A fellow musician recently asked to pick my brain about how I’ve been promoting myself, achieving some modicum of success on YouTube and keeping a busy tour schedule going.
I think they are looking for a technique that they can add on to what they currently do rather than change what they do from the inside out.
There are a million gurus out there who are teaching techniques and social media techniques, but I will tell you something that’s maybe scarier.
There is no one magic bullet, no one activity that will be a “fix it” add on for music career success. The reality is that the answer you seek comes from the inside, not the outside.
People have to like what it is you do (your music), and you can’t buy that. Once you have a viable “product” (again, your music) that people honestly and truly LOVE yes it makes sense to pay for PR, promo – but first you must see if what you have is actually working, and be honest with yourself.
- At a certain point around 2006 I realized that what I was doing musically was not working spiritually, musically and financially. This was frightening, but at least it was honest.
- I got quiet and did some “zero based thinking.” Meaning, I said “if I could clear the table and start over, what would I do or not do?”
- I have gotten totally honest with myself about music that I love to listen to and love play, regardless of who approves of my choices (this is a biggie and it could change your entire social circle, relationships and life!)
- I’ve gotten quiet regularly and listened to my intuition and gut.
- From the silence, I have allowed new creative ideas to come to me rather than force ideas.
- When I tossed the first videos up on Youtube, I paid attention to what people liked. I did nothing crafty to make videos “get hits” – it just happened.
- I constantly pay attention to what people like in general – not that I copy or do it, but I watch people, take notes.
- An audience is 2% musicians, 98% regular folks, so I stopped caring what musicians thought of me.
- I pay attention to and seek out the perfect intersection of my personal integrity and what people like.
- I play from the heart and am committed 100% to it, but I pay attention to my world inside AND the world outside like a martial artist.
- Like Thomas Edison, who failed over and over and over with the invention of the light bulb, I’ve kept trying different things until I see what works – as opposed to forcing one thing that does not work.
- I am ready to adapt at any moment.
People who honestly love what I do has contributed more to the touring, magazine articles, etc than anything I could do one a technical level to “promote myself.”
This being said, I’ve now “tested the waters” and made sure that what I do is worthy of some PR, which I plan to do on the upcoming CD release of “I REMEMBER MICHAEL” – my Michael Jackson Guitar Tribute.
PR is expensive, but that’s how you get more eyeballs. That comes after you’ve tested the “product” – not before.
Doing PR for something people don’t like could be financial suicide, so test, test, test and first make sure that you and your audience love what you do. If a restaurant has sucky food, all the advertising in the world won’t make people love the menu! So – audience first….test…then, PR.
Do people really and truly love what you do? Be honest! You may need to “clear the table” and start over rather than persist in something that does not work.
Yes it is scary and yes it takes guts.
Great article Adam! Don’t know if I’m ready to clear the table yet though 🙂 There are a small handful of folks who like what I do, but most important to me is the fact that “I” like what I do. But I certainly understand what you mean. I think we all just have to figure out what we want from life and music and what we’re willing to do to get it.
Rick – the “clear the table” thing is along the lines of “if the shoe fits, wear it” and is more about asking questions of oneself. By no means am I prescribing that you or anyone change what you do and do what I did.
The pop / fingerstyle thing is my current solution, but was born of silence, intuition and re-assessment. I like doing it, it feels good and right. No doubt it will change again and again.
If you like what you do that’s most important. But for example – lessons are a way that a guitar player can reach an audience. As well, maybe tweaking repertoire to reach into the hearts of a different audience can give an interesting spin and build on what you already do and bridge the gap even more.
“Wow there’s this awesome jazz guitarist named Rick Stone doing jazz versions of (insert)” or “Man this guy has awesome lessons online”…and you get more people into the funnel….rather than pouring dollars in without getting anonymous audience feedback first.
Friends and family and other cats will always say it’s great – but it’s good to get feedback from people with zero personal connection also.
Preceeding all this is that you are clear on your objective and goals…that’s #1.
Just ramblings. Keep swingin!