What Does It Take To Break An Artist?

music, music business, music industry

It’s funny. The Internet has made things easier by providing musicians the opportunity to market and promote themselves without the backing of a record label, yet at the same time it’s made it harder by giving music fans so much choice that it’s more difficult to stand out. 

Sure, you can break yourself online by being innovative on platforms like YouTube, Twitter, snapchat (has there been a snapchat musician yet?), Instagram, Vine etc but inevitably those artists still need major label backing to make the transition from viral sensation to recording artist.
A recent article published a study reporting that record labels are spending around $500,000 on marketing to break one of their artists nationally and up to $2million for global campaigns. Considering its a struggle these days for an act to sell more than 100,000 units that’s a lot of money to be spending on promotion. Obviously those costs are offset by the labels taking cuts of the artists’ endorsements, tour income etc (360 deals) but those revenue streams are dependent on the artist’s music breaking into the mainstream.
It’s really hard to break an act in today’s climate. We went the independent route with 3AM Tokyo (Yep, bringing that album up again!) and it was an interesting and expensive experiment. Just for radio promotion alone it was north of $20k, the single “Can We Kick It” peaked in the low 30s on the MediaBase Top 40 chart (MediaBase takes into account every single radio station in the US. Now that’s pretty dope, we were the only release in the Top 40 that was on an independent label. It’s also a pretty good example of how much money you need just to get to that level. However. No one pays attention to the MediaBase charts, it’s all about Billboard (Billboard only take into account certain radio stations). To get on the Billboard charts you’re looking at spending even more money and if you’re independent forget it, even with the required funds you just won’t have the connections or radio promotion departments that  the record labels have. This isn’t a slant on how radio works, it’s just the reality. You can’t get in if you’re not with the big boys. Now back to the money that was spent on the radio promotion for “Can We Kick It”, you want to know how many sales, streams or video plays all those radio spins gained? Not much. Certainly not enough to cover the costs of the promo. Not terribly inspiring for the independent musician is it?
This is where the benefits of social media and the Internet come into play. If you are independent you keep all the profits. That means you only need to sell/stream a fraction of what a major label act does to make the same amount of money, not to mention the money you’d make from doing shows. The average music listener spends around $100 on music a year (the exact figure is out there somewhere). With just 1000 fans you could make a decent amount of money, especially considering artists with a smaller cult following tend to have more intimate relationships with their fans which leads to the fans spending more money on them.
Of course with only 1000 fans you can’t really tour anywhere which is why you may need a bigger fan base, unless you don’t want to perform gigs and gigs are where the money’s at. We were chatting with a senior figure at one of the biggest publishing companies in the world and they were telling us one of their acts (who we happened to be friendly with) don’t even spend that much time in the studio anymore because they make so much more money from performing. Now this act broke online which led to them signing a major label deal before putting out a few albums so it’s hard to know whether the people they perform to were fans before or after the deal but this swings us back to the point that you kinda do still need major label backing to put a big dent in the industry.
All of this comes down to what an artist deems as success. You could be a solely touring act that doesn’t release records but builds up a fan base by grinding, playing show after show in city after city and make a living from it. You could equally be that artist who has 1000 fans online who are willing to spend $100 or more a year on your music and merchandise and make a decent living from that. But if you want to be known worldwide you need a major label and their financial backing. Their connections and infrastructure are unparalleled and combined with a savvy Internet game they can break an artist all over the world.
So to answer, to break a new artist into the big time you need money and lots of it, preferably a record labels money too! Money alone isn’t the answer but it allows artists to get their music on radio and launch viral campaigns to target the kind of audience their music warrants. We’re already starting to see deals where the label ends up in up reducing their role to being investors in artists and offering their distribution resources in return for a profit share. Don’t be surprised to see similar plays from companies like Google, Apple, Spotify and Microsoft in the future- investing in musicians and using their vast amounts of user data to help connect musicians with consumers. That’s another post topic though…
Have a great weekend

HeatSeekerz Grammy Predictions

music, music business, music industry

The Grammys are upon us. Which means it’s another year passing by since 2009 where we’ve been saying we’ll go back and forget to get organized in time. The Grammys are prestigious, their relevancy are often brought into question, with some validation, but everyone wants to win a Grammy!

We thought we’d have a bit of fun and predict a few of the pop awards. It’s worth noting these aren’t who we want to see win but who we think will be voted for the most in each category.

We’ll check back in tomorrow and talk about the show and see how many predictions we got wrong!

