Am I Allowed to Tell An Artist Their Music Sucks?

Fri Oct 22 2021
Peter Åstedt

For inspiration to o write this column today, I just randomly went through my recent emails. This is just of one of the many I receive on a regular basis, but many of them have the same theme.  Since so many make the same mistakes, I thought I would use this one as an example so I will hide whoever sent it and any other personal information.

- My name is “insert artist name here*-  I'm one half of *bandname*, Indie Folk duo.
My new single "*single name*" comes out on October 20th, and I'd love to send it over to you to check out prior to its release.  Getting in touch with anyone at your publication about my music would be beyond a dream.

The Old Boys Club Must Be Disbanded

Fri Oct 15 2021
Peter Åstedt

I’m fascinated every time that there is a change in the industry it’s always inundated with people that think they actually have something important in the industry to say, but in reality, probably would be better off doing something else and have nothing to do with what is the new reality in the business.

I had a long conversation with a school the other day that educates students to prepare to work in the music industry. I have bumped into these students many times and are quite fascinated over how little they know about the industry. Most of the things they talk about are things that were relevant at least twenty years ago, or so basic that you can pick it out of any schoolbook or online.  In theory, students from this school are driven because they are interested in the business, but you have to just tell them to forget everything they learned and start all over if you hire them.

You Need Knowledge To Know How to Export Music

Fri Oct 08 2021
Peter Åstedt

During the pandemic, we have opened up too many digital meeting points so now everybody thinks they can export music. People are throwing around words like “export ready” and think they know what they are talking about.

Sorry, I can already tell you that most of these people have no clue what they are talking about. Just because they got a meeting online with a dude on the other side of the world, they think they are ready to send anything, anywhere.

Most of them also act like parents to the artists. Tell an A&R that the artist will have their parents along and they get a grim look on their face. You know that whatever you say to the parent they still think their kid is the best that hit the music industry since Elvis Presley. Their kid is unique and just great. What you actually see is a kid that can sing ok but has no other talent whatsoever. Same here with the exporters. They come up with hopeless cases with no songs that can play ok but don’t even how to conduct a soundcheck in the right manner.

We Will Soon Be Out Of Stars

Fri Oct 01 2021
Peter Astedt

We recently lost Charlie Watts, the drummer of The Rolling Stones. I just read a review from The Rolling Stones first concert on the postponed world tour from Atlanta. The journalist that was there said that the new drummer did a good job, but couldn’t replace Charlie and in his eyes The Rolling Stones were dead.

I guess we will see a lot of this in the near future. Yesterday’s stars are still the stars; we really aren’t  producing many more household names. Or yesterday I read more twenty years ago. I already had said a little while ago  in early 2000 that we haven’t produced any household names in late of the 90’s. Then both Britney Spears and Eminem got on and suddenly we got back with a lot of household names during the next years.

Now it seems like we are back in the position that we were in the late 90’s. Suddenly, there is no new household names. The question this time is it just one of these moments in time? Is it because of COVID? Or is it a result of the new trends of social media where you are just famous inside a bubble of certain people?

Most Played Artist Doesn’t Make You A Successful Artist

Fri Sep 24 2021
Peter Astedt

The big news here in Sweden was that a “famous” artist was arrested for robbery and extortion yesterday. Nothing really new but it proves what times  we are living in and what lies ahead.

Of course, we in Sweden have a gossip page where they discuss who this “famous” artist could be. The article said that he was one of the most listened to artists on Spotify. Of course, it just takes a couple of hours then the name drops on this site and ninety-nine percent of the readers on there don’t know who that artist is. Neither did I, sorry even though I have worked in the industry for over thirty years and read the most on everything. Nope, I never heard of this guy. Of course, it’s a rapper from the suburbs of Stockholm. Sure he has many streams over (100,000 million) and he was one of the most-streamed artitst last year. Still, no one outside the rapper’s community of Stockholm knows this guy which was pointed out very quickly. I guess after robbing the store he got “real” media so it would boost his career so that more people actually know who he is.

Streaming is not getting you anywhere.

They Got A Record Deal!

Fri Sep 17 2021
Peter Åstedt

I was talking to a local politician. Suddenly they started to  brag about some local act and told me that this artist will get somewhere because they signed a record deal with a company abroad. Yes, the person was middle-aged;  they usually are. The truth is that signing a record deal is not the same as it was in the eighties. Still many people that are not familiar with the music industry or haven’t worked in it for the past five years still see a record deal with glittering eyes. To be honest it’s so far from that.

First, that record deal they were bragging about we don’t know anything about it.  A foreign record label can be anyone putting up a homepage and buying some streams.  In fact, most of them are that way. There are very few companies that have the power and money to make the global campaigns that are needed.

Digital Can’t Deliver The Live Experience

Fri Sep 10 2021
Peter Åstedt

I was on my first in real ‘live in person’ conference last week, Mastering the Music Business (RO). The first one in almost 2 years.

