Posted tagged ‘business’

Content Quality Doesn’t Matter, Worry About the Context

February 16, 2010

My brother stuck in perfection paralysis

Ok – yea quality does matter some, but here is what I mean:

Don’t spend all day and night trying to get that video of you guys in the studio looking like it was put together by James Cameron.

Just record the damn thing, edit accordingly, and get it up on your site.

And I’m not just talking about with videos.  Same goes with blogs and yes, even your music.  Bruce Springsteen recorded one of the most heart wrenching albums of all time on a four track recorder (Nebraska).  By all accounts, the quality of the record is horrible, but the songs are placed in the right context – so you don’t really pay attention to the quality.

YOU END UP PAYING ATTENTION TO THE STORY.

That is part of what is so beautiful about working hard to build this totally indie career.  Because you are constantly adding value to the relationship with your fans, you start to build this amazing amount of trust with them.  They start to genuinely care about you as a person.  So in the end, they only really care about your story.

That said, I’m not saying you should forget about producing great looking and sounding stuff.  I’m just trying to push you past getting stuck in perfection paralysis.

You know those guys that are still working on their record almost 3 years later?  Perfection Paralysis.

Or how about when your lead singer is on his 10th vocal take?  Perfection Paralysis.

I promise you, that 10th vocal take isn’t going to be better than the 2nd.  That extra hour you spend editing video isn’t going to cause your video to go viral.

If you are satisfied with the story the content tells, get the stuff out there and let it breath.

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The Importance of Staying in the Game: The Story of Anvil

February 2, 2010

Anvil Stayed in the Game for 35 Years...

I just watched the Story of Anvil.  I’m not gonna lie, I cried a little.  Not a “sad cry” – it was mostly a therapeutic type thing.  Like what I had spent time doing the last few years wasn’t so unlike what everyone else tries to do.

Plus, it really reaffirmed a belief I’ve had for awhile.

There are lots of ways to “make it” in this business. There really are. From landing that rare elusive record deal that so many still seem to chase, to playing cover songs locally and pulling in $30K a year…there IS a middle ground with music now.

Some give themselves a time frame.  “If I don’t make it in 5 years, I’m done.” Many of us get frustrated when we hit a wall and see no fan growth and we feel like giving up.

For me though, success in this industry has always boiled down to longevity.

What?  Not skill?

Nope.  I can name a ton of guys that could smoke my ass on guitar/vocally/songwriting.  Yet, I made a living and they didn’t.  Why?  They gave up.  For whatever reason – they just gave up.

If you look at most truly successful indie bands with a strong roots following – most took at least 10 years to get where they are.

Even the guy playing 5 nights a week locally.  I betcha he’s been at it for awhile as well.

Check this video out real quick.  It’s short.  Note:  You really can’t see the crowd until the end.  Just listen for them singing along.

That took me the better part of 6 years in the same project to pull off.

Why did I show you that video?  I’ll actually reveal the answer to that in #1 below 😉

Because every year since I decided to make a living as a musician, there was some point where I decided to quit.  Some point where I felt like “success” wasn’t coming fast enough.  And that is a dangerous place to be because you get desperate.

I had a buddy recently call me to chat and manager he talked to had told him to spend $15,000 on a radio campaign.  And my friend was seriously thinking about doing it!  And yes, I’ve been there…so I’m not judging.  But he was getting desperate and impatient.

JUST STAY IN THE GAME AND BE PATIENT.

Listen, you are in for a long ride.  I’m telling you.  Very few people in this industry make it to the top in their respective careers without going the long haul.

And the people who do make it with little effort are flimsy and ill-prepared.  They aren’t hardened by the miles on the road.  The nights of hecklers and getting paid nothing.  The nights where you drive 8 hours to play for an empty bar and then the bartender even goes in the back during the set.

THAT SH*T MAKES YOU WHO YOU ARE.  Embrace it.  Keep your head down and move up the hill.

Here are some tricks you could try:

1.  Challenge Yourself Constantly

That venue in the video above holds 1,200-1,500 people.  We, along with 2 other bands, put about 800 in the place.  We knew we could not sell that place out or even come close. But we gave it a shot.  And you know what?  We felt pretty damn good about that 800 – it actually came during a period of “stagnation” for us and helped push us on through mentally.

