The Best Music Business Tips Learned from ASCAP Expo 2019
The famous “I Create Music” ASCAP expo event has once again created musical magic. This annual 3 day expo is always filled with great songwriters, producers, A&R executives and mega stars. This year the event took place May 2nd – 4th at the Loews Hotel in Hollywood, Los Angeles, Ca. We at ASKM Publishing are so proud to say we attended and had a remarkable time. We’ve met and heard from amazing songwriters, A&R executives, iconic artists such as Wyclef Jean and many more. It was truly a singer, songwriter and music publishing company heaven. Here are the top 10 music business tips we learned from attending the ASCAP Expo and would like to share with you.
10) Don’t be too entitled
“Leave your ego at the door.” – Sam Hook, songwriter, producer
As a talented songwriter, singer, producer, etc. you may know your work is hot and sometimes become entitled. You may think you’re suppose to be working with a certain person. Or you may think a certain creative project is suppose to revolve around you. Or you may be working with a group of other artists and believe your ideas are better and should be the main one. However, one of the biggest music business tips to learn is how to leave your ego at the door. It’s ok to be confident. It’s ok to be proud of your work. But if you have an ego or expect several things when working with others, that’s a very unattractive feature. It’s a turn off and no one will want to work with you. You have to learn that sometimes in the music business no matter how great your idea is, you may have to take the backseat to someone else.
9) Work, work, work
“Work your opportunities.” – Ashley Calhoun, A&R executive
If you’re an aspiring artist and you’re looking for your big break, most of the time you may not find it the way you anticipated. Like most you may end up getting a lot of small opportunities that lead up to the big one. However, as you’re involved in the same projects be sure to work them to the fullest extent. Don’t think they’re not a “big deal” just because it’s not the mega star project you hoped to work on. Whatever it is you’re doing work it to its fullest extent and treat it with the upmost respect. One of the best music business tips to learn is how to utilize even the smallest opportunity. If you’re working an internship at a record label but your goal is to become a mainstream R&B singer, while you’re doing that internship you should be creating a relationship with everyone in the building. You should be introducing yourself, making sure they you get their name and even trying to go to lunch with a few of them from time to time.
“Research who you’re sending your material to” – Ari Herstand, singer-songwriter, author, musician
Another great music business tip given at the ASCAP Expo 2019 is to research whoever you’re trying to send your music to. Remember executive in the music business receive inquiries all the time. They here from thousands of people trying to get their music out. The only way they’ll ever hear you is if you stand out. So the question is how do you stand out. Well according to Ari Herstand and plenty other music business professionals, the way to stand out is to research anyone you want to send you music to and transport that information into your inquiry. This way you’re not sending another typical email. This way your email seems more personal and different. Once you researched the person you can mention one of their accomplishments. You can mention they’re upbringing or their musical influence in your email. However, you have to find a way to make it cohesive with the topic of the letter. You can compliment them on a recent project they were apart of. Not only will this help your letter stand out, this will make them feel good that you complimented their work. For example, if I were to send a business email to Ari Herstand, I would mention how much I love his recent music business book titled “How to make it in the new music business”, and how it inspired me.
7) Your motivation
“Your motivation have to be deeper than money or fame.” – Priscilla Renea, singer-songwriter
This may seem like a music business 101 tip, but you’ll be surprised how many artists still don’t get it. In order to truly succeed at whatever you do in the music business your motivation have to be deep and profound. This is one of the most important tips mentioned at the year’s past expo. If your motivation is to be rich or famous you won’t make it. It’s as simple as that. Fame and fortune should be a by-product of success not the sole desire. If you end up focusing on becoming rich or getting famous your work won’t be genuine. You turn into a “fad artist”. You won’t be creating art from your heart. Also you’ll get discouraged really quick and probably end up quitting. This is because a lot of times you don’t make money right away. So if you’re pursuit of the music business is for money contrary to popular belief, you don’t get paid a lot of money right away. That could take up to months and sometimes even years.
6) Don’t try to fit in
“Be different, only way to stand out.” – Tia Owens, A&R executive, Recording studio manager
As a modern day artist sometimes you may get the urge to want to fit in with what’s popular. You may think the reason you’re not a success yet is because you’re not doing what everyone else is doing. So you may say to yourself “I have to sound like what’s on the radio.” Unfortunately, a lot of aspiring artists make this mistake. They think they have to sound like whatever is “popping” at the present moment. However, the key is to be different. That’s the only way to stand out. Whatever you style or niche is stick with it. Someone will recognize one day and be the link you need to finally make it. Besides whatever trend you’re trying to follow 9 times out of 10 was popular in the industry 6-12 month prior. Remember most of these songs get recorded months in advance. So if you’re following after what’s on the radio you’re already late.