Check out our predictions below:

Record Of The Year:-

Fancy-Iggy Azalea Featuring Charli XCX

Chandelier- Sia

Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)- Sam Smith

Shake It Off- Taylor Swift

All About That Bass- Meghan Trainor

HS Prediction- Stay With Me- Sam Smith

This one is a tough one but Sam Smith’s record stands out because it’s so different from the others. All 5 are huge records in their own right but Smith should walk away with this one. Quick shout out to our girl Charli XCX representing Sesac!

Album Of The Year:-

Morning Phase — Beck

Beyoncé — Beyoncé

X — Ed Sheeran

In The Lonely Hour — Sam Smith

Girl — Pharrell Williams

HS Prediction- X- Ed Sheeran

In terms of a whole body of work and Ed Sheeran’s second album is consistent throughout and a very unique album.

Song Of The Year:-

All About That Bass- Meghan Trainor

Chandelier- Sia

Shake It Off- Taylor Swift

Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)- Sam Smith

Take Me To Church- Hozier

HS Prediction:- Stay With Me- Sam Smith

This award differs from Record Of The Year because it is decided by the actual song, taking away the production and just focussing on the lyrics and the music. We have to go with Stay With Me again although All About That Bass might pip it due to its great message.

Best New Artist:-

Iggy Azalea


Brandy Clark


Sam Smith

HS Prediction:- Sam Smith

This one will be close between Smith and Iggy. Both made a big impact on music this year but with so many nominations it’s hard to see Smith missing out on this award.

Best Pop Solo Performance:-

All Of Me (Live)- John Legend


Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)- Sam Smith

Shake It Off- Taylor Swift

Happy (Live)- Pharrell Williams

HS Prediction:- All of Me- John Legend

This one is another tough one but John’s single really stands out when it comes on the radio. We love Sia’s performance on Chandelier though. She can hit them high notes!

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:-

Fancy- Iggy Azalea Featuring Charli XCX

A Sky Full Of Stars- Coldplay

Say Something- A Great Big World With Christina Aguilera

Bang Bang- Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj

Dark Horse- Katy Perry Featuring Juicy J

HS Prediction- Fancy- Iggy Azalea feat Charli XCX

We figure Iggy will win this one after missing out on other nominations. We’d love to see Bang Bang get one too in this category.


Follow Up Friday- Sam Smith/Tom Petty

music, music business, music industry

On Monday we discussed how songwriters can accidentally use other people’s melodies without realizing, seemingly happening with Sam Smith’s hit “Stay With Me” sounding a little to similar to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”.

Today we came across a statement on the Smith/Petty situation from Tom Petty himself where he called the whole incident “a musical accident no more no less“. It was great to hear him talking of how easily the problem was resolved and that he had never considered taking it to court, as was initially suggested by reports. Petty echoed what we had mentioned in our piece about how easy it is to write a song with unintentionally borrowed melodies,

All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen.  Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by. Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement.”

Again we commend both parties for putting the music first! For Petty’s full statement head over to Billboard.

Have a great weekend!


Music & Technology- DLD15

music, music business, music industry

We came across this panel video yesterday thanks to Ryan Leslie (more on him in a minute). The panel was made up of Ryan and a few other important figures from the music world discussing technology and its impact on the music industry. It’s worth pointing out that there isn’t a definitive solution for resurrecting the music business but we’re starting to see trends that indicate where the money can come from. Our feeling is a mix of many elements discussed in the panel but primarily the use of streaming services and D2C marketing and artist-fan interaction that Ryan Leslie is pioneering (again, we’ll come to that in a minute). There’s so much to discuss on the topic of music and technology but we’ll try to keep it short and revisit the topic on a frequent basis.

We’ve already briefly discussed Spotify (Spotify Hits 15m Subscribers) and it was encouraging to hear members of the panel validate its value both monetarily and its effectiveness at allowing artists to be discovered with a low cost of entry for the consumer. One other value that wasn’t discussed, and this goes for streaming as a whole, is utilizing streaming data to shape radio playlists. We hold our hands up here that we’re still a little unsure of exactly how playlists work, although we have first hand experience of getting a song to number 34 in the Top 40 charts, albeit with the help of a radio promotions company (we were, however, still the only independent release on the chart). Just think about this though, instead of record companies lobbying program directors at radio stations and spending a shit ton (read:A LOT) of money to keep their songs spinning, what if that money, and most likely a lot less, was spent marketing the songs to consumers so that fans then went and listened to the songs on streaming services? Radio stations would then act as curators, looking at the data to see which songs are popular and then putting playlists together that reflect that. Radio is still the most important discovery tool for consumers which means music lovers only discover what the program directors and record labels want them to. What if consumers were the new taste makers? Radio would be able to see which artists and songs were picking up steam online and then broadcast that out to a wider audience.

