It was a Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis. Charlie Waymire and I were in a studio at college, tuning up his monster double-bass drumset for his band’s recording session later that day. Or maybe should I say trying to tune his drumset. Taking turns wielding the drumkey while the other played, nothing either of us did seemed to get both bass drums to sound the same. All we got were these loud, sonically unmatched thuds.
Entries in Advice (14)
Ever wondered why your band struggles to even get pub gigs, yet a fresh new band is packing out venues from day one? Fed up of having to resort to Pay2Play gigs because no decent promoter is willing to take a chance with you? The secret to success is in plain sight, it’s just only a few have the vision to see it. This guide covers the importance of planning ahead, how to gain attention for your band, and how to score those exciting opportunities that are otherwise unavailable to you.
If you are young and reading this blog, you are probably grinding your teeth with rage at the sight of the headline alone. Don’t fret. I’m not some old crusty geezer here to teach you a lesson or put you in “your place.” I’m 25 and have been working in the music, marketing, and communications industry for 10 years. I started my company, AB Co., 6 years ago and have grown it into Canada’s leading music marketing and communications agency. I manage a team of 13 and started my company at the age of 18 with a whole lot of balls.
Money. Many artists struggle with it: either we’re poor at managing income or we lack creativity in getting it. It’s clear that with the shape of the music industry, most artists aren’t making a living from record sales. So how are they getting the support that they need?
You might argue that some bands make their money from performing: they command large guarantees when playing a show. Another popular idea is that most bands survive because of merch sales (few promoters provide a decent guarantee, if one at all). Others see crowdsourcing as the new golden calf.
I don’t think there is a one-size fits-all model for all artists. What artists need is something that is personal, transparent, and appropriate for their career. In 5 Non-traditional Ways to Promote Your Music, I called upon artists to use their creativity when it comes to music promotion. I think the same could be said of your sources of income as well.
Martin Atkins, touring artist and author of the book Tour:Smart, recently did an interview with CD Baby President Brian Felson where he basically said: keep your day job!
I agree - it’s important to be strategic about your job so that instead of “quitting” your day job, you can replace it with another career: music. However, as long as you are there, it’s important to pick up as many skills as possible that will be useful to the working musician. Here’s a list of things that you should be learning from your day job:
Let’s paint a scenario. Let’s say you’ve got some great music. You’re an up-and-coming independent. It doesn’t matter who you are - the songwriter, the producer, the artist, the manager, or the indie label owner. You’ve generated some pretty good buzz for that music. And, you happen to have $5000 to spend. What should you spend it on? What would really help advance your career?
A. Spend it on advertising
B. Spend it going on tour
C. Hire a publicist
D. Hire a lawyer
E. Hire a college radio promoter
And the correct answer is…
So you’ve finally saved up the money to record your masterpiece. You’ve found the perfect producer that “gets you” and you’ve set the date to start recording. Life is good! Now what? You know there is more to it. But what is it that you should be doing from now until your project starts? Do the people who make amazing albums just get lucky? No they don’t. Being prepared means everything. Football player and Super Bowl champion Ronde Barber has this to say, “There is no such thing as luck. Bounces go either way. Every day and you have to take advantage of those situations. You call it luck and I call it being prepared”.
One of the reasons we started MusicianWages.com was because of the huge reservoir of unqualified career advice that was being served to musicians online. I usually keep quiet about the charlatanry tips I find online, but I just can’t pass this one up. It displays the characteristics of bad career advice so acutely that I just have to point it out.
The Busking Alchemist
This article dropped onto my reading list this past weekend. Want To Make $50,000 a Year In Music? Start With One Dollar a Day. There’s a pair of sentences early in this article that are particularly telling. One of the things that mystifies me about this article is why it continues after this:
Email is an essential part of the fan relationship equation for artists, labels, and managers. While it is difficult to say the exact value of collecting any individual email address for musicians, marketers from other industries peg the generic value of getting an email at about $1 each. But it’s all about what you do with it once you are given the great responsibility of owning it. We have seen Artists generate as much as $10 per email address on their list, when used properly.
Email has some interesting attributes going for it, like:
Many musicians feel like the band they are in is destined for success and that the group will never break up. Even after being a part of a number of bands, there is still that glimmer of hope—which is not a bad thing, but often times it can set you up for problems further down the road. Imagine that things are really starting to take off, money is coming in, you have forward motion and momentum. At this point, things feel good, everyone is happy, decisions are made fast, and quite possibly, never formalized in writing.
Now fast forward two years. For some reason, whatever reason, someone is leaving. The band is breaking up. If there was already fighting going on, it escalates: arguments over who gets what, who is owed what, and who has rights to what. Everything is twice as challenging and twice as hard. In a lot of cases, people hate each other, the fights get louder and harsher. This is not an atmosphere in which any equitable decisions can made.
It really comes down to a very simple solution: In the early stages, while the band is new, while things are getting ready to happen, and most of all while everyone is happy and friendly, work to set up your end agreements then.
Everyone uses MySpace - because everyone else uses MySpace.
But the site fails to recognise or make use of the fact that they have what could well be the greatest asset on the internet: EVERY FRICKIN’ BAND ON THE PLANET.
We all have our complaints and issues with MySpace. It isn’t all it could be - and while it’s improving in increments, it’s not good enough. This article is a call to arms. It’s time for a revolution. Either they start doing independent music right - or we ALL walk.
Let’s give them one year - then we’re gone. Here’s why.
What ever happened to true effort, the desire to learn and develop ones ability? What happened to the problem solvers? What happened to the ones that could look at a problem or at something going wrong and continue on in the mode to make it right or at least better? What happened to the hunger that was followed with the effort to do that extra work, take that extra step or go just a little more above and beyond? When did the laziness set in, the complacency, and when did the expectations grow to the point where some think it should simply come their way and they deserve all they want with as little effort as possible.
So the show got cancelled. Whether it was your fault, the venues fault, the manager’s fault or the weathers fault, it really doesn’t matter. It is strange to me that when something goes wrong, people seem to be much more about figuring out who did something wrong and assigning blame over the much more obvious and much more effective problem solving and doing what you can to make the best out of the situation.
Gigs are going to get cancelled or rescheduled. Times are going to occur when you are going to be double booked. You can take the right steps to organize and track things the best you can, but problems occur and sometimes they just can’t be helped. I have heard bands scream and moan about this booking agent or that manager messing up. Then I have seen the online postings where bands blast venues and then the venues go back blasting bands. This really doesn’t solve a single thing and it keeps you further as well as takes up time you could use to reschedule, take steps to make sure it does not happen again and reach out to your fans and people that were going to come to the show.
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(Updated July 8, 2015)