The Label Machine Podcast #6 – Rob Bravery

Podcast

Our sixth episode features Rob Bravery, a singer-songwriter born in Bristol, UK and currently living in Melbourne, Australia. Rob has been compared to the sounds of Radiohead and James Blake; he has released numerous albums over the last ten years after being signed to a major publishing deal, the latest of which is "Agoraphobe's Bossa Nova," having been released at the end of 2020.

In this episode, Rob talks about his journey through the music world and gives us some insight from the perspective of a songwriter who has been signed to both major and indie labels in the course of his career.

NICK SADLER: Welcome to The Label Machine Series where we discuss with successful industry professionals how artists and labels, market and sell music. My name is Nick Sadler, and today's guest is singer-songwriter, Rob Bravery. Rob has been compared to the sounds of Radiohead and James Blake. He's released numerous albums over the last 10 years after being signed to a major publishing deal. Originally from Bristol, UK, Rob now resides in Melbourne, Australia. And his latest album, Agoraphobe's Bossa Nova has just been released this month (October 2020). So Rob, how are you today?

ROB BRAVERY: I wasn't expecting the real spiel to come out. I'm fine. I'm fine.

NS: I've done my research.

RB: Yeah, you have! I'm yeah. Though, some of those things were true. Yeah.

NS: Wait, so you're in Melbourne at the moment? What time is it there?

RB: It's about 7am.

NS: Right.

RB: So I've actually been I've been up since about five because on Friday mornings here, basically all of Melbourne's bins get collected outside my front door - well it seems like that many anyway - and there's a large truck, as it says, sort of. It's quite disturbing. But I've become quite used to it. So I've been up for a while.

NS: Nice, had your coffee. Okay, so we're just gonna get into a bit of history. How did you get started in the music industry? Like, what was your kind of first, I guess, band or live show?

RB:
Oh, man, I think I used to play music with my older brother was about 15. He had a number of rock bands going on and I used to sort of try and shoehorn my way into those, did loads of gigs with him. I guess that was my first experience. And that was in Bristol. But I see like, I don't know, I moved to Bath at about the age of 20. And started trying to write songs more seriously myself, and then take the idea of a music career a bit more seriously at that point. And yeah, and then I kind of started playing that circuit in Bath for a while, then I moved to London in I think it was about 2006/2007. And yeah, I guess slowly crept up the ladder of getting somewhere with it, you know, I started playing as a session player for a couple of bands. And that was a good “in” for meeting people. So I play keyboards for a number of bands around that period, met who would become my manager for my solo career around that time, and yeah, that's kind of when things, you know, things started to happen, but I think it's important to state at this point that, you know, I wouldn't necessarily describe myself as a successful solo artist by any stretch, you know, it's like, my career has been... it's been interesting. There's like, lots of different variations and what I've tried to achieve, but I'm not the kind of, I'm obviously not a successful singer-songwriter.

NS:
I think I want to get into that a little bit later on as well. Because, you know, I think as well, like, what does, you know...

RB: What constitutes success?

NS: Exactly. Like, I mean, if you can, if you can be making music, making a career paying your rent, doing music, which you do, in a lot of people's eyes, you're a successful artist. You know, maybe if, when you've been on tour, and you've been rubbing shoulders with what people would like, you know, the, the traditional supersix, “this is the ordering top 40's” Yeah, in those eyes maybe, maybe it's been a different deal. But you know, we are really talking about the independent world as well. And, you know, and I think for me, anyway, if you can, if you can make a living doing your music, you know, I think that's success because it's incredibly hard even to get to that point. There's a lot of people that don't even make it that far. So...

RB: Yeah, I agree. And I wouldn't want to turn the conversation around like, “Okay, this is ridiculous, because I'm not successful.” It's more a case of it's better to be clear on what we're talking about, because if it was me talking about my timeline as a singer songwriter for, you know, the age of 15, you hear? Let's say you get Joni Mitchell on the phone and you're like, “hey, so tell us about your early experiences with music,” it makes a bit more sense. Whereas with me, it has been... is a bit more of an interesting- sorry, not more interesting than Joni Mitchell's life. (chuckles)

NS: Are you comparing yourself to Joni Mitchell?

RB: I would, but hers has not been as interesting at mine, is not really comparable. (more chuckles)

NS:
So talking about not having a successful music career, you then got a major publishing deal. So how did that come about?

RB: I've had a number of deals, they went from big to slightly smaller; you know, it's like, I don't know, maybe three or four different either record or publishing deals, through I think is between about 2010 and 2017. And the thing is, though, the deals coming back, and you either capitalize on, and I think, you know, like, as a writer - I think this is an important distinction to make - I would describe myself as somebody that can write music... relatively well. And I've since made a career work, you know, in that field. But what I tried to be initially was a writer, and a performer and the whole package. And that was confusing, I just assumed that that was going to be something I could achieve. But I got my initial signings, with labels based work just off the back of being a decent writer. And then what happens is, you then realize that there's so much you have to deliver as a human being, or as a identity in that realm.

