01.06.15 - No. 9

5 things you learn running a music enterprise

1. Money isn't the motivation

I co-run Preciptoman, a label promoting my own music and that of my friends; weird, left of centre rap music that doesn't like to socialise much. The idea of having a label always seemed cool,  but ultimately pretty mysterious. As a teenager and early twenty something it seemed like something you should have as a stamp of legitimacy as an unsigned artist. But I never really knew what that meant, or actually entailed. Soon I thought that it was just a bit of nonsense that was just thrown around by kids stroking their own egos.

But then no one would book our band, Adventures Of..., so we started running our own nights. From the small amount of money we earned from that night we bought a clunky printer for CDs, now we could design and print artwork into our CDRs. We hit up local shops and struck up deals with them to give away our mix cd, helping to promote the event, everyone who brought a pair of jeans or whatever got our CD too. Then a long while later we realised we never heard the music we liked on the radio, so we started our own radio program, Paper Cuts Radio, inviting artists and industry figures to talk about how they survived. Around the same time we started delivering workshops, and these have been a fantastic way to share creativity. We bought a microphone and digital camera with the event kitty, upped our recording quality and enabling us to shoot simple music videos. Through all of these we learned a huge amount.

The key motivation behind all our efforts were to introduce people to our music and to meet other members of our tribe. Money had to be made along the way, to buy recording gear, that cd printer, and to try and remunerate artists and musicians who worked with us. We had to think of creative and socially valuable ways for us to introduce us to an audience, from a starting point of no money. No investors. We had to do whatever we could for next to nothing or from money we'd scraped together from the day job. Music was and is the motivation that frames every venture we get ourselves into, and necessity drives you into unexpected experiences.

2. Start building your customer list early

Not got a mailing list? Stop reading this and go get one,  we use mail chimp. There are countless others. Go do it. If you're a champion on Facebook,  Twitter or Instagram that's great,  but if they close down tomorrow and you haven't done all you can to retain your following, ie get them on the mailing list, you've lost them. We've lost countless leads and future audience members from not passing around a simple sheet of paper at the end of a gig. Mailing list mailing list mailing list. Next point, don't spam. Get creative here, people will need a really good reason to give you their email address, so know your audience and figure out what they want. Next point, back up your mailing list regularly, it's your little black book and your business.

3. Real relationships matter most

The internet is great, I spend a lot of time on it,  working on our online social networks, writing,  discovering new music and probably wasting a load of time too... But it's no substitute for getting out there,  running events,  leading workshops,  going to gigs,  presenting a radio show. That's how you build trust. That's how we've met the vast majority of all the talented and brilliant people we work with today. Being big on the Internet solely because of the Internet is a gamble I wouldn't want to stake my hopes on.

4. Your going to have to be great at things you'd never thought about

Managing a budget.  Managing multiple budgets. Hosting a radio show. Networking. Making people feel at ease. Learning how to code a website. Designing great posters. Editing video. Writing readable blogs... Running events. Making tough decisions. And then somewhere in that making the music you love. It's in doing all this that we have justified Preciptoman as more than a measure of stroking our own ego.

5. Don't quit your day job... Or do

This might be the hardest thing to decide. I always wanted something to fall back on,  so I didn't quit my day job. Instead I've been lucky enough to get employed in some jobs that have all influenced and inputted into every aspect of work that keeps Preciptoman afloat. I've managed intimate gigs for the crazily famous, inputted into development meetings for festival events, interviewed directors,  managed websites,  sold countless tickets and created engaging marketing campaigns. So I didn't quit my day job,  but I have made the advancement of Preciptoman central to everything I do.

There are countless things to do and think about just for that sole purpose of showing your music to someone you don't know and keeping those who've already discovered you happy and interested. Last words of advice, don't lose sight of the music you make, that's the most important thing. Then ask shit loads of questions and know that being busy isn't the same as being productive.

Bernard James


More info | Preciptoman 2013