Why So Many Musicians Will Never Be Successful

[Editors Note: This was written by Anthony Cerullo and it originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

Even without seeing his full face, it’s a fair assumption that the man pictured above is none other than Bono from U2. Say what you will about the man, but it’s hard to deny his success. The quest to finding success like Bono’s – or any other famous musician, for that matter – is a difficult one. The reasoning behind this is because the definition of success is different for many people.

Some believe that all it takes is maintaining a standard of excellence. As long as they conquer the technical aspects of their instrument and become fluent in the language of music, then success will grow naturally. Not to put down those aspects, but there’s more to it than that.

Today’s age of music is increasingly competitive. Techincal musicianship is common practice and no longer a mind-blowing concept. Of course, there are still musicians out there who are better than others, but in terms of the audience, people won’t pay that much more to see someone like Herbie Hancock play piano compared to Taylor Swift. In fact, Taylor Swift probably charges more and isn’t nearly as musically talented as Herbie Hancock, yet some would argue she has a more successful career.

Audiences and musicians alike understand that technical excellence is a necessity if one wants to make it in music. That being said, it’s hardly all you need for success.

The keys to a successful personality

First of all, great job at mastering your instrument. You’ve practiced until your fingers bled and fought through the periods of low motivation until, finally, you’ve broken through. Friends, family, and teachers alike all praise your ability on your instrument… so why are you not playing Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve? Well, as we already know at this point, it takes more than skill to breed success.

If you want to change the world of music, that’s not going to be done just by being the best – people also need to recognize your creativity and individuality. By approaching your music in a unique and thoughtful way, you don’t even have to be an amazing player. You can see examples like this all over the music industry. Take the Beatles, for instance. None of them were virtuosos at their individual instruments, but they did something that no one else did, and they will be remembered forever for it.

Besides originality, a few key personality traits are needed as well. It’s easy to get lost in the monotony of life, but if your career isn’t going where you want it to, think about something: Are you playing it too safe? Are you sitting at home practicing your instrument and looking at all the massive tour schedules of other bands?

Some people who play it safe think that in order to make it big, you need to be skilled, rich, or lucky. A little bit of that will help, but more than anything, you need to be bold, dedicated, and devoted to taking risks. The big gig isn’t going to fall in your lap – you have to get out of the house and go for it.

You know that feeling that you might lose everything when taking a risk? It’s not a bad one. A scary feeling, yes, but bad, no. In the end, it will be persistence that brings you to the top, not luck or money.

Once you finally have the courage to risk it all and leave your comfort zone, you need to figure out how to maximize your time.

Don’t settle for mediocrity

Once you join the rat race to success, it’s crucial to differentiate yourself from the pack. There will be plenty of musicians of equal talent and dedication to compete with. To stand out, many believe they should practice longer or more efficiently. This will help, but you only have so much time and energy. By not managing your time effectively, you’ll burn yourself out.

Once that happens, you’ll seek any victory you can get to revive confidence. This is why so many people aim for mediocrity. It’s easy to obtain, safe, realistic, and doesn’t consume much energy. Some people are content with mediocrity as it satisfies them just enough.

However, the field of mediocrity is crowded. Mediocrity is like a lake full of trout fishermen. Sure, trout is alright, but there’s a lot of other guys here fishing for it. Meanwhile, in the ocean, a few daring seafarers hunt after Moby Dick himself. Moby Dick is certainly a much harder catch, but there is also less competition for this very reason.

The big goals are the ones to go after. Assuming you’ve already mastered your instrument, your energy will be best spent putting maximum effort into what you believe. You want the Moby Dick of ideas – the one that seems almost unobtainable, yet you couldn’t imagine failing to capture it.

This dream has to be deeply personal. If it’s not, you won’t be willing to do whatever it takes to make it come true. Before attempting anything, that desire has to be into place. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting time and energy. In other words, don’t exhaust yourself fishing for trout.

Put it into action

This will sound cliche, but it’s time to be honest with yourself. We all have dreams, but what stops us from doing them? If you took a piece of paper and wrote down the top five things to do before you die, would you start doing them right that second? Probably not, but that’s the issue with many who fail.

