Ryan Murphy, RJM Music (www.rjmmusic.net)
In my brief time working in the music industry there is one thing that I have learned. No matter how hard you try nothing will go as planned. But that does not mean that you should not have a plan. Having goals and a specific target that you are working towards is important.
When someone tells me that their goal is “to be famous” I laugh, Because that is not a goal. That is a result. What is important to figure out is what goals you will have in order to get to that result.
The first step to being successful (aside from actually being talented) is to understand who your fanbase is and to understand what they want from you as an artist. If you are planning on playing a lot of bars to get started you better be playing a lot of upbeat cover songs, People at bars expect to hear danceable/familiar music. If you manage to keep them happy with those you will likely be able to sneak in some of your originals as well and build a strong fanbase that way. If you want to play all originals you are best suited for playing coffee houses and cafes. Both scenes are viable ways to start a career, It is really up to you but you just have to understand that these are two very different audiences that want entirely different things. Those that can successfully conquer both types of crowds have great potential.
In my opinion in today’s musical climate your main focus in your music career should be put into having a great live show and less on recording albums. This was very different ten to twenty years ago, but that was then and this is now. I do not mean to say that you should not have recorded music available to your fans, because you absolutely should. I just means that unless you are Kenny Chesney or Taylor Swift you should not expect to make a whole lot of money off of those albums. In fact one of the best things you can do in the early stages of your career is to give your music away for free… (Yes, I said it. free!) whether you like it or not today’s average music fan is not rushing out to the store to buy the latest album as soon as it is released, instead they are logging on to apps like Spotify and listening to it for free (Which you will get about one cent per listen for). But if you offer to give it to them for free (in exchange for say their email address) Before they even have a chance to get it by other methods you are making a much bigger profit (in my opinion email addresses are like gold)
Anyway that is a topic I could go on about forever but the point is, Do not expect to make a lot of money on your music… Instead focus on exposure and getting people to your shows and once you get them to your show, Put on a show! Don’t just play music. If someone wants to just listen to music they will do that at home. People come out to your show to see a performance.
One of the keys to putting on a good performance is having a band that enjoys performing and playing as much as you do. I have seen both types, Those that are just burnt out with music and just see it as a paycheck and those who truly enjoy what they do and have fun on stage. (believe me this is a very noticeable difference) Of course you also have to find a happy medium between the two as well. You can’t expect your band to enjoy playing with you if they are not making a decent amount of money as well.
Your show does not even have to be perfect musically in order for the audience to enjoy it. I can’t even count the number of times that from my perspective a show has been amazing and the crowd has loved it, yet one of the band members will tell me that it was terrible because they missed a note or two on some of the songs. I understand that a lot of people are very critical of themselves but unless you are playing to a room full of other musicians you would be surprised at how many people don’t notice that kind of stuff. As long as you are having a good time on stage your audience will too.
Once you have your performance down another important thing is to have a website and no I don’t mean a facebook page, That is important to, But I mean an official website (I.E. www.yourname.com) The difference between those two is that you fully control all of the content on your own website whereas with facebook you are merely something that people glance at amongst many other distractions. As a musician you may find this hard to believe but the difference between a good web presence and a bad one can make all the difference in your career and in the attention that you get from people that could help further that career. Somebody can not book you for a future show if they leave your show and can not figure out how to contact you. (You can’t assume that everybody is on facebook)
I could elaborate much more on all of these topics but I have taken up enough of your time. Bottom line have a plan but don’t expect everything to follow that plan perfectly. There will be speed bumps along the way. Band members will come and go. Some songs will not be popular and you will have a rough show here and there. But as long as you are enjoying what you are doing and putting in the necessary effort off-stage as well as on stage. Success will likely find you.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? or maybe you flat out disagree with what I have to say… Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org