5 Mistakes Musicians Make
Get a Grip
Like it or not, record labels, publishers, and agents all treat music as a business. Being in business means bearing risk and people who bear risk expect predictable returns that justify their efforts.
In a nutshell, anything that decreases risk or increases return scores a plus. Higher risk and lower return both lose points. Of course, some mistakes cost more than others.
Having limited reserves and too little cash flow tops the list of reason for business failure. Like the would-be borrower who gets turned down for a loan due to insufficient savings the Catch-22 for musicians is obvious. If borrowers had the cash they wouldn’t need loans. Between the years of training, expensive equipment, transportation, and the like, making music requires heavy capital outlays up front. As if the constant pressure to create solid, commercial hooks weren’t enough, the continual cost of producing adds extra barriers. Unfortunately, nothing says ‘unprofessional’ like under-produced, garbled tracks. Given a choice between a well-engineered, finished product and diamonds in the rough, most publishers choose the former. That means generating enough income to pursue the dream.
#2 Inadequate Business Development/Poor Time Management
While this one might seem like a no-brainer to some, successful soloists and bands all allocate time expressly for business development. That means a lot more than just adding casual ‘friends’ on a Facebook page or another social networking site like Broadjam. Polite listens by uncommitted acquaintances rarely sell albums. In this case, ‘low risk’ means driving traffic to a proprietary website with fan pages, promotional photography, a calendar of appearances, strong bios, a meaningful description of the band and its genre/influences, and so forth. In other words, image matters. Build one. Include the social networks. Just don’t stop there. Serious image building means handling the social networks in addition to building a proprietary web presence, not instead of.
#3 Poor Market Sense
Publishers get paid for placing music that fits a particular purpose. Usually that means ‘very particular.’ Listeners have definite likes and dislikes. Most of the time the market limits crossovers. New outlets for placement crop up still less often and the fundamentals of the business model hardly change at all. With rare exceptions success depends on understanding the constraints of the industry and the limits of the audience’s ear.
#4 Shallow Professional Relationships
“So-and-so came to my show/has my demo” rarely cuts the mustard. Aim for deep, high quality relationships instead. These sound more like, “When Mary Johnson needs a romantic theme for her soap, she calls me, and I deliver. Promptly.” As in every industry, professionalism goes a long way, but notice how these tie together. If Mary needed thirty seconds of romantic filler yesterday, she doesn’t care if a musician can deliver a suspense theme sometime next week.
#5 Inconsiderate of Publisher/Agent
Antithetical to building deep professional relationships, any failure to consider their needs hurts. Sometimes the door slams right away. Keep in mind that the professionals on the business side of the house work at least as hard as the musicians
Professionalism is Key
Navigating the industry’s gatekeepers takes sensitivity to more than one reality. Granted, good music addresses important aspects of life. Getting it right on the business side just adds one more. Commercially successful musicians recognize that their music faces several joint obstacles. In most cases talent and art must wear a professional suit, too.
Mike Dangeroux is the lead guitar and vocalist for the Mike Dangeroux Band, specializing in everything from classics to contemporary music for any event.