+44(0) 7793 678 945 sunnystuartwinter@gmail.com

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Music Podcast: Wooden Arms (being a buzz band, momentum & signing with labels)

Such Great Heights Podcast: Episode 06

It is always a joy to see friends and peers progress in the Music Industry, especially those who have been consistently working hard creating new music, constantly honing their craft; growing.

I met Alex Carson many years ago in and around the cosy Norwich music community. We had both been promoters, heavily involved in supporting upcoming talent and I had interviewed him for a two-part series I was doing for BBC Norfolk Introducing. Time went on, we both thrived, gaining all the experiences we could muster until our paths crossed once more in London, where we now both reside.

I’d been aware of his band Wooden Arms (Fierce Panda / Diversion Records / Butterfly Collectors) for some time; not only due to the Norwich connection but also for the success and buzz they were rightfully receiving from the likes of BBC 6 Music (a favourite of mine) and The Sunday Times. The release of their album ‘Tide’, along with its beautiful rhythmic title track music video was revered and one which I frequently return to.

Having finally caught the band live last year at The Forge in Camden, I headed to North London to meet with Alex to discuss:

- Music in his youth
- Concert Promoting
- The birth & rise of Wooden Arms
- Being in a 'buzz band'
- Getting championed by BBC Music
- Maintaining momentum
- Signing with labels
- Advice for unsigned artists

Please watch the episode below and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube so you don’t miss out on any upcoming episode. You can find Wooden Arms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or on their website.

Many thanks to Alex for his time chatting – always a pleasure catching up with him. They’re currently releasing new music so expect to hear them on the likes of BBC 6 Music again very soon. Make sure you catch them live as their live performance is really special – something we discuss on the podcast!

Until next time…

Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

Monday, August 28, 2017

Heavy Music Awards 2017: Celebrating the Alternative

With a two month break behind me to concentrate on a busy period in my music career, i’ve returned, ready to share more great content, for anyone currently in, or interested in succeeding in, the Music Industry.

More on that at the bottom of this post, but first – last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the Heavy Music Awards…

(Title image by James North Photography)

House of Vans

Crowd Queuing - Photo: James North Photography
A short walk from Waterloo leads me to House of Vans, under the graffiti-covered Arches, where a young giddy crowd lines up patiently for entry, eager to watch a strong billing of Dead!, Vukovi, Venom Prison and Creeper, not to mention a miscellany of potential award winners for this, the first ever Heavy Music Awards.

Dim passages lead me to the raised concrete bowl in Tunnel Four where a group of skaters are on display; filmed. Opposite, the wonderful team behind Safe Gigs For Women are sharing their message to guests; a message condemning sexual harassment and assault at gigs, encouraging safe concert spaces, a notion that I am strongly behind and hope you too will support.

It’s my second time visiting and House of Vans is rapidly becoming a favourite venue of mine here in London. The sense of community between skaters, staff and guests is infectious. It feels like an underground bunker of creativity and it is no surprise that it is the hangout of choice for so many young people. I love it.

The alternative community

Creeper - Photo: James North Photography
The same sense of open society stretches to alternative and punk music too. While the ‘mainstream’ is, these days, more tolerant of alternative music (as can be seen in the inclusion of their punk rock alumni on TV and radio), the need for an inclusive community supporting one another will never go away, which is why it is clear the Heavy Music Awards will now be a staple event in the annual music calendar; one which will grow in size and stature every year – that I am sure.

Having grown up within the music community, through punk gigs, alternative concerts and indie festivals, I’m now at an age where I see young men and young women with the same wide-eyed wonder at being in the same room as their musical heroes, keen to do all they can to connect with them on an equal footing, just how I was in my formative years.

That’s special. That’s the reason creativity is so valuable. Not to the GDP, not for profiteering or delivering the 20% commissions, but in the growth and connection of us all.

The venue fills up

To my mind, the main room seems subconsciously split in 3 sections. The dedicated fans at the front, pressed against the stage barrier for the best view of their favourite bands. Half way back, my peers in the Music Industry watch, silent and still, drink in hand. Then there’s the bar at the back with guests conversating, gesturing wildly while keeping a stray ear out for the festivities and ensuring their alcohol of choice remains in its beaker.

