David Rose from Knowthemusicbiz.com was kind enough to let me republish the article below that I wrote for him a while back. If you haven’t already please check out his site. I will have more new interviews and articles starting up again next week.
I was once told a story about Bill Murray and Hunter S. Thompson. I can’t verify the specifics of the story but I suppose for the purposes of this article it doesn’t much matter. During the production of the 1980 Film “Where the Buffalo Roam”, in which Murray was to play a young Hunter Thompson, he met Hunter poolside so he could get a good idea of what the famously eccentric writer was really like. In response to the question “What is it like to be you?” Thompson tied Murray up to a deckchair and threw him in the pool.
Such is the position of most artists in the music business – floundering in the water and trying their damndest not to drown in spite of overwhelming circumstances.
I run a music business consultancy which is what this blog helps me promote – not that I don’t enjoy content creation. This business was something I put together after having been a musician on and off for twenty years and having done A&R at Major labels for almost a decade. As a result of actively promoting this business I get contacted by several strangers every day who are looking to make it in the music industry. It never ceases to amaze me that in this day and age with all of the tools now available to artists that people are still looking for that one person, that one opportunity or a chance encounter that is going to propel them to superstardom. That’s not to say that I mind being contacted – far from it! It’s just that the type of questions I get can be really disturbing. “Can you get me a record deal?” or “Hey – I just need a manager and I’m going to make millions! You need to introduce me to great managers.”
Really? Last I checked it was 2010.
Chances are if you are reading this – it doesn’t apply to you but from what I have seen this is still the prevailing mindset of many aspiring artists. I believe those with this mindset won’t make it – period.
In my opinion if you are going to make a living making music – let alone “making it”- you have to own the following:
· There is no help coming for you
· The age of the “big break” is all but over.
· The one person who will help your career more than anyone is you.
Harsh? Yes. Hopeless? Not at all.
Let this empower you. You no longer need to spend a great deal of time chasing management, booking agents or labels. I am not suggesting that any of these types of strategic partners aren’t helpful but I do find that many artists seek to engage partners far too early in the trajectory of their careers. Before you seek out someone to partner with you ask yourself the following questions:
· Have you played out locally on a regular basis for at least six months?
· Do you have a corporate entity and an intra-band agreement?
· Have you trademarked your name?
· Are you registered with a Performance Royalties Organization? (ASCAP, BMI, SEASAC)
· Do you have a professional looking website for your project and a presence on social networks?
· Have you made “no apology” recordings of your songs that you think are representative of your ability?
· Do you have a bio on your musical career that doesn’t peak when you were eight years old and taking piano lessons?
· Do you maintain an ongoing online and offline positive relationship with a large group of people you could call fans without feeling funny about it or including your parents and extended family?
If you answered no then your business is not yet off the ground. You don’t yet have a viable and fully formed product. In any business it is very difficult to get an investment for a blueprint concept or an idea. Getting funding for a start up business becomes much easier the more time and effort (and money) the entrepreneur puts into it. You have to remember that seeking out management, agents or labels is asking someone to invest in you. It might not be financial investment but the amount of time a partner like this would need to devote to developing an artist’s career is usually a full time job. What do you bring to the table other than your talent?
It’s true – people who interact with artists a great deal are often jaded (Yes, me too. Couldn’t you tell?) The failure rate in music and the arts in general is astounding. If you really want to get the attention of competent and experienced handlers you have to be the one to get your career moving on your own. If you make enough noise long enough people will find you. Overnight successes that are examined closely are very rarely (as in go by lotto tickets instead) a case of someone being struck by the thunderbolt of fame whilst daydreaming and smoking dope in the parent’s basement.
What’s the good news? There are now plenty of sites that provide information and insight and dozens of tools to help you get your music heard for low or no cost. This makes it harder to rise above all of the noise (because everyone with a mic can be a singer in this day and age) but it is still a viable way to start.
Go find other artists and build a community. Relationships with your peers when starting out are usually more valuable than industry relationships. If you are able to surround yourself with several developing artists who are in your situation and perhaps even endear yourself to people who have put in a bit more legwork than you this will help a great deal. Being able to market yourself to the fans of similar acts is almost the whole name of the game in the beginning so along those lines – go make friends!
Long story short (too late?) – before you spend time and effort chasing big league help, make sure you have maxed out your ability to do everything within your reach to convert strangers to friends, friends to fans and fans to fans who will actually purchase your products. If you do that long enough and well enough even in a small town – industry will find you.
Good luck out there…