Paula Park Discusses an Artist-Centric Music Industry
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In a really broad sense, the music industry has a reputation for being, well let's say less than friendly towards artists, especially if we direct our attention backward at Motown and early rock and roll.
But have things changed since then? The Top 40 definitely looks different than it did back then, so has the industry around all that music improved, putting artists at the forefront?
This might sound like an oversimplification, but yeah, kind of.
In a lot of different ways, recording artists working today have more power and control over their work than ever before.
That's great news, but it doesn't mean that the music business has gotten easier to navigate. There's definitely still a need for record labels, managers, and various other music business professionals who can support an artist throughout their career.
We recently talked to one of these music business pros about the landscape of the industry today and how artists can get the help they need to make more music and share it with as many people as possible.
Paula Park has been a music professional for many years, taking on a number of different roles, including A&R, producer, copyright analyst, marketing manager, and artist development consultant.
She is currently working with multiple major artists, such as Benjamin Carter, Lucy Park, and Mirella Costa, all of whom she is proud to support in their efforts to generate a positive social impact.
Park is intensely knowledgeable about the music business as it is today, and she was kind enough to help us out with this article.
Whether you're an artist yourself or a businessperson or a marketing pro looking to work in the music industry, Park is able to provide some really valuable information.
Power to the artists
Park sees a major shift in the power dynamics of the music industry, namely that the industry as a whole has started to become more artist-centric.
"There’s an unprecedented power in the hands of artists now, as they hold control over their communication and relationship with their audience through social media. And this is huge, considering the fact that fan engagement is the key driver for most revenue sources of an artist’s business."
Influence is everything these days, and Park explained how artists who have already established themselves can buck marketing trends and norms and still come out on top.
If they have a strong connection to their audience, that audience will probably show up to stream tracks and generate engagement and revenue in other ways as well.
For the businesspeople of the music industry, this is both exciting and challenging, as it could support more innovative approaches in the future while also making it difficult to predict how a particular release is going to perform based on its release timing and other factors that have traditionally been used to gauge trends and assess risk.
This means that companies and labels looking to promote artists need to be that much more agile and willing to integrate new techniques if they want to maximize the benefits for everyone involved.
Let's talk social media marketing
If you talk to anyone about marketing on a budget, social media is going to enter the conversation at some point. It's inevitable.
Why? Because social media marketing is an opportunity that just can't be ignored. Note that we said 'opportunity,' because finding success on social media isn't a sure thing at all.
Creating an artist-specific presence on various platforms just means that there's a chance of reaping the benefits of getting a lot of social media attention.
When it goes well, social media marketing can give artists countless chances to connect with their fans on a whole new level and establish their own branding in a very natural way.
But there is a caveat here, and Park explained how all social media platforms aren't a one-size-fits-all solution for every artist.
"I don’t think every artist needs to be on all social media platforms. It's important that they find a platform that speaks to them because then they will have an easier time creating content for it and being consistent. It is important not only as a marketing opportunity, but also for discoverability, engagement, and branding."
Trying to get engagement going on a social media platform that's not a good fit for the artist could lead to posts and other content feeling forced, which isn't going to help out with marketing.
Each platform should fit like a glove, and a good way of feeling this out is to figure out which platforms each artist would be using anyway, even if they weren't trying to market themselves.
Another benefit to successful social media marketing is potential partnerships with various brands or maybe even other artists.
Home or pro studio?
Ah yes, a very common question these days: is it better to record in a professional studio or set up a home studio?
The benefits to recording in a pro studio are pretty obvious: the environment is tailored to recording, with professional sound-proofing, plenty of expensive gear, and skilled engineers and producers who can help create something pristine.
On the other hand, home studios tend to be less expensive, since they aren't kitted out with every piece of gear imaginable, and since the artist doesn't need to pay hourly fees to be there. In addition, an artist can pop into a home studio any time of day or night, making it easier to explore a moment of inspiration.
Park has a great deal of experience with professional studio recording, so she admitted to a bit of bias on this front, as she sees many benefits to separating the studio from a living space, especially since the cost of studio time can inspire a high level of focus and work ethic.
But she also outlined four major questions that artists and managers can ask when deciding whether a professional studio or a home studio is a better option for each artist:
- Does the artist have sufficient space in their home for a studio?
- What's the most cost-efficient option for the artist?
- What's the best option for the artist's mental health?
- What will be the most conducive for the artist's creativity and their creative process?
Answering these questions will provide a much better idea of whether a home studio or pro studio time will be the ideal choice.
Also, the answers to these questions could definitely change over time. Life changes and people change with it. What might be right one year could change later on.
Park talked about how some of the artists she works with often prefer the home studio experience for some very specific reasons.
"Most artists I work with are singer-songwriters who also have their home studios, which offer the convenience of being able to record whenever and for however long they want, and not having to depend on studio availability. Like anything, there’s always a trade-off. At a studio, the artist might be able to meet other people, be more efficient or focused and feel refreshed, but at home, they won’t be spending money and it will always be available."
To sum up, there isn't just one correct answer here, and both managers and artists should carefully consider both options before dedicating a lot of time and resources to one or the other.
Picking a team
In this new artist-centric music industry, artists get to decide who they're going to be working with, and Park stressed just how important this process is.
Saying yes to the first person or company to reach out probably isn't a good idea. There are a lot of factors to consider, and not every person will be a good fit for a particular artist's style, as Park outlines in the following comments.
"The right people are those who not only are skilled to execute their roles, but most importantly believe in and really understand the artist’s vision. This is a long-term game, so it’s important to look for people that have similar values and are willing to put in the work for the long term. The ideal team is, in my opinion, lean, and one in which each person brings something different to the crew."
Choosing who to include in a management team shouldn't just be about who you think you'll be friends with. It's all about skill and experience. Who can get the job done? Are all the bases covered?
This process might be especially difficult for an artist who has never worked with a label or management company before. It could feel overwhelming at first, but choosing a team really is crucial for the artist to get the support they need.
As Park has mentioned in her comments throughout the article, there are just so many benefits to having skilled professionals on your side to help you roll with the punches and make and share the music you really want to make.