One of my favorite movies is The Matrix (first one, not the series). The whole idea of setting your mind free and the wise Morpheus showing Neo the path, but of course only Neo could choose his own fate, the struggle against our own limiting beliefs, etc, etc. It was solid. I hope that I (and Fame Wizard®) are seen as Morpheus – here to free your mind.
Unfortunately, I think we get looked at more often as the parent on Christmas morning telling their kid that Santa Claus isn’t real – not very fun, but it has to be done sooner or later so the kids don’t feel like even bigger chumps when the truth comes out. The music business is tough, but it’s also beautiful and amazing!
I love what it means to be a DIY Artist, the same way I love being an entrepreneur and traveling with few or no reservations. It’s all up in the air and dependent on resourcefulness and hard work. As a DIY Artist, you have to be sharp and keep a keen eye out for little holes in your game that collectively can cause BIG leaks. Most importantly, you’ve got to keep an eye on the right things.
What am I talking about specifically?
NOT GETTING PAID: Are you getting paid? Are you setting up the merch table at EVERY gig? Are your agreements, contracts or payments all squared away clearly and concisely ahead of time? I find a lot of up and coming Artists treat getting paid like they’ve already made their first million – real lazy and sort of passive about the whole thing. Get serious! This is your JOB man. Don’t forget to bone up on performance royalties if you’re clueless as to how all that works too – a lot of Artists are leaving cash on the table. Check out BMI Live for some more info on performance royalties.
Also, be a shark about getting paid gigs early and often. Yeah, yeah, I know, pay-to-play is part of the deal these days but be savvy and push just a little bit. If you’ve got to sell 20 tickets to make back your investment, talk the venue down to 15 – every dollar counts until your Elton John, work hard for the extra buck or two when you can.
TRYING TOO HARD TO GET SIGNED: It’s a cyclical problem – the more you focus on landing a record deal, the smaller your chances of actually attracting one. ZERO percent of the time will someone come from total obscurity to major label star – ZERO. Everything stems from how you build your local fan base, cultivate a solid live show and stay in contact with fans through live events and social media.
Focusing too hard on “getting signed” will cause you to focus on the wrong things, people and opportunities. Ironically, the most attractive Artists to a label are the ones who don’t really need them to survive. Just like an investment bank or venture capitalist, a label is only going to throw money at a machine that will spit at least twice as much money out the other side. They’re not saving the whales, they’re using Artists to make money – be clear about that.
Additionally, it can be really easy to become frustrated or dejected if a label deal doesn’t roll around. It can take DECADES to get on the radar in a meaningful way. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket or emotionally connect yourself to the outcome – connect to the effort. Granted, I’m gunning for that hook-up with Scarlett Johansson to work out, but I’ll be dating in the meantime just in case. It’s not rocket science and it’s just like most other jobs – work hard, build strong relationships, smile a lot and try to enjoy the ride, it will surely work out if you do.
TREATING YOUR BUSINESS LIKE A HOBBY: At Fame Wizard® we make absolutely certain that we ask every single Artist who applies for membership with us whether music is a career or a hobby. There is absolutely nothing wrong with playing music as a hobby – I was just working on my double forward rolls with my cat (pardon the pasty thighs). The point is, I love playing music and still do it all the time – not for money or glory, but because I like learning new instruments, trying my hand at new things and keeping myself amped about something.
Turning a hobby into a job is tough, not just because of the work associated, but also because then…well…it’s a JOB! If you want to make it your job, it takes effort. The absolute number one tip I can give to anybody reading this post is really simple – set a schedule. If you simply took the time to set up a schedule the same way you would for a “real” job and never let yourself off the hook, I’d bet money your outlook changes for the better.
Remember, talent is not, nor was it ever enough to make it in this business. You’ve got to be tough on yourself and stay laser focused. I always hear from my pals in the tech start-up world that you’ve got to be working your ass off 24/7 because there’s some kid on a coach at Stanford right now who hasn’t slept in a week and is eating Ramen coming after you and your company. The up and comers are hungry – you going to let them grab your lunch?