Since this article is mostly about integrity, let me start out by giving credit where credit is due. I took excerpts to round out my own thoughts from Brandon Seymour’s blog, but most of the content is based on the influence of my close friends and colleagues that I have traveled with over the years throughout the world, I have the great advantage of simply working with the best of the best when It comes to talent and integrity. Artists like Garth Brooks, Lionel Richie, The Osmonds, Linda Ronstadt, and Steve Taylor are just a few artists that lead the pack. Sure, I have also worked with some real “crazies”, but even these gave me good stories to tell the crew on those long bus rides.
I’ve been on every side of the fence, as a musician, live & studio engineer, production mgr, tour mgr, personal mgr, and chief bottle washer. Although, I leave it to the pros like Lori at Rogers and Cowan, I have learned a little bit about marketing over the years. One of the most valuable insights I gained wasn’t so much from marketing but Instead it was about image. Image is, and quite possibly always will be, more important than music. And the same holds true for just about anything else. Image is everything.
They call it “show business” for a reason. The music industry (and I use that term very loosely) isn’t concerned with art or expression. It’s not about identity or originality. And it’s definitely not about talent. It’s about money. I’m not saying that you won’t ever be appreciated as an artist. I’m also not saying that being an artistic genius precludes you from mainstream success. I’m saying that the music industry as a whole doesn’t care who you are unless they can profit from what you have to offer – regardless of how amazing or awful you actually are. It’s not necessarily evil, it’s just business. As with any other business, even the greatest products can’t sell themselves; the image or brand perception is what makes people want to buy.
Interestingly enough, in most cases when people argue that image is more important than the music itself, they’re usually referring to the “mainstream” industry. But how is the “indie” or “underground” industry any different? Remember, the goal of the “industry” itself, big or small, is to sell. Be it selling downloads, CD’s and t-shirts or selling out stadiums. The scale may vary, but it’s essentially the same concept.
The indie scene cunningly masquerades as a collective movement that caters to artistic integrity over image, when in reality, image is essentially the lifeblood of the underground music industry.
I get that it’s not always about fame and fortune, and that plenty of artists simply have zero interest in commercializing their music whatsoever. But I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of artists at least want to gain exposure, even if it’s not for profits. Exposure isn’t free, though. You have to earn it. I’m not saying you can’t earn it with your music alone, but if you have the whole package, your chances improve significantly.
Image doesn’t mean changing who you are or what you stand for. You don’t need to make a statement or box yourself into some subculture. Image is about consistency and an unwavering commitment to a specific tone, look and feel. It’s about creating something that people can stand behind because they feel as if it’s more than just a product; it’s a brand they can trust.
The Importance Of Credibility And Patience:
The game has changed for artists and creators. In a news cycle on steroids everybody gets five seconds, not fifteen minutes. And then you’re forgotten, for months, if not forever. How long does a movie play? If you’re not constantly stunting, the mainstream doesn’t care.
But in the end, the mainstream doesn’t count, your audience does. Look at it through the eyes of your audience. Is it going to bring your core closer to you or push it away? And don’t think casual fans can replace your core. Casual fans come and go. The core is there forever, if you treat it right.
Trying to go “viral” is great, but it’s meaningless if you don’t use your viral content to build a core base of fans. Don’t measure the success of your creations by how many views you get, or how many retweets you get – measure it by how many true fans you get from it. What’s important is not how many people see something you do, but rather how many of them stick around to see the next thing.
Gain fans. You do this by allowing them to partake of your art for free. And giving them tools to spread the word. Know where to charge in the food chain. At first you pay your fans, then they pay you, it’s not the other way around anymore.
You don’t build your career by putting up barriers to people engaging with your content. The more you give away, the more people will connect with you. There’s plenty of time to monetize them later by offering them things they will then value more.
It’s not about being a “celebrity.” It’s about bringing your fans into the process. The more they feel a part of your success, the more they’ll want to help you succeed.
Don’t try to blow it up too soon! If you’re not willing to wait, you’re not willing to have a career.
I understand the frustrations of a career – it’s not easy. But I also think that too many artist are looking for that instant success and waiting for somebody to hand it to them, as opposed to going out and concentrating on slowly growing their fanbase. Do you have more fans than you had a month ago? If so, you’re succeeding. Be proud of that and be patient. If not, did you do anything to attract new fans this month?
Know that now, more than ever, rewards come to those who wait. YouTube is filled with rockets into space that have fallen back to earth in locations we do not know and do not care about. When few could play, in the MTV era, this instant stardom paid dividends. Now, it doesn’t.
The game has changed. You no longer need somebody to give you permission to have a career. But along with that incredible freedom and opportunity comes a responsibility – it’s up to you to create your own career now. And that will take time. Be patient, persistent and above all things, focus on integrity, it starts with those you run into on a day to day basis, that’s where your fan base begins.
Needless to say, patience does not come easily to most of us and it’s probably harder now to be patient than historically it has ever been.
Anything worthwhile and of importance cannot take place right away. It takes time, dedication and effort to achieve; so even in this day and age, patience is a virtue. It all starts with today and today is what matters, tomorrow is promised to no one. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring”. Prov. 27:1