"No matter what you want to do in life – whatever goals you are trying to reach – you have to have vision." - Millie Manders
With technology developing quicker than it takes for the next train to arrive, it is becoming more and more easier for music creative's to work, create and collaborate on-the-go and without the need (or want) of a major label taking a cut. A culture of self-managers is emerging; the go-getters who are out in the big-wide music industry, all by themselves; self-financing, self-marketing and even self-producing.
We caught up with Millie Manders, an Aretha Franklin and No Doubt-inspired artist from South West London. Millie schools us on the cost of going it alone, and how those like her can succeed in an ever-changing industry.
Hi Millie, congrats on your achievements so far! There are many budding artists out there that don't know where to start or how much creating a body of work might set them back. Could you give us an idea of the costs of self-funding an EP?
Millie: The cost of making an EP is difficult to break down. First, you need to spend money on rehearsal spaces and musicians to get the songs you want to record right. The likelihood is you will record more songs than you will release and you may need to change the sound of some of them prior to recording depending on the outcome you want. Then, you need to hire a studio that is suited to your needs. The recordings I have recently done were live, so I was able to have an engineer come to a rehearsal studio with his desks and computer to record.
Once the recordings are completed, the mixing process begins. This can take hours or days or even weeks depending on what sound you are going for and how relative that is to the way it has been recorded. I have used a different producer to mix to the person who recorded the tracks. All this takes time.
Hiring a rehearsal room can be from as little at £6 per hour to £65 (sometimes more) for half a day depending on your needs. A fully equipped recording studio can be astronomical – it just depends on your budget and the type of equipment etc you want to use.
Producers can cost anything from £100 a day upwards, as can the hiring of an engineer. So really, the cost of an EP is hard to quantify. The cost of mine I will politely leave out. ;)
Considering the costs of producing an EP, is there a reason you're giving yours away for free?
M: I have chosen to give away this EP for a few reasons;
For the last two years people have only been able to hear my full band sound at a live show. The music I currently have on line is acoustic, because I have not had a band to work with until recent months. I want to give people the opportunity to hear what I really sound like live, without the need to pay for it.
Some of the songs on my “Free-P” have already been released, but this is how they were always meant to sound. That is not to say that I don’t like my EP “Demon” - My acoustic music is not going anywhere, but I have never envisaged that sound being the forerunner in my repertoire of sounds. The full band is.
I have lots planned for this year with regards to musical releases and I know myself that getting music for free is a wonderful thing. I am hoping to spread some of that joy too.
Lastly, recorded music isn’t the best way for musicians to make money any more – touring and merchandise is. While I won’t be giving ALL my music away for free, I am unconcerned about any ‘loss of sales’. It’s more important that people really understand who I am as an artist than worrying about a few quid from an EP. I just hope people love listening to it as much as I have loved crafting it with my team.
In your opinion, starting from scratch, what is the best way to build your career in the Music Industry?
M: I think it completely depends on what you want to do! No matter what you want to do in life – whatever goals you are trying to reach – you have to have vision. You also need the ability to temper your creativity in order to leave room for a business mind.
Are there any positive mantras or words that have helped you keep your eye on success?
M: Key words for success for me would be; Passion, Motivation, Organisation, Networking, Relationships, Determination, Stamina, Strength, Resilience.
If you want to be part of the industry, you yourself have to be a business. You need to accept that you will fail. Many times. You will be shot down, side tracked… No matter what part of the music industry, make an effort to learn all of it.
You also have to be willing to give up everything to make it happen. Everything. The Music Industry is fickle, ever changing and incredibly selective. If you aren’t sacrificing to make it happen, the chances are it won’t. But that is the same for any business, and any dream.
As a songwriter how important do you feel that collaboration is for developing a music career?
M: I think it depends on the musician – Look at Prince for example! He collaborated with no one to begin with. Wrote, played, recorded and produced everything. Of course, you have to be incredibly blessed and wildly ambitious to do all that. Collaboration happens as a matter of course in every musician’s career. Whether it is advice from a manager, a part written by another musician, a co-written song or suggestions by a producer. It is healthy and often necessary. Collaboration can also be used to develop writing skills in other genres or inspire new material within the collaboration or outside of it. I have grown as a musician with every person I have worked with. Each of them adding to my abilities, broadening my musical options and making me some amazing, life-long friends too.
On top of all that you have going on, you're currently studying a BA in Music Business. How are you utilizing your studies to cultivate and further your career?
M: My degree in Music Management has been incalculably useful to me. As I said before, it is really important to learn all areas of the industry because they overlap so much. You need a base knowledge of all of it. For example I have written several biographies and press releases for other artists. I have directed my music videos. I have used the PR and Marketing studies to understand how to have a better relationship with my fans. I understand better how a studio works and have been able to apply that during this recording process. SO many things.
Many Singer/Songwriters take on additional jobs to make ends meet -- how many jobs do you have?
M: I currently only have one “real job” and that is working behind the bar at Shepherds Bush Empire. I have run vintage markets and helped with a friend’s wedding fair company, I write for a magazine, which gets me into some really cool gigs so I save money on entry fees. I get paid where I can to do this like session singing or gigs with my band. Busking is always an option too, and I thankfully have student finance for now. I have had to take out a long-term loan to keep me going. Music is hard. Without my student loan and my long-term loan, I would not be able to survive. As I said before – sacrifices have to be made if you really want to try and make it in this incredibly difficult industry.
Songwriting is not always something that can be quantified easily, what do you feel would be a fair wage for an emerging Songwriter?
M: As you say, it is not easily quantifiable. If you look at some of the costs I mentioned for making an EP – Musicians, rehearsal spaces, then add travel, accommodation, food to that plus the actual performance you need to look at:
How far is the gig?
How many musicians are performing?
How long is their set?
What equipment, if any, are they having to hire or bring?
How much is the venue charging on the door?
How many tickets is the venue expecting to sell?
Do the act need accommodation?
A session singer according to Musicians Union can charge a minimum fee of £40 an hour, not including expenses. This is not reflected in what musicians get paid in venues. If that were the case any 4 piece band would receive a minimum of £160 per show. That simply doesn’t happen.
Would you recommend emerging Singer/Songwriters tour, as you did last summer, to raise awareness of their work?
M: I would expect any musician who is serious about their art to attempt to get to as many towns and cities as humanly possible. How will people know you exist or if you are any good, if you don’t take your music to them? Anyone can release music onto iTunes. Not everyone can engage an audience.
Do you feel that in the future you might decide to manage other Singer/Songwriters aside from yourself?
M: I wouldn’t say it’s a goal of mine, but I wouldn’t say never to it. At the end of the day, my music career no matter how successful or otherwise won’t last forever and the idea of passing on my knowledge isn’t unappealing.
A special thank you goes to Millie Manders for devoting her time to my interview with the onset of an already gruelling schedule!
Wanted to give you all a little sneak peak into what I have planned for next weeks article; it will be a piece that showcases the benefit of veteran artists collaborating with emerging ones.
Millie's EP "The Free-P" will be released this Friday. Download her cover of "Drop Dead Gorgeous" by Republica at https://soundcloud.com/milliemusic/drop-dead-gorgeous-by-republica-millie-manders-cover
Keep up-to-date with Millie and her music by clicking on soundcloud.com/milliemusic, and following her on Twitter @MillieManders and Facebook at facebook.com/milliemandersmusic
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