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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
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4 BE UNIQUE AND CREATE A DEMAND FOR YOURSELF

It's not always easy, but doing something out of the ordinary is bound to generate buzz. Once you've cracked that, people will be desperate to get their hands on your work or see you in action. Aphex Twin is a prime example. The screwed up mechanics of his debut album 'Selected Ambient Works 85-92' are still admired today, the release being one of the most celebrated records ever. We're not saying try to imitate Aphex, but his God-like status today is testament being unique pays off. Just think outside of a the box a little. Take footwork pioneer DJ Rashad's use of sampling, for example. His track 'I Don't Give A Fuck' revolves around a sample of Tupac Shakur-starring film Juice, but the track's one of footwork's most famous tracks. Moral of the story: don't search too hard. Sometimes the most effective production tools could be sitting in your DVD collection.

Be creative with your promotion and marketing, too. If Khan of Transmit Signal comments that "the music industry in 2017 is very saturated, so you do need to set yourself apart". Skepta is far from being a new artist, but the teasing of his headline show at Alexandra Palace sent social media into meltdown trying to work out what it meant. First, the postage stamp from his 'Konnichiwa' album cover and ticket info was pasted on billboards around London, followed by him later spraying 'Ally Pally' and a date to appease fans. The same can be said of the Aphex Twin-branded blimp flying over London to promo his 'Syro' album in 2014. He hadn't released any music for nine years, so everyone was eager to find out exactly what he was up to.

Obviously new artists don't have to go to those extremes, but you get the message – create some intrigue.

5 SEND YOUR MUSIC TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE

As covered above, sending blanket emails is a no-no. They can come across impersonal, be full of too much information and are generally pushed aside if it looks generic. Think about it: DJs' email inboxes and SoundCloud, Facebook and Twitter DMs are peppered with new tunes every day, most messages probably carbon copies of each other. Be selective with who you're reaching out to. Make a list of the DJs and labels most suited to the tunes you're producing and have in mind the the type of crowd they attract. If you make techno, for example, go big and make Ben Klock a starting point. Send your music to him, then branch out to the artists releasing on his label Klockworks and those who regularly appear on line-ups with him.

You could even turn your focus to locations. Hit up the DJs regularly playing on line-ups around a city if you reckon your tunes suit that scene. No doubt Glaswegian producer Denis Sulta could tell you the merits of someone like Jackmaster being on-side and praising him on social media.

Make sure the first tune you send is gold standard, too. If it's below par, the next one you send might be ignored and that's the last thing you want. All it takes is one nailed-on banger for your name to be sent shooting through the grapevine. Once that happens, it'll be DJs sliding into your DMs asking for your latest weapons.

6 DON'T BE AFRAID TO APPLY FOR FUNDING...

The thought of taking outsider cash and (maybe) losing full control over your work makes you feel slightly queasy, right? Put the brakes on a little and think about it. There are plenty of bodies in the UK able to financially provide for musicians, whether that be the PRS for Music Foundation, Help Musicians UK or the national art's councils in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Since 2000, PRS has provided over 5,300 new projects with a total of £23.6 million, with artists such as James Blake, Floating Points and Mount Kimbie receiving funding. Funding programmes include The Open Fund, which looks to push "outstanding new music" across all genres, and Women Make Music, which aims to counter gender stereotypes in the industry and encourage women making their own music.

Highlighting PRS for Music as an example, Tomas Fraser, whose label Coyote Records is a platform for new talent, believes artists should definitely be open-minded towards funding. "It can do wonders for artists, particularly those that lack the access to certain production equipment, studio time or even contacts. Granted, it's not for everyone, certainly not within the underground dance music paradigm, but given the UK's current lack of investment in the creative arts, funding has become more and more influential."

7 ...BUT DON'T BE AFRAID TO FUND YOURSELF

By all means, if you want to finance everything yourself, then do so. This way, all decisions and creative direction are owned solely by you and you're free to do whatever you wish. "With absolutely everything, artists should maintain control," Melissa Taylor says. Even if you were to apply for funding, there's no guarantee you'll get it, so a Plan B is always wise. That might mean working a job during the day or playing the odd pub gig on evenings and weekends to rack up some money for studio equipment. Don't think you're bigger or better than dropping Dexys Midnight Runners' 'Come On Eileen' at a wedding, either. Danny Daze spent his youth DJing for newlyweds to make some cash, but these days you'll catch him at fabric, Panorama Bar and Warung in Brazil.

Just don't run yourself into debt with the wish of sorting yourself out with gear quick-time. Taking out loans can be dodgy, so only do it if you can work out a viable payment plan to pay it back. Remember there's not a time limit on you 'making it'. Bristolian DJ Eats Everything was juggling a recruitment job and DJing until the age of 30, very nearly jacking in the dream of being a DJ by occupation before his big break came with 'Entrance Song'.

Don't let finances stress you out. Keep your mind clear for working on productions that could potentially elevate your career to a whole new level.

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