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« Everyone Is Going To Help You …. If You Know How To Ask A Response To Derek's Post | Main | Art is An Energy »
Thursday
Jan082009

Nobody’s going to help you. Does that encourage you or discourage you?

Nobody’s going to help you. It’s all up to you.

Does hearing that discourage you or motivate you?

The reason I’m asking is that a musician friend emailed me two questions last week (December 2008):

How can I find a great/major booking agent?
And how can I find an investor? I need someone to invest $500,000 into my band for radio, touring, recording, videos, PR, payola, etc.

My answer was:

Sorry, but when it comes to this stuff, I think the healthiest attitude is the most cynical one:

There are no great agents that would want to take you on unless you’re already earning $5000 a month gigging, so that their 10% cut (only $500) would be worth their time.

There are absolutely no investors that would invest in a musician now. Even solid profitable businesses with customers and employees can’t find investors these days, (December 2008), so just assume you will not.

So: No agent. No investor. No one’s going to help you until you’re already successful. So how do you get successful with no help from anyone?

How can you make $5000/month from gigging, so that an agent will be interested enough to take it to the next level? Only you know.

How can you call so much attention to your music online, that a company will gamble on you, and finance the expensive offline campaign?

Those are the healthy questions to ask.

Unfortunately that’s not the answer he wanted.

To him, my answer was really discouraging.

To me, (if I was receiving that answer from someone else), it would be really encouraging.

I like being reminded that nobody’s going to help me - that it’s all up to me. It puts my focus back on the things I can control - not waiting for outside circumstances.

But it got me wondering: is that just me?

When you think that nobody’s going to help you, does that encourage you or discourage you?

I’m really interested to hear everyone’s honest answer. Please leave a reply in the comments here. Thanks!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/eric_tank/2061351808/

Reader Comments (19)

I find it encouraging as well, in the sense that it allows artists to learn to be scrappy and learn to make good decisions in tough times. If your friend still finds it discouraging he or she can take solace in that fact that everyone else (regardless of industry) right now feels just as discouraged by the lack of capital. I especially like this quote:

"How can you call so much attention to your music online, that a company will gamble on you, and finance the expensive offline campaign?"

Few artists understand that the online campaign is something that 1) they have a fair amount of control over 2) is not very expensive anymore. In an economonic crisis like this it is even more important for artists to contain costs and focus on those things that they have control over. Solid post.

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterPat W.

Derek,
I, like you, find this to be an encouraging fact.

I have worked with a band for 4 years that had moderate success in our region. We have recorded 1 album and have received some pretty cool opportunities along the way. Our local following is solid and I truly believe that with time and business smarts, the music will be successful. Unfortunately, those statements could be made by millions of unsuccessful bands...so who cares.

When we recorded our album we paid for it by reinvesting all of our gig money into the LLC that we established for the band. After the album was made we continued to invest money in marketing and legal framework....Then members wanted money. Gradually less and less was invested and so less and less happened. There is a great article in the current Billboard about Bang Camaro, a 17 piece band that has reinvested all of its money into the band and now that they are generating synch fees from Rock Band video games continue to do the same. I predict massive success and have never heard a single song they have made.

My point is that I strongly believe that for a band to be successful in the current market they must not only think of new a creative ways to reach fans and generate revenue streams but most importantly, INVEST IN THE BAND. Sure you can party like a rockstar but eat Raman Noodles while you are doing it.

Bands either need to reinvest all of the money back into the band and make strategic decisions for the future or remain a local act and divi up the cash at the end of the night. Neither is bad, it just depends on what you want in your future....$50 to pay for gas and food or a solid career 10 years down the road.

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Beguin

@Pat and Derek,

For 4 years everyone in the band talked about how all we needed was for someone to come along and invest in us/give tour support/hold our hands. This justified investing less in the band because someone was sure to discover us.........

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Beguin

Being a younger entry into music i(and living in nashville) I know countless musicians, promoters, managers, etc who are not finding their niche and simply, coming to the point of giving up. The number of people laid off is staggering. Myself, I temped at a major label but came at the wrong time, could never find an opening. I had a great opportunity working at an indie label, and was laid off last thanksgiving (label is pretty much done). I now do customer service in the cell phone industry (and grateful I have a full time job of any sort).

