1. Export Strategies
1. Export Strategies Beforehand: What You Can Coordinate to Ensure Ease of Market Entry
As a composer, sound artist or creative artist, the ability to share your work with others is highly rewarding artistically and professionally. However, just because you have great music to share internationally doesn’t necessarily mean you and your music are ‘export ready’. If you want to take steps to build your international profile, your approach must be backed up by analysis and a business case to ensure you and your work are prepared for a new environment and ready to do business. When you go on holiday, for example, you will bring many changes of clothes, toiletries, a passport and some sunscreen - you will prepare. When you consider exporting your music and expanding your international presence, there are also a number of variables you must consider before you go abroad. And most of this work, like preparing to travel, happens at home.
We call it 90/10. For all the work you put into to developing your career abroad, 90% of it occurs at home. The final 10% happens once you leave and theoretically, you’re fully prepared. This initial section provides you with details on what you must coordinate to ensure such potential ease of market entry, including key marketing strategies, online tools and available networks to utilise. These are broken down in our tips of the trade. This is that 90%. This is what you need to do before you export.
Here are some of the tools to help to prepare yourself for working abroad.
Planning and Research
The first step to music export is understanding how your music fits into a competitive international context. Whilst you may already have recognition or a ‘market’ domestically (partners you’re working with, and/or an audience) it is important to research and understand - through data and analysis - where there is most likely to be interest in your work. A targeted approach will prove more fruitful in the long term, whilst saving you time. This research can be conducted through online searches, personal research and network development. To accomplish this, it is worth considering:
There are a number of tricks that you can use to determine where your music is best suited. The most accurate manner is by analyzing the data coming via your website, SoundCloud, YouTube or other social media property and mining the location of where your music is being most streamed. This will be explained further on (see 1.2. - Online Tactics, p.4).
Once you have a more established idea of your potential export markets, the next step is to prepare a business plan for yourself. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail; even a short business plan will benefit you more than nothing at all. It will help you think through what you need to take care of, and can help to minimise surprises. Your business plan may be something that only you see and use, although it is worth bearing in mind that a carefully thought through business plan is also good preparation for funding applications which can also sometimes require to see this.
A business plan should also include consideration of how you understand and wish to develop your own branding and image. Whilst this may seem a daunting or unnatural prospect, or something that isn’t relevant to you as an artist, it is a helpful process to make sense of your research, understand what your competitors are doing, and think about what you would like to achieve and how you can most easily get there. You as a composer is not the same as you as a person - as a composer, you and your music are a product, a brand, something that can and should be known and enjoyed by many.
Below is an overview of each of the key components of a business plan:
Although this comes at the beginning of your business plan, this will be the last part to write. The executive summary provides an overview of your business plan and will summarise the following sections. Keep this concise and explain what sets you apart. Why are your compositions interesting to other partners, creatively and socially; why should partners choose you rather than somebody else?
Here you must provide a short history of your business (or career as a composer) and outline other people involved and their roles. Do you have an agent or a publisher? Any partners or ongoing collaborators? Is there anyone who helps you with your business? If so, provide details of their involvement and how they are remunerated.
Products and Services
Briefly describe what you plan to ‘sell’ and what services you can provide. Do you specialise in a certain area of composition, say, film composition, for example? Ensemble music? Relationships with particular other artists? Installations? Working with young people? If so, focus on these unique selling points.
This section is to provide an overview of the market in which you operate. Provide a general description about how the market works and its condition - for example, what are the key opportunities to earn a living? Are there interesting trends in how audiences are discovering new music, both live and online? Next, look at your competitors, who are they and what are they doing? We will explain how to do this more below (See 2. Digital rights, registrations, contracts: A guide to protecting yourself and encouraging collaboration, p.14) as researching your market (real and expected) is the first stage to successful export.
A marketing plan is describing how you plan to raise awareness of you and your work. For this you should consider your work and its positioning - how is it to be branded and what are people looking for in the kind of thing you do? Think about where presenters or collaborators would look for someone like you, or something like your music; what are the ways in which you can raise awareness and reach your target market? Continuously refer to your competitors - what can you learn from them? Again, we will provide hints and tricks below (See 2. Digital rights, registrations, contracts: A guide to protecting yourself and encouraging collaboration, p.14) that we have learned along the way. This is never easy and constantly evolving, but has to be thoroughly thought through.
