There are plenty of great bands out there that DON’T have an album or recorded songs released who can still draw people out to a show. Through word of mouth, social media and by having an engaging live performance you can actually gain an audience without investing in recording your music. Once you start performing, people will ask YOU for the recorded music if they like your songs. Build your audience first before you go investing money into a product you aren’t certain if people even want. This isn’t to say you can’t record yourself affordably, it’s just a matter of making sure the songs themselves are solid, that the music has legs and people want it. When it comes to recording, the best plan is to start with just one great song, not a whole album.
“I’ve been there and back. I’ll give you a piece of advice. Do nothing but build your buzz first.”
2) Strive to Write One Great Song
When it comes to song writing and the deciding factors of what make a great song, it can be difficult to measure as the enjoyment of the song can be very subjective. People’s choices as to what they like or dislike can be very different, but when it comes to song writing itself, there is a simple test that I am going to be using from now on. You should be able to break the song down to nothing but the chord progressions, melody lines and lyrics. If it’s truly a great song, especially for popular music, it should be catchy, relatable, and emotional; it should make the listener feel something. Once you have the foundation it should translate well into most other styles not just the genre that it is in. Obviously this wouldn’t work to well with Death Metal or Dub-Step, but for most styles of popular music, this is a great philosophy that I will be adopting going forward. If you break the song down to an acoustic guitar with a strong vocalist and great lyrics and it’s well received, you might have something worth investing in.
“If you are in a band, strive to write one great song. Just one. People will tell you when it is great. You won’t tell them (this is where most local bands fail instantly). After that happens, write 4 more.”
3) Give Away Your Music for FREE
One of the promoters that I work with in the industry is strictly against this. He says that giving away your music for free devalues your work and people perceive your music to be better if you charge for it. As much as I understand his sentiment, I’m going to have to agree to disagree. You can’t devalue that which has no value. No one can judge the value of your music without getting to listen to it first. The music itself has become a promotional tool to get people interested in your band and get them out to your live shows. If people really like your music and want you to keep creating it they will give you money and pay you for your creative works, but they have to make the decision and formulate their opinion first, they can’t be expected to choose when they have no context. Also, over the years I think people got tired of being duped into buying an album of music when all they wanted was the single.
“And that’s the problem with most unknown artists today: you and I know what goes into making an album, perfecting a craft, making music… countless hours of practice, financial sacrifices, dumping yourself into your music physically and emotionally, etc. but everyone else doesn’t… nor do they care, because they don’t know you – you haven’t earned the right to charge for an album yet.”
4) Promotion is More Important than Production
If you build it, they will NOT come… unless they know about! This rings true for all creative projects but even more so for new ventures, musicians in particular. When it comes down to it, you need to invest just as much energy if not more into promoting your music as you do into producing it! Production no longer separates independent bands from the heavy hitters with big money. You need to find creative ways to get your music out there through promotions, advertising and word of mouth. If your music is appealing, people will share it with others. People love to say “I was listening to that band long before they were famous”, your songs just have to be good enough to get people to share them. Invest in online promotions, upload your songs to blogs and send CDs to College & University Radio. There is an abundance of indie movie producers looking to acquire new music to use in soundtrack compilations. Offer them your music for free! There are a lot of opportunities available to you. Do whatever you can to get your music out there!
“If nobody knows about it then you can’t expect to sell anything. It’s probably unpopular in this sub-reddit to point out that promotion is more important than production for a new artist or band.”
5) There isn’t a Big Market for 3rd Generation Nu-Metal aka Alternative Metal Post-Punk Pop Rock
Know your audience! If there isn’t a market for your style, make sure you can build it, otherwise it’s probably best to not stray too far from what’s already working for others. Personally, I want to be creative with my music and do things that are different and progressive. Unfortunately, just because my musician friends and I think it’s awesome does not mean any one wants to listen to it. Keep it simple stupid! People want to be able to feel music and not have to memorize the time signature changes in order to properly move to it. Unless you’re Tool, or another experimental style project that has carved a place for themselves over the years, it’s best to stick to the norm as sad as that sounds. Being unique and different doesn’t mean better, it just means being unique and different. You should by no means use the uniqueness of a sound, band or song to gauge the future success of it.
“What is this? 3rd generation nu-metal? C’mon, man. If nothing else pick up the tempo and the songs will rock a bit more.”
And those are the top 5 things I learned from r/WeAreTheMusicMakers on Reddit. It’s my hope to eventually go more into how to build a promotional plan for new bands who are trying to get their music out there and share the actual steps and locations to send their work to, but that is a much larger project. Maybe after I’m finished, I will share it with everyone and we can all work together to perfect the ultimate plan!
Big thanks to the Reddit community and everyone who contributed to the conversation and helped make this article possible. I have learned a lot and hope I wasn’t the only one!
Until next time…
– Shane Lamotte