Are You a Beggar or a Rockstar?
October 21, 2009
Scott James in band strategy, independent music marketing, marketing, music marketing, music success, selling music

What I’m going to write about is what I consider to be the biggest fundamental difference between artists who thrive and artists who struggle to survive.  It’s a mindset, a paradigm, a way to view the world.

Most bands out there are looking for support.  They want you to help them out.  Vote for them in a contest.  Go to their show.  Buy their CD.

By you contributing to their cause you will get them far enough to get their big break.  When they get their big break then they will have made it and other people will be there to give them all the resources they need and they’ll live happily ever after.

There’s just one small problem with that model:  It’s an illusion that will keep you trapped until long after all of your dreams are gone.  It’s a fundamental misinterpretation of the way that money and value work.  This strategy will no sooner make you successful then it will a beggar.

Money is just a lubrication in the exchange of value.  It doesn’t have any intrinsic value.  It’s just a symbol.  It’s a more advanced way of trading sheep.  What the symbol stands for is value.  It’s not about “getting” money. If you’re going to have money, then you’re going to have to produce value in the world.  You can’t game the system.  It will all add up in the end one way or another.  If you don’t produce value then you won’t even have the capacity to hold on to value.  Whatever you get, you will lose.

You need to focus on the value that you can give to people.  Do you want to get people at your shows?  Do you really want to make some real money?  Then convince people that you’re going to give them something that they value.  Anything less will get you nowhere.  You can get people to come to a gig or two out of obligation, but if they aren’t getting more in return than they are spending then they’re going to stop showing up.  It’s just not sustainable.

Does your show cost $10 at the door, plus $5 to park and an hour or two of time on a Friday night?  Well then it needs to be a show that’s worth $20+ and be the best thing that someone could do on a Friday night.  YOU are the first person who needs to believe this.  THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS CANNOT BE OVERSTATED.

When you’re well calibrated to what your fans value and you’re 100% convinced that going to your show on Friday night is the best thing that anyone could do, and that it’s worth 5x the cost of admission, then something amazing will start to happen.   People will start to sense it.  This will come through in your communications.  People will see it in your eyes and read it in your body language.  The pictures you take will start to speak to people differently.  It’s like sprinkling magic dust on everything you do.

People are repelled by those who want to get something from them, but attracted to people who they believe will give something to them - and when you give them something that’s worth far more than the cost, then they will talk about it.

No one will ever come in and save the day by giving you your big break if you don’t first produce more value than what you ask in return.  This is the great illusion that runs rampant amongst the minds of starving musicians.  If you’re waiting for someone to show up and give you your success then you’re still going to be waiting when you’re old and grey.

So this is my challenge to you:

Eliminate the idea of charity or support as part of your strategy.  Make “support” a dirty word.  Don’t ask people to support your band.  Don’t ask for favors.  Instead, convince them that your band is the best thing that will ever happen to them.  They’re going to tell their grand kids about you.  Your band will be the soundtrack to the best memories that they’ll every have.  $10 for your CD is the best bargain that they’ll ever find.

If you’re going to convince them of this then you’re going to have to convince yourself first.

This comes BEFORE you get your big break.

Don’t be a beggar.




Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
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