NS: Being a performing artist, as well as a writer...

RB:
Yeah, not only that, but like going on buddy, radio, talking to people, all these things that didn't come naturally to me, or whatever might have been, you know - they asked you to do all kinds of stuff, basically when signed to a label. And suddenly, I was under a lot of pressure to do those things. And I realized I couldn't do it, it took me about five or six years to realize that it wasn't for me. So now, you know, I've managed to, I guess fall into something that enables me to use my skills as a writer. But I don't have to do any of that stuff, and still make a reasonable revenue stream from it. But it's not something I expected to happen. I never sat down as a kid and thought: “You should be doing that,” you know?

NS:
Yeah. Going back to the publishing deal, though, like, how much of a difference did it actually make to your career at the time? And how much of a difference didn't make in hindsight?

RB:
Yeah, I guess, like, it was good to get some money. In particular, you know, at that point, I never had any cash while I was making my first album, struggling to survive in London. So yeah, it was good that we got an injection of money. It was also like a moment of validation from, it was EMI Music at the time. So it's sort of like, “well, that's cool.” We, you know, haven't been wasting my time. That's a good feeling. But in terms of like opening doors, I think with just publishing - because what I really needed, I think, was not only a publishing deal, but a really good independent label to get behind the product I was doing, that would invest in me and know and try to understand the type of artist I was, and then send me into the right areas, get the right band, all that stuff. Get the right shows, the right support slots, but unfortunately, just a publishing deal at that point, wasn't really enough to launch the project I was doing. And I actually got kind of bundled in with their other recent signings at the time, which were kind of major pop stars. And it didn't really add up, I felt like kind of the sort of illegitimate child of EMI for like, first period. I don't know whether they saw it that way. I think they probably just forgot all about me, to some extent...

NS:
Were they the nine out of the ten they just come through- would you agree? Would you agree with that? You know, there is that sort of method or industry thing that majors you know, they signed 10 artists expecting nine to go nowhere and want to blossom and, and like, in your experience, did you find that was the case?

RB:
I think it's probably like the tail end of that, that version of the business model for the industry. I think that's probably doesn't happen anymore. No one's got enough money to do that. But like, definitely in the 90s, definitely, in the early “noughties,” there would have been tons of labels still trying to do that because it makes sense, right? You can, and particularly doing like reasonably small signings, one of them's going to bloom if you've got a decent headhunter or going around, like, watching the gigs and stuff.

NS: So something else I want to talk about though, you know, getting noticed as well. And I think this probably happened in your period when in that seven years is you decided to do - as a way of, I guess finding a new audience - you decided to do a Lana Del Rey cover. And you put that together and that ultimately led to you working with her as well, which, which was a bit of a, a kind of “rogue” way of going about stuff. Can you just talk us through that?

RB: Yeah, I don't know. I think I actually, in that particular case, I quite liked the song. So that was one of the big pop stars, I'm referring to that got signed to EMI at that time. It was about exact same time that we signed there. And the guy that signed me plays the track, which they were about to release ahead of its release. And I thought that was pretty cool. Despite being a pretty alternative writer, I quite like pop music. And I've always tried to stay abreast of what's going on. I think like, I heard that song. I thought that's a great example of a pop, out-pop song. And yeah, we just covered it because we liked it as in me and my band, we filmed it at home. And it was in the days as well. Because it's about 10 years ago, where I think if you post something on YouTube at that point, and it's tagged reasonably well, then it has the potential to just get quite big, or get, you know, 100,000 views because it's because it's good content. I think these days, YouTube is a slightly more convoluted - not just slightly. It's very difficult if you were trying to start a new YouTube channel at this point. It's such a known revenue stream that every man and his dog is doing that exact thing. There's just so much content out there that it would be very unlikely that one clip like that from the off, as a new first post, will actually be successful. Yeah, so anyway, that's how it happened. And yeah, I think they just like literally Lana saw the clip, said, “Do you want to work together? Do you want to do something?” You know, that was it. I don't think that would happen necessarily in 2020.

NS:
Yeah. So you're saying you got off the back of a publishing deal. You got different various indie label deals for your albums. How did you find the experience of working with a indie record label? As an independent artist?

RB: The first indie label I worked with, were really nice. They, they weren't particularly wealthy, like, didn't have like, a lot of money to invest in it. It was like, they liked the record, they wanted to put it out. We did an extensive campaign trying to get somewhere with it. And I feel that they did everything they could really, they, you know, they probably spent a fair bit of cash by the end of the process. I liked working with them. I mean, like, I think, unfortunately, the answer to this question is slightly, as much as I'd like to give like a broad, a broad response for somebody that might be listening, that is, you know, once the information or the inside track on that situation. My case, it was extremely- I was going through a period of my life where I was extremely pedantic and controlling. I basically was like, riding people like a moron, expecting everything to go my way and not really listening to the way they wanted to promote my music at the time. So unfortunately, I think that that, coupled with, as I said earlier, like an inability to deliver personally on in some other areas of what I needed to do as a solo artist, probably led to it being not quite as successful as it would if I would have hoped. But yeah, like working with an indie label, I find it a lot more useful than the experience I had with a major publisher. You know, there's no massive amounts of red tape in order to get a conversation with somebody. You know, I could just reach out with an email and we could discuss how we want to make things work. And so pretty much everything was an option and they were extremely accommodating and, you know, in terms of taking my ideas on board. So it was cool.

