By: Reed Heaton
The next big music craze is out there. Somewhere.
Maybe the band is in a room where the members meet and play for the first time. Maybe she is in a room writing one of the first songs to catapult her to success.
Bands and artists have to start somewhere. Generally, most of them start at the same level: having nothing but their songs & each other, maybe even only one person.
But there’s always a question in their minds, which asks, “how do we get ourselves out of this room and on the correct path to success?”
The answer is easy.
Whenever an artist feels a need to share his or her work, it means the artist is eager for both friends and strangers to hear it. Artists are confident in what they have and have gotten to the point of wanting to hear criticism, rather than being afraid of it.
That is a hard process to go through. Trying to differ between their own perception of their music and the perception of first time listeners is something that drives songwriters crazy.
There is also an uncertainty about performing said songs live over whether or not a performance of those songs will go well.
This confidence can be accomplished by one thing and one thing only: practice.
Instead of watching hours worth of Netflix, spend the time working on the music. Feel like there is nothing to do? Call the band and spend time running through the material. Played the material enough? Spend even more time running through it.
The key is to get to a point when performing songs becomes second nature and to make sure everything the band is playing and singing is within its skillset.
Improvement will come. Once the songs have become second nature, playing them in either a live, practice, or recording setting becomes much easier.
It is hard to know what music is capable of if without demoing it first.
It can start with recording an acoustic performance of a certain song, but learning to build it into a multi part demo is important for an artist in figure out his or her musical direction.
This is an era where DIY recording is very advanced, and almost anybody with a desire can make an at least decent demo. It is a wonderful thing, and it opens up a lot of possibilities for songwriters.
With just a recording app and a few guitars, a musician is able to make plentiful songs and is able to experiment with where he or she wants the music to go.
Demos can also show an artist which songs will actually shine through in a recording setting, in comparison to the songs they like the most in a conceptual setting.
It is a temporary product that artists can show to friends and people who are interested, potentially even that proverbial “right person at the right time.”
It helps them figure out what is right and what is wrong with the songs that they have written. it helps with deciding what needs to be added and what needs to be taken away. It also requires the extra rehearsal needed to get a song just right, which can develop a song’s live performance more than one may think.
Involve yourself in the community
Go to shows. Discover new music that you love.
It is important to observe each show that you go to and figure out the intricate things others bands do which work and may work for you.
Avoid being stylistically derivative, but when you see a band being professional and causing enthusiastic crowd reactions, it is good to pay attention.
Find a way to promote your music to people and get familiar with the venues you want to play. Get people excited about your music and shows. Make them as confident about what you are up to as you are.
The more honest connections made with people, the higher chance for having a good turnout at shows, which is the lifeblood of an independent artist.
If there is someone who is genuinely excited over what you are doing or likes your demos, do not treat him or her as a given. Friends and fans are the people who will help you get off the ground.
Wanting to be in a position to have a successful release requires a buzz surrounding what you are doing, and that starts with one thing: having fans and making connections with said fans.
It is about having a certain genuinity that is given off by you or your group’s music and the avoidance of ingenuity.
Taking The Jump
I remember seeing a video of Steve Harvey giving a speech after an episode had ended. I generally would not take life advice from the guy who picked the wrong Ms. Universe, but what he said hit the nail on the head.
His message was to take the “jump” towards your life goals. At some point in your life, you are going to have to make a decision on whether to jump or continue to live the same life.
After one has done all they can possibly do to raise their confidence and make connections, he or she has to make the same decision; either jump on stage or into a studio and finally put yourself out there for everyone to see or guarantee your music will never see the light of day.
It is a very difficult situation, and it can require a lot of strength and preparation to go through with it. When one actually takes the figurative jump though, it is based on how they make their decisions.
Sometimes certain individuals simply need to take the jump in order to gain confidence in themselves. Essentially baptism by fire, but in a productive way.
Grind for your work
The Grind is the day-to-day effort an artist puts in for his or her work. Whether it be making sure to promote their product or shows as effectively as they can, consistently trying to create new ideas for songs, or trying to seek out opportunities as much as possible.
The key word is consistency.
Obviously, you should not oversaturate whatever fanbase you have with berating statuses, but you should find a pleasant middle ground with social media and promotion in general.
You need to be assertive and well knowledged, but at the same time, considerate for the people who you are trying to appeal to. In the end, they decide whether or not you survive.
Once you are finally out playing shows, maintaining a constant head of steam is by far one of the hardest things any band -- signed or unsigned -- can manage to accomplish.
If you can practice until your set is automatic, take advantage of opportunities given to you and focus on creating an honest, straightforward relationship with your fans, you should be in a position to succeed.
The best position you can be in is releasing your music to a well attended and responsive crowd and having a product that is both something you are proud of and something that will allure new listeners. This is accomplished by successful promotion and a receptive audience, which should be built up by your involvement in the community.
It is also key to always at least be thinking about the next move, especially after you have released your music. Generally, artists like to book shows at least three or more months in advance. Once you consistently do that, you begin to always have shows lined up for your band, while still having plenty of time to prepare for each gig.
Preparation is also very much a part of the grind.
I have said it once and I will say it again. Practice.
It seems unnecessary, and it is especially draining if you play the same song 5 times in a row to the same group of people. But, if you have not practiced each song until you at least kind of hate it, it is not going to be tight live, and having a tight band is absolutely required in order for there be success.
Do you think you should tour sounding like you did at your first couple of shows? No, absolutely not, which is why you need practice obsessively in order to have a shot at playing a stage like that.
There are a lot of factors in play with not only putting your music out, but putting yourself out as well. If there is fear, you have to overcome it. If there is uncertainty, figure it out. If there is a hope in your mind, make it a reality.
As I have said before, once these struggles have been overcome, your dreams could be within reach.
This is work.
It takes work to be successful in anything you do in life, and being a musician is no different.