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Article by Windvoel Sikhukula

Tactics come and go but concepts are timeless

The trickiest part of being an artist is deciding to let people tell your story or you tell it yourself. Your story is what sells you! Every music icon we idolise will tell you that people want to feel as if they know you, so invite them into your daily life through your music. The artists that let the people decide on their sound on the other hand will find that people are always looking to find something new and they change their minds constantly, so if you allow them to decide on what you should say and how you look then they you will always fall short of expectation cause honestly you won’t keep up. So to follow this tactic of finding a target market in the industry is really suicidal to your career! Don’t let anyone tell your story.

This is very important to get out of the way, I hate to break it to you but being an artist and knowing a lot of music does not make you an expert in the music business. Most of the people that pull the strings from the top often confess they don’t even know a lot about music, so trust me I learnt the hard way! Two years ago I thought I was an expert as my friends and I were so sure that we were going to be famous and rich from our ground-breaking music. Was it really ground-breaking? No. We did everything that was trending at that time, we used the latest apps for our music, the latest fashion style etc…“Latest” isn’t always good, at least not on everything. To survive long enough to master the business side of this industry you need identity and authenticity to compliment any latest method you decide to use for your music.

Relationships over money (ROM)

People bring money! So constantly expand your list of contacts. Independent artists and labels normally go in the industry with the “SOME WILL, SOME WON’T, SO WHAT? NEXT!” attitude, I want to warn you not to use that attitude when trying to make great money from your music. Not all major label executives are out to exploit you, because some are actually music lovers and want to make sure that your music reaches the right audience. Networking is fundamental because it is really about who you know. The more you climb up, the smaller the power circle is.

I can say this is really true by the fact that I have witnessed huge labels sign artists that I would say lack great quality and some of you can also testify to this. We’ve all once questioned how some artists made it so far in the industry with such less emphasis on quality in their music. This is all due to the relationship they have with them on a management level or with their publishers. You have to always have something to put on the table at the end of the day, share knowledge, give feedback, discus opportunities and help each other out. The artist or label executive you look up to now would have not made it this far if it weren’t for relationships! And like I have mentioned “people bring money” you have to be in it for the love first before you focus on the money, I call this the (ROM) principle.

The Power will and forever stays in numbers

The fact is that majors only look to sign stuff that is radio friendly. We may sometimes hate the idea but we don’t pretty much have a say in this. The numbers demand radio worthy music and that’s where the money and power is. I could understand this as their total business model took a big hit with the rise of digital, piracy and particularly streaming and they have to rely on what we call the 360 deals in order to keep making a profit. For some of you who do not know what a 360 deal is, it is when a label takes a certain percentage cut from revenues other than record sales. Think publishing merchandise, etc. They’re doing this to make up for the drop in record sale revenues, and to compensate for the expenses they’re making for marketing and records being made.

For some genres like EDM with artists like AVICII and David Guetta having paved the way, they don’t have to necessarily aim for a major label deal. They’re music is not compatible, and even if they made a track to the style that’s fitting, they would because they internationally made it that way. Lorde is the perfect example of a label artist that was cut from nothing but was pushed by Universal to now be the worldwide success we see.

So from my personal experience of being a former artist and now artist manager and entrepreneur, I can say if you really want to land a major label deal, take a listen to the radio. That is what you should sound like, but that’s if you do want to score a major label deal.

You can leave your comment and share your insight on what I have shared with you bellow.

Bongani Windvoel Sikhukula is a market researcher, artist manager and entrepreneur.

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