One of my strongest passions these days is helping artists, songwriters, aspiring entrepreneurs and others in this business take the right steps in order to make that next big career or business move. Whether it be talent/material evaluation, education about the industry and how to succeed within it, assistance on a specific matter, or serving as a mentor providing general guidance and direction, I work with singers, musicians, songwriters, DJ artists, bands, managers and others in almost all aspects of their careers, including:
- Career Direction & Strategy
- Live Performance
- Song Material
- Internet Marketing
- Writing It Right
- Business Management
- Music Industry Education & Networking
For general information on how I work, Click Here. For more specifics regarding each area of interest listed above, please read on.
Career Direction & Strategy
While opportunities are actually growing for artists and songwriters in this business, so too is the competition. It’s fierce–on an unprecedented level. That’s really no secret, and it’s why a sound medium to long-term career strategy is an absolute must.
A strategy that has real potential for success first requires undertaking an honest self-assessment.
Here I can really help you. We’ll first take a serious look at your current talent level, your material, your career goals and your present circumstances. This, in combination with my help adding to your understanding of the industry and market realities, will provide the foundation upon which we can develop an appropriate, effective strategy and discuss tactics that make sense for you to adopt going forward.
You’ll have a map of what steps to take, when and how to take them, and a realistic time frame for reaching your medium and longer term goals. This is probably the smartest investment any artist can make in the formative stage of their career.
How much will this reality check and strategy planning cost? A lot less than you might think. But, the more pertinent question has to be how much will it cost in wasted time, money and effort if you pursue your dream without going through such a process. A lot more, trust me.
Live performance is key to any act’s long-term success. Whether you are a solo artist or a group, it takes a lot more than just being good at your musical craft to wow an audience and get the attention of industry .
I’m continually astounded by how little most musicians, singers and bands–even really good ones–seem to know about how to engage an audience, hold them, and have them clamouring for more. As the veteran live music producer Tom Jackson says, it’s all about connecting emotionally with the crowd and creating unforgettable “moments.” Simply recreating the recorded versions of your songs on stage won’t do that. That’s because a live show is much more than an audio experience for the audience–it is also very much visual and visceral.
While there are some things you can pick up by observing other seasoned acts in terms of their use of gestures, on-stage patter, stage positioning, body movement, and so on, personal coaching can speed up that learning and assimilation process. Just as importantly, it will teach you other critical elements of successful live performance, such as how to build a song visually as well as musically; how to read an audience, develop charisma and be spontaneous; how to use your rehearsal time most effectively; and how to avoid performance no-no’s.
These are the sorts of things I want every performance artist I work with to be thinking about and putting into practice. I will look at every aspect of your show, explain what’s working and what isn’t, and why–all with the aim of taking the most direct route to moving it to the next level.
No matter how accomplished you are as an artist, your success is going to be as much about your public image as your music. This is all about people, including industry, being able to identify with you. You can only connect with, retain and grow your audience by creating a firm identity as an artist. An unestablished artist accomplishes this by first defining their act in relation to genre and style. Everything else springs from there. My role is to look at who you are, both in terms of the person (or band) and the music, then work with you to develop a consistent and effective image for successful branding as an act. Key in this process is finding ways to separate you from the competition. During this process we’ll look at your public and on-stage persona, as well as elements of marketing and promotion, like graphic design, photos, verbiage, merchandise, and so on.
Ultimately, the aim is to develop an appropriate image that appeals and to stick with it, in order for the public and industry to be able to readily associate and remember you. Over time, that recognition factor will grow, and with it your career.
At the end of the day, it’s really all about the songs. Without good material you can’t forge a connection with the listening public, and it will be that much more difficult to get noticed by industry.
Artists are prone to being too close to their own works to gain proper perspective on the material without appropriate outside feedback. Sometimes they fail to even recognize the value in stepping back and going through a bona fide process of evaluation. Hopefully you get that it’s critically important to take a good look at the merits of your originals, as well as the selection of cover tunes you may be doing.
