The annual Electronic Music Conference kicked off yesterday (Nov. 13) with a full day of spirited debates and knowledge sharing.

In the morning session, Jamz Supernova’s In conversation with George Maple offered valuable insights into building your own business as an artist and “driving the ship” as Maple referred to it.

In regard to feeling overwhelmed with being an independent artist and juggling everything associated, Maple suggested to reframe the concept of being overwhelmed: “If I’m overwhelmed, I’m growing”.

george maple press shot bare back
George Maple

Maple stressed the importance of finding the people that vibrate on the same frequency and push you forward and to financially invest in your project before you ask others to do the same.

When asked what mistakes were not worth making, Maple confessed hers was leading with her passion and overlooking detail. Confessing that youthful arrogance also played a part in some of Maple’s biggest career mistakes. She also cautioned to never ignore the advice of your lawyers.

When it comes to wearing multiple hats and juggling things in her career, Maple noted, “you can have phases” and that not all plates can spin all of the time. Maple shared that you can have periods of creativity and no business or all business and no creativity and it still works if there’s strategy to it.

The C Word

The C Word: Making Sense of Content in a New Decade panel discussed that while social media has given so much power to the indie artist, there’s still a place for old school advertising.

Christopher Brailey, (Copywriter at M&C Saatch) summed up the one weak point of the internet perfectly, noting that “people can skip an Instagram story or block an Ad but a poster is a poster, it’s there!”.

While social media algorithm changes may be confusing and frustrating, Kristen Muller (Marketing Manager at Oxford Art Factory) suggests keeping up with these changes and leveraging them to help spread your message.

Muller said she’s found a nice way for some artists and businesses is to start a Facebook Group to drive conversation around your product, as the platform is really pushing them as well as long-form videos at the moment.

Muller also noted that one-to-one audience sharing statistics are increasing and about 20% of all Facebook users only share one-to-one.

It was advised by the panel not to focus on vanity metrics when looking at how a brand or an artist’s social channels are performing. Look at if people are engaged in the comments and if they are sharing it.

The most important thing isn’t likes, it’s in fact watch times and conversions as that’s what makes you money at the end of the day.

Muller’s tips for creating social media content included giving people the key message in the first two seconds and designing your videos for “sound off”.

“You’ve got two seconds to hook someone in. Humans can process an image in 0.07 seconds and their multi-screening, so you’ve got to grab your attention.”

An industry galvanised

As of last night, the NSW Government passed a Music Festivals Bill including an amendment for an industry roundtable, finally placing music as equal partners with the government.

This is a better outcome than Julia Robinson (General Manager, Australia Festivals Association) could have expected when she spoke on The Politics of ‘High-Risk panel earlier in the day.

It was noted by Robinson in this panel however that perhaps the silver lining out of all of the “debacle” as she put it, is that by working towards a common goal it has united and galvanised the music industry together.

The nuts and bolts of industry contracts

The What Are You Signing? panel saw Ishan Karunanayake (Entertainment & Tech Lawyer) lamenting that, “if you sign a deal that has management label and publishing all rolled into one, and one to all three areas aren’t working you’ll be stuck in all three so be wary of signing those sorts of deals”.

Karunanayake also warned that when signing with a label, think about how you write as an artist. “iIf you struggle writing singles, don’t sign a contract with terms specifying that you need to write 20 singles, or you’ll struggle to fulfil that contract”.

The panel also urged artists to clarify whether the manger’s 20% split means 20% of the gross or net profit.

As for signing a label deal with assignments as opposed to licences, Karunanayake noted that who pays for the recording should be a key indicator as to whether the label is allowed to contract assignment of your work.

If you are the one that has brought the work to the label fully produced, you have the bargaining power to negotiate a five to ten year licensing deal so that the label doesn’t own your work in perpetuity.

A panel on the Economics of Artist Management closed out the day with some spirited debate around whether artist management contracts have been too artist lenient.

Grow Yourself Up's Greg Carey
Greg Carey

Greg Carey (Artist Manager and Co-Chair of the Association of Artist Mangers) presented some brilliant graphs breaking down a manager’s commission is for the first five years of managing an establishing act.

The calculations on a manager’s hourly rate over the first year of management were particularly alarming.

Assuming a manager is working 40 hours per week for the artist in the first year, if the artist makes $5,000 in touring income and $12,500 in royalty income, then the management commission on that is around $3,286 for the first year which equates to working for around $1.70 per hour.

There was also great debate around trailing commissions

The for argument for trailing commissions is that if you build an artist’s live fee from $500 two $250,000 over course of their career you should be rewarded for that with a trailing commission, even if it’s only for a few years post the contract term.

It was ultimately agreed on by the panel that managers need to stop relying on lawyers to fight for trailing commissions and stand up for themselves and know that their connections and expertise add exponential value to an artist’s career that, at the very least, is worth some kind of trailing commission.

In terms of what managers look for in a new act, the panel agreed that an artist’s raw talent, vision, work ethic and compelling live show are all major factors that go into the decision of whether a manager is going to work with an artist or not.