1) Getting A Record Deal Means You Will Be Successful
Did you know that 98% of all acts that sign to major labels fail? Meaning 98 out of 100 artists who actually get the deal don’t recoup enough money to pay for their advance and get dropped before their second (or even first) album is released. Getting a record deal is much riskier than going at your career on your own. Success doesn’t need to mean getting on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, selling out arenas and getting hounded by the paparazzi. It can mean making a comfortable living as a musician. And you don’t need a record deal for that.
2) Windowing Is An Effective Strategy
Windowing means holding off putting your album on streaming services for a window of time to maximize sales. It may have an been effective strategy in 2012. Or not. Taylor Swift windowed. Ed Sheeran did not. Adele did. Mumford and Sons did not. They’ve all done just fine. And broke sales/streams records. But it’s almost 2016. You can’t put your album on iTunes and not Apple Music. Not, you shouldn’t. You literally can’t. Apple won’t allow it. YouTube Red is launching and will kill windowing dead in the water.
If people can’t listen to your album they will move on. All the release day hype and marketing money will be for naught if when people go to check out the album, they can’t. They will forget about you. They aren’t going to spend $10 just to see if they like it. Unless you’re Taylor Swift or Adele, it’s not going to work. If you want a successful touring career, break down the access barriers. And remember, fans aren’t going to pay for music anymore. And that’s Ok!
3) Streaming Is Bad For Music
A CD or download sale is treated equally no matter how great the album is. It’s a one time payment never to be earned on again. Contrast that with streaming. If a song is great it will get played over and over again for years and years. Earning MORE than just a single sale ever could. Streaming pays less initially, but much much more in the long run – if the music is good of course.
4) Getting Your Song On A TV Show Will Shoot You To Stardom
Yeah, it’s cool to get your song on TV. But do you know how many shows there are? And how much music is placed? This isn’t 2007 Grey’s Anatomy. Very few TV shows actually break artists anymore. Commercials on the other hand can help (as made clear by American Authors and Imagine Dragons). And they also pay loads more than TV placements. Like $100,000 more. Yes, licensing can help pay your bills. And give you a bit of exposure. Definitely. But don’t bet the house on TV placements. It’s just one part of the equation.
5) Playing Well Known Venues Will Enable You To Play Other Well Known Venues
Putting on your website that you played The Whiskey means nothing. Everyone knows that if you have $400 you can pay to play any venue on the Sunset Strip. It’s much more impressive if you brought 100 people to a basement house concert than just playing a well known venue. No one cares what venues you’ve played. Except your uncle Joe. And he still thinks you should go on The Voice.
6) You Will Have A Music Career If You Go On A Singing TV Contest Show
Name 10 American Idol finalists. Not even winners. Finalists. There have been 14 seasons. That’s 140 top 10 finalists. And you can’t name 10. Well neither can anyone else. And how many The Voice contestants can you name? These are TV shows. Not career builders. Yes, if you’re smart, you may be able to use it as a launching pad. But most likely you will be locked into horrendous label deals with zero negotiating power and even if you do succeed will probably try to sue them like Phillip Phillips did.
7) Major Record Labels Develop Artists
Hilarious. Labels only want to sign artists who are already successful. Already proven. And even if you pay some lawyer loads of money to ‘shop’ you at labels and convince some hot A&R dude to sign you, you’ll be lucky if you get an EP out. Most labels put out a single or two and if that doesn’t do well (and don’t think they’re going to put Rihanna money behind it), you’re dropped. And even if your album comes out, if it flops, you’re done. This ain’t 1973 where Columbia Records will allow two complete flops because they believe you have Born To Run in you. Labels demand instant success. If you don’t bring it, bye bye.
8) Major Record Labels Are Leading The Music Industry
Sure, they have loads of money still. But leaders, they are not. Their album creation and marketing strategies are paint by numbers. Songwriting camps. Release plans that haven’t changed in 5 years. Today’s album marketing plan should not be the same as last year’s. But at most labels, it’s identical. Labels are the last to come around on everything from downloads to streaming. Labels fight tech in court instead of innovating creative ways to work with the technological developments.
9) If You Book A Show, People Will Show Up.
If you don’t promote your show, heavily, no one will come. Plain and simple. One Facebook event ain’t gonna cut it.
10) Record Sales Matter
Sales are done. Streaming is now more profitable than physical or download sales at Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. And they were done for indie music lovers awhile ago. Indie artists should be working the subscription angle via BandCamp or Patreon along with pre-order, crowdfunding campaigns via PledgeMusic, Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. Sell experiences, merch and other offers on streaming services with BandPage. And of course, diversify the revenue stream. There are so many more ways to make money with music these days above just album sales. Get creative. Take your head out of the f’in sand!
11) If People Stop Paying For Music, Musicians Will Stop Creating It
That was the argument 15 years ago when Napster hit. There is more music now than ever. Musicians create music because we have to. It’s in our soul. You want to pay me $20 for a concert ticket, $20 for a T-shirt, $35 a year for a BandCamp subscription, $250 for a PledgeMusic pre-order package, and $50 for a BandPage offer, but don’t want to pay $10 for a plastic disc or digital files of data? Fine by me!
12) You’re Either A Struggling Artist Or A Superstar
Middle class musicians are the fastest growing group of musicians out there. Just because Uncle Joe hasn’t heard of your band means nothing. Have you heard of his plumbing company? Does that mean he’s not successful? For some reason music is the only profession where people define success by fame. There are thousands of musicians making a living doing what they love who aren’t famous, but are incredibly successful.
Success is defined by happiness. Not income. Period.
13) Social Media Is More Important Than Email
Social networks come and go. Email has been the only constant. If you aren’t building your email list, you’re doing it wrong. Kevin Hart attributed selling out Madison Square Garden to his email list. Not Facebook or Twitter. Yes, it’s important to have a presence and engage with your fans on a daily basis on the social networks you feel most comfortable on and where your fans lives, but don’t prioritize it over your email list.
14) If Fans Want To Buy Merch, They’ll Find A Way
Bands b*tch all the time that their fans don’t buy merch. Bull. Maybe yours fans don’t buy merch because you aren’t selling it to them in the right way. Or maybe you have crappy merch. You can’t throw a couple CDs in the corner of the venue and expect people to buy them. If you don’t have a bright display, someone selling your merch (from when doors open to when they close), quality items, and a credit card swiper, you’re missing out on your number 1 tour income generator.
15) ‘The Music’ Is The Only Thing That Matters
Yes, the music, first and foremost, needs to be great. In the streaming age, you can’t throw loads of marketing cash at a pile of shit and expect people to gobble it up. But, unfortunately, great music without promotion means nothing. Indie artists without a team around you have to work extra hard to get your music out there. Just posting it on Facebook and sending it to your email list will not turn your album into a chart topping success. You need an interesting story. You need a cohesive image. You need a marketing budget. You need to tour and/or work YouTube.
16) It Matters What Studio You Record In
The only thing that matters is what your album sounds like, not where it was recorded. Recording vocals through a U47 in Studio 1 at Abbey Road Studios is going to sound nearly identical as recording vocals through a U47 in your bedroom. Pay for the talent, not the room.
17) You Need A Publicist To Get Press
Bloggers prefer being hit up by artists and managers over publicists. Traditional press outlets like newspapers, magazines, radio and TV shows may respond better to publicists with whom they have a relationship, but a manager or artist can be just as effective. Save yourself money, do your own press outreach.