Realistic Music Careers 101: Delaying Instant Gratification for Sustainable Gratification
COLUMN: Many musicians labor with such meticulous effort and attention to detail when it comes to the production, recording and creation of a song or an album in the studio, but then abandon that work ethic once the album is done in exchange for instant gratification. These musicians make sure that when it comes to recording all of the pieces are in place from start to finish. In my opinion, this is the best way to record and the best way to approach music. However, if the goal is a successful and sustaining music career is the goal, then this diligence must continue long after the final recording and initial release of that album.
It takes a special kind of patience to work on those few measures of a song or listen to a section repeatedly until it is performed in the way the best reflecting the artist’s intentions. Many who are not accustomed to this type of painstaking work will learn it in the production process and immediately see how it can be effective and productive when they listen to the final product. They will learn that, while concentrating on the small things along the way may not immediately produce the most favorable results, those efforts will create a solid foundation for the finished product, a product that, in the end, will be much stronger and everything the artist wants it to be.
But here’s where it gets strange. The album is done. The details have been precisely sorted, the i’s are dotted, the t’s are crossed, the p’s and q’s are minded, the ducks are in a row, the house is minded, etc., etc, and then, suddenly, the artist switches gears to an “instant gratification approach.” The artist who worked so hard now begins to cut corners by skipping crucial steps. They do not take the time to create the best promotional package; they do not research the best date to release the album; they do not organize the marketing and branding materials; they do not formulate the most effective long term plan to create a sustaining and solid success for the new release. This new album is like a baby that must be nurtured if it is to grow to adulthood and succeed in this very scary music world.
I come across many artists who do this: throw their diligence out the window in exchange for instant gratification. Now, in the defense of these bands, because so much work has gone into creating the recording, they just want to get it out into the world, preferably yesterday. They want to start selling it as soon as the boxes arrive from the disc manufacturer. They go to book the first gig as soon as possible and try to push things at a lightning speed.
Many times, the action of that moment can prove effective. But it is only effective for that moment. When you are only creating a solution or plan for a single event, you cut out the effectiveness of how this planning or work can effect the next event or something in the next month or even the next year.
On or around the day of the album being scheduled for release, I see bands put out these albums without websites in place. I see bands go public without a solid press release. I see bands still pulling together the basic items of their promotional kit and marketing materials in a weak and poorly managed way. In the end, they are now taking what was an incredible project and strip away the potential for its success and its ability to achieve long term and sustaining success.
Yes, it can feel good to sell two hundred CDs in a week. It can feel great to fill a room with five hundred people and maybe do an interview with a local newspaper or magazine. However, these circumstances will oftentimes deter artists from finishing the marketing work they know they need because they begin to think:
“This album is just going to take off!”
“I know I will be signed or picked up any day.”
And, my personal favorite, “I don’t need those extra promotional items or organizational plans. I mean, look what just happened in the past two weeks!”
Fast forward this artist and this release a month or even two. They’re selling one CD a day if they’re lucky. They’re trying to score another gig at the place where they played the CD release party hoping to bring people out again. Nationally, since there was no big press release or press push, it just dribbled out and drooled off the radar of a couple of online music sites and a few music magazines. The arrogance, complacency and ego of those first frenzied weeks have long since passed. In fact, it was that arrogance, complacency and ego that ended up ruining the chances for the album to make a mark. In the end, it just became another album being released on another day by another band.
With the over saturation of Myspace, artists of all levels, all around the world are releasing recordings without that attention to detail and the patience to create a release that will truly stand out in a market where so many bands, albums and sounds just bleed in to each other, it just ended up as a basic flop. All the work put in to that album was put in vein to getting a quick fix of sales, a show and a couple interviews.
This is the story of so many artists and so many albums that come out every day and come out the wrong way. The right way comes down to two simple things.
Activate a plan that will look to work for the short term as it also prepares and plans for the long term. Every action should affect three other actions and avenues to make the event work, which will continue to affect other events and create further opportunities.
