Today I attended a lecture with Peter Åstedt who is an artist developer at Musichelp. I found out about the lecture just yesterday when I passed by “Brygghuset” in Borås. Brygghuset is a building that is available for young people in the city who needs a location for cultural gatherings like band practice, dancing or lectures. In their window, they had a big post of the event today. I walked into the building and asked them about the lecture and it was free and open for everyone.
The lecture took place today between 1 PM and 5 PM.
Peter Åstedt has been in the music industry for 25 years. He started his first record label called Dead frog at the age of 15. When the music industry strated to go down in the early 21st century he founded a subsidiary company called Musichelp. The purpose of that company is to help artists getting into the digital market.
Pretty soon, the subsisiary outgrew the controlling company and in 2015, Musichelp bought Dead frog. Musichelp is now the parent company that owns Dead frog, Distrosong who distributes digital music, Dead frog Publishing and Musichelp Publishing. They are also one of the joint owners of Live at Heart – a music festival in Örebro. Peter is based in Stockholm, where he lives “on a small island outside town”.
In the lecture, Peter told us about how to reach out with your music today. He told us about the most common distribution companies and their respective pros and cons. Apparently, there are a lot of small actors on the market, who are more or less serious. There are also a handfull of bigger companies that are more serious, but they are a bit harder to reach out through. Some of the smaller actors will use the bigger ones to distribute the music. For the musician, it doesn’t matter which distributor that you use from an economical view. The smaller actors will give you a larger piece of their shares. On the other hand the bigger actors has a larger share to start with and your smaller part of that larger share would be about the same size.
Peter told us about how the earnings from the music is distributed today. The writer of the song is given one part of the earnings. In Sweden, this is handled by a company called STIM. There is also a part of the earnings that will be given to the person who owns the master record of the song. That is, the person who has recorded the song. Most people don’t know this, and a lot of the bigger record companies will take this part without telling the actual keeper of the master record. Quite often, the artist has made the recording and is the actual keeper of the record master, but they will not get the earnings from that.
If you distribute your own music, you can create a distribution code that will assert that this part of the earnings is given to you. This can be done by ordering an ISRC code. In Sweden, this is done through IFPI. The fee is around $50, and that is a one time fee. The person who owns the ISRC code that is set on a recording is the person who gets the earnings from the master part when the music is played on the radio.
When you chose a distributor you have to check how the payment terms. You need to know if the fee is paid annually, or if it is a one time fee. Also, you should be sure that you can use your own ISRC code. Then it’s up to you to pick the one of your liking.
After this Peter talked a while about contracts. He stated that a serious music company will never make the artist pay anything for a contract. A lot of actors on the market will make you pay a sum to get your music into their record companies. Peter claimed that since the music made so much money (if it is played) that a record company wouldn’t need to take money from the artist to survive. After all, it is the artist who make their money. A personal reflection about this is that the music has to be rather good to generate money, right?
A couple of things to think about before signing any contract was to make sure that it didn’t last too long. When you are given a contract – let a legal advisor take a look at it before signing it. You should never sign a contract without taking it home and reading it through carefully. By the old standard, musicians were given around 5% of the record company’s earnings from that artist, but nowadays that figure is around 15%. It’s important that you’re not too greedy when you bargain for your contract. If the record company thinks that they don’t make enough money from you, they will not do too much to make you succeed.
Spotify saves a lot of statistics about who is listening to your music. If you manage to get 250 followers on your band account, you can “claim” the band name. Then you will get access to even more statistics about who is listening to your music. You will also become the owner of the band name, and if someone else creates a band with the same name they will not have the same access.
Peter also told us a bit about how Spotify creates their lists and which day is better to make your releases (friday!). He also told us that Spotify has more power every day in Sweden. Spotify used to listen to the radio to see which songs that should be on the lists. Nowadays, the radio looks to Spotify to see what records to play.
The last part of the lecture was about PR. How to promote your music. Peter stated that a good network was the best tool today. You also need to be visible in social media. He gave us advice in how to use Spotify to reach out to more people. There is no need to be in all social media, but Peter suggested to at least be on Facebook and Instagram. You should also keep a newsletter. You are aware that you can leave your mail address on this page to get my blog posts as a news letter, right?
We also talked a bit about the Eurovision song contest and how the artist were controlled in the processes when the winner is chosen. Apparently, the artist have to pay a lot themselves to use special effects on the stage. If there is no record company to back them up. Also, very few of the “private person” songs will ever reach the show. We received a lot of information.
All in all, it was a very interesting lecture that I accidentally found. Great!