Written by juicebox on April 22, 2008 5:21 pm EST
As having a strong background in the Entertainment Industry, there are many mistakes that I’ve watched striving musicians and even major musicians make. Many of them are unavoidable, while some are. If you are serious about a career in music as a Musician, take these 10 things into account.
1. Learn and Understand Music Theory
Pop hits will come and go. Right now, the most popular type of music is the type that is “scientifically” created by the RIAA labels. Get to the hook in 20 seconds, make it repetitive, keep the beat basic. Korn made an excellent video which showcased this called “Y’all want a single“. You might want to check out that video when you have a chance. The video showcases the exact methods that they use to create the pop hits you hear today.
So why understand Music Theory? Simple. More and more music consumers are getting fed up with the pop hits that lack substance. They may enjoy the music, because the song was designed to be enjoyed. Yet the chance of selling CD’s is much slimmer, because the radio will overplay it before you have a chance to sell it. Sorry RIAA, it’s not Piracy eating your profits, it’s you.
Composers like Beethoven and others may have been a bit loose in the head, but their compositions exist to this day in popular music, because of their complexity, harmony, and melody. You may not make an instant pop hit, but you won’t be a one-hit wonder either.
2. Consider Your Label Wisely
There are thousands of record labels out there and a good amount of them exist to destroy your life as a musician. Once they get you signed, they give you a large advance, which is actually a loan, and you’ll never repay that, unless you give all your proceeds to the record company. Now with record companies paying lower than ever in royalties, it’s a real eye raiser to established artists.
Consider this. Popular bands from the Backstreet Boys, Linkin Park, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and even Britney Spears, rarely if ever, make money from their Labels. They make their money from Tours, merchandise sales, and endorsements of products. Don’t forget, that even though they wrote the music, they may have to pay royalties to the record label every time they perform live, but we’ll get into that a bit later. Most major labels offer 2% or less royalty to an Artist and that percentage normally goes to their debt against the record company. So where does the other 98% go? Good question.
There are plenty of great Record Labels out there such as Projekt Records, A Different Drum, Komodo Dragon Records, and others. Just remember to read all contracts thoroughly. If it seems to good to be true, it likely is, and avoid labels who give you advances or don’t suggest needing an attorney. If they are working in your best interest, then they should have no problem with you talking with an attorney, in fact they should encourage it and offer references.
Also make sure your Record Label does not register with PRO’s by default, and that they are not allowed to on your behalf.
3. Avoid Performance Royalty Organizations (PRO)
Most artists may balk at this, reading the shiny pamphlets, flyers, postcards, binders, or being invited to tons of “exclusive parties” from these organizations. The current ones are known as:
Why should you avoid them? First, they reduce your potential exposure by demanding exorbitant amounts of money from independent radio firms, who have a pure intention of promoting your music. Many who don’t have this cash. In addition, they all tend to be directly affiliated with the RIAA, which means bad news for you.
If you want maximum exposure for your music, don’t sign with them. Allow radio stations to play your music, without restriction, without royalty. Trust me on this one. Your band goes much further. I see more and more independent artists climbing the charts faster because of it, and most Radio Stations are more partial to those who don’t charge them and allow them to do what they are there to do.
Also, by not being with a PRO means you’re in direct control of licensing for TV, Movies, and more.
In my opinion, let businesses play your music on their phones, and in their locations. Allow radio stations to promote you without royalty. Allow TV station news companies to play your tracks. They all get asked what they are playing, if the listener enjoys it, which means more sales for you. I can’t tell you how many times when people have called my office going “I love that song on your hold, what’s it called, and who did it?”.
While PRO’s may seem to have your back on Copyright, they are For-Profit agencies, there to make a profit to their shareholders. Some shareholders are other Artists, some are RIAA members.
Even the way PRO’s handle royalties should be outright illegal. With some, only the Top Artists get money, and believe it or not, those checks are cut to, their record label. So if you’re not as popular as say Madonna, good luck getting anything out of a PRO.
Now, what I meant in the prior one about a live band paying royalties is this. There is performance royalties that are subject to you, if you are not careful about producers and assisting musicians. So if you perform a track, expect a good chunk of change to go to these PRO’s.
