Recently I have been receiving many emails and direct messages from young musicians from around the world and noted something a bit worrisome. I am finding more and more young musicians asking for advice in making it in music. But, these young musicians are more concerned with growing their viewers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter than anything related to developing as musicians or artists. It seems their perspective is that if they can get enough viewers everything else will just happen. So rather than practicing and rehearsing they are more interested in how many “Likes” their last post got.
Yesterday I had a direct message conversation with a young but already out of high school musician from Mexico and though he has never performed in public, has never even played a single gig with a local band, he wanted to know how he can get several thousand fans for his band, who haven’t even rehearsed once, or ever performed for anyone, little less, ever written an original song. When I asked about these things he said that those things will come, first they needed to get their follower numbers up and they would deal with all that “unimportant” stuff later. To say I was gobsmacked is an understatement.
I went through my messages and reached out to those who had asked for information and also asked my 15-year-old son about his friend’s perspective. Overwhelmingly, I found that these kids are the norm rather than the exception. Today’s young musicians actually feel that they need a fan base before they actually ever play a single note. They see the music as a byproduct rather than the actual product they need to attain their stardom. Talent is secondary, the musicianship is secondary the only thing that counts to them are numbers of likes, followers and crowd interactions. Worse yet, when asked about what type of music they wanted to play, a couple actually answered whatever will get most social media activity. If you are one of these “up and coming artist” I would like to share a few words of advice. So here it goes… If you are looking to be the next great band, musician, or artist you need to be working on your craft, you need to practice your instrument and know, you will never practice enough. If you think that having thousands of followers without giving them any music or substance will assure your success you will not have many followers eventually.
Here are a couple of areas that are critical from my experiences;
- Be good at your craft don’t take anyone’s word for it, practice and record yourself and listen back. Compare your tone, technique and presence to those of other artists and be honest with yourself.
- Perform for others. Very few artists go from playing at home to a major stage, normally they will start locally and then grow from there. Play with local bands, if you have your own band get local gigs and start developing a fan base that will go listen to you. Remember if they won’t go to a venue to buy food and drinks to listen to you, what makes you think they will go download your music or pay for a ticket to a show?
- There is a difference between a follower on social media and a fan. A fan not only likes what you do, but puts their money where their mouth is. They pay cover charges, buy downloads, merchandising, and more. If they don’t do any of that, they are not fans, just followers.
- Music is an art form, it is a passion, but it is a business. There are many facets that need to be managed in a business and you need to take the time to learn. If you are at a point where the music is still hard you are not ready to be on stage, most any artist will tell you, for them the music is the easy part, the hard part is everything you have to go through to perform. But, this is not because they put no emphasis on their music, but, rather they already did put all the time and practice where the music has become second nature but all the other stuff still needs to get done.
These are just a few broad areas I believe should concern the artist before they deal with social media growth. If you have not done all of the above, you truly have no business in being concerned about how many followers you have as they will not spend any more time on you than they did to hit the “follow” button, little less spend their money on you or your band.
Let me say this, writing, recording, performing, and touring is very hard work and not for the faint of heart but, if you are truly dedicated and it truly is a passion, then you can do it. To give a quick story, during one leg of a tour I played on, I was performing in Venezuela. This part of the tour (part of an RIAA certified Platinum album tour) was to be 10 days. During those 10 days we were to play 7 shows. Here was the average day;
- Bus call: 6 am
- Breakfast on the go
- Bus Leaves: 6:30 am
- Bus arrives at stadium: 11 am
- Eat light lunch
- Start sound check: 12:30pm
- Leave sound check: 3:30 pm
- Check-in at hotel: 4 pm
- Have a light dinner
- Bus call: 6:30 pm
- Arrive at stadium: 7pm
- Take stage: 8:30 pm
- Finish Show: 10:30 pm
- Sign autographs and pack-up
- Eat something in dressing room
- Leave stadium 12:30 am
- Arrive at hotel 1 am
- Repeat again next morning
By the time we had finished that leg, we were so exhausted and only have 3 days to recover and continue to the next country. This itinerary also didn’t include some radio and TV interviews and performances that were added. These did not change everything that we had to do, we just got less time to rest as these presentations were added to everything posted in the itinerary.
If you are a band or group that is looking to get to the top, nothing is guaranteed, except you will need to work very hard and it will take a team to get there. Though I will say fans and social media interactions are important, but this is one of the things that need to be done in addition to the music, videos, and performances which should always be at the top of the list.
Over the next few weeks I will write about the various aspects and share some of my experiences. This entry is not meant to deter anyone, but rather to give some insight into how go about it the right way.