Already, 2017 has been the year for unsigned acts. Following Skepta’s pertinent Mercury prize win last year, 23-year old British MC Stormzy has been making remarkable contributions to the resurgence of grime, with his self-released debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, sliding into the Number 1 spot with ease. Across the pond, also, Chicago rap prodigy Chance the Rapper swept up three awards at the Grammys; showing the world that you don’t need the weight of a record label to make some serious waves.
But, despite the confidence they’ve inspired in indie artists everywhere, becoming an unsigned success isn’t as simple as dropping a fire mixtape (although it does help a fair bit). So what else can you do to make sure you’re cutting through the drawl?
- Whereas before radio held the power to make or break an artist in the palm of their hand, nowadays they reflect the times rather than drive them. So, if you want to attract the attention of industry leaders, whether it be DJs or record labels, you’ve got to work on establishing a solid fan-base.
Undoubtedly, the fastest and cheapest way to do this is through social media (attach link to other article). However, that shouldn’t stop you from using more traditional methods, such as an email sign-up sheet at your merch table or even handing out your latest EP for free. You may think that last one is “bad business” but remember, Arctic Monkeys used to hand out their B-sides to anyone willing to listen – and look where that’s got them!
- Once you’ve got that initial audience, don’t wait until the album’s out to start promoting it. Getting in there early will give you plenty of time to build hype around your next release through teasers, interviews, exclusives and quirky promotional efforts. This can be as cheap or as expensive as you like. For his long-awaited debut album, Common Sense, Stratford singer and rapper J Hus had the novel idea of placing his trademark hats on statues across London.
- When it comes to having a successful campaign, consistency is key. With this in mind, always make sure you’re matching your brand with your message across all platforms (link to album art article). Linking this back to growing your fan-base, also having regular content to put in front of your audience is a great way to hold their interest.
- Thanks to the power of streaming, the music industry has witnessed a significant surge in revenue over the past couple of years. In 2015 alone, Spotify managed to pay record labels around $2 billion worldwide with just 20 million subscribers, so get involved!
Major artists – most notably Taylor Swift – have chastised the contributions of streaming sites due to their supposedly small pay-out to artists. However, as an unsigned artist looking to get their name on the map, the likes of Spotify, Soundcloud and Apple Music are invaluable tools for accessing fresh listeners.
- In the new-fangled age of digital music, it’s now even easier to find music from all eras. Because of this, artists are no longer being limited themselves to one genre and are instead forming their own identity through a blend of many. Doing this has multiple benefits, from letting you leap creative obstacles to opening you up to venues you’d never previously considered.
- Although it’s important to put these methods into practice, it’s equally important that your music doesn’t get left by the wayside in the process – after all, that’s the whole reason you’re doing this! So be sure to put aside enough time to carve out the masterpiece. Fans and tastemakers are far more likely to respond to your music if there’s a story of struggle and graft to go with it. It’s only once you’ve got them on your side that those elusive radio plays will start to roll in.