Musicians: "What You Need to Know"
**Guest Post by Bob Lefsetz of The Lefsetz Letter.
"1. Fame is fleeting.
Used to be very few could get through the sieve, now with fame up for grabs, from reality TV to YouTube, it's easy to break through, but nearly impossible to sustain (+Constant Creation).
2. Quality counts.
If you want to have longevity. It's too hard to game the system, too hard to stay on top, in the public eye, your best bet is to focus on the work.
3. Talent is not god-given.
You have to do the work, there's no way around it.
You can spearhead the production of the usual suspects, in other words, Max Martin and Dr. Luke can make you a star, but they can't keep you there, hell, they're doing their best to stay on top themselves, because almost no one does, from Giorgio Moroder to Mike Chapman to Scott Storch hitmakers have their time and then it ends.
Fashion changes, tastes change, generations change. Instead of getting plastic surgery and playing to the young 'uns, it's best to cater to your core audience (+Nurturing Your Fanbase), which will spread the word for you. Yes, parents turn their kids on to their favorite acts, and these are never one hit wonders, but those who have longevity (+The Musician Business).
4. Spamming is irrelevant.
It makes you feel good to get the message out, but no one is paying attention.
It is not a numbers game. It's all about being personal. One personal e-mail to a tastemaker is more important than a generic press release sent to a hundred people from a list you found online. The personal touch is everything. And in this era, the written word is everything. First, know how to type. Second, know how to spell. Third, know grammar. Fourth, be able to tell a story. Fifth, don't get frustrated when you get no response. People remember personal e-mails, they can pay dividends down the line.
But it's always best to focus on the work more than the marketing. And if you don't know how to use spellcheck, if you haven't got the time for spellcheck, tastemakers have no time for you. Hell, I know people who pick online dates based on the spelling errors.
Yup, you can have a great picture, but if you don't know how to spell, these women want nothing to do with you. In other words, school is not for pussies. And if your educational institution isn't living up to your needs, switch. Every elite educational institution has scholarships, it's your duty to find out about them, it's your duty to lift yourself up.
5. Don't chase trends.
What's here today may be gone tomorrow (+Setting Your Compass, Finding Your True North).
6. Ignore the haters.
Easier said than done. But you know when criticism resonates. None of us are perfect, we can all improve, we all make mistakes. But let me be clear, ignore the haters, ignore advice unless you're asking for it. If you ask for someone's time and you hate on them because they don't love your production, you're missing the point.
If you don't have enough confidence in your work to ignore the critics, you're going to have a very rough road. This does not mean your stuff is good. I'm just saying breakthrough work is usually rejected at first. But there's very little mainstream breakthrough work out there.
7. The news cycle is 24/7.
You've got one shot at publicity, then you're history. So if you're relying on publicity, your odds are low. You want to bubble up from the bottom, not float down from the top.
8. True fans are worth more than news coverage.
You can show your mother you're in the paper, but most people reading about you, if they do at all, just don't care. You want active users, not passive people. You want fans who embrace and champion you.
9. Just because you made it, don't assume anyone is interested in it.
Don't be a child showing his parent his feces. Your work is not that important, we're all on the planet trying to get along. Push is dead, you want pull. You want to create something so good it sells itself. Which I know is almost impossible, but those are the odds you're up against.
10. Money comes late.
Success is slow. And when you get it, if you overcharge, you shorten your career. There's plenty of money to be made in the long run if you don't make money your number one priority.
11. Major labels want radio hits.
They want the easy sell. Unless you can get on radio, immediately, the major label doesn't want you. Period. +Radio
12. You need hits.
A hit is something so entrancing, so catchy, it ripples through the public. Just because your music does not fit the format, that does not mean it can't go viral. That's the essence of PSY's "Gangnam Style."
There's an audience for me-too, but you want to be me-first. That's why the classic rock era was so classic, none of the bands sounded alike. That's one thing wrong with the younger generation, they date in groups, they want to be a member of the club, individuality is shunned. But when it comes to lasting art, individuality is key."
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Enjoy more of Bob's writings on Lefsetz.com.
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