Steven Blanton ~ Leaderocity

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I Want in the Music Biz Part IV: Success… Habit or Hobby

There are many ideas of “success”. I think success has more to do with your goals than anything else. For example, if your goal is to learn to fly without crashing, then every time you take off and land and don’t break stuff, you could call that “success”. It says nothing of the ride in between the take off and landing. You may have had several near misses… just barely avoiding the electrical wires, the water tower, the cell tower and that tall guy standing on the hill. The idea of success for your potential passengers will be based on an entirely separate set of goals! This speaks to the fact that quality is part of the story of success. Who dares fly with a guy who can’t keep the plane upright even if he never crashes? Most people would rather take the bus. And so it is, metaphorically speaking, in the music business.
Maintaining a consistent image, a solid sound, good recordings, and a reputation for doing a quality show, has everything to do with your success. Getting by with near misses can sustain you only so long. If your goal is only to put together a band and go play, with no view to the future, you may have short-circuited the real success story you are trying to accomplish. You may imagine yourself in an arena playing your newest hit but it takes more than imagination to make that happen. Like the unstable pilot, there is a lot that needs to happen between take off and landing. As I mentioned in the last blog, you must take a step back and decide on your vision statement that encapsulates the philosophies for accomplishing your goals and objectives. Then you act on them to put the pieces in place.
Bands and artists who want to make a living in the business will have to take the necessary steps that lead to the intended goal. It is rare; very rare that success simply happens to musicians. In most cases, the band or artist is deliberate in their attempts to build on past experiences, leading them to positive results. Like stepping stones over a creek, forward progress is made one step at a time, and sometimes you have to throw a new stone into the water. In the same way every footstep is deliberately placed on the stepping stones, a business plan can be put in place. This is true for any business and is no less true for music. The fact that the product we musicians deliver is creative in no way diminishes the need to plan for success.
Being a musician myself, I know the challenge it is to manage the business side of things when all I really want to do is play the gig. But without setting parameters for what “success” looks like, I may never know if I am building an organization that will deliver what I am thinking of for my future. The downside of failing to plan could mean that I may play and play for years, while working at a side line job, that after time becomes my only income and music is only a hobby. If I want music to be my hobby, then I have been successful. But if I am trying to earn my living from the thing I love to do, then I must do the things that will make that a real possibility for me.
The fact is that we must brand ourselves as a product in order to help people find us and identify with our music. It doesn’t mean we have to be an international pop icon like Michael Jackson or U2. We simply need to find the group of
fans who will be endlessly loyal and follow our career to every level, buying every piece of produce we put out. Without buying fans, we cannot hope to move our career from the hobby level to the pro level. Again, I ask the question… who is looking for your music?
©2009 WalkWay Group, Steven Blanton, All Rights Reserved


I Want In The Music Biz Part III; Branding My Music

Last time, we took a brief look at the beginning process of building fans through name recognition. This is a tall order and requires repetition and consistency. The process takes months and sometimes years to see meaningful results. It is a full-time commitment for the serious band or artist. Nearly every story of success will reveal how many hours the band spent connecting and building their brand before they “made it big”. There are those groups that pop up on a fluke. But “flukes” are not a plan and most successful bands or artists make it happen by planning for success. Plans drive longevity and therefore, careers. This is one of the ways groups like the Rolling Stones, are still playing and drawing enormous crowds.
The first thing you must do to
brand your band and music is to identify who you are. Can you describe your sound, look, and goals in what is known as an elevator speech? This is a brief statement you could deliver on the way between floors, inside a minute, if someone asked you about your music on an elevator, though you don’t have to be on an elevator to share it. It must be concise, but very descriptive in order to elicit interest in your music by the potential fan, and should include repeating the band’s name. This “elevator speech” is the basic vision you will use to determine what your focus will be in building a business in music. This requires that you step back from your music to take a global look at who you are and what you want to project to your fans. The questions you must ask are; “What is my goal for my music, what do my fans want from my music, and how can I deliver on the image I project?” When you can establish a baseline on these questions you can begin to build an image and sound that will separate you from the rest of the crowd. The specifics will vary and may morph as you define yourself and your sound. Individuating yourself is the process of branding. It is a process requiring time, commitment and some capital.
Obviously, the music itself is a brand that is uniquely yours and yours alone. It is your number one asset in the branding process. Having a cool logo, flyers, photos and a
MySpace are only the pictorial images of what you sound like. The sound is the single-most important identifier of your band’s brand mark. When you catch a song on the radio, you know who the artist is because of their sound… no image needed. This is what you must aim for to build fan response and loyalty on or off the radio. This is accomplished by doing or using unique things that others cannot replicate easily. The frontman vocals, the keyboard sounds or lead guitar licks and on and on can differentiate your sound from thousands of other groups or artists out there. Even the type of arrangements you write for the music you play is a strong force for making you identifiable.
Another way to brand your band, or you as and artist, is the actual live show you produce. I saw a group play a small venue that I had heard on MySpace. Their sound was unique and their show was first class. They used different back drops and special lighting. The lead singer sang one song from a standing position on his piano… the whole show made a deep impression on me. The show coupled with the skill and sounds of the players left me with an indelible memory of the band,
You may not be able to produce a crazy light show or be willing to stand on your piano, but you can deliver a memorable experience to your fans and those who happen upon you and your band in whatever venue you are playing. Even the softest-vocal folk singer like
Alison Krauss, can deliver on the goods when it comes to branding their sound for their fans. It may be the way you place your vocal mic or the type of guitar you play. Or it may simply be the quality of your voice. Whatever your mark is, use it with finesse and let it speak to your fans. They will remember you for a number of things, but it is always about the music. Brand building will help send them home with your fabulous CD tucked under their arm. That helps keep you out their doing what you and your fans both love... music.

©2009 WalkWay® Group All Rights Reserved, Steven Blanton

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