Create A Buzz: If You Build It They Will Come!
By Sheena Metal
Building a music career is hard work. Every day, month and year you repeat the same grind: build the band, write the songs, record the songs, rehearse the songs, perform the songs, promote the band, advertise the band, solicit industry, publicize to the press, build the website, create the message boards, forums, and chat rooms, assemble the street team…it goes on and on until you think your head will surely explode from the mountains of menial tasks that face you, the unsigned artist, each day.
Still, after putting in all of that work a band will hit dry spells, slow times and glass ceilings. Some days, your already slow move forward, seems to retard even further. Sometimes it feels as though you’ve peaked and will never advance. There are even days you want to blow off all of this tedious monotony, get a job in the electronics department at Target, and call it a day!
But even as your face is smushed up against the glass ceiling of a never-changing cycle of music business grunt work, hope is just over the horizon. See, there is something that you never stopped to think about all the while you were chasing the elusive brass ring of music stardom…all of this time, you were in control. If opportunities have stopped coming your way, then make your own. If you want to be a rockstar, develop a situation you can star in and rock. You have the power and the ability to be anything and everything you have ever wanted to be if you learn to simply create your own buzz.
The following are a few tips that may help you to get started creating your own buzz in order to push past the obstacles and keeping moving down the Yellow Brick Road of musical superstardom:
By following these tips and others soon you will find that your band is enjoying the opportunities and buzz you were only dreaming of before. Best of all, you’re now in charge of your own career and musical destiny; creating profitable situations for yourself. You are playing good shows and coming home with money in your pocket. You are selling your own product to pay for band expenses. You are filling your press kit with reviews, interviews and mentions of your band. You are meeting people and building your mailing list. You are establishing your reputation as an important member of the artistic community. No longer waiting to be thrown a chance by some industry member, you have taken command of your musical destiny and cast yourself as the star of your own show. Now, don’t you feel better?
Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer, promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and musician. Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway Radio, airs on over 2,400 affiliates to more than 126 million listeners. Her musicians’ assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members. She currently promotes numerous live shows weekly in the Los Angeles Area, where she resides.
Everyone wants to be famous: live in a mansion, drive a sports car, tour the world in your private plane, date a model, float around in the pool while collecting royalties for CD sales, and drink beer right out of your private tap. But not everyone is aware that, with any career that has the potential to end in a bounty of riches and beautiful babes, climbing your way to rock stardom is very hard work.
So, how does your average musical genius go from penniless Pop Tart-eater to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? How do you move on up from mom’s garage to a deluxe apartment in the sky? What’s your first baby step on the Yellow Brick Road to fame and fortune? That’s simple…be committed!
It sounds silly, but many a musical boat has sailed with a crestfallen unsigned artist standing confused on the dock, for lack of nothing else but follow-through. Commitment to your deeds and plans is the single most essential skill towards achieving your goal of Ultimate Superstardom. Entertainment is a fickle business and chances don’t come along every day. One missed opportunity now could have spiraled into dozens even hundreds of opportunities down the line.
It may be true that talent is a gift you carry with you from birth, but commitment is a learned skill that you need to hone every day. So, how can you make sure that you’ve got what it takes to gather up your supreme musicality and conquer the universe with it continuously?
The following are a few tips that may help you to make sure that you’re truly committing yourself to your musical career on a daily basis:
It really is as easy as simply showing up, following up and giving it your all. Making it in music is not impossible; it’s just a lot of elbow grease, a little organization, a bit of strategy, and the simple sculpting of your talent into a marketable commodity. There are thousands of chances offered every day to musicians...reach out and grab them by the handful, make every opportunity your own, get everything you want from this business and when you’re richer than Oprah and more famous than Madonna, remember that it was you who made it happen. You were a pro. You showed up. You committed.
Managers: Can’t Live With Them…But Can You Live Without Them?
