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Monday
Nov162009

Ten Tips that Every Musician Should Apply to Their Career

As the holiday season approaches, and we get in to that thing about good will to all, all those other quips about being better people for a moment—which personally, I think should go through out the whole year and not just the shopping season (sorry, holiday season), I wanted to put out a quick rant (speaking of Good Will) that I’ll call Ten Tips that Every Musician Should Apply to Their Career. These apply to both the music and business sides of he equation. Many apply to those who are not musicians but work in the music business.
Hell, a few apply to anyone working in any business. So, New title: Ten Tips for Everyone Alive on the Planet.

Number 1. – Answer your emails.

Show a little respect and answer your emails. If you can’t respond at that moment, then acknowledge that you received it, let the sender know you’re backed up and when you hope to get back to them. Then, either list the email as unread, flag it, or mark a little notch in your calendar to respond to the sender when you promised. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I respond to every email. Sometimes it takes a while, but I get back to everyone I can that has a direct question or is requesting something. It is a common courtesy that I am sure you would want when you send out an email, so do the same.

Number 2. - Have the guts to address concerns or questions.

Kind of attached to number one, if you have a concern or a question brought to you and you are not sure how to respond or are afraid to give a solid answer, toughen up! If you need to say no, then say no. If you want to say “Maybe, but there is an issue I need cleared up before we proceed,” then say that. But the passive-aggressive non-responses, the runaround when people just delete an email, toss away a phone message, or avoid a confrontation is much more insulting than a flat out “No way.”

And you do not want to be insulting people, even if at this particular moment in time time, they are asking for something and you are in the position to say yes or no. Things change (see below). Things always change. Next time, it may well be you doing the asking. A polite, respectful “I can’t do that” or “I am not interested” goes a long way to making that later approach easier.

Show some honor and address questions, concerns, or issues without shoving them in a drawer and hoping they’ll go away. They never do.

Number 3. – If things change, then keep everyone informed and problem solve.

Things change. They change all the time. From a club burning down and a gig being cancelled to a deadline being changed or a payment being missed. It happens, and it happens all the time. The problem is that when things change, many people are affected. Too often, discomfort over the situation leads people to delay notifying everyone who will be affected. Nobody likes delivering bad news—nobody is happy there is bad news to deliver. But other parties still need to know.

If you are supposed to pay someone by a certain date, and something comes up where you can’t do it, TELL THEM! It may mean they will now be unable to pay someone else by a given date, and that is important information for them to have.

I have no problem with someone saying they can’t make a payment when it comes to my production fees or consulting fees. In this economy, it is almost a given that out of so many clients, something will happen to someone at some point. As long as they come to me and say “this isn’t happening like I thought it was going to, I am not going to be able to make that payment on the date we agreed on, but here is what I am going to do about it…” how can I complain? They are acting with honor, treating me with respect, and in many cases, backing it up with a partial payment that lets me know they take the situation seriously. That is a person I want to go on working with. In showing me respect, they just won my respect—and that’s an artist I want to do business with.

Take the initiative to make others aware when situations change—whatever the change is. If your drummer is in three bands and has a sudden conflict, share that information asap. Right now everyone has more options than they will two weeks from now. Be the communicator, the problem solver, the responsible adult, and in 6 months no one will remember what the bad news/stumbling block was, they will just remember who rose to the occasion, who was considerate of other people’s situations, and who must have left their phone off the hook that week.

Number 4. - Be on time or give a heads up.

Just like things change, things can come up that make you late to a gig, to a session, to a meeting. Still, with practically everyone having a cell phone, it seems crazy that someone who is running late cannot make contact with those who are waiting for them.

Once again, it comes down to honor and professionalism. If you are scheduled to be somewhere or simply said you were going to be somewhere, then be there. It comes down to a simple awareness of and respect for other people. As soon as you know you are going to be late, give a call, send a text. “Running late” and your new ETA. It’s easy and it will show you in a very professional light.

Number 5. Get your gear off the stage when you are done.

I hear more bands bitch about this, and yet some of the same people that complain about other bands will leave their own instruments up on the stage while another band is waiting to load on. When your set is done, get your gear off the stage if another band is following you. There is a schedule to keep, whether the band before you loaded off fast or not, there is still a schedule. Be the better and more responsible group, and get your gear off stage so the night can continue.

