Collisions at the Corner of Art and Commerce

You, yes, you, can do much more than you think to build your career

Thursday, December 31, 2009

All of what follows assumes that you and your music posses a level of quality sufficient to at least stay in, but hopefully rise above, the crowd.  We can name  well known 'artists' who are deficient in objectively quantified musical talent,  but in most instances, they *are* good at something memorable in some way, or they've got a staff of people behind them who are good at something.   As such, there are a variety of different 'somethings' we can look at, however,  I choose to focus on the music side of this equation, and it is from that perspective that I write.  

So, starting from the idea that your music is original, memorable or interesting enough for people to tell their friends about, we begin below..... (if that doesn't apply to you, perhaps an appointment between you, your bandmates and the practice room are in order - practice, write, perform, experiment, and repeat until you get some musical traction).

The music business can seem far more complicated than it is.  It can also appear  like some  secretive guild with knowledge and opportunities apportioned out  only to initiated insiders.   However, basic business skills like well targeted, simple, direct, courteous and persistent communication coupled with follow through will take you farther than you think.  It is, to be sure, a challenge, but as you progress, you'll get better at selling yourself.

I don't offer up that previous comment lightly - its far easier for me to 'sell' artists that I manage than it has been for me to sell groups that I have played in.  Despite my experience and awareness of this fact,  it's far harder when you are intimately connected with the creation of the music - rejection of the music or the band becomes more personal.  Though it is difficult, it is also reality for most musicians. Very few escape having to sell themselves for at least a period of time when they are starting out.  This makes believing in what you are doing and drawing validation from within that much more important - it is far easier to sell something that you can really get behind and own.

We interrupt this post for something you don't want to hear, but will:

No, NO, Nein, Non, NO!, Nr, Nao, No, ¡No!

The preceding was provided as a public service to familiarize you with a word that you'll be hearing regularly - don't fret, the best have heard it... talk to the Beatles, a bunch of labels turned them down before one said 'yes'.  Whoever you are and whatever your music, you'll hear it:  No, Not now, No, I didn't get your package,  (they did)..., We're not interested, 'maybe',No, Not now, "You sound ok, I'll put you on the bill, first on a Monday night, that's where all first time bands to start."  No, NO, NONONONONONONONO, maybe, No, no, no, perhaps, yes, then no again.  

Know that 'no' happens, and that even after you've 'gotten to yes' consistently at one level, you're likely to still hear it at the next rung up the ladder - every time you move up, it will return to some degree or other.  A worthwhile goal is  getting to the point where you can hire people who can field the no's - and help you get more yesses.  But at the start, its most likely going to be just you and your band mates, so it helps to be prepared ahead of time.

Now that we've kicked around the internal side of selling yourself - how do you do focus your efforts to do it most effectively?  Resources such as web sites, books, magazines, and your peers can provide you with tools to help.   But the simplest way I can distill this down is to urge you to be a constant gatherer of information.   Where are bands/artists similar to you performing?  Where are they getting media attention and from what writers?  Where are they getting played on the radio (if anywhere)?  What blogs and web sites are covering their music?  Do you know other comparable artists in different cities nearby?  Keep track of this information on something other than hastily scrawled bar napkins.  Build a simple database or spreadsheet to track all this info in a sortable fashion, grouped by market, contact type etc.  If you don't feel like building your own, there's a great resource, built specifically for music biz entrepreneurs (that's what you need to consider yourself, btw) called Indie Band Manager - it's a database and well worth checking out - Indie Band Manager, no they don't pay me to promote them - they make a great product that I personally use and I'm happy to help spread the word - (kinda like if your music is great, people will help spread the word, just like I'm telling you about this product).  

In addition to the targeted efforts detailed above, another vital way to spread you and your music is through creating your own network.  In the past we used to have to shoehorn music into existing 'networks' - it had to fit to get gigs, or get on the radio, in magazines, or on TV.  Too far outside the 'box' and you weren't exposed.  Now there are niches for any kind of music you can imagine, and some for music you can't imagine as well.  You can control the exposure and dissemination of your music to a far greater extent now than every before.  

Don't spend time or money worrying about artificially inflating your plays or friends list on Facebook or MySpace and other social network sites - put your effort into creating, and serving a solid group of fans in those places - they will help you increase your numbers by telling others.  Through all of it,  make your various online locations (,,  etc.) into destinations - give people reason to stop back regularly and interact with you - they will tell others if you give them something of value for their time - and if the music's good.

updated: 9 years ago