So…I’m about a week late with the release of my biweekly newsletter/blog/YouTube video. I had the flu for a while and was unable to record another video so I decided to wait to release the blog post. Every time something goes wrong, I go back to the drawing board and learn that the solution is usually some form of better organization. From now on, I will always have the video finished two weeks ahead of time so that I can be ready for anything that comes up such as sickness, travel, etc.
I’ve begun booking shows for the summer gigging season. This process consists of cold calls, loads of emails, and visiting local business’s. I have an excel sheet that has over 150 restaurants, cafes, art galleries and bars listed. The sheet shows each booking agent/owner’s email address, phone number, pay (if I’ve played there before), and state of contact. Right now, my goal is to play as many shows as possible.
Everyone knows about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour theory, and whether or not it is exact, the principle of ungodly amounts of practice is undeniable. When we talk about big names such as the Beatles, Warren Buffet, or Michael Phelps, they all attribute their success to their study/practice time. By the time 1964 rolled around the Beatles had played live an estimated twelve hundred times. Warren Buffet spends 5 or 6 hours a day reading financial journals, and biographies of famous figures. Michael Phelps didn’t miss a workout for 5 years.
Interesting read on society’s “Outlier’s” and the 10,000 hour principle
Following their approach, I’ll continue to put large chucks of time into gigs, busking, open mics, and any type of performance that connects me to the music community. My goal is to put on the best possible live show, every time. Currently all the money I make is from playing covers, that is, other artist’s music. Ultimately though, I am a songwriter and want my career to be centered around the performances of my own storytelling. So how do I eventually profit off of my own music? Even once an artist has a large following there are still huge barriers to monetary success in the industry. Some harsh facts…
We used to monetize the copy of music. “Copyright” was how the economy functioned. A physical record, tape, cd, or for a short while…digital copy. Now what is mostly monetized is the usage. I like Daniel Johansson’s comparison, he says that instead of going into a car dealership and buying a car, it is now like getting a car for free and paying for each usage.
So how do recording artists, and songwriters make a comfortable living in such an environment? First of all, we should stop complaining about it in a non-constructive way and make changes for our own careers. Gary Vaynerchuck (Vayner Media) says bluntly that “it’s not 1990 anymore” The industry cannot expect to make all of its money from selling records. Is a song worth less than a penny? Well, a song is worth whatever the market pays for it. For artists to feel upset about what they are paid per stream through Spotify is fine. But it’s up to us to figure out a new way to earn a living. It used to be that the best baseball players in America had to work in the summers to make a living, now the major league players can make millions…so what happened? The market changed, as it always does.
I think one solution comes from someone I really like listening to, his name is Brian McTear. Here’s an awesome Ted talk (click here) where Brian speaks about where he thinks the music industry, and artists should set their gaze for more sustainable careers. Brian says that because music fans are not paying for music the way they used to, that we must do more than just connect to our fans (social media, large shows, recordings) we must connect them to each other as well. We must build a community. One incredible way to do this is house show tours. Some artists are booking shows set in fans homes. Imagine an artist showing up to your home for a live show in your living room. All you have to do is invite 20-25 of your friends, and perhaps everyone brings a potluck dish for dinner. The fans would gain an experience of a lifetime listening to the artist, and afterwards could sit down for a meal with them. In turn, the artist would connect on a much deeper level with the fans (isn’t connection the whole point?) If the artist was independent, they could book the tour themselves, with their own equipment and vehicle and drive across the country playing shows and keeping the ticket sales themselves. The ticket prices in fact could be much cheaper than what a venue would charge, perhaps $30-$40 per head would be fair for fans, while allowing the artist to make a decent paycheck.
Imagine the marketing power (word of mouth) behind such a connection. Assuming the show goes smoothly, the artist has deepened the loyalty of their fans, and likely gained a few new ones, (fans always bring friends) Among the new and old listeners, there is probably at least one person would be interested in hosting the show at THEIR house, the next time around. When we compare this model to the stadium concert model we realize that artists often only meet the backstage crew, and a few other industry hands, but rarely does the connection happen with fans, the most important of all the relationships.
I’m just starting to really dig in, and I think the next post will dive in a little deeper to all of this, but for now…here’s the latest video =)
Don’t Know Why (Norah Jones)
Skating on the lake has been great lately
P.S I’ll be traveling to Puerto Rico for about 2 weeks at the end of February for some volunteering, and fun with some friends 😜
Catch you on the other side,