I saw a blog post by Bob Lefsetz (if you don’t know him, here you go Bob Lefsetz) and it inspired some thoughts, on the music industry, mostly focused on a local level. In Bob’s newsletter today he had the following things to say,
“The problem is you’re not paying.
Every day I’m spammed by bands. Acts that want my attention. That are bitching how the system is unfair and they can’t get paid by Spotify.
But the truth is in the past they’d have to pay to play. I’m not talking at the gig, but in terms of publicity.
Now that publicity is free, it doesn’t mean much. The fact that you can send a zillion e-mails does not mean anybody will care. Because all your competitors can send said e-mails too. Everybody on the receiving end is overwhelmed. Art may still be king, but money is second.
What does money buy you? A push from people with a reputation, one consumers and tastemakers will pay attention to. In other words, when you get that TV slot I’m impressed you did. Anybody can have a YouTube clip, not anybody can get on television.
Not everybody is signed to a major label. They pay you and then they spend. And not only does this spend get people to pay attention, it has the imprimatur of quality, because the major label does not take a shotgun approach, it releases very little, less than before, because without the push, nothing gets noticed.
Which is why we know Coachella and not your band that went on at noon. Coachella is spending a ton of dough, lost a ton before it became profitable. The investment was in the festival name, not your band.
In a world where everybody’s equal, with overwhelming noise, he who can rise above triumphs. And now, more than ever, that involves money. Not only in art, but politics and business.
Used to be everybody sat at home and consumed, didn’t play. They may have had a fantasy of becoming a rock star, but they knew it wouldn’t happen. The road was long and hard and fraught with pitfalls. But today, everyone believes that gap has shrunk, that they can hop right over it. But the truth is with all the lemmings hopping, it’s the pros, with money, who triumph.
You lament that no one wants to come see you live.
Because money is tight and they only want to see proven acts. Furthermore, in the old days you could play in the local bar at best. And now that bar’s switched to canned music or deejays. Because it’s cheaper and it makes them more money.
Just because you made it, that does not mean anybody wants to listen to it, that anybody cares.
The music game is harder than ever before, just like life. The winners are rolling in dough and everybody else is worrying about buying a hamburger.
Even the middle level acts, who don’t have a label anymore, the one that used to get them on the radio when very few had that privilege, which got them to rise above.
Used to be if your major label release didn’t get on the radio, you knew you had a hard slog, as we entered the eighties, it oftentimes meant that your career was dead on arrival. Make money? You were already looking for a day job.
But today people with no radio airplay and no major label effort keep complaining that they’re not making enough dough. As if the game didn’t change, as if they had risen above and the rug was pulled out from under them.
But the truth is no one’s got time for these acts except their fans, everybody else doesn’t care. If you don’t have a hit, not only do you have no money, you’ve got few fans. But somehow it’s not your fault.
So if you want to win at the music game know that it requires not only time and effort, but money. You’ve got to do what most other people won’t. And that does not mean a publicity stunt. You’ve got to legitimize yourself.
The truth is EVERYBODY deletes the spam e-mails about the unknown bands. The musicians feel good sending them, but there’s absolutely no impact, zero. Because everybody knows that you did it for free.
Most YouTube clips are barely watched.
Most music is barely listened to.
But somehow, as opposed to yesteryear, everybody believes they’re entitled to attention and riches.
The truth is Google and Facebook are so damn rich they can provide all these spamming services for free. E-mail is free. Everything is free, including your music!
How can you complain your music is free when you’re taking advantage of all the free services to make it and spread the word about it?
The truth is the money is elsewhere.
And it’s always about the money.
If you’re making none, it’s your fault. Stick around, get really good, tweak your act and get someone to invest in it and then maybe you’ll have a chance.
Otherwise, stay in school.”
It’s harsh, very harsh. In fact my stomach churned a bit as I read this, because a lot of what he is saying, is very true. I can’t say I agree 100% with EVERYTHING he had to say, but who ever agrees 100% with anyone, ever? However, he does make some great points. So along those lines, I wanted to say this, “Talk Less, Do More”.
