Getting Noticed

The following pointers are useful bits of tried and tested advice from Generator and expert guests at our 'Getting Noticed' SPEAR:TALK seminar in Middlesbrough and various other free sessions across the North East.

Panelists included:

David Burn - Detroit Social Club
Ellie Giles - A&R Manager Fiction Records
Chris Slade - Plugger Alchemy Radio
Natalie Boxall (Chair) - BBC Tees

Additional notes by David Burn are attached to this page


Getting the music right
Improving your online profile
Connecting with fans
Building a live reputation and securing key gigs
DIY releases
Building your team
Press and radio
Getting noticed in the North East
Useful links


There are no short cuts to ‘getting noticed’ and going on to be successful in the music business. There are also very few templates that can be applied to different acts as each career path can be unique. Managers of successful bands have had others that didn’t make it and every A&R person has had an act that didn’t sell as well as the ones that do. There has been a seismic shift in the music industry due to changes in technology that has allowed artists to take a DIY approach, go direct to fans and retain thier rights. These digital changes are still evolving but savvy artists can now take advantage of the democratisation of the industry and forge sustainable careers outside of the mainstream.

What most of these people would say is that if you can’t persuade a crowd of people to come and see you in your home town then how are you going to do it anywhere else? If you concentrate on building up a fan base in your local area and get the regional media champions on board that this is the best place to start.

The music industry is incredibly well connected and if there is a regional ‘buzz’ on an act then people in the business will hear about it. This quote from Mike Smith who is Head of A&R at Columbia records demonstrates this:

"New talent does not lie undiscovered, there are too many very aggressive A&R people out there fighting each other to find it. Lawyers will let A&R people know about any new acts they are representing, as will managers. Journalists are an obvious place to go both local and regional. A&R people will also check out recording studios around the country and rehearsal studios and local music venues asking the owners if anyone good has been in." - Unsigned Guide, 1st Edition

Getting the music right

Although we can discuss the steps an emerging artist can take to get their music noticed within a competitive industry, it would be careless to forget that the most important thing is to get the music right.

It can be hard for an artist to take an objective view of their music so it's important to get advice from trusted friends and musical experts before approaching others.

David Burn from Detroit Social Club had been in other bands previously then started writing as a hobby, messing about in his studio. Unusually, DSC were formed after songs were written and recorded by David and he feels that "writing for yourself is the most important thing".

Chris Slade, radio plugger at Alchemy Radio agrees that "best results come from single-mindedness".

So it's important to always have your own artistic vision and not to try to second guess the industry and copy whatever is on the radio or being talked about now - by the time your music arrives on the scene, things will have moved on.

Ellie Giles, A&R Manager at Fiction - one of the UK's most successful labels, points to White Lies as a perfect example. "Previous guise Fear of Flying were a 'peer' band"... White Lies found their own sound and it's paid off. Every band Ellie has worked with has a strong sense of what they want to do. Unless you're a pop songwriter, be yourself.

As a plugger, it's Chris Slade's job to get songs on the radio on behalf of a label or artist. Chris acts as a contact between the band, label and radio and takes on a part sales/part PR role:

"We're looking for a finished radio product...the old cliche of 'don't bore us, get to the chorus' is true... but for mainstream music, be aware of Radio 1 [and music trends] but DON'T write for Radio 1... by the time it's ready, they'll have moved on." - Chris Slade, Alchemy Radio

There are however certain things radio producers and others are looking for from new artists. The nature of radio, particularly daytime radio means that a single or lead-track needs to comply with certain rules. It's worth considering structuring lead tracks to comply so that intros aren't drawn out and that it gets to the chorus quickly. Generally speaking, tracks over four minutes long won't get played.

Radio edits can help here. Ellie points out that Snow Patrol's 'Run' was originally over six minutes so a four minute radio edit ensured playlist coverage.


Assuming the songs are right, it is important to choose an appropriate means of capturing them.

