10 Things Artists Often Overlook
1. Reality Check! (Setting Milestones + Goals)
Every artist wants to achieve some form of success, but may have a hard time if they stay focused on just the big picture. Smaller, more realistic steps (milestones), is the key.
Want to tour more? Figure out how often you (and crew) can get out of town, plot a radius strategy and hit the road with a plan. Increasing your range and frequency at 3, 6 and 9 months can help ease the transition. Soon you could be seeing gains in draw and pay, possibly even enough to keep you afloat for the majority of the year.
2. Proper Merch Mentality
An artist's merch is a main part of their piggy bank, regardless of notoriety. Merch can be your most consistent source of revenue – not realizing its importance can seriously stunt your growth.
Understanding merch is easy, and starts with knowing what your fans like/want. Wearable merch still reigns supreme, being inexpensive to manufacturer and serving as residual visual marketing. Shirts, tanks, totes, koozies, sunglasses, bottle openers – the sky is the limit. A pro-looking merch display, the ability to accept cards and an engaging salesperson can also go a long way.
3. Take Care Of Yourself First - Initial Self-Servicing
It’s a no-brainer that artists receiving attention from media/radio are those gaining popularity, but there are still people debating the impact of this attention. To those individuals I say check the charts, reviews and your logic.
While working with industry professionals (after becoming sustainable for yourself and others) is highly encouraged, do yourself a favor and test the waters before you dive in. The internet is full of contacts who want to hear all kinds of music, regardless of style. Heading out on tour? Find alt-weeklies and college radio stations in show markets. Can’t tour? Contact outlets that review similar artists. Worst-case scenario, someone says no (or doesn’t respond). Best case, you have a hidden gem that goes viral. No excuses.
4. Take Care Of Your Peeps - Incentivizing your Fans
We live in a social world that can make or break careers with a few keystrokes. While connecting with your fans is important, know that every other artist is attempting the same thing. Go the extra mile and actually incentivize people for their efforts for the best results.
Special groups to preview songs, review merch or picking sets can go a long way, and can all be done from your computer. Up the ante by offering special acoustic sets before performances or private signings/photo sessions for VIPs. This shows your dedicated fans that you not only care about them, but that they’re a part of your team.
5. Improper Touring
Touring can be fun just in itself, but at some point artists need to start setting guarantees over donations and open tabs. Every move becomes significant, especially when it can be calculated in hours and miles (i.e., opportunity cost).
Setting schedules to repeat markets (approximately 30 days locally, 45 days regionally and 90 days nationally, with obvious exceptions) and tracking results in draw and pay (with realistic increases/expectations) can put you on the right track to keeping the bank account positive. Touring requires time to book shows, so why not place the same type of attention on the results of your efforts?
6. Know Thyself - Recognizing your Strengths and Weaknesses
Touring artists know just how much is involved with each show. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can keep you efficient, saving time, money, and alleviating stress on the road, better than a free round of shots.
Here’s some simple tips: Extroverts can be great at networking and running the merch table, while introverts may feel more comfortable with behind-the-scenes operations. Meticulous members can be great at handling finances, merch displays and inventory. Non-business performers are great for driving and loading. Going against the grain can only cause splinters.
7. All About The Schmooze - Networking
Music industry networking is crucial. So much of your success is determined by who you know and what they can do for you (along with what you can do for them). Working with a third party requires trust, mainly based on your personality and representation of their brand. Be yourself, as long as you’re not a jerk.
Not sure how to network? Go to a show with music or promotional materials, seeking out venue staff. Engage your artist peers. Go prepared to festivals knowing you’re surrounded by the industry. We're all human, and the most solid relationships are those built with a layer of trust.
8. Skipping the Business
Too many artists don’t take the business side of the industry seriously, especially early on in their career. As long as you are selling your music/merch, you’re a brand marketing a product. The rules have changed. Success isn’t selling out and you should take what you can make.
The industry is always on the lookout to gobble up the next best thing, and the longer an artist waits to legally solidify, the more risks are possible when the time for action comes. Simple one-page agreements can settle debates before they happen. Don’t wait to find out someone's true personality when a lump sum from a licensing deal or label advancement is dangled in front of you– it’s not a pretty sight.
9. Fiscal Discipline
Some artists think that talking about finances is like walking in on their parents. Guess what – you happened. And so do finances.
Bank accounts can be opened with just a social security number, or even better, an EIN after registering as a business. Lack of accountability can lead to loose money floating between members and merch bins, eventually fading into oblivion. One person in charge of money, weekly bank trips, a debit/credit card to track expenses and free accounting programs like Mint can keep your blood pressure down come tax season.
10. Enjoy Yourself
With all of the work that can build up for active musicians, celebrating accomplishments is often overlooked. Hard work deserves reward and most artists can agree that being a musician can be better than most career paths. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back, have another round and be thankful that you get to do something you enjoy.
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