From me to you (FM2U)

From me to you ~ FM2U

I recently attended From me to you (FM2U) at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, a one-day music conference from, and for, independent and emerging artists.  Created by singer songwriter Roxanne de Bastion, who is also Board Director at Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) which supports, promotes and protect artists in the music industry, FM2U is now in its fourth year and the day featured panel debates, musical keynotes, and a lunch time speed meeting panel, a five minute chat with five different industry experts.

Asked about why she started FM2U in an interview with Music Glue, Roxanne said “There’s such a need for more platforms where artists can get together and share experiences and connect on a meaningful level.  The more we learn from one another, the better. I’d love to get to a stage where all musicians recognise that we, as creators, ARE the industry.  We are entrepreneurs, heading up our own music businesses.”

As a DIY artist myself, I found it really refreshing to hear honest perspectives, relevant advice, and stories of real experiences from the artists themselves.  The panels were also moderated by musicians to ensure the discussions stayed with the artists point of view and reflected the realities of being an independent musician in today’s music industry.

The first panel I attended was an artist led discussion on the challenges of independent touring and how to tour profitably.  Laura Kidd, who produces her own music as She Makes War, chaired the panel and gave excellent advice from her experiences of booking her own shows, such as researching venues that artists similar in style have played, something I have certainly done.  Also on the panel were Simon Singleton from FRUKT, which deals with campaigns incorporating brand integration, music curation, and programming, artist Luke Jackson and Matt Hanner, a booking agent for Coda Agency.

The session began with discussing touring in the UK.  Luke Jackson began performing live very young, honing his craft and playing locally in the Kent area.  Early gigs included open mics and slots at various acoustic sessions which gradually led to him building a following and playing showcase slots.  They all agreed that maintaining an email list is invaluable.  Luke also added how key it is making your name known when playing live and the importance of introducing yourself, something bands often fail to do.  Coming from an agency perspective, Matt at Coda talked about how they build up trust and a network with their artists. Having big acts on the roster, such as Rag‘n’Bone Man, as well as smaller artists, they always have to keep costs in mind and the reality is that they can’t spend too much with an artist who doesn’t make any money.  She Makes War puts on her own shows in London and Bristol that have grown to sell out.  She finds doing something consistently helps with building a loyal fanbase.

Moving on to touring internationally, Luke has a booking agent both in the UK and in Germany.  He felt that people in Germany in particular really come out to support live music and Laura also enthused about European audiences.  Brexit was not touched upon, such is the uncertainty surrounding the future for artists touring Europe.  Something which isn’t often covered with regards to touring, was ensuring that you are safe on the road.  Luke stated that he prefers going on tour with his duo or trio as it is more fun, even if there is more cost.The panel also discussed merchandise ideas and how being more creative, offering a variety items than the usual CD’s and t shirts, provides something more special for fans. She Makes War produces her own vinyl and the ideas suggested certainly gave me food for thought about creating more varied merchandise.

Discussing advancing a show, Matt advised having all you need before a tour starts, a tour book containing information on parking, where you’re staying, even down to details such as knowing where the nearest music shops are in case you break any strings, is essential.  Simon at FRUKT suggested having a place online where tour documents can be easily accessed, such as Google Docs or Dropbox. When it comes to announcing a tour, coordinating dates with your social media concentrates people’s minds, looks professional, and helps build a buzz.  Regarding announcing shows in advance, having the artwork ready and making pre-sale tickets available, all has more of an impact.  Having targeted gig lists within your email list ensures that you are sending upcoming gig dates relevant to those in a particular area.  After shows it’s also worth taking time looking at the data from your gigs, what merchandise you sold, and organising your email list, all great practical advice.

Photo by Amanda Rose.

The nice difference with FM2U was the musical keynotes in-between the panels, and first was singer songwriter Anna Pancaldi who has had three top tens in the iTunes singer songwriter chart and been play listed on Spotify.  She acknowledged how great it was that everyone was being so honest at the event, and talked about how key it is that artists have a clear identity and engage with their community. When asked about the biggest challenges as an artist, she said it was all about finding a balance.  As an artist, you can put a lot of pressure on yourself and even though it’s important to have a plan, being patient is also an important quality to possess.

Chris Simmons, who has supported Passenger and Jackson Browne, was the next musical keynote, and emphasised the importance of building a community of artists.  He has toured all over, busked, and played house concerts.  He attended a US songwriting retreat which instantly gave him 15-20 allies that he could play shows with.  He doesn’t feel he has a business strategy, but having a plan helps as well as using all of your resources, helping other artists out, and using every aspect of social media.

Lastly, award winner rapper ShaoDow, talked about how these days it is essential that artists are a creative business.  Having impressive merchandise is a necessity, products that reflect you as an artist.  For example, if you write poetry, sell items such as personalised note books and book marks.  His energy and passion was infectious and inspiring.  He knows his fans on a personal level, and prefers to meet people in person, being around BBC 1Xtra resulted in him getting airplay on the station.  All musical keynotes ended with bringing it right back to the music and a live performance on stage, a great opportunity for the artists to showcase their impressive talents.

The final panel was a great idea, an ‘ask me anything’ panel, which featured four music industry experts and full time artists: Chris Carey, Music Economist, Entrepreneur, and CEO of Media Insight Consulting (MIC) and also founder of FastForward, a boutique music business conference aimed at connecting the next generation of music industry leaders.  Also on the panel were Jude McArdie from AIM Association, who look after UK’s independent record labels and self-releasing artists, Jon Webster, Chief Executive of the Music Manager’s Forum (MMF), Lucie Caswell from the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) and artist Frank Hamilton.

The session covered many aspects of music making with initial questions concerned with PRS, PPL and how to create and access ISRC codes.  It continued onto releasing music and if the album as an art form is dead.  Chris felt EP’s are the way to go for newer artists, being smaller and less expensive to produce.  However, when you consider Spotify and streams, he acknowledged that there is a benefit to having some extra tracks.  Discussing crowdfunding, Laura, She Makes War, who has used PledgeMusic for projects, advised that you need an audience, a “crowd”, but going through the process can help with building up a fanbase.  Referring back to the previous session on touring, the panel said you can use it to fund a tour. and that crowdfunding is particularly good around something in particular, for example, a new release or special event, and people really respond to a story.

Having a plan was a recurring subject throughout the day, and the panel agreed that it was dependent on where your career is at and what works for you.  If you’re thinking of the next stage of your career, Lucie from FAC recommended diversifying your revenue stream through other creative activities, and Jude at AIM mentioned how the world of syncs can be very lucrative.  Jon from MMF said a good plan, in terms of your releases, would be to release three EP’s and then an album. On general advice as an artist, Frank says it is about working hard, making contacts and turning your friend base into a fan base. He also maintains a database of key music blogs and his innovative idea of recording a track a week for a year really enabled fans to engage.

Counting PRS for Music and AIM as sponsors, FM2U was an excellent, informative day providing a great opportunity to hear honest opinions, practical advice and relevant content from those who are DIY singer/songwriters.  One of the artists I met during the day, Sadie Pickering, sums it up perfectly, saying FM2U, “did not fail at all to give me practical tools and advice to help me with my own journey, acknowledging the difficulties an artist faces in the music industry and the reality of that combined with the possibility that you can actually make money in the industry and create a sustainable career if you learn about how to best manage ’the two hats’ – the creative side and the business side and find the balance between the two. I came back armed with invaluable knowledge about the music industry as it is now, completely inspired to follow my dream and grateful to know that there is support there.” I will definitely be returning to FM2U next year!