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7 industry tips for new artists who want to turn their hobby into a fully-fledged career

Experts have your back

  • Mixmag Staff
  • 6 April 2017

Getting a career off the ground can be hard work, especially when you work independently, as many music producers and DJs do. There's so much to take into account and trying to juggle every aspect, from press to getting booked to play, can be more overwhelming than first thought.

It can be a maze out there so we spoke to leading industry figures to gather tips on how to get your career as an artist off the ground. It could take a while for you to get the wheels in motion, but take in the below and things will be a lot less stressful than you first thought.

1 THINK ABOUT JOINING A PR AGENCY

There's no doubt many artists do take care of their own press, but that's not to say it's easy or stress free. It's just another task to add to the list, one which may include making tunes, getting a DJ mix sorted, hitting the road for shows and, as is often the case, even working a full or part-time job if music isn't providing a enough income. That said, hooking up with a PR agency to get your output heard by various publications would be a wise move. Don't be spooked by the notion that it'll leave you out of pocket, though.

Melissa Maouris, whose agency promotes campaigns for !K7, Damian Lazarus and Kim Ann Foxman among others, says: "Getting a booking agent and PR used to be something for an elite group of artists with big bank balances, but there's now a slew of independent companies that service niche areas of the market. These channels are increasingly important, but choosing the right PR and agent is one of the most important decisions an artist now faces."

However, it's still up to the artist to decide where they want their music to be heard. Maouris adds: "The best PR campaigns are made around an artist's own true vision. Many artists expect an agent or a PR to open up new worlds for them, but don't see that part of the process lies in their own hands. Every artist is different, and the more proactive and individual ones go the furthest."

Melissa Taylor of Tailored Communication, which includes Nina Kraviz, KiNK and Avalon Emerson on its roster, echoes the view that an artist needs to be in control of their direction.

"Be realistic about who you are as an artist, but only do what you’re comfortable with and what feels right for you, Don’t allow a manger to push you in a direction where you find yourself questioning if this strategy still feels like you. Keep control of your art and keep control of your image."

2 DON'T SPAM INBOXES IF YOU'RE DOING YOUR OWN PRESS

"Hey, here's my new EP" is a subject title journalists see with more regularity than a rainy day in Manchester. It's a sentence industry professionals "despise", according to Melissa Taylor. She's not just talking on behalf of PRs, but journalists, too (yup, we get endless amounts of these blanket emails and, to be honest, there's just not enough hours to go through them all). Chances are, if you're doing interesting things with your music (read below), we'll see your name in our inbox and open it with the anticipation of a kid unwrapping a present at Christmas. Just don't pack out the email with loads of information. "We’re all busy people. Don’t send anyone 10 different EPs, three albums and a three-page text about yourself as an introduction, you’ll put people off," Taylor says. "Trust your instincts. Think about what’s most important and what’s the best music you have to represent you."

Importantly, don't give up. Remember, agencies have years' worth of contacts stored, but if you're looking to do your own press, things may take a little longer to heat up. With that in mind, keep your ears open, Melissa Maouris says. "Listen to the advice of those with more experience and be open-minded. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. There's only one chance to get it right the first time."

3 THINK ABOUT GETTING A BOOKING AGENT

Don't expect an avalanche of bookings to roll in straightaway, but having a booking agent will certainly fill more gaps in your calendar. Not only that, it'll give you access to new territories and most likely see you playing parties that you wouldn't necessarily think of yourself. If Khan, owner of management and PR company Transmit Signal, says: "If you're a new artist, the agent can get you on to line-ups by virtue of the other artists represented on the same agency. In turn, this could break you into new markets and shows you haven't played before." Wave goodbye to pubs in Brixton and say hello to cool-ass clubs in Berlin.

Again, though, do not just rely on someone else to push your career on. An agent can certainly lessen your workload by contacting promoters, but it's down to you to excite people and gain a fanbase willing to wax their cash to see you play in a club. After all, there's no point in being with a booking agency to get you gigs if no one's going to go to said show.

"The idea that getting a booking agent will immediately guarantee shows isn't the case," Tomas Fraser, Coyote Records founder and PR, says. "Agents work in the same way pluggers, PRs and other industry facilitators operate; they're only as good as the DJ or artist they're pitching out to promoters.

"If an artist is active, signed to a label or releasing music themselves, getting the right press and support on the radio and generally part of a wider scene, then chances are agents will be really useful in helping push DJs/artists into new territory and potentially onto bigger and better line-ups."

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