The Great Escape Convention In Quotes

TThe Great Escape is the UK’s answer to SXSW. Ever year, the music industry descends on the sea-side town of Brighton to discuss the future of music. I attended around 8 debates and panels so to avoid a complete mind-explosion of information (and because I can’t read most of the notes I scribbled), I’ll present them in direct quotes. Most of the wisdom below comes from Andrew Dubber (Bandcamp advisor), Jim Mawdsley (CEO of Generator – the UK’s leading music development agency), Ian Rogers (CEO TopSpin) and Ollie Hodge (An A&R manager at Columbia Records).

“It’s easier than ever for artists to be successful”

Jim Mawdsley – Generator

With so much music out there now it can seem like it’s harder than ever to get heard, but in fact it couldn’t be easier. It used to be the case that you were either ‘signed’ or ‘unsigned.’ You ‘made it’ or you didn’t. And the people who decided if you made it or not were record labels and MTV. Now the field is wide open and there are more outlets available for success. If you can build a fan base and you can get your music to them, you can be successful. And you’ve probably realised by now, you can do this yourself – you don’t need a label. In fact, if you’re waiting around for a label to break you, you’re wasting your time.

The Great Escape Convention Logo

“Labels don’t develop artists anymore”

Labels used to take on bands at a very early stage, pour some money into them and bring in managers, lawyers, PR etc to help them. This is now happening less and less. Partly because labels can’t afford to (people are buying less music) and partly because the band can do so much themselves that it is more beneficial for a label to jump in once a band has already generated the buzz and a fan base.

“I’m looking for bands that have created a world around themselves”

Ollie Hodge – A&R manager, Columbia

Now, in order to get noticed by labels, you need to build the team yourself. You need to be releasing our own music, promoting yourself, booking tours and creating and maintaining a fan base. The more it looks like you don’t need a record label, the faster they’ll come running. It is a lot of work but if you break things down and keep a routine, you’ll see a strong growth.

“Do one small thing a week and one big thing a month”

Ian Rogers – Topspin

One way to start building a fan-base and creating this buzz around yourself is to keep frequent content coming to stimulate your existing fan base whilst also attracting new fans. Examples of small things: write a blog, put up new photos, record an acoustic cover and put it on YouTube. Examples of big things: Release a track, put on a big gig, send out a newsletter, announce a tour. But be creative, and keep it relevant to you. I would also add ‘interact daily’ to this schedule. Post something on Twitter or Facebook and check and reply to emails on a daily basis.

“Build awareness and connect with your fans before trying to make money”

Andrew Dubber – Bandcamp advisor

Probably the most important quote in music. If you try and make money from people before you have built a relationship with them you’ll fail. Straight away. Music is weird like that. People need to hear the music, grow to love it and make a connection with you before they will consider buying it. This is particularly true of new bands, if people can’t access your music as freely and cheaply as possible, they’ll move on. So don’t sell an MP3 for 99c, exchange it for an email address, ensnare them with cool content and engage them on social networks. Then you’ve got them hooked and when you release music or put on a gig they’re much more likely to part with their money.