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Thursday
Aug262010

Making It In One Year - Is It Possible?

My name is Josiah Mann and I am the lead singer and founding member of the band Sufficient Cause. Our goal - ambitious or irrational as it may seem - is to become fully supported by our music, recorded or performed, within 12 months from today. We plan to do this without signing to a label (outside of a new type of record deal being made just for us…). We do not have a fan base. We have never released any music and we’ve never played a single show. We’re nobody.

Let me explain. From day one, I’ve done things differently than other musicians. Four years ago, after I had written my first couple of songs, I started out like many other musicians. I booked a gig at a little coffee shop and invited all my friends. I had played guitar for about a year and had played classical piano competitively, but singing and performing my own songs was a different story. The first show was pretty rough. I was extremely nervous and my voice quivered uncontrollably. I had never really heard my voice loudly in a speaker so I could hear how poorly I really sang, causing me to shy away from the mic. I couldn’t even hold my friends’ attention. It made it somewhat less stressful that everybody was talking over my music, though… Everybody told me “You just gotta keep doing it,” and “You’ll get used to it eventually,” but I didn’t see the point. After I’d played about 5 or 6 times at the same coffee shop, I threw in the towel. Not because I was scared; in fact in a former life I was a Heavyweight Golden Gloves Champion and National Chinese Kickboxing Champion. There was very little I was afraid of. But after a few performances, I knew I wasn’t ready.

I knew from my experience fighting that when someone steps in the ring against a professional fighter without proper training first, that doesn’t mean he’s brave. This is where I was different from other musicians. I knew that I needed to study.

So I trained. I became a student of music that is universally considered to be “classic”. I studied the music of bands like U2, Coldplay, Eagles, and Sarah McLachlan.

I also studied business. On one hand I saw Major Labels signing talent just to control the market and limit product choice and on the other I watched people like Trent Reznor and Corey Smith making a good living outside the established system.

Along with all this study, I also studied myself. I studied to know how I was different from these great musicians. I learned what my strengths and weaknesses as an artist and as a business person were and worked relentlessly to balance them.

About a year ago, after three years of recording the same songs on my Macbook Pro, I decided it was time to put together a band. But again I did it differently than most other musicians. I knew that to be successful for any meaningful amount of time we had to have the right team, a definite vision and message, and clear leadership. Otherwise we would fall apart over time like so many other bands before us. So I watched and waited for the right people. And once I knew I had the right people, we spent time getting on the same page and clarifying our purpose and mission.

From day one, we planned for success. We’ve built a foundation and now we are ready. Without playing a single show, we are competent musicians with good music. We have a self hosted website that is geared toward delivering consistent content and acquiring fan data. We have enough content to continually connect with fans and when the time is right we will give them a reason to buy. We have both a local and online strategy and are ready to put it in high gear.

All of these elements do not guarantee our success and we know that. We might die tomorrow. But we believe we have something valuable to offer and we will continue to enjoy the process regardless of the outcome.

We are doing a couple of things to chronicle our journey. First, here on MTT we will post monthly updates showing our stats and progress. We will also be blogging heavily one our site. In addition we plan to film the whole process for a documentary at the end of the 12 months. So without further ado, here are some of our current stats and the starting points as of (Aug 21, 2010).

Stats -

Total Shows Played : 0

Total Email Addresses: 51

Google Analytics insight

Goals -

Here is the basically the first stage of the plan, keeping in mind that opportunities are fluid and changing.

First Stage – Local Buzz

First off, we have recorded a free demo EP which is designed to get email addresses and help us start a local movement. We’re going to start gigging heavily immediately and our goal is to give away 5000 CD’s primarily at shows. Ideally, we would get an email address for each CD, but we might use other creative methods to give them away and get an email address on the back end… We’re going to build and leverage relationships with local media outlets as well as radio hosts and other local tastemakers in order to get coverage and build a buzz. While we are giving away this demo we will also be in studio recording our first full quality EP preparing for the next stage – blog coverage…

We are continuing looking to build our team, and if you listen to our music and want to be a part of what we are doing, please feel free to contact us at sufficientcause@gmail.com

To be continued…

P.S. We just put up the first song from our EP here on Music Think Tank. You can listen here.

 

Josiah Mann

http://SufficientCauseMusic.com

Reader Comments (39)

Awesome idea. Very ambitious.

Good luck dude.