2.  Keep Things Fresh

Ever done an acoustic tour?  If you are a solo act, have you ever performed with a band?  How about doing your own version of a local storytellers show? Thrown your own festival?

If you are in this for the long haul you are going to need to keep it interesting for YOU as well as the fans.  Yes, just playing music every night is fun enough – but come talk to me after you’ve played 175 shows in one year of the same old stuff.  I bet you’ll feel like mixing it up then.

3.  Break From Touring

Maybe you don’t need to do this.  I sure wish I did though.  I burnt myself out many times playing 20-25 shows a month with zero breaks in between.  I wrote a blog post on releasing steady content – and I think touring is kind of the same.  Especially now in the age of digital when you can stay in touch with and engage your friends/fans just by uploading a Youtube video or commenting on their pages.

4.  Be Realistic When Defining Success

No, I’m not telling you to sell yourself short.  You can still shoot for the stars.  But keep that as an “un-official” goal.  Instead just make a goal to “make a living playing music.” Before you know it, you’ll have accomplished that one.  And it will push you forward to hit the next milestone.

Whatever you do just hang in there.  Again, I will argue with the best of them that the biggest factor in bands not “making it” is that they gave up too early.

Not because they weren’t “good enough.”  They just quit because it’s a really hard thing to do.

Embrace the struggle.  Follow your gut.  And have a ton of fun.  Worse case scenario:  You’ll have a TON of great stories to tell one of these days.

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tweet:  @davemhuffman

Local Band Wars: Unite Your Fanbase, Light a Fire in the Scene

January 29, 2010

A local radio station picked up on this band feud and made this header for the station website

I think the headline says it all.

Hip-hop has been doing this for years.  And aside from it getting ugly from time to time, it really generates a TON of interest in the feuding artists and the scene in which they reside.

Why can’t other styles of music do this? Welp, they can.  And they are.  At least a couple that I know in Columbus, OH are – the George Elliot Underground and Chelsea Automatic.

Don’t get your panties in a bunch, I’m not suggesting to go out and pick fights with other bands. We’re all hypocrites, but I’m not that much of one.  I’m about lifting up the entire scene and promoting each other.  Promote the other guy more than yourself.

That’s what a friendly band feud does.  The only trick is to keep it “friendly.”

As the rumor goes, GEU and Chelsea Automatic were hanging out one night and tossing around some ideas over a few beers.  Without too much thought as to what the result would be, someone suggested a band war.

The trick was to use it as show promotion to promote a bill where both bands were playing.

The next day they started posting insults on each other’s Facebook pages, each time linking to the other’s page so all the fans on both sides could see it:

“Chelsea Automatic takes their vitamins and drinks their milk.  George Elliot Underground eats wieners.”

“Via GEU:  The four d@uche bags on the Jersey Shore could write better songs than Chelsea Automatic.”

Can you start to picture what happens next?

1.  Fans unite to support their band

2.  Noise is made in the scene

3.  Content is generated in the form of videos, pictures, fan shirts (Team George/Team Chelsea).

4.  Content goes viral

5.  Local media picks it up

In this case a local radio station picked it up and created a page on their website where fans could vote and show their support and experienced over 400 votes in 24 hours.

Here, think of it like this:  The 50 Cent and Kanye feud to sell more albums.  Same deal here, but on a local level.

The key to success is building the “feud” around an event with both bands in attendance.  Whether it be a co-album release, co-billed show, festival, etc.

Do this:

  • Buddy up with another local band.
  • Book a show together to have something to build the feud around (3 months out or so)
  • About a month before the show start leaving messages like the ones above on each other’s pages, websites, etc.
  • Pick up the frequency of the content as the event draws nearer.  Use videos and pictures.  Old school wrestling promos are perfect.  People can share them and spread the message.
  • Creating a micro-site for the war.  Install a voting poll option.  Look at this page:  UndergroundColumbus.com/columbuswar
  • Once the war starts to pick up steam, reach out to your local media contacts/bloggers/twitterers.
  • Play the show

A little sidenote:  I actually work for UndergroundColumbus.com.  I got an email from our P.D. stating that he ran into the feud online and thought it was hilarious and he wanted us to cover it.  So, I’m not making this up.

