TEN TIPS: How to Thrive in the NEW Music Business
#1 Balancing Act
If you need to keep your day job for the time being you’re in good company; most people in the performing arts seek supplementary employment for at least part of their career. (My good friends and perhaps one of Dallas, Texas greatest bass players Chuck Smith continued to remain fully employed at GM most of his career before touring internationally) Working a daytime gig may take some spring out of your step, but it can also provide key benefits like health coverage (don’t hit the road without it!) Then again, supplemental employment is no excuse for treating your music like a hobby. To make it big in music you’ll need to run your career like a real business – beginning now! Run your part-time business just as professionally as a full-timer would.
#2 Learn specifically who your fans are and use today’s tools to keep in close touch.
The Web, blogs, facebook, lowly email represent your unprecedented opportunity to learn who your fan base is and to cultivate and expand that base. Expect to put in a lot of elbow and knuckle-grease: Today’s fans of independent music really want to interact with you. For example, Soldier Boy a phenomenon of the “new music business,” spends hours every day chatting online with his fans.
#3 Niches R Us
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Don’t even try to be several things to several “ones.” There isn’t a “mainstream” anymore, or to the extent that this is an oversimplification, there are many, many mainstreams these days. We are living in a new world of hundreds of genres and subgenres, democratized recording opportunities, places like Kris KeyZ Productions where you can get your music pressed affordably and professionally, places like CD Baby and Amozon.com and Super D and Digstation that can distribute it, places like Netflix that stock hundreds of times the titles of Blockbuster. Discover who enjoys your music and find the people whose tastes are similar. And Ignore Everyone Else.
#4 Consider creative financing to get your recording out
Stumped for enough funds to complete your project? Maybe you need a few Executive Producers. The concept of a patron is time-honored, going back to Mozart’s day and earlier. But you don’t necessarily need one seriously loaded patron to fund your entire project. You can alternatively offer different levels of sponsorship in return for “naming rights”: $200 gets them 10 CD’s and Gold Patron status when you release is pressed; $100 gets them 5 CD’s and Bronze Sponsor status, and so forth. Won’t take you long to have your CD prepaid at that rate, and you’ll be surprised how happy your friends may be to be involved in your artistic endeavor.
#5 You Charmer You
Be polite and professional. Courtesy is a key career-building tool.
Charlie Hunter: “All things being equal, if the choice is between booking a raging narcissist or someone with the reputation of being easy to work with, it’s an easy call which one to give the gig to.”
#6 Free / Market
Marketing is not a dirty word. Take yours seriously.
Charlie Hunter: “ No matter how astounding your talent is, you’re unlikely to break through without the appropriate marketing push.”
#7 Good imagery still matters
Make sure you have great publicity photographs- and you know how to use them at the appropriate resolutions, online and offline. Hire a professional photographer who already has a terrific portfolio full of musicians. Why spend real money and time to look good? One reason is that newspapers often choose which photo to run based on the decision of the paper’s photo editor, not the review staff. (And in this business, a photo with caption is worth far more than 1,000 words.) The same principle holds true when packaging your CD. Use a professional designer, use professional photos, and make sure you look as good as you sound to your potential customers, fans, and industry contacts.
#8 Watch the clock onstage
Never go over your time as an opening act. If you are asked to do 30 minutes, be off the stage at minute 29. Thank the promoter, thank the headliner, and leave them wanting more. (Consider this tip figuratively as well. It is a good parable to keep in mind as you move up in the music industry – Online and off.)
#9 Do your Homework
Learn everything you can about this business. Then you’ll know what qualities to look for in team members. Be inquisitive and watchful. When you see another artist succeed, ask yourself how and why it’s happening. Is this just a fluke? Is it repeatable? Could it work for me?
#10 Watch Out!
Prepare. Dates on the calendar may be closer than they appear.