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Features November 3, 2020

How COVID changed the way we discover and promote new artists

How COVID changed the way we discover and promote new artists

The traditional ways of “doing things” in the music industry were given the heave-ho this year after the sector had to find new methods to discover and promote new artists.

Play MPE hosted an online seminar last week, with Australian and New Zealand execs, on how to work the new landscape. The session was moderated by Richie Hardcore, a former radio host and DJ at Auckland’s 95bfm for 15 years.

On the panel were radio plugger Russell Thomas, artist manager and publicist Elizabeth Browne, commercial radio programmer Ryan Rathbone

Here are six takeaways from the robust session.

1. Learn to build an audience

Thomas: “Find a way to interact with your audience.

“In this world of streaming and incremental downloading, every time you get a new person who tells another person, you’re adding to your potential.

“For any new artist, link yourself on Spotify and Apple Music with like-minded artists so you can tap into their audience to help build yours.”

2. The absolute importance of keeping fans engaged

Browne: “Content is king and engagement is queen

“If you’re doing a photoshoot or video shoot, get behind-the-scenes content

“Everywhere where you go, get as much content as you can so you’ve always got a content library.

“Even if you’re not on tour, you’ve got things to promote on social media, and engage with the comments and the people who like your page, engage with other artists on streaming platforms so you can manipulate the algorithms as much as you can.

Rathbone: “Social media is really important. If someone in the band has a real personality, it’s helpful from a marketing perspective.

“That person should be in charge of your socials, they should be the ones driving the content.”

3. The entry point for new acts on radio

Browne: “For all the acts we’re working with, community radio is the starting point. Then you go to triple j, generally speaking, and then you go to commercial.

“For heavy bands, there’re not too many places to go to after triple j.

“In terms of emerging artists of all genres in Australia, it’s really difficult.”

Thomas: “The world now is so small it’s all organic.

“When you look at what is going on, Tones breaking semi-organically with the help of triple j and Nova Brisbane.

“You got Flowerkid, Mia Wray, The Kid Laroi, all these kids are really exciting and they’re breaking out organically through streaming services.

“From what I was told, Sony signed him up when he was 12, and he moved to LA. So all these things are happening behind the scenes.

“These kids are developing and they are all taking, to a certain extent, control of their destiny.”

4. Maybe New Zealand is a better place to start

Rathbone: “New Zealand’s got so many amazing opportunities because of the fragmented market.

“Australia’s a lot more regulated, there are fewer radio options. In New Zealand, there are 20-odd radio stations in Auckland alone.”

These cover pop, variety of hip hop, middle of the road and EDM.

“If you’re an EDM artist then George FM is amazing, there are so many really talented DJs and producers on the air. They pick your tune and they’re playing it, you’re on some pretty sweet playlists around the country as well.

“It gets noticed by the likes of Zane [Lowe], he’s aware of what they’re up to.”

5. Discover new revenue streams

Browne: “The great thing about Australia is we might have a small radio landscape but our fans really get behind their favourite artists.

“Come up with initiatives for merch. Even if you can’t afford to buy the merch to start off with, you can do pre-orders, which is what a lot of artists have been doing.

“With the merch pack, you get a signed poster or a signed video, you get everything signed.

“Artists are just sitting at home you might as well sign a couple of hundred of things to go into a package.

“We have also had a couple of our artists who have been paid for performances for different outlets.

“They’ve gone into a studio which has been socially distanced (with) only five people and the production and they’ve performed for a fee.

“A lot of different outlets are supporting artists the best they can in terms of keeping live music as active as we can in these times.”

6. Lobby for an Australian version of NZ On Air

NZ On Air is tasked by the NZ government to fund music acts and provides advice on building careers, even who they should be working with and which producers to use.

Rathbone: “It’s such an amazing resource I wish it was available in Australia.

“The amount of funding that they give artists allows them to be true to their music and be independent, I think it’s truly wonderful. You can be signed to a label and get their funding.

“They’ll fund your singles, your videos, they’ll help you with all sorts of things. They’ll rep your record at radio.

“It also ensures a pathway that they invest a lot of money in commercial radio. Buying airtime to get pathway for artists to break. That’s why I think the music scene (in NZ) is per capita extremely strong.

“There are some amazing acts coming through there.”


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