Interview with Tim Ferrone, Founder of Wrapped Up Music

The means of making money varies depending on the cycle of a band but it is not all about making millions but rather long term sustainable careers (and therefore earnings).

Artists want to create music and promote it to as many people as they can; but there is the financial element that has to be embraced. To an extent money gets in the way of what artists enjoy the most; making music. These interviews are aimed at understanding how artists approach this challenge.

In this interview we approached Tim Ferrone, the Founder of Wrapped up Music. The aim of the business is to take unknown talent, whether looking for UK or International Exposure, and work alongside them to develop a successful and sustainable career. During his time Tim has worked for companies including EMI, Universal and Ministry of Sound and on campaigns as diverse as those for Guns N’ Roses and London Grammar.

He has recently launched a new service which acts as a virtual manager; this provides guidance but it is for the artist to take that advice and action it themselves.

We spoke to Tim as he has a unique insight into the challenges facing artists both financially and importantly in the building of the fan base that can give them a sustainable long term career.

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Q: “I started the interview by asking Tim to describe his experience of how the market for promoting music has evolved. In particular I was interested in whether distributors, streaming services and social media are a good thing or a necessary evil.”

Tim explained that he didn’t feel this was a necessary evil but a reflection of a changing market.

He explained that fifteen years ago the only way to purchase music was via the likes of Our Price, Virgin and HMV. With the development of the internet individuals found ways of illegally downloading music for free which meant that artists weren’t getting paid; there was a danger of music sales falling down a precipice where there would no return.

ITunes (and others) have effectively replaced the high street stores and given individuals a legitimate means of downloading music (where the artist gets paid).

Although artists allegedly receive minimal royalty pay through from the likes of Spotify, it does pay something (many still don’t), and it is a fabulous and fast growing place for music discovery; record labels have traditionally embraced YouTube as a promotional platform more so than a paying platform so streaming is just another way of getting your music to consumers’ ears.

For artists who don’t engage with these then there is always the danger that people wanting their music will turn to the illegal route which doesn’t benefit them!

Q: “I talked to Tim about how bands have become more creative in the production of records, using crowdfunding to fund the release of music. I asked Tim whether he felt this was a reflection of a changing industry and what other sources of finance artists can turn to, to fund the production of records.”

Tim explained that if you go back fifteen years the only way for a band to successfully come to market was via a record label. There was no internet and these companies had the financial input to steer bands in the right direction.

Now that has all changed, it is much easier for people to make music and it means there is much more of it out there. It is also much harder for individuals to distinguish between the good and the not so good because of the volume of new and available music and give time to listening to it all.

Artists can create albums in their bedrooms and at a touch of a button that album can have global exposure.

The challenge is that although it is easy for artists to create and distribute music the funding is important to promote and market it to a wider audience. Just producing an album, and putting it on the internet, isn’t enough.

Crowdfunding (the likes of Kickstarter and Pledge Music) is one way of producing albums. It gives artists the financial support they need but importantly they are engaging with a receptive audience and one that is likely to be sticky (i.e. they will stay with them).

Other ways include for example Venture Capitalists, Government Funded Grants, Arts Council, PRS Grants and Association of Independent Music.

Throughout the interview it became clear that artists need to engage with the business side as much as the music. Tim used the example of a shop, there is no point in having the shop without stock. In the early days this might be the equipment, the petrol, but beyond that it is the merchandise.

The music industry has changed, as has the role of the record label, this has opened up the door to more artists but they need to consider how they get their music out to a wider audience base.

Q: “In this part of the interview we talked about the role of the record label and how that seems to be evolving; some artists purely use them to produce the album, some artists work with labels in the promotion of their albums and some artists do everything themselves. I asked Tim how does a new artist fund and promote themselves to a wider audience, and how does the record label fit into the mix.”

In the discussion this is clearly a challenge for artists. The internet provides more channels to distribute and promote music but Tim feels that ultimately it is radio that is the purest means of hearing new music, and that there are well established radio stations out there that artists need to engage with.

