Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Few Things To Consider For Career-Minded Musicians

Here's a blog I wrote a few years ago. I first published it on MySpace (remember that site?) and it seemed to get a good response. I think all the basic points are still quite relevant, so I thought I'd repost it here. For those who are relative newcomers, I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it and for those who've already read this back when it was originally posted, perhaps a re-read wouldn't hurt. Who knows, it may inspire some new ideas or a new action to take.

I made a couple minor tweaks because some things in the playing field have changed a little in the past three years, but, by and large, it's been reposted verbatim. Feedback is always encouraged, as usual, so don't hesitate to add your thoughts and move things forward. Enjoy!

Is This Important??

You want to use your time as wisely as possible. Time is precious and you don’t want to waste it on unimportant things because there will come a day when the industry will decide that you’re too old to play the game. Make sure you’re always focusing your attention on what’s really important. When you find yourself spending a lot of time on something, stop and ask yourself if it’s really important. If you’re spending time writing songs, that’s obviously very important. In fact, it’s the most important thing you can do. If you’re racking your brain trying to put together a tour and you don’t have a CD or any merch to sell and generate revenue then you might want to put that on the back burner until your album and your swag is ready to go.

Imitate Success

Always look at what successful acts are doing when you’re digging for new ideas to try out with your band. You may as well model artists that are making a living in the music business because that will increase your chances of doing the same. When you go see bands you admire perform live, pay close attention to what they’re doing that makes them great. Do they possess incredible musicianship? Is it how they dress when they’re on stage? Is it that their set flows so smoothly from beginning to end holding your undivided attention for the duration of the concert? Maybe it’s a combination of all those things. Visit the websites of these pro bands and take note of what you like about them so you can gather new ideas for your site. Maybe there’s some marketing strategies they’ve implemented that you could also take advantage of.

Be Visible

People will love you or hate you. Just make sure that they know about you so they can make that decision. You have to put yourself out there and be in everyone’s face. It seems obvious enough yet so few bands actually take advantage of all the avenues available to them that will help them get the attention of the people in the industry that can further their careers.

To become more visible you have to have a strong web presence. Find out about all the websites that you can use to promote yourself to the greatest number of people possible. Sites like Facebook, Reverb Nation, Sonic Bids, Bandcamp, Bandmix, etc. are so important to indie artists who are looking to expand their fan base. Look for qualified fans by doing a little research to find out where your demographic is hanging out online so you can put yourself on their radar. To a great degree, it's a numbers game and the more people who know about you, the more likely you are to sell music downloads/CDs, T-shirts, hats, buttons, and condoms with your logo. Make sure you have an official website that kicks ass! Allow people to subscribe to a mailing list so you can build a loyal legion of fans that will come to your shows, buy your swag and tell all their friends about you.

Be Good To Your Fans

Many bands become discouraged when they book a show and find that very few people show up for it. But you need to ask yourself a couple questions. Why would anyone come to your show? What are they going to get out of it? Sure, they’ll be doing you a favour cause they’re your buddies but it’s going to be pretty hard to sustain a career when you’re constantly begging your friends to come out and support you. In fact, at a certain point you shouldn't have to ask them to come out. If you don't eventually fill a venue with complete strangers, you're not going to have much of a career anyway. The trick is to make people want to come and see you play. Put together a show that will knock everyone on their ass and leave them counting the days till your next gig. That’s what it’s all about. You have to entertain your crowd and nowadays it takes a lot more than just getting up on stage and pounding out a few songs. You have to hold their interest for the entire set and leave them begging for more. Again, take a good look at the bands you love and see what it is that makes them a world-class act.

And when you do attract some hardcore fans, make sure you nurture those relationships. These types of fans are precious and it's important to offer them some perks and incentives along the way to keep them on board. I'm not talking about being manipulative and carrot dangling, I'm talking about forging real relationships with real people who are moved by your music and your story. This is HUGE!

The Magic Man

I see a lot of bands who seem to be on a search for that magic guy who’s going to step in and unlock all the doors to the music industry for them. Don’t bother looking for him because he doesn’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good people out there who will help you out and will be happy to do so, but no one is going to get out of bed in the morning and work harder for your band than YOU will. At the core of every band there is a group of highly intelligent and very capable individuals. You’ll find in many cases that there is someone who’s great at representing the band, doing interviews and dealing with industry people. Another person will be great at managing the finances and budgeting for touring, recording and manufacturing product to sell at the venues. And another person will be computer savvy and will be able to put together that killer website, and create graphics for your CD and promo flyers for upcoming gigs. The point is that every member is going to be best suited to a particular task and once you determine who’s going to do what then you can divide and conquer! Imagine how much ground you could cover with four or five people pushing forward together.

This is really the first step in building a team of professionals around your band. The more you do for yourselves, the more you'll attract help from others.

Don't Give Up!

Once you have all your ducks in a row and you’re out there doing it, don’t be discouraged if it seems as though you’re not getting anywhere despite all the hard work you’re putting in. You have to prepare for a long journey and there’s going to be ups and downs along the way and you can’t let anything ruin your focus and take your attention away from what’s important. You have to be committed to your goals so you can persist long enough to achieve them. Believe in yourself, believe in your band and be relentless when it comes to getting yourself out there and pushing forward! And most importantly be honest about what you’re doing musically. Don’t be seduced by trends or by what the band in the next rehearsal room is doing. Do what feels natural, but don't be afraid to experiment a little if it makes sense to do so and it feels right. If you're working with a producer you trust, listen to him/her because they can be integral in helping you bring out your strengths and bury your weaknesses.

Best of luck to you!

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