Luck is what happens when Preparation and Opportunity Meet.

There’s an expression that I’ve always loved that says luck is what happens when preparation and opportunity meet.  …………………  And this is particularly relevant to the music business.

 Yes, there’s often times an element of luck and timing are involved in the music business.  For example, sometimes nothing is propelling your career forward for months or years and then suddenly someone who heard your music and liked it and wants to do something with it.
You might say ‘lucky break’ (in the sense that you didn’t directly initiate contact with the interested parties).  But….you had made great efforts to let people know about your music.  

 I think one of the biggest challenges of being a professional musician, is just dealing with the uncertainty of everything. But I think there are a lot of things you can do to become “lucky” more often.

 If luck really is what happens when preparation and opportunity meet then, this implies two very specific areas that you can focus on:

 1) Preparation – The preparation category includes everything pertaining to your music.  Think ……Your performances and vocals, the songs you write, your production, your CD artwork, your packaging, your sense of professionalism, how you come across and communicate to others.  How educated and knowledgeable about the industry you’re working in.  Are you easy to do business with? 

 All of these elements are important and combined they paint a picture of just how prepared you are to successfully meet opportunities that either you find or present themselves to you.

2) Opportunity –   Sometimes opportunities present themselves in big ways. But opportunities can be sought out, you don’t have to wait for them to come to you.  And more than likely they will be a series of small opportunities that gradually leads to bigger and bigger opportunities.   Sure, there are stories about musicians who get really luck really fast, but more often quote on quote “big breaks” are preceded by years and years of very gradual success and hard work.

 Think about it, analyse and see how you can enhance of the chance of you being “lucky” or maybe, …..deserving.

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How To Ruin Your Music Career In 10 Easy Steps – Part 1 (Steps 1-5)

Came across the great  article (part 1) by Rowen Bridler and thought might be of interest to some of those reading the articles we post here.

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The good thing to note about realising you’ve made a few mis-steps in your career is that this is a perfectly valid entrepreneurial business tactic – it’s called ‘testing’. If something didn’t work, you know not to do it again and that way, you learn what does work. However, far too many musicians spend too long doing things that aren’t working without realising it, and that adds up to tedium, frustration and a major lack of progress.

So, stop for a moment and check if you’ve been doing any of these things:

1) Being inconsistent
Do you only work on your songs when you feel like it? Do you only play gigs when a friend mentions there’s a free slot one evening? If you can’t say when you practise and when you’re next gigging, you are probably projecting a kind of ‘hit and miss’ approach to your career. You can fix your inconsistent behaviour by setting aside certain non-negotiable times when you’ll definitely be working on your music. Try getting one regular gig night at your favourite live music jazz bar or post a new demo every 1st of the month. Set aside at least one day a week for songwriting, when you pull back from the business work and then post the results on a Friday on your soundcloud account. These kinds of regular, predictable actions will help keep your fans engaged and help you to focus on the priorities for your career.

2) Putting out albums or EPs with no schedule for promotion
Paying to get an album recorded, mixed and mastered, but not planning tour dates, release dates and strategic promotion through radio stations, magazines, mailing list updates and social media promotion will lose you sales and mean that your recording, far from being an investment, has been a huge waste of time and resources. The way to avoid this is to decide on the kind of release you want (single, EP etc) and write a list of all the small tasks you’ll need to do to complete it. Then plot those into a monthly overview, showing which things you need to complete for every week for the next three, six or 12 months. That way you can see clearly how long you’ll need to get things done and you can set aside enough time to do the necessary research in order to promote the work you’re releasing in the lead-up to that final date.

3) Staying in and practising all day and nothing else
Learning how to play an instrument takes time and effort and it’s really important that you practise regularly. However, staying in your room and practising to the wall does not a successful music artist make. You need to network with people, get out to gigs and generally get yourself known as ‘that great keyboard player’ or ‘amazing singer’ that people want to work with. Try going to venues that people have recommended to see another artist play and check out if it would be right for your music too. While you’re there, talk to the promoter about what you need to do to get a gig. And if you need some new photos for your site, you could ask the photographer who was taking photos of the band whether they would be available to do a shoot for your next gig. Making yourself known to other musicians helps you to support and be supported by a network of people, which will enhance your own career.

