How to apply basic business management theory to your music
How do readers of the blog, I hope all is well?
Bit of a late post today, it’s past 5pm and I’ve only got round to finishing this weeks blog. I hope no one did anything silly in the anticipation? I’m aware my grammatically incorrect ramblings are important to a couple of you out there. I don’t know why, I may never understand, but never-the-less, I’ll never let you down… (apart from that time when I didn’t do it til the Tuesday…)
Anyway, the reason the blog is pretty late is due to my mass of stuff to do on my ‘to do list’, a whole melange, neigh, superfluity of things ranging from contracts to festivals from iTunes to royalties, I’ve had a bit of everything to do. Luckily for me though, a mixture of degree level training, a fair bit of experience and a slight case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder means I’m fully prepared for my working day ahead. But what if was just a drummer? How could I manage to do such things AND keep a 4/4 beat?!
(I’m just going to say here that drummer jokes are a cheap and nasty dig at the population of vital musicians that serve the music industry so dear. I’m only being jovial with you all. Don’t hate me. I even have a friend who is a drummer! Honest!)
What I’m going to go on about in this blog will seem so inherently unappealing to the majority of artists who read this blog that they’ll more then likely not take any of the advice I suggest, which is fair enough, hopefully the ones who will may find it useful and slowly but surely, using Darwin’s theory of evolution as the base concept, the unorganised ones will die out and we’ll have a superbreed of bands who (and as I write this I realise it just isn’t going to happen) could arrive at places on time! You may say I’m a dreamer eh?
I’m going to suggest 3 basic management theories to you all today which I genuinely believe may help you discover what the craic really is with your band (this obviously applies to solo artists as well, I apologise that I keep referring to ‘bands’, but if you are a solo artist I do suggest doing these with someone who knows your career and music really well so they can offer some constructive criticism). These 3 methods are: SWOT analysis, PEST analysis and SMART objectives (I’m fully aware that friends who I went to uni with who just read that sentence most likely said aloud ‘oh for Gods sake’, but hear me out!)
Stands for: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats A SWOT analysis should be really personally focused towards the individuals of the band whereas a PEST analysis should be more outward focused (and I’ll come to that in a moment).
Right first and foremost. Ego’s at the door alright? You need to brutally honest with each other, as simple as that. Obviously you can phrase a brutally honest statement in a delicate way, lets not hurt each others feelings here, but still, honesty is key to discovering your bands weaknesses and what you can do to fix them. I’m going to say this again as I’ve worked with many an artist in the past and although essential to a performer, they can still be a downfall. So: Ego’s at the door.
Strengths: Quite simple really. What are your strongest areas? Do you have a virtuoso guitarist? A drummer that could keep time in his/her sleep? Are you all drop-dead gorgeous? Does your lead singer demand attention and sing like an angel? Figure out what your strongest points are and exploit them. Figure out ways to make them more prominent and maybe help to combat your…
Weaknesses: Have you got a bass player that makes Sid Vicious sound talented? Does you front man have a face like a bag of smashed crabs? Is your equipment so old and decrepit that even the White Stripes would turn their nose up at it? Figure out where your band really struggles and set out a plan on how to solve it. Now I don’t want you to all go out and sack your bass player because Sentric Music’s blog told you to do so, figure a way around it. Make him/her practice more, punish them with ‘pint fines’ (every time he/her messes up during a song they have to buy another member of the band a pint), be creative and you should be alright.
Opportunities: Does your drummers dad own a building company who are looking to get rid of an old transit van which could be a handy tour bus? Has your bass players younger sister just started at that university that has both practice rooms and studio time for free to students and ‘student projects’? Has your lead singer just won the lottery? (bit far fetched that one). Think outside the box to discover opportunities that you never knew you had, you’ll be surprised what you’ll discover with enough time and thought.
Threats: Is your guitarist moving cities to go to uni? Is your bass players relationship with the drummers sister causing frictions between the two? Is the singer blissfully unaware that the rest of the band really can’t stand his mother/brother/uncle Geoff dancing down the front at all their gigs? Again, talk about it and figure out how you can solve it.
And now onto the:
Stands for: Political, Economic, Sociocultural, Technological.
A PEST Analysis should be focused on the industry that you’re in. keeping away from the personal stuff (although the two can be closely interlinked). For a good PEST you need to be fully aware of the industry around you: trends, news, advances etc. All the stuff a good manager should know
Political: Does Labour taking money out of the arts to fund sport effect you in anyway? Is your band eligible for funding from the government to help with such costs as travel to international music conferences to aid the exposure of British Music? Will the recent rejection to extend the copyright laws spur you to handle you rights in a different manner? Does your local council offer ways to expose your music like the Make Your Mark scheme? Some of these may be relevant and some may seem way out of your league at the moment but they’re still worth considering.
Economical: If you’ve got limited funds, what does the current music industry offer you in the ways of cheap exposure? What does the new higher priced/non DRM music mean for you? If anything at all? Which high street bank can offer the best high interest account to hold your bands finances?
Sociocultural: In laymen’s terms: trends. What are the current trends in the music industry? What are the current trends full stop? What are bloggers talking about? How can these trends effect your music? How can your music exploit these trends?
Technological: Pretty self explanatory this one; what can new technology to do you? How can you exploit it? Whats the crack with these new MP3 blogs? Are illegal downloads actually killing the music industry? Or is it extra exposure for the artists? Right then, lots to think about there eh? Once you’ve gone through all this and made a ‘to do’ list (the muse for today’s blog, you see how I come back to these things?) you then need to make sure all the things on this to do list are SMART:
S pecific –make sure you really want to know what to achieve in a specific manner
M easurable – How do you know if you are meeting your objective? Can it be measured?
A chievable – lets not be silly, you’re not going to sell a billion records in a fortnight now are we?
R ealistic – Very similar to achievable, I’m not going to lie, but it makes the acronym work
T ime – how long to do want to take to achieve this?
So an example of a SMART objective for an unsigned band would be:
S: We want to be playing at least 1 gig per month outside our home town
M: Yes it’s measurable, are you actually doing it?
A: Yes, we have the drive and ambition to do so
R: We have all the correct resources, a car, some funds for petrol and the best of Journey CD to keep us company
T: We want to achieve this objective within 2 months.
Jesus, I think it’s the longest blog I’ve ever written! As I said before, some of you may turn your noses up at this but I genuinely recommend you all meet up, have a beer and spend a couple of hours going through this. You’ll discover some nice truths, some truths you may not want to hear, you may laugh, cry, fight, but ultimately you’ll come out a stronger, more focused band. Promise.