As a performing musician, you meet tough obstacles on a daily basis.
Issues such as “writer’s block” and lack of motivation are very common. These types of issues will come and go, no doubt, for every last one of us.
It’s happened to me, it’s happened to my band-mates and it will probably creep up again at some point. We all encounter things like this.
BUT there are a hand full of issues that you will come across which you can do something about. There are things that you can do to avoid the problems that I’ll go through now.
I worked as an Events Manager and an Artist Manager at Design A Gig for a while in 2016 and 2017.
A company based in Manchester, UK, which is basically a localised help-centre for Manchester-based musicians, looking to boost their careers into a direction of their own choosing.
Over the time that I worked at Design A Gig, I came into contact with a handful of artists who didn’t necessarily know how to book a gig for themselves or for their band.
The obvious concern here is that these artists may have never booked their own gig without the help of Design A Gig.
Although this is rarely the case, it is something I would like to go through as point number 1.
1. Learn how to book your own gigs + everything involved.
For somebody to call a venue, for the first time, to ask if they would offer their establishment for your band’s gig… it must be difficult. That’s completely understandable. There’s a few more things to consider before that though.
- Will you need support acts?
- Will you be one of the support acts?
- Does the venue have an in-house P.A system?
- Will there be an engineer on the night?
- Do you have all of the necessary equipment to bring to a gig?
- How will payment work for this event… ticket sales? fixed price from the venue? or a percentage of whatever the bar takes that night?
To name a few of them.
Let’s face it. It takes time to become experienced at anything! Organising events is no different.
For the first five or ten conversations with venue owners, you’ll probably fuck up your lines in some way!
Just like, for your first few gigs, you’ll probably forget a piece of equipment that you never would have thought to consider bringing with you (extension leads… true story… many times).
That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep going. You need to get past that fear of fucking up on the phone and you need to learn from your mistakes in your first gigs.
The way I tend to do it these days…
I’ll research and document all local music venues and if they’ve got reviews specifying that they cater primarily to a certain genre, then I’ll write that genre down next to the venue name and contact information.
If they have an email address and there’s no hurry to organise the event, then I email them. It gives me the chance to review my message before I send it.
If emailing isn’t an option… well, I’m well rehearsed on a phone at this point and in no time, you will be too!
After organising a date for your event with a venue, you need to find your support acts / headline acts.
Then you have permission to worry about equipment and everything else!
I’m kidding, it’s nowhere near as difficult as it may sound.
There’s very rarely any hiccups in the organising process but I understand it can be daunting when you’re first starting out.
2. Learn the difference between socialising locally and socialising internationally.
Socialising in the right circles is key in our modern music industry. Getting to know other local artists will boost your local reputation… just like getting to know artists from further afield will boost your chances of cracking the places beyond your local area.
That makes sense, right?
Well it is exactly the same online.
Don’t be one of those bands who fall under the spell of Facebook . Facebook has lead musicians and songwriters to believe that having a Page will solve all of your marketing problems. All of your promotion will be dealt with and you’ll earn shit-loads from the money people will throw at you because you post everything to do with your music on there… I repeat, DO NOT fall into that trap! It’s a big, fat LIE.
Facebook groups are great tools for socialising with your fans (Groups are just as good, if not better) but the only people who are going to LIKE your page/group are the people from your friends list and maybe, if word spreads, their friends may find you too. That is still a minuscule amount of people in comparison to the amount of people you could be promoting your music towards if you would just dodge Facebook for a change!!
Pinterest is my favourite, as many of you know from reading these blogs.
It’s a platform built for people who love crafts, art and anything creative. Music is no exception.
Your amount of followers actually holds some meaning on Pinterest too, as unlike Facebook, everyone in your followers list is shown what you have shared… AND your pins on Pinterest remain relevant for a hell of a long time. Your Facebook post doesn’t.
This is because Pinterest is a search engine as well as social media, so users are able to search for keywords. From there, they can find you! Perfect for marketing.
That’s why I use it for Jam Tavern and that’s why I’ll be using it for my own music in the coming months / years.
