There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the music industry, in particular the live sector, and this has greatly influenced the way the public consumes music. People don’t (or at least shouldn’t) go to parties anymore, live events are very scarce, in many places gyms are closed, and there are far less people that commute to work on a daily basis. All of these factors have had an effect on how people listen to music. As a producer you might wonder how you can adapt to these changes, so to help you out we’ve spoken to the director of Cr2 Records – Mark Brown, GM and head of A&R at Kontor Records – Jens Thele, as well as the GM of Sony’s Relentless Records – Ben Coates, and asked them how the pandemic has changed the way they operate and how you can get the best out of your music productions during the pandemic.
Listening From Home
With strict restrictions in place almost everywhere across the globe, people are confined to their own homes. As a result, going out to party has become something of a distant memory and travelling to work is less common. In many cases people are able to work from home, however, as Ben states, “less commuting has meant that we’ve lost some key listening hours of people’s day, and where they might have been streaming a playlist on the way to work, they may now not.” Furthermore, people are not listing to music in clubs and bars or at parties, and the closure of gyms has meant a decline in people listening to workout/fitness playlists. This prompts the question: what are people listening to now in the comfort of their own homes?
Jens has noticed a strong trend in people, “listening more to commercial music and digging into their favourite songs from the past.” He suggests that might be the reason why, “cover versions in dance style are working so well right now.” Additionally, Mark points at the fact that due to being at home people have more time to discover and explore new listening platforms, with throwback and chill-out playlists increasing in popularity. Ben explains that, “the rise of TikTok has also meant a whole host of new songs, and artists have risen to prominence driven by the Gen Z audience.” This suggests there is a trend showing more consumers are listening to mainstream music and old favourites, rather than dance and party records, with emerging social media platforms playing a big part in what is popular.
Record Label’s Approach
To the question of whether record labels have had to readjust their ways of promoting new music Ben points out that, “the rise in screen time and particularly TikTok has meant an increased focus on that platform and its influencers, to reach the audiences who are influencing the big hits.” Mark agrees, stating that the way Cr2 Records has adjusted is by spending longer on promoting records online than before, with TikTok campaigns playing a large role. He also says that, “the traditional route of sending a track to DJ’s for them to play at live shows isn’t an option anymore, instead sending records for them to play in live streams is a great alternative.” So with these changes in what consumers listen to and the changes in the way record labels are promoting music, it seems likely that labels have adjusted their approach on signing new artists and records.
According to Jens, to make up for the closure of clubs and live events and to feed the popular demand, Kontor Records have started singing more commercial music and less club music. Mark from Cr2 Records, says that, “even more so now we’re looking for more unique sounding song based records. We’re also putting together collaboration projects, prompting our artists to work together to reach a wider audience.” Furthermore, the online presence of artists has become more important than ever before. “Not being able to see an artist live has meant an increased focus on their online profile,” explains Ben, “but ultimately, talent will shine through across all mediums, just finding it might be a bit more congested online.”
What do do as an artist?
As an upcoming or aspiring producer you might feel like during the pandemic it is more difficult than ever to get your music noticed, however there are a number of steps you can take to increase your chances of being heard. When asked how producers can adapt to the current climate and what record labels are currently looking for, Ben answers: “put as much focus and attention to detail on getting people to hear your music as you do making it. Think as much about the audience(s) you’re trying to reach and how you’re going to reach them. Social media presents endless opportunities. Get creative. Reverse engineer songs that have broken through and work out how you can apply that to your music. Making great music is one (very key) part of the process but getting people to hear it is the other. In uncertain times, labels are less willing to take as big a risks on new artists but if you’ve already got an audience or have created some hype on a song, you’re one step ahead.” He continues by saying that, “as a label, we look for exceptional talent which includes the music but also the personality and creativity behind it. If you’re out there creating a buzz already, a label is much more likely to find you.” Mark has a similar point of view stating that the, “quality of the production is important, but especially the idea/story behind the track. Even if the production is not 100% there but the track shows potential and has a story a label is more likely to sign it.” He emphasises the importance of staying creative and utilising the possibilities of social media too, by doing live DJ or production streams for example. Here it’s important to, “make it look and sound as unique as possible so it catches peoples attention. If you play a number of ID tracks in your set people will be more interested and it could create a buzz,” Mark prompts.
Our best tip on how to be heard
So while it may seem difficult to stay motivated during these times there is so much you can do to get the most out of your productions. Arguably the playing field is more level than before since no one is able to gain advantages by touring and playing live shows and getting noticed that way. So, to give you some motivation we’ve put together a list of things you can do to better your odds of getting your music heard:
- DJ Live Streams: With festivals cancelled and clubs closed people are looking for new ways to still have those experiences, and live streams are becoming more and more popular. Using platforms such as Facebook or Twitch is a great way to make yourself visible. As mentioned, with these it’s important to make it look original because the visual aspect is important when trying to catch and retain peoples attention.
- Production Live Streams: In addition to DJ streams, doing production streams is also a great way to get people to hear your music. Try live streaming a jamming session, the creation of a new track, a sound design session, or do a live stream of you breaking down one of your tracks. You don’t even need to get super technical but people are always interested in the ‘behind the scenes’ process of how records have been produced.
- Live Q&A: If you already have a bit of an audience, doing a live Q&A is a great way to increase engagement.
- Collaborate with others: It is always good to collaborate with others, but especially now it can really help to keep stay creative and motivated. “Producers should try with their management or publishers to get into songcamps, so that they can at least create new stuff,” says Jens.
- Produce and Experiment: Take advantage of being stuck inside and produce as much as you can, and especially try to experiment. Mark highlights the importance of, “focusing on as many different productions as you can. Have multiple ideas working at once. Spend time to find your own unique sounds, and don’t spend as much time on trying to perfect one specific track.” He continues by saying it’s important to motivate yourself and to, “use this time to really experiment, work on new genres. Expand your production skills as much as you can. Diversify! Whether you’re a house, dubstep or trap producer. Come up with new ideas, and try to blend genres. Stay creative and build up a repertoire.”
To conclude, we hope that this blog gives you some insight on how to best approach your productions during these difficult times and that the tips mentioned will help you to get the best out of your music. Just remember to keep at it and never give up. During our chat with Ben he ends by saying, “One song can change everything. Don’t stop.” And we couldn’t agree more!
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