Too many musicians crave success but, whether they know it or not, shy away from it. It can be something small like not telling your friends about a gig because you’re afraid of what they’ll think. Maybe you’re sitting around putting off album production for another day. Have you written out the song you’ve been humming in your head for the past week? Why not?

It’s common sense, but nothing will get done unless you put it into action. Start small and write a list of things you need to advance your music career. Then just start doing them. Put more energy into the bigger goals on the list, but don’t skip over the smaller, necessary ones. If you’re really that dedicated to becoming a successful musician, then you’ll be rewarded greatly for your dedication to action.

How Musicians Can Take Advantage of Key Digital Trends Towards 2020

[Editors Note: This blog article was written by Michelle Aguilar.]

 

It is probably no surprise that businesses are being transformed by digital platforms such as Facebook. The platform has recently released a report that looks at the different ways in which businesses are being reshaped. Out of the many insights from the report, there are three findings that can be of great use, especially if you are an independent musician.

Consumer Expectations are Increasing

Facebook notes that people are expecting higher quality in mobile experiences and customer service. Reflective of their data, Facebook conversation around ‘user experience’ has been observed to grow considerably. Because of this increase, people are more accepting of surging prices. There is a willingness to pay for more convenience. This highlights the need for business to gain better understanding of the modern customer experience.

As a musician, this data can be applied to the digitalized aspects of your endeavors. Your website, press kit, and social media are all channels you can clean up and modify to make information accessible, easy to navigate, and responsive. You can also compare this to your experience as a user when attempting to connect to a business; you’re more likely to engage more when the experience is without stress or confusion.

Consumer Participation in Ecommerce is Increasing

An increase in globalization has significantly influenced the ecommerce reach. According to Facebook, more than one billion users are connected to another business in another country. Two in three online shoppers have already shopped cross-border. To give you a statistical run-down on people per region around the world are connected to a business in another country:

  • In the US, over 60%
  • In Canada, over 60%
  • In the UK, over 75%
  • In Germany, over 75%
  • In India, over 40%
  • In Japan, over 30%
  • In Indonesia over 45%
  • In Brazil, over 60%
  • In Mexico, over 60%

If people are becoming more willing to make business abroad, it is important that you make your music and music events available internationally available on the web, this includes making your music available on Spotify or other streaming services. You can also include a ‘tip jar’ to your website by creating an account on www.paypal.me—there, people can make donations by sending payments to your PayPal account.

Millennials Are The Most Populous Generation in the U.S 

According to Facebook, it is estimated that by 2020, Millennials will make up half of the global workforce. The Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization, has defined key Millennial values that will shape the future of the American economy—these include:

  • An interest in daily work that reflects and is a part of larger societal concerns.
  • An emphasis on corporate social responsibility, stronger brand loyalty, ethical causes, and ability to offer specific solutions to specific social problems.
  • Respect for the environment.
  • Ability to build communities based on shared interests rather than geographical proximity, which in turn bridges dissimilar groups.

It’s important to become acquainted with the demographics that will make up most of the future workforce. After all, you are ultimately trying to find financial sustainability through your work (work which doesn’t come close to those that have a promising check every other week).And since Millennials listen to 75% more music on a daily basis (ERA) compared to other generations, these insights can serve as a guide to help you better understand your target audience.

Are there any social, economic or environmental issues that you’re interested or passionate about? If not, try to think about your personal interests; there is always someone out there that can relate and you never know, something that makes you tick may do the same for 100 (or more) others.

As an independent musician, staying on track with digital trends can be laborious since most of the time you’re busy producing, searching for gigs and doing a hundred other things to keep the ball rolling. So I hope that this brief recap on Facebook’s digital report can help fine-tune business for you and keep you prepared for your current endeavors!

Do you know of any other social media/digital trends that may be of use for other musicians? How have you managed to stay active on social media platforms? Feel free to share with us below in the comments.

Top 5 Things To Know About Stagecraft & Performance

[Editors Note: This article was written by Tessie Barnett and originally appeared on the GigSalad Blog.]

In a world where making music, sharing music, and collaborating with other artists is becoming the norm, fans are expecting much more from a band than their musical talent. It’s one thing to form a solid, personalized setlist, but connecting with your fans is another feat entirely.

You need to stay ahead of the trends and keep your fanbase growing. In order to do that, you have to perfect your live shows. Here, we’ve gathered 5 important steps to help you practice, prepare, and improve your stagecraft and performance.