August 24 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

Thanks man! It's going to be a lot of work and a lot of learning, but we're stoked:D
Like your website btw:)

August 24 | Registered CommenterJosiah Mann

Awesomely ambitious. I'm with you Josiah, just signed up. Looks like your strategy has worked on me at least! Any intention of uploading your music to Bandcamp?

August 24 | Unregistered CommenterMark D

Thanks a lot Mark! Yes I have it up at bandcamp. http://sufficientcause.bandcamp.com . I actually switched to noisetrade for the freebies because the widget looked better with my site and the share buttons are more prominent and seem to be getting used more. I saw the same crappy album being shared on one of my friend's facebook and another huge local blog and it made me raise my eyebrow. I'll use bandcamp or topspin when I start selling something, though.

August 24 | Unregistered CommenterJosiah Mann

My favourite ( not a spelling error...I'm Canadan) part of your excellent and sensible strategy is "regardless of the outcome."

That's what I keep reminding myself so that I can have fun while taking action. And I'm in the midst of re- inventing myself after being a successful performer here in Toronto during the latter half of the 90's and early 21st Century. I missed so many opportunities because I didn't have the tools to take advantage of the moment.

I took a 5 year break to build my guitar teaching biz and continued writing and recording daily. I am currently learning about using online tools to help organize and facilitate the immediacy of performing live again -- regardless of the outcome. I'm compiling a list of venues for a micro tour of Toronto right now.

I hope you reach your goal!!! All the best from Toronto.

August 24 | Unregistered Commenterdavidsony

Thanks Dave. Yup, by focusing on process rather than outcome, we can continue to move forward without having our expectations violated:) The end = peace + happy band

August 24 | Registered CommenterJosiah Mann

I've been in this game a long time. Patience is not a virtue it is a necessity.

August 25 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

According to how many members there are in your band, I think supporting yourself through your career is a very obtainable goal, as long as it is a serious push. Uploading some free music and spending an hour or two on the web every day won't cut it. Treat it like a full time job (that you regularly work overtime shifts on), and it will pay you accordingly. I've seen it happen before. It'd be great to see it happen again! Good Luck!

Nate Talbot

August 25 | Registered CommenterNate Talbot

Couldn't agree more Nate. For that reason right now we only have 2 in the band and our incomes will be fairly easy to replace if we treat it like a job (which we will and are). Once the two of us have a sustainable income, we can look at adding the 3rd and 4th guys, which we will do:)

August 25 | Registered CommenterJosiah Mann

Hi! I highly recommend you check out my article: "Before You Sign With Anyone..." http://www.professorpooch.com/Steps.htm
You want to be SAFE business-wise and legally!

PP

August 25 | Unregistered CommenterProfessor Pooch

Thanks Mr. Spangenberg. Great article, and we absolutely will do all of those things before we try to monetize an any way. You obviously have a pretty thorough map of the jungle of the music biz and I will continue to reference your site:) If you have any other specific thoughts or insights after reading this post and listening to the music, I'd be very interested to hear them. Feel free to email me at SufficientCause@gmail.com

August 25 | Registered CommenterJosiah Mann

i love the spirit!

reinvent your wheel every moment and continue to build. believing in yourselves will take to a great place, no matter where you end up. its all about the journey anyway :) we started where you were a couple years ago and are in full steam!

love to share more with yall at anytime but congrats on making it past the hardest and first step, devising a plan and just doing it

keep going!

peace,love,respect
mj
http://Twitter.com/Blingstein

Great start! This is what I've coached bands in for years, and I'm very impressed by your preparation. My partners, Tom Hess and Alex Staropoli would be impressed too.

I know Alex wished he had done this many years and a Million albums ago for Rhapsody of Fire, but most musicians just don't think that way.

Yes, I'm throwing out names here, but not to make myself look good, but rather to say something about YOU. Not to pump myself up, but because I believe it was Alex and Luca's business savvy that got Rhapsody of Fire so far, and YOU have a head start and big advantage over what it took them many years to do. Awesome!

~Draven
Rockstar Mindset
Rock Band Success Coaching

August 26 | Unregistered CommenterDraven Grey

I think that's a great game plan. I've realized how much more value a fan's email address has over his or her $5.

August 26 | Unregistered CommenterKeane

This is very ambitious goal. I am behind you on your preperation and logic. I like your focus on having a message and a clear purpose for your project. Those are two very important and often overlooked aspects of finding a way through the forest. Once you have a purpose and a message you can build a strategy... and in this case it is a strategy to achieve an ambitious goal. I will be checking in and you have my vote!

