Thursday, February 3, 2011
Top 5 Music Business Mistakes of 2010 – #2
Top 5 Music Business Mistakes of 2010 (#2)
#1 – Waiting
#2 – Unreasonable Expectations
Before I start on another rant about the top mistakes let me point out that I find these mistakes frustrating because I am often guilty of them myself from time to time. I am especially guilty of #2 – unreasonable expectations.
Roughly twice per day I get an email from a musician who tells me that he or she “just wants to get to the next level.”
In my head my first response is usually “Oh that’s easy just press Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B Select Start.” (This got you many extra lives on the game Contra for Nintendo) For better or for worse – there is no special code for the elusive “next level” in the music business.
This kind of message is always a bit disheartening as I am pretty sure that when I ask people who send me these messages to clarify their needs they either will not have defined it for themselves or they have just started out promoting their businesses in the last 2-3 months and they want Jay-Z’s phone number (Which I don’t have by the way).
Yes, that is absolutely an extreme example and no- I’m not suggesting that everyone out there has such a warped perspective but I do find that people unfairly compare themselves to people who have become icons. If you look around long enough you will find that most overnight successes were not so overnight.
I was fortunate enough to work with Kid Rock in the 90s and most people remember when he arrived with his first big single “Bawitdaba”. What most people forget (or never knew) is that ten years earlier he was signed and subsequently dropped from Jive Records, signed an indie label deal (with a label that went out of business), put out two records on his own (before such things were as turn-key as they are now) and built up a network of over 50 very active street team members all over the U.S.. Prior to “Bawitdaba” was also a single called “I am the Bull God” that only mid charted at radio and there were moments where one could feel that the culture of Atlantic Records could have gone either way in supporting (or not supporting) his career. There is an obvious lesson in such perseverance and I know many people who would have given up over any one of those setbacks let alone the whole string of them.
Perhaps Kid Rock is another example that is too large or too exceptional.
How about this?
The majority of people I encounter don’t appreciate that it takes a long time (often many years) to get anyone to care about you or your music. Most people need the time to get better at what they do. It takes a ton of mistakes and gigs where you say to the crowd “Be sure and tip your bartend…Oh…. You are the Bartenders and waitresses…” I don’t think people appreciate that those kind of gigs are the formative gigs where musicians get better at what they do.
I keep hearing the implication that the Internet was supposed to usher in this era where anyone and everyone could make a living at music. Really? So everyone is a rock star? That means there is no one in the audience because everyone is on the stage. That would all of a sudden makes my accountant a rock star… God forbid!
This is what I’ve learned about expectations being around the business of music for the last eighteen years – I hope it takes you less time to learn these things than it took me:
1) The artists who seemed to make a living / become well known were simply the artists who were still artists ten years later
2) You can look around and compare and despair almost no matter who you are. I wonder if Chris Martin from Coldplay laments that he isn’t Bono or if Bono laments that he isn’t Elvis…
3) The awful saying “It’s a marathon – not a sprint” really does apply. Far too often I see people blowing their budgets and wrecking their credit on high cost / short term promotional strategies over the course of weeks when better investments would be strategies that endure.
4) People who don’t invest in their careers (with both their money and time) don’t grow their careers.
5) Those who were consistent in their efforts tended to fare better than those who were sporadic.