So I write a lot on this blog about how you need to be grateful for every opportunity your band gets and that you need to take advantage of all of them if you want any sort of reliable success. I still stand by this sentiment and think that people need to admire all those who are trying to put together solid opportunities for artists in the music industry. It’s those people who are the lifeblood to this whole ting. However you also need to appreciate that the bitter nihilism of the industry means that you need to know what opportunities are below you. You need to have a sense of self worth if you want to be able to figure out what things you should really be taking part in. This isn’t necessarily something for lower level bands since I believe they really should be going for anything that isn’t an outright scam. Still – part of getting to the top is realizing what you are worth and trying to limit the amount you have to work, and increase how much you get paid as a direct result of that.
A huge part of this is exclusivity. You don’t want to sell yourself short by saying yes to every show you get offered – at least in the rock/metal world. Obviously in terms of jazz and stuff playing live has a different function – but this is also just scratching the surface. You want to maintain your exclusivity not just in terms of how many releases you put out but also the sorts of venues you’re playing. If you try to cultivate an appearance as an elite act and only play tiny basements you’re not really doing yourself any favors. Of course – tiny basements work for some types of bands, and I’d actually recommend certain bands don’t play too large venues because that too could hurt their perceived value. Remember, this is an industry of people faking each other out and struggling to find that little bit of money You need to increase how much others value you.
Part of how much you are valued at comes from how much a individual opportunity is worth to you personally. I know it can be hard to plan over a long term sometimes – especially in an industry as chaotic as this one. Still – with every offer you get you need to figure out how it fits into the general plan and brand of your band. You need to ask yourself if this low paying opportunity you are getting now could have intangible bonuses in the long run. With every side of the industry there are fascinating things you can get involved in, it’s just a question of budgeting your time to make sure that you’re not hurting yourself. This is something you need to take into consideration even if your band isn’t making a ton of money. You still need to be very careful what kind of venues you book your band at and what kind of opportunities you set yourself up for, because if you hop on too many of the wrong ones then you could hurt yourself even more in the long run.
As regular readers know a large part of this blog is autobiographical – or at least inspired by whatever I happen to be going through. Right now the opportunity I’m facing is a low paid internship that could potentially turn into a cool gig versus growing my management company. I know that sounds like an obvious choice but when you consider the stress that both lifestyles imply as well as the amount of passion they both require the question becomes a little more complicated. In terms of sheer economics the choice is obvious – but if we were in this for sheer economics then you wouldn’t be reading this article and I wouldn’t be writing it. Sometimes you need to look at things as long term investments and other times you need to go straight from the heart. It’s balancing these things that can help keep you keep your path straight in the long run.
Furthermore – I think it’s important to remember when weighing out these opportunities that what you are doing now isn’t necessarily what you want to be doing forever. You want to keep options open and maintain a regular facade of excellence across as many fronts as possible. In an industry where so little money is coming in, being able to balance it all out and give your band the most opportunities is crucial. That’s why you see so many bands branching out these days into everything from fashion to emoji’s. That’s not because they are making money off of these things right now but because it’s a long term investment. They have realized that even though they might not be making quite as much money off this new project right now in the long run they should be able to pick something apart that will help them to find a path forward that could revolutionize their entire path forward. By keeping themselves open they are maximizing potential earnings.
You’ve got to be in this for the long con – you can’t expect things to pay off right away. If you do you are only screwing yourself over. Rather embrace the madness and try to ride the wave as long as you can. If you fail to ride the wave and lose yourself in the chaos then you are going to end up frustrated and alone – a victim to poor choices. This is why you need to realize what you are worth – otherwise you could end up accidentally spending thousands of hours on stuff that fundamentally means nothing and hurts your career more than it helps. Take a step back and be wise – there is salvation.