I critique song material and make suggestions to do with both music and lyrics, with an eye to the individual or band taking their repertoire to a whole new level in terms of quality and appeal. Many fixes are simple to implement; others may require an approach you possibly haven’t considered. An objective assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your writing will bring to focus what needs to be done, and how to get there. Perhaps it will entail working with a songwriting coach, or teaming up with a composer, lyricist or arranger. Some artists have done well by looking to talented writers who aren’t yet on industry’s radar as a source of some good fresh song material. It all depends on the individual circumstance. I would discuss all these options and more with you, as well as any matters of concern to do with copyright, publishing, co-writing and band song agreements.
If you are contemplating an important recording project, or are already in the planning stage, you want to be sure to go about the preparatory process with smarts. Otherwise, like so many other artists, not only will you likely end up spending more time, money and effort on the project than necessary, you run the very real risk of the end product not serving its intended purpose(s) very well (or at all).
There’s plenty more to this than just picking a studio and booking time slots. It takes coming to a clear vision of what you want the recording to accomplish for you; understanding what’s involved in the various stages of the recording process; proper planning and budgeting; bringing the right parties on board and ensuring that you have the proper agreements in place with them in order to best protect your interests during the project and after it is completed; knowing how to find the right recording/mixing/mastering facility; a wise choice of song material; and adequate preparation for your time in the studio.
My role is to see that you know what you need to know in order to obtain a satisfactory result and that you don’t spend any more money on it than you really need to. I’ll look at the project from every angle, suggesting options for you to consider as well as ideas that I believe will serve the project well. We may be able to accomplish this in one consultation session, or you may want me available periodically as the project progresses. It all depends on your needs and budget.
If you have existing tracks you would like evaluated, I am available to provide a critique of whatever elements of the recordings, including the song material, you want feedback on. Depending on the number of tracks, this can usually be done in an hour or two.
Online marketing is an essential cornerstone of every independent performing/recording artist’s strategy for success. Yet, in a recent survey of artists conducted by top Internet music marketing coach John Oszajca, only 1% of the participants said that a majority of their album sales were coming from their mailing list. I’m sure this figure would shock any online marketing professional, but it doesn’t really surprise me. Why? Because I know that very few artists really understand the fundamentals of Web-based marketing.
Knowing what makes for successful DIY online marketing will pay you big dividends. There’s more to it than simply having a presence on social media and artist community sites. If your efforts aren’t bringing the results you had hoped for in terms of growing your fan base, gaining loyal customers and generating revenue, then there is no better time than now to re-think what you’re doing. Let me show you how you can leverage the power of the Web to help you reach and grow your target audience by showing you what you’re not doing that you should; where to improve on the things that you are already doing; where you should be prioritizing your time; and steering you in the right direction as to how to bring all the pieces of the puzzle into place to make it happen.
By the way, the same survey also revealed that only 7% of the respondents were selling more than 1000 albums a year. If you’ve already reached and surpassed that sales level, that’s great; but there’s undoubtedly Web-related marketing resources you’re still not using or taking full advantage of. If you fall in with the other 93%, then becoming savvy about marketing online isn’t really an option any more–it’s a must.
Understandably, for independent artists on tight budgets, spending money on such things doesn’t hold much appeal. Fortunately, most elements of promotion really don’t need to involve much in the way of expense in order to be effective if undertaken with a well-thought-out strategy and a willingness to make the time commitment.
My focus with clients, then, is making sure they know what realistic options they have, what those options involve, and that they use their time and money wisely. I will assess the merits of whatever promotional activities you are currently doing or considering, focus in on what you really should be doing with the aim of having you do it well and cost-effectively, and direct you to resources that are at your disposal for the actual implementation.