Vukovi perform - Photo: James North Photography
In this social media age, walking around the event feels like my Twitter timeline has taken human form, all coming to the same party. Likeminded individuals - some I know personally, some I’ve yet to meet - so it’s a pleasure to natter with them and finally have a word. It can feel isolated moving away from the city you grew up in, away from your tight-knit friendship groups, but the Music Industry, events like this and being just a little outgoing rapidly turns peers into pals.

I sit briefly in the cinema room where the ‘Slipknot: Day of the Gusano’ documentary plays, detailing the iconic bands Mexico City set before the live music and presentation of awards begin.

Having seen Vukovi at Camden Rocks last year, it was exciting to see them after the rapid rise in popularity their music had deservedly received. Mischievous and engaging, capped off by the on-brand blue-and-pink clothing and the cheerleading of  ‘Animal’, taken from their debut self-titled album. Good set; good band.

Creeper are a band I’ve followed for quite some time, having been fascinated by their murder mystery marketing campaign (“Where is James Scythe?”) culminating in the track ‘Suzanne’. With so much hype around a band, I often fear that I’ll finally see the artist and be disappointed with what they have to offer but the same cannot be said about Creeper.

There’s something about lead singer Will Gould, a self-assured confidence that you only find with artists destined for a long stay in the mainstream. Their music is hungrily devoured by the alternative music scene, but even the most ardent of mainstream music fans revel in the pop hooks of their punk hits. Add to that the gothic black-and-purple colour scheme adorning their clothing, videos and branding, not least the obvious owning of the stage as headliners and it’s discernible: Creeper are massive.

The Awards

The awards presentation themselves flew by. Best venue (won by O2 Academy Brixton) was a celebration of just 7 of a very long list of incredible venues the UK has to offer. (Recommended reading: Independent Venue Week – why we need it)

Enter Shikari pick up their award - Photo: James North Photography

Enter Shikari rightly took home the Best Live Band award. A band I’m very fond of having watched their ascent first hand; their incredible career continuing to go from strength to strength. I still vividly remember them touring to promote ‘Take To The Skies’, watching them at the UEA in Norwich, sometime in 2007, over a decade ago. Live for them now means arenas, huge light shows and a set list cherry-picking from 5 critically acclaimed studio albums. Plus they’re bloody lovely chaps.

The H award, given in honour of late Kerrang! photographer Ashley Maile, was an opportunity for the crowd to show their love and appreciation for a gifted photographer taken far too soon after a battle with cancer. The video presentation shared a glimpse of how passionate, how respected and well liked Ashley was. So please take the time to honour his talent by visiting his website.

It was a joy to attend the awards night and many thanks to the team at Heavy Music Awards and House of Vans for not only inviting my own attendance but for celebrating the alternative, a music community that is often overlooked, kept within niche groups, often seen but not heard.

If you were at the awards, let me know how your night was and what your highlights were. I’ve already chatted with guests via Instagram (see my photos from the night – search @sunnynorwich) but would love to hear from more of you.

Near 100,000 votes were cast earlier this summer for the awards with seven finalists in each category chosen by a panel of over 300 judges from across the Music Industry. The full list of winners are as follows:

The Winners

BEST ALBUM (presented by EMP)
Architects: All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us


Given in honour of late Kerrang! photographer Ashley Maile

BEST UK BAND (presented by UPRAWR)
Black Sabbath


BEST LIVE BAND (presented by Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Enter Shikari

BEST BREAKTHROUGH BAND (presented by House of Vans London)
I Prevail

BEST ALBUM ARTWORK (presented by The Pit)
Ghost: Popestar (Zbigniew M Bielak)

BEST PRODUCER (presented by Believe)
Fredrik Nordström & Henrik Udd

BEST PHOTOGRAPHER (presented by Olympus)
Ben Gibson

BEST FESTIVAL (presented by Jackson Guitars)
Download Festival

BEST VENUE (presented by Scuzz)
O2 Academy, Brixton

Coming Soon

Coming up on the blog is Episode 06 of Such Great Heights, my in-depth Music Industry video podcast where I sit down with experienced professionals and artists to discuss their experiences and lessons learned.

