By David Lowry
Dealing with the local music scene these days is very challenging for management, booking, promotion companies and record labels. To be able to get any artist to the next level requires being able to take the package and sell it to the public or other entertainment professionals or companies. Unfortunately, too often the product is rarely worth buying or even helping to promote further. Bands and artists tend to have this notion that, “Without the music you have nothing,” when dealing with industry professionals. While this is true to an extent, it’s not the whole story. In the industry, we can hire songwriters that have a proven track record, hire musicians to record it and make our own successful bands that we own completely and can control. We don’t need local artists with attitudes, little work ethic or strive not be productive in furthering their own careers. We all do what we love for a reason. It’s not always about being successful but for the satisfaction for seeing someone achieve their dreams so we keep diving into the murky waters of local musicians to find those that are worth partnering with.
The package, as we refer to the artist’s business plan or presentation, has to be ready to go and that is the artist’s responsibility to get there. It doesn’t fall on anyone’s shoulders to make this happen except for you. There is no excuse, what with all the free info out on the internet in books and magazines, that an artist can’t figure out the basics of the business, create a presentation and become attractive to the people that can help them get to the next level. Until that happens, it’s hard to get a manager, booking agent or anyone else to be excited about making 0% of 0% because the artist has created absolutely no demand for themselves. The money isn’t available in the industry for developmental deals as it was say 15-years ago. Thus the artist’s chances of getting signed on with professional representations are slimmer if they don’t present an attractive market value. Here are a few of the reasons that artists intentionally shoot themselves in the proverbial foot. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some very obvious points.
- Not Booking Enough Shows: Most bands/artists want others to do this for them but in truth and reality, the artist should be booking their own shows until they are gigging at least 80-dates a year regionally and making money doing it. Why would anyone in the industry want to waste time booking a band that isn’t willing to do it themselves, does not understand the basics of promotion and end up making a small percentage of absolutely nothing for their work? There are no short cuts here. Pick up the phone and dial for dollars.
- Poor Promotion: Most artists spend very little time and effort promoting and usually post a gig once or twice on some form of social media expecting people to see it and show up on such short notice. This is absolutely pathetic. Especially in a band with several members, usually only one person promotes it. In no way shape or form is this acceptable, nor will anyone in the industry look kindly on an artist that does this. You don’t deserve to get paid at all if this is how you sell your band. Believe it or not, we all look at this and notice how well people promote themselves. Also, social media sites are not the only form or promotion needed. You still need flyers, advertisements and many other forms of creative promotion. It is not everyone else’s job to do all your promotion. When you are looking for opportunities with your gigs and no one shows up for your shows, you lose on many levels and miss out on opportunities.
- Misuse Of Social Media: If all you do is complain about the venues, management or any other form of the music business, you are signing your death warrant. Again, people in the industry and your peers see this and who would want to book you back at a venue or assist your band if this is your level of professionalism. You are a business, act like it. Grow up and quit using your bands page to complain. If you want to do that, do it in private where we can’t see it. This is common sense that seems to have escaped many artists.
- Wasting Time Goofing Off On Facebook: If you have time to post a million personal things on Facebook but don’t promote your show then you aren’t serious about this business. Stop spending time goofing off and start making things happen for your music. Facebook is a great networking tool when used right. The excuse, “I am so busy,” is quite weak when we can see your profile. This goes for both sides of the business, not just artists.
- Not Getting Back To People: When you approach someone and ask for their advice, services or whatever else and say, “I’ll get back to you,” then do it. The usual excuse again is, “Sorry, I was so sick” or “I have been so busy” but again we can see your social media so if you are well enough or have time to do that, you are well enough to practice a common courtesy and get back in touch with people, regardless of the outcome you decide on. This applies to getting back to people on booking a show, a meeting, or any other situation involving your band, music or related promotions. It is also basic good business manners.
- Not Doing Your Research: Approaching people about services they don’t even offer. This happens all of the time. You see a business name and just assume at what they do but don’t even research the company. You are wasting everyone’s time and showing how lazy and unprofessional you are.