The amount you spend on your demo or release depends obviously on what budget you have and what results you are hoping to achieve. But a good standard recording can be achieved on a relatively low budget these days. David Burn was in the lucky position of running a rehearsal and recording studio when working on DSC demos. But it's the vibe that David says is most important:

"Let It Be would still sound amazing if recorded's not worth spending days and loads of money recording and mixing songs for demos." - David Burn, Detroit Social Club

Ellie states that recording budgets from a label perspective depend on the band. As 'facilitators' a label like Fiction will hold the artist's hand. A dance producer unfortunately relies heavily on capturing the right sound, but one of her bands recorded a song on their phone and Fiction are now paying for them to re-record in a studio. As a subsidiary of a major label, Fiction has a large budget for demos and most labels are able to advance for these costs.

Improving your online profile

In recent years, once tracks are recorded artists stick them up Myspace. But as a social networking tool it has certainly been replaced by Facebook and Twitter. When asked if MySpace was no longer enough, Chris Slade replied:

"[MySpace] is certainly dying. It used to be the first place everyone checked. I still use it now as a reference point but there are now other sites where you can stream files or offer 1-click downloads. And Facebook and Twitter are much more interactive and useful - I've not 'logged on' to MySpace for 18 months!" - Chris Slade, Alchemy Radio

So what sites should artists use and where is the industry looking?

Facebook - ideal for building and interacting with fans. The Chapman Family do this very well.

Twitter - again, perfect for interaction and getting to know new fans (and more importantly figures within the music industry). However, it needs to be used well and not overused...if you've nothing important to say then don't tweet often. See Frankie & the Heartstrings as an example of a band who use Twitter and other sites perfectly. 

SoundCloud - The place to share streams and downloads. A playground for dance producers and increasingly taking over in other genres. Many important industry figures use SoundCloud (e.g. Drowned in Sound) and bloggers love it. You can also embed these great sounding streams on other sites. Drop your songs off to Generator via

Bandcamp - One of a few amazing artist-friendly sites to stream and more importantly sell your music (digital and physical). Its simple design and the ability to set up your own pages, set your own price and more or less use however you like. Check out Like Pioneer's page as an example and get selling your music now.

Tumblr - Current bloggers' choice of site to use for blogs. Interesting artists are using blogs really well to connect with fans. See YGT for an example.

There are many other sites we could recommend and it's important to find ones that work for you depending on your genre.

With all these pages, it's vital that they are kept up to date and you link between sites to encourage users to link to the sites they like using. Make sure your music is available to stream and to download (don't be scared of charging either). And don't forget to add contact details on every site.

It's also important to make your sites stand out from the millions of other profiles out there. We find that simple layouts with a limited number of tracks, videos and photos are preferable. A concise but interesting biog really helps. Always maintain these pages but don't overdo pushing your pages. There's nothing worse than being told five times per day about one site.

So with all these web options, does an artist still need their own website?

Getting the domain name is very important but many artists just use their sites to point fans to the above pages. If you can design and maintain a great site yourself then it's a good idea but not vital.

Connecting with fans

The above social networks can be used to connect with fans. Although some artists get management, or PR representatives to do this for them, most find it more effective (and easier) to maintain social networks themselves.

Data Collection is now extremely important for emerging artists. Wherever possible (at gigs, through websites, on Facebook, etc.), gather email addresses and phone numbers. This can prove a very useful tool when releasing music or announcing tours. Many industry figures advise emerging artists to give away tracks in exchange for email addresses or mobile numbers and having a strong database works in your favour when the industry comes knocking - though Ellie points out that labels will sign artists regardless, mobilising your fan base can be very important.

Building live reputation and securing key gigs

There's no easy way to do this but for the majority of genres, building a live reputation is extremely important. In the early stages of artist development, it's important to play gigs and improve. However, once reputation is building, try to limit gigs so that you are playing at least one key gig in your area per month. Try to get in with the right promoters by going to the right gigs, getting music to them and getting people to your shows. Building live reputation locally can be really helpful and some good contacts for the North East can be found below.

