Tech Tip:The 3 P's to Success in the Music Business
As a singer/songwriter and full-time music publicist, I have seen a lot of things in the industry. I wasn't doing publicity full-time until recently, and while I'm thankful there is such a demand for it in the independent music world, sometimes I shake my head at a key reason why. There are just a lot of bands and artists out there who think they know so much about how to succeed, and then trip over their own negligence.
The problem, and you could probably apply this to any business or creative endeavor, is that most musicians lack one or all of what I call The Three P's—Professionalism, Persistence, and Phat skills. If you are an industry leader you know exactly what I mean. If you are an aspiring artist, then hopefully you'll take my advice here. Let's take a look at each of the 3 P's and how they apply to the independent artist.
Professionalism—Many times I have researched media contacts such as music editors, established communication with them, sent press kits, followed up like crazy, and actually got them to agree to run a feature story on one of my artists, only to have the whole thing blow up in my face. Why? Because my artist failed to show up for the interview. Or forgot to answer the phone when they were supposed to. Or forgot some other critical form of doing the right thing. Professionalism is important in every aspect of business, but even more so if you are a musician, due to the stigma of unreliability attached to being one.
The solution here, if you are a musician, is to treat everyone you encounter with respect. That means not only speaking politely, but being gracious and thanking anyone who helps you—profusely. It means organizing your day and if necessary, tying a string around your little finger to remind you to show up for an appointment on time. Act like being interviewed for a newspaper article or on a radio station is the best thing that's ever happened to you. It might not be, but the more interviews you do, the more likely it is that you are on your way to the next level. Anyone who covers you or gives you airtime is doing it because they chose to, not the other way around.
It's also important to understand that people in the music industry are very busy, especially if they work for a record label. Respect this, and if you come into contact with someone who can further your career, do not monopolize their time. This goes for meeting them on the street, talking on the phone, and even e-mails. Imagine how you would feel if you were a record executive and opened your inbox to find 236 e-mails, and the first one you open is the life story of John Doe from the Everyday Band out of Peoria, Illinois. Are you going to read it, or skip on to the next message?
Persistence—Think of yourself as a Weeble. Remember, "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down?" If you haven't grown a thick skin to deal with all the inevitable rejection you're going to face in the music business, you will keep getting knocked down and stay down. There are a select few that know how to take that proverbial punch and persevere. Be one of those people, but do so knowing that the punches will fly with regularity. And by all means, don't let the same person keep taking a swing at you—if someone says "no," politely thank them for their time and move on to the next person.
Wait, it gets trickier. While you have to absorb the pain of constant rejection, remember too that you have to be courteous at the same time (see first "P," Professionalism). That goes against human nature, but keeping a positive attitude in your persistence will not only keep you sane, it will also keep the music industry believing you're a nice person. At some point all the "nice guy" chips you build up in front of you may be cashed in for some sweet perks or a healthy career.
Phat Skills—Here is where you need to take an honest inventory of your ego. So your friends and family think you're the greatest thing since sliced bread. Maybe even the local newspaper or college radio station thinks so. Hell, maybe even one or two industry veterans agree. Well, that doesn't necessarily mean that you are. As competitive as the music business is right now, you have to measure yourself against the best if you want to make any noise at all. I speak from experience. I thought I was recording some groundbreaking material five years ago, and when I listen to it now I want to hide in a cave.
There is no better way to really gauge things than to solicit feedback from organizations such as Taxi (www.taxi.com), performing rights society like ASCAP or BMI, or from songwriter's groups such as NSAI (www.nsai.org). Better yet, go to a music industry conference and mingle. Learn what the industry people are looking for and network with artists that have an industry buzz going. It's important to take what industry leaders say seriously. You don't necessarily have to agree with them, but remember that they do call the shots on most of the levels you're aspiring to. So make your music and your overall package as an artist an attractive commodity for them, remembering that the music comes before anything and has to stand out from your peers. Learn about what it takes, practice like you mean it and always try to improve on what you've already done.
Basically, the 3 P's boil down to common courtesy and being a nice person while pursuing your musical dreams. It might not always work that way, but it's always best to stack the odds in your favor. So be professional, persevere, and hone those phat skills. Believe me, the industry is paying attention and expects nothing less.
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