Music industry experts share 7 tips for aspiring artists

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Penetrating the music industry is not an easy feat. It doesn't only take talent; it also takes proper goals, a support team, and the right strategy. Photo by JEREMY CAISIP

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — A group of local independent musicians and advocates gathered for the Music Talks segment of All of the Noise 2019 last Saturday, Nov. 23. Included in the roster of speakers were David Siow, president of The Music Society, Singapore (SGMUSO); Py Muenprasertdee, co-founder and director of partnerships of Thai company Fungjai; Weining Hung, the co-founder of Taiwan-based LUCfest; and Camille Castillo, editorial director of Bandwagon Asia and country representative of Bandwagon Philippines.

The panel discussion was moderated by Lambert Cruz, program and music director of Jam 88.3. After giving their own separate talks, the speakers came together for an engaging and interactive panel discussion about the ins and outs of marketing Filipino musicians in the digital age. The room was buzzing with the energy of participants who shared one thing in common: the desire for their music to be heard.

A handful of participants sought advice on how to market themselves, find their niches, and eventually make a name for themselves in the music scene, whether locally or internationally. Here are some of the most striking pieces of advice that the esteemed panelists shared during the discourse:

The panel discussion about the ins and outs of marketing Filipino musicians in the digital age. Photo courtesy of THE REST IS NOISE PH

Get a team to support you

Despite their impressive backgrounds and their wide experiences, the speakers all agreed that the music business is one that artists wouldn’t dare enter alone. “I think it’s very important to have different people from different parts of the industry pushing you. You need to get partners to help you,” says Siow.

There’s a great deal to learn and there’s an overwhelming multitude of factors to consider to ensure success. Artistry, talent, and skill alone aren’t enough — if there’s poor organization, planning, and management, then even the greatest songs will be left unheard. “Nobody cares more about your songs [being] heard than yourself, so you should take the initiative to market your song. Find a manager, find a team to work with you and do that,” adds Hung.

Set your goals and objectives

One instruction that was often repeated throughout the discussion was to know your identity as an artist, what you can bring to the table, and what you expect to get out of it. What is your ultimate objective as an aspiring musician? Muenprasertdee asks the audience, “Do you want to be super famous? If you do want to be famous, are you making the right music for the right people? Do you have a team that is pushing your music to the right channels that goes to the right audience?”

Muenprasertdee proceeds to inform his audience about the relevance of knowing their goals and targets. “So if you want to be famous you might use some distributor that has the power to pitch to Apple Music or Spotify… then you’d get famous. But if you are targeting more niche groups, you might go to Facebook groups or online communities that listen to that kind of music instead of going through people that would pitch you to these big platforms.”

He concludes, “You need to figure out your goals and the means to get you to where you need to be.”

Find the right platform to express your work

After deciding on your goals and objectives, Hung stresses the importance of finding the appropriate platform to market your music. “The important thing is not how many platforms [where] you actually put your music. It’s the right platform. You need to have the right way to get to your audiences,” she expresses.

Hung advises amateur independent musicians to make more material in order to increase the chances of making a breakthrough. “The thing is, you just have to be patient. You probably need to have more materials available to be discovered. If you’ve got just one song, the chance is really small ... The chance to be discovered is much higher if you have hundreds [of] songs.”

Reach out to the media and sell yourself all the way

Castillo, who works in the media end of the music industry, says aspiring artists should not just reach out to the media, but make the effort to run the whole mile. “You’re trying to sell yourself here. You already made that effort to email us, just go all the way. Do an introduction, have a press kit, have everything, so we won’t have to go back and forth… Let’s all help each other out. You can’t do it half baked.”

The speakers also warn the hopeful artists in the room not to feel defeated if they don’t make it on the first try. “We got about 600 applications this year and about 60 [were] picked, so about 10 percent. So don’t get disappointed if you are not picked,” Hung says.

For all the panelists in the room, authenticity was a major factor that would ensure the success and sustainability of an artist. Photo courtesy of THE REST IS NOISE PH

Allow buffer time for the media to market your song creatively

The panelists all emphatically agreed that it’s imperative to allot a considerable period of preparation time to market one’s music. Aspiring artists may have good material and rising potential, but if their songs aren’t marketed well or released strategically, their music can’t thrive. Castillo says, “[If] you release a single now and you know you already have an upcoming single or music video then you tell us right away so we can prep your audience for it.”

“You need some buffer time for them to also help you figure out when your single should be dropped. Be prepared a long time in advance. That’s my tip,” adds Muenprasertdee.

Adopt the right attitude

Beyond talent and skill, the speakers encouraged amateur artists to adopt a positive and likable attitude. “One thing we touched upon in this discussion is to ‘find the right channel.’ But the channel doesn’t matter so much as your attitude. You might have an audience already but what are you going to do with them? You’ll probably discover that, hey, your audience is not just this group anymore. It’s actually people that appreciate your character, your person,” says Muenprasertdee.

Make sure that you’re committed to your music, your fans, and the goal you set out for yourself. “The mentality and attitude is, ‘I’m here to stay. My band is not going to break up. We’re just going to grind,’” says Siow.

Be authentic and have the courage to sing in your own language

For all the panelists in the room, authenticity was a major factor that would ensure the success and sustainability of an artist. “Authenticity is very important because people will see right through you if you’re just pretending to be someone else,” says Castillo.

Part of this authenticity includes being true to one’s language. “Don’t worry about the language too much. Just be genuine with your music,” says Muenprasertdee. Hung adds that although the easiest route to international fame is to sing in English, she says, “There are so many artists who sing in their own language but still get around. It’s just emotional; all the elements that you need from music [is] there. Good music will travel.”

To provide a real-life example, Siow shares a story about a musician he watched perform live. Everyone was impressed by her act, but Siow had a different opinion. Siow asked the producers in the room, “Would you put her in your country or your festival?” To his surprise, they all said yes. “I was quite confused. I was thinking from a technical standpoint. She’s not very technical. In fact, she’s a bit sloppy.” After speaking with the other talent managers, he then realized that what was so striking about this artist was her presence. “The main response that these guys told me was, ‘I can see that she enjoys the music. And she believes in the music.’”

Snow adds, “You can tell when an artist believes in the music and gives it his [or her] all. That’s what’s going to comfort hearts.”