3 Words That Are Destroying Your Music Career WiredGuitarist April 8, 2017 Articles, Recording Tips, Tutorials Nod your head in agreement if you’ve ever wondered… … why X band is making millions and touring the world and your band is stuck playing a local pub for pocket change? … why your awesome new record just isn’t getting popular? … why no one ever hires you to make their record or shoot their video? … why you feel like you’re going nowhere in music? All of those questions hit home for me, and I’m willing to bet they do for you, too. Every time I ask myself these questions it’s because I feel like I’m hitting my head against a wall. Like I’m not going anywhere in music. As a guitarist, vocalist, audio engineer, record producer, promoter, whatever position you are in the music industry, the same rule applies. There are 3 toxic words that have been destroying music careers left and right – they are the answer to these questions. I’ve heard it at band practice. I’ve heard it in the studio. I’ve heard it in my own mind. The three words I stopped saying (and thinking) that took all my hours of hard work and truly made them pay off… “It doesn’t matter.” Yikes, I hope those words sent chills down your spine too. The problem is in your attitude. Now before you call me out and say that I sound like some motivational speaker spewing his mumbo-jumbo about ”positive thinking,” just wait, I promise that’s not what this is. The worst thing you could do is not take a couple minutes to try and improve your career by reading this. It could change everything for you. So, listen up. Let’s make this more practical instead of discussing some vague concept, I’ll provide some examples where these words appear frequently and talk you through why they hurt success. SEARCH AND DESTROY Examples of Career Destroyers in Action EXAMPLE 1: Your band is rehearsing for a big show. Maybe you’re opening for a touring band that you really dig, and you’re hoping to make a good impression on them, maybe even network with them if all goes well. Rumor is that their label rep is going to be there, too. Big opportunity. You finish practicing the set and the drummer asks “So, how’d we feel about that?” Your bassist points out that the band rushed a LOT of transitions, that the guitarist still can’t play his solo live very well, and that the vocalist keeps missing his cue in the chorus of your big closing number. Your vocalist shrugs and says those three awful words. He then adds: “We basically have it down, no one will notice anyways, it’s fine.” HERE’S THE PROBLEM: You’re killing me here, imaginary vocalist! I bet a lot of you are nodding your head in agreement with the vocalist. You probably don’t see why there’s an issue there. He’s right, isn’t he? 90% of the set was good, so why worry about a couple transitions or whatever? Look at his reasoning: “no one will notice anyways, it’s fine.” Think about it… You’re opening for a professional touring band – probably signed to a major label – these are professional musicians who work their asses off to perfect their craft. Their label rep is there, someone whose entire job is to analyze every detail of a band to decide whether or not they have potential. Do you honestly think they aren’t going to notice when a band rushes, misses a cue, or can’t play their parts? Of course they will, because it’s their job to notice these things. Yeah, sure, for a local band you might be awesome, best in the state even… but you’re not competing with local bands. What this vocalist really means is “no one in the crowd will notice.” Because they aren’t musicians. Guess what? He’s still wrong! Let me prove it to you: Have you ever seen a sequel to a movie that you felt wasn’t as good as the first? Of course you have. You mention things like “it was boring,” “it just didn’t seem interesting to me,” and “I didn’t really care about what was happening.” These are opinions of someone who is uninformed on the topic of film. And you’re not wrong. Someone who actually knows filmmaking can give more detailed information behind your feelings, saying “the characters were not engaging and they didn’t develop throughout the film.” They can say “the cinematography was very amateur, so it didn’t engage the viewer like it should have.” They can say “the acting was fantastic, but unfortunately the script they were given was poorly written.” These are the opinions of someone who is informed on the topic of film. Same opinions, but much more detailed. So what’s my point here? Simple: just because YOU cannot explain the technical details of WHY you didn’t like something does not mean that YOU DID NOT EXPERIENCE THEM or that YOUR REASONS AREN’T VALID. Your audience might not be able to tell someone WHY they liked the band before yours better (at least not in specific detail that you can take home and work on), but the reasons still exist, these things still register with them on some level. These are people who listen to music constantly – they’re used to hearing records from amazingly tight and precise bands, they know what a band is supposed to sound like. You might have amazing material, but if a band with garbage songwriting skills (which we can tell you how to fix) goes up there and plays with metronomic precision, perfectly in tune vocals, great stage presence, and an awesome live sound, everyone in that venue is going to decide that THAT band is better than yours. They know nothing about music theory, technique, whatever, but they still know a better performance when they hear one. They aren’t STUPID. The reason you’re still a local band is because you act like one. You don’t compare yourselves to the bands you want to be touring with, you compare yourselves to other local bands. If you’re in the top 30% of bands in your area, you get lazy. You sit around waiting for Sumerian Records to call you up with an offer and make your band “blow up.” There are tens of thousands of bands that can do 90%, just like your band. 90% bands aren’t the ones who are successful, they’re just like everybody else. The bands who care about the last 10% are the ones who succeed. Yes, it absolutely does matter. EXAMPLE 2: An individual in the music scene takes to Facebook to share a rather strong opinion. Perhaps it’s something small like disliking a band, or perhaps it’s something big like an extreme political or philosophical belief. Maybe it’s not even sharing an opinion, but saying a certain word or sharing a controversial meme. Either way, it gets put out there. “It’s just an opinion,” they think to themselves, “if people don’t like it they can get over it. They don’t know me in real life, they can’t trash me for being a bad person. It’s just a social media post. It