Everyone has been right on with their comments so far, especially Nate - Just work hard and take it seriously.

We have been looking to "jump ship" from our straight jobs for this last 6 months, preparing, calculating. We have a couple revenue streams, a strong local following and tour a good amount for being independent. A small hold up is we are self invested in our venture and have to pay off this last record/merchandise investments before we will be able to get to where we want to be. We are 4 months ahead of schedule to pay off our investment so things are coming sooner than we thought.

In the meantime we are building up that team (like you did on the front end!) and sorting out exactly what our next step will be across the board.

Between January and the end of April we recorded a new album, self booked and embarked on an 18 show in 18 day tour. That took a lot of preperation and dedication - more work than we have ever been through as a unit but it showed me that sustaining ourselves off of our hard work wasn't as much of a dream as we once thought.

So many fantastic spirits in this community... God speed you, God speed us all!

Cheers!

Stephen Francis

August 26 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Francis

Thanks a lot Michael and I think I saw that one of your songs is on the Hypemachine.? Awesome man:)
Draven, thank you very much for the kind words. Hopefully you guys like the music as much as the business side:O

August 26 | Registered CommenterJosiah Mann

"...music that is universally considered to be “classic”. I studied the music of bands like U2, Coldplay, Eagles, and Sarah McLachlan.

So everyone's just gonna let that slide? okay...

August 26 | Unregistered Commenterfelix

Very good intention and spirit.

There are lots of acts with fully loaded web content and near zero fans. You've got some attention here but will need to get fans of your actual music in addition to fans of your business plan to have a real career.

But good on you. Hope it works.

August 26 | Unregistered CommenterElvis Duffy

Sorry if this sounds a little negative, but...

I gotta be honest: I seriously doubt you will be able to support yourself and your band-mate from your music within 12 months.

I don't think your plan is ambitious or irrational - it's not actually a plan. You haven't described a plan that in any way leads to a supporting income for two people within 12 months.

If you are talking about promoting your music to as wide an audience as possible, that is one thing. But making real money from it is a whole other ball game. You know, the kind of money that pays for rent, bills, food, clothes, gas, guitar strings, etc etc etc...

So my questions are:

1. Why have you given yourself 12 months? What is the symbolism of this number?

2. You are talking here about making money from your "music, recorded or performed" - so merch sale don't count! Since you are giving away your music, I find it hard to understand how you will make money from it ??

But, hey, I honestly wish you all the best. You are certainly taking a much more considered and mature approach than the vast majority of muso's out there!

August 26 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy G

Thanks for the comments guys. Jeremy you make a good point. I don't have a business plan in the traditional sense. I have a methodology for approaching things and put one foot in front of the other the best I can. The reason I specifically decided on 12 months was because Parkinson's Law - "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

August 26 | Registered CommenterJosiah Mann

First things you need to do:

If you want this to be a business, make it a business. Register as an LLC and get a bank account for the band. If you're not set up to actually make money from the beginning, good luck.

You might want to consider starting a publishing company too.

Second:
If you guys are a band, you should have already had an EP up when you posted this. It seems everything you have posted is you playing acoustic tracks? Acoustic tracks are great and all, but I still don't know what your band actually sounds like.

Good luck!

August 26 | Unregistered CommenterGraham Tobias

of course all of these things that you all have mentioned need to occur prior to anything real happening (and the record, about another 10,000 things) but the most #1 important factor is spirit. To make it through all the piles of muck and horrible things that happen as well as prepare yourself to be in the best position to capitalize and execute on your plan, yes my friends, in the end its the spirit that wins.

even not so good music projects, artists, songs...still become successful because people involved in those projects have that intangible spirit.. people are drawn to it so all I was stating in my first comment was that you all are embracing that and that's your gold basket.....

******business-wise, unfortunately my brother, Graham Tobias, Jeremy G r 100% correct you'll need what they mentioned, forecasts, budgets, advisors, investors, sponsors, distributors, licencors, registrations with all the proper bodies, legalities in order, a general structure developed....shmagee shmagoo shamgo but of course u have to do all the to make the business alive but in order to be sustainable and continue functioning, you always need your spirit


peace,love,respect
mj

Whoa, go for it!

Be sure to let us know where we can keep track of your progress.

I've just started something similar myself trying to learn a new instrument in a year - but it's nothing like as ambitious as you!!

Good Luck.

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterMike Saville

You think for someone who's so determined to make this work, you could've come up with a better band name. Just saying.

