The Formula To Success Is…

image from goldasmith.comLife as a musician just gets tougher and tougher doesn’t it?
With a plethora of services all vying to bring your music to the masses, with only a
promise of pittance in return, it seems like everyone is looking to scam the
poor musician out of their dues. Pocketing the profits of the thousands upon
thousands of Singles, EPs and Albums bestowed upon the streaming world by the music
making elite every month, generating millions of plays, but leaving nothing
for those who make it.

Things have changed so much from the glory days of old, when
musicians were treated fairly, and reaped the rewards of their hard work.

Wait a second.

Weren’t, the old, old, days filled with tales of musicians
being swindled out of their publishing rights, and being conned into signing
record contracts that better resembled a prison term? And then there were more recent plain old, old days, were a musician would earn a dollar a CD, and those
nasty record company types would pocket the remainder and claim it was for
packaging deductions, and record club discounts.

Lets look at this realistically for a second.

Back then you want your song on radio, you had to deal with
payola. Now you want your song on radio, oh yeah that’s right, you have to pay
to get it listened to by the people that matter. You know what I mean, through those slightly more
legitimate payola schemes, sorry, ahem, I mean “radio distribution services”.

Back then, you wanted your album to be noticed in store, then
you paid for good racking and features in the monthly store magazine. Nowadays, you
want anything you do to be noticed, you got to make deals with the people who
hold the key to connectivity between you and the consumer. Oh yeah that’s
right, those bastards want you to pay to reach your audience, hmmm, isn’t that just
like them glittering olden days?

Highlighted posts, promoted tweets, increased reach; it is
all paid for. Social media advertising is the new record industry payola. It
may seem on a smaller scale but if you want to make big waves and be noticed by
the people, it quickly mounts up.

We can kick and shout, and moan and groan about this, but
hey, that’s the way things have always been, the only difference now is that it
is actually accessible to all, not just those big bad major labels who like to
throw their weight around.

The formula to success is very simple, and do you want to
know what it is? OK, here you go.

Be really, really good, and have lots of cash to spend. 

Separately those two things can work and be effective. Though
being really, really good, does actually outweigh the cash thing, as long as
you stick at it long enough. Then you can earn the money to be able to properly
back your endeavors. This is because real talent grows and bad investments always

Yeah yeah yeah, I know what you are going to say, “but, but,
but, there is more to it than that – you need good management, great marketing
savvy, a fantastic image”. Well making the right decisions is part of being
really, really, good, and if you got cash to spend then you can smartly invest in those
other things too.

The one big factor left to deal with is how do you make the
money back. Well, when you are really, really good, and you have used some cash
to let people know that your new, really, really, good record is out, and that
your really, really, good live show is hitting their town. Then those people
decide that your product is worth spending their hard earned money on, because
in turn, it makes them feel really, really, good.

Simple right?

Robin Davey is the editor of Skindie.com, Director of Live From Daryls House, Head of Music & Film Development at GROWvision and guitarist of the band Well Hung Heart. Follow him on twitter @mr_robin_davey

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  1. I think this was actually spot on. Of course, what do I know. I haven’t have a day job in 5 years, play 200 shows a year with no booking agent, and grossed over 6 figures last year. The only piece that’s been missing has been PR. We haven’t had the money for it. Now that we’ve done all the hard work, those first 5 years of finding your sound and your circuit and your strength, those are over. PR only works if there’s a good product to back it up. Talent only rises to the top when it works for it. Did I learn anything from this piece that I didn’t already know? Not really, but it did reinforce what I know to be true.

  2. I am no measure of musician or word-smith so … Just that if you’ve tried through watching the movie Sin City first: you’re writing is become more seedy American-style. (whether if that’s the intention I see nothing wrong that way). I’ll be more thankful and without these staggeringly cyclopic remarks if things don’t lose momentum. -peace bro, for next-time.

  3. Almost everything you write sounds like it’s coming from the “bitter musician” point of view, if I was an aspiring artist and I read your articles on a regular basis I’d become jaded.

  4. Hi Robin, I enjoyed the post and the main point about simply saving up money is needed in a time when this is counter-intuitive to most artists.
    You’re painting quite the horrific picture of “industry types”, though, who seem to want to just feed off the profits of artists. But why do they exist? Because artists don’t want to promote themselves generally. That’s a fact. They exist because artists, rightfully so, in many cases want to outsource.
    Most artists don’t have the DIY spirit to take it all the way and be like Henry Rollins, being their own publicist, manager, etc. If you hire someone and they rip you off, of course, that reflects on them, but to paint the industry in this way is inaccurate.

  5. James, my comments on the industry were a little tongue in cheek. My main point was that no matter how the industry changes there will always be gate keepers who require money for access. That is just the reality, even if you are completely DIY – and with a little research you may find my position to be similar to that, you still have to have money to gain momentum in certain areas.

  6. There has to be a solution that eliminates gatekeepers. The internet itself has eliminated certain obstacles for entrepreneurs. There is more access to information than ever. With focus and vision a solution can be found.
    I just can’t agree that there will always be gatekeepers. What if artists themselves took charge of their careers in all aspects. What if artists banded together to create a platform to distribute that they themselves own.
    What if more musicians became entrepreneurs?
    I don’t have answers but I think these are important questions.


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