Releasing music is easy. Building a music career is harder than ever

The following MBW blog comes from Simon Wills (pictured), Director of UK-based Absolute Label Services, which has been celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018.

The barrier to entry for musicians has been getting lower for years now. With the powerful combination of social media and a range of digital distribution channels, anybody can make their music available to consumers and promote it from wherever they are in the world.

The latest milestone in the removal of the music industry’s traditional gatekeepers came from Spotify.

Firstly, in September, the platform made it possible for independent artists to upload their tracks directly to its service – without the need for an aggregator or label.

Then, less than a month later, the Swedish streaming giant invested in DistroKid – a digital music aggregator that rivals the likes of TuneCore, Ditto Music and CD Baby to upload music to all major DSPs.

Alongside the investment was the announcement that an integration between Spotify and DistroKid in the near future would allow anyone who uploaded music directly via Spotify For Artists to also ‘seamlessly distribute their music to other platforms through DistroKid’.

If the first bit of news was considered something of a bombshell, then the second must have felt like a nuclear blast. That is, if your business begins and ends with digital music aggregation.

While it’s true that the music business is unrecognisable compared to only a decade ago, actually, for many sectors, very little has changed.

Yes, we grab the attention of music fans in ways that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago, when Absolute Label Services, was founded. And we have the power to deliver music directly, in seconds, at the push of a button. But the core of any success story in music remains the same – great music by great artists.

Actually, make that great music by great artists backed by a great team.

“While the removal of traditional gatekeepers is exciting in many ways, it means there is more music vying for attention, more noise to rise above”

simon wills, absolute label services

Let’s not kid ourselves, the global stars that we read about online, see on our screens and hear on the radio every day are not the only fantastic musicians out there. Plenty of incredibly talented people go their whole lives without ever making a ripple in the public consciousness, never mind managing to make a living from their passion.

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That can happen for a wide variety of reasons, but one of them is that they didn’t have a team with the right expertise and resources to help establish, develop and drive a sustainable music career.

Great artists need to be free to make great music – there’s no shortcut to that part of the equation. But giving that music the audience it deserves requires smart thinking, years of experience, proper infrastructure and, quite frankly, a lot of graft.

Devising and executing marketing campaigns, plugging across TV and radio, running socials, digital health checks, promoting across streaming playlists, gathering data and making sense of it all, managing D2C and retail… There are many threads to a successful release that need constant monitoring if they are to run efficiently, harmoniously and effectively. And that’s just for a single release. More so than ever these days, artist campaigns cannot be thought of as distinct entities, but year-round efforts that allow fans to engage on an ongoing basis.

The dedication and expertise needed for that kind of operation, that kind of business, that kind of career, is greater than ever. While the removal of traditional gatekeepers is a very exciting prospect in many ways, it means there is more music vying for attention. That means more competition for peoples’ time, more demands on their wallet, more noise that great artists need to rise above again and again.

Spotify’s open-door policy makes releasing music easy, but – without the right team behind you – building a music career is harder than ever.Music Business Worldwide