Ever since the internet came and turned the entire music industry upside-down, the traditional methods of doing things have started to be usurped by new, media friendly, ‘music 2.0′ kinds of methods. And it’s not just self-releasing via Bandcamp, or Kickstarter that’s taking over record deal advances… Even the traditional ideas of making a demo and attracting the attention of labels have gone out the window. All those articles you read about posting your CD to a label, making sure you had a professionally printed portfolio and a good press-photo? Forget them all. There are so many other ways to get started now. We thought it might be a good start to look at a couple of case studies…
First, there’s the reasonably obvious option of using Soundcloud. This is already a good home for demos, as it’s public, well known and boasts a simple, intuitive interface for playing tracks. Which is exactly how Cyril Hahn has just shot into the stratosphere. His tracks are simple remixes of RnB hits. Usually four chords and a house beat, they’re not exactly rocket science but then good pop music rarely is. However his skills lie in picking popular sounds and credible names to remix (Destiny’s Child, Jeremih). And it paid off in spades; so far the Destiny’s Child remix has had over 1.5 million plays, scoring him a record deal, a management deal and he’s about to hit the UK for a summer-long tour. No crazy marketing strategy here, just catchy tunes that secured the support of plenty of DJs and bloggers. Simple, right?
Speaking of which, blogging is another invaluable tool for furthering your career. Current deep house darlings Bicep built up their media profile long before they ever released a track. By starting their blog at feelmybicep.com they were able to establish a presence based on a love of 90′s house music and bring together large numbers of fans of the sound. This meant that they already had expansive audience for their coming DJ mixes, uploads and releases. They would also have built up an impressive mailing list – running a blog is a surefire way of receiving dozens of demo submissions every day from music enthusiasts around the world. When it finally came to promoting their own tracks, they had a massive headstart.
Youtube is another key resource in getting your music to a wider audience, and it’s no longer a platform reserved for cat videos, fails and celebrity rubbish. Seventeen-year-old singer and songwriter Ryan Ashley had been recording and posting videos of himself singing and playing piano for a while, all the while building up a following. Again, it helped that he was picking classic and popular tracks to cover in order to gain attention – but it worked like a charm. After a while, his talents had helped him accrue thousands of channel subscribers as each of his videos was racking up views in the tens of thousands. Before long, PMR records came calling (home of Julio Bashmore and Disclosure) offering him a deal. The videos of his performances, and his obvious piano skills and vocal talents said more about him than a CD and press release ever would.
But even if you’re not the next hotshot piano player, Youtube can still function as a great way of starting a career in the industry. Back in about 2009, a teenager called Luke Hood was too young to get into clubs and hear his favourite tunes, so he started a Youtube channel called UKF, showcasing some of the tracks he was into. By promoting the channel on Facebook and amongst friends it started to build up a following that just grew and grew; by 2011 it was the biggest channel on Youtube UK and the following year Luke quit university to move to London and take up a position as a music industry player. Since then UKF has promoted arena-sized events all over the globe, sold hundreds of thousands of compilation CDs and become recognised as one of the key portals that all aspiring dubstep and bass music producers seek support from. Luke still hasn’t (publicly) written a single note of music, but a successful career in the music industry is now his for the taking.
You may notice a common theme running through these examples – they all feature great music that people love and want to share. But that’s a given. If you’re not 100% confident about your music then you may want to spend some time working on it before trying to build a career. If however, you are convinced you’re coming out with music that the world needs to hear, then don’t wait around for labels to mail you back or for the music community to stuble across your profile by chance. Get yourself set up, get your tunes out to people directly and labels will start to pay attention!