As unbelievable as it may seem, occasionally we run into people who are still, after all these years, stuck mentally in the the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s (or what they’ve been told about that age in books and from other salacious accounts). They think that artists are a privileged class who lounge around all day perhaps smoking weed and playing Resident Evil (not that there’s anything wrong with that per se), then casually roll into the studio around 8PM, effortlessly crank out a track or two of vocals (backing band should do the rest, right?), hand that over to a super slick music exec who will then hand it to a world class marketing department to send it straight to the top of the charts, because naturally, they are the most talented musical prodigy on god’s green earth and everybody knows it, right?
In their heads, at some abstract time in the future, they will, after a few hours work (maybe or twice a month), simply exit the studio, hop in the Bentley and head off to another Manhattan rooftop party with Eastern European Models and swanky DJs with sweet sideways haircuts and ridiculous appetizers that no one can even pronounce. Well, if you know how we can get involved in this racket, please let us know ASAP (I woke up at 7:30AM to work on this blog post so I could really use some tunes and a snack right now).
Last time we checked, this awesome/ridiculous cliche isn’t around anymore (and even when it was, you had a better chance at hitting the NYC Powerball Jackpot than becoming this kind of artist). If dreams like that are fulfilling enough for you, more power to you. The lottery serves a purpose for many people. They get to dream. And dreams are powerful things. However, if you’re after more than dreams, a first grade math student can tell you that your odds are not so hot to hit this grandiose pie in the sky prize.
Strangely, these same people who adhere to this artist-as-king fantasy are often not only afraid of hard work because of laziness, but worse, they’re scared that if they’re seen as doing the difficult/mundane tasks themselves, they won’t be viewed as elite artists (wrong, wrong, wrong). They make up fakes names for booking agents they don’t have to appear more popular. They are elusive about the actual stats of their ‘success’. They post their songs on their personal Facebook page to get a few likes from the same old crowd, but refuse to do much promotion beyond that; they’re afraid to try new things and knock on doors. While we often advise against blindly spamming people or having unrealistic expectations, part of your job is offering your music up to people you don’t know for criticism and critique. It also involves getting in the trenches and making new fans. Going to see other bands, helping other people out, making actual friends on Twitter, experimenting with DIY solutions, etc. You literally need to be willing to fight to gain more fans/friends. This is exactly the kind of thing we detail in our new book Get More Fans, if you’re interested. The digital age has offered us many things, but it has also given us all an incredibly short attention span. There are hundreds of thousands of talented artists out there, many of them willing to do the hard work some people deem as beneath them. If you’re not willing to fight, it’s those people whose music will get heard and not your own. It’s time to either recognize this harsh reality or kick back and enjoy your lottery fantasy.
Speaking of books, I recently read a book called Success Is A Choice by college basketball coach Rick Pitino (if you’re not into basketball, Rick’s team Louisville just won the NCAA championship, an amazing feat). Rick makes a great point in the book – its called hard work for a reason, meaning most people don’t want to do it because its difficult. It’s not fun, it’s not convenient, it’s certainly not glamorous and its often a very slow climb before you see any results. But the people who choose to do so are usually the ones who are rewarded with success – you know, the stuff everyone loves to enjoy.
Given the choice between the person whose music doesn’t get heard and who doesn’t make it in the industry versus the person who works his/her ass off in the boring minutia of social networks, small shows, DIY experiments and endless promotions, who eventually, after years of dedication, climbs up the ladder to a place they are happy with in the music business, I think I would certainly rather take the latter.
If holding on to the dream of deluxe suite hotels, hot tubs full of Cristal and 7-figure record deals is what really makes you happy, by all means, indulge that dream. For the rest of us, its hard work. Lots and lots of hard work.