No matter how detailed your business plan, you should consider what resources you realistically need to reach your goals. For this you need to understand what finances are required, what time and money is needed to do the work, and how is this financed? Provide information on current revenue sources and possible future income streams. Sketch out a 3 year financial plan with your projections - these can give you and other readers an indication of where you see your career heading.
So, what is a touchpoint? Well, this is anywhere a consumer, buyer, potential partner or collaborator views your content in any way, whether that is online, at a networking event or in your website’s backend. These are all touchpoints. Your SoundCloud link is a touchpoint. When someone Googles you, what they see is also a touchpoint (and you can monitor and in some ways, control this). If the tracks on your SoundCloud and YouTube are not the same, for example, then you have a confusing set of touchpoints. But first, compile all your touchpoints so you can assess their consistency.
Here is a list of touchpoints to consider:
● Website and/or Blog
● Recordings of compositions, perhaps on SoundCloud or Bandcamp
● Any stems, parts of compositions that you have mastered and readily available to stream
● Information about you on other websites, e.g. festivals or residencies you have participated in
● Music libraries that contain your compositions
● Video clips of your performances on YouTube and/or Vimeo
● Images (high and low resolution)
● Downloadable assets (including stems, instrumentals, full versions in Mp3 and WAV)
● Branding such as logos, images, etc.
● Remixes of your work
● Links to artists that have performed or used your work
● The British Music Collection website
● The Sampler blog (if you are a contributor)
We call these touchpoints your Asset List. An asset is what you use to facilitate interest in what you do. This can be anythingfrom a picture to a recording or a remix of one of your compositions. For these assets to work together, it is important to look back to your business plan and research and understand them as a complete whole that represents you as a composer. What do you want from them? What do people want from you and how do you ensure you don’t waste their time? This can be done through consistency in touchpoints. Or in other words, making your ‘product’ as simple and easy to understand and interact with as possible. This is especially important when you’re beginning to work in countries where English isn’t the first language. For example, is the header track on your SoundCloud and YouTube the same? Do you have a backend with non-expiry, downloadable links of your compositions and images for potential clients? Is your music fully registered on PRS and, if it is a recording, on PPL?
Looking at the various touchpoints, it is best to think back to your business plan and basic marketing concepts to understand how to compile your assets and manage your checklist. To get to the 90%, as we call it, there is a school of thought that suggests that you should have 100 usable assets supporting the promotion of you and your work. This may seem daunting, but it’s also a test in learning how your content - in its totality - can be best utilised. Many components can act as an asset such as a website, a social media profile or an image so collating 100 assets may not be as difficult as you think.
Now that you have compiled your assets and thought about developing a simple, to-the-point business plan, you can begin to understand how to utilise these tools to promote yourself. Having talent, dedication and skill is the most important contributor to your success as a composer, but effective networking is essential. It is important to understand which partners and contacts, both at home and abroad, can be instrumental in your international career development. What people do you want to be associated with or work with? Understand what you can do with your music and tap into these networks, such as connecting with conservatoires and other educational bodies, or linking with composers abroad.
Networking with other composers, musicians and industry professionals can provide not only new opportunities but skills and intelligence about international markets. As outlined in the Composer’s Toolkit, meeting someone in person can be a powerful way to create a professionally fruitful connection. Try to attend as many performances, events and conferences as possible and make lots of friends. Be sure to carry lots of business cards, and collect them in return. Yes, you should have business cards. And they should look and feel professional and representative of the rest of your touchpoints, as a business card is a touchpoint after all. Afterwards, follow up by writing a personal email no more than 48 hours after meeting someone and in that email, don’t focus on promoting your own work; develop the relationship first.
Networking opportunities are listed in ‘Available Networks’. However, networking in person isn’t the only way to make valuable connections; the following section on Online Tactics explains ways in which to expand your profile and reputation online.