5) Moving on up
“Don’t focus on moving up.” – Leland, singer, songwriter, producer, composer
As an aspiring or independent artist many of us fall into the trap of trying to “move up.” Of course you want to thrive and make it in your career. However, don’t make your focus about moving up. Be thankful for every opportunity no matter how big or small. Meaning if you’re working with an up and coming producer, don’t be in the studio the entire time wishing you were working with an A-List such as Pharrell Williams of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Or if you’re a songwriter working with a new singer who happens to know your all-time favorite singer. Don’t try to strategically get the singer to get you the “hook up” with the singer you really want to work with. Just continue to work your opportunities and seize every moment. Before you know it your big break will come. Before you know it the artist you’ve been dying to work with will end up working with you.
4) Writing a hit
“Don’t try to write a hit.” – Nineteen85 (Anthony Paul Jefferies), producer, songwriter
This tip is mainly for professional and independent songwriters. However, it can apply to a producer or an artist who writes their own music. One of the biggest music business tips is to always remember to not go out your way to try and write a hit. Don’t focus on writing a hit. Just simply write the song. The moment you try to force it or make it a hit. That’s the moment that magic dies and it won’t become a hit. Most of the biggest hits of all time came from the artist or songwriter just writing how they felt. They wrote what they were going through and how it inspired them. The biggest hits come from authentic inspiration.
3) Submitting your material
“Create a way where they’re benefitting from you.” – Tia Owens, A&R executive, Recording studio manager
Have you ever wondered why no matter how much material you send you never get no response? Have you eve sent a song that you know is a smash but still nothing happens? That’s because the way you’re sending your material is too standard. It’s not standing out. Also the way you’re sending your material is too one-sided. You have to present your music to whoever you’re sending it to in a way where they’re benefitting from it. It can’t seem like I have this song and I want you to give me this opportunity. Present it like, I have this song that’s going to be a mega hit for both of us. It’ll really enhance your catalog and make it more unique as an artist. Whatever you way you want to present it just make sure the artists, A&R, etc. you’re presenting to benefits from your material as well. This way it doesn’t seem like you’re just looking for a handout.
2) Getting signed
“Don’t try to get signed, try to become popular.” – Ari Herstand, singer-songwriter, author, musician
In this new music era one of the top music business tips every artist should understand is, not to try to get signed but to get popular first. Instead of constantly contacting record labels or emailing A&R executives, focus on building your audience first. This is the new way to attract the executives you hope to rub elbows with. Focus on building your brand, fanbase and audience. This applies to any type of artist. Whether you’re a singer, songwriter, rapper, producer or composer. In order to be taken serious when contacting someone in the music business they’re going to want to see how popular you are. This means you should focus:
- Your niche
- Who your fanbase are
- How will you connect with your fanbase
- How to gain followers
- How to get Youtube, SoundCloud, etc. views
- How to even possibly go viral with a music related video
Once you have a solid following and at least most of this list achieved then you can focus on contacting executives in the music industry with a solid approach.
1) Jack of all trades…..
“Master one thing.” – Jennifer Drake, A&R executive
Perhaps the most important music business tip learned at this year’s ASCAP Expo event was to master one thing as an artist. Instead of trying to do a bunch of things that you think will make you stand out more, focus on mastering one thing and becoming great at that. The key is to become so great at the one thing you mastered that it will guarantee you stand out from the rest in your field. Then once you get your big break using that talent you can master something else. You don’t want to try to do a bunch of different things at once. You’ll end up becoming a “jack of all trades and a master of none.” In order to master anything it takes time. If you’re spending your time trying to do a bunch of different talents, how will you ever master any of them? Don’t get discouraged and thinking mastering only one thing will limit you. The reality is once you become so great at the particular talent you master, people will automatically ask what else do you do. This is when you now have the opportunity to express other talents you have. However, master the one that’s most important to you to get you in the door.
Attending the 2019 ASCAP Expo event was such a pleasure and knowledge gaining experience for us. This is why we wanted to share these top 10 music business tips. However, there was so much learned at this 3 day expo we couldn’t squeeze it all into one blog post. There are countless music business and artist tips to learn and apply. There were so many more great artists, songwriters and A&R executives with great tips. Don’t stop at these 10. Research and learn as many of them as you can but most importantly apply them.