Posted: Mar 17, 2014
Category: The Musician Business
**Guest post written by Samuel Mahler, marketing manager, booking agent, and band member of "The Electro-Lights".
One of the major problems that has plagued today’s music world is the bad stigma placed on bands’ lack of “Professionalism”. This seemingly simple word that should be self-explanatory has been the death of many a band. Why is this, you may ask? With the market being as flooded as it is, it becomes extremely difficult for a band to set itself apart from the rest of the pack. Furthermore, to even break out of the local music scene you might just have to enlist the help of another band – imagine that! You have embarked on a business journey that, if handled correctly, will be very rewarding. But, how do you avoid fatal errors common to bands that don’t make it? Below are six problems with the local music scene:
If you really think that the only reason you are not the world’s biggest rock star is because the right ears just haven’t heard your music, hit the road! Compile a list of all the labels and management companies you are interested in working with and play shows in their local area. Also, if you think this is the only thing separating you from the greats, then spend the postage to send out your press kit and demo. Telling other bands about how you are so close does not help your cause.
Let’s be honest. We all want to make money playing music. So what does this make your band? You guessed it, a business. This being said, no one cares what you had for lunch. No one cares you bought new guitar strings…finally. It’s especially true that people do not want to see or hear about band drama on your “Business” page. Remember, if you treat it as a joke, the only thing you should expect back is a hearty good laugh.
So many bands today think that, because they fall into the DIY category, it is completely acceptable to charge 15 bucks for a T-Shirt on which they spray painted their name. Also, they think that “as long as record labels get the general idea of what our music sounds like, we are set”. These ideas are not only ridiculous, but are also hysterical. If you are wanting to be fair to the fans you love, oh, so much, spend some money on higher quality merchandise. Your fans will be much more apt to wear your band’s shirt with pride if it does not look like trash. In regards to recording, plugging a microphone directly into your laptop and using free software to record your band does not work. This not only makes you look like you do not care about your product; it shows you have not made enough money to invest back into your business. This is not the 1980’s anymore. Record labels have no interest developing baby bands. If you are not a self-sufficient “business”, why would they want to involve you in their self-sufficient business?
Chances are, if you have to provide a disclaimer on your video or song such as “Sorry I sound so bad, I was sick” or “We know this video is low quality since we took it with a flip phone, but we hope you enjoy”, then the recording is not of the best quality. If you know your production is that bad, why would you want to expose this for all the world to see? When you, the great one, cringes when you show these videos and demos to your beloved family and friends, you know it is not something that should be on the world wide web.
You are in this to make money, and so is every other band out there. If you are just starting out, there are always festivals and benefits that cannot afford, but would be happy to have, live entertainment at their events, which are often well-attended. This should be your market until you have a “Product” worth selling. If you have made it past that level, please, for the sake of us all, get rid of your mentality that, because music is art, it should be free. Venues should be profiting from your appearances on their stages, so, vice versa, it should work the same for you. In a perfect world, all bands would realize this and would no longer have near as many of the “venue-screwed-us” horror stories to tell.
Venues are in this to make money, too. If you cannot draw a crowd, they do not make money. This being said, do not expect to be invited back if the only people that came to your gig are your girlfriend and your mother. This not only makes venues angry. It also frustrates the other bands who worked very hard to pull in their part of the crowd. If you do not want to get out of your cozy house, meet people, and give out flyers and posters, this line of work is probably not for you.
Of course, these six problems only scratch the surface of the local music scene. Remember: “Appearance is everything.” If you do not APPEAR to be a professional, then you will not be treated as such. If approached correctly – professionally! – the music world has many fun and rewarding experiences to offer, but there is no fast, cheap way to attain this. Keep grinding on and, in the end, hard work always pays off.
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