Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How Often Should You Gig In Your Own Backyard?

How many people showed up to see Bon Jovi at the ACC in Toronto on Feburary 14th and 15th? Probably around 20,000 people each night, I'd guess. Nice! (And if you were there on the 15th, hopefully you got to see Toronto's own Frankie Whyte And The Dead Idols open the show!) If they played again in March how many people do you suppose would show up? Probably about the same amount I bet.


What if they played the ACC once a month for the next two years straight? How many people would be in attendance in April of 2012? Twenty thousand? I don't think so. Too much of a good thing is simply too much. So if a band like Bon Jovi--who've sold over 120 million records--has a limit to how often they can play in any given locale, how often should you be playing in your home town for maximum impact?

Waaaayyyyy back in the day, I was in a band called PAIN from 1993 and 1997 to be exact. We made a ton of mistakes, believe me, but one thing we did effectively and strategically was choose which shows we would play and which we would not and how often we'd play in our backyard.

We would only play about three or four times per year and every time we did, it was an event. We'd put anywhere between 200 and 400+ people in a room because everyone who wanted to come out and see us knew they'd have to wait three or four months before we'd play again. If you play every week or two or even every month, you run the risk of shrinking the perceived size of your buzz. If everytime you perform live, there's only fifty people in the room, it looks small-time and it doesn't do much for your image or the overall vibe in the venue you're playing.

I know and understand that one of the main reasons most of us get into a band in the first place is to get up on stage and perform for an audience, but if you're looking to do this as a career, you always have to think in terms of strategic business decisions. If you really want to satisfy that uncontrollable urge to bring the rock to the kids, plan a tour and bring your music to brand new audiences in other cities within your province or state or out of your country altogether.

No one I know understood this better than Ember Swift. She hit a point early in her career when she realized that expanding her audience was essential, so she packed up and hit the road. To date, she has literally thousands of gigs under her belt (in several countries around the world), ten album releases, over 50,000 record sales and has sustained a 15 year career as an independent artist and label owner. Bravo!

The good news is; if she can do it, so can you. So sit down with your band mates and figure out a plan that makes sense for you. There's no 'right' answer, so you have to figure this out for yourself, but just don't put your band on rinse and repeat in your home town scene.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Making The Most Of Your Music Marketing Efforts

How are you marketing your music? Are you only using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Myspace? Don't leave the marketing of your band and your music solely to those who are running these sites.

Look at Myspace already. It's like a ghost town. Every time I visit that site (which is becoming less frequent), I can see tumbleweeds and dust bunnies blowing across my computer screen. I feel bad for those who were (and perhaps still are) using Myspace as their main promotional platform. So much time went into connecting with those 50,000 + 'friends' and maybe even a few hundred bucks pimping up your site and now it's meaningless.

If you think about it, even when Myspace was the place to be, those 50,000 friends didn't really mean much. Most of those people who accepted your friend request probably forgot all about you an hour after they clicked the 'accept' button and you just faded away into the ever growing sea of 'friend' pages.

Instead of putting all your eggs into the social media basket, make sure you have your own official band web site and drive all your traffic there. Be creative and devise a plan for a fun and interactive experience that your fans can get excited about. If they're engaged and entertained, they'll come back again and again and they'll tell their friends about how amazing you are.


Think about the success of Facebook. It isn't because 500 million people think Zuckerberg is a swell guy and love showing him their support by making him billions of dollars selling advertising. It's because he created a web site where the users have the control and it's all about them. They can upload their pictures and videos and connect with or reject anyone they choose.

You have to find a way to create that sense of community within your world. Allow your fans to connect with you and each other. Build a mailing list of qualified fans by meeting with them face to face at your shows and doing a little research to find out exactly where they hang out online. Five hundred email addresses of people who are interested in and expecting updates from you beats 50,000 'friends' any day.

When and if the social networks of today fall into the abyss along with Myspace, you won't be left having to start over again from scratch.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Does Competition Kill Creativity?

I want to explore the subject of 'Competition vs Creativity' with regard to bands competing with other bands within the same locale. I'm going to throw a few thoughts out there that have been on my mind and I'd love to hear what you have to say as well.

