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Home Columnists Industry Insider Industry Insider: 10 Suggestions for Success in the Music Biz - Part 2
December 10, 2019
Industry Insider: 10 Suggestions for Success in the Music Biz - Part 2 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 November 2007 05:46
Image By John McGlasson - GJD Contributor
In part two of my suggestions for musicians on how to succeed in the music biz without a label or distribution, I'll try to dig a little deeper into the direct marketing end of things. (Here's Part 1 just in case you missed it)

6) Keep Your Feet on the Ground- If you're over 20, it's a different world for musicians than the one we grew up in. The days of the rich, pampered rockstar are pretty much over, even well-known bands are having to tour endlessly to make up for the loss of retail music revenues, which is an all-consuming life that many musicians aren't cut out for, and can make it difficult to produce more albums. If you expect to only make a living like any other job, you probably won't be disappointed, but if you expect to re-live the glory days of rock, it's not likely. Set realistic goals.

7) Underexpose Yourself- Nothing drives the modern music consumer away faster than phony hype and overexposure. Bands and artists that are constantly in your vision tend to lose appeal quickly. A band these days is a destination, a place we go on our own time when we need whatever it is we get from their music. When we want to find them, it's easy to know where; on our I-pods, our computers, our stereos, or on their website or Myspace page. Once you have a fan, it's almost insulting to imply that you need to constantly remind them that you're there, and that you have music for sale. Myspace is a great example of millions of artists doing it wrong, they build a list of friends, some or many of whom are fans, then they flood them with constant bulletins every day, which is the cyber-equivalent of running into someone's kitchen every morning and reminding them that your stuff is available for purchase. Show some restraint. Your fans want to know what's new with you, when you're playing, new releases, etc., but your updates lose meaning if they're too frequent. Keep the mystery; I had 3 Tool albums before I'd ever seen a picture of them or read an interview with them, and they took years between albums. It shows confidence in themselves and their fans that they avoid the press and hype.

8) Build That Email List- I can't stress enough how important and valuable a solid email list can be. I credit Backyard Tire Fire's (our biggest band) huge email list with their ability to get good crowds pretty much everywhere they go in the US, and now Canada. A great email list is built one name at a time, from town to town. Actively ask people in the crowd to sign your email list before and after you play a show, then keep the list up-to-date. Always send the new member of your list an email thanking them for signing up, and let them know you'll keep your email bulletins few and important. Also, always provide the option to opt-out of your list at the bottom of each email you send to your list, it's a nice thing to do. It's also good to have a basic disclaimer at the bottom letting the recipient know that you don't sell your list, then don't sell your list!

9) Do the Math -
Good CD production-------$5-10k
Press 2500 copies-----------$3k (1000 for promo)
Targeted publicity effort-$1k
Targeted Magazine Ads--$3-5k
Tour publicity--------------$1-3k
Misc tour support, etc.----$5k

This would be a typical indie effort today, on the lowest of budgets. I don't see how you can do it for less, but really the working dude who believes in his band could do this for a couple years with 2 releases on credit cards, people do it all the time. We're all in debt, it may as well be doing something you love. After giving away 1000 CDs of your 2500 copies for press, booking, and other promo, you can recover half or more of the money you spent selling the remaining 1500 at shows and on your site. Then you do it again, there's no such thing as a one-album plan. Many, if not most artists sit around waiting for someone with deep pockets to tell them how they can't wait to invest in their brilliance, but those days are over. If you believe in what you do, it's up to you to spend the money now, but this is why the little guy can make a living at it today, there's no reason to split the money with a label or distributor, but you've got to do most of the work yourself.

10) Be Your Own Label and Distributor- There are countless online music distributors that are easy to find, so I'm not going to endorse one here, but it's so easy to get your stuff online now that kids can, and are, doing it. But for the sake of getting your foot in the door, you still need to at least put up the front of a label, so choose a name out of the sky and self-produce your album, but do this knowing that getting full-saturation, global online distribution is still tough to do without a label, many outlets are very reluctant to mess with one title alone, or even multiple titles from one obscure artist, they still want to deal with catalogs of music, one title can deliver pennies per cycle, especially from unknown artists, and they're still trying to build large catalogs for their customers to enjoy with their limited bandwidth. At some point the larger online outlets are going to start purging the non-performing titles just to "clean house", and I'm sure they'll start with the obscure self-produced titles.

In closing, I'd like to clear up any appearance of contradiction. In some ways, I feel like I contradict myself with this column all the time, in that on one hand, I'm telling artists why they need labels, and on the other, writing columns like this one explaining why you don't, and how to do it all on your own. My circle of careers seem to contradict themselves; I consider myself to be a guitarist first-and-foremost, who started a label to put out my own stuff and stuff from artists I like, but I love to analyze the industry and the world around me, and now that I'm lucky enough to get to write about it, I see every angle of it; as an artist, a producer, a promoter, a booking agent, and a frustrated businessman. The guitarist in me makes me want to help other guitarists make it in a world that's tougher than ever, especially for them, trying to make money from their art is a tough thing right now, and no community of musicians has more integrity and love for their instrument than the guitar community, regardless of genre, style or instrument, or haircut. I can only hope there's some value in my ability to see the business from all angles, and bring that info to you. Thanks for reading!

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it is a life-long guitarist, producer, and founder of o.i.e. Records, Ltd., a musician-oriented independent record label based in central Illinois.

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