Hey there, it’s Cloé, your personal project manager & music business teacher !
Today is a special day since today’s article is a little different from the ones I usually publish ; I’ve announced on Thursday on Instagram that I am partnering with the French professional platform The Artist’s Corner, and more specifically with their Incubart’ program. That being said, today, I’ll let Isadora and Margaux, the two co-founders of the platform & the program to talk about what they know best : the new business model artists are going for, which is the entrepreneur route.
And if you’re wondering what Incubart’ actually is, I’ll let you go on their website in order to get to know more about it !
Hope you’ll enjoy this new format, more articles are on the way !
We often get to hear about the “artist entrepreneur”, this “self made” artist who manages their own career alone and who make their way through the more “traditional” side of music industry. Although it may seem tedious and may make you feel like you have to multitask, there are many advantages to being independent compared to signing with a label. We will get through them in this article.
Moreover, there are more and more structures allowing independent artists to develop. Don’t get us wrong, we are not talking about simply having a publisher or distributor by your side but having a real support system around your project. Being self-produced does not mean moving forward alone, but being sufficiently trained and informed to have all the necessary informations at hand in order to succeed.
What we’ll tackle :
- Being an artist and an entrepreneur, you said ?
- Signing a label deal or producing your own music : what’s best ?
- And what if I’m an artist who still believes in the traditional business model of the music industry ?
- How to surround yourself with music pros when you’re an indie artist ?
- Being an artist and an entrepreneur does not mean you have to work alone : it means you choose who’s going to be on your team.
- Are there some specific people to ask for help first when you’re an indie artist ?
Being an artist and an entrepreneur, you said ?
What is it like being an artist today and how much do they have to rely on themselves to have their career flourish ? Compose, write and sing, you might answer. This answer is of course correct, but it is also incomplete. The term “artist-entrepreneur” is getting more and more used but what does it actually mean ?
Well, being an entrepreneur actually means being your own music producer.
Even before being an artist, an entrepreneur is a person responsible for their actions and who takes their decisions independently. Consequently, they are not to count on others for that matter, and this element distinguishes them from any employee, for example. Their ideas flourish thanks to various strategies they decide to put into actions, thanks to their network that they grow over time, and thanks to their skills ; once their company, product or service is launched, they go get the financial and human resources that are necessary for them to reach the goals they have set for themselves.
So, for a solo musician or a full-fledged band, what does being an entrepreneur look like ?
Artists often have an incomplete vision of the part they play in the development of their musical project. They very often expect for help from other music pros, such as the help of a record label for example. Unfortunately, simply sending your demos by email to a music major or an indie label is not enough to become a successful artist.
Today, musicians are asked to multitask : they’re expected to compose, write and sing, but also know how to promote themselves, their project and be able to market it efficiently. And, as you can imagine, this involves specific knowledge and skills that are not easy to acquire.
Self-funding your project and being your own music producer puts a lot of pressure on artists and you have to be ready to handle it. How can an artist be sure that they are making the right choices for their career and that their strategy is the right one when you’ve not been taught to be an artist manager ? On top of that, you’ll have to assume various positions, such as being a community manager or a graphic designer, in order to manage your social media presence and grow your audience at the same time. Let’s not forget handling the PR aspects of things (aka contacting the music journalists working for magazines, radios and TV channels), as well as having to represent yourself on stage, which will have you then be your own tour manager & booker for a while..
So here we are, with our emerging and self-produced artist that we’ve mentioned at the beginning of this article. And this artist develops their project the same way a CEO would manage their company in order to make it grow.
Signing a label deal or producing your own music : what’s best ?
You are now certainly wondering if signing a contract is more beneficial than being your own music producer. Since there are lots of options available for artists, let’s have a deeper look at some of them.
On the one hand, if an artist signs a recording deal – which always comes with a sense of exclusivity – with a label, they become, in a sense, their employee. While the popular opinion will see them as successful artists-to-be, they will not necessarily become more famous than an independent musician. Unfortunately, you have to know that labels do not always offer each of their artists the same type of support : their budget will vary drastically from artist to artist depending on their reputation, and it is possible that you sign with a label that will not handle the promotional aspect of things.
On the other hand, signing with a music major such as Universal or Sony may sound like a more attractive deal. It sounds like the holy grail that will ensure that your project is being financially supported and that you’ll finally get the visibility you deserve.
Unfortunately, music majors hardly sign emerging or developing artists anymore, especially if they only have what they may see as a small audience. For them, these artists represents years of investment that are not worth taking, especially if it means to invest in promoting them to get them known. They do not (or no longer, at least) want to “bet” on the success of an artist if it means they may lose money eventually. In short, they have become suspicious and hesitant !
As Dominique Trémouille said in an interview for the French media Libération, “The traditional system that has an artist signing with a label that takes care of the production, distribution and promotion aspects has changed : artists are now entrepreneurs who do everything themselves”.
Remember the year 2016 : your playlist consisted mainly of tracks from Petit Biscuit, for example and, yet, these artists did not make their way up the charts thanks to the majors. Their independent structures have joined, once their records have been produced, with the services of a music distributor, giving them digital opportunities on streaming platforms.
And what if I’m an artist who still believes in the traditional business model of the music industry ?
You still dream of signing a deal with a music major ? You will then have to get to a certain level of notoriety in order to try and appeal to them.
Let’s not forget that only 1% of artists who have signed to a label have successful careers and make a living off of their music. And let’s also not forget that they will often be asked to compose a type of music that, according to the structure, will sell well. Which means that the newly, freshly signed artist may have to compromise their own music style for the sake of the deal. In addition, artists who sign such music deals will only receive 7 or 8% of the amount of royalties the major will earn.