There will also be details of next months European Tour with Prey Drive and Mountains To Move across Belgium, Netherlands and Germany, and my new video series, ‘The Promise’ where I interview emerging artists breaking into the mainstream about their connection to music, their careers and goals for the coming years.

All of my content is for you, to help with your development and understanding of the Music Industry, as well as documenting the fun I have being involved within it. I do this whilst juggling a full time job and other responsibilities which is why my content isn’t as regular as I would like. I will never compromise quality for quantity.

Here’s a simple guide of how YOU can get involved and stay in touch:

1. Want daily music industry news? Like my music blog page on Facebook or Twitter
2. Want in-depth music discussions? Subscribe to my YouTube channel for Such Great Heights
3. Want to be considered for Such Great Heights or ‘The Promise’, like on Facebook then message me
4. Want to chat about your music, want advice or to just hang over a cuppa? Sure! Get in touch. It’d be a pleasure.

Until next time… (Such Great Heights coming in the next week)

Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

Monday, June 26, 2017

Social Media Marketing for Musicians (2017)

Social Media Marketing for Musicians
Watch the video below

It's something that I get asked regularly by musicians. What content are musicians meant to share to build an engaged following and grow a fanbase?

Heavily involved in the Music Industry, especially with unsigned and upcoming artists, I see so many band social media accounts that are either heavily neglected or a repetitive stream of plugs to listen to their track or watch their music video. It's frustrating, especially when you see a band that has potential; a great sound, good looks and a strong identity of where they fit within the music landscape.

Why it's important

Social media marketing is such a vital way, not only to get your name in front of new fans but to build a stronger bond between yourselves and your music, and music fanatics. But why is it important?

When fans have a stronger bond or allegiance with a band or musician, they're far more likely to engage with your releases, far more likely to attend your shows, buy your merchandise and perhaps most importantly, spread the word of mouth to their friends and family on your behalf; helping to grow your following.

The advent of social media has meant that any band or musician can now act as a marketing brand, they have full control over the message that they want to purvey and the way they communicate it.

Many fail to realise that your social media marketing is an extension of your music; it’s creativity. In the same way that you’d come up with a music video idea, or artwork, or even the song structure, why wouldn’t you approach your social media in the same way? Don’t see it as admin - it should be fun.

So if you want advice on your social media marketing for your band or music, look no further, click play above and if you find it useful, click here to subscribe to my channel where I’ll be posting regular advice and insight for unsigned and upcoming musicians.

Oh, and I’ve hidden Jeremy Corbyn in this video to make sure you’re paying attention. Comment on the video once you’ve found him!

Until next time…

Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Music Podcast: Katie Malco (Alcopop / One Little Indian) - PR, community, songwriting

Such Great Heights Podcast: Episode 05

Being heavily involved in the music community and with a constant desire to network, i'm always pleased to meet new Industry professionals and artists alike; especially those that run in similar circles to myself. My interview with Katie Malco, solo musician signed to Alcopop! Records and PR for One Little Indian Records, exemplifies that.

Heading from East London (home) to Tooting Bec, I met with Katie at the HQ of One Little Indian Records, home to the likes of Bjork and my new favourites Fufanu. As guests go, Katie had two hats to wear; the artist and the PR Industry professional, which made this episode of Such Great Heights one of my favourites.

Although i'd never met Katie prior to this interview, I was fully aware of her in name and in music. We share mutual friends and acquaintances, many of whom are brought up in the conversation below as we delve into the path taken from her younger years, learning to play guitar, through gaining experience in the Industry, touring, to the present day.

If you're interested in getting into the PR side of the Music Industry, if you're a musician, and especially if you're a musician who is looking for press and promotion of your music, then this episode is perfect for you. Katie offers a glimpse into the life of a PR professional, while delivering sage advice on the art of storytelling to gain crucial press.

Watch the episode in full below and if you enjoy it, please click the thumbs up button on YouTube, as it really helps the video reach a wider audience. Big things are happening with the podcast and the Industry content I plan to deliver on my channel, so if you're interested in the Music Industry, click here and subscribe.

Many thanks to Katie for her time and to One Little Indian for having me down. I really enjoyed the conversation, free-flowing and open with so many great pieces of advice and guidance for those of you looking to make your way in the Industry.

If you want to help the Such Great Heights podcast to grow, please share it with your friends. The more support it gets, the bigger the guests I will pull and the more valuable the information offered.

