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Liverpool Sound City: CMU’s top tips for new bands

By | Published on Friday 21 May 2010

Liverpool Sound City this year included a specific strand aimed at aspiring artists and songwriters called Create Sound City, filled with practical tips for new talent looking to make it in the music industry, with the likes of the Musicians’ Union, Music Managers Forum and something called CMU on hand to dish out advice

For its very first year, Create Sound City kicked off with two workshops from CMU, where CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke discussed old and new ways of launching a band, outlined the various ways you can make money from music, and finished off by providing ten tips for unsigned bands, ten things they should be doing right now.

For those new bands not able to make Create Sound City this year, here are the ten tips you missed, in a friendly cut-out-and-keep format:

1. Choose a good band name, that is likely to come up in Google searches. Register your band name (or a variation of) as a dot com URL, and get the slash names with every social network going (so, etc). Try to have the same slash name with all services.

2. Recruit a team. You don’t just need a drummer and a bassist, you need someone who knows how to set up websites, someone who can be funny on Twitter, someone who can get you gigs. One of these people might want to become your initial manager.

3. Be clear with everyone involved what they are getting in terms of future revenue splits, ie if and when revenue starts to come in, are they going to get paid for past free work, will they get a cut of the money. Be very clear on who owns the copyrights in any songs you write or tracks your record, make sure band members, mangers and producers don’t have any unspoken expectations about future copyright ownership.

4. Join PPL and PRS (or sign up to Sentric Music, who will manage your PRS membership). Whenever your music is performed or played on the radio or in a bar, chances are you are due some money. PPL and PRS collect this money for you (the former royalties due on your recordings, the latter royalties due on your songs), but can only pass it on to you if you are members.

5. Set up your online presence – you need to be on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, and a SoundCloud profile is increasingly popular. Other social networks are available! Decide who will manage your social network presence, someone need to keep things updated. MOST IMPORTANT, make sure you have a band website or blog and band email address and that someone manages these. Even if your website only has links to your social network pages, you should have your own home on the internet.

6. Gig and/or DJ as much as you can. And make sure you promote and document all your gigging on your website and/or social network profiles, so outsiders (labels, journalists, potential fans) can see what a busy popular band you are.

7. Set up a mailing list. Take email addresses at gigs, and via your website. People like Music Glue and Reverb Nation and Topspin can help you with this process. The current currency is one free MP3 in return for an email.

8. Engage, enthuse and involve your fans. Once you have your mailing list, use it responsibly. Don’t spam people, but send occasional emails, offering fans something special or, even better, involving them (ask them for feedback, ideas, input – it’s free market research and they’ll love you for it).

9. Strategically approach media and label people. Approach DJs or journalists who you really think will like your music based on what they already play or write about. Pander to their ego, tell them you love their show/panel, that you heard them play/saw them write about band x and that’s why you think they’d like your music. If you are aiming for a record deal (ie you want investment from a record company), approach label people in a similar way.

10. Think about self-releasing an EP or album, most bands do these days before signing a record deal. If you do, are you going to give it away or sell it. If you latter, will you sell direct using Topspin or Music Glue, or will you finding a distributor like CD Baby or Tunecore to get your stuff in iTunes, Spotify etc. Either way, this self-released album isn’t going to make you rich, it’s about building fan-base. Make sure the music is brilliant. If you have four brilliant tracks and six OK ones, do an EP and work on making the other six songs brilliant for future release. And if some money would help at this stage, look into fan-funding via Pledge or Slice The Pie to raise some small initial investment. 

Easy. Though, as The Orchard’s Scott Cohen said yesterday at another Liverpool Sound City session, don’t forget there is still a little bit of magic involved in all this. “You see bands who do all the right things and it doesn’t take off, other bands, there’s a spark and suddenly they’re a buzz band. As a manager you need to know what tools are out there and how to use them, though you still need that little bit of magic which it is impossible to define”. But still, up there are ten things to be getting on which while your wait for the magic to happen.