When you pick up a marketing book or a digital masterclass on how to promote your music and brand your sound, they all promise to teach you a fixed set of skills by the time you’ll have finished studying it. All good and dandy until you realize that you still lack knowledge and intuitive understanding of many aspects of the music business despite a heap of books and courses. That is absolutely normal because many essential skills can only be acquired in time. Curious to see what are the top 10 paramount attributes that you have to live to earn? Read below and comfort yourself knowing even the legendary names had to go through this process.
10. Flexible networking.
Because no two people are the same. Even when someone tells you the correct general guidelines for approaching a business person from the right angle, it rests on you the responsibility to read through the lines, the body language, the room, in order to adjust your networking strategy. Some DJs for example love talking music when they’re not working, some – hate it and look at you suspiciously when you initiate the conversation about their job. Fine-tuning your networking ability only comes with years and years of doing it in the field. Books and digital classes can’t teach you the particularities of every single situation for every single individual that you might meet during your career.
9. Foreseeing worst-case scenarios.
Tell a new artist before a show that the mic has serious interferences thus can’t be used for live performing and they will do one of the two: not get on stage at all or go on and yell their lungs out sounding terrible and bothering everyone’s ears. An industry veteran will also do one of the two, but a very different two: they will say it’s not a problem and magically pull out their own live gear and setup or they will play a pre-recorded track that will never even let the crowd know it wasn’t a live show. Someone who’s been performing for long enough knows that just about anything can happen at any given moment. Especially when it comes to live shows. So they come prepared to the gigs.
8. Resourcefulness in the direst of conditions.
Say you planned to shoot a music video and have 50 people coming over to be part of the shoot at a specific time, date, and venue. Now imagine that venue went up in flames the night prior and now you’re stuck with 50 folks ready to dance and no venue. A rookie will cry and send everyone home. A veteran will make phone calls to see if any other close-by venue is willing to open its doors and if not, worst-case scenario, they will order a bunch of food and drinks and shoot an old-school party-like music video on their cellphone. In this business, you don’t let any plans or opportunities slip away from you. If need be, you readjust, but you never cancel. Something only musicians that have been in this business for long enough know and consistently apply.
7. Commercial songwriting.
Here’s the truth: everyone sucks when they first start writing songs. Everyone! The way pros get to pro status is by penning hundreds, if not thousands of songs and testing out the market a ton before making it big. Whereas newbies expect their first songs to blow up and make a difference in their lives when it is likely they will be lucky if they get past 1k streams. It is only when they don’t blow up, repeatedly, that they start questioning the quality of their songs. Commercial songwriting takes a lot of time, experience, patience, dedication, and objective assessment of the current market trends.
6. Proper press handling.
New artists just might cry at the first negative press piece carrying their name, which is one of the reasons why we at BRE refuse to review songs we don’t like. Many other platforms, however, are merciless and will scorch the artist’s efforts if they fall short of the market’s standards. What we’ve seen happen in these cases is that the artist thinks the blogger has a personal agenda against them and they begin a relentless pursuit of digitally bullying the author or the blog altogether. Big, potentially fatal mistake. We suggest new artists stay away from press coverage in the first year, or even more, of their careers. Grow some thick skin before you start sending in your music. Experienced musicians know how to turn around negative feedback into lighthearted jokes and even leverage the articles to show their fans how important they are that someone would bother criticizing them in 1000+ words.
5. Filtering team members ongoingly.
When you are the captain of your ship, you must keep an eye open for your teammates to ensure each provides the exact value they are expected and required to provide for the progression and longevity of the brand. When you are too young and inexperienced, you likely don’t even know what each team member is supposed to do and to what degree. You may feel lucky you even have a booking agent to begin with, while a veteran will have reports on their table and check the agent is not skimming on profits or leaving too much on the table for the promoters in the attempt to score a fixed number of monthly shows. An accountant can always slip up and file taxes improperly; a lawyer can always miss on the new regulations and changes in royalty payouts; a dance captain can always forget to recruit new faces for the upcoming shows and get lazy relying on the old members; a personal assistant can always mess up your schedule causing overlapping shows and interviews. While it sounds like a nuisance having to keep a whole team under control, it is exactly what you must do to protect your own back. Not to mention that experienced musicians don’t have a hard time letting go of staff that don’t measure up to the rest of the team’s efforts.
4. Immunity to being told NO.
Once you are past the first years in this business as a professional musician, you start grasping the reality of the industry: the more doors you knock – the more doors you unlock. It’s all about probabilities. New artists focus on the wrong side of the glass and fear they don’t have a realistic future in the music business and they are right. With the rookie’s mind, nobody would ever make it. Pros have more or less, a checklist of venues, producers, ideas, agents, and sponsors they keep crossing off until they get to the one that says yes. To them, it is never personal. It all becomes very mathematical and rather easy to deal with.
3. Stopping by will before stopping by force.
You are human and despite your highly ambitious nature, there is only that much energy and health to spend. Again, artists ending up in hospitals under IV during tours are more often than not, very young and inexperienced. Old foxes know the limits of their nervous system, their bodies, and their mental capabilities and plan things strategically so that they don’t burn out. In this industry, if you don’t know when to stop on your own, you will be forced to by your body without any warnings sometimes.
2. Proper budgeting.
A new artist almost guaranteedly makes the mistake of putting their budget into creating fabulous visuals leaving out little to nothing for the marketing and promotion department. A seasoned musician knows that most of your budget has to go into promotion while for the visuals it is recommended you try being exceptionally resourceful. Need dancers for a scene? You call up the local dance school and see if they want to get involved in exchange for guaranteed exposure and press coverage. You don’t move ahead by having an excellent music video that nobody is seeing. You move ahead by having a good video that very many people are watching.
1. Organic Marketing.
If you just got into this business and you’re having your first round of media coverage and publicized interviews, you’re likely missing out on major free promotions. What we mean by that is that instead of wearing a Gucci shirt, you should be wearing a shirt displaying in bold YOUR website’s name. Instead of drinking from famous bottled water, you should bring along YOUR own water bottle that you sell on your website. Instead of talking about your favorite idols and dropping it there, you plug in YOUR next projects mentioning how your newest single was heavily influenced by X, Y, Z so that their fans check YOUR music out. New artists are just happy to be there answering questions under the cool studio lights while experienced musicians know these don’t come by often so they maximize the opportunity to further their brand, image, and likeness.
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