by MATT BACON >
So something you see regularly that I find frequently kind of wonderfully shocking is how after a certain point your band doesn’t need to give a shit about the ‘rules’ as long as you are popular enough. Now this is multifaceted and weird, because on the one hand you want to have your band give off the most professional appearance possible, but on the other you want to be able to stay realistic in terms of what you can get done. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense but it’s the sort of ting that can both make you a fuckton of money but also get you to lose a ton of money. So you need to look at your position in the industry realistically, figure out if you’re acting like an entitled little kind and then go from there. A lot of the biggest bands in the world, especially the ones that maintain their integrity and vision, have a strong understanding of this and use it to push themselves forward with every passing day.
I think a great way to analyze this is by looking at bands as companies.
The strategies that apply to a multi national conglomerate, the sort of company whose equivalent in the music world is someone like Taylor Swift, do not apply to a young start up making no money, a startup like your band. I’m not saying you shouldn’t aim high but I am saying you need to be realistic about what your goals are and how you want to present yourself. You need to realize that certain things like print ads simply aren’t going to get you anywhere if no one cares about your band. By the same token, you shouldn’t be over promoting if you don’t really have anything going on. For example – most people aren’t going to want to write about your record if it’s been out for a while. I know that major artists get pieces written about them after a record comes out but that’s because they are supposed to be some of the great visionaries of their generations. You aren’t. At least not yet.
This also applies to how you market your records.
I know that you want any album release to feel like an event, but beyond single and the like most people probably don’t care about what you have to put out. Putting out a teaser isn’t going to inspire any interest No one wants to hear a mishmash of songs from a band they have never heard before – I don’t see how this is difficult to understand – but countless bands do it because the Metallica’s of the world do. By the same token, when you see a major group decide to refuse to use Spotify that is a calculated choice based off of the fact that the major artists knows for a fact that they have a built in audience. You don’t. No one gives two shits about your band and if you’re not on Spotify or Bandcamp 95% of peoples searches are going to straight up end right there. People are looking for a reason not to listen, and if you don’t make that as easy as possible… well…
You’re going to look entitled.
Something that I think is hard to wrap your head around, simply because of how the human brain is set up, is that, for a big music fan there are easily 10,000 solid records coming out every year that they will probably end up being interested in. Think about that. That’s probably more records than they could listen too even if they listened to music non stop for the entire year. Now think – in a world with this much music – does it make sense to put up any sort of walls between your fans and your music? Because all 9,999 of your competitors certainly aren’t doing anything to make their fans lives harder. Well a few of them are, but they are either big enough that they know people will care anyway or sufficiently stupid to think that they can get massive coverage. Once you start to base your promotional efforts off of the fact that no one gives a single flying fuck then suddenly figuring out how you want to develop your name becomes a lot easier!
Once you understand that people only really want something they can easily sink their teeth into then you stop playing shitty basement shows unless that’s your target demographic. You also start to realize that the way to truly promote your music at a low level is to create personal relationships with fans. This isn’t just by only playing shows and then wondering why no one wants to come out even though you talk to everyone who comes up to the merch stand. The people who have genuine success at a low level are the ones who are nice guys, who go to a lot of shows themselves and are able to put together something sufficiently impressive that their friends will then convince their friends to come out. You need to associate yourself with quality but also being someone who gives back to the music and isn’t merely trying to mooch with the desire of one day turning into their frankly disturbing concept of a ‘rock star’.
When it comes down to it, I get really tired a lot of the time just because so many bands seem lost up their own asses. They don’t seem to understand the simple realities of where they are in the scene and the fact that if they continue to alienate the people they should be befriending then they will never go anywhere. People who think that the rules they see applying to their favorite big bands will also apply to them are fundamentally always going to lose. There is a huge difference between being a professional and marketing yourself appropriately and you need to realize where the line is and make sure that it pays off in the long run. Remember if you go spending money and chasing dollars thinking you will be a pop star people will laugh at you, but if you are willing to sit down and pay your dues then you will start to find genuine success.