Until next time...

Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Music Podcast: Dan Allen (Ducking Punches) - Punk, Touring, Illustration

Such Great Heights Podcast: Episode 04

During the best years of my late teens and twenties, fully absorbed in the Norwich (UK) music scene, hosting gigs, aiding upcoming bands and touring, I bore witness to the growth of many artists from starting out to achieving the success they deserve after years of toil. And now, Ducking Punches are getting their just deserts.

Signing an album deal with supreme tastemaker Xtra Mile Recordings for their full length 2016 debut 'Fizzy Brain', Ducking Punches (sometimes Dan performing solo, sometimes full band) are seeing the fruits of their labour after tirelessly writing, independently touring, dedicatedly developing. 

For Episode 04 of my Music Industry video podcast (vlogcast? vidcast? podeo?), I sat down with frontman Dan Allen for a long overdue chat. We discuss the punk community and what it taught Dan, we talk about touring the UK and Europe, his passion and process of illustration, signing with Xtra Mile and much more.

Watch the episode in full below and if you enjoy it, please click the thumbs up button on YouTube, as it really helps the video reach a wider audience. New video content, including 'Social Media content for musicians' and Such Great Heights Episode 05 (already recorded!), will be up on the channel very soon so why not subscribe?

Sharing's caring so please spread the word!

Many thanks to Dan Allen for taking the time to chat with me. Although we're in similar social circles, we've never had such an in-depth conversation so it was a real pleasure. There were some topics we didn't get around to discussing but we'll revisit them down the line. For now, support Ducking Punches on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram as they go from strength to strength.

If you have a suggestion of a future guest on the podcast, tweet @suchgreat or comment below and let us know.
It would be really great to hear your ideas.

Don't be a stranger...

Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Truth: Gaining Twitter Followers 2017

Having seen so many YouTube videos giving terrible advice to viewers referencing the follow/unfollow method, I took it upon myself to share my advice on how to build a truly engaged following and the reasons for it.

Any social media user dreams of having a huge following who engages with the content they share. Due to this, many people try to cut corners by following and unfollowing users in a short space of time without realising the whole purpose of social media is the engagement, not the number of followers.

Yes, there are thousands of these people out there with tens of thousands of followers, but look at the amount of people liking, replying or retweeting their content and you'll notice it to be very low considering their high follower metrics.

But why should I listen to you? I hear you ask. Well, during my three-year BA (Hons) degree course at University, I undertook first class research into social media influence and the psychology / sociology of social media behaviour. You can read it in full (all 9,386 words) by clicking this link.

Watch the video below & if you enjoy it, please click the thumbs up button and subscribe to show your support for the content I share.

New content on my YouTube channel very soon so make sure you subscribe.

Thanks for watching / reading / sharing.


Hi, i’m Sunny, I’m an award-nominated Music Industry blogger & social media influencer and here’s some tips on how to gain Twitter followers

I see SO many YouTube videos spouting terrible advice to people online, completely missing the point of what followers are and why you want them.

Having done first class research on social media influence and followers, PLEASE do not listen to anyone who recommends following and unfollowing tons of users in a short space of time. Ask yourself – what is the point?

We all know its difficult to gain a following on social media, it takes time and for bands and artists, it can seem like a full time job on top of school or college or work. But cutting corners isn’t the answer.

I see so many social media users, especially on Twitter, who have tens of thousands of followers, but will only have 5 or 6 interactions on their tweets. The purpose of social media is engagement – you want people replying to your content, sharing it, being interested in what you have to say and that comes with quality and consistency. People can see through hollow follower metrics – it’s not about having the highest number of followers anymore.

As a band or artist or anyone on social media, you have to first understand your brand; what is it that you’re offering? What makes you unique? What makes you you?

It’s tricky to stand out as a musician due to the sheer number of musicians out there so if you’re looking at what similar bands and artists are doing and copying them, you’re not going to stand out.

Images of interesting social media content throughout this paragraph
One of the main principles I learnt during University was that When everyone zigs, you should zag (image). This basically means, instead of looking at what others are doing and trying to fit the mould, look at others and do something completely different. That is the way to stand out.

