We are the Makers: Holly Phelps, Independent Artist and Tutor

Tom Aston

entrepreneurial audio professional Holly Phelps

As part of our ongoing series, We are Spirit Studios, we had a chat with Holly Phelps, a successful entrepreneurial audio professional who is making moves in the industry.

Holly has built up a successful career as an independent artist, going under the alias IORA, and more recently joined the Spirit Studios team as a tutor on our industry courses.

Thanks for chatting to us today Holly. Before we get started, tell us, did you begin making music from your bedroom? If so, did you often find yourself hitting a brick wall when making music?  

Absolutely. I had very little clue of what I was doing when I first started, but my desire to create music was my constant guide. It started when I wanted to create the music and sound effects for a theatre show I was in at the Birmingham REP, I started playing around on GarageBand, and learned the basics that way. I think the less you know, the freer and more playful you can be as you don’t have those set parameters of right and wrong, and everything is more of an exploration. 

As well as an electronic-folk artist, you also produce your own music. Tell us, do you think more artists are also starting to take on the role of a producer? 

I definitely see more of a cross-over between the two now, and it’s not uncommon for producers to be artists as well. I think it’s helpful even if you don’t produce your own music to get a handle on some of the terminology so you can communicate to your producer what you’re aiming for. I still have a lot to learn with production, and I mainly produce my own music for live shows, which I love!

With that said, do you think the way individuals work within the music industry has continued to change?

I think the music industry is always changing and adapting; the current situation is a perfect example of that. As an individual artist it can be helpful to have a network around you, either for support or feedback. Collaborations can really open doors to new worlds and help you hone your craft as a songwriter and producer. 

And so, do you think the way artists and producers collaborate has changed?

I think it’s often up to the individuals, as I know people work in many different ways. I would say that these days, producers are getting more of the limelight for their work producing the tracks. I would also say that, because of how available everything is online these days, some artists are able to send loads of reference tracks to the producers before the session has begun, which has really expedited the whole process.

On the subject of collaboration, what advice would you give to producers looking to break out of their bedrooms?

Definitely push yourself to look for opportunities that do exactly that. As an entrepreneurial audio professional, set some goals of what you want to achieve, and set some deadlines for yourself as well. Whether it’s you want to play live or release some music, just make a start! I think talking to people is key, as you can always learn and be inspired by other people. It’s okay to ask questions, and definitely get things wrong; everyone started from somewhere. 

So you go under the alias, IORA. Tell us, how did you first go about establishing yourself in the industry?

I performed at a showcase gig at Soup Kitchen, and from that, I got offered a regular gig in a supporting slot. My set was rough, but I’ve just kept growing and adapting from there. Last January I played my biggest show to date at the Roundhouse in London, which was a dream!

That’s great! Tell us, at what point did you decide to make the transition from artist to producer?

I would say I still sit in both camps. Although I still consider myself more of an artist than a producer, the lines can definitely become blurred.

As a self-releasing producer, how do you juggle making, producing, performing and promoting your music?

It’s definitely a juggling act. I think setting aside time to promote your stuff is really important, having a clear plan can help when things get busy. I would say enjoy the big moments, as you work so hard to get there, that being present in what you have managed to achieve and not just rushing onto the next thing is really important. 

In your opinion, do you think the way entrepreneurial audio professionals choose to release music is continuing to change with the rise of self-release?

I think it’s always changing, and with recent events, streaming has really taken over. I think more people are self-releasing and creating their own audiences which is really cool. 

With that said, do you think the way in which artists make money from their music has also changed?

It’s a shame that music isn’t valued as it should be. I think it’s going to be hard in the next year or so for everyone, as much of artists’ income is from live shows and as there aren’t any at the moment, and royalties from playing on a live stream aren’t happening either. 

Thanks for chatting with us Holly, we know you’re going to keep killing it in the industry, and are eager to see what you do next!