Top 10 Mistakes Artists Make

by David Hooper on September 2, 2009 · 19 comments

in Promotion

If you want to get a record deal, get people to your shows, or sell music like crazy, the answer isn’t some kind of “magic pill” website that you post your music on, blindly sending out a bunch of demos, or anything to do with having good music… although good music certainly helps. The answer is to develop a mindset that naturally attracts people to what you’re doing as well as an understanding of how the music business game is played.

As you develop as a person, your music career will develop with you. Sounds crazy, but it’s true, and I’ve seen it time and time again, with thousands of acts that I’ve worked with, from garage bands, to the guys selling out arenas.

Of course, part of developing includes making mistakes along the way. Check out these ten common music business mistakes, and ways to avoid them…

10. Being too difficult (or too nice)
First of all, let’s get this clear… Just because you wrote a few good songs and recorded them, it doesn’t mean the world revolves around you. Lots of people write and record good songs, so get in line.

Contrary to what the online rumor mill or media would have you believe, people in the music business are involved because they love music, and they’re not making enough to deal with jerks. And they won’t deal with jerks. If you’re a pain, they’re just go to the next guy, who also writes good songs, but has a better attitude.

With that said, don’t be too nice. You don’t have to say yes to everything. Pick your battles. If there is something you really feel strongly about, don’t settle for anything less.

Bottom line: Keep your ego in check and behave with courtesy and respect. At the same time, don’t let anyone treat with you anything less.

9. Trying to convince people of anything…
You play music, and people have strong opinions about music. Either people get what you’re doing or they don’t.

So, some reviewer, booking agent, or manager doesn’t like your new album. Let it go! Don’t try to convince him he’ll like it better after a second listen. He won’t. And the more you press him to give your music another shot, the more he’ll remember how annoying you were. This means he’ll be far less open to ever listening to you again.

There are a lot of people who won’t “hear it” when you approach them. So what? Move on. There are plenty of other people in this business who can help you. Go find the people who do “hear it” and put your energy into building good relationships with them instead.

8. Looking for industry approval
There was a time when the “industry” had a lot more pull when it came to breaking an artist, getting them distributed, and everything else. This is a new time, so we’re playing with different rules now.

Distribution is easy. Every day, more and more albums and songs are being sold online, physically and digitally. Recording music is easier than ever. You are not limited by a lack of options for getting something recorded that sounds professional.

But more importantly, once you get a recording together, you don’t need the industry to tell you your music is worthy. The consumers, the people who buy music, are really the only opinions that matter. And when you have the love of the consumers, the industry will come around.

The thing is, in the music industry, technology has changed faster than mindset. Stop believing you are at the mercy of any record label executive. You’re not. Connect directly with your fans on your terms. The feedback, loyalty and money you receive from them will be far more gratifying than you spending your time beating your head against a wall trying to figure out a way to get an approving nod from a record label.

7. Not building strong relationships with fans
People aren’t stupid. They know when they’re being marketed to. They know when you’re looking to sell them something.

Do they mind? No.

In fact, if you have a good relationship with your fans, they won’t mind being marketed to, and if you do it well, they look forward to being marketed to. However, they have to know you care. Building relationships with fans take time. You have to show them you care.

Do things like:
• Give them a few free songs to download.
• Have message board on your website and build a community there.
• Do a “fan appreciation” show.
• Record a holiday album or an EP that you give out exclusively to members of your fan club.

Show them in special ways that you not only care, but that you’re willing to go the extra mile to show your appreciation. In turn, they will buy your music, travel to see you play, call radio stations on your behalf, and promote you all over the web.

Every day – no matter if you’re busy recording, on the road, or at home worrying about how you’re going to find the money to make your project happen – do something (no matter how small the gesture is) to reach out to your fans.

6. Not “getting” how the fan/artist relationship works
You’re the leader and your fans do the following. You make the offer, they choose whether or not to accept.

Take charge, record the music, play the shows, print the t-shirts, and let them have the options of buying your album, coming to see you, or getting something to wear.

The average person has enough leadership duties to deal with in his or her own day. People are looking for somebody else to take control, so take control and let them ride along for a little while.

5. Laying Everything on the Table…
You’re a rock star. You’re living the dream. Keep up that fantasy. Don’t tell people how broke you are, that you’re still living with your mother, or anything else that breaks the image of you fans have in their minds.

One of the reasons people like music is because they have the opportunity to live vicariously through the people they are listening to. When you are on stage, they’re up there with you. When you’re on the road in your tour bus, they’re riding shotgun. Don’t take that away.

Give them insight into your life and what it’s like in your world, but always remember, you’re not just selling music – you’re also selling a persona.

4. Thinking the key to success is just musical talent, money, or looks
Yes, if we’re talking about pop music, MTV, or the major label system, a certain amount of a contrived “image” probably helps sell records.

Obviously, money helps things. And it’s always good if you can play and sing.

But “image” without marketing won’t get you on MTV. Good songs without marketing won’t get you on the radio. You can play well, have money, and look like a model, but if you don’t have the marketing to back you up, none of it matters.

You know what? If you don’t have a good, solid marketing plan in place, everything else doesn’t matter so much.

3. Giving up power
Keep control as long as you can. Yes, a label deal will give you opportunity that being an indie won’t. And a professional manager has connections that you don’t.