SO MANY musicians are sharing the same content – “come to our next gig”, “listen to our music”, “watch our video” but think outside the box – what content could you share that will 1. Grab the attention of non-followers 2. Entertain current followers 3. Display your unique personality? Your unique brand.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. When it comes to building a following, think long term. And remember: content, content, content.

I’ll be posting a video discussing content ideas very soon so make sure you’re subscribed for that.
Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Music Podcast: Kevin Douch (Big Scary Monsters) - signing acts, label life & more

Such Great Heights Podcast: Episode 03

With over 15 years of experience as a Record Label, i've watched the story of Big Scary Monsters record label unfold in real time. I've seen relatively unknown artists rocket to popularity and the label itself develop into a name you can trust with a roster laden with successful International bands.

While developing as a concert promoter (more on that here), I worked with many BSM artists, became friends with them and watched them go from strength to strength. Looking back, it's impressive to see the phenomenal work Kevin Douch has done to build a brand, expanding while still sticking to the core principles that he has held from the start.

In episode 03 of Such Great Heights, I travel to Oxford to BSM HQ, to discuss the story of the label's growth, the process of signing acts and how BSM infiltrated the International market with the help of a highly-respected solo musician.

We also chat about the annual BSM 5-a-side football tournament (which i've had the pleasure of playing in) which sees the Music and Entertainment Industry travel to Wembley (not THAT Wembley) to pit their skills against each other.

Watch the (first filmed) episode below and if you enjoy it, please could you click the thumbs up on YouTube and/or Soundcloud; it really helps the podcast to grow meaning more and more great guests. You can also subscribe on iTunes here so you don't miss upcoming episodes.

Sharing's caring - so please spread the word!

A big thank you to Kev for taking the time to discuss his career with me; was really great to catch up after so long. You can like Big Scary Monsters on Facebook for the latest releases and news, or follow @bsmrocks on Twitter. Thanks also to Prey Drive for the theme music. They've soon got new music out so make sure you like them on Facebook so you don't miss out.

If you could hear the story of any band, artist, creative or Music Industry professional, who would you choose? Tweet @suchgreat or comment below and i'll have them on as a future guest!

Thanks for watching / listening / reading

Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

Monday, March 06, 2017

Music Podcast: Laila K (Sonic Boom Six) - Touring, Identity, Politics

Such Great Heights Podcast: Episode 02

After great response from Episode 01 of my new Music Industry podcast 'Such Great Heights', I got the chance to sit down with Laila K, singer for Sonic Boom Six, in the first of many in-depth artist interviews.

In the conversation you can hear below, we discuss what hooked Laila into joining a band, the trajectory of Sonic Boom Six, relentless touring both Nationally and Internationally, as well as the importance of lyrical content in songwriting.

Known for the political themes displayed in many of their songs, the conversation moves on naturally to Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, how easy (but damaging) it is to live in an echo chamber thanks to social media and why, to move forward in society, a dialogue must be open with those who do not necessarily share the same opinions.

Artist interviews on Such Great Heights provide a deeper understanding of the musicians featured, help understand their journey from early days to present day and allow a discussion on issues that truly matter most to them. In Laila's case, we discuss identity.

If you enjoy the podcast, it'd really mean a lot if you could share it on social media and with likeminded friends who may enjoy it too. The more popular the podcast gets, the easier it will be to get a glimpse behind the veil of ever more popular musicians and creatives.

Use iTunes? Subscribe to the podcast to never miss out on an episode again! Click here!

Comment your thoughts on the podcast below & please like the video on YouTube

Answer me this:
Who would you like to see guest on the podcast?
What topics would you like to see covered?
Comment below!
Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Music Podcast: Matt Hanner (CODA) - Promoting, Touring & more

Such Great Heights Podcast: Episode 01

I'm very proud to release Episode #01 of my brand new Music Industry podcast Such Great Heights.
Having been in the planning process for many months, i'm really happy that it has finally come to fruition.

In Episode #01, I sit down with Matt Hanner, booking agent at CODA Music Agency to discuss his early experiences as a concert promoter, how he ended up at CODA, his experiences of booking tours, how streaming has affected the process, advice for those interested in concert promoting or tour booking and much more.