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

REAL TALK (constructive criticism)

1. Show your face on your website homepage. If you were a competitive athlete, let's see a picture of some muscular arms cradling that guitar. Being shy is only endearing to a point, after which it is seen as a lack of confidence. Showing your face would also help build trust for people to invite you to house shows.
2. Your musical reference points indicate that you appreciate commercial "contemporary hit radio". If that is the case, you should seriously consider a side-project playing covers at bars, weddings, corporate events etc. to support your art. You desperately need more live performance experience and you can think of this as training in that. Consider driving down to SXSW this winter (book a few gigs in Austin on your own) and see what the competition is like at the entry-level. Many (most?) of the performers at SXSW are NOT making a living off their music and it is not because they didn't think of giving away 5000 CDs (how much is that going to cost you?).
3. As was mentioned above, you should incorporate. Then try finding a good licensing company that can get your music in commercials. One of the bands I play with got a $2000 windfall for a couple seconds of one song to be used in a pizza commercial.
4. HAVE FUN! Enjoy yourself and know that what you play is not as important as HOW you play it. Be comfortable in your skin on stage and consider getting professional help on your stage show (theatre people can help here). If your music isn't danceable, and isn't arranged much beyond voice and piano, you're going to need to make it compelling using only your personal expression.


***Bonus...consider moving to Austin, that is the closest major music market I see to your home base in Springfield. Other possibilities: LA, Chicago, NY, Athens, Nashville...

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterJ-POP

Nice article, I wish you all the best in your venture. I'll be watching you closely as I am in a similar boat; brand new band, 2 members, no real following to speak of, trying to make the leap into doing our music as a business. Currently we are both making a living off of performing but we're performing mostly covers, that's what we wish to change.

Most of the comments above have been spot on, even the negative ones, but the best advice is certainly to keep your head down and keep plowing ahead. We'll be watching your progress.
Todd
roamingroyalty.com

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Dunnigan

Matt, I'd think after reading this post, one might consider whether maybe there's some actual meaning behind the name, haha. Just saying...
JPop, thanks for the response. Picture arrangements are being made:) And I agree that giving away 5000 Cds isn't the key to anything... Music that resonates with an audience(connects with fans) is the most important thing. If we don't have that, we won't be successful on any large scale reguardless of how many shows we play.
Todd thanks for the well wishing and the same to you:)

August 27 | Registered CommenterJosiah Mann

I read Music Think Tank often, atleast a few times a week and am always pondering if bands actually are giving themselve's long and short term goals. Inspiring stuff of which im glad you said you are running a Self Hosted Band Website. Opportunities for evaluating and analytic information is nigh on endless.

Best of luck!!

Josiah - congrats on setting a lofty goal and making a real commitment to it.

Based on a look at your website and hearing a bit of the music (the whole first vid - which is rare for me - think it was your voice and the unexpected nature of knowing you were a heavyweight fighter juxtaposed against the tenderness of the song (I mean that completely in a positive way).

Which gets me to the point - YOU ARE MISSING YOUR BIGGEST STRATEGIV ADVANTAGE..

Like being in the ring and only using a left jab...literally. Please seriously consider this (and I don't sell or proveide any services - this is PURE advice):

Since you don't have any music from the band up (and I agree with above comment that you should have - either you are a band or an individual artist - very confusing to the public), I have no way to comment on the merits of the band.

But it doesn't matter anyway - what you have as an individual artist is GOLD...a STORY.

Face it - there are LITERALLY MILLIONS of artists vying for contention - in this business the KEY is to be DIFFERENT.

What is more compelling - yet another band...or a former heavywieght fighter perotrming solo piano love songs?

Who is your market? I would say woman, clearly...might they respond to a strong masculine image with a warm caring heart...hmmm maybe about almost all. That's a lot of potential fans.

Picture YouTube videos of you in various attire - as pointed out above tastefully showing off your physique...then combined artistically with you training (maybe your fight footage but woman don't generally like fighting, though LOVE the image of strong sweaty guy working out, or chopping trees or fixing a car, come up with many - ASK WOMAN what they find most sexy - and yeah maybe even in a sleevless tux shirt now and then - don't laugh Chippendales is extremely profitable - and you did write about that as the goal).

Or a period piece (think top chick flicks), with you dressed in gentlemanly attire but stripping down during video to sit at piano in white tank undershirt and suspenders...this is SHOW BUSINESS man - to not drop ALL reluctance to using all your arsenal is like Brock Lesner not using his wrestling - clear what would happen then and same for you.