NS:
So I guess, you know, so you as you're saying, working with a label, I guess, let them do their thing. So how would you contrast that with when you self-released an album? And you thought, “I'll do it myself, I kind of put all that together.” How was that experience in comparison?

RB: Well, again, man, it's a great question. Might not be 100% applicable to me, just because my version of releasing my own work as a solo artist, and this is the thing I probably should stress is that my work as a solo artist, or anything I've done as a solo artist, since the period where I had label involvement has been more of a hobby, I'd say, whereas, you know, my work - as in my freelance base work as a producer and writer - is something completely different. So what I've done in terms of releasing things, without a label sense, it's just I've literally done no work to create a successful release. I would post something and I'll leave it, leave it in the ether, and just see what happens, you know, and, and I'm quite aware that nothing happens, it won't happen, because I just don't have the energy to invest in that stuff. So I would, I'd say, I would imagine posting something on Bandcamp with a reasonable campaign that you create yourself, you know, and following all the many things you can potentially do as independent artists, is actually a great idea. But my experience with it, unfortunately, is limited.

NS: You touched on creating alternative income streams which you've moved into in recent years. So how important would you say these are for indie artists these days?

RB: Probably quite important, I would say. Unless, unless, so you're either rich already. So you've either got some money, or your parents got some money. And oh, you saved a ton, whatever. Trust funds.

NS:
Trust a foreign? (chuckles)

RB: Yeah. Right. So you're either one of those. Or you are successful, independent artists, which is something that is extremely hard to achieve, I'd say. There's greatness, examples of people that have done it really well. And like, and when I actually go into Bandcamp, for example, and look at how people have created a nice little niche, a nice little world for themselves on Bandcamp, I'm just I'm quite in awe of how that's happened. And I think it's great. It seems like a good community of people kind of support each other. And even through my meager experience of putting stuff up there recently. You do quickly learn that people -  and I've actually I put my stuff up there for free - but you quickly learn that people want to donate money. And I'm always amazed because you go in there thinking, you know, feeling quite skeptical about it, but people want to give you money for your music. So, yeah, like, sorry, going back to the question I say, obviously, it takes a long time. Like if you're starting from scratch, and you want to be an independent artist, you're going to need some other form of revenue coming in. Until you break, you know, whatever products you're putting out there. And it's a success. So yeah, if you can make it in music, then great. Whether you're teaching or you just want to work any other random job. I don't know. But yeah, for me, I think I have sought a music base job because I just don't really feel at this point in my life, I'm able to do anything else effectively. And also like it's... yeah, I don't really want to do anything else.

NS: Yeah, so I guess for some people that might not know what like, you know, as a music producer, what are the areas in which you can generate money, what are some of the areas that you might be working in? You know, where it's proving to be a bit lucrative.

RB:
Yeah. Well, presumably if you make music for personal reasons, where you trying to be a solo artist, you've got usually got some musical equipment at home. And I have been accruing musical gear for years and I'm able to produce to a reasonable standard, you know, without paying studio fees. So that's good. So in terms of like how to make money with that, and it depends what you're good at, really. For me, I think I'm better writer than I am most of other things. So I personally, having like, accepted the notion that my solo career as a serious songwriter, it pretty much, you know, gone down the pan at some point, decided to find a way to still write and make money with it. So for me, I actually operate under an alias, as an anonymous writer in some very strange worlds on the internet, that pay money, either to utilize my services as a producer/advisor. So for example, recently, I've been doing a soundtrack for a film, like a kids movie in the States. And that's something I've been working on, there's working for people that have successful YouTube platforms is a good revenue stream. And in that, in which case for me, I've been writing music for those platforms, and then taking a share of the profits made from advertising revenue.

NS: So are these YouTube platforms, they're looking for bespoke/original, like, are they just looking for original music? Or are they looking for bespoke? Like, they want you to ride around whatever they're kind of, you know, they're talking about makeup, they want a makeup song or something like, yeah,

RB: I think like, with YouTube, in particular, you can be more successful if you have something completely bespoke. Because it's quite a tight ship in terms of how it's run with royalties and legal legal issues. So unless you have a completely bespoke original product as a YouTuber to post - and just just to be clear, I'm not a YouTuber – but yeah, unless you have a bespoke product to work with, you will have to state - because they have algorithms that detect everything - you have to state clearly what's being used. If you've got something original, that's extremely popular, there's not a lot of difference between them. So if you have a really successful song, it's bespoke to a video that has been made on YouTube, it's just like releasing a single at the charts, you know. And obviously, if it's music...

