On DIY, Networking, and Laughing at the Criticism

[Originally blogged 7/9/09]

I went off on booking agents and “managers” for small bands a few daty ago quite a bit, but one of the most important points I tried (and always have, of course) to hammer home was that if you make music and you think it’s ready to get out there YOU REALLY DON’T NEED ANYONE TO HELP YOU!!!!

With these major caveats…
While you can literally do EVERYTHING for yourself, from booking your own shows to designing and screenprinting your own tshirts to releasing your own CDs/8 tracks, it’s good to know where you’re lacking skills.  Just because you CAN do everything doesn’t always mean you SHOULD.
What this means is simple: find good people to work with.
The easiest way to do this at first is look to friends.  Can Darkwytch666 make awesome fliers for shows?  Let her in free for the help and tell everyone about her awesomeness in exchange for the help.  Corey the Mildly Disassociated Methhead loves lighting?  Beg his ass to play around with the lighting board when you play (and tell him to chill on the strobes…a little)
I’ve been extremely fortunate in that I’m decent with networking.  One of the amazing things about the electronic scene on the whole is there’s a lot of massively talented and creative people in it, from graphic and web designers to sound nerds to whatever the hell you really need.
And most of you probably don’t have much experience, so it actually benefits everyone to work together and raise them thar skillsets to new levels and give each other exposure in the process.  Consider it mutual exploitation.
NEVER underappreciate those who are helping you, as well, even for small things.  Nobody HAS to do ANYTHING for anyone.  Thank people in liner notes, on stage, or on your awesome wordpress blog that nobody reads.  It’s important, and mostly it’s just the right thing to do.
And also importantly: Paying for work is NOT a bad thing.  This is just meant as a “getting started” measure.  People sometimes feel the MOST appreciated when they can earn a bit of scratch, but if it’s not in the budget currently know that the barter system is one sexy bitch as well.
I recommend hitting up people who are “making it” for advice, too.  Don’t necessarily be annoying about it and if you don’t get a response get all pissy and offended– people are busy– but a lot of artists remember their earlier, more confusing days and will take a minute or two to write back.  Maybe not a novel, but with something.  It helps.  I’ve gotten plenty of awesome advice from people doing this far longer and far, far better than I ever will.  There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, and some things may seem obvious, but they’re generally only obvious if you fell on your face a few dozen times doing it the wrong way and someone pointed out what you were doing wrong.

There are a lot of musicians out there selling “real” CDs like me (or not, which almost makes this funnier) that yell and rile against “bedroom musicians” who just sit around after a long day at the 9 to 5, have a few beers, and mess around in Reason until they have songs for MySpace.  See, the thing is, 95% of ALL artists essentially do this, INCLUDING the people who whine and bitch.  I can count on fingers and toes the artists who make their living EXCLUSIVELY off music sales and tours.  And most supplement their income heavily by doing music-related stuff like mastering and production.

So that makes them the thing they hate.  Which they don’t want to admit, but they’re still punching in at the local shitbag chain restaurant to make ends meet too, so ignore that shit.  It’s all what YOU put into it, and if you’re a fellow bedroom musician like myself you can not only thrive but put out music that’ll shut up all the critics.  If it doesn’t, then use that criticism to make them shove it up their ass by working harder and being more successful (whatever the hell THAT means) than them.

I try to do it every day.  And it rules.  And by and by the whiners are also the ones losing money by pouring it into useless ideas that don’t recoup.  Again, be smart.  Don’t do it if it’s gonna lose a bundle.  Longevity is key, and you don’t wanna burn out your budget before that fanbase has grown to sustain it without your help.

In other words, be smarter.  Think about good ideas that will actually work, get off your ass, and start working on the big picture instead of focusing on just one corner of the canvas.

And thank me later in your liner notes.;)
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