- Musical ability
- Sustained and ongoing support
- Taking advice & getting assistance
While a quirky act might have success for a period, the interest in the gimmick or the sympathy support for an act who only plays off their looks/circumstances will end up waning very quickly. TJ James, a classic rock artist with a number of CD’s to his name and many years experience says “People don’t buy Stevie Wonder’s music because he is blind and I don’t want them buying mine because I am disabled. I want them to buy it because they like the music I make” (TJ has cerebral palsy).
Long term successful musicians have good technique and ability in their chosen area and:
- continue to improve and develop their skills, ability and knowledge
- observe what other artists in their genre do and see what they can adapt as their own
- value input and constructive assistance to move forward. An unattached but interested third party can sometimes provide advice on an issue that you don’t see or, that family and friends will not tell you
- network with others in the business to learn more about the industry, those in it, opportunities and trends. Consider online song writing groups and industry forums, going to relevant conferences, attending master classes, being at local jam nights and the like.
It is well known within the music industry that 90% of the CD sales (and over half of the digital downloads) for most artists happen at gigs, or as a direct result of people being at them. While YouTube clips help some people get a career, it is only a very small percentage that have success from this source alone and even those, people will eventually want to see live (or know they can if they were in that area). The type of gig (whether paid, free, busking, markets, support act, etc) and the venue may vary, but to be successful in the long term as an artist, you have to be ‘out there doing it’. So a lot of your time should be spent securing gigs and performing regularly and often.
Having gigs and making CD’s is all good but if no one comes or buys them, you won’t be sustainable for too long. So regular activity is also needed in promotion that is, letting people know about you, what you do, hearing your music and generally building the ‘hype and interest’ in you. Examples could include:
- get to know people at local radio stations, the entertainment editor in a local paper and gig guide, send them invitations to your gigs (they might do a review). Ask about doing an interview but make it interesting and something they want to broadcast – something of ‘news interest’ that includes what you do or feel passionate about, as well as your music,
- YouTube clips of performances, your act, all linked with your communication sites
- putting samples of your music up on internet forums and other sites for people to hear and ask people to comment,
- constantly update information, especially gigs on all your communication sites,
- attend lots of other people’s gigs, meet them, their management and other patrons (this is also handy for observing how others run their gigs and determine what you might incorporate – especially if getting great audience reaction and in your genre of music).
Sustained and ongoing support from fans.
To have a long term career you need ‘fans’, a following of people who want to:
- see you more than once,
- listen to your CD they bought more than once and, buy your next CD’s,
- tell others about you (word of mouth referral is always the best marketing you can get),
- help you with support and opportunities when they can.
For this to happen not only does your music need to be liked but the quality of what you deliver needs to be there as well. For example, the medium you use to distribute your music (CD’s, MP3 downloads etc) needs to be ‘good enough’ to make the listening of your music enjoyable. Quick cheap productions done on a basic home set up may be good as a demo, but may not promote you properly. If the quality is lacking or even worse the CD doesn’t work on their system (eg. If not a ‘red book’ burn), an unhappy purchaser is the result. Not only will they not purchase again but they will be quick top tell others about their bad experience,
Your gigs need to be ‘more than just the music’, they need to be performances and entertaining. People enjoy coming to gigs more when there is visual excitement as well as good music, they like the artist to involve them with conversation, expression, information, to feel it’s “about them” not just about you. So time needs to be spent in preparation, determining set lists and the flow of songs, some things to say, etc.
Gigs need to be ‘different’ over time so that a new experience and something interesting is delivered to those who have attended in the past. New songs, different or new arrangements of songs, even new jokes or ‘patter’ in between songs all adds to an enjoyable experience and a patron who was glad they came again ….. and, will in the future.
Taking Advice and Getting Assistance.
The old saying ‘no man is an island” is especially true in the music business. A lot of the success in this industry is gained from networking and also getting input from those who know the traps and have done it before.
Developing a ‘network of advice’ of people in the industry (not just those with ‘names’) who have knowledge, are willing to help and who you know you can trust, can be invaluable for the future. While you can just send an email, the personal approach is so much better. As you get around and get involved in the industry, you will come across people who you would want to help you. Once they have met you and preferably get to know you, they will be more likely to positively consider your request.
As well as advice you need to consider getting assistance. By assistance we are not meaning a helper, transport, and the like, although that is all important – but more having people with industry expertise taking care of some of the arrangements and activity for you.
When you start out it might be easy (and cheaper) to do everything yourself, but as you get busier you will need help and, if you are doing all the above and your music is good, that time could approach very quickly. The need for assistance will usually develop in stages and complexity as your career develops. For example, you may need a booking agent before you need a manager, a bookkeeper before a business accountant, a partial publishing deal before full assignment of your material, help with pre-production of a CD before an overriding producer, a website designer before a web manager.
While there will be a cost for most of this assistance – if careful in your judgement of when and who, the benefits and returns from their activity will far outweigh the time involved, bit of saving and possibly lesser result if continue to try and do it yourself.
We hope some of this may have been helpful 😀