Nobody ever said the music business was easy. And certainly nobody said making it in the World of Rock Music was any easier, either. If it was easy, everyone would do it. While it's true that many people try, very few of us actually make a living at it. Here are some ideas worth exploring, should you brave the ravages of this Rubicon.
Absolutely no music played in public without someone getting paid for it. If you go to a restaurant and they play Jazz, expect to pay 30% more for your meal than if they don't. Jazz music is expansive, so you'll have that desert and another glass of wine, and hang around a little longer. If they play classical music, you'll pay the added 30%, but you'll leave by 8pm. Classical music is stodgier and more rigid, but more exclusive.
If you play cover music in a bar, ASCAP will shake the club down for $1200 a year. The pub has to pay for playing other people's music, even if it's a jukebox. So, when people say it's not about the money, it's ALWAYS about the money.
The problem is, as it always is, the artist gets paid last. So, your job as the main attraction is making sure the place is packed. That way, your cut is seen as a worthwhile expense.
Think about it from the club's point of view. Who would you rather hire? A small shabby looking band, who play OK tunes, and charges $400 bucks a night, who makes a $1000 dollars for your pub? Or, a well oiled, good looking group of professionals that makes your club $8,000 bucks and charges $1500?
The problem is musicians are trained in music, not in bar economics, and certainly not in visual arts. So they fail to put sales, money, and visuals together. The result is a jumbled mess and very little income to show for it. They fail to realize that bartenders are people who want to come home with more money. Your job as the main attraction is making people happy. Happy people spend money (at the club). And that makes the bartenders and servers happy. Happy people are productive people, and so that makes the club owner happy.
Again, when people say it's not about the money, it's about the money. Your band, has to look like money, and attract money.
What do I mean? Well, let's take this example, people won't go to a run down restaurant with the paint pealing off the walls, and expect to pay that additional 30% on the meal's price. They certainly won't appreciate a dirty table, or if servers are rude or unkempt. It's unappetizing and undesirable. What they will expect is a bargain made by a group of amateurs.
Same thing in music. People won't pay you if you look shabby, act rude, or smell bad. Or if they do, they won't pay you what you ask because of a thing called "perceived value". What I mean is if you have black Labrador puppies and put up a sign saying "Free Puppies" nobody will take them. But if you put up a sign saying, "Labrador Puppies $100", you'll sell them all day long. See? Perceived value.
That's why it's important to take a shower and put on nice clothes when you approach a club for a gig. And why it's important to look nice when you're performing. Perceived value. Get the best looking person in the band to approach the club owner.
But in the World Of Rock, there's always that guy who's "not in it for the money", and refuses to look like top billing. Back in the 1970's it was perfectly acceptable in the counter culture to grow your hair long or stop wearing a bra. Today, If you're Miley Cyrus, and look like a goddess, you can get away with anything. But even Miley wears nice clothes when she performs. With or without the bra. Again, when you're young and skinny, you can get away with just about anything. In Miley's case, she's provocative, and you can expect that now.
But take another look at the tailoring! She always looks stunning. She takes care of herself and it shows. If you look like a million bucks, you get treated like a million bucks.
What many of us fail to realize is the world of rock, be that as it may, has very little to do with music. It has more to do with standing out. And so, it really is "The World Of Capturing The Audience."
But using a bag of tricks gets old. Just ask KISS. After a while, there's only so much bad music you can mask with make up. Or as they say in the business, "You can't polish a turd."
To keep that from happening, you must be authentic. You must have something to say. And you must be entertaining. And you must look good. It is a balance between looks and sounds. All counter cultures come to an end. It's the one thing they have in common.
At the same time, some artists will use substances to get the courage to be an ass on stage. Or they beat up their bodies so much, they need painkillers to mask the damage. And these highly addictive substances will kill you in slow motion.
The thing is, none of these extremes are necessary. You don't need to kill yourself to build an audience. You don't need to be a gladiator in an arena. All you need is to be an avatar.
What that means is be yourself turned up to 11. But first, take a shower. Comb your hair. Put on some nice clothes. Be attractive, and feel attractive. Welcome people into your world for a few moments. Be electrifying and magnetic. Work on your personal styling. And then, be a musician.
Many people think Miley Cyrus is a singer. She's not. She's an artist. And she's a musician. She purchased a guitar from my friend, Tish Ciravolo (Tish's Daisy Rock) guitars when she was like 7 years old. [In the World of Retail, they call this "Shrink It and Pink It".
Miley's parents knew she was talented. They surrounded her with talented people. They let her learn the business from Disney.
And then, she broke it.
She developed her own style, worked on her look.
And today, she's one of the top performing women in the world. And today, she'd still look great in worn out blue jeans. But that comes after years of building her brand, partially built on her appearance.
And that's branding.
So, before starting to explore the World of Rock, explore yourself. What attracts you? Where do you spend your time? What things do you like doing? Think about if you were a superhero, what your symbol would be.
Here's mine. Look at the font. The color. The goofiness of the cat graphic. Skull and crossed bones. One eye bigger than the other. You take the cat away, and you get a space helmet with a visor...or an egg.
What you don't get is a ripped pair of blue jeans, and a shabby t-shirt, right?
This is what makes people think I've taken some time to think about what I'm going for. And I have. But it doesn't say what kind of music you're going to hear does it? Aren't you curious? Didn't curiosity kill the cat?
Until next time faithful readers.
Love & Rockets,