1. Know The Music Inside And Out

Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Before a live performance, your music should be practiced to the point that you no longer consciously think of individual notes or chords. Many artists like to practice with a “handicap” to stimulate other parts of the brain. If you’re a guitarist, try playing the set blindfolded. If you’re a drummer, wear wrist weights. Get your bandmates to really listen to each other without relying on visual cues by playing songs in the dark. If you feel like regular practices aren’t enough to accomplish your desired skill level, try using a training tool to record your band practice.

One thing you’ll want to make sure you and your band agree on is rehearsal etiquette. As Jeff Black from Vandala Magazine said, “Its not just HOW MUCH time you put in, but the QUALITY of time you contribute.” Show up on time, be ready to play, and leave distractions at home. Try to avoid getting sucked into a black hole of snack breaks, video game breaks, phone breaks, etc. Make sure to use your time wisely and get what you deserve out of it.​

​After playing becomes as natural as breathing in and out, you’ll want to practice exactly how you would perform. Arrange the band the way you’d play onstage—face a wall as if it’s the audience, put some mirrors up, and arrange speakers to face your “crowd.” Play the setlist you’ve created as if it’s your live show. Once you’re comfortable with this mock performance, bring in a few buddies to get their feedback. Good friends will likely be brutally honest, so keep their intentions in mind when they’re giving you criticism.

Rehearsals aren’t for playing perfectly. They’re for learning, experimenting, evolving, and preparing to share your music with your fans.

2. Relax Onstage

Don’t take yourself too seriously before hitting the stage. Focus more having a good time with your audience rather than trying to impress a crowd. Some artists use relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga stretches, and breathing exercises to curb their pre-show jitters.

We also recommend ​using a little humor to help relieve tension. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter increases your intake of oxygen, releases endorphins in the brain, and aids in muscle relaxation. Not only does it have physical benefits, but humor also keeps you from taking things too seriously—a relief from toxically overanalyzing a situation. Listen to your favorite standup comedian, watch compilations of people falling, play tricks on your band members, whatever it takes to make you giggle. Laughter really is the best medicine!

3. Fake It ‘Till You Make It​

It can be easy to imagine the worst if you feel doubtful or stressed about an upcoming gig. DON’T. Push these thoughts aside and visualize a smooth and flawlessly executed performance. This is best done when relaxed—before you fall asleep or first thing in the morning. You’ll want to make this a daily visualization exercise starting at least one month before you’re expected to perform. Thinking of positive performance scenarios helps you get mentally prepared.

A person’s behavior, movement, and emotions are all directly correlated. When you feel confident and excited, your posture is better and you’re more alert. A good way to push yourself into this mindset is to pose with confident body language and allow the associated feelings to follow—or fake it ’till you make it. According to social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, “power posing” can actually affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain. Practice using this power-inducing body language during rehearsals, and before long, your self-assurance will be authentic and present in your performances.

4. Keep Your Focus On The Crowd

​Most successful artists realize that their music, especially in live performances, is not simply a way to showcase their talent. Yes, it’s a form of self-expression, but it’s also an offering to your audience, and if you seek a career in this industry, you have to connect with your fans.

Start your set with an attention grabber—an energetic and recognizable song. With an upbeat, celebrated cover, you can easily encourage your audience to dance, clap, shout, and sing. Continue that momentum throughout your set. When your fans walk away feeling awed and exhausted, your show will be imprinted in their memory.

5. Stay Creative

It takes an enormous amount of creativity and style to craft music that’s unique to you and your sound. Mastering the skill of songwriting helps you establish your place in an industry saturated with other artists. However, fans want to see your creative efforts beyond the song lyrics. The experience is what they’re after. Imagine yourself as an indifferent listener in the audience. What would grab your attention? Use your creativity to take your performance to the next level. It’s hard to forget a performer who envelopes their audience.

Clearly, with the advancement of sharing platforms, tools, and technology, fans are beginning to expect much more from the modern day musician. The artists who stand out are the ones who create an extraordinary experience for their audience. If you can practice your instrument until it feels like an extension of you and put your full, creative energy into every engagement opportunity, you’ll turn your fans into lifers.

5 Things Artists Can Do to Build Their Network

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech.]

