6 Bad Habits Musicians Are Guilty Of
It’s hard being a musician these days. In addition to writing/performing music, we’re often bombarded with the need to maintain an online presence, deal with licensing contracts, book tours, work with promoters, find sponsors, record/mix/master/distribute CD’s, and more. Because the work can be overwhelming, it’s easy to fall into bad habits and do things that hurt, not help our careers. Here are some of the bad habits that musicians are guilty of:
We focus on the wrong things. It’s easy to get obsessed with filling the booking calendar and end up over-playing instead of being strategic about shows. On social media, we look at the wrong numbers, focusing on the number of followers rather than building up engagement. We need to take a step back and look at our long term goals, instead of focusing on immediate urges.
We want a shortcut to everything. I get more emails asking about an easy way to get a sponsorship or booking a show than anything else. The easiest way to get anything in the music industry is to do the hard work of building up a local fan base and create a unique niche for yourself. That’s when you can make the pitch. As Beverly Sills states, “there are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.”
We copy other acts. It’s good to learn from others’ examples, but you need to create something totally unique for yourself. Look for untapped markets where you can make fans in unexpected places. Have a unique voice or approach to social media, come up with unique pieces of merch, try new ways to promote. Don’t copy another act’s image. Imitation might be a form of flattery, but it does nothing to flatter the person doing the imitating.
The “magic solution.” This goes along with the shortcut: we often look for the next golden egg that can help launch the career. At first, everyone thought it was acquiring thousands of “friends” on Myspace, then it was licensing. Sometimes it is a national tour, others, the “solution” is getting a song on the radio. Reality check: there is no single solution that works for everyone. This is why I say that the best social media site for bands is the one your fans is on, not any site created by artists or made for bands. You have to find what works for your target audience, then do those things well.
We try and appeal to everyone. Instead of thinking of your target audience in terms of a demographic collection (i.e, 14-38 year olds), try to narrow it down to a single person. Who is your most enthusiastic fan? What sets them apart? What are they interested in? What is it about you that resonates with them? Once you determine the one person (rather than a generic group), forget about everyone else and just focus on other people like them. You’ll make better decisions and you’ll see better ROI on your efforts.
Not practicing for performance. Many acts might rehearse and get their songs down tight in the garage, but they don’t seem to be practicing for performance. In other words, even if the songs are tight, there the live show has issues: they don’t know how to set-up and clear the stage quickly, transitions between songs are long or loose, band members necessarily are messing around on their instruments during sound check or between songs (or “live” tuning), they don’t know how to address the audience. Try taking video of rehearsals and shows, compare the two. Time them. Fine tune it. If you want to be a professional, don’t act like an amateur band.
Do you find yourself slipping into one of these mindsets?
We have more resources for musicians than ever before, opportunities abound. However, bands also have to work harder than ever before as well. So before you just dive in, take a moment and think about your long term goals, develop a business strategy, and think about how you can give value to your most enthusiastic fans.
What’re some habits you find yourself falling into?