Pathways Into Music Research

Introducing the artist circle

Published in May 2022

Frontline artists looking to progress through the DIY Phase have four main areas of focus: creative, fanbase, release and business.

Which means there are four main areas of activity – creating music, building a fanbase, promoting releases and shows, and finding ways to access funding and generate revenue.

We have organised these four areas of focus and activity into the artist circle. Although many of these activities happen concurrently, there will often be different priorities at different times – with those priorities often working their way around the circle: creative, fanbase, release and business.

But what knowledge and information do DIY phase artists need as they work their way around the circle?

As part of the Music Education Conference 2022 – presented by CMU and Pathways Into Music at The Great Escape – we consulted a team of music industry experts to identify ten key pieces of knowledge and information that we should seek to communicate for each stage of the circle.

These key messages for DIY phase artists are outlined below.


1. Collaboration is key early on in your music career. Find other music-makers to work with – both within but also beyond your current circle – and also look for people with other creative passions to collaborate with, such as designers, photographers and film-makers.

2. Seek out ‘musical playgrounds’ where you can experiment with your music-making. These playgrounds maybe within an educational institution – but if you’re not doing music at school, college or university, you should find other places where you can experiment, jam, cypher bounce off other creators and find collaborators – you might be surprised by how many of these ‘sparring grounds’ exist.

3. Lots of creative people have many passions and talents – so don’t pigeon-hole collaborators – find out about each person’s full range of interests and work.

For example – you are probably talking to more songwriters than you think – many artists and producers are also songwriters.

4. Linked to that – try and expand your own range of music-making skills. For example, even if your primary interest is performing music, learning some basic production skills can be really valuable.

5. Be comfortable working with whatever you have in terms of technology – a lot can be achieved with simply apps and devices like Garageband and an iPhone. 

6. And remember to be creative with what technology – and any other musical tools and instruments – you have access to. Restrictions and parameters can often actually boost creativity.

7. Learn to create on the go. Build a simple portable studio to take with you when you travel so you can take inspiration from your environment.

8. Make sure you finish and release your songs and tracks. It’s easy to become a perfectionist and never perform or release your music. But it’s important to get some of your songs and tracks out there, so you can see the response and interact with an audience.

9. Just keep making music! The more music you make the better a music-maker you will become. And music careers with longevity tend to come to prolific and consistent music-makers who build slowly and keep going.

10. Whenever you create new music – remember to think and talk about music rights. Every song you write and every recording you make is protected by copyright. When you collaborate you are going to share those rights with your collaborators – so be clear on what rights you have created and who is sharing in copyright ownership. 


1. What’s your story?  With so many artists releasing so much music, having a great  story is a good way to stand out from the crowd. Think about your brand, your identity and your vision.

2. As you start to build a fanbase for your music, think of that fanbase like a community. Interact with your community and talk to your community – that way they will become your biggest champions and supporters.

3. Build your music-maker and wider creator network. Collaboration is key for making great music, but it’s also important for growing your fanbase. All the other music-makers and creators you collaborate with have their own fanbases – make sure you champion each other’s work to your respective audiences.

4. Look for as many opportunities to play live as possible – including open mic nights and guest spots – and use each performance as an opportunity to connect with new fans by subtly directing them to your digital channels.

5. Work out which digital channels work best for you and your fanbase – learn what kinds of content and posts work best on each channel – and find a good rhythm in terms of regularity of content and posting. You need to keep each digital channel refreshed – but you only have so much time available – so figure out a realistic schedule that keeps people engaged.

6. Look at ‘content pillars’ outside of your music and artist identity – which is to say, what are your other passions and interests that you could post about? This makes it easier to keep your digital channels refreshed and your fans engaged.

7. Use your analytics – from the streaming services, your distributor and social media. Cross-reference the different sets of data to see what kinds of content and posts get the best response – and result in more streams of your music. Learn from that and adjust your future content and posts accordingly.

8. As your fanbase grows, you should start to segment your audience into casual fans, core fans and super fans – and then treat them differently.

9. Start building a mailing list right away – so encourage fans to give you an email address and permission to email them. You will still talk to your fans much more frequently on social media, but every so often you can send your core fanbase some extra content by email. Those mailings often get more engagement and generate great fan data.

10. Be your own PR! Don’t be afraid to promote your music and your music projects. And as momentum builds, start reaching out to industry and media contacts too. Don’t be too pushy, but occasional personalised emails updating key people on your activities and asking for support and advice can be really beneficial. 