But when you sign with these guys, you’re handing over your career to somebody else. Nobody cares as much about your career than you do. When you and your talent are the most important commodity you have to offer, do not give up your power easily and without a damn good reason.

Your music is worth something. You are worth something. Think of your career as being “virtual real estate” which, if marketed correctly, will pay dividends for years to come. So, treat it like that.

2. Jumping at every opportunity
You don’t have to say yes to everything. In fact, sometimes, saying no to something can be more beneficial to your career than saying yes.

Why do you say yes to things? Take a look at your standards and make sure they’re high enough. As an example, just because a club has a PA system, it doesn’t mean that it’s worth playing there. There are some gigs that just aren’t worth playing. There are some connections that just aren’t worth developing.

When you say yes to something, especially something that takes your time, you’re likely saying no to a host of other things by default. Leave yourself open to saying yes to the opportunities that really matter.

Trust your own judgment. If something doesn’t feel right and you want to say no, it’s okay. At that moment, you may worry you’re passing up a great opportunity and will be missing out. The reality is better opportunities (that are a better fit for you) will come and you if you are open and ready for them.

1. Not getting help
You don’t know everything. This business has been around for a long time – long before you were involved.

Read books, get advice from people who work in the industry and keep studying every aspect of the industry. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can bypass a lot of the problems you’re likely to run into simply by asking people who have already been in, and dealt with, the situations you find yourself in.

Remember this: Time is worth more than money. You can always earn more money, but you have a limited amount of time. Don’t waste your time. If you don’t know something, or need specific help, don’t be afraid to pay somebody to help you deal with whatever obstacle you face. Don’t let anything stop you from having all the knowledge and know-how you need to have the success you aspire to have.

David Hooper has been serving the independent music community for over a decade and is host of the syndicated radio show, Music Business Radio. Visit www.MusicMarketing.com for more information on David and additional music business advice. For more Top 10 lists, go to www.musicmarketing.com/top_10/.

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Top 10 Mistakes Artists Make – Guest Blog « The Hit Music Academy
January 8, 2010 at 11:11 am

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

FANTAZMA September 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Thanks for the info, I agree with everything and will put this knowledge to work for me and my music! http://www.myspace.com/fantazmamusic

Reply

Kristen Thompson September 9, 2009 at 3:15 pm

This article is not only for artists, but is also good for many industries. I am part or the marketing industry and find this to apply in many applications.

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Ulysses September 28, 2010 at 5:31 pm

If I may ask, how are you involved with the marketing industry?

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Jim Jenkins September 9, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Sir,

Straight forward, direct, from the heart, and just good advice. Seems almost to logical to have to be said. But hey! We all need to go to re-education camp from time to time. Relevant and well said. Good job.

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H20 September 9, 2009 at 6:46 pm

you got it bang on David

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Shane Hunter September 9, 2009 at 11:07 pm

David,

Thank you so much for your insight on, “The Top 10 Mistakes Artists Make”. The information you provided was very helpful to me. If you have an opportunity please check out my myspace page. I have some of my new songs posted from my newly released pop / electronic album, Shane Hunter “Supersonic”. I appreciate your time!

Thank you and have a blessed night!

Shane Hunter

Reply

Quan September 9, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Excellent article. Informative and totally true! I learned something new. I’ll have to keep this in mind.

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Joey Daddario September 10, 2009 at 7:50 am

Great article Dave!
Thanks,
Joey Daddario

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genaro ricarte September 10, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Hi, David!

These are some VERY valuable and common-sense tips. Good job!

Do you think you might be able to include a bit of advice regarding publishing, and possibly on how to write and submit songs for established artists? Most musicians are very focused on building their own “audience” but seem to completely overlook the opportunity to write for other musicicans/bands, and how to go about it.

Thanks!
g.

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steve lester September 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Very nice!

Best synopsis I’ve seen on the topic. It covers all the stuff usually left out.

stev0

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Ted W. Zychlinski September 10, 2009 at 8:02 pm

It’s easy enough to slide into a “funk” when you’re pushing hard to record and then produce a new project then realize
your original date of completion has become unrealistic…but push on you MUST and articles like these help you to realize that there are other things needing to be done in the interim.Thanks for the lift they bring and KEEP THEM
COMING!! Thank you.

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Terri Fann September 12, 2009 at 10:14 am

It might pay to remember when you’re working your butt off and getting ahem, exhausted, that “life’s not fair; get over it.” and enjoy your music life accordingly! Thank you for the article, short, to the point, well done.

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MR DNA MUSIC September 13, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Thanks for the help.LORD knows we all need some type of aid when it comes to trying to get the rest of the world involved in what you belive in.Thanks again

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Big Cee 099 September 14, 2009 at 2:41 pm

That’s Keeping it realistic.

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David Lee Thompson September 20, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Great information. I will use these tips. Thanks for keeping it simple.

David Lee Thompson

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Alan Friend September 23, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Excellent suggestions!
Here’s a question— How often should a musician accept non-paying gigs? Sometimes I feel that the chance to perform before an appreciative audience or for a social cause I believe in is great, and other times I wonder about being taken advantage of.

Alan

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Joy October 28, 2009 at 5:10 am

I definitely recc. reading this post regarding asking for money as a musician:
http://grassrootsy.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/money-ask-and-you-shall-recievesometimes/

Reply

Preme Writez October 3, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Wow…. I will obtain and take this knowlege with me forever!!

Reply

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