Apply the patience, the planning, the attention to detail and execution method to make the release, the shows, the promotion, the marketing, the branding and the soliciting able to give you the attention you are looking for from the people you already know or the fan base you already have. This will sustain you as you build the means to reach new listeners, fans and industry people over an extended period of time.
So what am I supposed to do?
Step 1 – Finish the album correctly or album is completed.
So the album is done and done correctly. What should you do instead of rushing it out?
Simple…Take your time and do it right.
Think smart. Think about every action and execution. How can it effect the immediate present, the near and then the far future. When you think in that mindset, you are going to address every issue, assignment and task with an effectiveness that will make the hard work you do end up working better for you.
Is your branding together? Do you have your logo, your font, your tagline and your bio for the group and the recording all together and prepared?
These elements alone should–and I stress really should–be on all your materials. That means on your CD, on every page of your promotional materials, on your website, on anything that is related to you. This is called uniformity and it creates branding for you and your product, which will increase your recognizability. Apply it.
I see too many artists do a quick hasty and careless CD design and send it off for manufacturing before establishing their branding. This does not connect your branding across all of the spectrums that comprise you and your product. Big mistake. While it won’t effect your current friends and fans who will inevitably buy the disc in those first couple weeks, it will effect the people you solicit and the people who you will be reaching in the long run. Seriously, do the math. Do you want to deal with a flurry of sales in the first couple weeks or–wait a second–get it all laid out correctly and have the engine in place to produce more consistent sales over a longer period of time? You want a disc that will highlight your professionalism and branding to industry professionals as well as a broader fan base.
Then, after the branding is laid out, go after the organization. Begin to prepare the press release for the album. Make sure that your entire promotional kit is ready to go. Make sure your websites and networking sites are up and working. Make sure you have generated a list of music magazines to solicit reviews, a list of potential agents, managers or, if you are choosing to go to a label, all the contact information and the requirements of what they want in a submission.
If money is short, then wait until you have the money together. Don’t cut corners. That’s right, Virginia, one more time: do not cut corners!
If you have your product ready, your branding in place, your technical documents and promotional packages ready to go and, finally, the list of all the people you are going to reach out to, then it’s time to figure out a date and generate your press release.
Make sure that your press release goes out six weeks before the release. This will give you the best chance at getting stories done on the album and the band, as well as provide you with the biggest chance for optimal promotion.
Also, make sure you buy a press release through a reputable press release service. I cannot say enough about Send2Press (www.Send2Press.com) and Chris Simmons. Buy the big package. The extended blue national package will get your news out to thousands. Yes, thousands. That means it is much greater than the mass emails you are sending out to local papers and radio stations and, with Send2Press, your releases are being sent by a reliable source.
Make sure that your press release does not coincide with a big news day. Most music releases come out on Tuesdays. Just make sure that it is a Tuesday that’s not right after a major sporting event, political event or in the middle of a large news story. In the end, you will just be buried under mass of news that has nothing to do with you.
Upon the release, work on your contacts. Send out the release yourself to the different media contacts that you are researching each day. Send out the release to music reviewers each day. Send out emails asking for reviews in different online and physical media organizations and make sure you’re sending it to the correct person. Take the small steps to make the release a big event that will give you what you want immediately in the short term while setting you up intelligently and effectively for the long term.
As you’ve probably guessed, there is a great deal more to all of this. This is the longest phase. This is the time when you must continue to promote, promote and promote. This is the phase where you must reach out and continue to build a solid foundation to increase your recognition, your branding, your fan base, your sales and your contacts. Taking the patient attention to detail approach that you applied to the production of your album will guide you on the path to a longer, sustaining and productive chance at keeping the growth of your sales, your audience, your recognition and your chances at sustainable success actually continue to grow and thrive.
[tags]successful music career, producer Loren Weisman, Brain Grenade[/tags]