You can’t throw a rock in any metropolis on Earth without hitting someone claiming to be a manager. Where musicians go, managers follow. It’s as accepted and expected in the entertainment industry as an out-of-control cocaine habit or a failure to pay taxes. When you tell people you’re a musician, one of the first things they’re going to ask you is: Do you have a manager? However, those in the throws of the music business know to ask an even more accurate question: Do you have a good manager?
“What’s the difference?” you may ask. Isn’t any manager better than no manager at all? While it would seem that the answer to that question is unequivocally, “Yes”, in reality it’s a bit like asking, “Isn’t having a herpes-ridden prostitute for a girlfriend better than being single?” In truth, bad representation is far worse than a lack of representation. While, it’s a fact, that there are things your band will probably never achieve without the aid of a manager, agent, entertainment attorney, etc., bad representation can stagnate a career…stop it dead in its hurling climb to the ranks of superstardom or even worse…undo some of the hard work the band has already done.
Sad but true, a bad manager can take a perfectly good band and turn them into a thing so foul that old gypsy women covering their faces with rags will spit and give your band the evil eye as you pass. Ok, that may be a bit dramatic, but seriously…all your band really has is its name and its reputation, so why would take a chance on either of those by putting the whole of your band into the hands of someone that you’re not 100% sure has your best interests at stake?
The following are a few tips that will help you to decipher whether or not your manager can take you to the top or turn your band into a flop:
1.) The Drummer’s Girlfriend Is Not A Manager---Sure, she may get names for your mailing list, invite her girl’s beach volleyball team to all of your gigs and post your latest pictures on your website photo gallery, but she’s not really your manager. She’s a helper, she can be the president of your fan club, the head of your street team and the world’s sexiest roadie but she probably doesn’t know how to put together a press package and make the calls that will get you into an A&R rep’s office for a meeting. This also applies to: boyfriends, wives, husbands, booty calls, one night stands, moms, dads, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors, nieces, nephews, grandparents, grandchildren, pets and the homeless guy who roots through your trash at midnight. These people may all be well-meaning and you can accept their aid in dozens of ways (it takes a village to build a popular unsigned band) but don’t give them the label or the powers of a manager.
2.) Treasure Your Fans But Don’t Let Them Manage You---This should be a given but you’d be surprised how many over-eager, slightly-obsessed fans move from semi-stalker to mega-manager in a few simple weeks. I cannot stress how simply wrong this entire concept is for two dozen major reasons the most important of which is: fans need to be kept at a distance. There is a reason why that same person comes to all of your shows no matter how many you play, gets there early, sits up front seemingly paralyzed starring at you enraptured. Either they’re in love with someone in the band or they’re insane. These may be reasons to get a restraining order but certainly not reasons to make someone your manager. A band’s manager knows every secret of each musician, every person in each member’s personal life, where you keep your money, where you live, and who’s in your fan/contact database. This is not information that you want someone who has 450 cut-out pictures of you on their bedroom ceiling having at his/her disposal. Enough said?
3.) Don’t Sign A Contract Unless It’s Worth It---Manager’s like control. That why they choose to be managers and not people who macramé wall hangings with the mane hair of ponies. Thus, most managers will try and evoke you into signing a contract. In the entertainment industry, contracts are like marriage certificates…before you sign one be sure your band wants to be tied to the same person for long time (a year, two years, five years, etc.) because they’re much easier to get into than to get out of. For example, if you sign a contract with an efficient, but somewhat green manager, who is helping all he/she can to get you everything possible from what little resources he/she has and then Gwen Stefani’s management team approaches you after a big gig and wants to put you on tour with John Mayer. Do you think if you tell them, “We love to take your tour but we’re under contract with someone else for the next five years, can you hit us up then?” the offer will still stand? Not so much. So, if you must sign contracts, keep them short and make sure they give you room to act, think, play and communicate with others without getting clearance from your band warden (manager). And make it includes an exit clause. Read up on it.
