You can also read the original article over at the official PRS magazine –
The music industry has changed immeasurably over the last fifteen years, particularly for new artists looking to establish themselves.
Up to the late 90s, the route into the music industry for any band was fairly simple – write some songs, play some gigs, record a half decent demo and hope that a label A&R would notice you and sign you. Management and legal representation would hopefully come before that, but a record deal was generally the catalyst for most of the other key deals falling into place. But as budgets have shrunk, record labels have become less willing to take risks on unproven acts. The early investment that might help a band gain their core fanbase is now less likely to come from a record company.
This makes it appear more difficult for musicians to get their big break – and in many ways it is – but there were also downsides to the old system. If you were a relatively new act signing to a major label particularly, you’d likely find that you were amongst a number of similar sounding acts signing at the same time. The general rule of thumb was to sign ten acts at a time, often fairly early in their development, on the assumption that one or two of them would probably be a success. The other eight, well, they’d be quietly dropped at a later date, having released very little (if anything) and with no foundation to continue to build their careers further.
More risk averse record labels mean that while artists are less likely to get that record label investment, they also have more opportunity to develop and establish themselves in their own right before launching themselves on the wider public.
However, of course, there are many other acts attempting to do the same thing, all jostling to pick up early gigs and media coverage in order to build a strong early fanbase. This is why a deal with a PR company, rather than a label, is now the first deal a band should look for.
The most important things for any act to concentrate on are writing songs that are both good and that they can perform well. This is the basis for everything that comes afterwards. However, it is not a guarantee of success. People need to know about these songs and this great band performing them. A band on their own can do a certain amount to bring this attention – simply playing gigs that are good will get you a certain amount of the way, but only to the stage where once you might have hoped to have attracted a label keen to take a gamble on a few acts to see what stuck.
To really build that fanbase of people who will hang on an artist’s every word, ahead of all the other artists vying for those same people’s attention, a PR company can ensure that theirs is the music the public want to hear more of.
It’s cheap and easy to record music and put it online now, but getting it out to people is a different matter. PR companies have established relationships with journalists, who will invariably ignore contact from individuals they don’t know. A good PR company will be able to put an artist’s music in front of key journalists they believe will be receptive, and most importantly get them to write about it.
This is important for two reasons. First, it puts that music instantly in front of a much wider audience that than an artist could hope for by simply having it on a SoundCloud profile. Secondly, it means they are now a band who are being talked about. Not just talked about, but liked on Facebook, followed on Twitter, played on SoundCloud – all of which are simple measures of success that A&Rs will monitor as the profile of a new artist grows.
Just because they aren’t looking to sign a particular artist right now, doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested. A&Rs constantly monitor bands online who they think show promise, and social media stats are one of the key things they look for to gauge early success.
And it’s not just those A&Rs. Early coverage will help an artist get more, better and bigger gigs, which further builds their status, and will hopefully gain yet more media coverage, likes, follows and plays. This will also attract other industry figures, such as managers and booking agents, who will further help an artist to develop and establish their career.
A strong start such as this not only helps artists to get their foot in door, but will give a much better opportunity for longevity once that career is more established. Come albums number two, three, four or maybe even more, the profile built in those early days can become a platform for the future.