DFW Music News

Entertainment Entrepreneurs Had This Advice to Give to Aspiring Musicians at Dallas Startup Week

Emmanuel Ibe (right) meets with artists and local business owners at Spaces on McKinney Avenue following a discussion about fundraising on Wednesday for Dallas Startup Week.
Emmanuel Ibe (right) meets with artists and local business owners at Spaces on McKinney Avenue following a discussion about fundraising on Wednesday for Dallas Startup Week. Danny Gallagher
Music and art may seem like appealing career paths for creative people. However, at a Dallas Startup Week panel on Wednesday, several entertainment entrepreneurs warned that these fields require business sense as well.

"A lot of people want to create, but one of the things you have to worry about is your brand as well," said James Jayson, who recently launched the digital entertainment marketing service SignYourself.net. "You have to have paperwork to make sure your brand is covered. That's trademarking your brand, copyrighting your materials and doing everything you can to make sure your company is successful."

Jayson hosted the panel, at Spaces on McKinney Avenue, to give local musicians and artists advice on how to raise funds and present their craft as a business worthy of investment. "You don't have to be famous to get sponsored by Taylor Guitars," talent buyer, event producer and music industry strategist Kris Norvet said.

Norvet says setting up a company is the first step to taking your passion from a hobby to a profession. This can eliminate a lot of headaches and roadblocks, and help you maintain control of your creations later on. "If you're in a band and there are multiple people involved, please, please, please, please put something in writing," she says. "Say who gets what. If you're a songwriter, do not leave the studio first without doing who gets what song split."

Building such a company also means identifying people who can help meet its needs as it grows, Emmanuel Ibe said. In addition to being a musician himself — known as Emeka Ibe in hip-hop circles — he is the digital marketing founder of Audiobuzz.

"As an artist, to get the right team is more so about taking the time and not jumping on the first bandwagon," Ibe says. "You'll get a lot of people who say, 'I'll represent you and here's a little bit of money.' You need to make sure you take the time to vet everyone and everything that you involve yourself in business-wise because everything is a reflection of you."

Artists who plan on seeking funding also need to make sure they have a refined pitch before they start setting up meetings or even launch a digital fundraising campaign. "It answers pretty much every question you're going to have going forward and it takes a lot of worries off because it answers questions like what marketing company do I go for and which one feeds my purpose more," Norvet says. "It's almost impossible these days to not have a purpose."

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The speakers (from left to right): Kris Norvet, Jay LaFrance, Emmanuel Ibe, Merrick Porcheddu and James Jayson.
Danny Gallagher
Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have changed the fundraising process by making it easier to come up with the modest sums most musicians are seeking, Longhorn Ballroom owner Jay LaFrance said. "There are debt and equity in most investments," he says. "That's a philanthropic effort through crowdfunding because you're not asking for either one. You don't have to give them back and you don't have to give them intellectual revenue or future profits. So that should be pursued and tends to be more for the philanthropic people who love what you do and love your art and are willing to fund it that way."

"The most terrible artists get a lot of money because they’re consistent."

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Merrick Porcheddu, the owner and founder of the magazine Artist Uprising, said collaborating with other musicians or artists can be a great shortcut to tapping into other fan bases and getting more contacts. "You're getting their networks as well, and you're almost working together to achieve a goal or push a business plan or meet the next connection that can actually connect you to an investor or something a little higher up," she says. "When you're doing something on your own even in crowdfunding, it almost puts a cap on you. Having multiple stories together is a better story."

Norvet encourages local artists to be aggressive about seeking sponsorships and travel services when it comes to tours. If you've got a good story to tell and good content to provide, transportation and hotel companies will sometimes offer freebies. "You don't have to be some kind of big artist to be a boost or benefit for those companies," she says. "Find your favorite hotel company and it does not cost them a whole lot of money to give you points. Don't tell them I said that but it's not like real money to them."

But the main takeaway was that consistent, targeted marketing strategies are the key to building a fan base that will pump money into everything from concert tickets to bigger projects.

"All it takes is consistency," Ibe says. "The most terrible artists get a lot of money because they're consistent. Simple and plain."
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.