• Record Label DAO

How to use social media to promote your music | John Michie

Today we’re talking to John Michie. He’s a producer and songwriter from Northumberland, UK. If you've been on Twitter you've probably heard of him, but if you haven't this is how he introduces himself “I like cats, the pub and believe in the legalization of cannabis. If you like old English psychedelic type music I may be your man”.


This article is a good read for anyone who wants to dive deeper into the mind of a musician. In this conversation, we’ve covered topics like: his music inspiration, John’s process of making music, how he cultivated his Twitter success, the current landscape of music, his upcoming album and much more!




"Music is a canvas and, for me, the more unreal it is the better"



How would you describe your music and the relationship you have with your craft? What are some of your inspirations?

My music is for me 1970s music. That is kinda the era I feel is channelled the most in my output. My relationship with music is definitely like air that you breathe… It is the same with all musicians. You are sharing a piece of your soul with what you do. Lyrically my songs are meaningless but the music and the sounds for me is what speaks.

In general, I do find it hard to find time to make music properly as life gets in the way so I can go a week or two without opening a project. I have come to accept that sometimes the “distance” life imposes can give greater clarity on direction.

I am definitely a magpie when it comes to music. I am not lifting like Noel Gallagher by ripping off songs. But I do lift ideas from records. So, Queen I hate but their production and mixes are brilliant. I lifted the arpeggio synth bass idea from “Radio Gaga” for “Wish You Were Dead”. I also lifted the Chuck Berry/Beatles lead guitar. The panned shaker on “Billie Jean” by Wacko Jacko I lifted for “I’ll Write Your Constellation” along with backwards snare drums from Hendrix… and so on. A lot of ideas in each song are taken from different places and they get mashed together. Once I made the mental decision not to perform live or form a band that is when my sound fell into place. If I had to write songs that worked live, I couldn’t do what I wanted to do with the soundscapes. Music is a canvas and for me the more unreal it is the better.



Personally, when I listen to your music I get a cinematographic feeling from it, is that a conscious decision during your production process?

Not sure maybe? I like Lalo Schifrin and John Barry a lot so there may be a hint of that coming through. I generally just sit down and spend weeks tinkering and recording until the path has been walked. The songs are what dictate the process. Also, limitations of equipment, skills and my dreaded singing voice. I am definitely a composer and songwriter but I am not a singer or front man… I definitely find instrumentals easier which also may lend more to the cinematic vibes. I would love to have the budget to make a Holy Mountain type video over the whole of an album like some kind of Pink Floyd and Wizard of Oz type video. That for me would be cinematic.



“Finding out that masterpiece had been recorded on GarageBand was a wake up call that you could record in your bedroom.”



Why did you decide to pursue your career as an independent artist? Could you highlight some of the struggles and silver linings you’ve had?


I think deep down I have always wanted to be a musician. It runs in the family with my grandpa being a pianist, grandad a drummer, uncle a drummer and cousins in bands. When I was 18 years old in the early noughties though the only way you could make it back then was by touring and a recording contract. No one I knew could play instruments. The technology wasn’t there. That coupled with general recognition that I wanted a good life and money… I took the option to find a career and get educated. The defining moment that made me wake up was listening to the album “Visions” by Grimes. Going back to influences she is kinda my musical guiding spirit. I really admire that lady as she has total artistic control. But… Finding out that masterpiece had been recorded on GarageBand was a wake up call that you could record in your bedroom. My path in life had changed to where I also could retire from work and I had the time to play with a music program.


My first record High Vibrations is the result of me sitting in front of a computer for 2-3 years trying my hardest to record something I could not be ashamed of with bad equipment. For most of the time I knew no one to turn to for help. I bought a Gibson Les Paul Custom during this period and realised what good equipment could do. Rerecorded all my guitar parts. It was an uphill struggle of failure until I discover Izotope plugins that use artificial intelligence to get the bones in place. I then banged out my ambient noise piece album “Toward the Rainbow” in a weekend. I personally prefer that album to High Vibrations… Then, my computer became basically unworkable. If I am going to list a struggle greater than learning mixing it was trying to record album three on that crap Mac Mini. Demos at best it gave me. The struggle over the last year has been simply sitting on my hands and not really recording as I saved money for a new computer and upgrading all my gear. Guitar pedals, microphone, you name it. The highlight from all this was simply the general positive response to me as a musician telling me it was worth taking this seriously. Even if there is sod all money in it.






