Grammy Award-winning musician and founder of Creative Passport, a new service that helps artists maximise their online presence, writes for Music Week about the importance of taking control in the digital age…
The year 2020 was a before-and-after defining period for musicians and the music industry, well let’s face it everyone on the planet. Specifically for us, the far-reaching devastation of the live music scene and the forced move of everything to ‘online’. This brought challenges musicians the world over are still trying to navigate. With independent musicians being hit disproportionately hard and with in person events set to be one of the last things to open back up, we still have some way to go before we can return to normal.
As 2021 gets underway, those who work in and around live music are breathing a cautious sigh of relief, as we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel for performing physically in public again. However, we can’t yet plan as we still don’t know if our concerts will be insured, if Covid related cancellations will remain, and what challenges post-Brexit touring will bring.
Even with the online opportunities that presented themselves as a result of Covid, there is a big difference between being established online and needing to operate there exclusively. There has been a huge amount of content made and an exhausting number of streamed concerts played in the last year, making it almost impossible to shout above the noise without marketing savvy paid teams. Plus, the range of platforms that artists are expected to be present on added further pressure. Many of us set up GoFundMe accounts or the like for direct payments. We cobbled together our own solutions as little was already available off-the-shelf, and there were some great examples of this despite the difficulties involved.
On the flipside, a big stretch of investment and development has been done in the online space, with many new platforms emerging to check out and sign-up to. Endlesss, an online social music-making app, unleashed an incredible tool to musically converse and collaborate across the globe, keeping up the creativity and fun amongst the sludge. Clubhouse is seeing many musicians share ideas and workarounds, tour managers globally discussing the latest lift of Covid restrictions or rooms of people jamming on what NFTs could mean for the future of music.
Despite all of this, maintaining a presence on social media, streaming services, third-party platforms and potentially your own owned space makes it difficult to keep control of your information. There are so many platforms and so much opportunity but, in most cases, the information provided is wrong, unverified or incredibly difficult to find. Put simply, up until recently the 360 view of who you are online as a creator – your digital identity – did not exist. And I don’t want to spend a moment more of my most precious resource in life, my time, hunched over maintaining profiles or updating latest news, verifying again who I am or editing another biography.
Even when live shows return, the importance of an online presence will remain vital
It’s time to get organised. To get our information in one place and let it do the work for us on our own terms. So should any human or machine need to know anything about us can, we can ensure they get what they need when they need it. Logins, identifiers, facts, acknowledgments… You name it. Let’s make it easier to be discoverable, to widen our reach and give whoever it may be, no excuse not to pay us. At the moment, the process is quite frankly, exhausting.
Just because artists and industry professionals have the tools and platforms to build themselves a comprehensive online identity doesn’t mean they should have to. Setting one up is time consuming, and maintaining it is a constant drain on time and energy and impacts the time that we want to spend creating and/or performing. Even when live shows are once again a possibility, the importance of an online presence will remain vital to anyone looking to make it as a creator – we need to prepare for that future as much as possible today and we need to be ahead of the curve, making it easy for services to do the right thing and innovate with ease.
For the last few years, we’ve been working on a verified digital ID that allows you to control all information about yourself and your works online – a tool where artists upload and manage verified data about themselves, which can be accessed by the music industry and other potential partners. This means biographies, images, skills, official links, hardware and software specs, interests, and even music industry identifiers such as ISNI/IPI numbers are all found in one place.
Put simply, data is Queen. Yet getting creators to recognise and embrace the importance of data is an enormous task, but it is one that needs to happen to enable future sustainable growth for the global music community and their industry. Ultimately, the possibilities are endless when we individually get our bits right. As creators, we are the biggest force in the industry, but we can’t show ourselves or really be useful at the end of a mismatch of linked-in profiles, emails of friends of friends or DM-ing a Twitter account. We need to shape up and build the missing foundations for our times. Now it is clearer than ever yet we are sinking in admin. We need come to the party and do our bit. This is how we can turn everything around - one music maker at a time and every bit of the community and wider industry will be better for it.