Talent is not enough

If I’ve learned anything about getting ahead in the ‘music biz,’ it’s that talent is not enough. Of course, you must have talent. That’s a given.

You can be a musical genius in your garage, but to make a career of it, you must leave the garage and attend to many non-musical tasks. There is no magic bullet, no single thing you can do that will make you succeed. It’s lots and lots of little and not so little things you must do. Each of these ‘things’ add up and build upon each other to create buzz and momentum and a complete picture.

Some of the things are easy. Some aren’t. Some examples of the interlocking little things that most indie musicians must do to succeed are:

  • 1. Live performances to put you face to face with your fans
  • 2. Have at least one product to sell: your CD, swag, etc.
  • 3. Radio airplay: commercial, college, online, satellite.
  • 4. Ongoing communication with fans: your mailing list
  • 5. Have a presence on the web where fans can buy your stuff
  • 6. Have a press kit
  • 7. Make friends with and stay in contact with industry people, including successful local musicians, engineers, producers, DJs, journalists, indie label people. These folks are all potential supporters. If you can find a way to help them, they will want to help you.
  • 8. I’m sure there are plenty others I’m forgetting.

These individual efforts build upon each other, so over time the total effect is often greater than the sum of the parts. Sometimes they even take on a life of their own and are no
longer in your control. Fans tell their friends, put up their own fan websites about you and so on.

If you can do each and every one of these to some extent, it will make it easier for you to succeed. If you skip one, you’ll have to make it work with the remaining pieces. I know some of these may seem impossible, depending on your circumstances.

Sometimes the task may feel overwhelming. That’s where, in addition to talent, you need drive, heart, perseverance and patience.

Here’s some help for #5: Use Facebook and ReverbNation. They are and free and they can be set up very quickly. At the very least it’s a web presence for you until you can develop your own site. You’re going to need to gather all the elements of a web site: photos, mp3s, blog, bio, gig calendar, etc. You can use now them for Myspace, then use the same ones later in your full blown site. Or, if you already have a web site, you can re-use many of the elements in your new Facebook and ReverbNation sites.

Check out my band’s Facebook site.

Here’s some help with #6. The 29 most important elements in creating music publicity materials are explained in a publication called Killer Press Kits.

Here’s some help with #7, see the previous blog entry, called I’d Rather Be Networking than Not Working.


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