Dale Carnegie is, if you couldn’t already tell, one of my favorite authors. In his book How To Stop Worrying And Start Living he details a simple method to get ride of at least half of your concerns. It’s a method that’s been used countless times over the years by tons of musicians and industry folk, myself included. While it may not be a panacea for all your worries, since at the end of the day, bad music is still bad music and ineffective marketing is still ineffective marketing, this method that Carnegie writes about is certainly one that I think we can all take advantage of. It boils down to four simple questions. These are: What is the problem? What is the cause of the problem? What are the possible solutions? What is the best solution? If you use these methods in the music industry then you are going to find yourself moving forward with blissful rational. So let’s pick each one apart and figure out how it can apply to the music world.
So for the first question – looking at what the problem is. In music I think that his is a big issue for a lot of people. They don’t realize that when it comes down to it the problem is theirs. It’s not the potential fans problem that they don’t like the music. It’s the musicians problem that they are not making music the fan likes. It’s not the peoples problem that they haven’t heard about your band, it’s your problem that you have to educate them. A lot of musicians try to divert issues away from themselves so that they can calim to be pure artists. But when it comes down to it you need to look at the very core problems facing you so that you can start fixing things. This ties into being realistic too. For example, it’s better to wonder, “Why aren’t we getting guarantees?” than, “Why aren’t we getting $1000 guarantees?” So when you come to face your problem be sure that it is a problem you are actually facing rather than one you wish you were facing.
Then we fall onto the cause of the problem. Frequently the root causes of the problem are money, awful music or oversaturated markets. If you have good music and no money you’re not going to go anywhere because you can’t invest in PR, playing out, or buying dinner for industry dudes who might be able to help you out down the line. If you have all the money in the world but bad music then you’re not going to go anywhere because no one will want to check you out. If you have an oversaturated market though then the odds are that no matter what you do you are going to find limitations. Of course there are other big causes for problems in the music industry, like politics, clashing personalities and the general shitty nihilism of the whole thing. These aren’t things that people often want to accept because they feel like they have no control over them, but I feel like if you truly fight for it then you can find control.
So then we turn to possible solutions. Well, if in many cases the cause of a problem is money then the answer to the problem is also going to be money. I think in music more than in any other field the causes have some pretty obvious solutions but when it comes down to it the solutions are not ones you want to hear because the causes are the sorts of things that most musicians think that they are above or do their damndest to ignore. Perhaps there are no possible solutions to anything ever because musicians are too entitled to want to accept them for what they are. That’s mostly just bitter Matt talking, but when it comes down to it this can frequently be the hardest part of the process. Accepting that some of the potential solutions are not going to feel god on the way down or on the way back up. The music industry is a cruel and uncaring place and the sooner you can start to accept this harsh reality the sooner these solutions will seem more palatable.
Finding the best solution seems like it would be fairly self evident. But this is another one of those times where the uniqueness of the music industry will bite you in the ass time and time again. At the end of the day – there’s a ton of scam artists out there. So even though you might be doing what you think is the right thing you need to make sure that you’re not doing this by buying into a shitty manager, a rip off PR firm or some other sort of bullshit snake oil scheme. As much as articles can tell you to get a label and invest in consultants and all that fun stuff they can’t help you to determine which ones are bullshit and which are actually on the up and up. This is the burning issue that a lot of us are going to have to deal with as we advance in the industry in 2017. No matter how good a decision we might make if the team trying to make that solution work is bad or full of scammers then you’re going to wind up worse then when you started!
When all is said and done nothing about this was ever supposed to be fun but if you can ask yourself these four questions and be frank with yourself then you are going to find a degree of success beyond what you might otherwise be able to reasonably hope for. Beyond that – these are the keys to solving worry. While there certainly a lot of assholes out there who are going to fuck with you, using this method to start to spot them and figure out what is going to actually be an effective use of your time is going to push this whole thing forward and give you a path that isn’t just full of pain and suffering but rather one that allows you to embrace a bold future and fall in love with the power of rock and roll all over again.