4) Avoiding using social media because you’d rather be ‘mysterious’ instead
This used to be a viable tactic. Back in the days before social media, there was a way in which you could work towards getting a record deal and have the record company do all of the promotional work for you. You could remain a mysterious artist putting out great music but not revealing much about your life. [I personally used to love this approach! Check out an old photo of mine – I was totally into moody photos where I hid myself altogether…]

Unfortunately, that just won’t cut it anymore. If you aren’t directly interacting with your fans, you can’t build the kind of following that will get you noticed by companies willing to do some of your promotion and distribution. You have to make it possible for fans to interact with you, so that they can do some of the promotional work for you! If you have a great fan page where your fans comment on the regular posts you make, that is a relationship that can not only lead to gig attendance and sales, but to further industry interest. Just post once a day about competitions for your fans, or ask which of two new demos your fans would most like to see finished first. If people are being asked to give their opinion about something, they are far more likely to follow-up to find out the result and even buy the EP or album that you’re about to release.

5) Not defining your brand
If you are randomly posting on social media or interact anywhere however, with no kind of plan of what to talk about – you could be damaging your potential for building a fanbase. What do you represent to your fans?

Artists who only post sporadically don’t build up a sense of loyalty with their listeners. If you simply look at the kind of music you’re making and the message behind it, you can get an idea of what kind of person listens to your music. Is it dark, edgy, angry songs about break-ups? Then post about the latest arthouse film you watched about a couple who broke up and how great the acting was in the scenes where they’re yelling at each other. Use social media to have a conversation with your fans about the things that define the brand and purpose of your own music.
(From Ian…. similarly make sure your music page(s), website etc is consistent with your personal pages – if not your fans may feel you are presenting a false image, its not “you” that they see and be turned off – justa  thought)

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Look out for the second instalment to this article which I will post as soon as I receive it. In the meantime, check through the above 5 things and adjust if needed accordingly. 

Simple and Solid Tips to Improve Your Sound During a Live Performance

From an article read today by Courtney Gordner….

While it isn’t difficult to control the way in which your music sounds on a recording, live performances are a completely different story.

When you record music you have to opportunity to manipulate and clean up sound that isn’t clear or of a low quality. Live performers on the other hand do not have the luxury of editing and fine-tuning their sound quality. These performances require musical artists to make adjustments for different venues and to coordinate the sounds of different instruments.

For musicians looking to improve their live performances and to overcome these challenges here are five tips for better sound.

Relative Instrument Volume

One of the most basic and critical aspects of live performance quality is relative instrument volume. Ensuring that no single instrument overpowers the other elements of a band is key to having a clear, unified sound.

Often times drums and guitar amplifiers overpower vocals, making them sound scratchy and drowned out. This is especially true within small venues as drums tend to be the loudest instrument on the stage. Practicing your performances and having your drummer learn to play at lower volumes will keep your vocals from becoming secondary and unheard.

In terms of guitar amplifiers, advise your guitarists to keep them at a medium level to avoid sacrificing the sound of the other instruments. If the high volume is an integral part of the guitar’s sound, Audio Issues suggests pointing the amplifiers away from the audience to lessen their impact on the rest of the band.

Microphone Positioning

The way in which vocalists utilize and manage a microphone onstage greatly impacts the sound it produces. (Ian  – a biggy to me!!)

One mistake that many vocalists make is choking up, or positioning their hand too far up the microphone. If your hand is wrapped around the microphone covers up its rejection feedback system, making it difficult for sound technicians to manage the volume.

Essentially, doing this will either make your mic screech with feedback, or make you sound muffled. Neither of these things are desirable.

Inadvertently pointing the microphone at a monitor is another source of unwanted feedback.

Avoid relaxing your arm or gesturing with the microphone near a monitor; otherwise you’ll deafen your audience with feedback.
(Ian – also would be good to see more singers get back to understanding good microphone technique on stage – adjusting for quick volume increases, learning to ‘self eq’ etc)

Equalization

The way in which you adjust the levels of your equipment will depend upon the size, shape and acoustics of the venue.

In particular, pay attention to bass during sound checks. If the room you’re performing in swallows up bass you may need to turn the bass amplifier up a few levels. On the other hand, a room with loud bass may require that you turn down bass amplifiers to find a clearer sound.

The same goes for adjusting the treble, altering the pitches of vocals and drums and eliminating microphone feedback. Using an equalizer to find the proper levels for these settings will help your performances to have a more consistent sound regardless of the shape or size of the venue in which you are performing.

It can often be difficult to generate a clear and quality sound while performing live. For musicians looking improve their sound, the aforementioned tips will make your live performances much better. You want your fans to get the most of your performance, so be sure to follow these tips to always keep them coming back for more.