It bears repeating: it’s never been easier to make music, nor harder to make people listen to it. With mass media out of the reach of everyone except for the already famous and those who ride on their coat-tails it is clear that innovation is the key to creating and building an audience.
Others talk frequently about starting small, concentrate on converting individuals and with luck and perseverance the message spreads. This assumes that your ‘product’ is good enough of course; let’s go with that assumption for now.
I came across a band called Marmozets recently. I happened to hear their single, heard that it was getting some decent plays from radio folk, noticed that they were on the Download bill and this caused me to mention it to my 17 year old daughter. She’s the target market and was already aware of them. The reason she remembered them so well was that she’s one of their Twitter followers – they also follow her. More importantly they’ve replied to her random tweets, they have a ‘relationship’. This alone means she speaks positively of them and is far more likely to support them in future. It sounds simple, it is simple – probably until the point that you get so famous that it’s difficult to have that ‘one on one’ relationship. In the short term that’s not a concern. Marmozets have got it right, they engage the audience and when the material is good enough then they have an ‘army’ of loyal supporters ready to ‘big them up’. The material is definitely getting there and they seem primed and ready for the next step.
That next step is the crossover moment; the point at which your small army is engaged fully and your material is ready for a wider audience. To get there is much harder as it inevitably involves industry support in the form of radio-plays, press coverage, support slots with like-minded bands that’ve got to the next step of the ladder and, if you’re lucky enough, a spot on the right TV show. For a long time Later With JoolsHolland has been a great platform for breaking new music, the list of acts that have excelled as a direct result of the show is legion. Whether you like it or not ‘Later’ is undoubtedly a band breaker. In a 30 minute show that also features established artists it must be insanely difficult to get a slot. Once you have it you have to make the most of it, like Royal Blood.
Before ‘Later’ Royal Blood were just another act whose name lurked somewhere in my consciousness but insufficiently front of mind for me to remember what kind of band they were – despite having heard a previous track, ‘Little Monster’ on radio. It transpires they’re exactly the kind of thing I like, a sound with great fluidity and density, riffs with melody. They were good enough on the edited Tuesday version of ‘Later’ to make me want to see the extended version on Friday. Few acts achieve that, perversely (and possibly because) I don’t even watch Later that often.
Naturally this is out of the reach of most. You probably have to plan your campaign like Marmozets and hope to reach the stage of Royal Blood, before and beyond both you’ll face a lot of hard work. This level of success is for the committed and the talented. There are no short cuts but there are a few routes.