Such Great Heights is a monthly endeavour of mine, an extension to this blog and a chance to sit down with music professionals, musicians and creatives to discuss, in-depth, their careers, their experiences, advice and the things that really matter to them.

Have a listen to the podcast below.

I've set up official Facebook & Twitter pages for Such Great Heights, so make sure you follow & like those so you miss an episode. I'd really love your feedback so get in touch on Facebook or Twitter with your thoughts.

Many thanks to Matt Hanner & CODA for their time in the recording of the episode. A big thank you to Prey Drive for the theme song and to Erin Aniker for the logo artwork. Make sure you follow both of them for great music & illustrations.

The podcast will soon be available on iTunes. This will be announced on social media so make sure you keep an eye on that and subscribe once the option is available.

Really looking forward to hearing your views on Episode #01. Don't be a stranger.

Until next time...

Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Independent Venue Week: Why We Need It

Independent Venue Week title

Back for its fourth consecutive year, Independent Venue Week (23rd to 29th January) will span 120 venues in the UK (check out the list here), supporting the grassroots music scene, offering special shows with local and International artists.

I wrote an editorial piece back in 2015 on how the (all too regular) closure of independent venues damages culture and society as a whole, leaving less outlets for creative public expression and less engagement of the arts in the community.

Music Venue Trust are doing great things in calling for more support of music venues and the appointment of Amy Lamé as London’s first Night Czar is certainly a step in the right direction but more needs to be done.

I thought it’d be a great idea to have a conversation with independent venues around the UK to see what Independent Venue Week truly means to them, what is to be expected and the reality of the risks facing music venues the country over.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Mig Schillace (The Louisiana, Bristol), John Davies (Komedia, Bath) and Nick Stewart (Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh) on the importance of Independent Venue Week. Here’s what they said:

The White Stripes at The Louisiana in Bristol
The White Stripes at The Louisiana

Sunny: Straight in. What does Independent Venue Week mean to a venue such as your own? 

Mig (Louisiana): For us, it basically means that music venues, regardless of size, support each other and that, through this support we can let the powers that be know how important grass roots venues are for music in the UK.

Over the years we have had the likes of Coldplay, Muse, The White Stripes & Amy Winehouse play The Louisiana and without which, it would have been harder for these acts to grow a fanbase and go on to play bigger venues etc.

IVW also highlights just some of the great acts we have in and around Bristol.

John (Komedia): It's a great opportunity to showcase local, breaking and national acts in what is a traditionally slow month for independent venues.

Nick (Sneaky Pete’s): It's a great chance to celebrate what we normally do, putting on great shows, but it's also a great feeling to feel that we have peers across the UK working hard to make shows at grassroots music venues as good as possible.

Sunny: What would you say the biggest risk is for venues? And how do we fight it?

Mig (Louisiana): Biggest risk is lack of financial and legislative support from local / national government. Also, people complaining about noise coming from music venues. 10 years ago we had to sell the family house (we are an independently family run venue) due to noise complaints. The money we made from selling our house covered extensive soundproofing to our live room. Any profits we make go back into the venue. We are constantly trying to improve the sound and making it a better venue for acts that play.

Nick (Sneaky Pete’s): Tours are getting shorter and increasingly only metro cities get the shows, however I think having really good quality venues with great programming can buck that trend. If you make live music appealing then audience development is a lot easier, and where you have new audiences for music, the bands will want to play.

John (Komedia): The Internet. Apathy. Devaluation of music. Saturation of small spaces that put on music. An increase in music business academic courses. Increase in popularity in music festivals. I don't know sorry.

Live shot from Sneaky Pete's in Edinburgh
Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh
Sunny: All very good points. So what about social media? How has that changed the promotion of your events? Is it easier or harder now?

Nick (Sneaky Pete’s): We find it a bit harder. Having a social media presence (whether you're paying for ads or not) creates a situation where people are surprised if they haven't heard about the latest show, and yet many feel that you've interrupted their social space if you tell them about shows. It's a catch 22. Similarly, people used to search to see what shows are on, but now they expect you to come to them with your listings on whatever platform they choose to use, so you have to cover all of the bases. Just doing listings is a big chunk of a full time job for a staff member here; at least it is if you have as many shows as us!

John (Komedia): It's difficult to get your message through the huge amount of digital communication that is out there. I wonder what would happen if you actually stopped doing any digital promotion.

