One of the most nagging problems within this thing we call music, is the absolute refusal to spend money on services that guide careers up the ladder toward success, one rung at a time. It truly does take a village of qualified, experienced industry insiders to handle the various tasks to make one song or a full volume of recorded music successful.
Yet even the most talented songwriters and performers still believe they will “be discovered” and “make it big” by merely supplying a Myspace page, an MP3 file, or their latest recording. Within urban legend lies a fallacy that the discovery will open the doors to the magic kingdom and they shant have to lift even a finger.
This is the fork in the road where everyone needs a reality check.
Being in the indie music business means you are in business for yourself. No different from a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, making music is not a unique endeavor. What makes music unique is putting it through layers of developement to make it stand out rather than blend in with all the other music in the marketplace.
Think about Starbucks for a moment. How common is a cup of coffee? It’s on the kitchen table first thing in the morning, every morning, in many countries around the world. Yet, Starbucks made a cup of coffee so sexy, so desireable, so unique, millions of people will spend more money to go into a local Starbucks for their morning joe than prepare it for cents on the dollar in their own kitchen. When you ask yourself why…the answer is clear. Starbucks provides a service to its customers that adds a perceived level of value in their lives. The coffee giant creates an experience for their customers so rich with attention to detail, they come back day after day.
But did Howard Schultz pull this whole thing off by himself? Obviously not. He hired the best team of experienced professionals he could afford to surround him in creating an uber brand. Among those on his team were experienced coffee roasters, marketing experts, interior designers, lighting specialists, and music promoters. He paid for their expertise to create an experience that accompanies one of the most common commodities on earth. Schultz didn’t hand his customers a paper cup and ask them to pour their own. He took advantage of the value in quality and service.
There was a short period of time when the Do It Yourself indie model worked quite well. Then it became something bigger than probably anyone anticipated and as common as a cup of Folgers. Suddenly the world was brimming with music. It spilled from every conceivable portal imaginable until it all sounded very much the same and the overall experience became uncharacteristically predictable.
Casual packaging and graphics eroded into a strip mall mentality. Liner notes became extinct. The quality of sound rarely differed from one production to the next. CD reviews emerged ubiquitous and frankly, boring. The press kit evaporated into thin air. Then a warehouse mentality erupted and every musician on earth placed their bets on one Internet site that made it virtually impossible to find anything of value or quality among a ghetto of gypsies, tramps, and thieves.
Do you want to take shortcuts and try your hand at everything that is essential to making your career succesful? Or can you find a way to hire experienced professionals who know how to help you get your career off the ground? Starbucks was not an overnight sensation, but they took the right steps in the beginning to becoming what they are today.
Overnight success is the kind of stuff fairy tales are made of. So you have to ask yourself, who do you really want to be? Do you want to buy into the urban legend and make a go of your entrepreneurial skills? Or is it more effective to treat your career as a business, develop a marketing plan complete with a budget and hire experienced pros who will cover all the bases without shortcuts. There isn’t a one size fits all solution. Most would prefer to skip over the difficult tasks and plug in to the system as easily as possible. Your skill set will determine which system will work most effectively for you over the long term.
Depending on which path you take, just make sure that you don’t settle for ordinary when extraordinary is all that will entice your customers to come back time after time.