They don’t sound too good now do they? But they were so convincing? That’s what they are there to do. Their representatives are sales professionals. Think about it.
4. Make a Visible Stage Presence
This is where a lot of Major Bands separate themselves from the Independent. The more stage activity, the more fanfare you get. Your fans want to be in your music. It’s kind of hard to get into the music when the band is just there, and not getting into it yourselves. Think of yourselves as conductors. What you do, your fans do. So the more you move, the more they move. The music could totally suck, but you would be the best Band ever, because you look better on stage. It’s 90% Performance, 10% Sound.
Also, don’t look like every other band. Make your own style. Be yourselves.
5. Keep Your Band’s Tiffs off the Internet
Look, we know that musicians are human too, and occasionally there is a fight between members of a band. However, I don’t want to read that junk when I’m checking for the latest tracks on your site. Keep it inside the Band as much as possible. If a Band member leaves and wants to trash you online, just make one post that they left the band for (something positive here) and you wish them luck and that’s it. Let them be who they want to be.
A good example of this is Korn’s former Guitarist trashed the band on Camera after he left, and Korn just sat there going, What? They refused to stoop to his level, and just said they respect him and wish him luck. That’s how it should be done.
6. Avoid Digital Rights Managed (DRM) Distribution
The moral of this is simple. If you restrict your fans, you lose them. Don’t try and “prevent piracy” by releasing lossy, horribly encoded audio tracks from iTunes. Consider distributing 320 Kbps MP3 files or even better, distribute in FLAC. No matter what anyone says, AAC+ is not a lossless format, and fidelity is lost when you purchase from these sites.
Learn more about DRM and it’s damaging effects to the consumer and retail side of the Music Industry at Defective By Design.org
7. A MySpace is not your Bands Website
Seriously, don’t be lazy. Get a domain name from somewhere like GoDaddy. Make a nice site design, or get someone to do it for you. Social networks such as MySpace, Facebook, and (insert network here) are great for promotion, but they are not a great way to represent your band.
If a band sends me just a MySpace, I don’t consider them legitimate. Show me a domain name with a website, and I’ll believe it’s legitimate. It shows that you’re making an effort.
By the way, did you know putting your tracks on MySpace let’s them use your music however they want, for whatever they want, perpetually? Read those Terms of Service and Agreements!
8. Don’t Preach on Stage
When I go to a show, to see you perform, that’s what I am there to see and hear. Don’t preach to me about any social causes or religion, or politics unless that’s what your band is about. Last I want to hear after an awesome concert is how much you hate meat because the folks at PETA says it’s bad for you. Am I discounting their claims? No. Though, I’m there to have a good time. Not worry about your personal beliefs. If I wanted to see that, I’d read your blog or Bio.
If you notice, Bands who do this get serious backlashes, or lose their entire career. It’s not worth it, if you plan on this being your life career.
9. Find a Manager or Agent Who Respects All Press
Again, speaking from personal experience here. Find a Manager or Agent who acknowledges Independent press in all mediums, and gives them a fighting chance. Bands who I have major trouble with dealing with their management or Agent to get an interview, or tickets to cover their show, is really a good way to make me not promote you anymore.
Sure, by all means are there a ton of people just lying their ways as press into shows, but your Representation should look into all request, and consider them. If they have doubts, get a dialog going. Don’t just shun them. It makes you look bad, even though it wasn’t your decision.
It looks worse to a Band when a Press Agency says “We couldn’t cover this show for you because their management didn’t want to speak with us”. Do you want that to happen? Get the most exposure you can, and when you get big, don’t forget those who got you there.
10. Just Be Yourselves
This kind of goes hand in hand with some of the prior tips. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. If your band is Punk, then be Punk. Be your own kind of Punk. Conformity is a trend, and just like trends, your band will be in and out the door faster than a fat kid in dodgeball. The Press dig those who are themselves. It makes for good PR.
Too many bands spend so much time trying to be someone they are not. Dressing in a certain way thinking by doing that, it will make them popular. While your dress is a major part of your performance, looking like everyone else doesn’t exactly make you stand out that much, and that will lead to your music declining in popularity.
Conformity is not popularity. In fact, its a close career-suicide move, and very few bands succeed at conforming and staying in the charts.
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