It's the holiday season and there's a lot of stuff going on. Are you and your music a part of it?Read More
Building a career in music is tough. And anything but simple. It always was and it is even more so now. In the pre-digital days, there was a system - a crappy, bloated, intentionally complex system - but a system nonetheless. It was still gambling, but there were winners and everyone played by the same rules. But now, we still have the vestiges of that system and we aren't sure what is necessary or valuable and what is just desperately hanging on to the past. There are fewer and fewer winners and the rules are all but gone. So you have to find your own way. Create your own path. There isn't a book or a website or a person who can wrap it up in 100 pages or a lunch meeting and tell you what will work for you. But find good people and good sources that give you insights and principles and guidelines that you can then apply to your career and your life. There is no "new model" and there are no pre-fab answers for how to make it in music. So know what you want. Read, listen, learn, and work your ass off. Look for opportunities and jump on them when you see them. And tweak it as you go, focusing on the things that do work and throwing out the things that don't. I'm sorry. I know you want something short, sweet and concrete, but sometimes the truth just doesn't fit into 160 characters.
Twitter, Facebook and all these other outlets are great ways to reach your audience. But there are limitations. And without a smart strategy, they can become black holes, sucking up all your time and energy. I know people who seem to spend hours a day on Twitter and Facebook, responding to followers, trying to be witty and desperately trying to hit 1,000 or 10,000 or even 100,000 followers. Bless their hearts, they think they're working. And, in a sense, they are. But, in most cases, they are just treading water -- working their asses off and getting nowhere. Like good press, a Twitter or Facebook or email following is not an end in itself. It's a means, an opportunity. And if you don't have a plan for how to activate those followers in some way, then you are just wasting your time. That's why you need a healthy balance of content and promotions.
It's easy to get wrapped up in all the crap. To feel like you're doing something when you aren't actually getting anything accomplished. But eventually that futility will end up killing your good intentions because you can only do something for so long with nothing to show for it. You give up. I understand that not everything has a direct, obvious and measurable return. Ultimately, however, it is a business. And that means that - AT SOME POINT - you need to sell records or tickets or something. With that in mind, here five guidelines for smarter use of your time online:
1. Have reasonable expectations, but ALWAYS have expectations and goals. 2. Create a balance of content and promotions. 3. Set guidelines for what and how often you post. 4. Keep perspective. Don't become a slave to the numbers. 5. Don't ever forget that making music/art is the first priority.
I can't tell you how many musicians I know that spend hours every day, obsessed with their self-promotion checklist... Facebook, check. Twitter, check. Blog, check. They ask for my advice on what all they should do. They're out there talking, but no one is listening. Because they don't have great songs. And they don't have a great show. Building a career in music can be as complex as you want it to be. I'm not saying it's easy, but there are some simple guidelines that you can use to make sure you're on the right path. If you ask me, this is one of the big ones: There are three key areas you need to grow at a similar pace; artistry, audience & promotion. Let any one of these areas get too far out ahead or lag behind the others and you're going to have a problem.
Artistry is your music. Your craft. It's your records, videos and live show. If you aren't a musician, it's your painting, photos, films or other product or service. Audience is the fans. You have to grow that audience both in numbers of people and in their passion and excitement for you and your music. And the last, promotion, is everything you're doing to get the word out. That would be Facebook, Twitter, blogging, contests, radio appearances, contests, emails, etc.
If you don't spend enough time and energy on your artistry, there won't be an audience. Go that route and all the promotion in the world won't help (in fact, it could kill your career – but that's another post). Of course, the best music in the world won't matter if you don't get out there and tell people about it. But too much promotion to too small an audience and you look like a marketing machine, not an artist. Fail to connect with your audience and you're just talking to yourself. All that time spent on artistry and promotion is wasted.
So, what it comes down to is this: Balance your efforts, your time and your money. Make great music – in the studio and on stage. Then get out there and tell people about it. But be realistic about how much you can do and how much people actually want to hear from you. Listen to your audience. See what gets them going. And as your audience grows, make sure you have plenty of great music and great stories to keep them engaged.
Balance. In your career – just as in life – it isn't the most exciting answer, but it's almost always the right one.