I am constantly saddened by the mistakes I see young musicians make. Many musicians don’t realize that most of the music business is guessing at what they do. When they aren’t guessing, they’re making very uneducated decisions. Unfortunately, success (often through the luck of riding someone else’s coattails) and admiration can cloud musicians’ views. A musician can be left thinking that everyone in the industry who has seen moderate success is a genius and is making decisions based on concrete theories and ideas.
One of the prime examples of this point are the choices A&R people make when signing musicians. This part of the business is riddled with guessing. Many musicians think that in order to get signed, some wizard is going to find them after they work hard for a while and scoop them up because they fit into a formula some A&R person has sitting on their desk.
So if many people in the music business are clueless, what do you do about it?
Trust, But Verify - Walking around doubting everything that comes out of someone’s mouth is no fun. Most of us have the instinct to tell when advice seems shady. Do research and make sure the advice you’re getting is accurate.
Use Others’ Ignorance To Your Advantage - If you’re trying to get someone in the music business to notice you, spell it out for them–leaving very little to the imagination. I know so many musicians with a lot going for them, but they don’t let anyone know about it. Since much of this industry makes uneducated decisions, if you educate them about why you’re so great, they have less work to do themselves. Memorize your best attributes. If you have 20 fans who followed you up and down the east coast on tour, make sure there’s a video of it. Don’t assume that any potential team member can see your merits. Like you, the people who you want to be on your team are waiting for good opportunities–be sure to make yourself an obvious opportunity.
Pick A Bragging Right - Find something you have going for yourself and figure out a great way to brag about it. If you get 100 YouTube comments a day, that is worth telling someone about. If every larger act you open for ends up DJing your latest single, make it known. If a famous guitarist says your guitarist is inspirational, that’s pretty notable. Figure out some way to tell others you’re remarkable.
Make Your Music Speak For Itself - Having demos, rough mixes or unmastered tracks gives these clueless guessers room to think and you don’t want them using their limited imagination. Many musicians get excited and want their dreams to come true tomorrow. They then play their music for potential team members when it isn’t finished. This leaves the listener room to imagine. Many listeners can’t hear how much better the final product will sound, walking away unimpressed instead of blown away. The team member you’re trying to impress feels like the song sounds “off.” Instead of immediately grabbing them the way a finished song does, they think “this isn’t right” and they turn you down.
Don’t play demos, rough mixes or unmastered tracks for people you want to impress, since they rarely can hear how much better they will be when you finish them.