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Many music business professionals, and the artists they support, are adapting to new ways of working during the Coronavirus outbreak. The music industry is demonstrating once again how versatile, innovative and determined it can be – resolutely continuing the business of music, both rising to unforeseen challenges, whilst coming together to help those in difficulty.

Some major music companies are working to provide support during the pandemic. Bandcamp waived their commission on downloads and merchandise on Friday 20 March. Live Nation set up a Crew Nation Fund and PRS for Music launched an Emergency Relief Fund. Spotify contributed to various organisations including the W.H.O, and announced a fundraising campaign, committing to match donations. Billboard have compiled a list of similar initiatives coming from the music industry and are keeping it updated.

Artists are finding incredible ways to connect with their fans in genuinely meaningful ways. James Bay is teaching guitar lessons on Instagram. Chris Martin, Pink, John Legend and countless others have live streamed performances from their homes. Secret Sessions are running an ‘In The House’ series on Instagram every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 19:00, with artists introducing us to their homes, families, pets, and music! Participants of Triple J’s new artist program, Unearthed, have been covering each other’s songs. And playlists, including ‘Quarantunes’, aim to provide strength, humour and escapism.

Producers, songwriters and performers are utilising a vast number of tools to collaborate online. Alongside standard screen-sharing and video calling platforms, an array of music specific applications are finding favour such as Soundstorming, ProCollabs, BandLab, Splice and so many more. Artists are also using this time to hone their craft further. For example, SMB alumni, Jai Ramage, a renowned vocal coach (ITV The Voice/The Voice Kids) now hosts online lessons and is even running a regular open mic night on Instagram.

As an industry we are seeing a number of trends. The picture is evolving and is often territory specific, but streaming appears to be down approximately 10%, whereas video streaming is up nearly 15%. The BBC saw radio streaming increases of 18%, and Global similarly reported a 15% growth. Perhaps the sense of community that radio provides could be an interesting consideration for DSP development in the future. Understanding these shifts and recognising new listening habits is hugely important for artists and the wider industry, so we can adapt, respond and grow in line with market changes. That’s work that is directly addressed on SMB’s up-to-date, expert led courses.

Here at SMB: The School of Music Business we’ve worked tirelessly to create an incredible online learning platform so enjoyment, studies and successful course completion can continue during the pandemic and beyond. Our online courses take place live so you can interact with your tutor and other students in real-time! With high quality video and audio, live notes, quizzes, breakout group sessions and much more - our virtual classrooms provide a genuinely immersive experience, wherever you are in the world. Details of all of our courses can be found HERE. We are also hosting free weekly ‘Music Business Question Time’ sessions, details of which can be found on the SMB Facebook page. Lastly, we would like to take this opportunity to send a message of support and solidarity to all those affected by COVID-19; those in the music industry we love, and in all communities facing this global challenge.

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

We are more aware than ever of the environmental consequences of our actions - and the music industry has begun to take steps towards becoming as environmentally sustainable as possible. Artists such as The 1975 and Billie Eilish have recently committed to make efforts to address their own impact. The following infographic shows some of the environmental costs of music (US data) through the years, and provides a fascinating insight.

I spoke to one expert, whose pioneering work has seen her become a thought leader on the topic, Gwendolenn Sharp of The Green Room. She works to make the music industry as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible. I met Gwendolenn in my work with JUMP European Music Market Accelerator, in which she is a fellow.

Matt Errington of SMB: The School of Music Business meets Gwendolenn Sharp.

Could you tell us more about the work you do with The Green Room and the positive impact it’s having?

After working for many years for various festivals, music venues, cultural organisations and environmental NGOs in France, Poland and Tunisia, I have founded a non-profit organisation called The Green Room, which develops tools and creative solutions to address a core problem, making the music industry as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible, while inspiring greater ambition and without compromising the essence of artistic field work and co-creative relations.

Besides supporting bands, managers, labels and touring agents, I am currently in the final phase of my fellowship with JUMP, a Creative Europe project supporting innovative ideas for the music industry. I am developing a Toolkit called Green Your Touring!, highlighting low-carbon tips, case studies, good practices and solutions for musicians and technicians on the road.

We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign at the MaMA Festival and Convention in Paris in order to help finance the toolkit and related activities.

Please feel free to check, support & share the Green Your Touring! campaign.

Environmental sustainability has become really important to many artists and is being discussed more than ever in the music industry. What changes can we all make, whether as business professionals or artists, to become more sustainable?

Start with something, even if it’s small. If you are in an organisation, start with a conversation with your team, and brainstorm about what could be the first steps you could take. Most events and organisation tend to try to solve the problems when they occur, but the best way to go is probably to implement long-term environmental strategies to prevent them. For artists, integrating these practices can make them more resilient to the fluctuations of the industry.

The UK has always been a great source of inspiration for us working with sustainability in the arts & culture field.

The UK has always been a great source of inspiration for us working with sustainability in the arts & culture field, with organisations such as Julie’s Bicycle (who have just received the WOMEX Professional Excellence Award 2019 for their work and commitment to environmental sustainability in the creative arts sector), Creative Carbon Scotland, A Greener Festival, Powerful Thinking… If you are an organisation, a venue, a festival, a booking agency, and don’t know where to start, you can definitely turn to them for advice and support. Thematic guides Smart Energy for Festivals and Events or the Raw Foundation’s Plastic-free Festivals and Events guide are available for free online and great sources for tips and good practices to be implemented.

Artists and organisations can also join initiatives raising awareness, advocating and taking action, like the Music Declares Emergency movement, or DJs for Climate Action, etc.

