James Kennedy: Releasing an album as an independent artist

Through the use of technology and social media, British independent artist James Kennedy produced his new solo album, Home, himself.

by Julia Migné

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Home, released last week, went straight to the Amazon Top 50 Best Seller on its first day out.  © James Kennedy

From labels to managers and PRs, the middlemen are not lacking in the music industry. But the rise of social media and crowdfunding platforms is slowly changing the way things work. More and more artists across the globe are now taking matters into their own hands by producing their albums themselves.

James Kennedy, Cardiff-based artist, experienced the traditional system first hand as a member of heavy rock band, Kyshera. “We’ve had record deals, we’ve had several managers, we’ve had booking agencies and all those things over the years,” he explains.

After few issues with managers and labels, James created his own company: Konic Records to allow the band to produce their music themselves. A few band and solo albums later, Konic Records had slowly evolved into a publishing company representing over 30 artists from all over the world.

Despite its success, the company was taking James away from his true goal and passion: producing his own music. “It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of contracts, and dealing with artists is hard work. I was spending more time doing that than I was actually doing my own music,” says James. “So I stripped it all back to what it was supposed to be.”

After touring for a few months following the release of Kyshera’s last album in 2015, the band decided to go on a hiatus and James intended to “just take a year off to just chill out and do nothing” but somehow ended up writing and producing an entire new solo album.

“It was funny because I didn’t plan on writing an album,” he adds. “I was kind of just enjoying myself – reading books, chilling out, doing nothing and the songs were just coming out. So I just enjoyed the process of recording again and not having to do it for a deadline or anything and then I got caught up in the whole ‘oh let’s make an album’!”

Usually writing very political albums for Kyshera, James’s new solo album is much more personal. “I’m talking about actual life experiences that happened to me in the past few years of being in a band and in life in general,” says the British artist. “They were the easiest to write because I was just writing how I felt.”

Recording as an independent artist has its perks: no deadlines, no pressure on studio time, and the freedom to produce an album on the artist’s own terms and time. “I just did everything myself,” explains James. “I played all the instruments, I did all the production myself, I designed all the artwork, I directed all the videos, paid for everything via Pledge Music, which I did just with my followers on social media so there was nobody else involved.”

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Being active on social media is the key to a successful crowdfunding campaign. ©James Kennedy

Reaching 116% of his crowdfunding goal, James was able to pay for everything including studio time, artwork printing, and music video production. The key to his fundraising campaign lies in his social media presence. With 55.1K followers on Twitter, he definitely knows how to engage with his fans.

“Crowdfunding like Pledge or KickStarter are wicked because it’s just a direct conversation between you as an artist and your supporters, or your fans, or your friends or whoever,” says James. “It’s just a straight conversation. No magazines or anything like that involved, it is amazing! I love it!”

Latecomer on social media, the Cardiff-based artist is catching up fast with the trends. From Instagram to Snapchat, James explains that the most important thing is to actually use those platforms. “If you’re on there and you follow people, you see what they’re doing, and you get involved in the conversation then you become part of the fabric,” he explains.

“Then I think it becomes a bit more of a natural conversation and when you do ask for something, people are more likely to get involved because they got a relationship with you.”

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Taking a break from Kyshera, James ended up writing an entire solo album.

Home is currently available on Spotify and CDs can be bought on various websites such as Amazon, where it hit the Top 50 Best Seller on its first day out. Having produced two solo albums before this one, James explains that Home is the first one he actually released properly.

“It’s just a massive statement of what can be achieved these days with technology and social media. You don’t need any middlemen. The technology is so empowering for creatives nowadays and with social media, you can get it out there. For creative people, it’s a whole kind of new ways of doing things.”

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