build up their own portfolios. Beyond The Unsigned Guide, if you brainstorm it’s likely that band members or even your fans will probably know several people that can help you out cheaply or for free with the likes of logo design, building websites and so on. There are often ways you can work with people in a mutually beneficial way that doesn’t need to cost the earth so be creative in your thinking!
Practice makes perfect
And in the meantime whilst you’re waiting for all the eager responses from music industry people falling over themselves to book, promote or sign you (well, maybe give it a bit more time!) then your mantra should be practice, practice, practice! When the golden gig opportunities, radio sessions or festival slots starting pouring in you’ll want to be prepared!


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