A True Artist HAS To Play

Bob Leftsetz sent a great newsletter last night. If you haven’t subscribed to his daily shout outs, you should. I have Bob’s permission to share it. His stuff is in italics.

There’s too much music made by too many people and performers are frustrated they’re broke and listeners are completely overwhelmed.

Too many bands. Too much noise. How does anything cut through in this environment?

Making it is so difficult that most “musicians” give up very early in the process. It’s easy to write and record a song and distribute it. Everything that was difficult yesterday is easy today. You just fire up GarageBand, select some loops, create a track and upload the result to MySpace and you’re an “artist”! Well, no. You’re someone who’s recorded a track that most people don’t care about, probably because it sucks. But what if it’s good? It almost definitely isn’t. But, if it were, most people STILL wouldn’t care, because they’re not aware of it. So, we’ve got two halves of the pie, quality and awareness.”

We get our fair share of approaches by emerging new bands. 99% of them write to us saying that they need to “take the nest step and get a manager with the right contacts who can get us bigger/better gigs and a record deal”. On the face of it, this is not crazy talk. However, quite often, upon closer examination, it transpires that said artist has been gigging around town a bit, has made a demo that sounds terrible, has a fan base that isnt really a fan base as such because it consists of mates and relatives etc.

In other words, it’s a typical situation in which many emerging bands find themselves in. How do you break through?

Let’s start with quality. You can be a supernova like Picasso, incredibly good from the start. But it’s almost impossible. Usually you’ve got to experiment, practice, go down the road to dead ends until you finally come up with something good. And most people don’t have the patience for this process. Everybody wants instant fame. And instant riches…they’re almost unreachable. Which is why most “artists” give up.

Understanding this is the key. Sure, a good manager can, in due course, help in many ways, but there is no business solution to reaching the elusive “next level”. The solution is not one of business, of contacts, of knowing the right people. The solution is by and large an artistic one. It’s about having something stellar to play to people, whether it’s on your myspace in a recorded format or live at your gig. The only way to attain it is to play, practice, play, practice, gig, gig, gig, write, record, write, record… ad infinitum.

Rather than chase a manager or a label in the hope of a magical short cut, it’s much more rewarding to spend time on the cool stuff of creating and developing the art. After all, that’s why you got into this in the first place. Right? And you know, as far as we are concerned, THAT’S the stuff that we get off on doing. For its own sake and because doing it right will eventually bring the financial rewards.

A true musician HAS to play. The money is secondary. As is fame. Sure, you want both, but you’ve got no choice. And now, with the field separated so clearly between the wannabes and the true devotees, we can start to see the future of the music industry. Those who see themselves as musicians are going to practice and play for Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours, building an audience all along the way, and eventually a great portion of the rest of the public is going to wake up and pay attention.

Walk into the wilderness with me. If you believe in yourself, you’re never going to give up, you’re going to play until you make it. And believe me, if you’ve got talent, you’ll see signposts along the way, enough positive feedback to keep you going. Practice, practice, practice. If you’re truly good, you’ll find an audience. But remember, it won’t happen instantly and you’ll struggle as opposed to living the high life. You’ll be driving a rickety old van as opposed to flying first class. But when the money starts to come in, it will POUR!

Yes, you want to get paid. But even more, you want people who are touched by your original music, who NEED to go to the show. The audience is waiting. Listeners want something great to pop up on their radar, that they can believe in. It’s human nature. Think of listeners, not executives or gatekeepers. You can write the script. We’re ready for you!

This shit is so true. Nuff said.



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