I wrote this in April 2009. Thinking has changed a lot since then.
It used to be that the artist who sold the most got the most shared (I find the term ‘pirated’ about as archaic as Thundercats). Now, the popular artists are giving their stuff away for free, and for remix. The result? Merchandise flies, shows are sold out and there’s a buzz about who’s with it.
Popular music requires a promoter to become popular. A promoter oversees distribution of a recording on behalf of the artist, in exchange for sales, retail or live performance percentages. But, a promoter need not be a single figure; large numbers of independent collaborators could pursue promotion of an artist for ideological motives. For example, in 2008, Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead albums were proliferated to support the cause of free music. Such artists rely more on their independent fans than payroll promoters.
The larger the town / city / metropolis, the greater the demand for arts and culture. This also means a greater demand for promoter figures, retail outlets, live performance, etc.
On the converse, the more pumping the ‘scene,’ the greater the competition to get your music played. If you realise that you’re not just in it for the makeup, you gotta find a niche. It’s easy to find your niche. Just imagine your people.
The medium is the message. Posters, flyers and facebook pages are good backup, but your primary push has to be original. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Tape a free CD to the ceiling of your lecture hall.
If you treat it as a job, it will more likely become one.
Spending your energy promoting yourself makes you a promoter. Spending it making music makes you a musician. You are both, but because there are only so many hours in the day, you’ll probably fall somewhere on sliding scale between one and the other. Decide early if you’re actually asking for a ticket to the plastic pantomime.
When you’re brainstorming your gigs, remember: there are only so many people out and about on any given night. Don’t try to change the habits of your sofa-surfing friends. Rather focus on who’s already listening.
Most bosses held a guitar at some stage of their life. Ask yours if you can start late and finish late. You’ll love the gig more if you get to enjoy it. Flirt, if you’re a girl.
Your breaks will almost always come from unexpected angles. Take up offers to do things you normally wouldn’t. The 3-year-old kid cousin’s party you’ve been asked to play guitar at? That’s where you find the guy who goes ‘oh, we’re looking for a band.’
The music is as good as the production and the packaging. Don’t fuss too much on getting that guitar lick perfect just yet: your real efforts should be saving up the cash to get the stuff mastered. Even bad music can sound good if the production is tight, but badly produced music takes a visionary to appreciate, even if it’s excellent.
Finally, don’t waste too much time online. There are better ways to spend your time. Trust me.