The next interview in our DIY series where we explore the artists’ viewpoints on what problems needs fixing most urgently and how they are currently managing their careers with many new digital opportunities and market challenges, is London based Irishman and singer songwriter Daniel Ward-Murphy. Simply put, I like his stuff, but I am partial to the pure and simple acoustic sounds that take me back to my spiritual home of Oregon (also a hospitable environment for technology entrepreneurs, I might add). Daniel Ward-Murphy caught my eye as a rising star on the fan-funded site Sellaband. Given that folk is on the rise and rise again in the US, I hope that he is one artist who might showcase how DIY and authenticity with fans can work for all artists who want to make a living through music.
Angel: What does DIY artist mean to you and how do you go about it?
Daniel: I suppose in my eyes, a DIY artist is someone who perseveres with their music and then manages to make an album and attract a fanbase without the endorsement of someone from a label. You often need a big splash or a different story in order to momentarily stand out from the crowd – for me it was nearly a thousand fans believing in me enough to chip in $50,000 (through Sellaband.com) so I could make my debut solo album. There are many ways to do it, and I was overwhelmed with the response from fans to the album, but sooner or later you still need someone with the power to take you to that next level to say ‘hey, this guy is good’.
Angel: What are the current problems that need solving in order to making it easier for artists to survive and flourish without a traditional label deal?
Daniel: I think people need to hear your music and see your name quite a few times before they are interested in buying your music, attending your gigs and/or shouting from the rooftops about you. My album has fantastic digital distribution and it can be heard across many different streaming sites but I think every act needs good backing in their strongest areas, and for me that is probably the live shows and the suitability of my music for placement in other media. Unfortunately these are probably my weakest areas of backing and I need a good booking agent and a publisher that works my repertoire (so if you are reading this people….!!!?)
Angel: What are the benefits to 360 deals for artists and labels?
Daniel: I think it all depends on the people at the label and the label itself. If record companies have a cut of all of your potential revenue streams then you would hope they would be working really hard to use their contacts and improve your opportunities across the board. If they get a cut but just sit on their hands and don’t work you really hard then it is a bad and lonely place for an artist to be. It should be about the quality of music you create and the quality of your live show but it can often be about the deal you have signed and whether people are working hard for you.
Angel: What sites and tools do you use to promote gigs? To promote and market to fans? To manage fans. To distribute music or other files? To generate income? To get your music discovered?
Daniel: Everything that makes sense really. If there’s a site that plays new music to music lovers then it is another channel that can help you to reach some new fans. Personally, I use loads of sites – Sellaband, MySpace, FaceBook, thesixtyone, reverbnation, stereofame, barbands, bebo, hyves, YouTube, last.fm – too many to remember. It takes a lot of time – time that can perhaps be better spent elsewhere – but you don’t get new fans while you are rehearsing or tweaking bridges. I almost feel like the time to be luxurious with your creative time is in the future when you have really got somewhere… the right here right now is getting new songs up and running to the best of your ability and then getting them on the stages and the profiles.
Angel: If you could create any new business to help you reduce the amount of time you have to manage your career as opposed to playing music, what would that business be?
Daniel: I’m not sure. Everyone wants a piece of you – and nothing really seems to come for free. You could get someone to help you with all your music profiles and I do have some assistance, but I take pride in having personal interaction with fans and writing real posts on all these profiles. The things you crave are the tools – something that helps you update multiple statuses, something that helps you edit photos quickly and something that helps you quickly edit live recordings. These things can help you save time that can be reinvested into the creative process – artists just want to be empowered.
Angel: What are the best ways for brands and artists to work together?
Daniel: I think this is potentially the future. Forward thinking brands can take an artist, sponsor them, feature their music on their adverts and potentially (if they are good enough) help introduce them to the masses and break them. If a brand that was a good fit did that for me and I went on to have a long, successful music career I know where my gratitude would be placed. Imagine if Puma originally signed R.E.M. or Fred Perry signed Paul Weller… – what’s that mate, got a new clothing range launch? No problem…. it’s in the diary, I’ll play a free set for you… hell I’ll play two if you want.
Angel: What do you think of online music collaboration services?
Daniel: I am not that big on them to be honest. The internet is a great place to source and place new music but I am a bit of a hippie at heart, I believe there is something special about being together in a rehearsal room, in a recording or on the stage. I appreciate what they do, but they are not really for me.
Angel: Where do you go to listen to music online?
Daniel: I still use MySpace. Everyone who can play the comb is on there but there is still some great music to be found and I like the way the influences tell you where they are coming from. TheSixtyOne is a good mix of established artists and up and coming acts and I will use Spotify or iTunes to see if I want to buy a certain album.
Angel: What music mobile services do you use as a fan or an artist?
Daniel: I guess I could now be seen as proudly oldskool in this area. I simply download from lots of different paysites onto my computer, slam it on my MP3 player and have that with me everywhere I go. The likes of Spotify has changed things a bit but I want to own the music I love and I want it in my brain when I want it.
Angel: What do you think of sites like sellaband, soundcloud, audiotube, MySpace Music, We7, spoonfed, gigulate, bambuser and social networks sites like bebo, facebook and sonico?
Daniel: I can’t pretend I am familiar with them all but I am of course very familiar with Sellaband, having used it to raise $50,000 and make my debut solo album. Any sites that provide chances for deserving musicians are great in my eyes, the major labels tell you what music you should like and know how to package it like a commodity, but real music lovers aren’t stupid and connecting with these people is really rewarding. The social networking sites just widen the net and allow another communication platform – there are many artists I would like to be able to communicate with and many new and up and coming artists are putting the I’ll-sign-100-photos-when-I-am-next-in-the-office-to-tide-you-over established artists to shame.
Angel: The multi-million pound question – What do you think the industry will look like 5 years from now?
Daniel: I think you will see forward thinking companies signing artists and supporting new talent – this may force traditional music companies to get together and offer a proper all round service to their artists. I like to think music will rediscover its value (the best album in the world should not be the same price as a pair of socks) and cannot believe it will be harder for good music to rise to the top. Some of the age-old truths will remain – people will still like to see great music performed and I think more people (except the real pop crowd) will start to turn their back on huge warehouse-esque venues. There are some great successful artists around but we are in the age of quantity and style-over-content and they are pretty hard to pick out unless you use the right sites and channels.
Angel: If 5 years is too far ahead to think about, what have you got planned for the next few months – gigs, releases, etc…?
Daniel: I am stepping up the live shows and have plenty of gigs lined up, including a special set at one of my favourite venues The Bedford in Balham, London on 18th August. I am promoting my debut album Until The Morning Light, writing some of my best material and looking for the right label or brand to make my second album a successful reality. I want good support slots, to play to festival crowds and simply to continue to enjoy writing, recording and playing music with great musicians. Look out for me!
Daniel’s critically acclaimed debut album “Until The Morning Light” is available on Amazon, iTunes and lots of digital retailers as well as available to stream on Spotify. Go have a listen!