Now on to direct to consumer marketing (D2C)… Ryan Leslie is a musician & entrepreneur who really pioneered the use of YouTube and Myspace to build a social following and promote his artist Cassie back in the mid 2000’s. We’ve been following him since we first heard the record he produced for New Edition called “Hot 2nite” and he really was ahead of the curve using the internet to market himself and his music. Do a quick google on Ryan and you’ll see the guy is SMART, he graduated from Harvard at 19 and on top of that is an incredible musician. As an artist he recognized that he wasn’t able to access any information about who his fans are. Digital retailers are currently unwilling to share this kind of data which is hugely valuable information for someone selling music, merchandise or concert tickets. Knowing who your fans are and how to reach them is really important if you want to let them know when you have new music dropping, if you’re playing in their city, if you have a new video you want them to watch or merchandise to sell. Ryan built his own platform Disruptive Multimedia to effectively run his business from an app on his phone. Fans join his Renegades club, providing him with their contact info and location. He is then able to reach out to fans whenever he has something to tell them and also allows them to reach out to him whenever they want by giving them his phone number and email address. Paolo is a member of the Renegades and can attest to this artist-fan relationship. For a first hand description of this platform check out the video below.

Labels and artists are beginning to see the benefits of being able to directly communicate with their consumers and the financial rewards this can bring. Want to see the new video before anyone else does or hear the new record? Most fans will pay a premium for that! Especially if they are listening to the music essentially for free on streaming services. If fans are engaged with their favorite artists, they’re more likely to spend more per year than the $10 it costs to buy an album.

Where does this tie in with streaming? It’s all about brand management. Think about the brands/companies you always go back to, it’s more than likely that they’ve made you feel grateful for being a customer, which is crazy- you’re the one giving them business! You were probably given a good discount and treated nicely when you had to deal with them or given exclusive offers for being part of a loyalty club. It should be the same with music, an artist is a brand selling products. Use the music to market the brand, don’t see it as the only product you sell. Streaming services will place your music on a global platform, making you easily discover-able. Once you have a fan, use your D2C marketing to engage them, offer them exclusive merchandise, first viewings or listens to new material or VIP experiences at your next show. This is all putting aside the fact that as streaming services grow, so will the generated revenue and the music may end up being your primary source of income. You’ll also be making more from bigger attendances at shows (fans will know exactly when and where you’re playing), more t-shirts sold and music videos will have some relevance again. Fans put a premium on being the first to hear new music, why not offer them the chance to pay for it by sending them a text to tell them they’re entitled to download the new album before it hits the streaming services? If they want to hear it that badly, they’ll pay for it! You could make a great amount of money with only 1,000 fans as you will own your relationship with them and they will reward you for that.

Wrapping up, the future of music lies firmly in technology’s hands. Once music distributors and artists figure out the right ways to utilize it we’ll have this industry prospering again. Streaming services are the best way for consumers to hear the music, that’s pretty clear. Using a D2C approach is the missing piece that will engage fans and generate new paths of income for artists if they’re smart in how they market. We hold a lot of value in Ryan Leslie’s Disruptive Multimedia and really hope it becomes more widely adopted. The music industry is not dead, it’s just in a transition and we’ll be with it the whole way.

Meghan Trainor expected to be No.1

music, music business, music industry


We’ve always been All About That Bass so nothing new for us there (great song by the way), however what is interesting is the slow shift in Top 40 music’s sound through 2014 and into 2015.

Meghan Trainor, according to Billboard, is set to knock Taylor Swift from atop the Billboard 200 next week. This is interesting because it follows an underlying trend of more live, organic sounding songs becoming popular again. EDM (what an awful name for dance music..) ruled the charts for a long time, we’re not saying it’s going anywhere but with the emergence of artists like Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran’s steady rise in popularity we’re starting to hear less beat driven songs on the radio. Having had a quick listen to her album, Meghan is riding that wave with an old school, live instrument vibe mixed with a current Top 40 sound. We really like it.

In truth we saw this shift coming (how awesome are we..) when we made the 3AM Tokyo album. We essentially time proofed the songs so they would last the 2-3 years we knew it might take to get them into the mainstream. Seeing Meghan make it to number 1 with a different sound is good for music. It’s good to keep pushing the audience to experiment with their tastes. At the same time none of the songs mentioned by the artists above sound out of place on radio, which speaks to the excellent writing of the artists and collaborators. So congrats to Meghan and a big salute to all the artists and writers trying new things and not following the crowd.