4.) Sometimes Bigger Is Not Better---Although it’s a huge ego stroke to brag to all of the other musicians backstage at the Whiskey A Go-Go that your manager works with Grammy award-winners and stadium sell-outs, sometimes an unsigned band can get lost in a huge management firm. While Mr. Big Stud Manager is busy picking out Madonna’s dress for the American Music Awards, he may forget to ask Quincy Jones to attend your bass player’s birthday gig at Billy-Bob Wang’s Tofu BBQ Shack. The problem with huge managers is that their focus often goes the acts that are making them 15% of 100 million dollars a year. Your 15% of $45.75 a year after expenses is probably not his highest priority now or ever, and what good are his super amazing industry contacts if he never remembers to invite them to your gigs?
Having a manager is great but only if they provide more benefit to the band than the sum total of your band members and band helpers can do for yourselves. If you find someone who can open doors, take your music places it cannot go on its on and has your best intentions at heart, then grab that contract, sign it and enjoy the benefits. If not, you may find yourself: conned, stalked, ignored and/or legally bound to someone that puts their own agenda (well-meaning or otherwise) and their own ego above what’s right for you band. And whatever you do, don’t sit around waiting for Mr./Ms. Right to wisk your band off its feet and carry it off on his/her white horse to the Fairyland where everyone gets a record deal. You, as its members, know more than anyone, how to do what’s right for your band and nothing will attract the perfect manager faster than seeing musicians who are out there, doing their thing, and making headway in a very difficult business with a great attitude and terrific music.
Fan Etiquette: Are The People
Who Love Your Music Ruining Your Band’s Reputation?
But there can be a dark side to the hoards of happy humans drunk on your future #1 hits. Sometimes the folks barreling in to see you play, or flooding your websites with their online presence are causing more harm than good to the reputation of your band. Rude behavior, message board flaming, compulsive sticker-ing and flyer-ing, may all seem like helping to your flock of followers but to club owners, industry and those newly interested in your music, they may seem like trouble-makers, belligerents and vandals.
It may be simply a case of over-exuberant fan zeal. Your fans think they’re preaching the gospel of your band to anyone with eyes and ears: by dropping your postcards all over town like a bird with irritable bowel syndrome, by filling up strangers email in-boxes with bulky MP3s and HTML photo-heavy notices about how much you rock, and by yelling your band’s name at the top of their lungs during another band’s set like a parrot with Turret’s Syndrome. These unsolicited over-promotions…albeit well-intentioned…are hard for the average person to separate from your band’s own promotional efforts and may not be appreciated in the way they were intended. On the other hand, it may be that your fans are so revved up by the love of your music that they’ve become arrogant, aggressive and just plain out of control in any arena (or cyber place) your band inhabits. At any rate, you may find that you need to dial these folks back a bit to create a environment that is fan-friendly without comprising your band’s opportunities.
The following are a few tips that will help you to guide your supporters in their quest to be adamant fans without allowing them to turn into an obnoxious, rowdy, gang of rabid baboons.
1.) Communicate With Your Fans---A lot of problems can
be eliminated by simply setting up a line of communication between your
band members and your fans. For instance, if you know that a particular
club forbids setting around flyers, postcards or other promo materials,
post it on your website with the upcoming show info-blast. Set guidelines
for your band and for each individual show and let your fans know that
they need to follow these simple rules or they’re no longer permitted
to attend live gigs and to post on your cyber message boards. A little
information can go a long way and your fans will be happy that you let
them know what they can and can’t do at any particular show.
It’s true that fans are a band’s biggest asset. But left uncontrolled they can also be the biggest liability as your band takes on the responsibility and reputation for the antics that its fans pull at live shows and on websites. Like crazed leprechauns, full of mischief, each fan’s silly stunts and nasty attitude problems will eat away at your band’s good name with tiny bites…like a school of piranha in a stream eating a full sized goat down to the bone in seconds…until your band is left, a former shell of itself, wandering your town trying to figure out why you can’t get booked and no one visits your website. It’s not a good sign when you see a tumbleweed blow through your music career. Nip it in the bud now. Control your fans behavior. Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.