Top 5 Music Business Mistakes of 2010 (#3) – Poor Planning
#1 – Waiting
#3 – Poor Planning
Once again, I don’t mean to appear unsympathetic. I know first hand how difficult it is to remain objective once you have put your heart and soul into a project but I have to point out that I have seen far too many careers that have suffered greatly due to poor planning or even worse – no planning.
It sounds ridiculous but something as simple as writing out a list of goals for your business can force you to clarify that vague plan you have in your head – I highly recommend it as I have made the mistake of winging it one too many times when an organized written document would have saved me time, effort and expense. When I am at my best I find that I am often re-visiting revising such documents for my business because I am continually moving closer to my goals. When I am at my worst I am unable to carve out the time to extract myself from daily distractions to reflect on the big picture. I am certainly not saying it is easy but it can be done.
There are two main areas in which musicians seem to flounder the most. Probably not coincidentally they are two of the most important events in a musician’s life – Music releases and Touring.
With regard to music releases I am always surprised to hear how many people will start looking for a promotion and marketing strategy after their album, single or E.P. has been released. While it is never too late for someone to start such efforts it is probably a good idea to start thinking of such things the minute you enter the studio or even the minute you start writing the next release if possible. I have said it before and I will say it again that websites have ceased being billboards and have become like 24 hour news channels. With this in mind it is important to collect as much content (Journaling, photos, videos, rough mixes, live takes etc) from the writing and recording process as possible. “Why?” You might ask. Simply because there are only so many ways you can say to the people who you hope will care about your music that you have a new record coming out. If you’ve collected no material about the making of your latest product you will not have nearly as many interesting ways to hype your release. Saying “New record coming next week” is not nearly as interesting as even a goofy video of you spilling Bong water on the console (not that I recommend it).
Another rookie mistake (and again – I empathize – I really do) is rushing a product to market. I watch artists record an album, master it, order a few hundred CDs and schedule a release so they can get it out to market as fast as humanly possible. Oh, I get it, you are excited and you have made sacrifices to create your latest work and you are anxious for the world to hear it. Resist this at all costs. If possible have advance copies of your CD or digital album in the hands of those who can expose it to more people than you can (Journalists, music supervisors, bloggers, morning TV shows, local radio, podcasters, promoters, club owners or even your most successful friends in music for a testimonial about your work). Make sure that you have all of your marketing and promotional materials in hand to the best of your ability – a bio, an EPK, compelling live footage, press clips, artwork, a video (even if it is just the album artwork synced up with your single). Make sure you have events lined up – a record release party, a listening party, a Ustream concert, a house party, some kind of album giveaway, a tie in with a local retail store – anything that gets people talking and anything that exposes your music to new people.
The longer you promote a record the better chances it has of doing something… try your best to line up several months worth of marketing and promotional ideas if possible. The most obvious of these of course is…
Think about touring for a second. You have a new release or you finally got transportation to take your act on the road – what is your plan? I’ve watched countless acts bleed money on cross country tours before they have even built up their own home market, let alone several regional markets. I suppose that’s okay if you’re in your early 20s and just want to compare the taste of beer in New York to the beer in Los Angeles (it’s the same as near as I can tell by the way. Pizza though? A different story – don’t leave New York). Most of the good agents I know tell me that barring very exceptional gigs it is generally not worth touring in any market unless you can revisit that market every 3-4 months to maintain and build a following. What this means for most on a budget is concentric circles around your hometown. It is much easier to do several three day weekends or pull the occasional sick day on a regional build than it is to take two weeks off of work to visit a dozen markets that you won’t revisit more than once per year.
It is generally not worth touring any given market unless you can find some kind of support in said market. This can be as simple as family and friends with a place to crash or a good opportunity like finding a local act that does well to trade gigs with. If you pick five markets to target there are only so many college radio stations, indie record stores and local readers you have to service and create relationships with. Yes- easier said than done but it is do-able. Prior to this step is of course making sure you mean something in your home town so you will have a crowd to trade on with other out of town acts.
This post turned into rather random musings about releases and touring but I urge you to write out a plan and think about having a long term strategy for record releases, tours and your career in general.
You can continue on to part four here.