Does it make sense to fork out money for this or that paid advertising opportunity? Is the look, content and functionality of your Website working for or against you? Does your situation justify making the financial commitment to attend that major out-of-town industry conference? Is this the time to bring a publicist on board? Is it necessary to hire someone to create an effective Internet presence? Let’s address these and any other such promotion-related questions you may have or ought to be thinking about in your present circumstance.
Contrary to that old familiar saw, contracts are worth far more than the paper they are printed on. I could go on about the reasons for this, but suffice it to say that a properly constructed written agreement is an absolute must when it comes to any important relationship between two or more parties.
Agreements don’t always have to be lengthy or rife with officious legalize; but no matter what, you do want them to serve their primary purpose well–i.e., to lay out clearly the mutual understanding of the parties as it relates to whatever is being promised.
Having to deal with a contract proposal can be an intimidating experience, even for the veteran artist or composer. Over more than three decades in this business I’ve drafted, reviewed, edited and negotiated hundreds of written agreements of many types, and brokered my share of deals on behalf of my companies as well as industry clients. Bring the matter to me if you need to get a comfort zone around what’s being proposed and whether the deal makes sense for you. I’ll show you how it should be fashioned to best protect your interests now and down the road, and if called upon will also help put together any counter-proposal and assist in the negotiation process. I am available for a one-time consultation, or right through until the deal is sealed.
Writing It Right
When it comes to getting industry players, media, and other allies on board, first impressions are critical. In many cases, people’s initial introduction to you will be through the written word, whether it be content on your Website or social media page, your promo kit bio, a press release, correspondence you’ve sent, or whatever.
It is important for you to come across as someone who is purposeful as well as professional in the way you go about your career activities. What you say, and how you say it, will go a long way toward creating a positive image in the mind of whoever the reader might be.
When I review a client’s written material, my immediate aim is to make improvements so that it works optimally for the intended purpose. But beyond that, I see my role as one of empowering the individual to become a more effective communicator. Ultimately, the goal has to be to make sure whatever you create now and in the future resonates with readers and reflects well on you. In this regard, then, learning where weaknesses lie in your material and understanding the rationale for suggested changes can only lead to greater self-confidence in how you present yourself to the world going forward.
Your career is a business. As soon as you do that first paid gig or release that first song track, you’re in business. Managing this aspect of your career as it grows can become a pretty daunting task.
There is another kind of management person in this industry besides the personal artist manager. That person is called the business manager. While the artist manager guides the artist in his/her career and plays many roles, it’s the job of the business manager to take care of the business side of things.
As an artist, you want to be able to focus on creating and performing. If you are starting to earn significant income and you need help managing your financial affairs and the paperwork, bringing an experienced person on board to fill this role may be the smartest move you could make at this juncture of your career. A music artist’s business manager handles the cash flow, makes sure the bills get paid and that career-related property is properly registered and protected, monitors each of the deals that are in place to make sure the other party is fulfilling their financial and reporting obligations, and generally keeps the books and records in order. This leaves you more time to get on with the things you really want to be doing. But I take it a big step further.
I provide advice on where it might make sense to reconsider your priorities in terms of where you are spending your money, and can include many of the other elements of career coaching listed on this page. Thus, while what I can offer in a business management package isn’t exactly personal artist management, it isn’t far removed in many ways. And just like an artist manager, I would have a vested interest in working with you to see that your success continues and grows. Contact me if you think it might make sense for you at this stage of your career and we’ll discuss an arrangement that is a good fit for both of us.
Music Business Education & Networking
David Ellefson of Megadeth once said that sharpening the survival skills you need to succeed in the music business is every bit as important as becoming a good musician. That’s a pretty profound statement, when you stop to think about it.
Surviving in this business is a lot about educating yourself. There’s much to know about things like who does what in this industry, what it takes to establish and maintain strong working relationships, protecting your interests, using your time and money efficiently, and so on.
I taught a music biz course at a local college over the past few years dealing with just such topics and for a while now I’ve been thinking about how I could also help artists and writers who don’t reside locally learn more about this industry and how to survive and thrive within it. To this end, along with two extensive industry-related book projects that are nearing completion, I’m looking at developing an interactive membership site. This site will have many features allowing artists and writers to interact with me as well as their member peers.