NS: …whoever owns that music gets the royalties.

RB: And also you get send a lot of traffic to other streaming platforms. So basically, the revenue that comes in from a successful YouTube song or clip or whatever, it then translates across to Spotify, iTunes...

NS: Really?

RB:
Yeah, so if you've got enough of those things out there in the world that are constantly streaming and ticking away, then you reach a situation where at the end of each month, you can recoup revenue from not only all the YouTube advertising from all the sounds, but then you have all the revenue from the streaming platforms as well, like Spotify and such.

"when I actually go into Bandcamp, for example, and look at how people have created a nice little niche, a nice little world for themselves on Bandcamp, I'm just I'm quite in awe of how that's happened. And I think it's great. It seems like a good community of people kind of support each other. You do quickly learn that people want to donate money. And I'm always amazed because you go in there thinking, you know, feeling quite skeptical about it, but people want to give you money for your music."

NS: Wow. So what, I guess, are you being paid? Like, do you do get like an upfront fee and then share in the revenue of both the masters and the publishing across these platforms? Are you just getting a split up fee and everything 100%? Or is it somewhere in the middle?

RB: Yeah, it would depend on the person you're working with. So the main people I started working with, because we didn't know how things were going to work out, and they didn't know either, we started on a basis that they paid me a fee to do some work, and then they'd cut me 50% in the back end. And as we developed a relationship, you know, we didn't, we didn't need to worry about my upfront fee after a while, because it was quite clear that we had a winning situation or formula that's going to just cover us both. But yeah, generally, that would probably be useful if you're working with somebody that you don't know on YouTube, because you can never guarantee success with YouTube. And as we said, it's like, it's an extremely saturated platform. So you could create something for a YouTuber that they want to use. And then the clip makes absolutely no money for them or you and you've essentially wasted a lot of effort and time. So yeah, until you've got a strong relationship with somebody that you kind of have an idea of how things are going to go I'd suggest getting an upfront fee, but yeah. You know, other situations for me, like I said, working with us on a soundtrack or something like that, that's, it's like a deal in of itself where you would have to negotiate whatever terms you think are right. Probably requires a bit of like, research into what's normal, you know, for that kind of thing.

NS:
And when you say- so you're talking about doing a soundtrack for a film? So is that, you know, “I want an upfront fee and a percentage on the back end” or something like that?

RB: I guess it would be, that would be definitely a kind of 50/50. In my case, it was 50% upfront. 50 on delivery, and then, there's a revenue share for all streaming platforms, you know, if that film's successful, the soundtracks out there, you're covered, and you get 50% of the royalties coming in from the streaming of the soundtrack, basically. But you know, whether that's a good amount or bad, I really don't know, that's just me as a random guy, trying to navigate my way as a freelance. It really is like anything, I don't really know if that's the right way to do it. So if you're listening, and you're wondering what the exact amount to request is, don't go by what I'm saying.

NS:
Yeah, but I mean, it sounds like you've done the sensible thing, negotiate something upfront, that covers your time. If there is no back end, you're still covered. And then if there is a success, you will share in the revenue of that success.

RB:
Yeah, I think that an important thing to state would be that is quite tempting to sell yourself short, I think. Because, like, it's so hard to, to forge a career and make money from music. And you get very used to that feeling throughout your life. Unless it's been like a dream all the way. For me, it's been like, up and down. And I've reached a point where when I first started making money as a freelancer, let's say, three years ago, if I was trying to broker some sort of deal with a client, I'm just like, “Oh, God, I hope they give me this project because I really want some money.” And you know, you're afraid, it's like - and you speak to any freelancer, they'll say the same thing. But you're afraid to oversell yourself, because you fear they're going to walk away. But most of the time, they've already got it in their head already, that they want you, you know, and they want you to do something based on... they've usually done their homework. So you can afford to just like compare prices and talk to people, do your homework, and like request a decent fee. Because otherwise you just, you're gonna, you're not gonna be able to survive.

NS: I mean, the worst they can do though, is say, “that's too much, can you go lower?”

RB: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, if they walk away after you've tried to, like hit them on the feet, then what on earth? Are they? What kind of situation is it?

NS: You were mentioning “doing your research.” What would you advise to do as research? Like, where can you find this?

RB: Yeah, for me, man, I think like, obviously, look, there are a number of platforms online, Google something. For me, I've always just spoken to people that I've met and know in the industry over the years, that might be able to give me a bit of insight into what's normal. And so yeah, if you're lucky enough to have some people around that might have a clue, that's good.

NS: Yeah. No, I think that there's one thing at The Label Machine as well that a lot of members say that they find the most valuable is just being able to ask a question from somebody who's got experience and they can just give an answer. Because it's like, it's details, isn't it? You can read about generalizations, or watch YouTube videos, but when you need specific numbers of what's actually happening in the industry, the only way you're going to get them is speaking to someone who's actually on there.

RB: Yeah.

