The music industry is currently a pretty rough business. At the same time I say that, I can say the music industry is flourishing. Many Doors are closing, yet even more are opening. Becoming a successful musician today is more difficult than in past years, but there are definitely more possibilities.
One important aspect of being successful musicians often times forget is sustainability. I know for a fact, in the small town of Sioux Falls, South Dakota the one band that’s hit it big failed their sustainability test. “The Spill Canvas’s” hit All Over You was all over the radio for about a year. You couldn’t go ten minutes listening to the radio without hearing it. They rode that high for about a year. They toured cities all over the world, sold out venues, and came back to Sioux Falls, recorded a new album, and then broke up. They had one hit, but couldn’t sustain their career, and it abrubtly ended.
Sustainability. One thing I frequently ask myself is how can sustain my career as a musician. There isn’t really a straightforward answer to this. Some things I plan on doing to help sustain myself are to always be writing more songs. If one song doesn’t appeal to the masses I’ll write another song. Albert Einstein created 10,000 light bulbs before he made one that work. If you fail keep trying. Another way to sustain your career is to work hard, but work hard in the right places. I’m really good at promoting. I can whip up a stellar EPK in a couple of hours, and can design a kick-ass poster in no time, but I can’t for the life of me write a good bio. So instead of trying for hours on end to write a good bio, I’m going to call up my buddy who plays in another band, and make an EPK for him while he writes my bio.
That brings me to a second point. DIT. Commonly known in the musicians world is the phrase DIY. I’ve discovered through my own life that this is impossible. I cannot completely manage my band by myself. I still run the ship, but now everybody has certain tasks. I’m in charge of promotions and booking, while another member is in charge of all the writing, and yet another member is in charge of all the photographs and videos, and etc. There is so much to do when your trying to become a successful band, and saving money by doing things yourself can be lifesaving, but you’ve got to work together, or you’ll just get overwhelmed.
Creating a fan base is the first step to become a successful musician. This isn’t easy. Ask my band. We’ve got a whopping one hundred fifty likes on facebook. (Our target audience is people over the age of fifty but you get the picture). Getting fans is all about making a personal connection with people, and forming a relationship with them. Fans love it when there is a person behind your band name. When they can write on your wall, and get a response.
Of course you will never get fans unless you have a great product to begin with. Personally I’m trying to think of new products that people are willing to invest in that are new, different, and exciting. Thinking of things is tough, but I’d like to refer to my new favorite album as of this week, The Legendary Roots Crew, “Undun.” This album is a concept album about a man named Redford Stephens who chooses a life a gang violence and drugs. The album begins with his death, and traces his life and the events leading up to his death. What makes this so brilliant is The Roots put out an iPhone app with a short film, and interviews or Stephen’s friend. I’ve purchased the app for a friend, just so I can see it. Brilliant. Creative Ideas like this are what fuel the future of profitability from music.
CD’s are a thing of the past. Many people have strong feelings on this topic and I’m no exception. Musicians need to find ways other than CD sales to make money. Music piracy has proven to help bands. Band need to discover new different ways to make money. For example, my favorite band of all time, The Dave Matthew’s Band, thrives completely off of piracy. The Dave Matthews Band, when they were first starting out, were being pirated so much, the band decided to sell special tickets to tapers so they could plug directly into the board to get better sound quality. They made money of pirating! Musicians need accept the fact that it’s nearly impossible to make money of CD sales, and find new ways to become profitable. One great area to dive into is licensing. There is so much money to be earned putting your music into commercials, movies, and TV. Shows. Another way is building iPod apps, like The Roots just did. It’s time to find new revenue streams.
Finally, it’s important to keep integrity within the arts community. It’s important to help each other out, and stop the cycle of dishonesty the music industry has a rap for.
The music industry is going through some tough times, but now is the time to take advantage of the new, exciting opportunities.