And stay in shape - many fighters let themselves go after retiring (especially heavyweights), so get in TOP FORM - and stay there - don't let ANYTHING be an excuse - you are marketing YOU, like it or not.

You should start solo and BUILD THE BAND LATER if you want (but YOU should be the focus even then, and this being business, the primary owner - hire a team like you had fighting, but you're the guy in the ring/cage).

Have a logo (possibly the pic on website drawn in artsy way?)and...

a tag line (I was a fighter but love won - or Heavyweight Champion of Love - or Standing Up for Love - or whatever fits the image of former fighter turned lover, etc).

Then MARKET YOUR STORY!.

Your music is good but so is a TONS of others - it;'s your STORY that will set you apart. It is new, fresh, DIFFERENT. NEWSWORTHY even, since writers always need - yup, a STORY.

You are battling, Josiah, make no mistake - and this time iyour story is your knockout punch. USE IT.

Everything you do should be to set it up.

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

DG. Thanks for the insightful post. I am aware of the potential direction you're suggesting, and I agree that there's a story there and a market. We do know our story, it's just not time yet:)

August 27 | Registered CommenterJosiah Mann

Dude, I have to start thinking out my music career in the way you are. It's going to get you places.

Although I respect the ambition of this project, setting yourself a time limit of one year without serious backing is moronic.
You plan to give away 5000 CD's for an email address in return. Ok not a bad trade if you get it. However as a starting out band you can expect audiences between 5 - 30 people on most gigs going up to 150 - 200 if you're sharing with a known headliner. Unfortunately chances are that you'll be playing early which means that most of the people won't have turned up yet.

I won't be deluding you by saying that all 5000 people will grab your CD, cause they wont....

So let's be kind and average your punters to 75 per gig - that means 66 gigs in a year That's either 1 per weekend plus some extra or get 2 per weekend. Essentially it means all weekends are gone with travel and gigging etc.
You need to spend 2 days a week rehearsing, writing, taking care of web presences, returning fan mail, taking care of business, creating flyers and merch - actually 2 days is too little.
I assume you both have day jobs?
Girlfriends, boyfriends, friends?

It's encouraging to see a band with a thought processes regarding their career but like any business reality is a bitch.
Set your self a realistic goal instead, Aim for a decent fan base within a year and some spending cash for touring, new equipment, recording budget and go from there.
After one year you should be able to afford a plugger and if you've built a fan base worth mentioning there's a good chance a promoter and pr company will bite.

Above all tho.... write songs,write songs,write songs,write songs,write songs....
No offence but from what you've got posted on your website, Chris Martin wouldn't even slow his pace even if he got hit in the head by one of those tunes...

Having been a little bit negative I do wish you the best of luck and I do believe you can be successful in your goals.... but not in 12 months.

Best

Spinner

August 30 | Unregistered Commenterspinner

Goals are good. Good music is better. U2 wanted to be the biggest band in the world, but their music was fresh and new. The Beatles were great because they were cutting edge.

If all you want is fame, you can have it. Say goodbye to your soul.

August 30 | Unregistered CommenterXris

I will definitely be following this ambitious project. Seeing dreams come true because of passion and hard work is a drama that is relevant to every human.

September 2 | Registered CommenterJustin Le

Couldn't agree more Justin. Man's search for meaning...

September 2 | Registered CommenterJosiah Mann

Very uncommon, but just how I like it!
Have you thought about signing band agreements? You know, just in case?
I would look into niche marketing for the band in order to make some supplemental income.

Cheers
Patrick

Hey Man, this is a great idea and the best and only way to go! I've listened to two of your songs already and they are great to me!

I will be following along as I'm planning the very same thing in a slightly different way!

Keep going!!!

September 7 | Unregistered Commentersowait

Inspirational! I'm just setting myself up with various projects to go it alone too... but without the year deadline! Will definately be following your progress eagerly!

All the best and warmest wishes,

Jay

September 9 | Unregistered CommenterJay Harris

NOT BEING A HATER, BUT I HEARD THE SONG AND THE LEAD SINGER'S VOCALS NEED TO BE IMPROVED OR HE NEEDS TO FIND A BETTER LEAD SINGER, PLAIN AND SIMPLE. THE PRODUCTION WAS SO UNPOLISHED. A PRODUCER WITH SOME EXPERIENCE COULD POLISH THE TRACKS UP.

September 11 | Unregistered CommenterCarlton Ahdween

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