What do big businesses have in common with artists? More than you’d think.
What we sometimes forget is that whilst music is an art, your band and it’s music is a product just like a hi-fi or television. If there are too many products in the marketplace then it becomes crowded and difficult to emerge to the foreground and what we often find is our art becomes lost. Ultimately the goal for most bands and solo artists is to earn enough money to become self-sufficient.
Napster, Myspace, Facebook, Soundcloud etc etc have all been amazing in making music the most accessible it’s ever been. In 2009 when people still used Myspace there were reportedly 5 million bands in it’s system! That’s a lot of music.
We see trends in music; Mumford And Sons bring folk to the foreground and suddenly there are lots of bands around incorporating the banjo. So what makes Mumford’s music stand out in the first place above the other million people writing great folk music? Ultimately it’s about timing, trends and a million other factors that all align at the right time. If these things were quantifiable there would be a recipe to become a successful band. This doesn’t exist so it makes sense to treat what you do in the most scientific way you possibly can, put your best foot forward, use the USP of your band, it’s members, channel your passion in to your message.
So if we go back to the idea of your music becoming a product, how would a company change what it does in a crowded market? Take the computer giant IBM. Their originally successful model of buying hardware components from smaller manufacturers failed them in later years as so called “PC clones” soon flooded the market, each built with cheaper components. Instead of competing with the hundreds of other brands manufacturing PCs, IBM decided to focus on providing IT expertise and computing services to businesses.
So how does this apply to you or your band? A band I used to play in was made up of great musicians who all taught their instruments. We released a few albums but struggled to get the exposure we thought we deserved. By chance we got invited to play at a school as some pupils had seen us open for Jason Mraz. Not quite knowing what to expect we did the show and found that pupils were so responsive when we visited that we came away with hundreds of new fans.
As we were already passionate about teaching our instruments, it made sense to develop this and put together a genuine programme that went around hand delivering our music to young people through a workshop and a gig. Why wait for a radio station to pick up your music when you can hand deliver it?! Soon, what started out as one school turned to a tour, it got a write up in the Times and we took the programme to California. Then the band ended for a number of other reasons and that was that! You may hate this idea and that’s fine, but the point is if you do something different and well it is more likely to have an impact.
None of the above takes over from writing good music, but if you have skills that can further your career, use them!