In partnership with *SCAPE
It’s not just about the music. That’s something every musician eventually learns as their career grows: besides the hard artistic graft that goes into crafting songs, albums and performances, there is a whole ecosystem supporting you and your art that you can work to your advantage – if you understand it.
The music industry can appear like a daunting monolith for a young artist who’s just trying to get their voice out there. But the good news is that there are always resources for someone looking to get stuck in.
This month, Singaporean musicians can look to *SCAPE Music Day Out!, a hybrid event that will host live performances but also several informative panels on various facets of the music industry. At this conference, industry professionals – many of whom, mere years ago, were also just greenhorns looking to learn – will share their experiences with an aim to educate and nurture new, passionate artists.
Here are three things that *SCAPE Music Day Out! will cover this year that young artists at the start of their careers should give some thought to.
Marketing and distributing your music
If an artist drops an album and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Having to think about ‘marketing’ your music when it’s already been such a journey to create it can feel exhausting and draining. But when barriers to entry for musicians are lower than ever, thinking about how you’ll effectively get your music out there is really half the battle.
It may seem hard to get a foothold on marketing and distribution in a musical landscape made porous by the internet and social media – where, say, a casual rap track from the Philippines can go global thanks to a TikTok dance. But borders, cultural differences, national tastes and market preferences still remain relevant and shouldn’t be discounted.
On day one of *SCAPE Music Day Out!, a trio of panellists from Vietnam, Myanmar and Hong Kong will discuss how artists can hone in on emerging markets and the importance of discerning dominant streaming services, media and venues to get their music heard by specific audiences. Find out more at the Tackling Emerging Markets panel on October 18.
How branding and storytelling can help you reach a dedicated audience
In our relentlessly visual culture, it’s not uncommon to encounter skepticism towards branding and desire for something ‘authentic’ – even though ‘authenticity’ is increasingly becoming a brand unto itself.
Instead of thinking about branding in terms of tangible objects and labels – the type of clothes you’ll wear, the genres (or microgenres) you’ll tag yourself with – reconsider branding as something in service of storytelling. Tales and narratives are what capture readers and listeners, potentially for life. What story do you want to tell with your music and your artistry?
This is a tricky question that artists – even the greats – grapple with over the course of their careers, and something that labels, publicists and managers have to help artists answer. The sooner you start thinking about it, though, the sooner you’ll be able to focus your efforts in one productive, distinct direction.
Middle Class Cigars label head Raphael Ong remembers, in his early days running the label and working with its artists Sobs and Subsonic Eye, “spending so much energy every day worrying about how people would perceive us” – energy that could have been channelled instead into refining and executing one’s own vision.
“I’ve come to learn that no one cares more about you or your artist than yourself,” he tells NME. “It’s a difficult pill to swallow, but once I let go of worrying about everything, I realised that more could be put into serving the art and work… I am more focused on building a strong foothold and knowledge of the niche audience I can trust.”
Ong will speak more about branding, storytelling and cultivating an audience at *SCAPE Music Day Out!’s Artist Management panel on October 20 – find out more then.
Finding your own songwriting voice
Is making music an art or science? Some may consider it a purely creative pursuit, while others may hone in on the more technical side of things. But one thing that can ease the pressure for young songwriters is remembering that it’s both, and that there are no right answers – there is only what works for you.
When he was just starting out in his songwriting and production career, Josh Wei – who is signed to Universal Music Publishing Group and is a managing partner at Singapore’s Snakeweed Studios – says he was “very preoccupied with things sounding ‘correct’”.
“I’d listen to the charts and try to emulate the approach and techniques they used too literally,” he reveals. “I wish I had learnt sooner the importance of character and identity. Any legitimate artist does not endeavour to sound exactly like another artist.”
Wei will join other songwriter-producers at the *SCAPE Music Day Out! panel Songwriting In The Big Leagues on October 19, where they will also share insights about lending their talents to other musicians via work with publishing companies.
“A successful songwriter-publisher relationship is when both parties work hard for each other,” Wei says. It’s important, he thinks, to have a strong understanding of what you want out of a deal with a publisher: “Be clear on what you’re looking for and whether you think they are the right fit for you… Once you sign, there’s no going back.”