You’re a big player in what some people call “twitter music scene”. What would you attribute your success on that platform to?

This makes me smile a bit. Er I don’t know. I only stepped in when I had an album ready to master as covid hit. I kinda didn’t do social media before then as I didn’t have anything ready. Once I did, I just logged on and started talking to everyone on there who had suddenly logged on at the same time. I personally feel I am living musically off around two decent songs… But “Wish You Were Dead” in my opinion is amazing. Toploader or a band like that don’t even have a decent song so…. The rest of my catalogue is what it is and not fussed. The best is to come.


I also have people now and again asking how I got verified on Twitter and I can’t answer that. I applied for it and I ticked the boxes so I don’t know. I must have a big enough footprint made from my armchair.


The only things that I think sets me apart from most people on social media are that I reply to every message and I am consistent with my presence on that platform. Most people in the industry will likely say you need to be on Tik Tok licking custard off your elbow to get fans but to be blunt… If I did daily Tik Tok it would be either me watching Heartbeat or down the pub in Spoons... It isn’t interesting. You can talk on Twitter hence its appeals to me. I like talking and quite outgoing as a person.

The second thing that I think sets me a part is that I am genuinely interested more on the backstage stuff of music and kinda maybe have a bit more knowledge on some things which people ask help on. Maybe I don’t but I get a lot of questions in Dms. I do have my go to gurus like Nunnyboy from Voldo who help me out.


I also generally don’t as a rule talk about sex, politics or religion. I have strong views on all of these as I am human but try my best not to offend people that way. I am not going to talk on Twitter about my crush on Ellie Bamber for instance. No one needs to know that subject in depth. Politics is the hard one due to the shit show of the modern political bandwidth… I am happy to offend Phil Collins and Adele fans though.


The only other thing is that I generally don’t promote my music. Kinda take the rule that I only promote if I have something to push or if there is an anniversary… but you won’t normally see me chasing for attention that way. I guess that may make me more the brand rather than the music?



I was reading an interview where you said “Some musicians think promotion is just posting the same presave link daily and expecting something to happen or a record label will sign you from that”. So I wanted to ask, what is promotion for you? Do you wish people were more creative with it? And on that note, imagine you’re talking to someone who has never put their music out but they want to, how would you suggest they approach their promotion?

Ah wow you have done your homework. Er. Promotion for me is talking to people. Making a connection with people. It is also not being the pushy salesman or a Swiss Tony. You have to create I guess suspense. Me not releasing anything except when an album is on its way kinda is that suspense of the product. I just have to make sure now it was worth the wait which I am confident it will be. This kinda leads into the creativity part. The suspense and interest do also come through being creative with the promotion. So, for instance create 24 pieces of media to support a release when you have something to push. The artwork, lyrics quotes, snippet videos of the song, video you talking about it and so on… I will do these with album three before I get an ah but from someone.


 

Music promotion and the marketing side of it can be challenging for some musicians. However, John definitely seems to be walking the talk when it comes to promoting his music and being able to market himself in front of an audience. For this reason, we were curious to know what he’d advise someone that just released their first single.


“For someone who has never put their music out I will give the same advice above of talking and creating media around the releases but also… if you truly believe in your music send it to radios, blogs etc. Carpet bomb everywhere and stay organised. Build lists and contacts. Be a chancer and send to everyone. The amount of people that don’t push their music or expect to get playlisted by Spotify on a release and that that will give you fame is a bit silly. It isn’t going to happen kids and you’re not going to get enough money in even if you get signed to support a rock’n’roll drug habit. It’s a myth.”




His down to earth attitude when it comes to music is refreshing. He’s an artist that won’t buy into the glamorous side of the music industry and is ready to “do the work”. In the process of building a project there’s dreams, goals and expectations but, most importantly, it needs to be supported by actions and your own behavior.


“It is also about attitude.” John says, “some artists can’t take the wall of silence they get from places which yes is a type of rejection. But just because they are not saying anything doesn’t mean they aren’t watching you. Everyone sees all your posts on social media. I see acts moan about not getting festival gigs or played on the radio but so what? At the end of the day, it is about the music and you… I don’t give a crap, if honest, about what others think about me or my music because it isn’t for them. I have moaned in the past for the record around the BBC and radio play but it wasn’t for me. The BBC did not support indie music during Covid. Acts could not gig and the 99% of the arts were not helped by a public service. The BBC and Freshnet etc do a great job and are more than our brothers and sisters in the states get but there is always room for improvement.”





