The music industry is battling back against the devastation of Covid with a brilliant, practical guide to help our region’s musicians get inspired, enthused and ready for action once more, as the unlocking of society continues to gather pace. 

Making it in music is a daunting dream, and perhaps has never been a less easily navigable prospect than in today’s disrupted world. In that spirit, local charity Tees Music Alliance present “The Musician’s Atlas”, an invaluable resource presented as a “micro-guide” to the music industry, gleaned from the minds of the North East’s most knowledgeable music business figures. While this highly useful mini-bible is hefty with excellent tips and enlightening insight, crucially it is no tome. Digestible, readable and colourfully presented, it lands as an accessible tool with a wide-ranging community ethos and is envisioned to uplift aspiring artists and creatives in the region.

As Tees Music Alliance CEO Paul Burns’ opening salvo in the guide makes clear, the Atlas has been produced largely in response to Covid-19 ripping through the industry and leaving a trail of destruction behind, affecting everyone from performers to technical workers and the people whose organisational skills make music scenes tick and buzz. True to this, the Atlas aims to foster equality, inclusivity and safety as key tenets of its advisory manifesto.

“Experienced creators are as likely to find the Atlas a go-to safety net as newcomers are to use it as an invaluable launch pad.”

The use of a “jargon buster” as an effective pre-glossary speaks to the ethos of the Atlas. No assumptions of technical knowledge are made and explanations are offered plainly and never patronisingly. All facets of the material are democratising, with a critical focus on the fact that the advice will be consumed equally by musical rookies and established acts seeking to utilise the guide as a handy reference point, especially in inevitable moments of doubt and uncertainty. Similarly, the Atlas is constructed cognisant of the fact that some users will be looking to have fun where others are taking proceedings more seriously, but motivations may alter and swap once the musical journey begins.

This is an unadulterated thrill of the industry, which is captured between the lines here. Experienced creators are as likely to find the Atlas a go-to safety net as newcomers are to use it as an invaluable launch pad. Certainly, tips such as having music 100% complete before diving into a release strategy seem to still escape some of the biggest musicians in the world. 

Many of the tips across the Atlas on touring, live performance, image and all of the foundations of a successful musical act may be interpreted as simple, but in fact are fundamental and work correctly in interplay with each other. This is reflected by the interconnecting web which comprises the local figures throughout the guide providing their authoritative opinions and guidance. The huge importance of cultivating relationships is reiterated heavily and much of the advice is laced with gestures and actions which are designed for this purpose and may otherwise go unspoken.

The sense is palpable that most of the people offering their views in the Atlas are in conversation with each other, dialogues and relationships spanning years and even decades, and that this forms the cornerstone of local and national music scenes. The requited nature of the insight provided across spheres such as social media, streaming and producing mirrors the strength of the bonds, both business and personal, underpinning this project. 

Despite this, the diversity of views, especially among the musicians quizzed within, is also one of the most rudimentary characteristics of the Atlas and a great reminder that different approaches can and should be championed, albeit while drawing from this rich and understatedly deep well of a resource.

Kingsley Hall of Benefits is especially keen to emphasise that perfection is elusive and that genuine diversity of audience is a much more rewarding endgame. These guiding principles of the Atlas chime strongly with Tees Music Alliance’s “Digital Tenderness” campaign, under the auspices of which the guidebook has been unveiled. While mentions of mental health here are welcomed, with health and wellbeing being covered specifically, the Atlas stretches subtly into more proactive territory with its regular reminders to favour respect and firm, healthy working partnerships (“get a good relationship going with the sound engineer”). The message of prioritising tolerance and sound working practices underlines the humanity behind the drama and headlines of music at all levels, which is increasingly lost in all transactional arrangements today.

While the guide is at root a business handbook imbued with the character, warmth, creativity and priceless informational assets of the regional music scene, it is one which goes about things in the only way the scene is prepared to tolerate; a path of mutual decency. This message is streaked reassuringly through the entirety of the resource.

“…imbued with the character, warmth, creativity and priceless informational assets of the regional music scene.”

Many of the interviews contained double as fascinating reads in their own right. Henry Carden’s expertise on streaming is particularly refreshing, while John Esplen of Wipe Out Music imparts very educational wisdom on the topic of music publishing. Juxtaposed with uncloaked, bite-size, consumer-friendly takes on management, finances and every aspect of the business, the reader can traverse a constellation of sagacity from leading local figures.

The weight of knowledge and experience carried by the contributors inside is not to be underestimated, and the Atlas pivots upon the fact that scarcely a few degrees of separation are needed to move between them. Figures such as NARC editor Claire Dupree and producer Paddy Jordan, to name only a couple among a glittering cast, are local legends in terms of longevity and the vast array of experience they have built, and this lends the Atlas its import on all of the matters it delves into. 

Walking the tightrope between art and commerce, not to mention detailing that point in print, can seem impossibly challenging even for veteran musicians. The point at which the two concepts intersect can be a grubby area, which makes The Musician’s Atlas immeasurably important for upstart, evolving and battle-hardened musicians and industry figures alike; the guide lightens the obstacles while simultaneously equipping users with a quietly major artillery of information.

For a region which cannot match the population density of many of the country’s metropolitan scenes, this will enable us to punch above our weight musically and to weather the pandemic storm in a collaborative fashion. 

To check out the guide click this link https://teesmusicalliance.org.uk/project/musician-atlas