In the run-up to the BBC Music Awards in Birmingham, Alex Ekong picks up tricks of the trade from the Midas of UK music himself and his panel of industry experts
While in town for the inaugural BBC Music Awards, the BBC set up several unmissable workshops on breaking into the music industry, hoping to breed the next generation of award winners. One such workshop attempted to answer an age-old question that has plagued prospective music industry employees for decades – how can anybody enjoy a long, financially solvent career in music? A diverse audience of wannabe artists, to potential managers, to a man who hadn’t bought any music in over a year learnt from some of the finest young minds in the business – Birmingham-based MC SafOne, the creators of Youtube channel P110 Media, Disturbing London product manager Sandy Cheema, copyright collectors PRS For Music, Boy Better Know DJ and producer Preditah (the mind behind club smash ‘Feed Em To The Lions’) and the chair, Radio 1’s rap guru Charlie Sloth. Here are their keys to success.
1. ‘Consistency is key’ – P110 Media
One of several Youtube channels dedicated to showcasing the best of urban talent in the UK, P110 Media found managed to monetise their online success with pre-video advertising and merchandise. The key to getting to this point? The boys noted that having a consistent online presence was crucial. ‘You have to have a corporate identity, everything across our platforms looks the same. If you’re posting something every day, people are seeing you every day and once you’ve found your lane, grasp until your hands fall off.’
2 ‘Have more than one skill set’ – Preditah
Charlie and Preditah took time out here to emphasise the importance of ‘hav[ing] your fingers in as many pies as possible’. In a world where social media can change the face of the market in a matter of seconds, being a DJ, artist or producer alone simply isn’t going to cut you out from the crowd. Pred, himself a DJ/producer of many talents, tried a number of things before becoming a producer and admits ‘the more things you can do, the more things you can weigh and see which is your lane.’
3. ‘The best managers aren’t always qualified’ – Disturbing London
While skill sets were designated a significant amount of importance, Sandy from Disturbing London, the management label once home to Jessie J, Wizkid and owner Tinie Tempah, gave hope to all the people in the audience that weren’t quite there yet. Though qualifications do help, she noted that all the promising new acts that are coming up now – Section Boyz, Bonkaz, J Hus, Stormzy etc. – don’t have conventionally trained managers. ‘You don’t have to have a degree in being a manager. It’s more about who you know and being a humble, open person who is willing to learn.’
4. ‘Join PRS Music’ – PRS For Music
This is not as much of a shameless plug as this looks like, as Dan from PRS actually says he spends a lot of his time trying to convince people to not join PRS For Music. ‘It costs £50 to join and we would hate for people to not make their £50 back’. But he assures the audience that as long as you’re positive that it’s financially viable for you, joining PRS is a great move. Through them, the copyright holders in their 15 million song database receive a set fee every time that song is played on radio or used on television and artists receive an automatic payment and, percentage of the box office gross every time they play a concert. Lots of established artists are a part of PRS but for any independent artist with semi-regular concerts and radio play, it certainly takes the stress of monetisation out of your career so you can focus on the important stuff.
5. ‘Use the music to push other things’ – SafOne
From the very beginning of his career, ‘She Wants A Man From Brum’ hitmaker SafOne has used his music to diversify and market himself, never ‘only thinking of being an MC’. Regardless of how you feel about it, it’s become tougher and tougher for musicians to make money solely from music anymore and the key advice was to use it as an advert for everything else around your brand. ‘It different for everyone’, he continues, ‘some people play loads of live shows [or] let off loads of mixtapes, for me it was merchandise’.
6. ‘Your network determines your net worth’ – Charlie Sloth
Probably the most obvious but also the most major key to success in the music industry, having friends in useful places, particularly as a manager, can work wonders for a burgeoning career in the business. ‘Relationships are so important,’ says Sandy. ‘Relationships result in having brand deals, getting people to play your record on the radio to a certain extent’. This led Charlie to sum up so succinctly above. ‘As I’ve gone through my career it’s become apparent to me that your network determines the outcome of your career.’