3. Be the professional that everybody wants to be.
Being a professional performing musician or a songwriter are job titles that many believe to be pipe-dreams.
It’s disgraceful that this point of view is thrust upon us in our growing years because it couldn’t be any further from the truth.
What many people perceive as being “real work” is a 9-5 monotonous job in an office, filing paperwork… or 9-5 on a construction site.
Whenever I face the nay-sayers, questioning and disbelieving, I reply by saying that they sold out on their dreams and that I simply haven’t.
I’ve worked hard to push myself into the music industry. I’m not guaranteed pay every day… but I’m in complete control of my life. If somebody was to tell me what to do, I’m allowed to tell them to f*** off! without getting fired!
We are the same, you and me. Musicians. We don’t like being told how things should be done. I’ve never wanted to work my butt off for somebody else’s dream… I’ve always wanted to work for my own dreams. I doubt that you’re any different, reading this now.
So if you want your audience / customers to react the right way to your music / act, then maintain your professionalism. You can have fun at the same time, just don’t be foolish. Be intelligent about your career decisions. Make mistakes but learn from them. You’re supposed to, it’s alright.
Countless times I’ve seen top-class instrumentalists, let down by their lack of attention to their career paths. They just trod on down the beaten track “because that’s the way everybody else is doing it”. Stop it, take a step back and look at how you can improve. This is something that you should do regularly if you want to be innovative and noticeable.
You may be one of those who says “It’s all about the music man… f*** fashion, that’s not what I’m about…”.
Well, let me be the first to tell you… by choosing not to have a specific fashion sense, that’s still a fashion statement!
Whether you like it or not, image is an enormous factor for your brand in the music industry. Canadian Prog Rock band RUSH learned that they never needed to wear matching outfits or anything too outgoing, just jeans and tees. That is still the way people recognise them, visually. Your sound is something entirely different. Your sound wont be there on your marketing posters so you need to maintain a consistent image to ensure people recognise you before they’ve even heard you.
4. Think outside the box when it comes to promoting and marketing yourself.
Think outside the box in terms of social media. If you have a gig, remember to charge your phone so you can record a live stream on Facebook, YouTube or even Twitch! If you have a new single, share it on pages which have similar themes to the point of the song. Example: you have a new song about pies… share it to every food page you can find!
Facebook ads can work for those who have a very clear indication of who they are promoting towards. For those who know exactly who their target audience is, it can work wonders but for most of us, that just isn’t the case. Spending money on Facebook ads is something that I would certainly deem thinking inside the box. For reasons that are beyond me… it seems to be the first port of call for musicians selling their music or showcasing a new music video. Again, unless you have a crystal clear understanding of who your target audience is, please avoid paying out for advertisement.
I’ve mentioned in plenty of my blogs so many of you may know this already:
Online Forums & Pinterest are my GO-TO platforms for marketing.
I avoid social media like the plague (not only because I get easily distracted but…) because it’s the devil! No but seriously, it’s not that great for marketing purposes.
5. Learn your industry.
Research your genre. Read online forum posts about your genre to find out what the majority of people who like that genre prefer listening to. This kind of research can positively mould your style into something you know will be received with open arms by your target audience and I don’t mean change your entire style to suite your potential fans… I mean find out if people like certain parts of songs more than others. Find out if people prefer a band’s old singer to their new one. You know, things that you could take on board to help you in your songwriting process. Learning your genre is key to success in your industry.
I categorise my music as Sci Fi Prog. So that way, not only is it forging its own stream, just off the mainstream of Rock or Prog but its also narrowing down my target audience.
I know there’s an enormous market out there for Prog music because I enjoy it! I research it frequently.
Another subject I enjoy researching is Science Fiction and I’ve found that there is a clear correlation between Prog fans and Science Fiction fans. To find this out, I researched it!
Learn your industry!
Finally, organise your own future without the need for unnecessary record labels or people like me (an artist manager) showing you which way to go. We’re not you! We don’t know what your personal goals are in your music career, so unless you take the reins, you’ll almost certainly be lead astray from your professional aspirations.
Seriously… learn your industry!
And all the best of luck to you!
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