Realistic Music Careers 101: First Impressions, More Important Now Than Before
COLUMN: Everyone is tired of that same old phrase “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” It is repeated ad nauseum from business schools to beauty pageants and everywhere in between. As much as I would rather say to throw away the stuffy old phrases, parables and sayings, this is one that seems to grow more and more true every day. Especially in the music industry.
Of course it is important to make that strong initial impression, that is first and foremost. Second, having all the music, assisting materials, image, business elements and the presentation of these pieces in place is paramount and required. Third is knowing how to individually and specifically present to the person, company, or agency, and doing it the right way.
This last paragraph represents the gold standard that has been a requirement of the industry for years. The musicians that move forward are those that have all the elements in place. If they don’t, they might want to hold up on their forward motion and get those elements in order.
The main reason the first impression is now more important than ever is because of the internet-based outlets like websites, social networks like MySpace, and online sales systems like CD Baby and iTunes, just to name a few. Because of all of these resources, a new level of saturation has been reached. Years before every band had a website, a MySpace and other online perks, it was a smaller consolidated market, in which musicians had to work a hundred times harder to find a wider audience. Back then, we had mailing lists that we actually had to mail out. Yes, we spent hours putting stamps on postcards. Now the mailing list is actually an emailing list that can reach tens of thousands, and doesn’t really cost a dime.
The main point is that with the growth of the internet and the growth of the number of bands with such increased presence, combined with the decline of labels and deflation of the conventional music industry, it is definitely more important than ever to give off an impeccable impression. Industry professionals are seeing and being contacted by more musicians and groups than ever before, both amazing musicians and total hacks. The industry is being overwhelmed by “up and coming” artists, and many of these artists are doing more damage for the artists that are more prepared.
If it wasn’t hard enough, add in all those directories, lists and books that you can buy to get the phone, email, website and address contacts to thousands of industry contacts. The amount of music and promotion being sent both physically and digitally to people is at an all time high. Gone are the stories of Johnny Cash staking out the back door of a studio, to tens of thousands of artists mass emailing everyone they can with their music files and information. The staking out still occurs too and has in fact increased, thanks to all the contact lists that print addresses. You can find that “up and coming” artist with 15 cd’s on her waiting outside the building that she cant get in to, ready to hand off her disc In response, many companies now have altered their physical addresses to a post office or Mail Boxes Etc. box, just to avoid this onslaught of people.
Back to that first impression again. Frankly, it has to be incredible. You as an artist have to present yourself in a top-notch way that makes you stand out, while presenting materials that are also top-notch. The market is over-saturated with truckloads of artists, labels, managers and agents, and the bulk of them are unprofessional, arrogant, and unaware of what is required, as they base their presentation off the MTV dream. The more unprofessional you appear, the faster you are going to be viewed as just another hack band. Even if the music is of the highest quality, and you have something that truly is marketable and industry-ready, you can easily blow your chances. If you are the artist walking around with a boombox, thrusting it into peoples’ faces…stop. Whatever you do, you most likely are not going to be heard first. Your first impression is going to be basd on your ancillary materials. That strong first impression will be the critical step to get people to be motivated to listen to your music.
As much as you think everyone is going to listen to your music, many industry professionals will toss promo packages and discs before they listen to them, because the first impression is terrible. It’s not their job to listen, and with so many people sending so much music, there is no time to listen to it all.
So, what can you do to stand out? What can you do to deliver the best package that will make some one want to open it and listen to you in the sea of promo packages, discs and emails they have received in just that day? When you think in the mindset that every person or company you are sending anything to is probably receiving a thousand other packages, emails or discs that look just like yours, then you can step back, organize the right way, and regroup. Think how you can stand out in the crowd and present in a way that is going to bring attention in the best possible light. Think about everything from the cover letter to the envelope you are addressing. Think about your bio, your tagline, the content and information written about the band and the music. Make it right. Make it professional. Make it stand out.
Make that first impression so much stronger than the bulk of others, so you can get them to listen to your music and get the second impression you really want them to have.
Watch out for Loren Weisman’s book “The Artist’s Guide to Success in the Music Business” coming in late fall 2009.
[tags]Loren Weisman, music careers 101, indie band marketing, self promotion[/tags]