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“It’s not what you play but who you know”

I wanted to take this time to write something that may hit home for most local musicians and also for anyone who has ever had a dream or a desire to pursue something important in their lives. It is true, that the more we want or need something, the harder it is to obtain it, well it seems that way doesn’t it? Being a musician is hard, there’s no denying that. Being an unknown, original musician is even harder. We pour our hearts out into every song we write, and when we can’t get things exactly how we want it, we beat ourselves up. Oh that little annoying voice is not so nice is it? We are our own worse critics, never satisfied but always looking for perfection.

But we never realize that it’s those little imperfections that makes us who we are as an artist, it’s what makes people feel and relate to our music. But being as stubborn as we are, we still fall into those old self-destructive habits, “I’m not good enough, I’ll never be anybody.” Oh yes, it’s hard being an unknown, original musician.

So what about trying to make a career out of doing original music? Well the odds are against us even more. No, I’m not trying to be the party-pooper here, just being realistic. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, just kind of improbable. Why you ask? Well because artists are dreamers, we need to see things in color, not black and white, which is where most business-type thinking lies. Of course you have those types of artists that excel on both sides but they are rare creatures. So let’s be honest here, most musicians suck at the business side of music, but you see we are right-brained thinkers, we are more keen to the creative side of things.

So what does this mean you might ask, well to have a career as an original musician we must realize that it takes more than just great songs or a cool new look. Sure, those things are important and do help but what every artist needs is a business plan. You know something to help guide us through the confusing maze so we can become the true “rock stars” we passionately feel we are inside. Afterall, it’s almost unheard of for an artist to succeed without a plan of action. But even with that said, one after another we still continue to fail to create a business plan for ourselves.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am one of those musicians who also sees in color and not so great in black and white, so I do fall victim to this problem as well. However, this plan doesn’t have to be complicated like trying to solve an algebra equation. Actually starting off with simple goals may be the best way at first. But I know, we all want stardom right now, we all want to perform our music live for 50,000 screaming fans, have our songs go to number one on the charts or be played every hour on the radio.

But the cold-hard facts is this, we aren’t Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga (or insert your favorite band here), nobody knows our name and no one cares what we had for breakfast. So as local musicians, we try to perform anywhere for anybody that will actually listen to us. Sure it’s great if we can rally up the few friends and family we have to come to each and every gig we have, but after a while that runs pretty thin, and if you don’t have friends then you’re worse off. So you might be asking the question, “how do I get people to come out to my gigs then?” Well this is where a “plan of action” would really help.

I will tell you alittle secret I just figured out not too long ago…”it’s not what you play but who you know.” What I mean by that is that it’s a numbers game. The more people you know the more odds of getting some of them out to see you play each time. Now I’m not talking about just collecting random email addresses from strangers, I am talking about interacting and knowing them. It’s unfortunate but it’s true, most people will not come out to see a band they either have never heard of or do not know personally in some way, unless of course they are on a big label and they are promoted to every major market, but let’s face it, that’s not us is it? So we have to think outside the box, we have to think like a music fan rather than a musician at this point.

What’s the biggest promotional tool all artists have? I can give you a hint but then you’ll have to tell your friends and then they have to tell their friends, etc…, yes that’s right, word-of-mouth. Most people will check out a band if their friends tell them about the band. Like I said before, the more people you know the more they will spread your name to their friends. That’s why it’s important for us as musicians to do whatever we can to meet new people, make friends and make strong connections.

One idea is to join or start a group/club online or offline and make it about a topic that somehow feeds into what your band as about, then promote to get people to join it. You want to be able to share in the same interests with them. If people see you’re also a fan of something they like, let’s say, their favorite music, then they will be more open to checking out your band as well. The whole point is to reach out to new people who have the potential of liking your own music. Remember, it’s who you know, as well as who knows you.

Which brings me back to the “local music scene.” We also need to network and make those same connections with other musicians and music businesses within our own music community. This is what builds a music scene, people helping each other. We all have the same goals and no one can make it alone without help from others. I’m sure some of you have noticed that the music scene here in northern Delaware is growing lately. There are alot more venues to play, more bands and new music companies out there looking to lend a hand in supporting the scene. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

We all need to come together as a unit and help strengthen this music community even more. If you’re in a band, why not go and check out other local band shows, perhaps introduce yourself and get to know them, then start booking shows together. Doing this a few times will create relationships with those bands and their fans will become your fans and vice versa, which in turn will build both band’s fanbases (this also goes for us solo acts too).

I know all this sounds easy to say, and the truth is, it’s alot of hard work. I also know it’s tough to get out there and make a name for yourself, especially if you’re a shy person or someone who’s not use to networking or promoting themselves. And it can be very frustrating at times if you don’t see immediate results at first, but being persistent and having a good plan-of-action in place will help create a clearer vision as to what musical goals we want to try to accomplish. Being a part of a supportive music community will help all of us get closer to reaching our “rock star” dreams.

Everything in life that is important is always challenging. Never doubt yourself and most importantly, never give up. Keep finding new ways and ideas to be creative and to help spread your music to others. We all can benefit from a thriving music scene if we all support it and help to build it. This is why it’s more about who you know than what you play.

In a future article, I’ll likely further discuss other creative ideas and possibilities for bands to promote and market themselves, so please check back. Also feel free to comment and post your own ideas below!


To see what I mean about starting a group, check out my group I made on meetup.com called Delaware Live Music. It’s a group for fans of live music in the region to meet and go check out local shows. I have met some great people through it. Feel free to join it as well!

Categories: local music, music
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