Happy New Year! My personal new year’s resolution is to continue my quest for squash semi-greatness…. after a festive week of heavy training (and the drinking and eating that goes with the season) I’m really feeling it in my bones. Generally speaking, for an amateur club hack I’m quite fit, but I sure don’t have the conditioning to be able to train twice a day, properly like the pros do.
As ever, the connection between squash and music is lost to everyone but me.
The tenuous link is about preparation and planning. Most musicians who approach us and people like us for guidance and advice could do with more of both.
A young band have a set of songs “gig ready”. They want bigger gigs supporting bigger artists. The songs they’ve released on iTunes aren’t getting enough exposure because they haven’t got the right contacts. They realise they can’t do it all on their own and that’s why they need the help of people like us, who can get them airplay and connections to the right people and so on.
That’s what they think. What we think is that of the nine songs in their set, which are the only songs they have, three show promise. The recordings of the songs are average at best. The band gig regularly in their home town, mainly in front of their mates. They’ve done a dozen gigs or so – one a month for a year. Even if it was one a week, it would still be too little.
Even if we were able to gain exposure for what they do, we/they wouldn’t be able to capitalise on it. The band would get killed at bigger gigs. Big stages eat amateurs alive. Their three shoddily recorded nascent attempts at songs won’t blow anyone away no matter what PR stunts are pulled. If only your mates are interested, it’s very difficult to see how the wider world will react with all possible gusto. It’s just too early.
Decent advise to the band should be to work the problem, which is NOT the lack of exposure. It’s the lack of anything to expose. Exposing potential is like asking people to judge a meal based on the recipe. Having just been through loads of very excellent meals at Xmas, we all know the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
I read about the Native American chief Sitting Bull whose reputation as a fierce fighter and a great commander is well known. Turns out he was best at avoiding battles. If you read Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu’s Art Of War the ability to avoid battle is a winning trait in any good general.
The battle the band wants to do is not the battle they’re ready for. It’s wise to look at the situation in the long term, in which the next year and a half is most definitely the short term. A manager cannot give you a slice of the music business pie. However, he can help you develop your thing so that you become a slice of the pie that will be worth managing.
Indeed, the art of becoming is the battle they’re ready for. Having done some road work, they have trained enough to be able train professionally. Dig?
Some musicians prefer to hear fairy tales about how managers can make things happen by sheer force of will and a thick address book. It’s depressing.
Some say that they’ll come back in a couple of months, having worked out the snags. Their optimism is to be saluted, for sure, but… what’s a couple of months?
It is very very rare to find musicians who have completed the early road work, who have the talent, commitment and perseverance to make it, but who at the same time are excited when challenged by professional people whose goals and desires mirror theirs.
We’re working with a few. It feels great. Fills one up with hope, enthusiasm and determination.
Squash, Injuns, ancient Chinese philosophers and rock bands. We all have a lot to learn from everyone and everything.
I hope 2013 is be the year during which we, creators of art, start working the problem. You know, blaming X-Factor and One Direction and soundalike pop singles is just so… 2012. Honestly.
The art of becoming. Who’s in?