Your Music is Your Product, Believe in It by Michael Adam
I was watching a seminar on independent artists and how they should brand themselves this day in age. Derek Sivers, CEO of CDBaby.com said, in so many words, the first thing someone will do after they hear your music or band name is forget who you are. This was both obvious and subtle to me. So many artists today are so worried about “selling out” that they don’t put themselves out there. Whether it is posters, flyers, Facebook announcements, advertisements in papers, making T-Shirts, or you fill in the blank. The question isn’t whether or not you’ve sold out, but if everyone who digs your style of music has had a chance to listen, re-listen, and access your music. How else are they supposed to believe in you and show up at your show or buy your songs digitally?
The next thing Sivers said happened to align with a book I was reading at the time, Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Livinson: commitment and repetition. These two create familiarity to your product and in our case as musicians and artists, our music! You have to have a frank conversation with yourself: do you want music to pay your bills or are you satisfied with just your close friends coming to your gigs? Although this is where we all start, with family and friend’s support, we want our music to reach not five, ten or a hundred people, but thousands. And unless you have a radio promoter in your back pocket, saddle up, make posters, give your CDs away for free or cheap and get your name out there. Shake hands and say “thank you” to everyone. You have to be a good business person, not just a good musician. Keep track of expenses; ask advice from your friends and especially music veterans.
What we the independent artists have over the major-label artists is the opportunity to connect at an intimate level. People will believe in you and your music if you believe in their reason for supporting you: your music. You think Katy Perry shakes everyone’s hands after a gig? Probably not, even she wanted to. Look at performers like John Mayer and Dave Matthews, these guys started out like you and me and refused to let go, played everywhere, shook hands, gave all their music away for free, did the email list thing, etc. There is no label fairy. The labels do what you do now already, just with a team of people instead of just one person or band. And what acts like Mayer and Matthews (or anyone else in the history of Rock-Blues, etc.) have over the Katy Perrys and Justin Biebers of the world, is that belief and connection from the beginning. That’s why their music refuses to lose. People engage and believe in their art. By the time you reach your own success with the DIY model or management come calling, you will know how the business world works. You won’t be that guy saying, “I didn’t know, I just signed the contract,” (and believe me, every E-True Hollywood and Behind the Music has that sob story).
I haven’t made it yet, but I know that 99% of performers out there give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Thick skin is one of my top priorities and now I sleep better at night. Learn, adjust, improve. The music biz is like anything else that is worth fight for, hard. You just have to come back stronger. —-