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« Farewell to the Casual Music Fan | Main | Dear Musicians - Please Be Brilliant or Get Out of The Way »
Monday
Dec142009

Have I got a bridge to sell you.

It seems everyone has an advertisement up for some kind of teaching/ consulting thing when it comes to music. I scan some of the classified sites online as well as in the papers and occasionally visit a couple websites and am always blown away by the people that not only claim they can make you an amazing player in a few weeks or give you all the tools to be successful in the music business. Then of course you have those that cannot only teach you to sing, but can also teach you stage presence, marketing, booking, promoting, style, and much more. One advertisement I saw in the north east was from a guy that could give you everything you needed in the music industry as well as do tune ups for your car and band photos.

Seriously, No BS! This over saturation of supposed professional services is almost as pathetic as those that pay to use them and are suddenly surprised the quality or end result is nowhere near what was promised initially.

It’s your responsibility, not theirs!

Blame seems to be so easily assigned after the fact with many people. Well, this producer screwed up my album or this teacher taught me this wrong or this PR person didn’t get me out there like they claimed they would. Lets add in the managers that talk about breaking you out to grammy status or that new record label that has serious connections to take you where you want to go? Time to install, activate and use that thing between your ears, that voice in your brain of common sense and that very rational and very reasonable sense of doubt.

If you are going to pay good money, or commit to an agreement where you are working with some one for an extended period of time, don’t you want to do the research to make sure it is the right decision? It seems like common knowledge, yet so many people don’t.

I take a number of calls from bands that say they want to get out of their contracts or get out of agreements that they foolishly signed way too fast with out reading through them thoroughly. There is usually nothing I can do to help them. They signed away their songs, their control or their rights for a period of time with some new wannabe that doesn’t know what they are doing but have been able to use a boilerplate of some one that does. Main point here, check out the person, the company or the service you are getting involved with and if they are rushing you or something seems off, put up a few extra red flags.

It is your responsibility to look them up, make sure you are able to both ask the questions you have regarding their services and get the answers you need. Also watch out for people being defensive, vague or confusing. Watch and listen for contradictions.

Don’t be fooled by appearance

Anyone can get a cool website up with all sorts of flashy pictures, graphics, images and pages. It comes down to the important stuff though, the content, the experience, the delivery, the clarity and the clear understanding of what you are getting.

I have seen incredible sites that advertise all these things they can do for you but do not give any idea about how. Now on the same side of the coin, certain people in the service industry can not give away every single idea but you should be able to ask and get the basics answered as far as who, what, where, why, when and how, as well as how much.

These questions should be answered with experience, confidence and clear understanding. Now it is true, there are people out there that are just starting out and might not have all the experience, but if you chose that person or that route, are you getting the discount or fair price you should be getting and making sure you are getting your moneys worth. It comes down to the honesty as well as looking through the sales pitch to what is really going on there.

Teachers

If it is a teacher, find out who they have studied from, what style or styles they teach best, ask to speak to a few students. References are a good thing. If you are a teacher, make sure to build up that information and have students current or past that can be contacted.

Managers, Consultants, PR and other services

This is a big one to really check the references on. Talk to bands, talk to venues, talk to other industry contacts that this manager has dealt with. Remember it is not always about the success stories, it is about the work that was done on the part of the service or the person that did there part to put the client in the best place for the best chance at success. Some services such as consultants and PR people can fall in to this. Some of these services and people can do exactly what they say they will do but other elements out of their control have failed.

Again this is about figuring out what is promised, what is delivered and what has to be done on the part of the bands and musicians. Anyone can claim to be a consultant, but when it comes to advice and direction, where are they coming from? Do you get a sense that there is information and direction that will be delivered in a professional way that can help you? Do they offer some free information or even a free session to start? Are they honest in their advertising only promising what can be delivered with a clear explanation of how it works?

These are things that should be there. Flashy ads that over promise and under deliver take up so much of the classified ad space in music magazines and on websites like craigslist. Look toward the companies and services that explain in detail and clearly define what they do and what they don’t do.

For those doing it right, you still night have to make it better

For those managers, consultants PR people and other services, with the saturation of ads on the internet and every newbie or fake jackass out there that claims to be this or that, they are messing with how you are being viewed and it may be time to make those adjustments online and in your ads and your websites as well as your documents and printed materials. It is not saying that it wasn’t good enough or you are any less of a service. But now with way too many people with way too little to offer are claiming they can do way much more than they actually can and it ends up making you just look like another one of them.

When I first had my website for my music production and consulting company, it was six pages. It was fine and I got the work I looked for but as more and more people started calling themselves music producers and music consultants, I found myself and my company being lumped in with the rest. At the advice of a friend and marketing consultant, I added a blog, I added a lot more information on exactly what I do and what I don’t. I went on to explain the who, what, where, why, when and how. I added small details of exactly what I was about, what I believed in and what I was up to as well as what I had done. In turn, it turned things around and help to allow potential clients have a clear understanding as well as turning the site in to a resource even if you aren’t a client.

Conclusion

Ask questions, do your research. Regardless of what you are spending, make sure it is worth your money and time. Put in the time and effort to find out if you should spend that money. Don’t be sold on flashy ads, crazy sales or discounts and all the other flash. Make sure it is solid. Don’t take the person or service you are hiring word for it, find out all you can to be able to make the best decisions. There are way too many out there that should not be claiming to be what they are and do things the wrong way just as there are reputable and honorable people and services out there. It sucks that there isn’t a filter, but complain all you want, it will not change. So you have to be the source to make sure you are making the best decision with what ever you need. Research, look up, look in to and find out all you can about what you need from a teacher to a producer, a manager to a small label and everywhere in between. It will make all the difference in the end.

© 2009 Loren Weisman

Reader Comments (3)

I enjoyed your post. It was clever, resourceful and entertaining at the same time.

December 15 | Unregistered CommenterInna

The business of business is business.

Business is an exchange of value: a buyer and a seller. When the seller makes a case for the value, the buyer willingly pays a price and both are satisfied.

If you, as an artist, are not prepared to own the transaction of a service for compensation, then you are forced to outsource this business capability. It is in your best interest to understand your role that you create something of value (a song, a poem, a painting) and that there is someone willing to compensate. You can not just rely on being creative, you need to rely on the protection of your performance or creation.

As Loren Wisemen puts it well "Don't take the person or service you are hiring's word for it..." Don't forget the cowboy era of music and the reason Little Richard is penniless, it is your obligation, do some digging, read some, ask great questions, and protect yourself. If someone does not have time to answer your questions, don't give up, find someone who does, you are in a mutual partnership and not a win/lose relationship.

Dig into John Foggerty or Mick Jagger or Michael Jackson owning the Beatles publishing. We are business people, not just musicians. Good luck and create!

December 16 | Unregistered CommenterToby Elwin

Not wanting to toot my horn trumpet but i could guide a band in the digital age as well as fix their 'motorbike' and take professional'ish' photo's....

In regards to how i would direct them, i know a thing or two...

Im about half way through my final year project which is an interactive guide/wiki for musicians. I have done web development for over 2 years, Search Engine Optimization for 1 and am in a band. For which i have learnt online marketing/promotion for over a year too. I have a vast knowledge of internet music services and not so music internet services but can aid a band just as much as say last.fm.....

That gentleman could quite easily do all them things....

December 17 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

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