I thought of this analogy the other day and explained it to a bunch of people I was sitting with.
It’s basically linked to the business side of music and bands. The creative side of being in a band IS where a band can be an island. Going off somewhere creatively and being alone and isolated to create and conjure and concoct is nothing but healthy and developmental.
However, the business/marketing/fan-engagement side of things is ever-increasingly becoming a place where a band cannot be isolated or afford to be off the grid. Basically, think of a band as an island (to begin with) and the mainland is well…the audience and recognition you want for your band. Whatever your definition of success is for your band. What is required to bridge that gap??
The more I think about it, this analogy is linked to another idea that I had – Fans up and Industry down.
In the early days, a band will be playing smaller shows and gathering fans is a must…and to avoid becoming an island and having fans come back to gigs there a couple of things that need to be done. The bare minimum is to have fantastic songs. This should be like an If/Then statement. If you can’t honestly stand behind your music, then go back and write more or perform more so you get your chops up as a performer. Then move forward with telling people about it and gathering fans. It will be a lot easier to get fans on board if your music is good – when you are comfortable and your songs improve, you will find things will start to roll on. That however, is just the beginning!! After that, it is up to the band to be gathering email addresses online, at shows and connecting with fans and keep them coming back for more. Keeping the fans engaged and interested in what you have to share with them is the hardest part. Chatting with them and not being aloof is the key. There are so very few bands being enigmatic and mysterious works for. Building this loyal fanbase by touring, playing shows, having a solid web presence are all part of the building FANS UP part of the story.
The other part of the story is the INDUSTRY DOWN. Now, I know a lot of bands hate the idea of being “industry whores” and sell-outs and blah blah blah. But seriously, behind every amazing musician you have ever seen in the past 50 years that has made it to the top or met their level of success has had that back-end of their band. It may not have been the band doing it themselves, but it was certainly a creative manager or sharp A&R person for a label who identified creative genius and made moves for the band to be recognised on a wider scale etc – and did that left-brain logic thinking for the right-brain inclined artist. That artist’s manager may never have been recognised for what they did behind the scenes, but it has to have been there for them to not just be a total train-wreck of a band. Even the most pure of artists has merch to sell and schedules to organise and logistics to be planned for their tours and their releases and their publicity etc. An example of an amazing artist who does both sides of the brain very well (right-brain and left-brain extremes. Awesomely creative and very organised and creative in business) is Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls. (Follow her on Twitter – I recommend highly. http://twitter.com/amandapalmer)
SO – this means that you really need to be thinking on this level for yourself in the beginning. There aren’t a whole heap of managers out there who will take you on while the band is not earning anything for themselves. So learn a little bit – go to workshops, take notes. Take the lead in your band. Assign roles and think about what skills the band has. How big are your friend networks and do you feel right about asking them to spread the word about your band? Who is best in the band at networking. Someone (as bad as it sounds) needs to be the suit. The person who does the meetings and understands about distribution and marketing and release strategies and publishing and sync and label deals and door deals vs guarantees and on and on and on and on.
How can you be building the bridge between your music and the industry? How can you build the bridge between you and your fans?
Because though it’s fun and nice and relaxing on the island, it may only be day-trippers who visit your music. If you make it easy, true fans who will come back to your island time and time again.
P.S. I find this highly interesting. I did this quiz at http://www.intelliscript.net/test_area/questionnaire/questionnaire.cgi to see if I was right or left brain inclined. Turns out I sit right in the middle. This makes a lot of sense to me, to be honest. I am an artist, in that I am a musician and play in a band and have creativity, but I also have the skills to organise and network and handle “business” work. Interesting. Comment on what your results are!