Having completed the last rash of music work, getting the reckoning website and store up, recording my Anti-Christmas carol Friggin’ Christmas and then pushing it all ‘out there’ a bit online, I’ve been taking some time to read up and get some strategic ideas about what my next move in the cut-throat world of big money showbiz will be.
I have become convinced that there is more opportunity for artists now than there ever has been … BUT … it’s all up to the artist – i.e. you.
The following is my incomplete, two-step music success hypothesis. Incomplete as in there are surely more steps – hard work, persistence and people skills anyone?
By the way – I hypothesize because I neither want to preach what I cannot claim to practice nor do I want to blab on about things I’m “gonna do”. Theory is theory. It has a tenuous relationship with fact at best; might as well be honest about that.
First Step – Self-Empowerment
When I started out in music back in the early 90s, the best you could do was get an awesome thing happening, get as well known as possible locally and then hope you got picked up by a record company or a national booking agent or whatever. Sure, there were skills useful to making this happen (high-powered suction capacity being just one) but even if you were good-looking and available, it was kind of hard to sweet talk a record executive when there weren’t any within a 700 kilometer radius.
Now this has changed. I think a lot of musicians know this but, just in case you don’t – there is now nothing difficult about recording and distributing your music globally from your bedroom. It’s pretty much a given. The only thing stopping you is a lack of self-empowerment.
Even at my incredibly advanced age, I’m not that well-off that I don’t have to scramble to find the money to record, buy a better instrument or press a bunch of CDs, but if you scramble enthusiastically, you can usually find the dosh you need.
It also takes patience to learn how to market your music online, how to record your own music on your PC, do your own cover art – or how to score a chick who can do your art for you – a specialty of mine 😉 – but you can learn new skills. All you gotta do is empower yourself to do it.
For some people this ain’t easy, but it is doable. If you live in the first world and you ain’t getting your art out there, then that’s because of YOUR failings not the screwed-up system. Turn of the video games and get off the pot – it’ll help.
The next trick is rising above the noise; getting noticed.
Second Step – Make Like Dog Balls (Stand Out)Low Cost Recording and Worldwide Distribution Are Easy – Now What You Gonna Do?
I can’t remember if I am paraphrasing Seth Godin or Derek Sivers (aka God) but I am pretty sure both have commented that the real trick these days is not getting the music made and available, but marketing it in such a way so as it gets noticed, talked about, bought, borrowed, stolen, cared about.
There is a great line in a Pavement song that goes something like: “Songs mean a lot when songs are bought”, and terrible as it may seem to the sensitive amongst us, I am afraid it’s true. Whether people buy the songs literally on CD or online, or via concert tickets, or via a t-shirt doesn’t matter. Money is energy, when they trade money for your stuff it’s ‘cos it means a lot to them.
So How Do You Stand Out?
Well, it’s simple – Ha! – be remarkable. And this brings us back to self-empowerment.
If you empower yourself to make your music, to learn how to use all of the tools and resources available to us and to stand out and be unique, different, original, remarkable, amazing, commendable, outstanding, pass-on-able, memorable, wonderful, essential, must-see-able – and if you have all of your other hypothetical little ducks in a row – then you may do well.
This is my challenge as this new decade comes around.
It ‘s probably yours too.