How to Make a Living in the Music Business

In our last session we established the fact that you, or your band or ensemble are a market driven manufacturer, and that you manufacture sound. As you probably can well imagine, you will go broke very quickly if you manufacture a product and don’t ever sell it. You will go just as broke if you manufacture a product and pave the road to hell with your good intentions of selling it at some nebulous future point in time.

As much as they want to play live, or have their music on store shelves, there are a ton of musicians who die frustrated because they were never ready. Never ready to get on stage. Never ready with an acceptable final mix. Some of those guys (when I say “guys” you should understand that I mean both males and females, equally. It makes writing easier for me and when I’m writing, that is the most important thing.) are right. They aren’t ready. Some, however, are either ready and don’t know it; will never be more ready and don’t know it or won’t admit it; or will never be ready no matter what happens. How do you know?

This can prove to be a tough question because it can be so subjective. I’m not going to get into the area of how to define art, or what is “good”, but ask yourself these questions.

For live music(minimum):

How many full sets of music do I/we have that I/we can play all of the way through without stopping (approx. 45-60 minutes minimum)?

The requirement here is not that the sets are perfect and polished, but only that you can get through the entire contents as they were intended to sound including the intros, and endings of each selection without stopping, or starting over. If you have never played live before in front of a real audience you will come to learn that no matter how much you prepare your sets you can never really know with 100% surety exactly how the audience is going to react or interact with your presentation.

You will also learn that although you get a certain reaction for something you do or play one time, the odds are that you will not get the exact same reaction the next time you do the same thing even if, or especially if, you try to do the same thing exactly the same way. Tightening and tweaking a set to its performance perfection can only be done to the fullest degree while you are on stage.

If you have one set, you are ready. Ready for what? You are ready to put your unique product into a package and start selling it. The next question is how do you put a live performance into a package. Well, in this instance I’m not talking about a “box-like” package. The kind of package that I am talking about has several components, some of them are tangible and some are intangible. I’m going to cover the intangible first.

In determining the readiness of your product you will have to consider your image. Make no mistake that I don’t believe there are any right images or wrong images. However your image on stage should be thought out and it should also be supportive of the sound you are making and most important it should appeal to the demographic (age, income level, social standing , lifestyle, etc.) of the audience you are targeting to buy your product. For example, if you have a butt rock band and your gimmick is dressing in drag, you probably won’t be getting or wanting to get bookings playing in Alaskan logging camps. You wouldn’t want to play the Apollo theatre dressed in klan hoods. You wouldn’t want to play chamber music and have one of the members of your group show up wearing purple spandex while the rest of your group arrives wearing white tie tuxedos.

Whether you want to play naked, or wrapped in a roll of orange shag carpeting while reading exerts from “Autobiography of a Western Yogi” like a friend of mine used to do, make sure that your appearance is thought out, planned, and an image that fits well into the types of venues you want to play while at the same time supporting the message you are trying to convey in the sound you make – whatever that may be. Once you have that image, be consistent. You want to be as consistent with your image on stage as you are with the type of sound you are producing. Even if your image is that you are inconsistent, be consistently inconsistent.

The reason for this is simple. Once you have a winning formula you want to be sure you consistently deliver the same quality product at all times so that if a person sees you do a show in January, that person is going to see the same level of performance(or better) when he brings three new friends to see you in June. Another reason for this is tied into the tangible aspects of the product package I’m going to cover in a minute. Simply put again, you want to be able to ensure that the club owner, booking agent, concert promoter, corporate party planner, wedding planner, etc. sees and hears the same performance (or better) as that person saw when he saw you live or looked through your promo kit.

The idea of a promo kit, which is the other part of this package, is the tangible part mentioned above. The promo kit, or media kit, is essentially your sales tool. It will include a small write up about your sound or your message, It might boast about your “draw”, or the number of tickets you can count on selling based on the size of your last show. It will also include something called a “Bio Sheet”. A bio sheet is a paper that includes very brief background and or personal history on each player in the group. Each bio should have no more that 1 paragraph and a picture. Next, you will need at least one photo of the group. This should be a black and white glossy 8″X10″. If you have the ability, it is a good idea to have the group or performer’s name, agents name , and a solid, professional contact phone number stripped into the bottom of the photo.

You might also want individual photos of each member. That is a matter of choice. Finally you will want a list of past and future show dates and places where the performances either have been or will take place. Naturally, if you have none of these you will not be able to include any. And, of course, if you have a finished demo CD or full length CD you should include this as well. Some experts will tell you that a demo or audition CD should not feature full length cuts of your sound and that they should only have three to four songs at the very most because club owners, promoters, etc don’t have time to listen to your entire collection of “Greatest Hits”. I’ll tell you that is a bunch of feeble minded crap from the butt of a bull.

If you have 13 finished cuts on a packaged CD, you just go right ahead and include that in your promo kit. I’ve been a club owner and a promoter and many were the times I kicked myself in the rump for not demanding full length or full content demos after hiring groups that sounded great on a couple of 30 second audition tracks only to find out that the only time they sounded good was on those 30 second spots, or that the rest of what a group played was totally different from the content on the brief demo I had heard. OK it wasn’t many times but it was enough to piss me off.

Remember you are only as strong as your weakest link. Give every aspect of your package the attention it would require if your very life depended on it and nothing less. At any given point in time, a person should be able to ask you about any individual aspect of your package and receive an answer from you that is essentially, “Perfect”. Shooting for perfection will get you bookings, keep you working at the highest pay scale, and put you on the road to success. Settling for anything less than perfection will make you just another egotistical schlub which is alright. The ones who are truly on their way up will need something to walk on. You will do just fine. If someone has the passion for writing then they can go and read my friend’s blog about¬†dissertation writing service.