Mig (Louisiana): Social media has made it a lot easier to promote shows. We still distribute posters and flyers. Social media makes it easier to hit a wider audience.

Sunny: To me, it still feels like we’re in a transitional time, trying to make sense of promotion in a social media world. Maybe it’s wishful thinking. What changes would you like to see in order to get more support?

Nick (Sneaky Pete’s): I'd like to see more government and council grants given to venues. On a city or national level, the strength of a music scene is an advertiser for the quality of life in that place. But more than that, going to see music is part of a life properly lived; music venues that know how to do that best should be given financial help to provide those facilities to citizens. As there are libraries, so there should be music venues.

Mig (Louisiana): We would love to have financial support, whether it is from our local council or arts-based charities. We get none of these. Also, venues need more protection against people who move in next to venues even though they know that they're moving near a music venue. The Government in general needs to understand the income that music in the UK generates and support venues such as us. I read somewhere that the live scene in Bristol generated over £200 million in the year 2015!

Live shot from Komedia in Bath
Komedia, Bath
Sunny: I certainly agree with that. It drives me mad that housing developers can build near a venue and then demand the venue to change when their tenants arrive. I completely understand the need for housing, it’s a consistent priority in the UK, but there has to be more protection for existing venues or businesses.

What about you John? 
What changes would you like to see?

John (Komedia): I wouldn't want any support from the Government. To rely on funding indicates that the need for the space isn't there. There is a bigger picture about society as a whole that needs to be addressed.

Sunny: I totally get that. The behaviour; the mindset. The 'value' of live music.
Okay, finally, what gig of yours, from the last year or two, stands out and what made it so good?

Mig (Louisiana): BBC 6 Music festival which was held Feb 2016 just showed how great Bristol is for live music. All venues that took part were sold out. The festival ran for 3 days and over 2 floors at The Louisiana. It was a great advert for Bristol based artists and showed that they are as good as the national acts we have play The Louisiana.

Nick (Sneaky Pete’s): Bob Log III crowdsurfing on a rubber dingy and bouncing against the dancefloor walls here - on only his second tune - has to be a highlight for me.

John (Komedia): Public Image Ltd. Was the stand out for me. It was just great seeing someone who changed the face of music performing at Komedia.

Sunny: Thanks so much to all of you for your time and all the best for your upcoming events.

Make sure you check out local listings to support Independent Venue Week near you. With little to no Government financial help, it is up to us, the music community, to protect and invest in these vital venues who tirelessly support upcoming and established musicians.

As always, please share this post on social media tagging me in where possible. Opening up these conversations about the Music Industry and the Independent Music scene is vital in ensuring its survival. Do your bit, attend a show, bring a friend and support new music. Never take these venues for granted.
Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Why your goal ISN’T to get signed

Why your goal isn't to get signed title
By thecomeupshow (Macklemore- The Heist Tour Toronto Nov 28) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

(NOTE: The contents of this blog post are merely my opinion. Signing a record deal is still a valuable goal but in my opinion, not the be-all and end-all. Enjoy!)

One of the joys of being involved in the Music Industry is talking music careers with unsigned musicians, discussing their goals and giving my advice to them on what I believe they should be focusing on right now to progress. I’m all about lending my experience to help develop new talent for the good of the music scene.

While many musicians have started shifting their targets into the digital era of the Music Industry and understand how the shift has moved the goalposts, i’m still amazed by the amount of musicians who are still focusing on getting signed to a record label as their priority. But why?

Let’s start with a brief look back down memory lane before explaining why I think you should be changing your targets.

The Past

Signed Artists in Record Store
Prior to music streaming, album sales (cassette, CD and vinyl) were the most profitable income streams for the Music Industry and thus, signing a recording deal with a record label was considered to be the top target for artists and musicians. Not least the money involved, signing a multi-album recording deal would generally mean professional and financial security for a number of years for an artist.

When CD albums would set you back around £15 (here in the UK), album sales figures were high. A £1 million recording contract was common (at least compared to today’s standards) and whilst that would include the artist’s advance (the money they live on), recording costs (studio time, mixing and mastering), visuals (music videos), tour supports (tagging along with a larger act to promote the new release and build their fan base) and marketing / promotion (TV & Radio campaigns, photo shoots, etc), the money could commonly be recouped (paid off) on album sales*, turning into shared profit between artist and label once past the threshold.

