As I sit here in the No Man’s Land between Christmas and New Year my Facebook feed is currently dominated by bands. This is the case most of the time, but at the moment almost all of them are posting up the following three messages:
– Thanks for helping us to have an excellent 2011!
– Overeaten at Christmas, still have a food baby!
– 2012 is going to be the best year yet!
Now I wish every single one of them the best of luck with that last one. But I can’t help wondering how many of them have actually thought about how they’re going to make that happen. How many have sat down and plotted out what steps they will take to ensure that they will be a more popular, satisfied and respected musician in 12 months time than they are now.
I think if you’re going somewhere you need to be flexible during the journey, but it helps if you plan a route. So I suggest musicians join in the tradition of making a resolution for the new year. Make it simple, make it measurable and make it an achievable challenge, something that you know you are can do and will have no excuse if you don’t. To get you started here are ten suggestions for resolutions that you could make:
Play One New Town A Month
Most artists tend to stall because they never break out of their comfort zone. It’s easy to play to your friends in your home town or to a crowd that already knows you in another. What really tests you is taking the stage knowing nobody in the room, then you find out how good you really are. It’s daunting, but if you want to be a pro then you’d better get used to it. By making sure you play a new place often you build up contacts, fans and experience.
Print Out 5,000 Flyers, Hand Out All Of Them
It’s a big spend, but it could be worth it. This works out at roughly 15 per day, so it will keep you busy but even if only a fraction of those 5000 people become a fan then that’s still a significant boost to your fan base. Flyers are becoming increasingly forgotten about by artists, but I really think that getting something to put in people’s hands is a good investment. If I like a band but don’t have the cash on me to buy an album then I might not have anything to remember them by, once I’ve got home I may have forgotten the name of the artist and they’ve lost me forever. If you have a few flyers to hand out complete with album, website and gig details, then I’m far more likely to fish it out of my pocket in the morning and check you out again. Put them around venues that you play, hand them out at the door or just ask if you can leave a couple on the counter at local businesses, be creative.
Go To See A New Band/Festival Every Month
Go along to the show just as a fan. Ever wondered why a lot of artists run out of steam on their 3rd, 4th or 5th album? It’s often because they spend the whole time ingesting and playing nothing but their own music, or the music they already knew before they became a full time musician. After having all their life to write their first one and using any leftovers on the second it can be hard to be excited by the inside of tour buses and recording studios. Hear other music, see other performers and let it inspire you. Your life will also be better.
Actively Collect Emails After Every Show
An email list is still a very useful tool for an artist to have, there are many good guides out there on how to have a good mailing list so I won’t elaborate on it. However a lot of artists neglect it and don’t make a lot of effort to get people to sign up at shows. I’ve seen far too many artist mention it briefly near the end of their show, sit glumly by the bar and sheepishly put it away after five minutes of indifference. If you act like you don’t care about your mailing list then why should the crowd? Go round the venue and ask people face-to-face if they’d like to sign up. You’d be amazed what confidence and a friendly smile can do. If you can’t do this because you’re so busy then try and get a friend to do it for you.
Write One Song Every Week
Some people will find this easy, some will not even bother and a lot will be far too scared to try. You don’t need fully fleshed out orchestral masterpieces, just lyrics and basic melody. Get the bare bones of a song out and get used to doing it regularly. If only 20% of it is any good then you end the year with 10 more good songs, maybe even a couple of great ones.
Raise £1000 For Charity
Doesn’t matter how, as long as it is through your music. Put on shows, release charity singles, do a sponsored sing-a-thon (is that a thing? I hope it’s a thing) or any other activity you can think of. Firstly, you’ll be making the world a better place somehow. But on top of that, charity gives you a little extra shameless promotion allowance. Use it as an excuse to get in the papers, on the radio and ask for a load of re-tweets.
Learn A Skill
Not just any skill, but one that is related to music without being musical. Skills such as Photoshop, video editing or events promotion are all areas that are heavily intertwined with the music business and many artists spend a lot of money getting other people to do it for them. By learning it for yourself you will have more control over your career and save yourself a bit of money in the long run.
Even if you do get other people to do the work for you, by learning their skill you have a better understanding of what you want from them and will be able to be a bit more specific in your requests. It may seem alien before you’ve started, but none of these are cryptic ancient arts. A few hours a week should give you a decent base to build upon.
Collaborate With A New Artist Every Month
In 2011 roughly half of the UK number 1 singles were collaborations. Two (or more) brands pulling together to harvest their combined fan-bases for massive sales. You don’t have to do anything that sounds anywhere near as soul crushing as this, but why not ask someone else to appear on one of your songs? The obvious choice at the moment seems to be getting a hip-hop artist in to drop a verse or two.This is nothing new and there are times when it doesn’t work , however when used right it adds a new dimension and opens you up to a very different market.
Of course you could also do a duet, record a vocal track for a dance/electronic producer or maybe even do a split EP, whatever takes your fancy. This will give you interesting musical avenues to explore without having to totally change your style, spread your name to a different fan base and you can even count it as one of your weekly songs.
Select A Fan Of The Week Every Week
I can’t take full credit for this one. A quote that I really like is “if you want 20,000 fans, you must do 2000 different things that each generate 10 fans.” It was said by David Meerman Scott and music industry marketing consultant Michael Brandvold has begun a list of 2000 things , this is pinched straight from there. I’ve seen artists do things similar to this and I think it’s a great idea. You’ll learn more about your fans and it will also encourage them to shout about you, win-win.
Even if you don’t fancy setting up something so rigid, you could still have something that shines a little spotlight on your fans. One example is Sam Beeton, who publicly thanks every individual who signs up to his record club . You could do the same for everyone who orders a CD, brings 5 other people along to a show or has your poster as their profile picture for a week. It costs nothing, it takes minimal effort and yet it goes such a long way to establishing an artist-fan bond.
Send Your Music To 100 Radio Stations
I recently posted an article about how to get your music on the radio. Why not put it into practice? Sending out 100 CDs may be costly, but 100 emails to the right people will cost nothing but your time. Once you have a decent email draft then just get in the habit of sending one or two emails out every few days with a link to your music just to keep things ticking over. When you have a single/album release then do a lot more at once to help give it a big push.
There are way over 100 radio stations for you to send your music to, why not go further afield and try somewhere more exotic too? Even if you only have a 10% success rate, that’s 10 radio stations that have played your music in the last year. Depending on the stations, you could’ve been heard by 10 people or 10 million people. If it’s the latter you probably don’t need me, if it’s the former then at least you got something under your belt. I say radio because it’s my main medium and music tends to work well on it, but you could do this with magazines, blogs or websites too.
If one of these ideas has inspired you to do something in 2012 then excellent, let me know how it goes . If not, these are only suggestions and I’m sure you can think of plenty more. Just make sure it is simple, measurable and an achievable challenge. Whatever you decide to do in 2012, I hope it works out for you.
This article originally appeared in http://musicbud.co.uk and is written by Andy Vale. Vale is a Guildford based radio DJ and promoter. He has been presenting specialist music shows for four years and has also had roles in radio management, press and events. He has had three Student Radio Awards nominations and has built up thousands of hours in the studio. If you have an excellent song that you want him to play then he would love to hear from you.
Here’s a link to the original article: http://musicbud.co.uk/2011/12/30/10-new-years-resolutions-a-musician-should-make/
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