I visited two interesting events in May. My day gig in music took me – along with five of our artists – to The Great Escape in Brighton, while my hobby took me to the European Team Squash Championships in Birmingham to watch the continent’s best pro squashers battle it out for European glory
Business first. It’s always cool to take artists to TGE, because it’s a wonderful opportunity to be seen. Our showcase, our seventh in as many years, was rammed and the bands did a stellar job. Well done to Sweet Ignitions, JohnLikeJohn, The Magic Lotus, Lavender Hills and Exiled.
It’s also useful to poke your nose into other companies’ showcases. A bit of industrial espionage never hurts. Plus it’s nice to bump into mates over a bevvy. At events like TGE the staggeringly endless procession of artist showcases shouldn’t, but always does, come as a surprise. It’s a bit of an understatement to say that it’s tough for an artist to stand out.
Consequently, most conversations seem to be about exposure and pr, strategy, engagement, traction and stats. As important as all that stuff is, no amount of all the above will turn a crap song into a great one, a poor record into a banger, a boring look into an exciting one.
With Spotify ingesting 40,000 new tracks every day of the week – it’s a terrifyingly huge number and I can’t imagine there being that many songs worthy of release – I wonder if people in music, artists and suits alike, should focus on the actual art a little bit more. Call me crazy, but there you go.
This links in with what happened in Birmingham at the squash event, where the England national coach told me how an athlete’s aims and ambitions have to be backed up by behaviours that are commensurate with what they’re trying to achieve. He said that if a young athlete says they want to be the world number one, they can’t get away with behaviour that doesn’t support that outcome. The behaviours are measurable as hours and quality of training, dietary habits, sleeping patterns etc., because those things combine to create results in their particular field.
If the behaviour is lacking, the outcome isn’t going to happen. If the player can’t or won’t change their behaviour, they must lower their expectations. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If playing squash is just a hobby, as it is with me, corners can be cut. Not so, if the world number one spot is the aim.
The same concept can be applied to careers in music. Most musicians I know profess to work hard. Some actually do.
If your first action every day is to tune up and practice, if you write a song every day and rehearse a few times a week, if you do lots of gigs in front of five men and a dog, your behaviour is about right. These behaviours create results in our field and, provided that you’re prepared to do it for a few years for little discernible gain, they make getting an actual music career that feeds and clothes you a plausible outcome.
I recently spoke with a young artist about what I thought they should do to make their dream of making a living from their music come true. Understandably, the suggestions involved behaviours that required a lot of input, discipline and sacrifice from them. Their reply – I’m not making this up – was that they were unwilling to give up on their freedom to do what they want when they want and their comfort to do it when they want to do it. In plain English, they were unwilling to lift much more than a finger for their dream.
Hopefully they’ll be happy with a thimble of a career.