Tony Ward – The Music Marketer

Tony Ward is the founder of Man On The Ground – a Hong Kong-based music and entertainment consultancy firm. Before launching Man On The Ground, Tony spent over 15 years in New York in executive marketing positions at Sony Music, BMG, Arista Records, EMI Records and Sanctuary Management. Tony managed marketing campaigns for many successful artists, including, Santana, Sarah McLachlan, Patti Smith, Eurythmics, Beth Orton and Spiritualized. For the past three years, he’s served as the Program Director for Music Matters, Asia Pacific’s annual premiere music industry event. Tony shared with us his valuable insight on the future of music and the breaking of acts.

RL: How did you get started in the music business?

TW: I’ve been a music fanatic my whole life and didn’t think of much else growing up. Then, in the 80s, I worked at my college radio station in the US. I always loved the music from the UK – especially from the then indie label, Virgin Records. So when I graduated, I decided to move to London and was determined to get a job in the music business. I actually managed to land a job at Virgin Records in London and worked there for a few years.

RL: What led to the creation of Man On The Ground?

TW: When moving to Asia, I immediately recognized that many western artists or entertainment companies now view Asia as an opportunity market for expansion and growth, and are in need of someone to help them navigate the nuances of the industry here. Many from the west see Asia as a big question mark and need assistance making connections, launching a product or service, or help with career guidance.

RL: Tell us about your role in Music Matters? What led you to take the position as Program Director?

TW: Several weeks after moving to Hong Kong, I was introduced to Jasper Donat, who is President of Music Matters. He was looking for someone with industry experience to design the conference program and secure guest speakers. We hit it off. The conference has grown to be the premiere industry event for Asia. My role at Music Matters is to create the panel topics, locate appropriate panel and keynote speakers and write the program. I also work on the festival side of the conference – Music Matters Live.

RL: What was your most successful marketing campaign for an artist?

TW: In the mid-90s, I was in New York at EMI Records and worked with a band called the Fun Lovin’ Criminals. They were an amazing live band with incredible personalities and charisma. We felt they were perfect for the UK and European markets, so we focused on breaking the band in that region and committed to this by taking the band there again and again. Over the course of a year, they went from playing small clubs to huge festivals across Europe and still have a large following in the UK today. So the philosophy of having a band return repeatedly to a market worked and I still believe in it to this day. I also worked on Santana’s Supernatural album, which sold 25 million albums around the world – so that was pretty cool as well.

RL: Who has been your favourite artist to work with? Why?

TW: Without a doubt it was Patti Smith and we worked on several albums together. It sounds like a cliche, but she is a true artist – musician, painter, poet, writer, and photographer. In 2007, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2010, she won the National Book Award for her book Just Kids. Not many artists can say that.

RL: How do you think social media has affected the breaking of acts?

TW: It has obviously become important in breaking an artist from many angles – for example, many artists are now discovered on YouTube and labels troll the internet looking for talent – so there is an additional avenue for discovery. When used effectively, artists can open a very useful line of communication and commerce with their fans through social media. But in the end, it’s still about the music and playing live. If you don’t have that expertise, it doesn’t matter how many Facebook fans you have in the long run.

RL: Where do you see the future of music heading?

TW: I think it’s looking up from where it’s been going over the past 10 years, particularly for the independent, self-sufficient artist – but in different ways from how we’ve gauged success in the past. As an artist, it will be more about creating your own network of fans and marketing and selling directly to them. And it will continue to be about the live side of the business and having a global perspective.

RL: What is your advice for indie artists everywhere who are hoping to take their careers to the next level?

TW: Work very hard on being an incredible live act and always work to hone your live craft. Take your time and don’t try to skip any steps. Also, try to travel to the various music industry conventions and events around the world. It’s not cheap, but you will learn a great deal, perhaps make new and important connections, and understand how the industry works from a global perspective. Look for every opportunity out there for international festival performance slots- there are opportunities for indie artists. You can even try to utilize the crowd-funding options that exist today to help fund the trip. There are also so many on-line tools that indie artists can utilize to grow their fanbase – from selling and streaming music, studying analytics, creating and selling merch, raising funds, and getting your music distributed digitally around the world. Study the tools that are at your disposal.

Tony Ward lives in Hong Kong and continues to dispense great marketing advice.