We’ll leave it there as the weekend’s coming, and who wouldn’t wanna get ready to get their ass on the floor tonight right????

#TBT Shaliek ft Fred the Godson- Spoke Too Soon

music, music business, music industry

We first came up with the instrumental to this song in 2009 and had a completely different song for it. All producers and writers will admit that they get attached to certain songs but this can blur your judgement and lead you down the wrong path with a song choice. We have been guilty of this plenty of times, but often one of us will talk the other out of sticking with certain melodies or entire toplines (main melody of the song). Thankfully on this occasion we had both been in agreement for  a while that we needed a better song on top of the instrumental so we added it to our “farm trax” folder (farm trax are the instrumentals we have open for songwriters to write to).

The Hitterzz are a songwriting team consisting of Shaliek and Cashus, two incredible writers and artists in their own right. We have a number of songs with them that we love and we wouldn’t hesitate to call on them if we needed a hit. When they came by the studio for the first time we played them our farm trax and this was the one they gravitated to. With their collaborator Daisy Grant they penned this song in less than an hour, that’s what it felt like anyway- we just left them to it.

Originally we were shopping Spoke Too Soon to a number of artists and labels when Shaliek said he wanted the song for his EP “I Don’t Wanna Be Famous”. We always want our music to be heard so of course said yes. Shaliek hooked up the Fred the Godson feature and we finished up the mix. You won’t fully appreciate the mix until you play it through a sound system with a sub woofer as the kick on this song bangs real hard.

Sit back and chill with this one, it’s a smooth old school R&B joint. Also give Shaliek a listen on iTunes or Spotify, links below. The boy can sing his ass off!


Shaliek iTunes

Shaliek Spotify

Empire on FOX

music, music business, music industry

This show was DOPE! While it doesn’t quite paint an accurate picture of the music business, (for one thing, every recording engineer would have been tearing their hair out at some of the recording techniques the vocalists were using in the booth) it was so refreshing to hear original music in a TV show of such a high standard.

We have Timbaland and his team to thank for that. Creating music for TV isn’t as easy as recording a regular track for commercial release. Firstly there are far more executives to appease and more hoops to jump through. A&R’s and music supervisors will use words or phrases to describe the type of songs they are looking for but oftentimes the same adjective from two people can mean completely different things. This can make it incredibly difficult to decipher and decide where to start. We don’t know how much creative control Timbaland had, but no doubt there were countless requests to revisit songs and make changes.

You can hear in the production that Tim had to simplify what he usually does as the music needed to appeal to a wider range of viewers- 9pm on FOX after American Idol is going to have a bigger mix of audience than, say, a radio station would.

Another consideration is that the song has to match the script and mood of the scene it’s intended for, the music can totally change the feeling of a moment and often dictates how a viewer absorbs the visual (just think of a horror movie without the soundtrack- not very scary most of the time is it?!).

Mixing all of those elements together proves what a tough task it can be creating the soundtrack for TV or movies, especially when all the songs are originals. We’re really looking forward to following the show and hearing the other new songs. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out!


#TBT… Angel Demar “Not For You”

music, music business, music industry

Man this feels like a lifetime ago, still one of our favorite songs that we’ve written & produced. The mix definitely needs redoing but the song itself is still great. For those that don’t know about Angel, look her up..she can SING!!! We love working with her, she’s an incredible vocalist and so easy to produce.


First Post

music, music business, music industry

At this point we have 0 people following our blog but ya gotta start somewhere! By this time next year we hope that, like our music, thousands of people around the world will be rocking with us and following our journey.

Up until now we’ve been quiet online, too quiet actually. For a long time we tried to let our music do the talking and sat back while everyone else tweeted up a storm and posted pictures of the food they were eating (really, people?!) In 2015 we decided to join the conversation.

Having a platform to talk about music is important to us. We want to share the music we make, the journey we’re on while making it and just speak about music in general.

2014 saw us work on a lot of behind the scenes things and making music took a back seat a little. Having said that we had a Top 40 hit on radio with 3AM Tokyo and worked with artists such as Jessica Ashley, Bryan Terrell Clark, Rachel Fine and Fancy Reagan. This year that list is gonna get longer, and we’ll be sharing it all with you.

We hope you stick around and follow us into 2015 and beyond. We’ll be uploading new music, talking about how we made it, post videos of studio sessions,  talk about the music industry from our perspective and everything else that music brings.