He used the example of going into the likes of HMV where you are faced with row upon row of different products, it can be frightening. What do you choose? Radio is still the principle way of achieving that; so whether radio, playlists, streaming or whatever; musical curation of some form is more important than ever in helping the consumer find music they will like

Another route is the compilation album, some argued that these would die because you could download what you liked, and therefore didn’t need to be forced into listening to a rigid format. However, it has become clear that with so much music people are time poor, and these act as a good way for people to be introduced to artists and their music.

Tim explained that there are means for artists to gain recognition without a record label but it does involve working at it. BBC Introducing has launched careers for the likes of George Ezra and this route is accessible to anyone. Getting onto national radio is important for an artist to get that wider recognition.

Going back to the business side the PR, social media, press engagement and gigging are all ways of promoting a singer / band but also technology means that you can email your music to people. For those who are good then they will pick up momentum if they are prepared to commit time. The snow ball effect is crucial because when it moves it can move very quickly.

Communion Records are recognised as a company that helps many artists with live promotions, record deals etc but at the start it is about the hard work and looking at how the artist plans to promote themselves, how they are different and how they reach out to the wider audience.

Q: “In our interview Tim talked about introducing an artist to the wider commercial mainstream. I asked Tim how he approaches this, and how can artists judge their success where the means of measuring success are ever changing?

The response to this somewhat surprised me. I had assumed that the charts were dead! However, Tim explained that today they are a much purer measure of success. Twenty years ago an artist could be hyped, buying teams around the country could buy their singles or albums and push them into the number one slot. This then guaranteed airplay and appearances on top of the pops. Careers were up and running very quickly.

Today it is different, the monitoring patterns are much more sophisticated and it is a greater reflection of what is happening and what people are listening to. Whether someone is downloading a track or listening via Spotify it is because they want to rather than a record label ‘manipulating’ the artist to a position of success.

He explained that he feels for this reason it is more important than ever that an artist gets into the top ten or top twenty if they want that greater recognition. And as a reflection of the industry bands will live and die by this.

He did add that niche artists are less likely to appear in the charts but added this is the purest barometer to judge success.

Q: “Turning to Tim’s job I asked him to explain how his role works alongside that of the band’s management team, and what his role encompasses.”

We touched on this briefly – Tim has worked in the industry for fifteen years and focuses on marketing and artist development. Fundamentally his aim is to take a promising artist and bring them to a point where they are well known and selling records – giving them a sustainable career in music.

Q: “With a changing industry and therefore funding I asked Tim what are the best sources of revenue for bands / singers (for example – merchandise, gigs / tours, festivals, streaming or record sales), and whether this changes as artists become successful.”

This comes back to engagement of business with music. If you want to get your music out there you need money to fund it. Either via a third party, or via an artist’s own funds. Whether at a simple level it is petrol for the car or merchandise, money is needed.

At the start very few artists will make money from gigs, and they are not being paid for festivals. It is just about exposure and creating opportunities. It is therefore important at this stage to have CDS, t-shirts etc because selling these will pay for petrol and can be re-invested into the process.

As an artist becomes more successful the more they can make. Second tier artists at V Festival and Reading can make tens of thousands of pounds for appearances and most of that is profit. They will also find that touring and albums provide equal weighting.

With the boom in live music a good artist doing two to three UK Festivals, 5 to 6 in Europe and selling around 60,000 albums a year can make money but it is not a fortune, it is a good salary. There will be a peak and then this will decline. However, superstars can afford to give away new albums to promote global stadium tours because that is far more profitable for them.

The means of making money varies depending on the cycle of a band but it is not all about making millions but rather long term sustainable careers (and therefore earnings).

Q: “We talked about downloads vs physical. I asked Tim whether he felt there was a danger that we could lose the creativity behind albums as artists focus on singles, or EPs, and with declining album sales could we see more and more bands moving away from producing physical albums in favour of downloads?”

Tim explained that in the UK we still have a sustainable physical market (over 50% of sales are physical), in Germany it is two thirds but in the likes of Sweden it is mainly streaming.

He explained it is natural for an artist to want to create that album where the songs interrelate and there is a story to be told. The difficulty is the cherry picking of certain songs and that is hard for an artist to accept.

