Top 5 Music Business Mistakes of 2010 #4 Apples to Oranges
- #1 – Waiting
- #2 – Unreasonable Expectations
- #3 – Poor Planning
- #4 – Comparing Apples To Oranges
On the off chance that the title of this article is a piece of slang that was unique to my parents (I ran the title by someone who was baffled by the fact that a music blog would be discussing fruit) I am speaking about comparing two things that can’t be accurately compared. I have found that is very common for artists to have the belief that exposure = sales and that all songs and all artists if given the same exposure would get the same response from the public. This issue gets especially cloudy when an artist is comparing his or her own career to the career of someone in the public eye.
The most hate mail I ever got was from an article I wrote that contained the words “Great bands make great managers”. Musicians and managers alike hated this statement but it is one that I still stand by. What did I mean when I said it? Well, there is an old (and awful) saying I heard in my record company days – “You can’t polish a turd.” There were simply some acts back then that no matter how much a label spent on getting them on Radio, MTV and on great tours they just never connected with people.
Many things have changed in the music business but I don’t think this has changed at all – sometimes all of the exposure in the world just doesn’t matter. I get into a ton of trouble using the word “great” so let me clear that up for the comments you are writing in your head about how much Nickelback sucks and how could Lady Gaga and Kesha possibly be considered great and how I don’t know what I’m talking about… First off you should know that on any given week I actively dislike about 90% of the top 200 albums on the Billboard charts. Secondly I neither know nor do I think it is entirely knowable why something connects with a mass audience and some things don’t. I do know that some artists seem to be opportunity magnets and many more are not.
Back to the statement about managers – very few people refer to managers without successful clients as “great.” Even if a manager does everything right and gets his or her clients exposure, if they don’t yield results very few people take notice of that manager’s ability. There are other times when you can’t seem to stop opportunities from arising for a song or for an artist and contrary to popular belief this really isn’t always related to an artist’s team. Yes- a good team can bring in great opportunities and tip the balance in an artist’s favor but generally speaking it is as much the music as the artist’s handlers that makes things happen for an artist.
We see this phenomenon in a much more overt way with viral video in the digital age. People either see something and pass it on to their friends or they don’t. I always find it interesting when someone sets out to “Make a viral video”. Barring a Trojan type virus that would automatically make a video play every time someone turned on their machine (please don’t do this) there is no way of predicting what will be viral and what won’t be. You can market and spend all you want but some things catch fire and other things just don’t.
Okay, I have probably beaten this point to death and depressed a bunch of you. Not at all my intent and not at all the focus of this article. If such things are believed to be truly out of your hands then what is an artist to do? My suggestions are two-fold:
Acceptance is not the Acceptance of failure. It is the acceptance that if you are doing everything you can to promote yourself- at this moment in time it may not be your turn to be widely embraced by mass media. Enduring and building the best you can is sometimes all you can do until the stars align for you.
It could be the passage of time alone might make the world ready for your music, stranger things have happened. If it were my music career though I would err on the side of caution and make sure that I put the time in to get better at my craft just a little bit every day. Perhaps your abilities are just a tweak away from being ready to react with people in a different way. The Plain White Tees released “Hey There Delilah” a few different times before a version of the song finally caught fire.
While I never heard the words come directly out of his mouth Ahmet Ertegun was often quoted as saying “A hit will find a way”. I think there is a very real feeling that is not at all subtle when you have hit upon a formula with a song or with a group that is really connecting. I also think that there is no telling when (or if) that moment will ever grow in to being. Until such time keep improving your craft and stop comparing yourself to others – it tends not to do any good. If all the exposure in the world was suddenly heaped on you- you might not be ready for it yet.
You can check out part five of this article here.
If you missed #3 you can see that here.
If you are so inclined here are the artists I have seen without label help who seem to have careers that are moving forward with their own Momentum.
Grace Weber – Has appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, Performed at The Kennedy Center and was recently chosen as one of 5 finalists in the Cotton Inc.’s song contest.
Jane Lui – Over a million cumulative YouTube views, Raised over $11,000 on Pledge Music direct from fans.
Shayfer James – Spins on over 40 college radio stations, Growing list of impressive press outlets and building traction with regional NE touring.