However, self-production allows artists to be in control over their career and keep most of their royalties, up to 80% if their sole music business partner is a music distributor. And this allows you to earn at least as much as the deal you may have signed with a major by selling much less, or earn much more by selling just as much.
When you see it from that perspective, it makes you want to stay independent, right?
As Pascal Nègre points out for Libération, who is none other than the former director and general manager of Universal Music France : “artists no longer need a label, what they need is an expertise : management, publishing, promotion… ”.
How to surround yourself with music pros when you’re an indie artist ?
Remaining independent is a business model that is getting more and more popular amongst emerging artists. That’s because they’re getting back the power they had before : “Young artists create their label and negotiate a license deal with the majors to get started, but the stars themselves become independent because technology now allows it, and because it’s simple and profitable”, says Dominique Trémouille.
The industry itself has adjusted to such a shift : in June, the Grammy Awards changed their nominee system by opening their categories up to independent artists who don’t sell physical records – artists who so far couldn’t attend the Grammies. as a result : Chance the Rapper, who’s a self-produced artist and whose music is being distributed by TuneCore, won three awards in February. In 2016, he was not even allowed to be nominated.
Now that we are in a social media era, an era dominated by self-published artists and a “direct-to-fans” communication system, artists have the opportunity to build a strong fan base early on in their career. They are therefore looking for a flexible business model that will allow them to develop their career without having to sign traditional contracts. This is where the so-called “artists and labels services” companies, such as Grand Musique Management in France (Lomepal, Superpoze, etc.) come in.
The artist has everything they need in order to build their career without losing control over their creativity, since these companies offer their expertise for independent artists who may lack them.
Being an artist and an entrepreneur does not mean you have to work alone : it means you choose who’s going to be on your team.
As we’ve mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is true that being a self-made artist means having to learn lots of different jobs and skills, but learning these skills does not mean you have to become an expert at everything. Without training, coaching and support, it would simply be impossible !
You have to envision your career as an artist entrepreneur like a train that has to travel a long distance to reach its final destination. Its speed may not be the same throughout the whole journey, and it will have to adapt according to the different obstacles it is going to encounter. The same goes for developing a project. Some obstacles will be more difficult to overcome than others, and you might even have the impression that you’re regressing at times. It is at this precise moment in time that getting helped by a music professional comes into play.
The strategic decisions that musicians have to take are numerous :
- What will be the best strategy to put into action for an album or an EP release ?
- What will it sound like ?
- How are the visuals going to compliment the music itself ?
- How to promote the release efficiently ?
- Do I need to hire a press officer for that ?
And above all these strategic decisions, they’ll also need :
- A video director for their music videos
- A lawyer who is going to proofread the contracts and help avoid mistakes
- A graphic designer who’s going to design the next concert’s poster or the next album cover
- Being helped in order to pitch songs to playlists curators
- To have their press release double checked, and even to have someone proofread some admin documents like grant applications.
In order to answer the various & growing needs of independent artists-to-be, The Artist’s Corner makes it possible to search for these professionals, while allowing the artist to be in control of their career & management. On the platform you’ll find opportunities for coaching in management, booking or communication, as well as professionals to help you shoot your music videos, to record your songs as well as supervise your marketing needs.
Creating an account on the platform is free ; each professional has their prices listed on their profile, although tailored quotes are also an option you can ask for. Once your request has been accepted by the professional, a messaging service is activated for you to talk with the music pro & confirm your appointment. The payment system is verified & secure as well !
It is therefore both possible to get help only when needed, as well as building a whole team around your project thanks to the platform.
Before any professional gets accepted on the platform, each profile is thoroughly verified by the two founders who ensure that they have the experience and the professionalism needed to coach artists.
With production materials and home studios being easily available and professionals being easier to contact, this “independent” business model has become more and more popular these past ten years. Building yourself a successful career without having to entirely rely on a label to make music is not impossible anymore.
Are there some specific people to ask for help first when you’re an indie artist ?
Having a publisher or a music distributor on your team can be useful very early on.
A music publisher will allow, amongst other things, for your music to be synced in a movie, an advertisement or a video game, for example. Such work is called “synchronization” and it represents an important part of the publisher’s work. In exchange for the amount of work they put in, they’ll ask for a percentage of your copyright shares. This is a percentage that is discussed prior to signing any agreement. Of course, hiring a lawyer to proofread the contract and/or negotiate the percentages is highly recommended.
The music distributor, on the other hand, is going to make the music accessible to all listeners on streaming platforms over the world and as a result, the artists will receive royalties for the hard work they have put in to promote their music.
Before the music industry went into its digital phase, music distributors had deals with labels in order to sell the physical copies of their CDs in physical stores. Today, things have changed since even emerging and independent artists can sign deals with distributors to have their music broadcasted on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Deezer or iTunes, while still asking for some revenue shares, but they have become considerably lower than before (around 20% on average).
Artists today have a lot more to do and to prove than ever before in order to become successful. Self-production represents an important part of the artist’s career – which is either done by choice or by obligation. It allows you to learn a lot and having such experience is becoming more and more essential for an artist to evolve.
Although it is an investment, no musicians are alone in their career paths and many tools & services allow them to be supported throughout their career, both for occasional coaching sessions and long-term support.
These many solutions that have emerged in recent years offer artists new professional perspectives, especially in allowing them to realize they don’t absolutely need to sign to a label or a structure to grow !
Find The Artist’s Corner on their website… as well as my profile on the platform ! You can contact me directly through the link in my profile or through Incubart‘, which has the advantage to put you in touch with several music pros that are part of the program with me. And as always, I’m available by email as well as on Instagram to answer your questions !