However, he explained that now is a better time for artists to produce those albums. In the late nineties artists could produce three stand out / polished singles and the rest of the album was just fillers. Fans had no choice but to purchase the whole album. Now recording artists (via their labels) can’t afford to do fillers. The buyers can listen to the whole album before they commit to buy so artists are more exposed.

Effectively it means those that are good will shine through and that has to be a good thing.

Q: “Tim is currently working with a Bristol Band called the Wildflowers. They are signed to a US label, and he has been tasked with campaign managing their forthcoming UK / European album release. I asked Tim how a band like the Wildflowers go from being local, to National to International.”

Tim explained that it is not uncommon for a band like the Wildflowers to sign for a US label, or for a US band to sign for a UK label. Sometimes those bands can be more successful away from their home country.

For the Wildflowers they played at the SXSW Conference in Austin Texas, and then played a series of other dates across America. They were picked up by a label called Original 1265 who liked their musical style.

For all bands it is about lighting a fire somewhere and it makes sense for a band like the Wildflowers where they have a profile in the UK to start at home, and then this can be transferred to the US.

Q: “I asked Tim whether when artists sign to record labels there is a danger that they are pressurised into compromising artistic talent (i.e. artists are sometimes placed into a position where they write for sales / popularity) or can they keep their artistic talent intact.”

Tim feels that record labels and artists need to reflect the changing way people listen to music. Consumers are very sharp, if artists try to change their style for sales / popularity consumers will see through this and move away. Therefore more so today artists do have the opportunity to retain their artistic talent.

Q: “I talked to Tim about there being so many artists out there, many have similar talents but some will enjoy mainstream success, many won’t. I wanted to know whether there was a magic formula, or is it luck, and why does it happen for some and not for others.”

Tim explained that although many would not like to admit it, history will tell you there is no magic formula, and therefore luck is a massive part of success.

The opinions of perhaps a dozen people can decide the success or failure of a band, and therefore the industry remains a crazy place. But factors can help artists, if your music rides a particular wave at a particular point in time. If perhaps you meet the right people – if for example you co-write music with Ed Sheeran or Sam Smith, then this will open doors.

So there is no magic formula, but hard work and luck can help in achieving success.

Q: “In the penultimate question I asked Tim about a virtual manager service he has launched. I asked Tim to explain this service in more detail, and whether it replaces managers or is it a stepping stone to appointing a full time manager?”

He explained that the aim is to help the younger singer / band who are fundamentally writers and performers but perhaps are not so good at the business side; the promoting, the press strategy, and where to play music. The idea is that they provide the songs, media profile and answers to a questionnaire and then they get given strategic direction which they can choose to take or ignore. Ideally if they have gone down this route they will choose to take this and move it forward.

It does act as that base to helping an artist move forward without the commitment and expense of a full time manager.

Q: “In my last question I asked Tim what motivates him and where he would like to be in five years’ time.”

Tim explained that he set up the business twelve months ago, and his aim has always been to make a difference. As with any large company, committees, sub committees and layers of management can slow down the process. This way decisions can be made much quicker and his ideas are the ones that can drive things forward. It is the positive feedback he gets which is important.

I loved his comment that in this role it is about hustling to get the best opportunities, to create that interest and drive the momentum. I suppose it was no surprise that when we talked about where he wanted to be in five years he still wanted to be doing this, to be driving artists forward and working on a number of interesting projects. As long as he is doing that he will be happy. We talked about the virtual manager project and it is not something he is promoting on a large scale but it is something he enjoys and is almost a pet project.

Interviewers comments

This interview came about because we wanted to interview the Wildflowers, something that still alludes us! What was fascinating about the interview was seeing the other side, the side which is there trying to take artists to the next level and deliver them sustainable careers.

We have seen Tim’s work come through as we watched the launch of the Wildflowers’ album and you can feel the momentum growing behind the band. Fundamentally Tim is about developing grounded artists whose feet are firmly on the ground and want to be around for years to come. A fascinating interview and useful for any aspiring artist to read.

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