What inspires you to try and find the proverbial “it” of the music industry?
Is it success? Fame? Fortune? Popularity?
Is it sharing your art? Resonating with fans? Traveling?
For many of us it is a combination of these factors but the truth is that the inspiration you are searching for must first come from yourself.
You must be the reason you push forward each and every day. You must be the person with the motivation to keep forging onwards when it seems you’ve hit a wall. And you must be the one to accept the truth is that NO ONE else will ever be as passionate about your own success as you are. Not now and not ever.
If you leave all your motivation in the hands of others you will, no doubt, become easily discouraged. Other people will not be able to carry your career for you despite how much you might think you want, or maybe even need them to do so. If you are content with resting your laurels on the opinion of others in the industry you will never truly be motivated to achieve your own successes. Now this isn’t to say you shouldn’t celebrate in achievements involving others (a good album or show review, an award, etc…) but I can safely say that it shouldn’t be a direct measurement of your success or an inspiration to keep going forward.
Your motivation is just that, yours, and only you can decide what will inspire you to achieve your goals and what those goals will be. At the end of the day the most important thing is that you ARE inspired and have goals you are working to achieve.
The history of digital music retail is relatively short in comparison to it’s physical counterpart which means it is still volatile and can be difficult to choose where to place your bets for the best place to sell. When it comes to physical CDs it is undoubtedly best to try and have your CD in any store that will carry it to get as much exposure as possible and afford people easier opportunities to purchase it. With digital music there are advantages to having it across multiple platform but there are also some major drawbacks.
Digital music has made it harder for fans to sift through all the music and find something they may enjoy. Placing your music on multiple online stores does mean that you have the chance to expose it to a wider audience but it will fracture your sales, which will likely result in you having low priority on most search tools. For larger bands this is not a problem but for someone starting out a new fan is not likely to dig very deep or try very hard to find your music.
Fracturing your sales can also make for a problem with your search engine rankings. Splitting where people buy your music will mean that you are also lowering your rank on certain sites: while you aren’t likely be huge on something like iTunes, smaller websites like Bandcamp will show a much larger effect on how likely it is that fans will be able to find you. Lower positioning on search engines like Google or Bing mean less clicks to your site and therefore less sales.
Forcing your audience to a single place to buy your music can also help create better statistics on who they are and where they are from. Larger online store like iTunes or Amazon won’t share any details with you besides having made a sale, whereas smaller websites can give you thing like location or even e-mail address. Bands on a major label need to cast a net as wide as possible and are not focused on targeting a specific group, but for a new band gaining this information can be hugely insightful in figuring out how to find these people and assist them in finding your music.
While having your music on a variety of digital sales platforms has its advantages, there are also downsides to consider, and choosing whether one outweighs the other is a choice you will have to make at some point. It will be an early and difficult choice whether to try and push your music to as many people through as many ways as possible or focus on a specific group by sending them to a handful of places.
FACT: The music business is a challenging series of never ending uphill battles.
Now instead of being discouraged with that fact, if you want to achieve success you need to open your eyes and fully examine things in a proper scope. Here’s a couple tips you can try to use to achieve this.
SET REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS
Stop basing your success based on what so called “Top Tier” artists have and instead base your success on what is achievable for the stage in your career. Success can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people but it’s pretty safe to say if you expect limos from the get-go you are going to be sorely disappointed.
ALWAYS SET GOALS TO GROW
For Example, set a goal to sell $50 worth of Merch at each of your next few shows. Once you achieve that figure out how to make it $100 of and continue to build on your targets. (Use this same principal to set goals for: attendees at shows, showcases, amount of press or radio play, etc)
STOP TRYING TO PLEASE EVERYONE
In a country the size of Canada we have approx 35,000,000 people. If you alienate 99% of them and yet can get even 1% of them to become a true fan you will have reached 350,000 people. (Now put this into scope in countries with larger markets!)
REEVALUATE YOUR GOALS
As opportunities come and go you will need to revise and revamp your previous plans as needed. Never be scared to change or modify plans especially if it means at the end of the day your career is moving forward and you are happy with the decisions you have made to get you there.
Im poping in to Read Tentacle today to let you guys no about why paying attention in your english class was like, a super importent thing you should of done. Why? Because if you send someone an email that looks anything like that sentence, they will take you a hell of a lot less seriously than if you had taken 10 seconds to proofread your shit.
How often have you picked up a phone to contact a label recently? Or called a college paper to get them to write a feature on your new LP? Case in point. Most business is done online these days, which means that the first impression someone has of your band or company is through writing. Don’t fuck it up by making such an awful impression that they don’t even want to click that play button it took them 5 minutes to find on your website. (Side note: Make it easy for people to find your music on your website. No one is going to go through 4 pages of your Tumblr to find that track you posted 2 months ago.)
It doesn’t take that long to proofread an email, but it goes a long way. I’m not saying you should have perfect grammar and never make any spelling mistakes, but at least put some effort into it. And please, for the love of all that is good in this world, make sure you spell the company/contact’s name right. Nothing will cause someone to write you off quite like contacting a label or blog about how much you love them and hope they take a minute to listen to your band and then spelling their name wrong. If you couldn’t take two seconds to make sure you spelled their name right, why should they waste three minutes listening to that MP3 you sent them?