How would you describe the current music industry? What do you think is the future of music and its industry?


Hmm well. Music in general I think is in a decent place. I am inspired by acts like Lewca, Ynes, Dictator, Heavy North, OrangeG and so on. They all seem like genuinely beautiful people too from the little to large interactions I have had. As for the industry, it is in the toilet but it always has been. The “Top 40” which, let's be honest, is a joke, has zero bands in it. They are all “solo” artists. All the majors are hyping their acts into public view through botted numbers in what I am sure is an elaborate tax dodge. There is zero money in it but that has always been that way even if you’re signed getting 16% of a Spotify play or CD sale. The industry is both ageist and sexist along with other “ists”. But again, what do we expect here?


It is a business so the majors only think about money over music. The general perspective I have though, bar the money, is that things are very positive. Music is cheaper than ever to get into. The technology is becoming easier to use. The internet and social media give you the chance to make a name. We have a pretty good shot at things which guys my age in the 1980s could only dream of. No one knows either what will set things alight next but something will it is just waiting for it to happen. I do not believe it will be me. But I am not here for fame I am here because I like music and people.


“Music is cheaper than ever to get into. The technology is becoming easier to use. The internet and social media give you the chance to make a name.”



When talking about the current landscape of the music industry, as well as its’ future, we wanted to know what John’s opinions were on music NFTs. Is the Twitter eminent musician a fan of web3 music? We couldn’t help but ask…

“Er hmm I don’t know really. This sorta falls into crypto, NFTs, metaverse and all that shabang for me. I kinda understand the decentralized internet but I am kinda waiting for it to impact my life before I pay full attention. NFTs for instance have had no impact on me so I am not interested. I do deeply understand more about crypto and I have interacted with that. I am not going to disclose my holdings of Dogecoin on paper though… if I do buy meme coins that is… or maybe I invest in more high-quality projects… who knows? Crypto on a serious note I think has real potential but I do think we need to accept that it isn’t going to be decentralised. The big boys will not allow it and you can see that with JP Morgan getting a share. It is what it is and I am under no illusion. All things that are free and open always get controlled by a handful of people. Oligopoly is the international system.”


If you had a slot during prime time (in a major radio station) and freedom to feature any artist, who would you play?

Signed act it would be Grimes all day every day. I do this monthly mixcloud show and she is always first song. Mainly as, I have said, she is the one that inspires me when I sit down to mix or produce… even though my sound is not like hers.


If it was an unsigned act, I have to say Lewca but I would have to play non radio edits. He genuinely is one of the few people I look at and can see a talent that has real drive and potential. I would sign him if I was at a major label even though he isn’t the nice template they’re after. I am glad I can call him a friend. Yeah, let’s get all soppy.



What’s your next creative endeavor? How’s that project coming along?

I am currently working on album three. Been a long gap mainly due to not having a decent computer for around a year… Now that I have a decent computer, I have made a start rebuilding the demos from the old Mac Mini… but life is getting in the way. Kitchen has been ripped out and all that jazz… Can’t rush these things though as there will be plenty of bad weather days over the winter to work.


I think people expect unsigned indies to bang out singles all the time and release which is all fair and good but I am not cut from that cloth. I am an albums man and worship the statement of 10 plus songs that knit together. When you look at acts like Boards of Canada you can be waiting almost a decade until the cake is cooked and it may be the same for me… Though I hope not. The marker though is “art”. Art takes time regardless if it is a song or painting. I am not the most gifted person so it will take me longer. I would love to bang out songs quickly but I don’t have 4 other band members and studio support… Things move at my speed and I can’t do much about that.


The year off wasn’t wasted, though I did sit on my arse a lot on Twitter. I have been thinking of the approach, artwork, title and direction of the next project. That process is still fluid. Was talking to my good mate and fellow artist Genetic Effects about album structure yesterday. There are a few things I realized in that conversation I should be copying from M83’s album “Hurry Up Were Dreaming”. The record though will be good as I won’t release it unless it is done... This is for a traditional type album… when it comes to ambient and experimental stuff which I want to do more of… I kinda am happier to whack that up quick. I find those genres liberating as the barriers aren’t as solid



To finish this off, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? What advice would you give to someone who’s starting their music career?


Again, it goes back to “just because they’re not responding, it doesn’t mean they’re not listening”. Part from that be good, and say your prayers.



 

Find more about John Michie

Twitter | Spotify | Website | other links