Is competing with your peers necessary when it comes to the music business? If you're approaching your music with a competitive mindset, doesn't that take away from what you're creating? I tend to think it does. Being in competition with your musician counterparts breeds a 'lack' mentality. There are only so many music fans out there and if they buy music from my 'competitors,' then there's going to be less for me. If they get that gig instead of us, then there'll never be another opportunity for a gig like that again.

I think when one band competes with another they ultimately take something away from themselves. Conversely, the more you build alliances with others on your scene, the greater the amount of resources everyone has at their disposal. As Leonard Nimoy said, "The more we share, the more we have."

Some might say that competition is what drives people forward and makes them better at their craft, but I think as soon as competition is brought into the picture so is scarcity and fear. I don't know that the best and most creative ideas come from these places. I don't think when Jimi Hendrix or the Beatles were shaping popular music as we know it today, they were driven by the fear of not measuring up to the standards of their competitors. I think they were inspired, passionate and enthusiastic about what they were writing. They got lost in the music they were creating and it came from an honest place.

I believe every individual has an innate desire to create from the moment they're born. That's really all anyone needs to consistently move forward and be the best they can be. Perhaps we'd all be even more creative if we didn't ever feel like we had something to lose. I don't think it's necessary to feel as though you're being chased by someone who's trying to one-up you in order to produce high quality results with your music. Also, by always approaching things with a competitive nature, you're inevitably setting yourself up for failure because nothing lasts forever and once that first-place ribbon is stripped away, you'll be left feeling as though someone has taken something away from you.

I know many people are proud of their competitive nature and assert that it has served them well in becoming successful in their lives and that may be true, but at what cost? Whenever you approach something with the attitude that you're going to cut someone else down or take something away from them, you're putting a strain on that relationship. You're creating a scenario where there's a winner and a loser. I believe that the relationships we create in our lives are of utmost importance and the only way to create successful relationships is to always strive for a win win outcome. Anything else simply won't do.

Now it's your turn to weigh in on this. I'm always open and interested to hear what you have to say. Where do you stand on competition vs creativity?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Top 3 Reasons To Stay Active With Your Music Career

The music business is no different than any other business in that in order to sustain and grow, you need to maintain a high level of activity. Imagine if the CEOs and employees at companies like Microsoft, Apple or Google just took a hiatus a few times a year just because. This is one of the reasons why these companies are so successful, because they're constantly innovating, creating and producing real results. They're always out there and in your face and you can't ignore them.

I've come up with three reasons why I believe it's paramount to stay active on a consistent basis and I certainly welcome any additions to this list that you can think of. The reasons I've come up with are:

1. For Yourself

By taking action and knocking important tasks off your to-do list one by one, you significantly increase your confidence level and self esteem. Every time you produce a result through your efforts you re-enforce your ability to accomplish even more in the future. You build integrity and belief in yourself. Eventually, you'll build so much momentum that things will roll along a little easier and you'll be able to focus more of your time and energy on new tasks that will inevitably crop up.

2. For Your Fans

If you really believe in your music and believe you have something to offer this world, then think of the fans out there whose lives will be enriched by your efforts. And that's really what it's all about--creating something that has so much value that people actually want it. You always have to think of what the end user is going to get out of the experience. As you're brainstorming new and creative ways to get your message out to your fans, make sure you include some kind of call to action for them so it becomes interactive and exciting.

3. To Attract Opportunities and Help From Others

Let's face it, if you're not doing anything to help yourself, then no one else is going to want to help you either. No band or artist is capable of building an empire around their music by themselves. We all need help in order to achieve our goals. And a lot of it. You need to surround yourself with a team of professionals--managers, producers, songwriters, booking agents, lawyers--to get to the top of the music industry mountain and you're not going to garner much interest if you're not already displaying some serious forward motion.

Try to make your efforts as public as possible, so everyone can see how hard you're working. Now more than ever, these industry professionals want to (read: have to) align themselves with artists who also know how to conduct themselves in a professional manner. The overblown budgets and many other resources that record companies used to provide are a thing of the past and the weight has been shifted onto your shoulders.

Please feel free to add to this list. We can all benefit from this kind of info and the more we share our experiences, the more likely we'll all be to achieve greater success. As I'm writing this blog, I'm sipping on a glass of cabernet, so here's to you and your successes... cheers!