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The EvO:R Street Journal
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Exploring the Career Direction in a Changing Music Industry
Entertainers need to prepare for changes.
By Les Vogt
Many great performers became destitute because they couldn't adapt to change. If there is one exit door when
a fire breaks out chances are you're going to be trampled to death. Don't wait for the fire... get
some options and avoid the exit door.
Many of the tribute artists in our midst are balancing their time and efforts between a character they know and love and an elusive original music career. This article is targeted for that segment of our industry and, hopefully, it will lend some encouragement to the cause. For those who are not aware, my passion has been creating authentic rock'n'roll tribute shows, but my background is in original artist management, concert promotion, and entertainment marketing & consulting. Here are my thoughts for this month...
In discussions with some of my concert promotion colleagues lately, I am hearing some interesting views on current music industry trends. Some of these insights are very fascinating. However, I would rather offer some thoughts on the implications these trends might have on the career entertainer.
The consensus of opinion is that the music industry structures of the past are changing so drastically that we are currently seeing the end of an era and the beginning of a completely new process... simultaneously. And, the greatest contributing factor to the confusion is the internet and all its connected communication tools.
Corporate entities driven by profit hungry music industry moguls are now being threatened by this ever growing communication system. The good news is that the transformation is providing entertainers, musicians and songwriters with direct access to world-wide audiences. These changes we are seeing will only escalate. We are moving from a business model that was formerly simple and easy to understand to a system that requires more and more use of ever changing technology. It is a confusing, if not scary, period of time to launch or maintain a musical career.
In a nutshell, the traditional pop/rock artist development process is on a serious decline while the independent music scene connected through web sites and digital radio stations is experiencing unprecedented growth. And that's not all, everything independent...films, books and many other creative entities are being noticed and introduced into the mainstream as well. One super success story is that of indie film producer Michael Moore who turned his controversial documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" into millions through a major distribution deal made after initial independent success.
The internet is empowering individual musicians and entertainers around the world. As a result many new artists are successfully tapping into these new found powers. Not many are getting rich... but they are starting to make enough money to keep making music without the profit-hungry record industry moguls who are nervously watching their long-time monopolies coming undone.
Music guru Peter Spellman tells us "In a peculiar way the computer has set the music industry back 300 years. Entertainers of the past performed songs for royal and religious patrons and received support (patronage) in return. It was a direct connection between the entertainer and the audience, as small as it was. The internet allows the patron model to re-emerge, only this time, rather than having one exclusive patron, an entertainer may have thousands. It's a slow growth strategy but with a pace and quantity that remains in the hands of the artist and their handlers."
I cannot overstate the need for today's entertainers to embrace technology and resign themselves to learning to understand and work with it. Do not discard all traditional concepts, but be committed to finding additional ways to distribute and market your talents and creative works. Music is universally loved and people all over the world can't get enough of it... there are thousands of internet music downloads every minute. There couldn't be a better time for the creative music maker to get noticed. Companies in all walks of life are looking to associate with the music business. Non-music retailers are partnering with record distributors and adding new revenue streams through point of sale CD offerings. Some of the most significant examples are McDonalds, Starbucks and Victoria's Secret. Countless other stores and niche shops have also gotten on the bandwagon. Even companies way outside the realm of traditional music are waking up to this retail bonanza. Entertainers are no longer required to follow the traditional music industry format to achieve success.
Music manager Tom Peters claims "It is no coincidence that everyone is getting into the entertainment business. Music sells... and has accompanied just about every product that has come to market since the thirties. In fact some of the most interesting music is more readily heard on TV commercials than on radio."
Traditional music business practices are being torn apart. The rule today is... there are no rules! And, there
lies your opportunity. Technology hasn't altered the bottom line requirement for success in the entertainment business. Talent still drives our industry... not technology. However, the most adept and experienced entertainer doesn't always gravitate to the top. Your ability to sell yourself will ultimately determine your level of success. This doesn't mean "Talking the talk", but rather "walking the walk." How many tickets can you sell? What will people pay to see you perform? And what's more important, why will people pay anything to see you perform?
Here are a few tips to help you through these crazy times...
1. Give yourself a reality check. Where do you stand in the overall scheme of things? Don't waste your time chasing concert tours when you're an Eagles Club act. There is no shame at any level... but you need to know where you belong and focus on getting more gigs in that area. Continue to work at getting better and looking for ways to reach the next (realistic) level. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Are you a master performer but a marketing dunce? Performing and creating are crucial skills but in today's music world you'll need to practice the art of self-promotion. You'll likely have to find your own way to get where you want to go.
2. Get used to technological change. It won't be going away anytime soon. However, the more impersonal the business becomes, the more unique personal contact becomes. Hook onto the technological tools that you can see will help your cause and brush up on your communication skills... then hammer up, down and sideways. Try smaller, and sometimes less. Plan on zig-zagging a little - taking different jobs so you can learn more skills. The greater the spread between past and future scenarios, the more your creativity will flourish.
3. Improved skills will be your security. Across the board, and in the face of uncertainty, workers everywhere are becoming "free agents" - highly skilled units of one, not necessarily attached to a company or organization and always looking for new opportunities. This comes pretty easy for most entertainers and musicians who have learned from the beginning that they must multi-task in order to survive. They quite naturally adapt to today's quick-changing environment. The key is to maintain confidence in your skills and continue developing and improving them.
4. Prepare to take charge of your career. Think of yourself as a corporation of one, with a number of departments and you as the product. You are the person in charge of Research & Development... Production... Marketing... Advertising & Promotion, and Public Relations. At first it will seem like a daunting task. Keep your performance skills on the leading edge... decide which new skills you are best suited to learn and then employ a process to develop them efficiently and effectively while, at the same time, continually calling agents, producers and buyers of all kinds telling them about your products and services. Send your promotional package to every potential buyer that shows any interest whatsoever.
5. Find Your Own Niche. The word niche is an architectural term referring to a special place that's designed to display or show off an object or ornament... usually placed in a recess of a wall or an arched area of a room. Finding a niche will set you apart from others that do something similar and draw the best possible attention to you and what you can offer. You'll never get to see the world if you can't decide which destination to head for first, so is it with committing to one focus for your initial career and marketing process. The door that opens for you once you fully commit to one endeavor will present new opportunities you have never imagined.
6. Be Prepared To Re-Invent Yourself. Entertainers of today should remain flexible and be prepared to expand their horizons should the occasion be required. Many performers are stuck in a rut where they believe they cannot or should not vary from their specific area of expertise. This is true for some, but do not overlook the possibility of doubling your bookings (with some employers) by providing a completely different musical offering. After all, you have already impressed them enough to hire you for regularly scheduled engagements. How hard would it be to convince them you are capable of something different but equally appealing? Easier said than done, of course, but very possible. I know more than just a few tribute artists that have successfully adopted new characters to emulate. Think about what else you can do... and make the effort to do it!
After the "performance" nothing is more important to an entertainer than "who you know" in the music industry... at least who you know that knows what you can do. Therefore, schmoozing and networking within the industry will help immensely in the long run. It is easy for the solitary types (synonymous with creativity) to find a good reason not to attend such functions. But, I believe the self-managed artist must strike a balance between creativity and business to be successful. Outside help is most often the solution to this problem. A good representative (agent, manager, promoter & publicist) who totally believes in you and your talents could be the necessary ingredient. If this is your choice, choose carefully... it must be a marriage of sorts to be effective.
Some closing comments... It is a very rare entertainer who can function alone as a business
person without some conflict on the creative side. Who you know may get you the first gig...
but, it will be what you can do that gets you the second gig.
Posted By Les Vogt
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