/ˈkətTHrōt/ – (of a competitive situation or activity) fierce and intense; involving the use of ruthless measures. Urban dictionary – to do what it takes to get what you want no matter the consequences
Welcome to the local music business, where your neighbors are willing to give you a thumbs up but unwilling to lend a helping hand. When I first stepped into the trenches seven years ago, I was not greeted with open arms. As a matter of fact, another agent was running background checks on me with the state of Florida to make sure that our business was legit. I remember thinking to myself, why do I want to be a part of this? Was I really going to leave one deranged industry for another? The hospitality field that I was submerged in taught me to always stay innovative.This was a key tactic to surviving in a cluttered trade. I decided to take my survival skills and transfer them over to my new pursuit.
No matter how bad the industry was set up, I would search for a way to correct the stationary mentality and to surround myself with leading professionals who cared to make a difference. Every trade has it’s negatives. You can harp on them, or you can find away to move forward. Let’s take a look at some core problems in the local music industry and see how we can navigate around “KətTHrōt City”, and create an experience that encourages growth and spawns creativity.
Working with reputable agents, venues and band members.
Over the years this has seemed to be the biggest concern music industry professionals face. The majority of the industry just turns to the blind side when faced with an issue that is either immoral or ethically wrong. Similar to how the hospitality industry handles work related issues. I have heard stories of how agents booked an entire weekend of music, and not one of the bands got paid. When I inquired about the agent and what the musicians were going to do, they just said “What can I do?”. Well you can choose not to work with said agent and only engage with creditable industry folks. I am not sure if the musicians are scared of not finding more work or are just really complacent by staying in their comfort zone. Either will not further your career. I have even heard of bands getting triple booked. Where they show up to a gig and low and behold three bands are all waiting to play. The old double booking is bad enough, but three bands given the wrong date is just unacceptable. Everyone makes mistakes. But, when the mistakes take place once a week, then you can either choose to remove yourself from the problem or be the problem. This goes the same for the venue and agents. I hear both of them gripe about the artist playing the same setlist each week. Well have you talked with them? “No”. Then why would change happen? The artist thinks you are comfortable. My goal is to work with musicians, venues and agents who take pride in their work and who also take pride in their business relations. Learning how to communicate your needs and messages can help take your music program or lifework to the next level. The easiest way to get started is by visiting your local Toastmaster’s Club. The club focuses on communication and leadership skills. The techniques you acquire from being a Toastmaster will help you decipher better business decisions. Inspire to work and network with individuals who have goals and are distinguished professionals.
I struggle to obtain new fans! The bands that I support rarely return the favor!
Assuming your art is worth listening to, which a high percentage of artists have some really great material. Then we need to breakdown the key areas of where you are pushing your music, where you are trying to obtain new fans and how often you are thinking outside the box. Before you can expect friends or fans to help push your material you need to be giving back each week. When you support or help someone out with the expectations that the person is going to return the favor than you are motives are in the wrong place. Don’t expect anyone to turn around and push your music just because you support them. Do it because you believe in the person or the product. Have a clear vision of who you want to be surrounded by.
You also need to be researching and reading on a consistent basis. You will never learn how to further your music carrier by scrolling through memes. One of the most re-occurring themes I hear from musicians and venues is that their updates and message on Facebook fail to impact their marketing agenda. The sad part is that instead of changing the way they approach marketing they keep doing the same thing expecting different results. Stimulation creates followers and fans while monotonous marketing encourages the fans to search elsewhere. Adapt “Guerrilla Marketing” into your strategy. Take your message off social media. Don’t be afraid to try new avenues. My recommendation for thinking outside the box is either by reading a Seth Godin marketing book or by following his daily blog. His material is designed to make you think outside the box, which translates into more creative marketing tactics.
The Venue expects me to have a following but they don’t make the music program a priority!
We work in a very oversaturated market where a lot of businesses showcase music for multiple reasons. Some of them do it correctly, while others don’t care or just don’t have the time to market the program. So how do we approach this situation? By researching and communication. Research is really easy to keep track of. Grab your smart phone and during a break start talking with the staff and guests. Ask the questions about your last set list. What type of music do they like? Do they have any requests? What was the last piece of music they streamlined? The more you know what the crowd and staff likes, the better chance you will have to fit in. If the answers to the questions are not what you expected, then it may be time to move on. In my opinion, one of the hardest things to get through to an aspiring artist or cover musician is “different horses for different courses.” It’s ok to not fit in everywhere! There are many other venues, and if you want to get really creative then find places to play that are outside of the traditional bar gig. I’ll elaborate more on this in a later blog. Now that we have a better idea on what the customers and staff are like, how can we communicate our needs? You can do this by setting up a time with the manager, general manager or agent who oversees the music program. Make sure to do this when the time is right. Friday night, in the middle of dinner rush is not the correct time to communicate your message. If it means coming in on your own time, then that’s what you will need to do. Express to them that you want to help them build a better music program. Create specials during the hours of the music program, invite special guests to sit in on your songs, market the music program on table tents and posters. Visuals help everyone feel the excitement. Pump the artist’s songs over the house system during the week. And get creative, the more people who see that you are serious about the music, the better chance you have at actually creating a noteworthy program.
Learning from the competition and Networking.
Instead of bashing the neighbor next door, you should take notes. Better yet, befriend them. Everyone is always scared of the next big band or the newest bar to open it’s doors. Competition becomes threatening, and people tend to take it personally. Instead of walking next door and shaking hands, people take on the herd mentality in the music and hospitality industry and avoid all interaction. Impending engagements can be an excellent learning source. Utilize this data to make your business model twice as strong. My recommendation is to create a swipe file. This file should be designed to store all creative ideas that you may be able to utilize down the road. Evernote is a fantastic way to keep track. You can access it from your smart phone, tablet or home computer and it syncs will all devices.
I hope this short little blog has provided some insight and will be helpful while you navigate out of KətTHrōt City and into the place you have always dreamed of. As always, feel free to leave a comment or send us an email if we can be of assistance.