Since I first had the desire, no…. felt the need, to start putting my thoughts and ideas out into ‘blogland’ I’ve been catching up on my reading of other blogs to see what else people are saying.
As my main gripes at the moment are my dealings with musicians when working on Somojo and Somojo Magazine, I’ll cover some of the topics that I think are important from a non-musician side of things. There are loads of websites and blogs out there with that already.
It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself to be ‘independent’, ‘unsigned’ or a ‘DIY’ musician. The first thing you need to know for yourself, is what you want and expect from your musical career. This may sound silly, but it matters.
Do you want to make a full time living from your music for the rest of your working life?
Do you want it to be the source of a part-time income for a few years?
Do you just want to treat it as a hobby?
Knowing this is important, because it should shape how you treat your music, your image and how you deal with things on a business level. Obviously, if it’s just a hobby then nothing really matters, you’re just doing it for fun.
If however you want to take your musical career a little more seriously, then you need to give that impression to the people you deal with while trying to promote your music and build your fan base.
You may have read lots of blogs with the arguments for and against major record companies and that the internet has created a level playing field for independent musicians.
Well, the truth is, it hasn’t.
I know you may instantly disagree with this, if you have, good, it’s nice to get some reaction and controversy going.
The reality is that the major record companies have money and access to the top people for promotional and marketing ideas, they have contacts with the best video directors and record producers and a team of lawyers working away protecting the copyright and licensing of their products. I don’t know many independent musicians with the same team of professionals behind them and therefore it can never be a level playing field.
So, you’ve decided you want something from your music rather than it just being a hobby.
Firstly, start to think of it as a ‘money’ making venture, a business. Be as professional as you can. You may be an independent musician, but there are 1,000s out there trying to do exactly the same and you ‘have’ to be the best you can be. You probably spend hours on writing and recording your music, getting it exactly the way you want it. Don’t waste that effort by not treating the promotional and marketing efforts less seriously.
After all, it doesn’t matter how good your music may be, if you don’t treat your marketing and promotions correctly, you might miss out on that big break.
The first thing you should do is get a domain name. It doesn’t cost much and it enables you to have complete control of your website and more importantly a ‘permanent’ email address.
As things progress, make sure that you are either in control or at least know what is going on with the people you’re working with. Make sure they are as professional as you need them to be. It’s nice to say that you have a manager, PR person or record label, but they could be doing more harm than good.
While wearing my ‘Somojo’ hats, these are some of the ‘un-professional’ situations I’ve experienced when dealing with independent and unsigned artists. Somojo is only small, but if these people are dealing with bigger organisation and companies in the same way, they really should know better.
· A band writes asking me to listen to their music and if it would be suitable for playing on Somojo. If I am interested, then write to their management for the audio files. I write to the management and no reply. Do they not talk to each other?
· A band writes asking me to contact their PR company to ask about doing an interview for Somojo Magazine! If you have a PR company/person, it is their job to contact the media, not the other way around!
· Bands who are signed to independent record labels, but I never hear anything or have contact with the record label. I always deal directly with the artists. It isn’t the artist’s own label and I wonder what does the record label offer the bands that they can’t do for themselves?
· Artists that upload tracks to Somojo that aren’t accepted due to bad recording and production values. They think that because they have used some free audio software that says it gives ‘professional’ results and they have profiles on MySpace, Facebook and Reverbnation that they are ‘professional’.
· Artists sending emails without any text that have MP3s with no title or ID3 tags, with an obscure email address so I can’t find out who they are. If I can be bothered to reply because I like the music, the email is returned with a ‘mail box full’ message.
· Sending an email with links to an EPK or a web page that doesn’t exist or to mp3 downloads that don’t work.
· Artists requesting interviews for Somojo Magazine, but never return them when completed. Don’t waste other people’s time. If you’re not serious about your musical career, then make way for the people who are.
There are of course many other factors that will determine how successful you are with your life as a musician. The internet may have created a unique environment where more people have an opportunity to do things that they couldn’t have dreamt of before, but it is by no means a level playing field. The quality of your music and song writing skills just isn’t enough. It can take up a lot of time just promoting and marketing your music and the temptation to take short cuts or get others to do things for you will always be there. But, if you begin with a ‘professional’ approach, then when you start talking to managers, PR companies and record labels, you’ll know what to expect of them and be able to make the right choices about who to work with.
Maybe even deciding to stay totally independent and doing it all yourself.