1. Work out a year-long release plan – so you have a basic idea of what music you are going to release when, allowing you to both plan your social media and gigging activity accordingly, and to get your tracks and accompanying assets sorted nice and early. Although at the same time, be prepared to change those plans quickly if circumstances demand!

2. Pick the right DIY distributor to get your music streaming. Many of the streaming platforms have public lists of their preferred distribution partners – make sure you consult them when picking a distributor. And talk to other music-makers you know about what distributors they use and what their experiences have been like. 

3. Don’t be afraid to think outside of your local market. In the digital domain you might find an audience in other countries before your own. So make sure you are distributing your music as widely and globally as possible.

4. Once you are regularly releasing music, be clear on timelines and deadlines for each release – including the deadlines of the companies you are working with.

5. It’s always worth pitching your releases to relevant media and industry contacts. Work out who the right contacts are – eg are they championing new artists and do they focus on the right genre – and send them personalised emails.

6. To help with that process, learn how to write great press releases and artist biographies.

7. Networking is key – when you are releasing music and starting to play live, try to connect with people in the industry and media. Maybe start with a polite personalised email. Maybe ask for advice and feedback first time. And make sure you properly target any messages.

8. As things progress you will start to build a team, working with more people and companies in the music industry. But be realistic. Just because you get a team on board, doesn’t suddenly mean everything will step up a level. Each opportunity leads to the next opportunity.

9. When you are collaborating with other people and working with other people, do encourage and listen to feedback. Constructive criticism is great. That said, at the same time make sure you are true to yourself. Consistency is key.

10. Once you are regularly releasing music and playing shows it can become over-whelming – there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. But take your time, have fun, live every day and enjoy the small moments.


1. Income from shows and streaming will be modest at the start – but you should think about ways you can generate money from your most engaged fans. Are there products and services they might pay for that are easy to deliver? Would they make a regular donation to support your work or pay a regular membership fee to access premium content? Would they commit to buy products and services in advance, before you’ve made any financial commitment? 

2. Once you are selling products and services to your fans, think about your pricing strategy – make sure you have things that your fans want to pay for at different pricing levels, so however much money they have available, there is a way for them to support you.

3. Research what grant funding is available for people making music within your genre at your level. There are 8000+ trusts out there that offer funding – how do you find them? What do they want?

4. When you are seeking funding, have a well thought out plan about what funding schemes you are going to target, when and for what projects. But make sure the plan is adaptable – so that you can evolve projects to different funding opportunities.

5. As with everything else, personal relationships are important in the funding world too. The people working at funding organisations want you to succeed and will have lots of practical tips and advice on how to apply for grants. Think about how you can connect with those people.

6. When you are applying for grant funding, resilience is key – you will get a “no” more than a “yes”. How do you deal with that? And how can you learn from the rejections?

7. Think about the new opportunities that are emerging for artists at all levels. Livestreaming has become a much bigger deal since the pandemic – whether via social media apps where you can use digital gifting tools or with ticketed livestreaming events. Look at what other artists are doing in this domain and consider whether it could work for you.

8. Another area that has been generatinga lot of interest in the last year is NFTs. Again, research what other artists are doing in this domain and consider whether there could be opportunities to pursue for you and your music.

9. Are there any companies you could collaborate with to create exciting new products and services for your fanbase? For example, could you partner with manufacturing companies to create branded products that you can then sell direct-to-fan?

10. Try and find time to think a little longer term. Work out what you are going to do next after your current projects. If those current projects are a success, are there platforms, funders or other initiatives – or music industry business partners – that could help you progress further on your pathway into music?


These top tens are based on the input of the following music industry experts…

Adam Joolia CEO, AudioActive 
Charlotte Caleb Artist Manager, cSquaredLDN
Chris Chadwick Artist & Producer Manager, Famous Friends
Chris Hunte Founder, Addition + Consultant, Limewire
Erika Thomas Managing Director (US), WMA
Fiona McAuley Head Of Audience, Atlantic Records UK
Henriette Heimdal Head of Growth & Marketing, Family in Music
Jessie Scoullar Chief Strategist, Wicksteed Works
Liam Craig Music Industry Educator, North West Regional College
Lucy Stone Director, No Stone Unturned Fundraising
Natasha Gregory Agent, Mother Artists
Phil Nelson Lecturer, BIMM + Director, Pathways Into Music + artist manager
Shikayla Nadine Artist Manager, SNM Management
Whiskas (Samuel Nicholls) Director, Music Local + Launchpad