Many in the industry are making genuinely positive changes. What developments have you seen that are encouraging?

When they are aware of their environmental impact, the majority of professionals from the music industry, touring artists and crew behind the stage have limited time, information and resources, and don’t know where to get advice on how to face these issues.

The next European Forum on Music which will take place in Bonn next year will focus on “Climate Action: Music as a Driver for Change

The field of live music is caught-up in this very contradiction: the more you get your message and values across, the more physical impact it has on the environment. Bands are facing pressure to tour more and more, and it is very unsettling to try to uphold a high standard of environmental ethics with this nomadic lifestyle. Sustainability is not a trend, it is a necessity if we still want to be playing gigs on this planet in the future. We need to find creative, relevant and realistic ways to reduce this impact, tailored to the reality of the music ecosystem and short-term challenges.

On a European level, networks and organisations are also taking a step up and are advocating for change. For instance, the next European Forum on Music which will take place in Bonn next year will focus on “Climate Action: Music as a Driver for Change”.

Is there a role for the music consumer in eco-responsibility? What can fans do themselves to create change?

Definitely yes. For change to happen within the music sector, everyone, from the larger structure to the individual, needs to be moving in the same direction. In the same way festivals or artists can influence behavioural change, consumers can influence the industry. This can range from using your bike or public transport to attend an event, bringing your own reusable cup and water bottle, or being more conscious about our streaming consumption to boycotting art organisations funded by oil companies or even carbon-offsetting by donating to meaningful environmental projects.

Please support & share the Green Your Touring! campaign

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

We spoke to Jack, the founder of Alcopop! Records, about his music industry journey. Famed for innovative release formats and unique marketing techniques - from releasing a record on a bicycle format to secretly buying UKIP's website domain from under their noses and attracting international media attention in doing so - the Alcopop! Records story is a triumphant one!

Jack leads SMB's Record Label Business course, and has supported many students, embarking on their own path as label owners. But where did he start, what advice does he have, and what is the future for labels such as his?

What does an average day (if there can be such a thing!) running Alcopop! Records look like?

Well - an average day really is a rather tough thing to quantify when running an indie label - every day is different - though all of them involved an AWFUL lot of emails. I guess the thing is that when you're quantifying the whole business, there are such a wide variety of jobs to do, that there's no definitive pattern to your day. It's kinda nice though - keeps life interesting!

What’s been the most challenging part of starting or running your label, and what’s been the most rewarding part of it?

It's all about getting music you love out there - and when you can do that properly and people connect, it's absolutely the best feeling - and reward enough for all of the many challenges.

I still get ridiculously excited every time something brilliant happens. You know - when you get that really nice festival offer through, or a massive order through the shop? It's a great feeling, and it's those little daily rewards that keep on coming that make it all worthwhile. It sounds geeky, but i was a massive Championship Manager fan in my youth and running a record label is a bit like a real life version of that for kids who aren't very good at football. It's all about getting music you love out there - and when you can do that properly and people connect, it's absolutely the best feeling - and reward enough for all of the many challenges.

I used to say that money (or the lack of it) was the biggest challenge, but it's not - there are ways and means of doing an awful lot on a tiny budget - so probably the biggest challenge is time! Alcopop! Records is famed not only for it’s amazing artists, but also for it’s innovative release formats, and beautifully designed vinyl - can tell us about why this has been so important in your success and what your thoughts are on digital releases and streaming? I love aesthetics in our records, and it's important to think from a fan perspective. Would you be happy if you'd just spent your hard earned cash on 'that' release... And why would you buy it? Noone owes you anything when you run a label, and you have to make it worth their while to get involved with you... same with writers. Why should they bother writing about you? We like to think that we put exciting reasons in place for them to do so, and to make people happy.

In terms of digital and streaming, it's a vital part of the label. It goes well with physical - and gives people such a choice.

In terms of digital and streaming, it's a vital part of the label. It goes well with physical - and gives people such a choice. It's too short an interview to explain why I think all of these things fit snugly into the evolution of modern day indie labels, but it's all vital in taking things forward and making things work! Can you give artists currently seeking a label to work with any advice in how to approach a label, and stand out?

Here's my number one tip. DON'T FIND EVERY LABEL EMAIL ADDRESS YOU CAN FIND, CC THEM ALL INTO AN EMAIL AND SEND THEM AN UNFINISHED DEMO. Take your time, get yourself together and work out what you want. Don't get a label for the sake of it - and be personal. If someone is thinking about starting a label, what would be your top 3 nuggets of wisdom to impart?

Be yourself, and do it your own way! There's no set way you 'have' to run a label, and you can use all of your creativity, ideas and passion to make something really special. I'd also say - try and think long term / where do you see yourself going? It sounds business studies, but it really is important.

What should we be looking out for from Alcopop! in the coming months?

Its been a super busy 2018 so far with albums from our pals DZ Deathrays, Happy Accidents and The Spook School and lots of fun things with a load of other brilliant bands - oh and did i mention that we released a TIGERCUB 'Safe Mode' beer with Signature Brew (Alcopop177). That was fun! Coming up we've got a whole world of musical wonder from Kagoule and itoldyouiwouldeatyou, and oh - we've just signed one of my favourite bands of all time - but I can't tell you who just yet (so devious of me). Meanwhile, I've started running a side-project Anglo-Japanese label with my wonderful partner Rhi and the good folk of Vinyl Junkie (JP), and we're gearing up for some seriously cool stuff with Maison Book Girl, the ace band we bought over for a tour in May. Safe to say SMB - there's no bloody rest for me! 

Find out more about Alcopop! Records and their roster HERE

Details of Jack's course at SMB can be found HERE

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