What Is Artist Development? Tips & Advice for Singers & Music Artists

As a vocalist, musician or band, you may need some help when it comes to progressing your career. And you’ll certainly need an organised plan.

This is where an artist development course or mentor can work with you to help you achieve your goals. But what is artist development? Well, it’s a process of enabling emerging talent to come to the fore, reach their full creative potential, find their audience and operate commercially.

In this article, we’ll reveal our tips and advice for singers and music artist navigating the world of management, marketing, and the business side of the industry.

What is artist development?

Early career emergent music-makers often need advice, structure, community and insider knowledge to become established. While in theory, the artist can self-develop, it is often better to enlist the assistance of an expert, or team of experts, who can guide and fast-track their progress. Nowadays, it may also be referred to as product development, but in a music context, particularly if it’s your songwriting that’s primarily being developed.

Artist development happens across all creative and performance disciplines. But in the music industry, it may include the development of career elements including vocal style, songwriting, music video production, image (clothes, make-up and stage presence), branding and logos, mentoring, masterclasses, digital marketing and PR.

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What does artist development mean?

Artist development services can be found via a dedicated company, through some recording studios and at record labels. The role may be carried out by one person (who will liaise with other service providers), or an in-house team. In real terms, it involves the following tasks:

  • Collaborating with producers or musicians
  • Consulting with industry professionals to get feedback on your music and artwork
  • Putting together a marketing plan (to included image and branding)
  • Engaging with your audience online

The creative process will be a big part of your development. You will probably be introduced to other writers and music makers, some of whom may prove to be excellent future contacts. Having feedback on your songs is vital as an artist and working with a mentor will help you stay on track. When it comes to releasing and marketing organisation is key to ensure you create as many opportunities as possible.

What is a development deal in music?

Labels and studios will often scout for up-and-coming talent, via their A&R team. Often that talent is still quite raw and not ready to be released on the open market, but still with ample potential. In this instance, they may broker what is called a demo deal – or artist development deal – to work together. This may involve an advance payment from the studio to the artists, to provide the tools they need to succeed.

This has famously included the likes of Radiohead’s encounter with EMI. The label’s A&R took the fledgling band (then named On a Friday) under its wing. During development, they were encouraged to change their name and a deal that resulting in the Pablo Honey album. Similarly, George Ezra was spotted by Colombia, who paid for him to travel to Europe and write game-changing hits like Budapest.

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Tips & Advice for singers & music artists

Formal artist development courses may not be for everyone. Some particularly imaginative artists can feel quite stifled by such an approach. Although, throughout an artist’s career it’s important to bounce ideas off other people and at some stage, make adjustments to suit the commercial and marketing side of the business.

Firstly, you’ll need to ascertain what kind of development you’re going to work on. Some of the areas you might want to cover include:

  • Songwriting (understanding your tone, song themes, genre, unique voice and the more technical aspects of it).
  • Production
  • Bands and groups
  • Vocals

To do this you’ll need to define who you are as an artist. This means putting together a whole package as an act. Your story, vibe and persona should blend with your sound and overall message. A mood board or brainstorming session can help you get there. And don’t forget to be authentic in what you’re projecting. Uncovering the unique and real you is a big part of your development.

Having a music artist development plan 

Staying organised, having a plan and sticking to it, is key. Whether you do it yourself, or with someone else, here are some of the aspects of your career that should be in there.

  1. Your artist name (what is it and whether you should change it)
  2. Clarifying the budget and allocating it to each area of your plan
  3. Building a fan base – how will you do it, what are your goals and what tools are at your disposal?
  4. Website design and social media content – what will this look like? Use a platform like Hootsuite to plan out your posts and generate your content.
  5. Logo and graphic design. If you create your own original artwork this can be really effective.
  6. Booking studio time, rehearsal space, backing musicians and gigs.
  7. Organising ongoing coaching or classes
  8. Dates and timescales for releasing tracks and videos
  9. Identifying and connecting with possible collabs (social media can also be a good place to do this, so get following others)
  10. Ad campaigns
  11. Sync licensing and addition to music libraries (for songwriters)

Be sure to come up with goals that SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) are for each of these points.

Artist development packages

Once you’ve decided what topic of development you’re seeking, you’ll need to work out whether you go for a bespoke or set package. This will likely denote its length. A bespoke format where the overarching plan is very much tailored to your needs (rather than a set plan outlining what’s involved) may be ongoing. Whereas other packages will be advertised by duration and content. The latter will have a set fee, with defined outcomes and expectations.

You can also put together your own package. The internet is full of tutorials, advice pages and videos providing information and inspiration. If you do decide to create your own package, be sure to write it down and plan it out as if you were running your own business. This will keep you on track and help you stick to it.