- Not Accepting Gigs Because You Don’t Have The Money: “Sorry we don’t have the money to drive that far,” is a ridiculous excuse for a local or regional booking. You don’t have the money to drive to open a new market but you do have money to buy beer, party with your friends, buy drugs, go camping or visit someone three states away. Again, your Facebook page gives this all away. If you do not want to play a show for specific reasons, then politely decline, thus hopefully leaving the door open for future shows. If you aren’t able to be dedicated to your vision and dream by planning in advance and having a band fund for specific use: gear, travel, other expenses then don’t even bother approaching anyone. You can’t build a solid fan base if you aren’t playing out.
- Not Having An Appropriate Press Kit: Everyone has been doing this long enough to know you need one. No matter if you are a band, solo artist or musician looking for extra work. Everyone should have an electronic press kit (EPK) and/or hard copy press kit. Sending someone to Facebook, Myspace, Reverbnation, YouTube or other social music site, while a plus, is not a replacement for a professional media kit. If you don’t have one, you do not show serious business regard for your own career so why should anyone in the industry.
- Sending One Line Emails Saying You Need Representation: Again if you don’t have a press kit and you can’t take the time to compose proper business letter and introduction about yourself or your band, don’t even bother. All you are doing is showing how lazy you really are. Be professional, always.
- Only Being Able To Play Weekends: We are all looking for bands than can tour, not just play every now and then. It’s hard to break a new market and build a fan base when you can only play one quarter of the year. Not only that, but you are competing with so many other bands for these bookings when weeknights are so much easier to get. This is why people with families often get passed by. It’s too hard to coordinate everything. We all make choices in life and once you decide to get married and have kids more often than not you aren’t able to be on the road enough. This does not apply to everyone, as many do have support systems in place to allow for travel. If you are serious about your career, have this support system in place. No one makes any money if you can’t play so they won’t sign you. It may not be fair but everyone involved has to pay their bills so why would anyone sign a band that can’t make them money? It’s not about the music when it comes to getting signed, it’s about people earning a living.
- Expecting To Work Without A Contract: First of all, one of the main rules of the music business is…always get a contract, so why you would you even consider asking someone to work with you without one? Why would a smart business owner work relentlessly to help you further your career just so you can walk away with the success they brought you? If another agency comes along and offers you a deal and you choose to go with them, with out a contract featuring a ‘buy-out clause’ your former manager or agent is screwed and may be liable for future booking, promotions or business deals being worked for your project. The standard industry rap goes that the “industry and music business” people are the ones that screw over the artists but I know from experience that artists are fabulous about breaching contracts because they do not want to pay someone. Our courts are full of artists being sued by companies for breach of contract so it goes both ways. No one should EVER work without a contract, period. No one should risk his or her business on a promise or handshake agreement. You will get the short end of the stick every time.
After years of doing this and dealing with all types and genres of artists, the most common reason for artists not getting signed is that they are not focused on their end goal. They spend money on things they don’t need such as alcohol, drugs or video games instead of putting it into their careers and business package where it needs to go. To be successful means spending money on your career, missing friends because you are busting your butt working hard, and taking your act on the road into new markets. Don’t expect your team to do it for you, to be focused on you and your career when you can’t even do it for yourselves. This makes no sense what so ever. Again, no one in the industry will get involved with an artist that can’t and won’t work as hard as everyone else.
These are also many of the reasons most artists will be let go by a professional company. More often then not, these reasons make it very, very difficult to promote you and sell your package and product or in general, make anything happen for you. This is a business and the artist needs to treat it like one. Be professional at all times, work hard always and get focused. Quit blaming everyone else for what you are not doing for yourself.
Without having a great package to work with and sell, people just aren’t interested in not being able to make any money. It is the artist’s responsibility to build their business to an appropriate level before expecting or seeking help. Remember this is business and everyone needs to make money, not just the artist.