Rick Goetz, is a kindred spirit who has just launched a brand new consulting firm for artists called http://musiciancoaching.com Rick, like me, has spent his entire adult life in the music business and he is DEAD ON when he says: It is essential that you spend your time building your own business rather than asking for help from corporations based on your talent alone.
But how do you build your own business and what specifically works? I got Rick to share a few of his best peals of wisdom I asked him to tell me three things that actually can help an artist begin to build revenue: Playing covers, being a hired gun and working harder on your live show and live show promotion.
Selling $.99 singles isn’t the answer. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in today’s marketplace your single is little more than a business card and your album is just a resume. Both are extraordinarily important but both are just a loss leader for your business. Recorded music is now simply a means of promoting your live show and your songwriting and producing skills. For my $.02 the biggest challenge of being in the music business is staying in the music business without starving.
We can all point to an artist who made it big on a single and blew up over night but what about the majority of musicians out there who have been making a living? From what I have seen and experienced the challenge for the working musician just starting out is finding ways of sustaining himself while building his fan base. Complicating matters even more is that usually means finding a gig that has the flexibility that musicians require, the paycheck that covers their basic needs and if at all possible provides something that will help move their dream career forward at the same time. It’s hard as hell…but this is what I’ve seen work.
It’s easier to fill a room playing songs that people already know. I realize many of you are likely wincing at the notion but remember The Beatles started off as a cover band. Do I really have to drop any other names? It’s a great way to keep your chops up and it really does help to gel a band. Further, it gives the members some more time in with each other with more likelihood of playing successful shows earlier in their career. It also levels the playing field when it comes to the writing process in a group dynamic, which can be challenging at times. If you feel like you are selling out, then sell out only until your own work hits its stride. If you want to make a living selling your own songs to people remember this is just a means to make enough money to put towards that dream while improving your showmanship and range of flexibility on your instrument. Once, when playing a wedding gig, I felt pretty dirty when the cry went up for the Macarena and I delivered as requested but the cash I was paid to play weddings kept my band’s rehearsal space paid for that month.
2. Hired Gun
You want to be as great at your instrument as possible so don’t treat your main band like you would your significant other, cheat like a motherf***ker. Play with anyone and everyone who will have you (provided you are able to carve out enough time to give your main project the time and respect it deserves). You want to play music for a living the trick is to start playing as much as possible with as many people as possible. Be it live or studio just get out there and play. Do it for free at first (if you have to) but get that experience and get as many people to see and hear you play. Every performance and every recording is another trail of breadcrumbs that leads people back to you. Write songs with anyone and everyone you know whose writing you respect. Songwriting is a skill that can be developed just like learning guitar. If you are a vocalist consider voiceovers and do background vocals on as many albums as possible even if it means swallowing your pride and playing second fiddle to someone with less talent than you. I will warn anyone considering this route to be wary, as session cats can become very jaded and cold which ultimately does effect your playing. I don’t know how to advise you against this except to always have a goal for yourself beyond the next paid gig. Being a hired gun is a means to get your music where you want it on as close to your terms as you are able to in the present.
3. Live Shows
Hopefully you have enough people coming down to see you live and if this is not the case and you are not getting repeat customers at your gigs you should re-evaluate your show. Look at everything from stage show to songwriting to delivery and ask a cynical friend who has seen you what needs improving. The cynical need no prompting to offer up the awful truth. Be as communicative as you possibly can be with the venue owners where you play even if it is on amateur night. The simple act of introducing yourself and asking how you can help promote your own show with put you in better favor with whoever books the room. Make sure you have some means of collecting email addresses from those who show up and make sure your name is visible on stage (get a banner and hang it up behind you) and you can’t make a banner make sure to say your band name at least a few times during the set.
If you like what Rick has to say I highly suggest that you spend some time on the phone with him…. You will be one step closer to reaching your dreams with a great new team member to help you along.