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Saturday
Oct032015

How To Be A Successful Performing Artist In The New Millennium - Part Two

“If you can’t deliver your song with just an acoustic guitar and one microphone under one light bulb, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, then you’re not a performer and it’s not a song.” – David Lee Roth

Last month, in Part One, we established that the only money in the music business right now is in performing your own songs and owning your own publishing and merch. We looked at the eleven things an aspiring singer/songwriter needed to do in order to be able to take the next step into learning how to become an entertainer and communicate and connect with an audience. Part One involved a lot of hard work and long, boring hours of practice and re-writes with little to no payoff. Now it gets interesting, although there’s still plenty of hard work ahead. Part Two assumes that the artist has completed all the steps in Part One.

  • SO NOW YOU NEED TO HIRE A LIVE PERFORMANCE COACH

A live performance coach should have EXTENSIVE personal experience in singing and playing live and YEARS of first-hand knowledge of the staging and touring business.

The trouble is this isn’t something that most people plan to do. It sort of just happens as the amalgam of other life experiences and professional endeavors. There is no Masters degree or internship for “Live Performance Coaching”. No trade associations or an annual LPC convention in Aspen where they all get together to swap stories and share contacts. No ten-year-olds at the local elementary school who tell their friends, “When I grow up I wanna be a Live Performance Coach!” Doesn’t happen.

As a result, these people are few and far between, maybe a dozen full-time professionals around the country that I’m aware of, including my friend Bram Bessof at Sound Art in Atlanta. Actually, I only know of one here in Los Angeles, and he’s really great at it. Feel free to contact him directly – larry@diditmusic.com

The alternative to hiring a live performance coach is for you to book your own shows and tour around for the next five years or so, making little to no money, learning the craft of entertaining an audience by trying things out and seeing what works. You’ll find that such an endeavor is not nearly as much fun as it’s portrayed to be in the movies. With the help of a LIVE PERFORMANCE COACH you could learn performance skills faster and cheaper. And you would get to sleep in your own bed.

  • YOU AND THIS LIVE PERFORMANCE COACH WOULD THEN:
  1. Work on arranging your songs for both recording and live performance – because they are two different things. You will need to look for and identify the ways in which you would make an emotional connection to the audience through the songs and your between-song patter.
  2. Work on a set list that flows, with a beginning/middle/end, which should also be the same as your six-song EP for merch purposes.
  3. Work on stage presence – standing, sitting, walking, dancing, mic technique - building confidence. At first it all looks and sounds contrived – just like your songs did when you first started – so keep practicing!
  4. Work on between-song patter in the same way you write, revise and rehearse your songs.
  5. Work on all other visuals – wardrobe, hair, and an identifiable something about your appearance – an audience knows what they are seeing long before they know what they’re hearing.
  6. Rehearse on a stage in front of a giant mirror with a video camera. THIS is where all the parts of your live show come together.
  7. How long is this going to take? However long it took you to learn how to sing and play at the same time (without looking at your frets or keys), that’s how long it’s going to take to rehearse and get really good at making it all entertaining. Seriously.
  • IT’S TIME TO TRY IT ALL OUT

Once the 20-30 minute set list has been decided on and rehearsed, try it out at a few 7pm club slots out in the suburbs or nearby small towns (not in any major clubs in major markets), to get some experience, get some audience reaction (or not), and to work out the kinks. Go back to the rehearsal room and fine tune. Could take a while.

  • NOW IT’S TIME TO RECORD

Finally (you’re saying) It’s time to make good quality recordings of the six songs based on audience reactions in the live shows. You will need the services of an engineer with great recording equipment and probably some other musicians to fill out the sound, if required. There’s nothing wrong with doing a straight-ahead acoustic solo EP with maybe a bass and cajón accompaniment. If the songs don’t hold up in a solo acoustic format, they’re not really songs. You need great songs. Period.

  • NOW IT’S TIME TO MAKE THOSE VIDEOS

It’s also the correct time to make good quality live (or live to track) videos for all six songs. If you have the money, conceptual storylines or animation would be cool as well. You’ll need a proper videographer with professional equipment and editing experience. They’re everywhere.

