The top 8 things unsigned/independent artists do wrong
How do all, after last week’s shambles of a post I’ve decided to do something that all encompasses the ethos of this blog, so this week I will be employing lexiphanism left right and centre as I humbly muse over the top 8 things that unsigned and independent artists do that arguably hinder their (potential) musical careers. Some of these points may have been made in previous blog entries but in more detail so I’ll put a cheeky link at the bottom of them all so you can read the original posts. As the blog has increased quite significantly in readership since I started writing this stream of conscious regularly on a Monday then most of you won’t have read it before anyway so enjoy:
1) Charge for cd’s at gig This is just stupid. Now don’t get me wrong, I can completely understand why you’d want to charge for them as who doesn’t like having an extra bit of pocket money? And those Malboro Reds aren’t going to buy themselves are they? But think of it as simply as possible: The more people who hear your music the better yeah? So as soon as you start charging £3 a CD then someone who thought your music was ‘alright’ but ‘not worth £3 alright’ is going to go home, sober up and forget who on earth you are. Give it to them for free though; they wake up, dread the next day at work in that office they can’t stand with a boss who is a prick, on their way out to the car they see your CD marked ‘Generic Indie Band’ on the kitchen side, pick it up, listen to it in the inevitable traffic jam and enjoy it. Or even if they don’t enjoy it they pretend they do when they’re talking to Sue from accounts so you still get talked about either way. And you never know; Sue’s dad might own a record label (please note: Sue’s dad probably won’t own a record label).You don’t have to spend too much cash on these either, all the CD needs to be is 3 or 4 tracks long on a CD-R with your name, tracklisting and myspace scrawled on the front in child like felt tip handwriting. No one is expecting full colour printing with an inlay with dedications to your dead dog in it. They can have that when you release material in a couple of years time. All that matters is that they’ve got something to listen to when they get home. The more people hear it, the more people like it, the more people tell one another about it and the more fuss is created over you. Remember – WORD OF MOUTH IS THE BEST FORM OF MARKETING. Fact.
2) Don’t read industry press You’re trying to make it in an industry that is currently in turmoil. The music industry has no idea where it’s going and where it’s future lies. There is a whole smorgasbord of suggestions of ways it could go, but no one is certain. The rise of MP3’s and the decline of tangible sales is much talked about, but boffins are currently testing mobile phones that are 4G and can download at up to 1GB a second, so that means MP3’s could be dead within a matter years! Who needs low quality MP3’s when we can download WAV’s from iTunes instead? And how about advertising led free downloads? Give your music away for free and receive a cut of the advertising money? Spiralfrog? That went away as quick as it came. You can find out all this stuff and read interesting articles on sites such as Music Week and Guardian Unlimited. When I say music press I don’t mean Q and NME (but I’m not saying don’t read them) I mean music press that is aimed at the industry side rather then the consumer side. Not only is it in your best interest to read these titbits, but you should want to read them anyway shouldn’t you?
3) Wind people up Why can’t we all just get along? As Longfellow uttered the infamous words “Music is the universal language of mankind” he obviously hadn’t met the arse from Southport who played at Kwids In once who tried to hit another one of the acts playing that night, midset, as he borrowed his guitar strap without seeking permission first. Because of that incident I’ll never work with that band again, and if any of my promoter mates were thinking about putting them on I’d tell them that story and they would also not work with them. On top of that, imagine if I was actually important! Like Jesus, but less so. Maybe a Tony Wilson type figure, by doing a stupid thing you could pretty much rule yourself out from playing gigs in a certain city or area ever again. Just be polite, I’m not asking for bone marrow here. Further reading: Gig Etiquette
4) Don’t utilise free/cheap marketing tools Myspace, bebo, facebook, mailing lists, cheap text pay-as-you-go packages, forums of bands who influence you etc. All these tools can be used for free or very cheap. When I’m playing promoter I personally don’t use or like flyers, I prefer using text-outs from a collection of mobile numbers collected from mailing lists at previous gig nights. Orange and O2 both do deals where if you top up by a certain amount per month you’ll get a bucket load of free text messages. Send one out a week before the gig and on the day of the gig, people are guaranteed to read it and also, lets not forget our carbon footprints now children! Also be sure to take a mailing list to EVERY gig you play and collect as many email addresses and numbers as you possibly can. Even get a cheap PDA or Electronic Organiser from ebay or where ever so therefore you can