Music artist development companies

What is right for one artist may not be for another. So think carefully about whether you want to approach a company, and who might be right for you if you do. Simply throwing money at your career is rarely the route to success. However, there is a right time to spend and you will have some outgoings as you progress. But it’s a case of evaluating when and what that is.

You should create some kind of a plan yourself, even before going to see someone. This will help you have an idea of where you’re going, which will make the most of your time with them. It’ll also help keep you on track and make sure you’re going in the right direction from the outset.

Once you’ve established that you both need and are ready for a development programme, you can start looking at the various companies and the packages they have to offer.

Artist development programmes

So, if you’d like to sign up for a paid development programme, what are your options? Here are some organisations and studios offering these services to artists.

#1 Future Music Academy

Future Music Academy offers a nationwide artist development program, allowing you to work with professional producers once a month in one-to-one studio sessions. You also work with a coach throughout guiding you through all aspects of creating and releasing and marketing your music.

#2 MAS Records

MAS Records is a government funded artist development program, delivered at several centres across England. The course includes free mentoring, rehearsal and studio time and is available for bands or solo artists to join.

#3 360 Artist Development

360 Artist Development cover six different types of development across four levels (vocal coaching, general performance skills including choreography, microphone technique, song/lyric writing, music industry business training, social media management. Each level goes further in-depth and provides extra services than the previous, but also costs more. The team is based in Leeds, but artist often travels from much further afield.

#4 Music Gateway

Music Gateway’s artist development programme is an example of a more ongoing and bespoke approach. Rather than a set programme, it works with you on a monthly basis, combining aspects of management alongside.

#5 Sound Consultancy

Sound Consultancy offers Ignite, Accelerate, Lift Off and Orbit packages. These include a six-month track production, through to an 18-month premium service working up to a national tour. The ethos here is very much about empowering the artist in the development process, in the driving seat of their own career.

#6 London Artist Development

London Artist Development (LAD) has worked with artists including Max Milner and Jazz Ellington of The Voice fame. Sessions here can be limited to particular topics like image and style direction or internet exposure and programmes last between six and 12 months.

#7 Higher Rhythm

Higher Rhythm is an option if you’re based in Yorkshire. There are some funded enterprises such as this, around the country. This one is partnered with the Arts Council England, Help Musicians UK and PRS Foundation twitch the aim of supporting emerging and developing music artists.

Do note that these are just a few examples for you to research and explore, rather than being specific recommendations.

Artist development prices

One of the biggest questions you’ll no doubt have at this stage, is how much will it cost me?

If a label has offered to take you under its wing, you won’t pay anything upfront and they may even pay you. But they’ll want something in return. There will be contracts and they will get a cut when you start making money. It will often go hand in hand with a full-blown recording contract. Because of this, they’ll only offer this kind of package if they really believe you have the potential to make them some serious cash. But as with anything, do check out these kinds of offers fully. Get legal advice where necessary and keep your business mind switched on.

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Another way to get free development is to join a programme like MAS. These are usually geared to younger people or particular categories of music and people.

Otherwise, prices can vary tremendously, depending on what’s involved and who’s doing it. You could be looking at anywhere from a few hundred pounds to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Artist development services, contracts and agreements

There are many people selling these and not all are legitimate. It’s a sad fact that there are many unseemly setups trying to make a quick buck without giving very much (or nothing at all) in return. Not only in the music world, but across the creative industries. So be wise. Check everything out.

If a company asks you to sign a contract or agreement (which may actually be a good thing, if it lays out what they promise to do for you), get it checked out. Find out who they’ve worked with and what they did for them – and don’t just take their word for it, look it up to see if they’re telling it as it is. If in doubt, try a well-known and respected local record studio. They will be able to advise or even offer these services themselves.

Maybe you can’t afford to pay for these services right now and you’re not eligible to get them for free. Don’t despair. There’s so much you can do to develop yourself and many artists land huge deals or achieve millions of streams and views with no team behind them at all. By all means, go it alone – work hard, be smart with your branding and let as many people as possible listen to and see your work.

Related Questions

  • How can I become a music artist?

If you have established talent and musical ability, there are a few routes you can take (ideally, try all of them). Upload your tracks to streaming services, record music videos to post on TikTok and YouTube, enter competitions, play open mic nights and spread the word about it all via social media. 

  • What is artist management in the music industry?

A manager looks after your career. Their role may involve artist development but will continue beyond that to take care of bookings, contracts, marketing and direction. They may manage bands or soloists and take a cut from your earnings for doing so.

  • What does an artist team consist of?

This will depend on your level of success. It could be one person carrying out a number of roles. Top artists will have a team consisting of marketing, PR, management, production, tour management, backing artists, wardrobe, hair and make-up, legal professionals, bookers, musicians, writers and more.

What’s your experience of artist management? Have you hired anyone to help you with your career? How did it go? Tell us in the comments section.

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