That being said, I feel that the opportunity is there. I do think the main question is "is it logistically possible to get new music to the point that it can even help sustain the musicians, let alone managers?" The long tail is great for itunes but not so great for the artists only selling 10 cds. And with the influx of music it is increasingly hard to break through the sheer noise and reach promoters, radio stations, etc.

I am currently helping to develop artists and run a house venue. I certainly do not anticipate making money off this, my objective is to make contacts and just continue to do what I enjoy at whatever level I can. My end goal right now is to figure out how to transition the new, smaller artists to a point where they can A. Break even and B. Perhaps even make even some extra income. With the state of the economy I understand people switching industries, honestly we need some people to switch to other industries because there isn't enough in the music industry tto support everyone.

I feel we are at the crux of finding the solutions for the new industry. And the solution is seeming to favor independent musicians as opposed to major labels, which I am completely down for. Rough waters ahead, but at some point the waves will ebb (what a corny line).

January 8 | Unregistered Commenterjim bellizzi

I think it can come down to personal attitude, I worked with a band who got a sit down with a publishing company to discuss getting a publishing deal. The company basically told them they would not give them a deal and all the reasons why, at this time in their career they could not get a deal. The way I looked at this was in a very positive way because all the reasons given by the company were all achievable by the band, play more gigs, get more profile in the media etc etc. The band decided to take it as an attack on their songs and not make any changes to their development, a very negative reaction.
I think that it's very empowering to realise that nobody is gonna help you, until they can get something out of it, it's the reality for most bands now and finding that balance between self development and finding a good team at the right time is really important.

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterJ Bluevibe

On one hand, it's a nice thing to hear. It means that you won't be able to pass blame off, and in the end, you take control of your career and your life. You have no one to blame but yourself. You have no one to thank but yourself.

On the other hand, it's terrifying. Where do you start? What do you do for money in the mean time? What if you're really not good at the business side, or just plain and simple do not enjoy doing that work?

I think it's probably just a dose of reality. Once you accept the facts, you get back to work. And you work harder.

January 8 | Unregistered Commentercourtney

Derek, great post, thanks.

I think it's a good thing to come to the realisation that you need to do a lot of your own work these days. The key to your answer to your friend is not that no-one will EVER help them, but that they will need to get to a point where someone WANTS to help them.

If you think "no-one will ever help me" that's depressing. If you think "all I need to do is get to here and someone will help me" that's encouraging.

This is where the power of the internet is really helping idie muso's. Not necesarilly in making a full-time career out of their own efforts, but raising themselves through their own efforts to the point of being noticed and getting help. I hope it's not too rude to shamelessly plug my own site here, www.TakingYourMusicOnline.com, but that's the exact intention of it. Not to make rockstars... but to do well enough on your own to attract help.

Thanks again for a great article.

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterMark Gibson

If someone wants to become a baker, he has to open a bakery. For that he needs to get a loan, buy his bakery, start his business and nothing guarantee he will make it.
The same with an architect, or a ceramist. They all need to create a company, find some money and create a business.

Why do musicians think they absolutely need someone else (=a record company) to invest money and create the business, where in any other profession, it's your own responsibility.

Getting enough attention to get a label taking care of you is not the right goal.
Investing and creating your business is the right goal. You have to bake the bread and take care of the cash counter.

Good thing that p2p ruined the current music business and forces musician to finally take responsibility of their own business, otherwise they would still let all the power to the record companies.

You can complain about record companies and still want a record deal, but it's like opening a McDonald's franchise and complaining you can't put pasta on the menu.

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterAlan

Thanks for this, Derek!
Many people in the industry need to hear this and take it to heart. While it's true that there is no such thing as a "self-made man", the "sit around and wait" approach will get you nowhere faster than anything. People don't care. They don't have time to care - especially in the time of an economic slump. In the studios I work in here in Los Angeles, it is harder and harder for artists to get signed to an agency, and even the many that are recording and trying to create product are doing so without any representation at all - completely on a gamble. Bottom line: artists need to believe in themselves enough to assume ALL of the risk involved in carving out a career, and as soon as they do, that belief becomes contagious enough to attract the other supporting players that they will need to sustain their careers in the turbulent water of the current scene.

