Austen Shakespeare

Pillar Artists: Covid, tech, and integrity

As part of Bdaily’s ‘Business of Creativity’ feature week, we reached out to Newcastle-based independent music label, Pillar Artists.

Pillar Artists’ Jay Landman discussed Covid, technology, and personal integrity, and their impacts on the creative business scene.

Q.) Firstly, can you breakdown how the pandemic, lockdowns etc, affected how you run Pillar Artists

A) As with most things in life there were both positive and negative impacts. The positive aspects were that I’m in a fortunate position to be able to work remotely: the PR campaigns I do for artists can be done anywhere that I have access to electricity and wifi, so this aspect was largely unaffected.

In terms of the live music, whilst gigs weren’t able to go ahead, a silver lining was that it gave me the chance to reflect upon my business direction and reevaluate my position.

From this I then put more energy and focus on growing the virtual side of things; working more on what I can offer in terms of PR, artist management, music consultation services, and on a post-pandemic strategy that looked at a long-term game plan, rather than just the short-term.

In terms of adverse effects, the biggest impact for me was the loss of being able to meet and network in person.

Whilst phone calls and video calls then offered a substitute, I still found that my favoured way of talking to people is in-person over a coffee: we often hear that 70 per cent of human communication is non-verbal, and I find that speaking in person makes conversations a lot more friendly and conducive for business relations, as it helps to create a trusting environment and helps to avoid misunderstandings - of course you also avoid technical problems like lag, internet access, and low battery.

Expanding on this, I found that artist management was made harder as it could be quite difficult to maintain focus during longer meetings and harder to communicate ideas - I think that, in the case of artist management, there is a lot to be said about working together in person, rather than remotely.

Q.) How have your artists approached the pandemic from a business sense, considering tours and live events have been a pandemic logistical nightmare

A) The artists that I work with largely focused on writing, recording, and releasing new music, but remained on standby for live opportunities - with this my artists were able to play quite a few gigs in Newcastle, Sunderland and Stockton, and also managed to play further afield in Manchester and Liverpool.

In addition to the live aspect, the artists on my roster explored ways of remaining active online; this involved making money from merchandise by creating online shops and taking part in a few online music streaming events.

A particular success was the band Cat Ryan who raised £1k to fund the release of their upcoming EP - I think that, with many people spending more time online, more people saw the campaign and supported it with donations.

Ultimately, to get through the absence of live music and income from gigs, the artist that I work with focussed their attention on generating income via online opportunities, though still kept an eye out for gig opportunities when rules were eased.

Q.) What predictions do you have for the future of music production, music labels and artists? What is on the horizon that may disrupt the music industry in a positive or negative way?

A) I think that the pandemic highlighted the importance of having multiple streams of income and demonstrated how crucial it is to be able to set yourself up online, both in terms of brand recognition and accessibility.

Being able to continue to work online helps to reduce the reliance on in-person business whilst also allowing you to participate in the global market.

NFTs, potentially, could change how the music industry operates - hinting at a move towards currency like bitcoin and exploring new ways of interacting with audiences.

Long-term, I think the industry will move towards a more sustainable model - increasing streaming royalties for artists and allowing amore direct artist-to-fan relationship that also looks to give more value in the form of limited edition merchandise - which, to some extent, NFTs are, as they essentially reflect the supply side of economics in the sense that they are unique and the demand for them then gives them a value.

In terms of the bigger picture, I think more and more artists and labels will realise that the internet now cuts out the middle person: artists can crowdfund studio time and merch, engage directly with their fans, and retain more independence, as such, I think we can expect to see a growth in independent labels and can expect a lot of labels and artists being at the forefront of alternative currencies globally.

Q.) What’s one key piece of philosophy to maintain when working in a creative industry?

A) I think integrity is crucial: having a vision that you pursue whilst maintaining your own moral code is something to try and practice.

I think it’s key to remember the difference between long-term and short-term, and to always think about the long-game, as the longevity of your business/career can be seen as a measure of success and endurance.

Having integrity, I think, then also links in to brand reputation (both as a business and on a personal level), which will then help in terms of professional relations with others. Considering how problematic and ‘dog-eat-dog’ our world currently is, it seems increasingly harder to find people with integrity - so, if you have your own integrity at the heart of your work, then you’ll quickly develop a positive reputation, which will then court more opportunities for yourself and your business.

Q.) Any advice to fledging artists or people who want careers in the music industry?

A) Research and learn about the industry: attend networking events, read blogs and websites that offer advice from people that have worked in the music industry for at least five years, and look to gain hands-on experience whenever the opportunity presents itself.

With the internet, anyone can assign themselves a title or job description, so it’s important to receive advice and mentorship from people that genuinely have worked in the music industry for a number of years and continue to do so, as this helps ensure that you receive quality, factual help that will be beneficial to you.

In terms of hands-on experience, it’s always worth looking to gain experience: don’t be afraid of mistakes, as these offer the chance to learn, first-hand, about what works and what doesn’t - crucially, this is also when you can differentiate between the theoretical side of the industry (what you’ve been taught/told, or read) and what you yourself have experienced directly.

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