I did some rookie mistakes like forgot to bring my business cards and my power bank for my phone. It was great though; I did more business than I have done in the past 1.5 years in just one day of the physical conference. It’s all true; you need to meet people face to face to make the more groundbreaking business and connections.

And I should know since the pandemic started, I have been on an online conference each once a week, sometimes two. I just calculated that I have attended around 84 of them. The problem is that nothing really happens. You get into business direct and just talk business, but no business is really done. I talked to a lot of people at the MMB conference, and they had the same opinion, well that could be biased since we were all so glad to be back again in the live environment.

The Music Industry Starts to Open Up

Fri Sep 03 2021
Peter Åstedt

I am writing this in the airport on my way to Bucharest, Romania to the showcase festival Mastering the Music Business. This is my first live attendance at an event in just over a year and a half and it feels strange to be on a airport again.

I'm really glad to be going and given the opportunity to make it happen. I'm still amazed how the global entertainment industry is still in hard lockdown. While I sit in the terminal you can just see clearly how the politicians just count us as something extra that is not important; the theory being music, especially live music, is just something you can be without and not an essential part of life.  If I would go forward with an event in Sweden right now, I'm only allowed to have 50 people in the audience, seated with 1.5 meters apart, if you serve alcohol. Currently, right in front of me, are at least 80 people crammed in the bar drinking alcohol. If I put a girl with a guitar in there would it suddenly be considered unsafe?

Now we are crammed in a totally full to capacity plane. If I stand up and sang a song would all these people get COVID?

The Magic Of A Good Songwriter

Fri Aug 27 2021
Peter Åstedt

This is a story about a new song that I will share with you This message was from an artist I used to work with around ten years ago. “Fun!”, I thought, it’s always fun to see if someone has evolved as an artist, especially in this case since I haven’t really had any contact just followed what he was doing online from time to time.

I took a listen to the link. I can also kill a myth here. Yes, I usually listen to everything I get in. The thing is that I don’t really have time to respond to all things I get in. If something is interesting, I will get back to the artist but just having conversations around stuff that is not interesting is just taking part of my precious time. And most people in the business are doing the same. They listen but rarely have time to answer anything back.

The Current Threats to the Music Industry

Fri Aug 20 2021
Peter Åstedt

The changes to the music industry are not just the COVID situation. You must consider also climate change as a part of the new industry. Tonight another city in Sweden was flooded and all roads were cut off, the fifth just the past month. And these floodings are nothing  compared to the flooding in Europe or in Chine earlier in the summer. At the same time, there are big fires in Greece and Turkey. Canada and USA had their fires earlier that were also devasting. All these factors will affect the music industry.

What Level Are You On As An Artist?

Fri Aug 06 2021
Peter Åstedt

I am always amazed at how stupid you can ever be in this business. Just got a message on social media about our festival from a random dude with Hello, and then a link to a page. You can see the page is booking agency. Just by curiosity, I went out there to look. The page holds around a hundred lookalike artists.

First of all, a festival normally is not looking for a look-a-like artist or impersonator. They probably have access to the real deal if the artist is still alive. This is more for cheap weddings, birthday parties  and boat cruises, still usually the standards of these bands are better than this. Obviously, nothing appealing for the festival. I just sent the dude back a link to the application site, the worst thing would be that he applied with a hundred utterly bad look-a-like acts.

Then I directly get a message back, what fee can we get? I just wanted to write back, for real if you pay me 1000 euros, I will consider having mercy on one of your acts. I didn’t of course;  I used the standard answer, I didn’t reply at all.

Being an Artist is Being an Entrepreneur

Fri Jul 30 2021
Peter Åstedt

To be an artist is like running a business. Any business; it’s not anything special just because it’s about music though many want you to believe that. As an artist you will face the same obstacles as any entrepreneur that starts a restaurant or landscaping you name it, you are all in the same boat.

With that in mind, I just can’t understand why people try to make it so magical. If you start a restaurant where the food is mediocre, but you are in a place where a lot of people pass by. Yes, you will make the restaurant  go round. It won’t be famous; people won’t talk about it, but it fulfills its purpose. I guess this will be like a the troubadour in the music industry. Yes, you play at different places, but you play old hits in the corner. Nothing wrong with it but people won’t talk about it in that kind of sense. You get your money but there are thousands of these people playing what people want to hear as entertainment.

Don’t Plan, Be Prepared!

Fri Jul 23 2021
Peter Åstedt

Currently I am receiving all these emails from artists that have sent in applications to play at my festival, Future Echoes. Of course with the COVID situation and the fact that we closed the application on the last day of June, we are in the middle of the process of compiling the last artists for the festivals. As predictable as the sun always coming up in morning,  you get the letters from artists that want to know if they were accepted or not. Actually, these letters started to come even two months before we had even closed the application process.

Most actually do make a crucial mistake though. I understand that they want to have an answer if they are playing or not but there are ways to do that. Most write a nice mail saying that they want to know because they need to plan their trip. You might think this is a good reason to send an email and kind of professional to care about their gigs and applications.