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterDeane Ogden

i think you're really presenting two scenarios here, derek. the first one - the fact that there's a 99.9% chance no one's going to give you a $500,000 record contract. and the second one, which is quite different in my opinion - that no one will ever help you.

sorry, but i don't think "no one will ever help you" is *exactly* true. it's actually really negative, and yes, to me discouraging. sure, i think it was totally naive of your friend to ask where to get a spare half mil to record their record, especially if you pay attention to what's going on in the music world right now. but i just don't buy that most successful artists have had NO help at any point to get where they are.

case in point - i decided i wanted to record my first real album last year: a former music professor hooked me up with his top student to track the whole thing in the campus studios. another friend works at avatar studios in manhattan and wants to mix it for free. my former college roommate, a graphic designer, is doing the album artwork at no cost. and my current roommate in brooklyn works at mpress records, and is going to help me promote the record. all i really have to pay for is the pressing and mastering.

one more example: i went to college with a nice young girl named meredith godreau. her music was/ is so amazing that EVERYONE used to offer to to help her with EVERYTHING. from booking shows, to recording, to finding musicians to play with her. people would just throw their resources forward, because they wanted to be a part of HER. she ended up making a living selling her music off myspace in its heyday, and is now signed to fat cat records.

i think it's not that there's NO help to be had, but that you need to know where to FIND the help.

January 9 | Unregistered Commenterchantilly

well for me it sounds encouraging! why?

workin on your own is better than earning much for doing nothing! so making music wouldnt be nice for me if I wouldnt work for it! i want to watch all procceesses my own. as a newcomer its maybe, gigging, booking mailing, web etc ... sound like fun to me! and you feel proud if there's a result at the end !:)

January 12 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

It's really encouraging to me as well. I'm a solo musician and have been doing everything on my own for a while now, so it's good to see I'm doing the right thing.

On the other hand, it's a little stressful to be reminded that it's not at all an easy thing to do, but I'm ok with that.

Thanks for the gasp of fresh air.

January 12 | Unregistered CommenterMax Miller

It's encouraging in that it's all hardwork and when you reap the rewards you've definately earnt them.

But it's discouraging when others are put forward because of who they know, not what they can do.

So you have to change your goals, and focus on what you can do, and expect that you are most likely not going to be a mega rockstar.

January 13 | Unregistered CommenterDave Anderson

Great! Thank you!
I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my site?
Of course, I will add backlink?

Sincerely, Reader

I like the way you encourage your readers through this article. Having no one help us doesn't mean we have to give up and do nothing. Even most people will perform better when they are in difficult situation.
EnjoyTheSong

January 30 | Unregistered CommenterEnjoyTheSong

This is one of the reasons I decided to start a band--because no one was going to help me! We could do it ourselves--produce the kind of music we like, own the product, make a bigger percent of sales and play for appreciative audiences. And if we only sell a thousand copies of our CD and a little merch, then so be it--we're in it for the MUSIC! So far we've got a nice presence at many internet sites, a wonderful dialogue going with our fans (with new ones joining every month), some local and international (Australia) radio airplay and people from around the world listening to our music (I happen to like when Lastfm shows me that someone from Turkey or Russia is listening!), sales of our CD online and in stores and a few songwriters who want to write for us. We even managed to get two investors. Works for me!

January 30 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Your site displays incorrectly in Opera, but content excellent! Thanks for your wise words.

February 5 | Unregistered Commenternamtoumbmug

In my opinion it has to be a labour of love. Try to write songs from the heart that hook people and won't let them go, easier said than done. Be prepared to work twice as hard as you would at a normal job. Don't have delusions of grandeur and maybe one day you will achieve some kind of success, whatever that is.

Pete www.sicknoterecords.com

February 7 | Unregistered CommenterPete

In my opinion it has to be a labour of love. Try to write songs from the heart that hook people and won't let them go, easier said than done. Be prepared to work twice as hard as you would at a normal job. Don't have delusions of grandeur and maybe one day you will achieve some kind of success, whatever that is.

Pete www.sicknoterecords.com

February 7 | Unregistered CommenterPete

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