This analogy doesn't only work for sports. No, it truly is a metaphor we can relate to in the music industry. Lets examine the game first. We call it chasing our dreams or quite simply put, our destinies. Any real musician will tell you they really didn't have a choice to make a run for this brass ring. The ring called to them and they obeyed. They obeyed with countless hours of dedication, lessons, rehearsals, equipment and every ounce of faith they had. Some are drawn by the fame, some by the promise of fortune...but most are well grounded enough to know it was their true calling. The game doesn't allow much room for any of these qualities to be lacking. You had better be bringing your "A" game to the stage or the ship is simply going to sail on past. Even then, sheer talent is never enough. No sir, you need so much more. On top of pure skill, you have to have great songwriting, which I consider to be the key element. Next you need to surround yourself with the same caliber of musicians that you are. Once you boil this down...the writing and the talent coupled with the right players, you achieve what I call musical balance. Now you need to practice for what feels like an eternity, grinding down your riffs, sweating the small stuff, intricately planning your tunes so that you don't come off as the imitation. You have to be the real deal. No one else around should sound like you. You set the tone for what the fans will hungrily devour at your live shows. This is the true beginning of possible greatness. The game opens itself up to you like the queen on prom night. She is accepting and willing to go all the way. But damn, you had better be the quarterback or that little honey will be leaving with someone else. You see, just being the best is not enough in this game. Why? Because many are at your level and they know secrets too. Like the fact that you need a solid media presence, a top class press kit, a savvy team that loves your project and is committed to selling your merchandise, and so much more. You need killer live sound and lighting. You need a fan base that makes it out to every show you do in their area. You have them because you were really smart and devised a way to get them on your fan pages and signing up for your news letters. Your fans and media BUZZ will prove to be the deciding factor when a label comes sniffing you out. I know bands that are independent stars, tons of fans and they are still waiting for the prom queen to notice that they even exist. This is due to the fact that the game is rigged. Did I mention that? Oops. Yea, this game is heavily in favor of acts that are introduced by way of very special means. These include a purposeful legitimate manager (ie: not your little brother), An entertainment lawyer (Mr. Enormous Bucks) or a development deal with a HOT production company. If you know how to get your band heard and seen by someone who has some influence, you have truly managed to level the field somewhat. All of us have heard signed bands that we felt were inferior to other similar acts we personally knew of. So, how you market yourself is highly important. Don't send your press kit to an Indie label that deals with hard rock acts if your a pop singer. Be thoughtful of every effort you make. Most of us cannot afford the Lawyer, we also cannot all have the legendary manager, cuz well...he is already working his ass off for someone else. Do you want to have your hard work just parked on his desk while he pimps his favorites all day?? The notion of working with a HOT production company development deal intrigues me, as these cats are truly in it to win it. but, lets face it, they are pretty busy guys, so your still going to have to WOW them into considering taking you on. So...where does this lead you? It is all in the presentation. Lets recap. So, you've got the killer band, the killer songs and the killer sound. You have merchandise (the coolest T-shits ever) to keep your fans thinking of you long after you leave town. You have a press kit (Bio, news paper articles, magazine articles, press releases) and a good solid recording of the project (also part of merchandise, as you will be counting on moving your songs at performances). You have live footage out there (all manner of blogs, Youtube, etc.) You have spread the word like a preacher on Sunday. Yes, you are now no longer just another great band. You actually have a strong following and have even maybe heard from a label or 2. Congratulations! Your now swimming in the ocean of sharks that devour little fish like you for breakfast! Just keep swimming...cuz I am actually exaggerating, kind of. Those big sharks rely heavily on meals that they can digest whole. But, you my friend, you are a machine. An entity unto yourselves. In a smaller pond, you ARE the sharks. This is really key here. Reaching too high is fruitless and every band needs to step up the ladder at the pace that is dictated by the genre, the fan base and the projected sales within that rung, so to speak. There are many ways to try and fool the numbers on Spotify with bots and other such software that will artificially inflate your perceived fan base totals, but know this. A savvy label sees right past it. They look to meta numbers that indicate how many times fans return to listen to your tracks. You may have gotten lucky and been added to a monster playlist that on the outside looks like your being played 500,000 times...but it isn't hard to dig in now and see the data for what it really is. These companies open their data to everyone now to see just what the facts are. The game So, swim in the pond you belong in. Keep working hard and collecting TRUE fans. Keep touring, hustling and being who you are. Be genuine and when your numbers get into attention grabbing plateaus, the labels will come a calling. In this day and age they are not that interested in doing all the hard work. They expect you have most of it done already, so that the next step is not breaking anyone's back...especially theirs. This is the life of the modern band. I am not saying you cannot BUY your way in, or be lucky enough to have an entertainment lawyer who loves your project. What I am saying is that most of you DON'T have those gifts, or you wouldn't be reading my little story here. For those of you who are hungry for more information. Those that desire to leave no stone unturned. You are welcome to my sage advice and I applaud you for reading this far. It is you hungry animals that I admire deeply. Without your tenacity and determination, this industry would suffer greatly. We would all miss out on your music. That, my friends, is something very tragic. I know there are so many more things that I could have brought to light and so much more data that can be examined to better understand this very deep subject. But, there are plenty of resources out there for you all to dig into, and I expect that you will! I hope this article was helpful and a little entertaining too. At the very least, I got to talk about this thing that drives me...this beast we call ours...this true calling for all of you...the music industry. Now...go out and rock the planet!
Morgan Toutant - WAIL Music Magazine