You might have assumed from the title of this article that it would be about techniques of acquiring funding to pay for the overheads of running a band, or exploring where best to invest your marketing budgets. Not today I’m afraid.
Today I’m going to challenge the other side of the coin and suggest that money is bad for your band.
To clarify that statement in more detail, my opinion is that focusing on short-term methods of monetising your music career too early on is counter-productive when trying to build a successful and sustainable music career. The classic example is that by selling your music exclusively on iTunes opposed to offering it to fans free of charge fewer people will consume and share your song. One of those people might have gone on to become a loyal monetisable fan, but by focusing on trying to squeeze a few pennies out of them in the short term, you lose the chance, or at least significantly limit the possibility of increasing your bands growth rate and financial value over the long run.
However, I see money as an enabler and a vital ingredient (to some extent) in accelerating a band towards a successful music career. So, in other words, I think your band should try to make money and operate as a business, but you shouldn’t let your perception of money get in the way. Ultimately, your value as a band is determined by the depth of the relationships you have with fans and the quantity of those relationships, neither of which can be bought directly.
Less money forces you to be smarter
In some ways, this statement would provide good reasoning for why most of the smartest marketing campaigns are coming from the lower budget indie artists / labels rather than the majors. Unfortunately I have no evidence for it, but it’s something I believe is true in this instance.
I’ll use myself as an example. I don’t come from a wealthy background nor do I have a big pot of cash, so when I want to make a design change to The Musician’s Guide that requires coding or design work beyond my knowledge, I learn how to do it myself because I know it will make me better at what I do in the long run – by having less money, I have become more valuable. The same principle applies for bands, sure - you can pay other people to do all your marketing, recording, management, and booking, but you won’t learn the valuable transferable skills.
I know, I know “but we don’t want to spread our selves too thin”, “shouldn’t we focus on just getting our songs as good as possible” – I’ve responded to some of the common counter arguments in a blog post about time management here, but what I’m getting at here is perception.
If you perceive that you need more money to help you market your band in bigger ways through radio promotion channels, TV adverts, and paid interviews, then find the nearest dripping wet salmon and have a friend slap you with it. You don’t need money for marketing – when I recently ran a blog series on ‘how would you spend a £500 song release budget’ music marketing gurus Jon Ostrow, Dave Huffman, Brian Hazard, and myself all failed to spend the full budget, simply because we all identified that the best marketing is funded by a combination of your time and passion, not money.
When you perceive money as being a non-essential item to your bands success, suddenly the pressure falls in the hands of song quality and marketing ideas. Both of which are free, of course.
I have a question to wrap this up. If two bands were hypothetically releasing an identical song and one was given £10,000 to market the song starting tomorrow, and the other band were given 10 days of brainstorming time and no money, who would you place your money on to come out with the more successful marketing strategy?
This article was written by Marcus Taylor, author and founder of The Musician’s Guide, an artist development project that offers musicians resources on succeeding in the music industry, including downloadable music contracts, lists of music venues, and a variety of musician training materials.