read it the next day rather than spending hours trying to decipher drunken hieroglyphics by people who have forgotten how to spell their name. We all know about myspace but please remember that your myspace page is for your fans and is not an electronic press release. Give fans a reason to check your page regularly, blog weekly about interesting and funny stuff like this one from Ian Britt, and if you just happen to have a photoshop wizard for a bass player then do something crazy like the Bedford Incident. Remember the whole malarky about the Arctic Monkeys becoming famous through myspace? Reet load of old rubbish you know. Apparently it was the Libertines forum that their humble name was mentioned and songs were swapped. Go onto forums dedicated to bands that have influenced you and tell them about your band. Be warned though there is etiquette that if you show negligence to then you’ll be berated and vituperated by all on there. 1) Start a new thread and call it something that isn’t misleading; ‘My Band – thoughts?’ 2) In the message come straight out and say ‘look, I know this is blatant self promotion but (insert name of influential band) have been a big influence on our band and we’ve been told it shows in our music. Could you have a listen and see what you think?’ – or something along those lines. Also, be warned yet again that you’ll probably get slated off a few people so be strong. And read point 5. Further reading: Super Marketing Sweep
5) Not thick skinned enough Everyone has their critics be they in music or not, I’m sure even Mother Teresa had someone think dislike her at some point in her life, but did she let it get to her?! No! She carried on doing what she did best. Being bloody lovely. Simply, you’re going to get criticised and because you’re in the music industry you’re going to get criticised often. You simply CANNOT let it get to you or you will have no future in the industry whatsoever. Try and take the positives if any out of the review and if there isn’t any at all then use it as constructive critisicm. And if you still can’t get anything from it after that then just throw it in the bin and move on with your life.
6) Don’t think outside the model The ‘traditional’ music industry model is still working at the uber famous level but below that it’s dying on its arse. Too many bands these days are just waiting from that call from Sony offering them an advance they’ll never be able to pay back and thinking that that means they’ve ‘made it’. Look outside the model, look at people like Enter Shikari doing the DIY and OkGo with their viral marketing youtube antics. Remember that copyright is king and work to that rule; take Hard Fi *shudder* for example. They’ve sold a quarter of the records The Kooks have but have made twice the money for their own pocket because their manager was entrepreneurial. What can you do to get noticed? How can you stand out? Do you need a label? Again, from embracing point 2 on this list you may get several ideas from just reading other peoples ideas. And of course, if you read the Sentric Music blog every week… Further reading: Enter Shikari and all that Malarky
7) Are blind ignorant to their own music Confidence is vital if you’re an artist. We all know that, but it is very highly likely that you are not the best band in the world (and if the Twang are reading this, I unfortunately do mean you as well gentlemen). Dependent on how long you’ve been together, how long you’ve played together and how long you’ve written together will all contribute towards your sound. If you are a new band, the songs you write now will be extremely different from the ones you’ll be writing in 18 months time as you ‘mature’ as writers. Ask for honest feedback from trustworthy sources, ask them to be brutal (remember point 5) and take the critisicm and do something constructive with it. You know deep down that you have songs that you prefer to others, do others feel the same way? Does the rest of the band agree with your setlist? Do your fans prefer the songs you don’t like? Further reading: SWOTs and PESTs
8 ) Don’t realise what a music manager does A music manager is not there to do all the stuff you can’t be arsed to do. There may be elements of it, but that’s not the be all and end all of it. They’re not there to purely send out demos and put up posters. You can do that. What does a manager do though? Lots of stuff, trust me. Today for my artist I’ve been researching potential merchandising opportunities, looking where to get vinyl pressed in the Czech Republic, sorting out a fringe gig at In The City, researching the possibility in getting him to SXSW in Texas next year and also looking into a PRS fund which means I could get £5k to put on a massive gig for him. Then again that is just me and each manager is different. If you have the potential to get a good music manager then get on it. A good music manager earns their 20%. Further reading: I’ll manage by myself
I hope you all embrace this blog out there, spread it round to anyone you know who is an unsigned/independent artists and if you don’t agree with any of it then let me know! I enjoy a good angry ear bashing now and again.
What I’m listening to this week: CLIPE SEXO AMADOR
What I’m reading this week: Stereogum
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