Talk Less, Do More
It seems to me, that if musicians and performers and entertainers spent half as much time working on their music, building their promo, shaking hands and rubbing elbows with the right people, as they do talking big, they would be much more successful. I do think Bob was wrong in the aspect that the game has changed, and there are people out there hungry for your music, but here’s the thing, they aren’t going to come to you! You have to find them, or, find a niche, a need and meld your art to fit it. There is money out there waiting to be made, and people waiting to spend their money on you, but you have to find them. I see musicians, on a local level, where I live, just constantly back and forth, about pointless things. I think it’s because we all deep down lie to ourselves, we have to feel bigger than we are. And the easiest way to convince ourselves is by saying it (or typing it) out loud. I myself have been guilty of this time and time again, in the past. However, I have a new philosophy that I am really trying hard to hold myself too. Talk Less, Do More. In other words, I do think very highly of myself and my abilities and my charm and blah blah blah blah blah, I really do. BUT, I don’t need to go around talking about it. In fact, unless you are a close friend, and we are specifically talking about this very subject….this blog is the ONLY place you will ever hear me talk like that about myself. I do have some really big things happening in my career right now, and I believe many more are on the way. But I don’t go around blabbing about how awesome I am to other musicians, in fact around them I would prefer to just fly below the radar. They don’t need to know all of the things I have going for me right now, or the potentially giant doors that may be opening for my music career very soon.
Because it does not build them up. Simple answer, but allow me to explain. I do not need their approval or validation, to feel good about myself, my art, my opportunities, any of it. I have found my own personal validation through my success and my own faith in myself and my abilities. So, if I am not searching for outward validation, and sharing all of my success does not build them up, what does it do? 1) it makes me look pretentious 2) it makes me look insecure 3) it could come across as fishing for compliments 4) it could come across as plain arrogance (a trait common in this industry that I will not take part in). So, by talking less, it causes me to listen more. In turn, I do not have to explain anything, because I haven’t really said anything. I am working on taking all of that angst in what I want to say, and just letting it go. Talking less.
Do more. It sounds so simple, right? Do more. It’s actually really hard. It’s the second part of this new philosophy I’m working on. So how do you do more? Play more shows, learn more songs, write more songs, post more blogs, take more pictures, answer more fans, post more inspiring posts, workout a little more, learn more, just DO MORE. This Philosophy forces me to let go of the local drama, the endless whirlpool of arrogance and facades and wasted time, wasted years and wasted talent that seems to accumulate in a local scene. Do some people hate me for my recent success? Most definitely. But that is their problem. I have not turned down help from one person that sincerely and genuinely asked for my help. Not one. I don’t go around bragging about my success, and most importantly, I don’t claim to be “bigger” or “better” than anyone else in this circle.
What I Do
- work my ass off
- learn new, RELEVANT songs
- write songs as often as I can
- Write with a purpose and intention
- build up artists around me that I feel need AND deserve it
- take great care when dealing with each and every venue I play
- constantly strive to improve my marketing and promotional material
- give credit where credit is due
- try to make it to other musician’s events and shows (whenever possible), even if just to stop by and give a thumbs up
- take the time to talk with every single audience member/fan that wants to talk to me
- believe in myself
- talk badly about other local musicians or bands
- tell venues they need to book me instead of other bands/acts (I don’t have too, they book me anyways)
- find things to pick apart about other bands/acts
- purposely avoid other bands shows or events
- allow myself to get sucked into facebook arguments over music
- spend more than 5 minutes, per week, on local musician forums
- get drunk at gigs
I am sure that my news feed probably has many more posts from musicians than most of you, because I am friends with all of them. But I do see a problem, in that I see a lot of talking, and not a lot of doing. If you are a musician, singer, performer, artist….I’m calling you out. I want you to really think about yourself, and think about what I’m saying. Think of how you can apply this one sentence, these four words to what you do. “Talk Less, Do More”. Thanks for reading.