Digital Is Over in So Many Ways

Fri Jul 16 2021
Peter Åstedt

People are going crazy to try to save their digital enterprises right now. Sorry to have to break the news to you but digital is not working in the music industry. The digital summits and showcases we had online were just to keep up with something at a time when live events were not allowed.

So far, it’s been a very few that I thought were good, and you saw that it was getting harder and harder to get people to log in to different online communities to be on there. The tragic part is that the only one I have heard taking on the positive about these digital events is the organizers. Mainly because there is a lot of funding to get if you are digital edition, second, it’s much easier for you  as you can gather a lot of people from around the world with just emailing and social media.

Problem with this is that, yes. you get funding, but you can’t get paid for doing it. The conferences I went to that cost money were very seldom occupied, most people in there were the people that got free tickets because they were speakers or friends with the organizer. Many of the events were free or you could decide the prize yourself.

Vacation? What Is That?

Fri Jul 09 2021
Peter Åstedt

Right now, when I do my send-outs, I get an auto-reply from people that say they are on vacation. Especially in Sweden where it seems like we are shutting down the whole country during July. Yes, having five weeks vacation in a row in the summer is a must if you live in Sweden. Not for me though, I work in the music industry.

What Do You Have To Offer?

Fri Jul 02 2021
Peter Åstedt

Do you really have something to offer? This question needs to be asked in so many different ways and forms. People today give out music, but is that really something to offer? I was doing a funny video for my friends and was amazed about how many free pictures and music was out there for my project. And most of them are really great. Made by people in their spare time who just want to share what they have filmed or composed. And for my project that was enough. I found what I needed and put it together.

Of course, this was a hobby thing. If I worked on Netflix and did a bigger TV-series these pictures or music might not be up in the top-notch material, they need to compete in their channels. Of course, they pay to get the best material as well. The problem is that most of the material that is offered is in the hobby quality that I used.

The Music Industry Screwed Me!

Fri Jun 25 2021
Peter Åstedt

You always hear about people saying that they got screwed by the music industry. Yes, the music industry is a very competitive environment so don’t think it’s a nine to five place. And yes, there is always some shady stuff, but not really more shady than in any other business. What is actually more common is that people are screwing themselves because of their own lack of knowledge.

The biggest problem in the music industry is that it’s too easy to just start a business and claim that you are part of the industry. No education, no credentials, nothing. Even with an education, you still need an extended amount of networks and a genuine interest in how things are developing to be considered valid in the industry. The problem is that many just think this is a bit more competitive nine to five work, when in actuality it is a lifestyle.

So who screws who in the industry?

Understanding the ”No Filter” World

Fri Jun 18 2021
Peter Åstedt

Before in the industry, there were filters for everything. Like when an artist recorded in a studio there was a producer that made decisions. Then the producer took it to the record label and they made decisions. The record label took it to the distributor, and they had their opinions. Not optimal for sure, many of the complaints back in the days were a long time between when the artist had recorded a song until it actually was out on the market. Another complaint was that much of the artist's work was changed by different opinions, right or wrong.

All that has changed. Today an artist can record in the day and get it out to the audience the same minute the song is finished. That is why the demo is no longer exists. Demo was the song roughly recorded for different people in the chain to give comments, so they didn’t have to get back and do it again. Today with all digital it’s so easy to change you consider everything release ready, the demo is gone.

How To Make the Most Out of a Showcase Festival

Fri Jun 11 2021
Peter Åstedt

So, you got booked to a Showcase Festival or are planning to attend one. Congratulations if you got booked and great if you plan to visit one, good choice. In this part of Showcase Festivals for Dummies, I will go guide you through the dos and dont’s of how to make the most out of a Showcase Festival.

Firstly, don’t overdo it. Many artists get really excited that they will get a show at a Showcase Festival and suddenly they are planning a show of a lifetime. Yes, its can be an opportunity of a lifetime but the people that are going to see you want to see what they get. So, if you book a small choir of singers for the background vocals and an extra person on the saxophone, yes, it will sound great and be amazing on stage, but for the professionals, we will think “okay, the promo picture showed four people in the band do we really need the other extra eight? That will be a massive cost in transportation. Try to make a great show that you can re-create every time. So even if it’s tempting for this time using some fireworks, if it’s not in the show every time just skip the extravaganza, be excellent at everything else.

How Do You Get Picked For A Showcase Festival?

Fri Jun 04 2021
Peter Åstedt

I guess this is one of the more important and pertinent articles that are in my series if you are trying to get accepted as a Showcase act at a Festival. If you have not already read them check out Pt. 1 and Pt 2 of the series Showcase Festivals for Dummies.

How do you secure a spot on a Showcase Festival?

Even though Showcase Festivals usually don’t pay any or at best a minimum fee, they still get a lot of applications. A midsize festival can get around 1500 to 2000 applications. How do you stand out when there are so many other artist’s applications?  I have been working on many Showcase Festivals over the years and they all deal with it differently. And yet, some things never change.