Some bands say they need to promote and sell and connect immediately with the audience, and that is fine. Have one person with the least gear head to the audience while the rest of the group gets the gear off stage. Do it quickly, too. You do not need to take cymbals off stands on the stage if you are a drummer, you can take the cymbal on the cymbal stand off the stage so that next drummer can get moving on his set up.

The same thing goes if there is room in a club or venue side stage to set up some. Put together some of your set up so loading on can be faster as well. Get out of the selfish zone and consider the night, the other bands, and the club as a whole. You will get a reputation as a group that is easy to work with and professional, something that is a rarity in many places.

Number 6. - Follow up with booking agents, clubs and other bands.

A single gig can be more than a gig if you conduct yourself well. Playing one night with another band can lead to more than just that single show. Follow up with people, keep organized contacts and check in with them. Keep a spreadsheet or a file with the contact, how you connected with them, where they are and what your experience was with them. This is the real networking, and it predates the Internet, folks. This is networking in the most grassroots sense, and it can lead to many more opportunities than you realize. Send thank yous to clubs, cross link to other bands and stay in touch with people. Even if you take five minutes out of your week to keep in touch, update, or cross promote, you will create a larger more effective network that will allow you numerous opportunities instead of single one time events.

Number 7. - Stop f*%^ng over posting on Facebook and other network sites.

Stop with the stupid posts that no one cares about. Yes, maybe some larger scale stars can post, twitter and update about eating a Twinkie, but a fair amount of them have the fame and the celebrity status that draws people’s interest. For the rest of us, the technical name for that kind of post is “pointless crap.” Use quality, not quantity with your posts. While you think that all these people are reading everything you are putting up on Facebook, considert how many people have you as hidden just so they don’t have to read that stuff.

Separate your personal page from the music ones. On a music page, put up the info that will draw people to your links, your pictures, and your posts. If you are using it for a personal page, then by all means, do as you wish. But if you are trying to connect with other artists and fans, if you are trying to network and utilize the social networks as one more avenue to move yourself forward, then it is a professional tool, treat it professionally. Get away from the mafia wars, the farmer games, and anything that makes your page like a series of graffiti advertisements. As a musician, give them something that will draw them in as well as make them want more instead of giving them way too much information.

Number 8. - Be confident but not arrogant. Admit when you don’t know something.

Confidence is great, but arrogance can lock you out of opportunities and close doors that would otherwise be open for you. Too often, arrogance is clumsy camouflage for a lack of confidence or outright insecurity. Nothing is less attractive.

Lay back some on the arrogance and let your confidence shine through. Agents, venues, labels and industry executives are subjected to so much ego and arrogance-driven excesses every single day. By coming off strong, quietly confident and not over the top, you will be a breath of fresh air. You’ll be much for effective capturing the attention of whomever you’re talking to, keeping their attention longer, and being remembered afterwards in a positive light. There is simply no way to achieve that beating your chest and being an arrogant blowhard.

Number 9. - Follow the instructions when it comes to sending out packages , calling, emailing distro, etc.

File another one under “N” for “Not rocket science here”. If you are submitting music for licensing, going after a gig, a recording deal, an agent, a producer or whoever, follow the directions that are given on websites when it comes to soliciting materials. This is another one that predates the Internet. Everyone in every decision-making corner of entertainment is INUNDATED with hopefuls, wannabes, and actual legitimate applicants. They all have rules and requirements to keep this potential avalanche under control. None of them are going to toss those rules aside for you or look at your application favorably because you had to do it your way.

So, if someone has it written on their website to only send emails, then DO NOT CALL THEM. If someone has a certain format they require, then send your materials in that format. I have talked to way too many artists who send out things the way they want to send them out and ignore directions—and then wonder why they never hear back. It’s called attention to detail, and while you may still not have a response, you will at least be considered. You will not get that far if you walk in the door and announce yourself who cannot follow simple instructions.

Number 10. - Stop talking shit about other bands, people, etc.

Basically, be nice and shut your mouth. A lot of bands that rip on other bands get a reputation of being shit talkers. This is not a reputation you want to have. Be considerate. You don’t have to like everyone or everything, but as you are out there in the spotlight, in the media, and around many people who may like the person/band/thing you are tempted to bash, it is much better to keep your mouth shut. Be viewed in a positive light rather than one who is always ripping on other bands—bands which, incidentally, you may have to work with again in the future or who may be able to help (or hurt) you down the line. Be smart when it comes to opening your mouth.