 

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what aspirations you have for yourself professionally, at the end of the day you’re only as strong as your network. In the past, there was a bit of a stigma about artists being active in terms of connecting with music business professionals beyond playing shows and hoping their manager can get a label rep or two out to see them play. For a musician or band to be viewed as an “artist”, it had to appear they didn’t care how successful they were. The rule of thumb for creating a successful music career was to “get in the system without personally engaging in it”. As a result, a lot of artists ended up getting completely ripped off by said system or never truly reached their potential as a career musician because they felt it was ‘uncool’ to take matters into their own hands. Thankfully, those times are done.

In the 90s, we saw punk and hip hop bust open the door and show that you could be a ‘cred’ artist and still handle your business as a professional. One look at what Jay Z did with Rockafella or Brett Gurewitz (of Bad Religion) did with Epitaph (and all its subsidiaries) will put to bed the idea that real artists don’t involve themselves in the business of the business. In the subsequent years, this has trickled down to each level of artist; from Metallica finally gaining the rights to all their masters a few years ago to the bedroom producer running their own press and Spotify campaigns around their singles.

Here are five ways that independent artists can be more aggressive in taking their fate into their own hands:

1. Facebook and Linkedin Groups

Okay, so maybe involving yourself in Linkedin Groups is a little ambitious for most artists, but there are plenty of Music Business Networking groups on Facebook. I pull new contacts and valuable strategic information from these sorts of groups literally every day. While a lot of my personal favorite groups are invite only, there are plenty that are open for anyone to join. Start joining these groups first and gradually as your network grows you’ll gain access to some of the more exclusive ones. Same principle applies to Linkedin groups if you’re willing to delve into those waters as well.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Cold Email

A lot of people are under the impression that it’ll be a waste of time to email the people they look up to, but doing so can lead to the biggest breaks you’re going to find. What’s important is to just do so with tact. Don’t email an A&R from your favorite label or the guitarist in that band you’ve been obsessed with lately to speak about yourself or ask a favor. Hit them up with specific questions and ask for advice that doesn’t require them to commit to anything. For example…do you really love a particular manager’s roster? Do they always seem to release music in the way you wish you did? Find a contact there and reach out.

Here’s a basic example of a way to reach out that may be fruitful for you:

Hey <artist manager>, my name is Rich and I am a songwriter. I currently play in a band called <band name>. We’re about to release our first record and I am really big fan of the way you roll out new singles with your roster. I was wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee or shoot over a couple of questions via email to pick your brain a little bit if that’s okay? Thanks so much for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you!”.

3. Go To Networking Events

Same principle as the Facebook Networking Groups but in real life. If you live in a major city like Chicago, Austin, New York or Los Angeles there are ample such events you can find and attend. If you don’t, start your own group. It may be sparsely populated at first but it’ll grow over time. Also, keep in mind that when you’re first getting started these events are about quantity. When you’re starting out you should try to meet anybody and everybody in your city that is involved in the music industry. As you progress, you can hone in on those with events specifically for the bigger players.<

4. Embrace the Hashtag

There are certain hashtags that you should monitor and look to throw yourself into the resulting conversation on Twitter, for instance #MusicBiz. This is a great way to figure out what is currently trending in your professional world, engage others with the same goal and start establishing yourself as someone that people should take seriously. The same sort of success can be achieved by following music business professionals and engaging them in conversation around industry-related articles or thoughts that they post.

5. Collaborate!

A beautiful thing about a music ‘scene’, whether in real life or digitally, that often gets overlooked is the exposure to each others network. Whether you’re collaborating with another artist on a local show or tour, creating a networking group or writing/recording a song together, if you work together both of your networks will automatically double for the endeavor.

If you take a little time each day to dedicate to these suggestions, you will see incredible gains in terms of your understanding of the music business, as well as, the number of opportunities that are presented to you. Also, it puts you in a position where you have a lot more of the chips on your side of the table when the time is right to start talking to labels and managers about your project.

The Secret To Buying More Time

[Editors Note: This is the third post in a series by Debbie Stanley, owner of Thoughts In Order. Debbie has been helping chronically disorganized clients get their act together since 1997. Her latest book is The Organized Musician and she’ll be speaking on “Time Management for Musicians” at South By Southwest 2017.]

