Everyone involved in the music industry is to some extent a music nerd. This is perhaps the single most important thing that you can realize about the music industry. It doesn’t matter what genre you are in, music isn’t a super profitable thing. But what it does offer is a place for serious nerds to get a chance to get opportunities to be nerds together. The thing is, you need to execute on that. In a world where every band is constantly being judged for their so called ‘legitimacy’ from bands, industry people and fans you need to prove that you are the real deal time and time again. The music industry is a place that rewards those who show their passion for this whole thing and who routinely show that not only are they dedicated to what’s going on here but they are dedicated to the past. I have made a ton of money in music just by virtue of knowing the history of music really well. It’s shown people I’m for real. How? Well let’s dig in.
When I started in the music industry I was super young, like 14-15. This is what I’ve always been into and involved in. So, here’s the thing – people knew I was super young and I needed a way for them to take me seriously. What I did was take my chosen genre of heavy metal and learn every effing thing I possibly could learn about it and it led to massive growth potential. That’s sort of the thing that launched me over the top. People were astounded at this little kid who knew about bands like Budgie and Coven. I was a legit nerd and people appreciate someone who is willing to showcase their nerdiness and share it with the world. Later on, this nerdiness spread into things like hardcore, blues and jazz. Knowing those genres inside out led to still more opportunities. It wasn’t always easy to learn all this stuff, but because I was coming at it with a genuine passion it didn’t feel like work. In fact, I still spend a ton of time being a music geek to this day.
Why did this work? Well again – pretty much everyone in the music industry is a nerd. Not everyone in a band mind you, just people in the industry itself. That is to say that if you can sit down with a big producer, or A&R guy or manager or whatever and get deep on some weird sub movement in the seventies then they are probably going to want to talk to you further. Music ins the sort of thing these guys are really hyped on talking about. They don’t really want to hang out and talk about business stuff all the time. You need to open doors for yourself and create ways to have meaningful conversations. Sometimes the easiest meaningful conversation to establish and to connect with people with is based around the thing you both share a love for. I know that this seems obvious but it frequently astounds me the amount of people who don’t take advantage of this side of personal connections in the music industry.
So how do you implement this for your own career? Well it’s simple – you go out and nerd out about whatever bit of the music world you think is cool It doesn’t matter what because people are always going to turn up who like the same thing. The rule I’ve discovered is that it generally takes ten years for something to go form ‘uncool’ and ‘not real music’ to being cool. Look at late 2000’s metalcore. There are a ton of dudes pushing 30 who are suddenly comfortable repping that because guess what, that was what they were listening too in high school. That’s totally fine, it was their passion. You need to be willing to go all in on what you are passionate about and see what comes out of that. This is the sort of struggle that I feel a lot of artists aren’t digging into. Managers want to work with people who clearly ‘get it’ and have a respect for the music. The people who know their history are generally easy to work with because they understand the context of this whole thing.
Finally, when you only have surface level influences you are only going to make surface level music. Maybe I’m just being an elitist but I feel like most of the artists you hear on the radio seem to dig up some pretty gnarly and obscure influences on a pretty routine basis. They often aren’t shy about it. Look at Kanye’s thing for death metal or Bruce Springsteen talking about the influence of legendary electronic act Suicide. This is just a part of endearing yourself to your community – if you understand its roots then you are able to create art that has a much deeper understanding of where the whole thing is coming from. If you have a deeper knowledge of the music you are trying to create wouldn’t it thus be obvious that you would have an easier time making music in that genre? Yet for some reason a lot of people stay very surface level, shooting themselves in the foot.
Long story short – be a music nerd. Take advantage of the whole universe of music nerds around us. This is what we all live for so you need to take part in that. Learn every little thing there is to know about your genre. People will be more stoked to work with someone who shares their weird passions for the history of music. I know it sounds crazy but this is the easiest way to network and connect with the people around you. It’s something we are all passionate about so make a point of digging in and slowing that you are a truly devoted fan who wants to take these things to a next level with your art. Don’t be surface level. Dig deep and grow with your peers.