NS: So if you are just sort of staying on the being a composer and writer, and sort of tips and and tricks, I guess what if someone did want to start doing Music for Youtube or films, what what advice would you give them to find work and kind of put themselves out there?

RB: Yeah, I think this is assuming the person this is assuming the person is on nodding terms, to write like reasonable music.

NS: Yeah. Saying you can write good music.

RB: And a person can do all that stuff like, something like that. Yeah, you've got all your got all your music there, you got your compositions set up - (chuckles) - got your compositions in a Dropbox right? Then... I don't know, I guess. Again, in my circumstances, I happen to know a few people that were able to help out a little bit with that, based on having a pre-existing decade of working in the music industry. And you know, trying and failing and trying and failing, all that stuff. That helps to have a few people to reach out to a bit like the previous question, but I guess if you didn't know anyone at all, there are a number of platforms, I guess you can post your music, too. You could perhaps you could reach out to youtubers personally via the messaging on the sites and say, “Look, I this is what I do. I like your channel...” I think you know, whether that works, I really don't know, but perhaps that's - again, you can release snippets of your music on Soundcloud and Bandcamp and reach out to the community there. It seems quite open. I find both of those platforms actually quite useful. And of all the platforms, there is still a sense that people seek good music and they repost and they aid each other in the progression, you know...

NS: Across which platforms? Soundcloud?

RB: Soundcloud, Bandcamp, all the classics. Yeah, I mean that. I've just found that having music on those sites, particularly saying, oh, Soundcloud have had music on that site for a long time. And I think like, there's, yeah, there's a bit more of a coup - if you attempt to grow a community on that it will work. I think if your musics good, you can, you know, reach out to people, they might share it, and so on and so forth. It's a bit like the old MySpace model in theory. But yeah, I don't know, man. Whether that stuff will pay, you've got to be willing to put in a lot of time, knocking on people's doors, I guess.

NS: Networking, essentially. And looking around in your own personal network as well. Okay cool, so I wanted to talk about a little bit about music trends. Now, I know this is probably, I guess, maybe less relevant these days. I mean, are you  - well, no, I say that but you've got music that, uh, that's coming out on YouTube. And then it's going across these platforms. Where have you been finding the royalties are coming from from the major platforms like where, you know, I guess in ranking? Like, who's bringing in the most between, you know, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Tidal?

RB: Mate, I would love to answer that question with with some more detail. (chuckles)

NS: Do just get a royalty check each month?

RB:
I don't do my own accounting.

NS: (chuckles) Are you too successful to do your own accounting?

RB: I mean, you can see the size of the mansion I live in. So like, I don't think I need to answer that one. Yeah, I just someone does the accounting I wouldn't know what's been the most in terms of,  in terms of music on streaming platforms. YouTube, I know, roughly what that brings me every month. Streaming platforms, all of them I take as a singular royalty.

NS: That's fine. So... when you were doing music blogs, did you find those still relevant?

RB: Yeah, yeah. So when I was a solo artist, you know, with a solo entity in the real alternative music world. Yeah, Blogspot - there was a definite period where blogs felt relevant. I think there was like... I don't know whether it was just my perception of it at the time, but I think around 2010 to 2015, I felt that blogs, blogs and music videos and the combination of those two as a promotional tool felt like a really relevant and powerful way to launch music. I don't know whether again, it might be my perception, but since that time, I think the blog world is less relevant because everybody knows, with the introduction of advertising on all platforms, particularly Facebook, has really changed the playing field a little bit in the sense that news sites, both musical and otherwise, are so geared towards clicks that they will just post anything, and therefore the credibility of those sites - in the musical blog world and elsewhere - has gone down the toilet. So I think there was a time between maybe 2010-2015, when you saw a new act on a blog, and you thought, “Oh, that looks interesting. I'll give it a click and see what the video's like.” these days, I feel it's a bit different, I think we get the sense that there's just such a saturation of that market. And you don't really trust those platforms as much as you used to based on the ads that are being sold, you know, per click.

NS:
So how do you mean your ads being sold per click for a blog?

RB:
Yeah, the sentence didn't make perfect sense. But what I mean is, obviously, the blog is gearing their, their front page or the thing that you get on your feed, to make you want to click on it. And when you click on it, you may get fooled into have clicked on something that's just completely irrelevant to you, or just lacking in any real substance. And I think that is something I feel that it's made me unfollow and not really take those things seriously anymore. Like I said, it's my perception. I'm now 37 years old - not quite, next year - but I'm old enough to to be feel a bit disenfranchised by that situation. If I was younger, and I and it was still fresh, and I was excited by what, say, Pitchfork are putting out there every day, then maybe I would still think it's relevant.

NS:
So that was, you were saying blogs and then going to watching a YouTube video clip. So if we took blogs out of the equation, is putting up a good YouTube music video still hold a lot of weight these days?