The scene needs ignited every so often or it will never grow.  And I mean the ENTIRE scene.  You don’t necessarily have to stage band fights – get creative and try something different.

But whatever you do – lift others up around you.  You’ll be amazed how much further you go than if you stick to yourself.

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tweety tweet:  @davemhuffman

Management or NO Management? That is the Question.

January 19, 2010

This is the only real management photo I could find. SOURCE: http://www.escapecrate.co.uk

Here’s the short answer to that question:  It depends.

I just blew your mind all over the place with that didn’t I?  Well, it’s true – in so many ways.  It depends on what type of career you’d like to have with music, it depends on whether or not you mind parting with 15%-20% of your profits (even merchandise profits), it depends on what type of manager you can get, the list goes on and on.

What I’m trying to outline here is that it’s just not as simple as hiring a manager.  In most cases, blindly doing so could mean the end to any possibility of you ever really getting ANYWHERE with music.

IF YOU WANT A CAREER

If making money and having music be your ultimate “day-job” then the answer here is two part.  DO NOT get a manager at first. Instead, do everything you can possibly do, either by yourself or with the help of friends.  I’m serious when I say there really is no other route.  You’re going to be making peanuts those first couple of years and with putting almost everything you make back into the business to help it grow, you can’t afford to split any of it with someone else.

Plus, and here’s the real benefit:  By doing things yourself those first few years, you gain valuable insight into what type of manager you REALLY need.

Do you need a booking manager?

A business manager to keep track of your finances, etc?

Do you need someone mainly with industry contacts that can help with publising, etc?

I suggest doing what Corey Smith has done.  Suggestions below:

1.  Start playing locally

2. Then build a touring base by extending your base one or two cities at a time.  Keep it manageable though.  Identify markets where a scene exists that can help cultivate your music.

3.  Approach friends to help you with some of the duties:  gathering venue contacts, designing posters, website upkeep, merch table, etc.  Pay them from time to time.  But I’ll tell you upfront:  the best ones will help you because they love it, not because you are paying them. If you can’t afford to pay them, reward them in other ways.

4.  Once duties or a portion thereof are no longer manageable by you or your team, then and only then do you seek out and hire a manager.

5.  Start by hiring a manager to take over one portion of your duties.  For example, booking shows.  Try getting a non-exclusive agent and do not sign any contracts.  If you think the agent is going to be really good and they want you to sign something: MAKE SURE THERE ARE PERFORMANCE BASED CLAUSES FOR THEM IN THE CONTRACT and/or put a 90 day “trial period” in the contract.

The last thing you need is being stuck in a two year contract with an agent that sits on his a** while you book the shows and pay out 17%.

At some point, for your career to get to the next level you are going to HAVE TO focus harder on making better music.  If you are still booking shows and dealing with day to day business, your time will be severely limited.  In some cases, if you are playing out 4 nights a week – you’ll have ZERO time to write and release new content.

Here’s the deal in plain English: When your music career becomes un-manageable by you and the crew you’ve built THEN AND ONLY THEN do you look at hiring a manager.

Of course the threshold is different for everyone, Jakob Freely played 175 shows in 2007, released two records, fully promoted/organized/and held it’s own festival, and we did it with no management.  All with the help of everyone in the band a few great friends.

All I’m illustrating by telling you that is you can handle quite alot before taking the plunge and getting a manager.

A lot of the music industry resources for the indie musician are super dry and boring as hell.  Most are filled with the advice centered around the idea that you are gearing your entire career around that bad car loan-ish record deal.  However, some are REALLY good.  And some aren’t necessarily music industry books – but I’ve found them super helpful

Here they are:

1.  I Don’t Need A Record Deal! by Dayelle Deanna Schwartz

2.  Guerilla Music Marketing:  Encore Edition by Bob Baker

3.  The Indie Bible

4.  ANY BOOK BY SETH GODIN

5.  Making and Marketing Music:  the Musicians Guide to Financing, Distributing, and Promoting Albums by Jodi Summers

6.  Outliers:  The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell

7.  The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcom Gladwell

I have an entire library, but that should get you started.

As always – you can email me at freelymarketing@gmail.com with any questions.

Direct link to photo source: http://www.escapecrate.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/champ_manager_93_box.jpg

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Let’s tweet yo:  @davemhuffman