For those based in the Greater Vancouver area, consider joining one or both of the local music-oriented Meetup groups of which I am the organizer: the Vancouver Music Artists Meetup Group or the Vancouver Musician Meetup Group. They are free to join. Events of interest, both performance-based and educational, are periodically posted by myself and members. You’ll be able to post information on your events. too, and be automatically notified of every upcoming event.
How I Work
I provide general and case-specific advice, assistance, mentoring and support. One-on-one sessions are either in person, by phone, or by Skype, whichever is most convenient or feasible. Except for critiques (evaluation of specific song material, sound recordings, music videos, etc.), I charge on a per-hour or project fee basis, whichever is appropriate in the circumstance, and accept several forms of payment, including Bitcoin.
Take advantage of a rare one-on-one opportunity to get an industry professional’s outside perspective on your career or business, and gain clarity on what action you need to be taking regarding that next step or important project you’re involved in. You’ll come away with a renewed outlook, lots to think about and concrete ideas to apply to your particular circumstance.
Contact me if your goal is to make smart decisions that will lead to savings of money, effort and time.
For more information on my service, rates and getting in touch with me by phone Click Here, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Graham has proved invaluable, especially in helping me better understand contracts and prepare for deal negotiations on behalf of my bands. He’s been a great option in many situations to consulting expensive entertainment lawyers.” – Cody Robinson, artist manager
“I found my meeting with Graham not only enlightening but essential for creating my band’s future game plan. His knowledge of the music business is an asset to whomever chooses to utilize his services.” – Scott Holman, artist
“Thanks very much for your [FACTOR grant proposal] edit. Your advice has been very helpful throughout this whole project and I appreciate the extra time you’ve put in. Your revisions are sound and I intend to use pretty much all of them.” – Dan Mangan, artist
“It was the perfect timing in my career and one of the best decisions I made as a DJ and recording artist. Graham’s professional expertise gave me invaluable information and opened my perspective on the music business and professional contracts.” – Moiez, DJ and recording artist
“Graham helped me take a step back and gain perspective on the different stages of my music career. He reviewed my live show, album, website and promotional materials and offered helpful, insightful feedback and advice.” – Jocelyn Pettit, artist
“I should have paid you 10 times what you charged me for our one and a half hour session, because it was worth thousands…. It’s the best few dollars I’ve ever invested. Thanks for the truth, even though it hurt at times!” – Mike Smith, artist
“I have referred to Graham several personal clients and other artists who have really benefitted from his knowledge and straight-up approach. I even consult with him myself on occasion, particularly when it comes to deal negotiations and contracts.” – Debora Nortman, Abaca Entertainment Group
“Graham changed my view of the industry, which led to a drastic change of career moves. I would advise anyone to consult Graham before committing to a contract.” – Stephen Kwei
“Graham’s expertise and professionalism were invaluable as my client and I navigated a complicated distribution deal recently. He used a critical eye to ensure we ended up with a strong contract that covered the musician’s interests. I would not hesitate to recommend him to any of my clients in the music business.”
– Rae-Anne Morin, R.A.M. Media & Promotions
“For any artist who is looking to take their career to the next level, Graham Way can help. He is extremely knowledgable about the music industry and will level with the artist on exactly what he or she needs to work on and how to go about it. I definetely reccommend his services.” – Lars Anderson, artist
“Graham was very beneficial for our band and led us to make some significant decisions which we believe will be very helpful to furthering our career as recording artists. His level of understanding with respect to the music business as well as the dynamics of global distribution, marketing and plain common sense was impressive. I would not hesitate to recommend any band or solo artist look into at least one consultation meeting with Graham. It could lead to a much more solid future in music and help avoid some very costly pitfalls that would drain time, energy and money away.” – Pete Mason, Myztery