RB:
Mm hmm... I tell you what, man? That's an interesting question. I don't really know the answer to that. As I said, I think there are, there are examples of people still doing that, like a powerful video. I'm trying to think of one recently. If I try to think the recent one, I'm gonna say something that's really awful. You know? What was it, No Doubt - Don't Speak. Yeah, just one of those. But know that there are examples if you do something that's like, dazzling and huge, okay. WAP. Cardi B, right? Yeah, that's, this is a great example of, I mean, this happens to be the biggest pop star in the world... biggest, like rap rapper on the planet, dropping a huge track with a massive, high budget video, so it's gonna be successful. So it's like, it's hard to really use that as the, you know, as a gauge. But in terms of being like, a powerful use of the platform, it's a good example of it. But yeah, I feel like your average Joe, or like, maybe a small indie band or something, trying to put up a music video on YouTube as a way to promote your music - in order for it to be successful, it probably hinged on your YouTube channel already having a successful output. Otherwise, it doesn't run the risk of being buried. You know, without the necessary promotion, I guess you can... cross-use or use different platforms - was going to say something clever there - you can use different platforms simultaneously to try and get as much promo and traffic sense in that clip is possible. I'm sure there are ways if you've got the right means and the team to do it, pay for Facebook ads, get behind it, you know, all that stuff. They do work. They do reach people, it's just like, whether you're willing to do it.

NS:
Yeah. So I guess when you start with YouTube, it's: don't make an amazing video and just work on YouTube channel. Have a long term game for YouTube. Build up your subscribers on YouTube, just like, I guess, you build up your followers on Spotify, YouTube and Instagram. It's another channel to build up. So when you release something, there's a built-in audience.

RB: Yeah, so let's face it. I think the answer to any of these questions, but related to utilizing the online platforms, is it's really hard to do, I think like, but there's so much proof that it does work if you're willing to, like, put in the hours. I mean, look at those guys. TwinsthenewTrend guys, the guys that just like sit there like young brothers and they just sit there listening to...

NS:
Ah, yeah.

RB:
...random famous songs of the last 50 years or something. And that's all they do. They've got they've set up a brand, and they just kept plugging away with it until one of them just hit, you know. And, and now everything they post gets, you know, at least 100,000 hits.

NS: And they do their review of like new music as well. So people are like “I want to get my music on this channel, because I need to get 100,000 plays.”

RB: Yeah, maybe they should. I don't know if they've been doing that. But that's what I'd be looking to do, if I was them.

NS: So you're saying? Yeah, so I mean, I guess having your merch lined up, setting up all these income streams is what you need to do and have all these long tails is how you can create a career, rather than just saying, “Oh, I just need to get a I just need to get a record deal and release an album and then I'll be loaded” . It isn't really the way it's gonna work.

RB: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I think I don't even know what the situation is with labor investment these days. But I'd imagine the labels are far more reluctant to sign anything with anyone these days, unless it's exactly the right look and exactly the right fit. And I think, as I said, because I've been out of that world for a little while, I don't really know. But I'd imagine that there is a bit more of a, a team element to the label and artists working together. I don't know, you probably know more about that.

NS: Yeah, I mean, speaking to other label managers, what they're looking for in artists is they're looking to see that there's something already going that the artist has, has created some momentum themselves, like... you know, it's not bad; like people like, “Oh, you don't want to self-release your music. Because, you know, why does that mean you can get a record deal. That's, that's wrong.” Like, if you can put some of your music out there, you can get some buzz behind it. You can get it on some blogs. You can get it like over 10,000 streams on Spotify. And then you go to record label saying, hey, I'd like to run EP with you or something. The labels gonna go, oh, wow, you've done all this yourself. Cool. You get it. Like you're going to be a great member of our team. Like we're going to tell you to do stuff and you're going to straightaway and do it. So yeah, I think it's I think it's definitely the first step in the music industry now is DIY. And then it's building a team around you, if you need to, and part of that team could be a record deal, could be a publishing deal. Could be a manager, could be an agent, etc. But yeah, I think the days of... unless you're under the age of 18, and you can sell your youth, and then you can possibly get a deal before you really released anything on the merit of your talents and your annual youth, basically. But I think as soon as you're over the age of 25, you know, it's DIY.

RB: Exactly. Yeah, you've probably you've had enough time, you've had enough time that gets DIY should go. And if it's not happening, then what else have you been doing, man?

NS: I wanted to ask about, and just because you probably got a bit of an idea of like, the YouTube royalties. And this is, this is more from, again, like a major record label point of view. But if you're gonna invest 100 grand to make an amazing music video, but you know that video is gonna get 100 million plays, what's the revenue generated off 100 million plays? Is like, is that gonna get close to that? 100,000? More or less? Do you know?

RB:
Good question. So, is the question just straight up? What is the, what is the amount? On a click? So you're saying hypothetical of 100 million plays? How much money is that in terms of like, what you're gonna make from ads?

NS: Yeah, I mean, and assuming you own the rights to the music. Yeah.

RB: I'm setting this up as if I got the answer to it. But I don't actually have the answer.

NS: To the nearest 100,000th?

RB:
Yeah.