Conclusion

This stuff is basic and yet often ignored. Try professionalism, open communication, attention to detail, and give consideration and respect to those you are working with. It can go a long way for you and your career.

© 2009 Loren Weisman
www.braingrenademusic.com
www.twitter.com/bgellc

Watch out for Loren Weisman’s “Realistic Music Careers 101 Seminar” coming to a city near you and Loren’s book “The Artist’s Guide to Success in the Music Business” coming in 2010.

For more information on Loren, bookings or press inquiries, please contact his publicist and agent, Jenée Arthur at Rellihan Satterlee. Email: jenart@relsat.com Phone: 206-588-1998

Reader Comments (11)

you forgot one big one that bands always seem to forget. Thank people for coming to your shows. Not just on stage before the last song. In person.

November 16 | Unregistered Commenterbob

^^ IMO bob's point is the most important one. However I'm going to take it a step further and say that you should do more than simply thank people. Start up a conversation. Make sure you have some CD's, t-shirts, future show tickets, or other promo shit on your body when you're talking to them. Usually if you are friendly and outgoing, people will either ask what your holding or ask if you have a CD or some kind of music they can take home with them.

Also, always have something you can give them for FREE. Even if its like a silly clothespin with your band logo on it, just make it SOMETHING. They deserve it for buying the ticket and listening to your music.

_chris

November 17 | Registered CommenterChris Bracco

This is funny, because I'm quoting #7 and posting it to my friend's Facebook wall (because he's a musician and he does exactly what #7 talks about). After he read this post, he posted #10 on his own wall. Then he continued to post the usual stuff after.

Cheers,
Endy

November 17 | Registered CommenterEndy Daniyanto

Great post - Personally, #5 drives me f'ing crazy but when you're playing the local scene you often play with new bands who are still getting the hang of things.. and one encounter with a band less friendly than mine is typically all it takes to learn that lesson!

Otherwise I think #9 is also really important-- and it relates to one of the items in the "7 steps to ruin your career" post-- the one about only marketing when it's urgent. Not only must you always follow instructions, but I also think it's important to find ways to engage writers/bloggers, etc without alwaysasking for something. If you're always asking, people will stop listening.

November 17 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

Great post. I always post your article links on twitter.

November 17 | Unregistered CommenterHip Hop Makers

Really like it Loren,

Tips for everybody not just musicians! Keep the articles coming
and let me know if you're interested in writing for http://www.themusiciansguide.co.uk

November 17 | Unregistered CommenterMarcus Taylor

Thanks for all the kind comments on this one. Kind of obvious stuff, but it is forgotten by many.

All the best,

Loren

November 17 | Registered CommenterLoren Weisman

Good post. When I saw the topic, I thought what followed was going to be stupid. It wasn't! Good advice... couldn't agree more.

November 19 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Great Post... I think all artists can benift from this... #7 - will help wonders also check out Grindstop.com http://www.grindstop.com they have most of all the things mentioned above in their Artist profiles kind of like purevolume but with paypal for you store.

December 3 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

I really like this article. Musicians are typically known to not always be as organized as they can be - so any help will most certainly increase their chances of stronger exposure. I recently interviewed Eddie Owen from Atlanta's iconic music venue, Eddie's Attic (launched John Mayer, Shawn Mullins, Indigo Girls, Sugarland, Zac Brown Band, etc.) and asked him what set those artists apart from the rest. How can an upstart artist make it? His response was that the artist had to be incredibly talented. Secondly, they work tirelessly and work incredibly hard - all the time. Third, is that you have to be in the right place at the right time.

I think many artists are exeptionally talented - and they MIGHT be willing to work hard - but they don't always know the steps that are needed. This is a great guideline to start with.

Btw, if you want to hear the interview with Eddie, it will be up online very shortly at http///radiopotato.com. He gives some great insight into promoting the emerging artist.

Thanks for the article-

December 27 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Rizk

Thank you so much for your useful tips. I will definitely apply them to my music career.

Best,
Unbelievable Jones aka Yanelle Dugar

www.findingyanelle.com

September 23 | Unregistered CommenterUnbelievable Jones

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