For good gigs outside your region, find out where other similar artists are playing and contact promoters once your reputation is good (through live shows, press and radio). Setting up gig swaps is a great option and we'd recommend promoting your own shows to get experience and see how the live world really works (also don't be afraid to use unconventional venues like warehouses, churches, art galleries etc...)

Obviously securing a live agent can really help here. This is where building a reputation in your area and securing key press and radio play can really help.

DIY releases

It's never been easier to release your own music and most artists who have been signed by major or large independent labels will have already released material themselves first. It can certainly help as labels and publishers are not getting involved in artist development at early stages any more.

Once you've recorded your music, consider manufacturing (either through a plant or DIY) promo CDs or proper releases on CD or vinyl, depending on who you are targeting and how many you think you can sell. Often the DIY approach can work and you should be able to sell copies at gigs and in good local independent record shops.

However, the high costs of manufacture mean that you can effectively release digitally on your own. We recommend sites like for your releases and digital aggregators such as AWAL, EmuBands and Ditto Music will help you to release via sites such as ITunes and Spotify. A useful guide to the digital aggregators can be found via Wired.

For more hands-on advice and support on DIY releases, contact us now

Building your team

DIY doesn't mean Do It Alone and it's important for emerging artists to build a strong, reliable team around them.

Ellie Giles feels that you shouldn't wait for a label to come to you and help you to build your team:

"Get a plugger like Chris involved who knows everyone at radio...a press person (PR) who is passionate about your music can also be found early. And if you can't find that team in the early days, wait it out - perhaps the music isn't right yet." - Ellie Giles, Fiction Records

"Labels are rightly so picky. If you've send them crap music and then try again, it gets binned." - David Burn, Detroit Social Club 

Detroit Social Club did it very differently. They got a music lawyer first - they are very approachable and very well connected because they work with others in the industry. The law firm then got in touch with DSC's manager (Geoff Barradale).

Securing management is often very tricky for emerging artists and can make a massive difference. Someone who is passionate about your music, well connected and skilled at building campaigns is very hard to come across. The age old approach of contacting good managers is unfortunately becoming futile. On the whole, good managers have their ears to the ground and rely on word of mouth. As long as you are doing things right in your area and securing good press and radio coverage, management will come to you and a good manager can make a massive difference. Watch this video from our Music Futures Conference featuring some good adivce from the MMF's Jon Webster.

Booking agents again have their ears to the ground and if you can build a good live reputation and are at the stage where agents can get on board to help you to book key dates and headline and support tours, they will come to you. It's easy to find out on the web who is booking for your favourite artists and it's important to work with an agent who has an appropriate roster of artists.

When choosing your team, get references from people you trust first. There are still many cowboys out there and there's a danger you will get stuck with a poor team who are not prioritising you as an artist.

Generally, labels and publishers get involved at a later stage when you have this team in place. Many companies will work alongside your existing team but occasionally will prefer to use in-house PR or pluggers.

Press and radio

The above industry targets, including labels, keep an eye on key press and radio playlists to identify new artists they want to work with. Good press and radio coverage can also really boost your fan base and there are many outlets available.

Start at a local level and secure reviews and features in local press and plays on local radio (see lists below for North East targets). There are also national outlets for emerging artists and we thoroughly recommend you use the BBC Introducing network and Amazing Tunes/Radio.

A great guide to sending music to radio can be found on Tom Robinson's Fresh on the Net site, you can also submit music to the team's Listening Post here.

A plugger like Chris Slade can really make the difference and many pluggers are getting involved with artists at an early stage. Chris' experience with Stornoway from an early stage really paid off for all involved. However, be wary of pluggers and PR companies who approach you at an early stage but charge full fees. Although there is a massive risk involved in working with emerging artists, most reputable pluggers and PR companies will lower fees if they are passionate about your music and see a long-term future with the artist. Don't expect people to work for free though - their value should be recognised.

