Sometimes the most important thing that people pay me for is a second opinion. I know that sounds weird. After all – why not ask a friend to do it? If you can’t trust your friends to be honest with you then who can you trust? Well – music is a different thing, especially since it can be so subjective. Ultimately that’s why we get producers and managers and all that fun stuff. Sure they can provide services that we would have a really hard time doing ourselves, but on of their most vital functions is to give you a second opinion from outside of the bubble of your friends, bandmates, and the input of random strangers who hear your music. Paying for a second opinion might sound weird – but getting that sort of advice is endlessly valuable and can change your whole world.
Think about it this way – you don’t want your producer to let you walk out of the studio with a crappy sounding product right? Well they can only do so much just by mixing and mastering, or even periodically telling them to do another take. At some point a good producer is going to have to get in there and tell you ‘Well you’re going to need another chorus here’ or “Maybe that should only be a half verse” If you’re a band of merit and foresight then you will have a producer who you can trust to help you with your songwriting in this way. By the same token, you should have other folks, like PR and managers who can help you to make sure that the way you are presenting yourself is appropriate, and that the deals you are signing are going to help you in the long run.
The simple fact of the matter is that no one can know everything, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t have sufficient distance from the project at hand. If you have a member of your band or the team around your band claiming as much and who is unwilling to ask for help then you should think about replacing them, or at least talking to them such that they eventually start to listen to others opinions. There is a reason that not only you should hire experts, but you should hire experts for specific functions. That’s how it works in any other business, and the music industry is just as complicated as any other industry. The reason that you often can get so far without hiring anyone is that the scale of income tends to be much smaller than in other businesses, so for a long time you can generally figure stuff out on your own. The issue comes when you want to go up a level as a band, you need more opinions around you, because odds are this is your first time working with a big band, and you can pay for the advice of people who have done this dozens of times.
To be DIY doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for help. In some ways that is the most DIY thing you can do because then you are emphasizing the importance of the community. DIY is no longer about you and your two buddies busting ass to do a bunch of stuff for no money. Nowadays it’s about establishing a team that will do grassroots campaigns to guide you forward from the ground up. DIY is about tapping into a community of experts who have dedicated their lives to this weird rock and roll thing and who want to construct a better tomorrow. To be able and willing to work with these kinds of people only proves that you are serious and are contributing to the canon of great modern art that we are all benefiting from in 2016.
Always be willing to get a second opinion, because that might be what protects you from putting out something awful that’s going to hurt you in the long run. Whenever I work on a project I obviously have my mentors who I consult, but I also try to have experts at every turn ready to work with me. Sure this costs a bit more, but guess what? It saves me time and energy and it means that in the long run I’m establishing solid ground to start on. I know this isn’t always an option and your team at first is going to have to be a lot smaller, but that’s fine, you build up to these things – I certainly wouldn’t recommend hiring people before you’re ready, but don’t be afraid to farm work out to folks and appreciate all that they have to contribute.
The issue with a lot of these second opinion things is that to give on is a soft skill and you really need to trust peoples opinions. They often can’t FORCE you to act on those opinions. Ultimately though, you are going to NEED to trust people. If you continue to believe that you know best then you are only going to hurt yourself. Second opinions are the crucial secret thing that drives the industry forward. This is a community that we are working from and that’s why you should love it. Use that community to your advantage and then you will have the whole world at your fingertips.