The following tips are essential, life-long suggestions, for any and all musicians to remember as they establish and/or maintain their music careers.
1. Stop sending unsolicited demo recordings to any record labels, and instead concentrate on building your own music name and reputation by creating long-term relationships with your growing fanbase. They are your ticket to success.
2. Take the time to learn what the professionals in the music business do for a living. What are their job titles, who do they report to, and what do they do when they go to work? The contacts you make in the music industry can make or break your career because your potential success is directly linked to any possible growing success of the industry people who are climbing their own ladders to success. The music business is built on the 'buddy system'. Everyone is attached to everyone else in this industry. As you go, so go your business contacts.
3. Before contacting any music business professional have 1 (one) prepared question for them that will not make you look or sound like an ignorant person. i.e. Do not ask them how to become a star, or how to get a recording contract. No one has the time to answer such sweeping and naive questions.
4. Create two contact lists: One for professional people you actually have as a business contact. Another contact list made up of all your fans. Keep both lists updated and using common sense, reach out to both contract groups only when you have something very important to ask of them and/or to share with them.
5. Prepare a short, 30 second description of your music. Memorize it and use it every time you are asked,"What kind of music do you make?" Don't go on and on describing your music... your statement should clearly describe your genre or style of music quickly and in compelling language that will perk up the person's ears and find yourself with an interested and potentially valuable new contact ready to support you.
6. If you have trouble defining your music style, try this exercise... define the word 'originality' and note that within that word is another word... 'origin'. Perhaps this will help you focus on what makes your music unique. Never say your music is "unique" explain how it is unique. This exercise will help you write your 30 second statement.
7. Remember this always: People in the music industry who's job it is to find and support new acts don't know what they are looking for. But, they will recognize it when they hear it.
8. Find a concise 'Image' and follow it everywhere. This is important because the first impression to someone unfamiliar with your sound is a visual experience most of the time. For example, your logo design used to spell your name, the title of your CD, or the design of your website, merchandise etc. is crucial to attracting industry and music fans. Image is everything in show business, and in case you didn't realize it, music is part of good 'ol show business. Research your favorite acts and study their image.
9. People only respond to music they can personally relate to. What is it in your songs and compositions that has inspired your current fanbase and will grow to attract more fans and industry support? Think hard on this point. It is a true key to any possible success. Music contains emotions, so what emotions do your songs deliver to a listener?
10. Does your music sound too much like another artist or band's music? This is the biggest complaint from music business professionals...too much music today sounds like retreads of already successful artists. And, your fans are sensitive to this issue too. There is way too mucn 'redundant-sounding' music out there today.
11. When you perform live does your stage presence reflect the image conveyed in your songs? Are you well prepared, well rehearsed, and do the songs in your live set flow into each other in an exciting and well balanced way?
12. It can never be said enough. Great songs, Great compositions are the basis of all potential success, but 'grunt work', everyday down-in-the-trenches boring work, like updating your blog and website, keeping your website and social networking pages updated and staying in touch with your fans regularly are tough jobs. Only you can tackle these jobs and other jobs like putting up flyers for shows (on and offline), updating your press materials, looking for gigs, rehearsing...all these tasks require your commitment to carry them out without complaining. Remember, only you can care the most... it's your music, your career that we are dealing with here.
13. There is no such thing as an 'overnight sensation'. Behind every act referred to in this way are countless hours of hard work and dedication that got that person or act to be able to take advantage of the breaks they got, and remember too that the breaks you are looking for should be more than 'a record deal' or a 'production deal'. Look out for the ever increasing demand for uses of your songs online, in films, TV shows and ads...the list goes on. But you have to work consistently for these breaks to happen.
14. Home recording is as common today as home cooking use to be, but don't get trapped in the rut of staying at home and working on your computer or home recording setup. Get out regularly and show up at clubs and other concert venues on a regular basis. There is that old saying, "They only come out at night," well that's very true when it comes to music business personnel as well as music fans. So, get out there and socialize in person wherever you might live.
15. As your fanbase grows create more and more merchandise to sell online and at your live shows. Be sure your logo is on every piece of merchandise you sell (back to that statement - "Image is everything,")
16. This last tip may be the most important of all. Conduct your business from your heart. Yes, the music industry rarely operates from that place, but don't worry about the industry, concern yourself with your self. Be righteous. Be upstanding. Be a professional in everything you do. If you do that, believe me you will stand out from the crowd.
Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.
Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.
He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".
Send comments or questions to: