While yesterday’s focus at the Winter Music Conference was trends, today’s was managing your career. Considering a move toward remixing or getting your track added to film and television scores, or looking to have a better understanding of social media? The following points were brought up during the day:
It’s (Sort of) Hard Out There for a Remixer
For certain artists transitioning into the mainstream (for 2012, Topher Jones and Cazzette come to mind), a remix for a major artist is a surefire approach to recognition. Yet, this type of track differs from standard production, although, as members of the WMC “Re: Crafted, Re: Modeled & Re: Mixed” panel point out, the two are converging.
This fact, essentially that remixing no longer means what it did in the 1970s and ‘80s, causes issues for producers, and how he approaches it varies with the track. Bimbo Jones’ Lee Dagger, for instance, called a remix for a pop star an “homage,” but then said, “Other times, I think it’s more fun to do your own production – put your own stamp on it.”
On the other hand, production duo Sick Individuals talked about adding a new vibe and harmonies to a track, then stating, “A good vocal inspires you to make a good track.”
Disfunktion’s Mike Tielemans added that the new beats and melodies allow a producer to go in any direction he wants.
But creative freedom, at least with remixes, has a price. Dagger, in speaking about an experience remixing Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven,” details the number of parties that need to sign off on a remix and that could shoot the producer down. With that remix, it was ultimately Mars who didn’t like it, as, he further highlighted, artists and management don’t want a competing track.
While the conversation shifted to ghost DJing (this is, itself, a subject for a whole new column), the panel veered back to taking a career to a new level. Mainly, that when it comes to approaching labels, getting better opportunities, and rates for remixes, having a manager is crucial and may open more doors than when an artist attempts to do it all himself.
Nevertheless, as an echo from yesterday’s panels, a manager should only come into the picture once an artist has reached a certain level. To get there, also a theme from yesterday, an artist may have to start out with free and bootlegged remixes before the labels actually come calling.
However, one point diverging from yesterday is, while an artist may not receive an upfront fee, the exposure, as Dagger and Tracy Young (radio DJ turned remixer) pointed out, ends up being a greater reward – at least in terms of getting attention (especially for a pop remix). Social media, Tielemans mentioned, is another avenue for getting attention with a lower-paid remix, with the track out there for labels and listeners to find.
Film and Soundtracks
At least for the prodigies and bigger producers, transitioning from dance music to film scores is a logical, if not straightforward, career path. Panel “Score This! – Soundtracking for Film & TV” focused not on this aspect but, instead, getting an independent artist’s tracks into commercials and television and as another revenue source and way to get known.
While entertainment lawyer Allen Jacobi initially focused on the amount a client has made in such royalties for this type of placement ($300,000 per year for six hits created in the 1980s, to be precise), MTV’s Rawley Bornstein explained that, while the cable television station no longer has the music video programming it did in the 1980s, it does have other outlets for music, including placement in scripted shows, online, and in social media. “We are always constantly looking for music,” she says, including independent artists, and cites act Wallpaper as one who rose to success from an MTV placement.
However, as both Jacobi and Bornstein point out, how an artist sends a song is the difference between being heard and deleted, especially as they can receive over 100 tracks per day. Jacobi specifically stated, “We won’t listen to anyone who doesn’t call, doesn’t send an email.”
Even within the email, they have standards regarding what gets read: stick to one song, which should be sent as a link instead of an attachment, and include a concise introduction. Artists, in addition to having a finished track, are advised to research a target audience and programming.
As is the case in the industry, who you know gives the artist a leg up, and both panelists advised reaching out to music supervisors or looking for a direct contact at different shows.
Another issue with scoring is who is behind the track. Samples, which have to be cleared, are advised against, while collaborating, who performs the music, and songwriting should be sorted out early on with a general agreement before a publisher is approached. Tracks, then, can make money in television in three ways: an upfront fee, usually resulting from a publisher’s contract, license fees when the track is placed, and performance royalties.
A good deal of yesterday’s panels focused on managing your entire career, including social media. But for the artist who just does casual Facebook posts and tweets, what’s the best way to start?
With Aurelia Group’s Lainie Copicotto, Clear Channel’s Adellyn Polomski, Billboard’s Katie Morse, and XOVain’s Allegra Riggio, the “Mad Men & Women: Marketing Campaigns” panel picked up, essentially, where “Score This!” left off, albeit from a different angle: make your marketing pitch unique, never add files, and add personality to your biography. While these points could apply to anyone looking for a job, for musicians and artists, following them is the difference between getting your track heard and deleted.
Using social media, on the other hand, can be both helpful and useless. Contacting every big-name DJ through Twitter and sending auto direct messages on Twitter, they point out, aren’t fruitful, but signing up for services, like ArtistData.com, can be for local press.
As far as the latest apps and programs for promotion, Facebook and Twitter are still stalwarts, but artists should branch out – try out Instagram and Viddy, pre-schedule tweets through Hootsuite, and get a link up on Reddit. Again, this team of panelists emphasized putting out free music early in your career, citing Bauuer and Mad Decent’s approach and Deadmau5’s early days coming to the Winter Music Conference. Unlike Deadmau5, they advise, starting fights on Twitter is never beneficial.
Social media, ultimately, is an extension of any artist’s brand, and Copicotto emphasized toward the end, “Be very protective of your brand. You are the gatekeeper for your artist, your brand.”