When you know your music is destined for something big, it can be difficult to take it slow. It’s easy to set your sites on playing the largest venues, getting on the highest profile blogs, opening for the biggest bands — and to want it to all happen now. But if you try to skip all the steps between “just starting out” and “major success” you’ll find that you tend to stay in the “just starting out” phase a little too long — if not forever.
The reality is, when you try to skip over all the nitty-gritty steps of building your fanbase, networking with other bands and industry, touring locally, building your brand, and anything else that’s generally considered the business side of the industry, and instead put pressure on the music to do all the work, you’ll find that no matter how great the music is, you simply can’t get it off the ground.
In today’s industry, having a head for business is just as important as having a talent for music.
So, in your plight for the top, don’t ignore these crucial steps — and career changing opportunities.
1. Changing the lives of those who listen to your music
One of the most powerful things about music is its ability to transform the lives of those who listen to it. It has always been that music has a formidable influence in our moods, our feelings, even the decisions we make. When you take the time to build your brand, to know what you stand for and share that with the people who follow you, you’re making the decision to connect with them on a deeper level.
From a purely business standpoint, the more connected your fans feel to you, the more likely they are to tell their friends about you, buy your music and merch, attend your shows, and overall, be your best form of advertising. But from a purely human level, taking the time to invest in and perfect your brand so that you’re connecting on a deeper level with those who believe what you believe, you’re making an investment in bettering the lives of those around you.
Because when people connect with each other on the things that matter to them, the possibilities in the way they live their lives is transformative and inspiring. Imagine being a part of that.
2. Building relationships within the industry
If you’re shy, insecure, or lack confidence in any way, you already know this industry provides a lot of opportunities to overcome that. I say opportunities because that’s exactly what they are. The chance to learn to talk to people, both in person and online is a skill that will prove useful in almost every area. And the truth is relationship building is a huge part of this industry—the more people you know and truly connect with, the higher your chances of success. Nepotism? Nah, I just call it the power of friendships.
There’s a lot of opportunities to build relationships online and in person, and we’ve gone over them in previous articles, but if you’re someone that’s made a habit out of avoiding going up to people at conferences or joining and engaging in Facebook groups, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to really connect.
If you’re new to networking, here’s a few quick tips to get you started:
- Attend as many in person conferences as you can (even and especially the smaller ones — there are often more networking opps there) and make it a point to meet and chat with new people. Go up to bands or panelists you saw perform/talk and compliment specific moments of their performances/talks. By being specific, they know that you really payed attention and are invested in them and their passions, which will make them more likely to be interested in yours.
- Go to regular open mics or weekly show nights at certain venues. You’ll often see the same crowd week after week, which will give you a chance to get to know those in your scene even better and connect for future shared bill opportunities, intros with other bands/industry, and a general sense of community
- Join a few Facebook groups and then get active! A few of my favorites are the Music Launch Hub, Defend Pop Punk Group, A Promoter’s Life, Music Biz Besties, and The Rock/Star Collective. There are a ton more out there, including ones specific to your region and genre. Once you’ve joined, make a point to comment on a few threads a week, offering advice and perspective where you can. The main strength of networking effectively, especially in these groups, is to give more often than you take. The more often you share your expertise or opinion to help others, the more people will begin to see and recognize your name and over time, associate you as an expert.
3. Finding new fans
Most bands have dreams of making it into major outlets like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Alternative Press, and other high-tier sites. But when you’re just starting out, you’re a lot more likely to catch the attention of a smaller, lesser known blog — and that’s actually a huge benefit!
One of the biggest advantages to partnering with a small blog for press around your new music, besides the obvious fact that they’re more likely to feature you, is that while their readership may be smaller, they’re often much more loyal. Meaning, if the blog features you, their readers are for sure going to check you out, because they already trust and rely on the blog’s recommendation.
Another added benefit is that you can always count on a smaller blog to share their feature on social media, gaining you even more exposure, where oftentimes a larger publication won’t.
4. Connecting with other bands
When you try to skip playing the smaller venues, or don’t do frequent short tours around your state and the surrounding states, you miss out on the opportunity to really get to know the other bands and fans in your scene — as well as other scenes.
Sure, there’s a lot more glamour in playing your city’s largest venue and opening for an already established act, but since that’s probably not going to happen right away anyway, by refusing to play smaller shows or tour, all you’re really doing is hurting your chance to get out there and get a little exposure, while networking with other bands.
If you’re thinking “yeah but those bands are also small” don’t underestimate the power of growing together. Finding other bands and industry who are at the same level as you currently, and building those relationships can be incredibly powerful as you both grow and find new opportunities. Take the time to invest in others, and you’ll soon find how much it can change your career.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Substream, New Noise, and more. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine, as well as a PR coach. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.