In writing this blog I have had many conversations with people who agree with my sentiments and people who vehemently disagree with my sentiments. The argument usually revolves around an intangible integrity or an unwillingness to adapt or change their approach. These people typically lead with ” the music should do all the talking,” or “none of this matters if the band is good.”
The general idea is that as a musician with exceptional talent the rules don’t apply to them. They are somehow above the rules of engagement with getting gigs, preparing, etc….
I remember seeing these guys a lot playing in local original bands. I stopped seeing them as my band progressed and started touring. Now that I’m back in the clubs locally they have seemed to shown back up. Actually, some of them never left.
The idea that your talent makes up for what you lack in other arenas is false. That should be very obvious.
If it isn’t obvious to you look at pop music. The pop stars that these people complain about on the radio for being hacks got where they were because they worked harder than everybody else; not on their talent. Lots of layman musicians would argue that pop stars have very little talent. That doesn’t stop those pop stars from performing or touring at a level 99% of us will never reach. Or if we’re lucky, we may get to play in their band on a per diem while they reap huge financial rewards.
If you are competing in the marketplace based solely on your talent you are going to lose. You’re going to lose gigs, you’re going to lose money, and you’re going to burn relationships with venues and other musicians. There are hundreds of people with less ability who are willing to work harder than you to get what they want. Those people will invariably succeed where you may fail.
This is true to a logical conclusion. There is a barrier of entry in the music arena. But if you show up to gigs in street clothes, read your lyrics from a music stand and think you can wing your gigs because you can shred and improvise, you will hit a ceiling in your book-ability and other bands with less chops but better business acumen will leave you in the dust.
If any of this rings true or if there is someone in your band that thinks this way you may have a problem. And you either need to have a hard talk with them about humility or you need to look for someone else.
image courtesy of @rigsofdad on instagram
By Chris Carr- http://thekiltlifters.com
I’ve often been asked by other musicians how our band manages to survive as a genre band. These same guys are usually pretty shocked to find out that it’s pretty much the same as any successful act: we know our audience. If there’s one crucial thing that I can never stress enough, it’s the importance of knowing who your audience is. It quite literally *should* be a determining factor in decision you make. Let me give you a few examples:
Choosing your timeslot
Our band is a Celtic folk/rock band. Our audience is generally more mature, and they turn in early. We know from experience that the later we play, the smaller our audience. Believe it or not, our most attended shows start between 3pm and 5pm! With St. Patrick’s day being the exception, 7pm is the very latest we can ever start and still expect to have any audience at all. We put on a two-act event last year that ran from 5pm-9pm. I scheduled our band in the 5pm-7pm slot, when I knew we’d have the highest attendance. We played to a full house. By the time the second act was done, the only people left in the establishment were those of us who were putting on the event. Now, if we were a punk band catering to a younger audience, we’d want the latest show possible. Knowing who you are reaching and their preferences and lifestyle can help you negotiate the best timeslot to get the most reach for your music.
Choosing your venue
When you’re booking your gigs or creating your own events, it’s important to target appropriate venues for your specific audience. Someone playing children’s music is going to have a rough time booking a biker bar. Where does your audience like to go? What type of events do they like to attend? For the music we play, cultural festivals, schools, libraries, and retirement homes are our primary targets. If you know that there’s no way your audience will pay a cover charge, you know better than to do a ticketed event. With a good understanding of who your audience is, you can book gigs and create successful events that broaden your reach and bring you more fans!
Choosing your merch
When we release an album, it’s pretty much always going to be an EP. Why? Because we know our audience is happy to pay $10 for 4-5 songs. If we recorded a full length album, we could charge $15. That would mean that we would be doubling our production costs for 25% less return. We are currently recording enough material for an LP, however, we’ll be releasing it as 2 EP’s, because that’s what works with our audience. We also know that download cards, codes, USB sticks and the like don’t work with our less tech savvy audience, where it might with a younger fanbase. I can give download cards away for free to our fans, and they’d never use a single one. They are more comfortable with physical CD’s. By knowing your audience, you can more wisely invest in merch that is attractive to your fans, and you don’t end up with a basement full of unsold swag.
Who is your target audience?