On October 2, 2020, we held one of our traditional Friday livestreams on Instagram within our Educational Series. Our guest was a music industry insider who worked in recording studios and at broadcasting companies, as a manager, songwriter, educator, Director of Artist Development at indie record label Big Help Music Dutch Van Spall.

Dutch shared a number of industry insights and advice for up-and-coming music talent. You can watch the full event here, and in this post we will recap some of the highlights.

Building an audience

“It’s a very competitive industry and it is very complicated, but music is not complicated, being a musician, being an artist is really simple – you have a love for what you do, you write great songs, people wanna listen to them. It’s as simple as that. It’s the bits that go around that, trying to connect with your audience, that are complicated,” says Van Spall.

One advice he has for musicians is using the right tools to monetize music:

“If you haven’t got an account with Show4me – and I don’t get paid for saying this, – what are you waiting for? Show4me is the future, Show4me is the answer to the problems our artists have been facing for the last ten years,” he says.

Show4me is the answer to the problems our artists have been facing for the last ten years.

“The current social networks intrude, they get between the artist and the fan, they make that relationship difficult to maintain. Show4me does the opposite. It’s a different way of working, so if you are not there, get on it!”

Handling ups and downs

When it comes to how long it takes to build a career in music, Dutch notes that the road to success is a lengthy and bumpy one:

“There is a general formula [for how long it takes to develop a successful artist brand], when you start out, and I mean seriously start out, start to build a fanbase, it takes between eight and twelve years to become an overnight success. And you can look at any successful artist in the charts and that formula will fit every single person.”

Don’t worry about your numbers.

Van Spall reminds how important it is for the musician to be prepared for the ups and downs down the road and have a supportive team around you:

“The key thing for artists, if you throw away everything else, that has to be in that mix is that belief and that support. You have to have somebody, other than yourself, who believes in you. Because sometimes, you don’t actually believe in yourself, you stop believing in yourself.

“You will take a hundred of ‘Hey, that was great!’s and go ‘Yeah, fine’. You take one ‘I think you are rubbish’ and that will play on your mind that night. You wake up in the morning, thinking about that one comment, because you give that comment – bad comment – more importance than the hundred good comments. And it’s having someone who points this out to you on a regular basis and says ‘Stop worrying about that, it’s not a biggie, it’s not an issue’.”

Get fans, not followers

Van Spall touched upon the subject of building the artist-fan relationship:

“If you’ve got 6,000 followers on Facebook, I’m not interested in numbers. If you’ve got ten people on Facebook but they are all there on your posts, and they are buying online concert tickets, and they are paying for downloads, brilliant. They are the fans that you need, they are the fans who actually love what you are doing and put a value on it and want to buy it.

“Don’t worry about your numbers, just worry about the quality of the people who are following you and you are engaging with them. And make sure everybody who engages with you – connect back, because that is a fantastic connection to make. Just pay attention to who your followers are and understand who they are.”

Becoming a full-time musician

“This is the holy grail, this is what every artist dreams of doing,” Dutch starts his answer to our host Dan BG’s question that every musician wants the answer to – how to become a full-time musician. “I think you’ve got to be practical in your approach. I’m assuming that you are coming to the industry cause you’ve got something to say and you wanna express it through your songs, through your music and you wanna find people who understand that.”

Dutch goes on to sketch out a path for getting there:

“It’s notoriously difficult to get paid a decent amount of money for playing your original material when you are ‘undiscovered’. The general public are generally inattentive. They tend to pay attention to what they already know. So everybody knows that if you are an original artist you’ve gotta put a couple of covers in your set, so that that person who saw you can go talk to their friends who didn’t see you and say ‘Oh yeah, he did a great version of that Nirvana track or that Adele track’. And that way you are being talked about. It’s about growing your audience and awareness. It’s not just the people who see you, it’s the people who start to become aware of you. And you just gotta keep doing that.

It’s notoriously difficult to get paid a decent amount of money for playing your original material when you are ‘undiscovered’.

“So you are probably going to lose money when you start doing your original material because you’ll be doing gigs that you are not getting paid for or you are not getting paid a lot for. [Meanwhile] you have to spend money on petrol or some kind of cost to get there, strings for your guitar, feed yourself.