doesn’t matter.” HERE’S THE PROBLEM: If you think you’re not guilty of this, you’re lying. We’ve all done this before, and I see it happen almost daily at this point. The dreaded “Facebook opinion.” Look… we all have our strong opinions and beliefs, and while those opinions might not even be music related, they have a direct impact on your music career. Think about it, would you want to work with… … a promoter who trash talks local bands? … an audio engineer who thinks bands who use drum samples are liars and cheaters? … a tour manager who uses racial slurs publicly? … a drummer in a band signed to a record label who trash talks record labels? It’s easy to create excuses for the things that you or your friends say or do. You can brush off the actions of you or your friend for any number of reasons, including the ones I hear most frequently: “It’s just a joke, they don’t really believe that.” “It was taken out of context.” “It’s free speech, I can say what I want.” “They don’t know me in real life, they can’t just assume I’m a bad person from a post.” The reality of life is that these excuses don’t hold much water. This is the real world, and in an industry as tough as this one, you have to put your best foot forward. You don’t get a second chance at first impressions. It’s not my place to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t believe, and I’m not about to. However, I can tell you that what you say on a public forum (or to your friends list) can directly impact how successful you are in this industry. Whether you like it or not, what you say online can upset the people who hold the keys to the next step in your career. So let me ask you… that post, that meme, that word… are they really worth risking your career over? You can say whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean you’re free from suffering the consequences. Play it safe, and play it smart. Be a decent human being. When you make a post, ask yourself how the people you want to work with would react, how your heroes would react. Ask yourself if what you’re saying really needs to be said, or if you’re just looking for an excuse to vent. Yes, it does matter. Alright, last one… EXAMPLE 3: You’ve started a new band/recording studio/booking agency/whatever. You set up your website, you make a Facebook page, Instagram profile, and you post about it on Facebook. 2 months later you still haven’t gotten any jobs/gigs. You go out for drinks to catch up with a buddy. He works for a big corporate company – construction, let’s say. They’ve had a good year, he gets paid well. You dish about your frustration over a couple of beers. He says “That sucks man. Have you thought about your marketing? Maybe looking at your website stats or hiring someone to give you some marketing advice?” You laugh. You’re on all the major social media sites, you’ve got your own website even – you’re pretty sure you know a thing or two about marketing. Plus, let’s be honest, this isn’t some corporate construction company, this is music, art. It’s all word of mouth. At the end of the day, your work speaks for itself anyways, it’s about the music, what you can do, not “marketing.” For those reasons you tell him “it doesn’t matter.” HERE’S THE PROBLEM: Listen. I love you for reading this far, I really do… But if you agree with imaginary startup company dude please punch yourself in the face, it’ll give you a nice shock to the system and prepare your brain for reprogramming. If you don’t have a great product, no amount of marketing or charisma can make up for that. That’s just reality, and imaginary dude over here understands that, and good on him! Unfortunately, he’s missing something… People can’t hire you if they don’t know about you. Yeah, you have social media all set up and a website, but how many people visit that website? What percent of those social media followers are just your friends and family? What percent are people who actually want to work with you? Having those pages is completely necessary, but that’s not your endgame, that’s just the beginning. If you don’t have a strategy to get your name out there then there’s no point in having these pages. You could post pictures of your cat every day for a year on those pages and no one would know because no one pays attention to them anyways. There is nothing glamorous about learning terms like SEO (Search Engine Optimization), PPC (Pay Per Click), ASS (that vocalist we talked about earlier), but investing in marketing is an investment in your business. The whole point of marketing is to get you work, and keep you working for a long time. If someone has a product that’s only 95% as good as yours, but they have proper marketing, they win. Game over. We can see this time and time again throughout history, where one product skyrockets despite another similar product being better. It is never marketing OR product quality – you need both. No matter how great the product you’re selling is, you still need to find a way to get it out there. Whether that means uploading your music to popular music piracy sites to get exposure, or learning the basics of running targeted Facebook ads to people who might be interested in you – you need both. Yes, it does matter. SUCCEEDING IN MUSIC Killing “It Doesn’t Matter,” Saving Success Don’t get me wrong here. If you spend all your time obsessing over EVERY little detail of everything in music until it’s absolutely perfect, you won’t get any work done. You’ll waste time and money over things that just don’t matter. So what DOES matter, and how do I KNOW? Here’s the one thing I want you to ask yourself in order to succeed: “Does it matter to the BEST in the industry?” Stop asking yourself if it matters to the other local bands. Stop asking yourself if it matters to the crowd you’re playing to. Stop asking yourself if it matters to people who aren’t successful in this business. Ask the people who are KILLING IT in this industry. Those are the people you want to impress, the ones who you are competing with, those are the ones that you want to work with and be like some day. If you want to get there, you need to hold yourself to their standards. Next time you’re at band practice, in the studio, or writing something online, ask yourself… “Does it matter to the BEST?” If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out some more! We upload new articles, guides, reviews, and interviews daily, such as our Alluvial piece! Also, we are a dealer for many beloved brands such as PRS, Ibanez, Mayones, Schecter, ESP, and more! Feel free to stop by our shop and we can help you find the right guitar for you at the best price possible. This article was written by Connor Gilkinson, our editor located in Canada.