With my last two posts, we established that time management is every DIY musician’s most essential organizational skill. I gave you a method for differentiating your externally controlled time (things you must do) from your self-controlled time (those precious few hours that are actually yours to control), and I emphasized how essential it is to budget your time even more carefully than money, because there is absolutely no way to earn, borrow, or make more time.

You get the same 24 hours per day that everyone else gets, no matter how talented and deserving you are or how hard you work. Unlike money, with time you get what you get, period.

Except … there is one loophole.

You can’t actually receive more time for yourself. You’re still getting your 24 hours, no more and no less. But you can gain the use of more than your standard daily allotment. Let’s look at two ways to do it:

1. Delegation

Delegation is assigning a job to someone else. In theory, it sounds like a great solution: If you don’t have time to do a task or a job, delegate it and it will get done without your involvement.

The problem is that anything you delegate does still require some of your time. If a task will take 4 hours, you don’t regain 4 hours of your time by delegating it: Considering the time it takes to get the other person’s commitment, give him or her instructions on how to do it, respond to any questions, monitor to ensure you receive it by the due date, and confirm it was done correctly or well, you might only save yourself 2 hours. And if you end up having to redo it yourself, now that 4-hour task has cost you 6 hours.

So delegation can be a great help, but you must calculate correctly the time you’re actually saving, and you have to put safeties in place to prevent getting back a substandard result.

When the task is creative, like a show poster, in addition to communicating the details to be included and the due date, you also need to do your best to convey the look and feel you have in mind, then hope the artistic output will be something you like or can at least live with.

When the task is purely administrative, like running the merch table, detailed written instructions emailed in advance and also printed and kept with the merch supplies will save you in-person training time and head off many questions and mistakes.

Delegating an ongoing job will often pay off better than a single task because, once the person is up to speed on the requirements and skills of the job, the need for your supervision time is reduced. You still have to spot-check now and then, but when the delegee is skilled and motivated to do well for you, the time you save by handing over that job is close to 100%.

Jobs that are well-suited to delegation include merch management, upkeep of all of your show postings across various platforms, organization of your photos and videos, and updating of your EPK with new assets and media coverage. Highly skilled and trustworthy delegees can even manage your sync licensing catalog, social media, and booking.

But how do you get people to do that much work for you for little or no pay? This is where relationship equity comes in.

2. Relationship Equity

A second way of gaining the use of more than your standard hours is with relationship equity, a form of currency that everyone continually earns and spends. It can replace money, which is of course great for ramen-eating indie artists, but it can also replace time, which is just as valuable as money and sometimes more so.

Whenever you ask for a favor, you’re spending some of the relationship equity that you’ve built up with the person you’re asking. When you succeed in delegating jobs to volunteers, it’s certainly not for the fame and glory at this point: They do the work for you because you’ve banked relationship equity with them.

It gets really interesting when you think about what happens when you ask strangers for help. Why would they do anything for you? They don’t even know you. But if they know and like something about you, or if you’re connected by a mutual friend who has a lot of relationship equity with them, they’ll help you out.

If you’ve ever contributed to a stranger’s GoFundMe account shared by a good friend of yours, you’ve seen this in action. Same with fans who have never met you but like your music, so they chip in for your next album’s PledgeMusic campaign.

The true magic happens when your relationship equity is working for you and you don’t even know it. At that point, it’s not costing you any money or time, and in fact you wouldn’t be able to purchase it even if you did have those resources to spare. When fans bring their friends to your shows, when reviewers tell their readers to buy your album, when bookers tell other bookers that you’re a solid hire … all of those situations represent relationship equity.

In each case, you have impressed—and have not turned off—the people who are speaking up for you. At some point, you did something that made them willing to invest their own time and relationship equity on your behalf. I can’t overstate how valuable that is.

So how do you build relationship equity? In addition to creating great music, which will cause people to like you as a halo effect of liking your art, it’s things like engaging with fans after the show, liking and replying to their comments on your social media, helping other bands to get bookings, being courteous/on time/not a diva with your own bookings, responding to email and messages promptly, and, perhaps the biggest one, showing appreciation. Saying thank-you, genuinely and constantly, might be the single most valuable thing you can do to “buy” more time and, by extension, more opportunity.