The music industry: well-oiled in theory, archaic in practice, and often perceived as a masonic club operating underneath a thin veil of secrecy. It’s a daunting thought as an emerging artist knowing that you have to navigate this maze. In light of Covid and the unique challenges facing artists, it’s important that, now more than ever, we become more self-sufficient and come together to create a new music industry – one which allows us to flourish through collaboration and shared passions.
Over the last 18 months as the world was plunged into lockdowns and isolations, artists and musicians were forced into a peculiar, creative isolation of its own kind. Staying at home naturally meant collaboration between artists became logistically difficult, with many relying on shaky Zoom connections and group chats to try and be creative with their band members and fellow artists.
Having been around for a number of years, so-called “bedroom producers” are nothing new, and many have succeeded in creating illustrious careers through a grainy recording they did at home. In the present day, the ability to sit at your laptop and produce a song in only a couple of hours means that music is more accessible to people who may not be able to afford renting out a professional recording studio. Releasing your music is easier still, with many distribution sites available with the ability to set up a release on all major streaming platforms in just a few clicks.
However, what comes after the initial songwriting and recording is often not as straightforward. As a musician myself, I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges facing artists who are trying to do it on their own. It isn’t enough to just record and produce a song; you then need to account for the release, reviews, PR, radio placements and so much more. It is a tough sea to navigate, and it is easy to lose your bearings. Planning an entire release schedule single-handedly is complex and requires a lot of research, time and effort to find the right media outlets for your brand and those who will continue to support each release well into its afterlife.
In a city with a rich cultural heritage like Liverpool, there is an abundance of support and opportunities for emerging artists. Over the past few years, a need has been identified for these artists to have even more support in their professional development from those working within the industry. Safe spaces which encourage collaboration and community values are vital for this process, and organisations within Liverpool are beginning to develop specialised programmes to meet this need.
One of the organisations offering such support to emerging artists is Future Yard, Birkenhead’s all-in-one venue, bar and studio space embodying the town’s mushrooming creative face-lift. Alongside a youth training programme developing young people’s skills for a career in the live music industry, Future Yard recently launched Propeller, an artist development initiative offering one-to-one support for artists in all areas of their career.
Propeller has been designed to be an engaging and inclusive programme which will offer specialised support and guidance to artists with a variety of career-based needs including planning release strategies, approaching managers and agents, merchandise and even securing gigs. With an assembled team of carefully selected mentors operating within a variety of disciplines within the industry, Propeller’s artists can learn from those with a shared passion to inspire and nurture the next generation of musicians.
As well as incubating the region’s talent through mentorship, Propeller’s artists will also be able to use the former nightclub venue to rehearse, perform and sell their merchandise. Future Yard will become a home for the artists, somewhere that they feel safe and secure to turn their visions into practice. Having a hub for artists to work and meet other creatives is vital, especially as we begin to tentatively emerge from the cycle of isolations and restrictions. It is the perfect time to start building and re-establishing creative relationships.
What sets Propeller apart from similar schemes is that it will be ongoing, lasting as long as the artist needs it. Cath Hurley, Future Yard’s Community Manager, recognises the added value that Propeller’s indefinite programme brings compared to Future Yard’s previous initiatives. “It always felt like we were just scratching the surface…when we got to the end of the 12 weeks. We found that the artists are only really just starting to come out of their shells at that point.” The decision by Future Yard to launch Propeller as an ongoing scheme reinforces their commitment to seeing artists through the early stages of their career while also allowing them to explore different areas they may need more guidance in.
Going beyond learning the tricks of the trade, what happens when you have recorded, produced and released your music? It’s important as an artist to know about the other side of the industry: the world of music publishing and what happens to your song once it has been released into the world.
In a nutshell, music publishing is about your songs (your intellectual property) not the recordings and it also encompasses the creation of copyright for your songs. For any artist, knowing your rights and ownership of your tracks is essential as it forms an important source of income. Signing up to a publisher is a good move for an emerging artist. Allowing the publisher to take on the serious tasks while you focus on the music means that you know your intellectual property is in safe hands as you retain control over your work.
One such publisher is Sentric Music. Based in Liverpool, Sentric has grown from strength to strength since it was established in 2006. Through their work, they empower emerging artists and offer competitive deals to allow artists and songwriters to collect the royalties they are owed.
Rising above the swelling sea of new music is difficult; ultimately it falls to you as an artist to come up with new ways of releasing and presenting your music and building a fan base. Simon Pursehouse, Global Director of Music Services at Sentric Music, highlights the importance of expanding your knowledge of music publishing, as well as allowing companies like Sentric to help you. According to Simon, it is about “feeding the machine” that is the industry, it’s making your music as accessible as it can be for people, while still also retaining your identity. That’s where companies such as Sentric come in. With a range of services from publishing, to artist liaison to synchronisation, Sentric, like Future Yard, are making the industry more personal, where you are able to put names to faces and work with people who are as passionate about your music as you are.
Companies like Future Yard and Sentric Music provide an invaluable service to emerging artists. They give them a platform and a voice to start their career and allow them to work and focus on their music without having to sacrifice their artistic integrity. For too long, the industry has often retained an air of inaccessibility to emerging artists and it is so refreshing to see these companies paving the way to a new and much more meritocratic music industry. The traditional idea of a record label, a publisher, a manager has been regenerated. For companies like Sentric and Future Yard, it is important for them to be recognised as allies to artists.
To be sure, all of this isn’t to argue that traditional routes are wrong and should be cast aside. There are many amazing and independent record labels, managers, PR agents who are also trying to flourish and grow their careers too. The key to the new industry is collaboration. It is a vital component for success and allows people to think outside the box and find new and exciting ways to move forward and most importantly, create amazing work that they can be proud of.
In 2021, a year marked equally by turbulence as much as it is by recovery, music continues to offer an elixir of hope and reflection. It makes us dance, cry, and forget. It’s the gamut of the human experience that brings us together. If the UK music industry is to adapt and be the exponent of the next generation, now is the time for it to grow, change and bring artists together.