So I’ve been reading this book, some would say it is one of the most important books of the last hundred years, it’s called Think and Grow Rich, it was written by Napoleon Hill and commissioned by Andrew Carnegie. Few books have had a bigger influence on business leaders over the last century, it’s often listed up there with texts like How To Win Friends And Influence People in terms of books that shape fortunes. I finished reading it pretty recently and really dug it. I thought there were a lot of lessons that I picked up from it that I figured I could apply to my music career. One of the most important topics that Mr. Hill addresses in his seminal text is the QQS formula for businesses providing services. Since your band is a business providing a service it would thus make sense for you to try and follow it and see what can be done.
So QQS stands for Quality, Quantity and Spirit. If these three concepts aren’t among the defining ideas behind any band financial strategy I don’t know what is. We are going to dig into them individually, but from a broader perspective I think that these words are key to think about as you approach any potential opportunities. It’s the same as with a small business, you need to look at the core concepts that drive your business and use them as a way forward to ensure long term growth. As you will see, if you let any of these points fall by the wayside then you are going to find yourself underdelivering for low amounts of money. However if you hustle and try to use them to broaden your horizons and opportunities then people will take note and they will be excited to be affiliated with what you are trying to build.
Let’s get moving then – quality. This is a tricky one, you want to ensure that you have a quality product, being your live show and your recorded music, but frequently to get to a point where the live show is quality you need to play a bunch of shows. Then to get quality recorded music you probably need to put out a bunch of shitty demos as you gradually get yourself together. That’s okay though. If you are offering to play for free or cheap, and you put your music out for free on bandcamp then you are going to be able to earn valuable experience. This doesn’t mean go out unprepared and looking like shit, that will only hurt you in the long run. What I am saying though is don’t worry about being totally perfect. That will come with time. Aspire to offer a base level of quality and then effectively work on growing from there. Once you start asking for guarantees your goal should be to overdeliver and have the folks who pay you out be scraping their jaws from the floor.
Then you get to quantity. This is how much you can deliver. This can be a tricky one a lot of the time because you want to play out as much as possible but simultaneously you don’t want to oversaturate your market and also you want to be able to maintain having real jobs etc. It also can pertain to your records. Some bands like Man Overboard just managed to put out a TON of high quality stuff, but they’re geniuses with resources. Odds are you don’t have what they have, and that’s okay. But that again needs to impact your strategy as you start to figure out how you are going to move forward with this. Having a strong quantity strategy means that no one is going to undervalue what you are trying to do but instead people will maintain interest because you are hitting enough core targets and hitting frequently enough that you are remembered while simultaneously still wanting to hear more from you. It’s a tricky balance. As a general rule though it’s better to oversaturate.
Spirit is – in the context relevant to us at least simply a reflection of your DIY ethics and your attitude. If you are snippy and shitty then you have poor spirit, if you are working to bring everyone up alongside you then your spirit is great. This is perhaps the key in music where margins are so low. The bands who have a good attitude and want to have fun and are easy to work with are going to be much more likely to find success than bands who fuck around and complain about everything. This isn’t always an easy balance to strike and in many cases it’s simply going to leave you even more stressed and aggravated. You need to put out a brave face when marketing your work though because there are tons of other bands doing the same thing. No matter how angry or upset you might be on this particular day your spirit is going to keep you excited, moving forward and pushing over the top. I know that seems difficult at times to embrace when everything is horrifying, but that’s simply how you move forward day by day, by having a strong spirit.
I know that it’s not really cool to look at how you market your band with the attitudes preached by a textbook from the first half of the twentieth century, but it’s also one of the more effective textbooks that I have ever read. The QQS formula really gave me a new understanding of how to deal with the day to day struggles of being in a band. It taught me how to look at every prospective opportunity and what you could do to embrace that and be better at that. This isn’t always self evident, frequently it’s a tricky game to play even. That’s part of why I love it I think, balancing out conventional business ideas with the struggle of maintaining it in the world we all cherish.