Whatever you do, don’t be like the artist I saw at a festival who had his own name spelled wrong on his CD. It’s one thing to spell someone else’s name wrong; it’s a whole other thing to spell your own name wrong on your own merchandise. His name was spelled wrong on purpose (which is fine, seeing as how everyone seems to have forgotten that “U” is still a letter these days), but he managed to misspell his misspelling on the CD spine. I never bothered to listen to the CD he gave me. I assumed that if he couldn’t be bothered to care enough to make sure that his own name was spelled right, that he probably didn’t care enough to make sure that his recording didn’t sound like shit. And I doubt I was the only person to think that. You are PAYING to put out merchandise. With real money that could have been spent on food or rent! Don’t waste your money on something that makes you look like an idiot.
Don’t think all this ranting is solely directed at bands; PR folks, this is about you, too! Writing is your job. People who don’t have the time to write a carefully constructed press release or who know that they can’t, pay you money to do it for them. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve gone on a PR website only to find it full of spelling mistakes and broken URLs. If you can’t represent yourself properly, how do you expect bands to give you money to represent them?
So here’s what you do:
- Learn to take 30 seconds to read through your email when first approaching someone you want to work with. Make sure there aren’t any glaring spelling mistakes.
- Always double check that you spelled the company/contact’s name correctly when sending an email. You can use the right “they’re/their/there” all you want – if you spelled it “Sonic Union”, they’ll probably roll their eyes at you
- Triple check all of your merch before you get it manufactured. You can edit a blog post, but you won’t be able to get that $1,000 back when you realize all your shirts say “Tad Nugent”.
- Make sure that you check out anyone who you’re thinking about hiring for a Communications role. You wouldn’t get a full tattoo sleeve by someone whose work you’ve never seen, right? So why would you trust someone to represent you and send out press releases to major publications about your new album if you’ve never even looked at their website?
I understand that not everyone’s an English major, but always be mindful of the way you present yourself and at least put in a bit of effort, because if you make it seem like you don’t care, others won’t either.
Chantal is an East Coast music industry professional with an affinity for leopard print, 1977 original punk rock looks, and pop culture references. A graduate of the NSCC Music Business program, Chantal was a member of Audrey and the Agents until their split in 2012. She is currently working at Symphony Nova Scotia and finishing up her BA in English and French at Saint Mary’s University.
Too many bands still have the mentality that they should be trying to sell the CD as the music, however, when your music is so easily available for free in a plethora of formats what you are actually selling is the packaging. For some artists this can mean having really great artwork that people want, for others is can be CD/T-shirt combos or other merchandise combos and others still it is having really unique packaging that holds the CD. All of these work in their own ways but are becoming ever more important to actually convincing someone to buy the physical album instead of the digital download.
Having unique artwork is going to a huge factor in making your album stand out when lined up against others. This is one of the reasons for the rise in popularity of vinyl; that it allows for larger and more detailed artwork. While good artwork will help to increase sales chances are it will also cost more money to hire a talented graphic designer. Plenty of bands don’t even bother focusing on selling the CD as a main item but as an incentive for other purchases. As CDs are relatively cheap to press, using them as a means to sell other merchandise can be a great way to increase general sales. This has the added factor of increasing the number of recorded sales you can use in things like grant and government funding. There are some problems as this is a much easier thing to do without a label or contract restrictions on pricing where you may not be able to sell your album below a certain price or pay a higher price per unit.
The most difficult but ultimately unique approach is to use something besides that standard CD Digipak or Jewel case to package the disc in. There are a variety of other ways this can be done and I have personally seen things like full metal cases, small books, circuit boards and even bags of fake blood used to house the disc. The downside to this method is that it can be more expensive and time consuming to have made but does garner far more attention from fans and media.
As with any other facet of being a musician standing out in the sea of other bands and artists is key to succeeding and how you present your album is no different. It will take more work, planning and talent to have your album stand out but in the end it will be worth it.
Set times are a huge factor in running a show and as a band or artist you should know exactly how long your set is and play exactly that amount. Going over ten minutes can cause major headaches if a show needs to run on a tight schedule or ending early can cause an awkwardly long change-over. There should always be a promoter or stage manager in charge making sure things run on time but as the person on stage playing there are things you should be doing to always ensure everything goes smoothly.
One of the best ways to make sure you don’t go too long or short on stage is to time your practices. You should also make sure that you leave a few minutes in there for fan interaction, if you are schedule to play 30 minutes then you should have roughly 3 to four minutes of this time to speak to the audience. While what you say to the audience shouldn’t feel too rehearsed you should leave time in your set for it or incase something has to be quickly fixed on stage.
A very easy way to stay on time and not go over is have someone with a watch/clock so you know what the time is and how much longer you have to play. Always double check before you start when the promoter wants you start and end and make sure to make eye contact with them throughout the set to ensure they are not going to cut you at some point if you are running late.
Always start and end on your must hear songs, if you are told that you have to cut 1 or more songs you should know which to keep and which not to play. Sometimes things are out of your control and you will have to change your set so always be prepared and have multiple sets prepared. If a show is going well and the crowd is into it you may get asked to play an encore and you should always be prepared for it.
Playing the right length and being prepared at a show is just another factor that can either make you look like a professional or an amateur band who nobody will want to work with again.