Man On The Ground Official Website: www.manontheground.asia

Songs About The Music Business

Music is their business, so it was not surprising to hear the hosts of Sound Opinions dedicate an entire episode to the music business. Jim DeRogatisi and Greg Kot, who run the weekly program for National Public Radio, discussed on a recent show their favorite songs about the joys and pitfalls of the record industry.

Greg Kot picked “Nothing Is Good Enough” by Aimee Mann, “Mercury Poisoning” by Graham Parker, and “E.M.I” by the Sex Pistols as his favorite tunes about the music business, while co-host Jim DeRogatisi chose “Have a Cigar” by Pink Floyd, “So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star” by Patti Smith, and “Caught Can I Get a Witness” by Public Enemy. All six were worthy selections, but there were many more they could have mentioned.

Here are ten other popular songs written about the grind or delight of a career in music.

Death On Two Legs by Queen

Although it never received the acclaim of “Bohemian Rhapsody” this opening track from A Night at the Opera has Freddie Mercury taking his best shots at underhanded deal makers in the industry.

Geno the Manager by Hall and Oates

Unlike many songs about those involved in the music business, this one actually shows appreciation for the guy watching over the duo.

The Entertainer by Billy Joel

It is a fickle career to enter, as the Piano Man so clearly points out in this jaunty acoustic number from Streetlife Serenade.

Paint a Vulgar Picture by the Smiths

As an artist lies dying, Morrissey blasts the fact that the record company is preparing to capitalize on the tragedy by repackaging her material.

Goon Squad by Elvis Costello

The title group in this Armed Forces track are industry executives, who Costello warns “have come to look you over and they’re giving you the eye, they want you to come out to play but you better say goodbye.”

Free Man In Paris by Joni Mitchell

Reflecting on his youthful days in France, this fed up record exec dreams of getting out of the hit making machinery on this single from Court and Spark.

Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You by Sugar Loaf

Most aspiring artists were already well acquainted with this response when the band made it a Top Ten single in 1974.

Keep the Customer Satisfied by Simon and Garfunkel

Here the customers are those buying their albums, and the title serve as the mantra the duo keeps receiving from their record company.

Thank You Very Much by the Kaiser Chiefs

“It should be a thrill but it feels like a drill” Ricky Wilson sings in the chorus on this track from Retirement, an album with several other references to the pitfalls of success.

Daily Records by the Who

Pete Townshend on this delighftul track from Face Dances emphasizes that he just wants to keep making songs, as he grows increasingly wary of the business side of the music world.

Promoting Your Music Online

Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever for new bands and artists to be discovered and to sell their music directly to fans. How do you get started and what’s the best way to promote your band? Here are some tips:

One of the first places you’ll want to visit is MySpace. By now, everyone has heard of it and millions and millions of people have their own accounts. But I bet you didn’t know that MySpace offers a special type of account just for promoting a band or artist? It’s called MySpace Music and it’s completely free to sign up. With this type of account, you can add up to 4 full songs to your account for people to listen to while they are reading your MySpace page. This alone makes a MySpace Music page worthwhile to set up, since getting people to listen to and discover your music is the main goal of most new artists. Include a link to buy your CD from your own website, iTunes or other music store and you’ve got a great way to increase sales.

If someone likes the music on your profile, they can add your band as a friend, which means they can get email notices when you add a blog or send out a bulletin. Blogging on MySpace is one of the best ways to communicate with your audience (friends), when your band has a tour coming up, an appearance, is working on new music or has any news of any kind, you’ll want to post it to your blog and keep your fans up to date. The more your communicate with fans, the more they will feel like a part of your community.

In addition, you can take advantage of a multitude of other options, including listing your influences, adding a picture gallery, adding full videos, adding banners and many other options.

Just be sure to log in often to approve new friends and to communicate with other members. There are also many MySpace Groups you can join where a message board is set up for members to communicate. Joining an emerging artist type group would help you to network with other new artists and even to promote each other, discuss new ways to get new fans, find someone to tour with or even to collaborate with.

Another essential step to promoting your music online is to have your own website. While MySpace is excellent, it’s best to have as many avenues of promotion as possible. It can be simple, with just a bit about your band and links to buy your album or it can be a major presence loaded with content. The more content you add and the more often you update your website and your MySpace profile, the better, as people will keep coming back to see your fresh content and news. Some elements to consider adding to your band’s website include biographies of the members, history of the band, news section, tour dates and appearance schedule, photos, music videos, sample songs to download, wallpapers, icons, ringtones, links to buy your album or merchandise, discography and anything else you want to let people know about. You’ll also want to link your website to your MySpace and vice versa.