  • NOW IT’S TIME TO POST THE SONGS AND THE VIDEOS

Put the six audio songs up on CD Baby, Tunecore or the flavor of the month site and post your videos to your YouTube page. Have a CD release party if you must. You’re not going to sell a whole lot – other than to family and friends who are expecting free copies anyway. You need to have some quality recordings available for cred right now.

  • MERCH

Now is the time to consider having merch to sell at shows and through your website/socials. If you’re connecting with your audience at your live shows, then a physical six-song EP of the songs in your showcase set should sell, as would T-shirts and hats or whatever. Who knows? It’s pointless to consider such things until you have an audience, but I thought I’d stick it in here at this point. You certainly won’t need it before now. And you’re not going to make enough money selling merch at this level to finance the move to the next level, but you could and should start at least covering your expenses and gaining some experience in merch manufacturing and sales.

  • YOU’RE GONNA NEED HELP

All along this path outlined above, it would be great if you were able to latch on to some help – a roadie, a sound tech, a musician or two, a videographer, a photographer, an online/website/social media person, maybe a merch person – people who would work with you for free (at least cover their expenses) in order to have you take them with you on your path to musical stardom. These people also need to share your vision, passion and dedication to your career. You may want to rehearse a great sales pitch to entice them to join in.

  • HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO TAKE?

Everything in Part One of last month’s blog up and through Steps 1 and 2 in Part Two can and should all be done prior to age 18. To legally start performing in many clubs and to sign contracts and such as noted in Steps 3-8 above, you’ll need to be at least 18 in most states (and 21 in others). And then you’ll need to be at least 21 to properly navigate Steps 11-13. All in all, this could reasonably take that kind of time, if you plan on being great. If you’re OK with just being “good enough”, probably less time.

  • HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST?

All of the steps above and in Part One will require funding that you will have to find up front. Since you don’t have any income yet, that initial funding will usually come from family, especially since the crowd funding thing has kind of run its course for unknown artists. How much funding you will need will be determined by the scope of your vision, your circumstances, and how long this might take. Just to get started, you’ll need funding for lessons/schooling/live coach, equipment (live gear, audio and video recording), practice/rehearsal space, other musicians, transportation, travel, and online marketing. Eventually you’ll need funding for proper studio recordings, CD production, retail marketing and radio promotion, video production, promotional tours, radio station shows, promotional events, promo materials. I won’t quote a figure here because it’ll ruin your day. How do artists make it if they don’t have access to funding all along the way? In the new millennium, they don’t.

  • TIME FOR THE MAJOR FUNDING

Your ultimate goal is to attract an investor – someone who’s been successful in probably another endeavor (or inheritance) and who’s always wanted to be in the music business. Another way to get that major investment is by signing to a record company. There’s a difference in these two styles of investment. Discuss with your attorney and business manager (see below).

  • IF YOU GET REALLY GOOD AT THIS, THE SHARKS WILL START TO CIRCLE

As your showcases start to draw larger and larger crowds, you will get noticed by all sorts of industry types – promoters, managers, booking agents, publishers, producers, A&R label reps. Be careful. Discuss everything with your attorney and business manager (next).

  • MOST IMPORTANT MEMBERS OF YOUR TEAM

Get an entertainment attorney and eventually an entertainment business manager. They will each take a percentage of your income but you’ll get it back from their advice in spades.

  • BETTER BE HAVING FUN

If you’re not enjoying all of this or at least in grateful acceptance that these are the things you have to do to get to your goal, you’d better rethink this career path. Or if you’re only in it for the potential of money and fame, try TV or tech. This career is all about the music. Everybody WANTS to do this - that’s not enough. You have to NEED to do this, to the exclusion of most other things in your life.

  • IT’S ALL ABOUT LUCK

And then at the end of the day, it all comes down to being in the right place at the right time, every time.

“When opportunity knocks, you have to be ready.” – Bruno Mars

Larry Butler is an LA-based, 40-year veteran of virtually all facets of the music business - musician, singer/songwriter, tour manager, booking agent, club and concert promoter, personal manager, publishing admin and major label VP. He brings all of that experience to his current profession - live performance coaching. He can be reached at larry@diditmusic.com

How To Be A Successful Performing Artist In The New Millennium - Part Two

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