“So the one area where you can draw money back in is – and we help some of our artists do cover sets – so they go out and do gigs for weddings, parties, and stuff like that, which pay very well. And you can go into the corporate sector, which pays best of all. So you are at least performing music and you are pulling in money. And whilst you are doing that, it starts to become less of a panic and the pressure when you start doing your own music and you are not getting paid for it, because at least you are getting paid doing other music elsewhere. Busking is also – I know it sounds strange – is a great way, if you are good, at making money.

“It sounds crazy, but it’s just a stepping stone. And as long as you see that as a stepping stone, and you are prepared to put in that effort to do that, then you can start to get a little bit more comfortable about what you are doing.

“The next thing to do is to make sure that you are getting paid for everything you should be paid for. So if you release a record, make sure you are registered with all of the collection societies, PPL and PRS, or whichever country you are in, there are sister organizations in every country. So if your record gets played on the radio, you get a payment for it, but you only get that payment if you and your song are registered with a collection agency. Otherwise, no one’s gonna pay you.

Make sure that you are getting paid for everything you should be paid for.

“The more you do, the more chances you get for getting paid. And all of those little streams then start to add up.

“If you are distributing music with Spotify: make sure you are with a reputable distributor who’s paying you the right amount of money for your streams and for your downloads.”

Dutch reminds that all platforms where people are listening to your music, like iTunes, Deezer, etc, have to be accounted for and bring in revenue streams. He reminds that just playing drums on a track or being featured in a small part of a song still qualifies [unless they were paid upfront and signed away the rights – Ed.] a musician for a percentage of the payout. It’s important to keep track of all of these small jobs as they start to add up the more you do and play.

“However your music is being accessed, make sure that money that should be yours is coming to you,” Van Spall concludes.

He also advises: “If there’s an opportunity, say yes. If someone says, could you do it? Just say yes.”

Knowing your fans

“And it [tracking all the plays of your music] starts to get ‘Oh no, there’s a lot of paperwork involved in this stuff’. There is, if you are trying to do this yourself, but if you go with a proper distributor, they should do all of that for you and give you access to your statistics so you can see where you are streaming, which countries, whether there are more women than men, what is the age groups, the stats, the demographics.

“I said earlier – know who your fans are. You can find all of these stats. Facebook, YouTube have got fantastic stats. Pay attention to them.

“If you are with a good distributor, you should be able to access your stats 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Ways to make profit for musicians in 2020

COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing with venues and pubs either closed or working with limited capacity in most locations across the globe. Our host Dan BG asked Dutch Van Spall to shed some light on effective ways to earn on one’s music under the circumstances.

“Charge money for your concerts, make people buy a ticket. Yes, you can have a donation spot, but the best way to find out who your fans are is to sell tickets. The real fans will buy tickets. And Show4me will help you do that.”

One of Big Help Music artists – country pop singer/songwriter Kieran Taylour – actually held such a concert on Show4me in August. Van Spall notes that even if the audience for the show is small, it still is a good start as people who loved it will go on to tell their friends, and it will keep the momentum going.

The best way to find out who your fans are is to sell tickets.

Another way to profit off music when working at home is using the tools on social networks. Dutch recommends trying out YouTube monetization tools – getting those 1,000 followers to be able to switch on the video monetization on your music videos. He also mentions donations on Facebook and Instagram rewards that are currently available in limited regions but will eventually go worldwide.

Van Spall touches upon the subject of crowdfunding and using those tools for funding your music projects, saying that this is something a musician can do on Show4me.

“I didn’t expect to be saying this, but Show4me, for us, as a label, is providing something that we’ve been looking for for a while. It’s a one-stop shop.

“And we have changed our policy with – and this is a secret I’m about to reveal – with Lorna Dee and Kiernan Taylor, and it’ll happen with our other artists as we bring them on to Show4me, – that’s gonna be the destination point for new fans.

“So wherever your fans arrive, whichever social platform, we are sending them to Show4me because we can engage with them properly there. We can give them free stuff to reward them for coming to subscribe to these [Artist] clubs.”

Final notes

And finally, Dutch emphasized the importance of being authentic in your art:

“You have to play what you want to play. Don’t write songs to please other people, write songs to please yourself. If when you perform your songs, you feel emotionally about them and they mean something to you, I guarantee you there will be people that will feel the same. And they will sense that there’s a genuine authenticity about what you are doing. You have to be authentic.”

Want more? Follow Dutch Van Spall on Show4me and watch the full event with all the accompanying stories and fun facts right here.

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