Gems of music industry knowledge from Focus Wales

Blog by Michelle Lloyd under Artist Managers, Media, Music Training & Careers, Selling & Distributing Your Music

Last week saw Focus Wales, a 3 day music industry convention, take place in Wrexham. Now in its third year, the event, organised by local boys Neal Thompson and Andy Jones, gathers the local music community together to chat and learn about the music business, as well as showcasing a plethora of new acts with gigs across the town in the evening. Keen to muscle in on the action we headed over the border for the first day of panel action, and we thought we’d share some of the top tips we picked up from the experts…..we’re good like that!
Up first was a discussion centred around ‘Audience Building & Social Media Strategies For Artists, Labels & Festivals’. Heading up the panel, overseen by John Hywel Morris from PRS For Music, was Welsh music supremo John Rostron (chief executive of the Welsh Music Foundation & co-founder of Sŵn festival), Al Farquhar (Modern Art Management), Thomas Heher (Waves Vienna Music Festival & Conference), Josh Hynes (Pipe & Hat Records) and Chris Dyer (Zimbalam & Believe Digital). Given the informal nature of the panels and the wealth of experience on offer, a broad range of topics were eventually discussed, some not necessarily centred around social media, but all very helpful and insightful!
Something they were all most keen to stress was how important making contacts is. Networking is key, whether you’re in a band or just wanting to make a career within the industry. Heading to music conferences is a great way of meeting like-minded folks and essentially people that might be able to help you out. Do your research, see who’s going to be attending and make a point of introducing yourself. Hell, you could even offer to buy them a drink to strike up a conversation - nobody’s going to turn down a free pint! 
On the social media front, Twitter is a great networking tool and allows you to pay attention to what music industry people are saying, what they’re listening to, what gigs their going to etc. Knowledge is power and it makes it far easier if you do want to approach someone at an industry get-together to have some prior knowledge of what they’re into. It goes without saying, but always make sure you’re polite and respectful. Chances are they’re used to having demos thrust at them so stand out from the pack and strike up a conversation first…then you can do the hard sell!
It’s no secret that the music industry has changed. There’s far more information on offer now than there ever was about this once elusive business and this has led to radical changes in how you can go about things. The digital revolution has undoubtedly been incredibly empowering for artists in terms of getting their music out there and heard. With no real censorship, you can bring your music to the market as you want. And there are obviously a few basic things that you can do to make sure that your online marketing is as effective as it can be. Some of them you may think are incredibly simple but you’d be surprised at how many people forget the basics.
First and foremost you have to remember that there’s no right and wrong when it comes to marketing. It’s trail and error. What works for one band might not work for you. Learn from your mistakes, if something isn’t working, change it. Simple. 
Research, again, is key. Find out who your audience is. Before you can start thinking about how you’re going to reach out to people you need to know who it is you’re targeting. Marketing works on the same premise for a band or artist as it does for a product, the same principles apply.
Get a website!!! A recent BBC Introducing poll found that 48% of bands didn’t have one. Staggering. 
When it comes to social media profiles like Facebook, make it easy for people who want to find out more about your music. Fill out the ‘About Me’ sections and add links to your other sites. You don’t have to write an essay but give people an idea of what you’re about. There’s nothing more frustrating than landing on someone’s page and there being no information whatsoever, it’s incredibly off-putting. The reality is that Facebook is one of the first places people will look you up and first impressions count.
It’s also important to remember that there’s no point in having multiple social media profiles if you don’t use them. Don’t spread yourself too thin, it just looks unprofessional. You need to be active and interact. Music industry folks don’t just look at how many fans you have on these sites, they’re looking for views/likes/comments. You need to show that you have an active fanbase, one that you can engage with effectively and that you can ultimately drive sales in the future.
The rise of YouTube has meant that it’s now at the forefront of music marketing and shouldn’t be overlooked. With new hosting and promotional tools, there are things you can do quickly and easily to boost your presence.
And finally, look into re-marketing. Tap into the markets of other bands or artist. If there’s a band of a smiliar ilk, where you feel there may be crossover with their fans and they might be into your stuff, target them specifically. Most of the main social media sites offer this service.
The second panel of the day was concerned with ‘DIY in 2013; Making The Most Of The Modern Music Press’ which saw seasoned panellist John Robb (Louder Than War) join A.P. Childs (contributor to The Guardian, The Quietus & Artrocker), Pete Bailey (Nuclear Blast Records & Kerrang! Radio), as well as Focus Wales co-founder Andy Jones. 
First and foremost the panel were keen to highlight the fact that referring to the ‘music press’ could now be redundant, it should more accurately be referred to as ‘music media’ perhaps. Where there used to be a handful of weekly music publications with acts vying for coverage, the internet has changed the whole process. With blogs and websites now making up the vast majority of music media there’s a greater number of music writers and journalists than ever...which in theory should make it easier to get coverage!
The key point to remember is that there aren’t any rules when it comes to getting featured, there is no standard procedure. You have to hustle and don’t leave any stone unturned. Whilst the internet opening up the world makes things easier in some respects, it also makes for a much bigger playing field so you need to stand out and make a story. Hand it to writers on a plate. Tell them why they should feature you. Why you’re different to every other Tom, Dick and Harry in a band. Even if you’re not the most interesting band in the world, find something unique and play on it. And as John Robb pointed out “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.  Not that we’re encouraging you to lie, but a bit of hyperbole and the odd exaggeration here and there to get noticed never hurt anyone. Just don’t go too crazy, claiming your uncle was John Lennon might not be the best idea!
As previously mentioned, engaging with people is paramount and notably so with trying to get press coverage. We all know how easy it is to ignore an email especially when you have another 500 of a similar nature sat in your inbox at any given time. Journalists are bombarded on a daily basis with press releases it is physically impossible for them to read or listen to everything they receive. 
So how can you get them to take notice? Well, get out there and meet them. Again, via Twitter and other means (not stalking though!) find out where they’re going to be, what gigs their covering and introduce yourself. Build a relationship. As long as you’re always polite and not pushy you’ll find that, more often than not, people are far more receptive in person. Don’t be afraid to chase things up either. You’re well within your rights. If you’ve sent someone an EP, get on the phone and see what they thought. Okay, not everyone is going to be available on the phone and not everyone will reply but don’t give up. It’s a known fact that those who get anywhere are those that persevere.
Talent should be recognised wherever you are in the country and that’s why you’ll need to push yourselves especially if you live somewhere remote and somewhat overlooked. Community radio stations are a great place to start as are regional press titles. Everyone likes a good old local success story. Again, you need to create the story for them, don’t give them a reason not to feature you.
The rise of digital media has now made it possible to be both local and international at the same time. Whilst it’s obviously important to concentrate on regional press and creating a buzz in your local vicinity, don’t forget that there are new music scenes abroad too. Tap into them. Getting international coverage and being championed around the world all looks good on your social networking pages and helps build your fanbase and generate some hype. Britain is at the forefront of new music and always looked upon favourably as having one of the greatest musical heritages in the world so use this to your advantage.
…So those were the gems of knowledge gleaned at Focus Wales 2013. We hope you find some tips, pointers and perhaps a few things you hadn’t considered before to put into practice. Just remember, you need to sell yourselves!!


focus wales, music industry convention, music industry event, music conference, music panels, music business


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