NS:
You're gonna make thousands? Or, you know...

RB:
You can make a lot of money. There's, there's a lot of... okay, lemme think, I'm just trying to do the sums because we've got some of the people I work with, we've got, let's say, we've got a track that's, I think it's about 30-36 million or something at the moment. I'm just trying to think where this is 36 million and over, say, like, it's been released for two and a half years or something like that. So I'm just trying to do the sums as to how much we've made roughly on that individual song. That's, that's the only way I can figure it out. But yeah, you're talking about fact, you're talking about thousands. Thousands. Not millions, obviously, like on that. I... the easiest way to do it, man is to look up online, what the click rate is, also what the amount received per view is, I think, but the parent, so that's something to note is that the views, and the money you earn from the views can fluctuate based on time of season or time of the year. So apparently, there are different parts, different times in the year where the ad rates are reduced, and the money you make is significantly lower. Because for example, in I think it might be January, February time, the ad rates are lower, because people aren't selling as many products at that point. Perhaps in the lead up to Christmas or like in summer the advertisers are just like, investing a lot more in those ads, therefore, you make more money off the clip. So I think it's affected by seasonality, I think, you know, but yeah, again, so I can't provide a figure

NS:
Is that where a lot of the revenue comes from? Is the advertising that's played on these?

RB:
Sure, yes, solely from that. So with YouTube, you are essentially a partner, I guess with, so the platform receive money from advertisers that get to have their pop up at the beginning of your clip, they make you a partner that receives a percentage of the money they get. And that's how it works. So yeah.

"news sites, both musical and otherwise, are so geared towards clicks that they will just post anything, and therefore the credibility of those sites - in the musical blog world and elsewhere - has gone down the toilet."

NS: Do you think sure, what, he's gonna pay for YouTube Premium? Yeah, the only reason why I ask is, you know, I've been seeing on the Reddit forums and what and just people saying, we're not going to pay for it and and also, people starting to get annoyed at these 30 second to one minute ad things. Do you think that's something that youtubers got to do to stay afloat or is like, do you think that's going to change? What's your thoughts on it?

RB:
I feel as a slightly cynical guy... like, you can watch clips on YouTube of the youtubers or users, they like to get quite frustrated with the scenario and feel that they can exercise some degree of power over a massive platform like YouTube. But in reality, we don't have any power. And I think like, it's the same with the Facebook ads... So originally when you used to post something on Facebook as a page, so if you got your successful page with its 15,000 likes or whatever, used to go, bang, got a new single coming out tomorrow, come by, whatever.

NS: Get to 50,000 of your fans. It'll see that post essentially.

RB: Exactly. So they realized that they could monopolize that and it was an uproar. Yeah. Because you suddenly, it didn't really tell you but one day, you do that post tonight. “Oh, get ready guys. Here comes a single.” Like, (chuckles)

NS: Yeah, two likes!

RB: Two likes and a comment from your mom on there. And then you're just like, WTF? So yeah, people were, you know, outraged about this, but what can you do? Like what are you going? What are you going to do? There's no, no petition in the world that's going to stop them exercising? Basic capitalism, I think like, Yeah, same with YouTube, they can really do what they want. And... yeah.

NS:
It's amazing it's been free for so long.

RB: Exactly. Even though I'm a total cynic with that kind of stuff, I see everything's a bit of a bonus really, like, that didn't really exist before. They are providing a service, therefore, they kind of have the right to do whatever they want. And but yeah, it kind of sucks. It sucks that you get used to it one way and then they change it.

NS: So I'm just looking over what is the...actually, there's a couple of questions, actually. One of them is what what rookie mistakes did you make that you would advise your 20 year old self not to make again?

RB: Oh man. Yeah. Yes, I think I've probably mentioned it already. Biggest mistake I ever made was not taking a long look in the mirror at the beginning of my musical quest or whatever it was, as soon as I got a shot in the music industry in London, I hadn't really taken the time to figure out what I can and can't do well, I think so. Pretty obvious advice, but just like, play to your strengths, realize what it is you're good at and what you're not good at. For me, I just thought I was a jack of all trades, and I could just go out there and do everything that everyone else is doing. And I was and I  wouldn't accept, partly because... if you're trying to be good at music, but you've got such a will to succeed in every area that you pursue, you assume that you're going to, every time. And I think like for me, I thought I could be the ultimate, you know, live David Bowie, like Ziggy Stardust up there. I wasn't. And I wouldn't accept that that wasn't the case for years. And it took me until the moment I accepted it. And the funny thing is, and this is like, way into the process, things started going a lot better for me, I think. Because, yeah, just ultimate advice for my 20 year old self. Don't be an idiot, mate. Just, honestly.

NS: Like you said, it is good. I mean, yeah, like, know your strengths and know your weaknesses. And, you know, we've heard that before. But I mean, I guess how, you know, how would have you? What would you say to yourself to try and figure out like, what are your strengths? Would it say like, you know, just check your ego and realize that you're young, and you think you can do everything, but you can't? How would you kind of go through that process? Again, to figure out your strengths?