The deals were generally bigger on average and in the ‘glory days’ of the Music Industry (prior to music streaming), there was more money available in the Industry. A gamble on a new artist could be taken because, even if it didn’t go to plan, profits would be made on another artist on the roster and would, more or less, balance the books. Risks, therefore, could be taken.

How the Industry has changed

Thanks to the development of technology and the shift in consumer behaviour, streaming music is now the preferred choice of consumption to a large proportion of the music community.

Friends at Music Business Worldwide recently stated:
“Streams accounted for over a quarter (27.3%) of the UK’s chart-eligible album ‘sales’ in 2015” with streaming “now the dominant format in the Official Singles Chart, claiming two-thirds (66.4%) of chart-eligible ‘sales’ last year.” (Source)

Music Streaming on Mobile
Photo credit: www.bluecoat.com/
So, while CD and vinyl sales will continue (albeit on a smaller scale), streaming is the future of music consumption, therefore, the whole financial process of record labels signing new acts must be scaled back to rectify the dip in revenue. It simply would not make sense for labels to offer large contracts with excessive advances when the Industry can no longer sustain the risk. Make no bones about it, labels are still signing acts, but fewer and fewer artists can live on the derisory advances offered.

Labels still hold importance but they are now a means to an end rather than the end in itself. Collaborative relationships can bring success for both the artist and the label but the financial blanket that once protected the artist is rarely seen anymore.

The rise in music streaming ‘unpacked’ the album (albums are no longer listened to in full from start to finish as much as pre-streaming) so there is now more of an emphasis on singles (or perhaps more appropriately, playlists).

So with all that in mind, what should artists set their targets on to become truly independent; artistically and financially?

Your REAL goals

Musician Tips - Musician Challenge 2017
I’ve recently discussed creative goals for unsigned artists by developing the ‘2017 Musician Challenge’. Artistically, there has NEVER been a better time to be an unsigned musician, with high quality technology at its cheapest. Music videos can now be shot, edited and uploaded to a good standard using a mobile phone; all you need is creativity and a storyline.

Ultimately, the more independent you can become, the more money you will earn (as you won’t have to share any royalties or income with third parties or managers) and the more creative freedom you will enjoy (no disagreements with labels over creative differences). I realise it’s not all about the money, it’s about the music, the art, I know, but a music career is like a business and bringing in additional money (from gigs, synch, merch, fundraising) allows you to invest back in your music.

Financially, unsigned artists should look to the potential of publishing and synch if they want a new focus to provide financial relief to their careers. You can submit your tracks directly to publishers as demos to enquire about working together (make sure you check their websites for submission rules first) or you can look at platforms such as Sentric, who make it easy to submit and will assist you in collecting any royalties available to you if your musical work is used.

I talk about it a lot, but community and engagement really is the foundations of any solid and successful career in the Music Industry. The fans enjoy the music; the fans discuss the music within the community. Engage with your fans (not selling, listening and communicating) and they will have a deeper connection to you as the creative of the music they like. They will help promote your music to likeminded individuals, growing your fan-base and allowing the cycle to perpetually expand (in theory).


I must stress that record labels still have an important part to play in the global Music Industry, but their significance has diminished with the shift to music streaming and options of true artistic independence available thanks to the likes of better, cheaper technology (to record audio and video), YouTube & Vimeo (to host music videos), subscription / fundraising services like Patreon & Kickstarter (nominal regular payments from fans), the rise of accessible blogs & online media (to help promote your releases) and social media engagement.

Labels still have significance when it comes to credibility from the reputation of their brand, contacts, in-house services (PR, marketing, distribution) but for those artists that want to fully control their music and would prefer not to share the spoils, you have all the power and potential to grow your own music community, devise your own creative content, merchandise and exploit your own works whilst keeping hold of the majority of the income.

Your goal isn’t to get signed; your goal is to become self-sustaining and independent. Your goal is to totally, completely understand your brand, what you are offering and whom you are offering it to. If you get that right, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t succeed.

How much do you want it?

Sunny Stuart Winter - Music Industry articles, interviews & advice

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