Many artists struggle to put together effective press releases/press packs. There are basics that so many artists get wrong. Some useful tips on band biogs can be found over here at Fresh on the Net. For more advice on press release get in touch but generally keep them interesting, brief and include key information such as contact details, release date, live dates and web links.

Again, before working with PR and pluggers, make sure they are legitimate and able to do something you couldn't do yourself. Good pluggers and press people are able to talk to producers, DJs and journalists and guarantee they will at least listen to your music.

Whether working with others or going the DIY route, always ensure you have a long lead-in time before releases. Most PR companies service a single for at least 8 weeks before the release and pluggers target radio for 6-8 weeks. So if doing so yourself, you should stick to these schedules too for a proper release in order to build momentum in time.

Don't forget to secure key gigs throughout a press/radio/release campaign, watch this video from BBC Introducing on the importance of setting a release date.

The emergence of key music blogs means there are now more channels to go through than ever and it's important to keep up and use music blogs at the same time as traditional press and radio. To find out which blogs to contact you can use aggregators like Hype Machine to search for which bloggers are featuring similar artists to you. There's some great advice from The Blue Walrus on how to approach music bloggers and you can search some of the most influential UK blogs via the Music Robot collective and follow our very own Tippers Network on Twitter. It's important to note that a buzz can build very quickly through online blogs so make sure you can follow up with more great music to build on this.

A lot of this advice can be applied across most genres but for a more specific look at Dance Music then watch our Future of Dance Music Marketing panels.

Getting noticed in the North East

We've talked about the importance of creating a buzz in your local area and we want to highlight a few of the ways you can do this in our area (the North East).

Below are some useful links for musicians in this area - have a look around to see which suit your style of music and approach them when you are ready. There are many other outlets in the region but these are perhaps the most likely to deal with emerging artists. If you would like to come in for a free advice session and you are based in the North East you can book a Bigger Beat Surgery.


Generator - contact Joe Frankland, Musician Support Manager on 0191 255 4465 or email
Tees Music Alliance
The Bunker

Music Related Press

The Crack Magazine
Manifesto Magazine
The Chronicle
Culture magazine


BBC Wear
BBC Tyne
BBC Tees
Our Beat is Correct
Amazing Radio
Newcastle Student Radio
One Step Forward
Spark FM
Newcastle Beats


BBC Tyne
BBC Tees
Our Beat is Correct
Crack in the Road
Abacus Post
Wear on the Pulse
Tourist Mag
Hip Hop Fiend
Drowned in the North East
The Tipping Point
Bass Command

Regional PR

Kittle PR
Fiend Digital



The Cluny and Cluny 2
The Head of Steam
Newcastle 02 Academy
The Other Rooms
Digital Newcastle
Northumbria Student's Union
Newcastle Student's Union
World Headquarters
The Cumberland Arms
Star and Shadow Cinema
The Sage Gateshead
Independent Sunderland
Arts Centre Washington
Middlesbrough Town Hall
Arc, Stockton
Ku Bar
The Georgian Theatre
Westgarth Social Club
The Hub
Lola Jeans
The Studio
Hoults Yard


The Cluny
Jumpin’ Hot Club
The Great Northern
Fake Indie Label
Portions For Foxes
Ten Feet Tall
The Kids Are Solid Gold
Travelled Music
SSD Concerts
Lone Wolf Promotions
Not-Your Cuppa-Tea
The Polite Room
Seen & Inside Out LIVE
Distraction Records
Tiny Lights Recordings
Leave Me Here
JLC Events
HeartRock Live
A Glimpse Of Paradise
Evolution Emerging
NEED Music
Shame Events
Milk The Cow Newcastle
Get Slated
R House Newcastle
Audio Asylum
Keep The Faith
Triptik Music
On The Bridges


The Unsigned Guide
Music Week Directory

Generator SPEAR:TALK Getting Noticed - David Burn's Handout.doc80.5 KB

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