It Is About Who You Know
"The most popular "myth" to debunk these days by talking heads in the biz is that it's not about who you know. Everyone will say "just be great - you don't need connections!" Bull. It IS about who you know. I can't tell you how many opportunities I've gotten just because this friend worked at this TV station or that friend wrote for that newspaper or that friend's cousin was a DJ at this radio station. My first college gig I got because I acted in my high school's musical with a dude who was now rooming with the booker of the college venue. I could go on and on about all the opportunities I got from friends. Why? Because friends like helping friends. Plain and simple.
So? Be a friend!
I didn't "use" people or become friends with those in power to get opportunities. That doesn't work. My existing friends or acquaintances happened to grow into jobs or positions that were beneficial to my career and they remembered that curly haired dude from high school, college, Starbucks, whatever, who played good music and they reached out.
Most of the opportunities that musicians get aren't because they are undeniably great. It is because they are nice guys and gals who people like to be around. The best bands in the world aren't the ones who succeed (unfortunately). Sure the music has to be great, but those who succeed are those who make it easy for people to like them.
If you walk around with a giant chip on your shoulder and bad mouth every band who gets an opportunity you thought you should get, be sure that you will lose a ton of friends and no one is going to want to help you out. If you support the bands in your scene (even if/ESPECIALLY if you think they aren't as good as you) when they begin to get recognition, your friends will take notice (as will the bands) and help you out down the line.
The music game isn't a sprint to the finish. It's a long, slow grow. Pace yourself and think of the big picture. Today's superstar local band could be tomorrow's record exec looking to sign you.
I just signed a licensing deal. How did I get this deal? Well, one of the guys who works at the publishing company used to be the lead singer of a WAY more successful band in Minneapolis. We were friends because we were in 'the scene' together. Our bands played shows together sometimes. I cheered him/them on every success they got (and I didn't). And I sneered and snarled at any hater who came out of the woodworks (or newspaper) to bad mouth them. This guy, I believe, took notice. When he started working at this company (after his band broke up) we happened to be Gchatting one day and he's like "Ari, we have to get you in over here." And I said "that would be great!" So he made it happen.
Ink on the paper.
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Ari Herstand has played over 550 shows around the country and has been a full-time, DIY musician for over 5 years. He has opened for artists such as Ben Folds, Cake, Joshua Radin, Matt Nathanson and Ron Pope and his songs have been featured on TV shows like One Tree Hill and various Showtime, MTV and VH1 shows. His latest studio album debuted at #11 on iTunes singer/songwriter charts. He writes an independent music business advice blog, "Ari’s Take".
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