RB: Oh, I don't know. I mean, that's the thing. It probably was quite glaring to, to most people, I think. It's hard. It depends on what type of person you are kind of temperament you've got, I think some people may be a bit luckier, they have like, a decent dialogue going with a number of people around them that can say, “look, listen to me.” I think this part, and actually, I remember there was a guy that I worked with quite early in the music business in London, who took me to one site quite early. And he addressed those issues with me. But I was such as such a hard-headed d*ck at the time. I just said “Yeah, what do you know, mate, with your 45 years experience?”

NS: Find people's opinions you can trust and with experience, and then listen to what they say, I guess.

RB: Yeah, exactly. You must have had, you must have had a few moments like that. Right? Where you just, someone's someone's giving you some advice? And you've... yeah, he did it or not, you know?

NS: I mean, if you get advice, go and write it down. And then like, read it every week or so and just keep, like, meditate on it, like you said, look in the mirror and just think about what they're saying. And don't instantly dismiss it. And I think in your case, especially if someone pulls you aside, you know, I know I've pulled people aside as well. And you've really, it's not something you take lightly, you know, you really - because you realize you're gonna hurt someone's feelings and it's can be quite sensitive. So, you know, if somebody is doing that to you, do realize that they're not just doing it because they've got some ego trip, they probably genuinely giving good insight.

RB: Another one is like, I think it's important to have some kind of plan B with your music career. Like, I think that's probably another factor that that led me to, perhaps make a few mistakes is that I put all my eggs in one basket with it, to some extent, and I thought, well, this doesn't work. And God knows what I'm gonna do. I mean, thankfully, it's sort of alright at the moment, but like, for the years when things aren't going your way, and you're pushing and pushing, and it's getting quite stressful to try and maintain it... yeah, if you've told yourself from the outset that there's no alternative version of your life, then of course, there's going to be so much added pressure to make it work. And I think that pressure for me, you know, has had an impact on my ability to perform and deliver the way I should have, you know.

NS:
I believe that there is a stigmatism in the music industry where if you have a alternative income stream that whatever you're working in a restaurant or shop or, you know, you do graphic design on the side as a Freelancer - somehow that if you're not making all your money as a career musician, you're not a real musician or you're not a success. Whereas, but I always believe you should have like a, a plan B going along. And also because ultimately... you can't have everybody a superstar like, society doesn't function that way. People need to, you know, there are all the other mechanics of the world that needs to keep moving along. And if we all wanted to play music, like, you know, if there's a large part of humanity wanting to play music, yeah, we kind of...

RB: …and if the “mechanics” want to play music as well. (Chuckles)

NS: So, so Rob, we didn't talk too much about your album, but what's the future gonna bring? I know you said it's maybe a bit more of a hobby. Now are you gonna keep writing? Are you still writing stuff at the moment? What's on the horizon?

RB: Well, hey, thanks for asking. I love making - as much as I don't make money, I am unlikely to unless something weird happens. I don't really make money from there - but what I have realized is making music all the time, as in doing it for a living and then doing it as a hobby, doesn't really work that well because it's bloody draining, that whole process. So what I've done is because I make music in a digital way, I guess like using the usual DAW's and interfaces, you know, the synths, etc.

NS: What DAW do you use?

RB:
I use Logic Pro, one of the early versions of logic, I think, I just haven't updated it. So yeah, so what I realized is doing that full time job, and all the editing and crap that comes with it, to make, you know, bespoke commercial material for people is a lot of work. And then when I kind of go to do my indulgent hobby music, my songwriting, and record that I find myself doing it all over again, in my spare time, and I something I realized I don't want to do. So I've taken my personal music into completely into the analog realm, so invested in reel-to-reel tape machine.

NS: How's that working out? I do know that Rob has had some issues with getting reel-to-reels delivered to Melbourne that hasn't been as easy as what?

RB:
Actually, weird, strangely enough, and the reason I didn't recoil in horror after you said that, is that apparently is this reel-to-reel might be making it to me, after all.

NS: Oh, wow.

RB: So there's gonna be a reel-to-reels... Basically, I don't want to be looking at a screen when I do mine. I think that's what it comes down to.

NS: You want a new environment, you know...

RB: I want a very tactile situation where I can, you know, turn up the gain on something and whether get the compression right on my outboard, without just d*cking around with plugins all my life. Yeah, anyway, that's not answer the question what's going on with that? I don't know. I love writing music, and I will continue to do that.

NS: So hopefully, though, perhaps your next album will be all analog and reel-to-reel, potentially.

RB:
It will be, yeah.

NS:
Oh, nice. Thank you for your time, Rob. That was really insightful. Particularly, especially with all the YouTube stuff that was amazing.

RB:
I hope it's of use to someone. Mate, it's been great chatting. I really enjoyed that.

NS: Yeah. Awesome. Thanks, Rob.

Available in all major podcasting platforms.

Leave a Comment:

Leave a Comment: