Why Your Local Music Community Is Important

Why Your Local Music Community Is Important

A tale of two musicians – one moved to the big city, signed a record deal, lost the rights to all of her songs, became disillusioned with the business, ended up in a day job and struggled to live her dreams for 20 years. The other stayed in his hometown, did lots of local gigs, turned out more than 100 albums, networked with his fans daily online and made enough income to earn a good living and pay his mortgage. True story.

It’s common when you first get into music that your dream is to get signed, have a chart hit, be on TV, tour the world, trash hotel rooms and have millions of adoring fans. The music industry as most people know it is the one we see on the TV, hear on the radio and whose artists appear in the media daily for their latest antics, reality show appearances, sell out stadium tours, etc.

But what about the other side of the industry, the one that folks don’t get to hear about but where it’s perfectly possible to make a good living? This starts in your local music community – with local musicians, labels, promoters, studios, venues and fans. This is where the musical ‘movements’ are created that shape the industry as a whole and where you are part of a great, supportive network. Even if you want to join the more ‘visible’ side of the industry at some point in the future, it’s easier to get noticed by developing yourself as an artist or band in your local community first. If you make enough of a wave in your local scene and start getting good music press, the industry will come knocking, even if you’re already signed to a local Indie label. In fact they would probably prefer that you are already signed – these days big labels like to have all of the work done for them in advance so that they know they’re making a good investment, so being signed already is often not an obstacle, especially if you’re on a one album contract.

One of the obvious benefits of staying put and developing your music career in your local music community is living costs – they will be much lower than if you moved to the big city, where you will probably end up sharing a small flat with multiple occupants. This also means that you likely won’t get any time alone to practise, write or record, another downside to being in the city. Another thing is that competition is tough and gigs are hard to get – you’re not only competing against everyone in your home country that has travelled to the city to ‘make it’ but also against people coming from overseas with that same dream. There’s also a lot more entertainment of different types available so making a living from gigs is a lot harder than it would be in more rural areas, where you can travel more quickly between nearby towns and cities and don’t have to ‘pay to play’. I’ve encountered multiple musicians over the years who arrived in town with big dreams only to find themselves working ‘day jobs’ for the next few years.

Of course since I came to sign my first deal, the internet has improved massively and it’s possible to have a global reach from your own living room. This is why, were I to do this again, I would choose to live in a cheaper area where I could cover my cost of living from either music alone or at worst, a part-time job. Any spare cash would go into getting the best quality recordings that I possibly could – there’s nothing wrong with travelling to the big city for this if you find the right producer to meet your needs.

Local Indie labels are vital to building a great music scene in your area and I would definitely seek one out for the release rather than doing all of the work alone. This way you share the workload, get to be on a roster of bands that you can work alongside and there’s a much higher chance that you’ll be able to make a comfortable living from your music career. Build a strong following and then gradually start to extend your reach into neighbouring communities by teaming up with good bands in those areas and offering support slots to one another.

So get to it, start developing and engaging with your local music community today.

Choosing A Band Name

Choosing A Band Name

Although there are numerous outlets for musicians to upload their music and interact with fans, it’s still important to have your own website. It will give you a professional edge in what is a saturated market and is still a good place for launching your latest release campaign. Finding a domain name these days isn’t easy due to cyber-squatters (people that purchase domains but then just hold them without building websites in the hope that there will be a payoff one day). However measures are being taken to combat this to ensure that people proven to be working within a certain industry are more protected.

It’s also important to have matching social media profiles. The most important ones to your career are Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Instagram and YouTube. You should also consider creating profiles and content at Pinterest, Snapchat and Vine. We’ll be adding information on all of these platforms in future blog posts. Vimeo is another extremely useful video tool although these days there is no free option available. I’m going to mention Twitch.tv too. Although it’s a gaming site you should really create a login and secure your profile here. Twitch rank very well in search engines and I have seen cases where a fan has used an artist name for their gaming character and ranked higher than the artists own website in Google!

If you don’t yet have a band name then your job is made slightly easier as you can keep searching until you find a suitable name where all profiles are still available. If you do have your band name but the profiles are taken, it’s not ideal but you could consider adding an extension such as ‘music’ after your name as many artists have already had to do. However I would strongly recommend choosing an alternative name as I’ve seen some confusion on sites such as Spotify, Last.fm, Songkick and others where artists with the same name have been added onto the same page and it can be a hassle trying to clean up your profiles and get the other artist removed. There’s also the danger that an artist or band with the same name may copyright the use of that name on merch in certain countries which could cause more headaches in the future.

Band names should very much be in line with your musical style and should appeal to your target audience. Remeber, you’re running a business and creating a brand. Pick something that resonates with who you are as artists and that will look good on merch and CD covers. Don’t rush into a decision when it comes to choosing your name, you have to live with it for the rest of your career so should be happy with your choice. Start with a brainstorming session and develop your ideas from there. Check whether domains are available and if not, keep on brainstorming. You wouldn’t release a half-finished piece of music and the same goes for your brand too – put the time and effort in at the beginning and the hard work will pay off for you as you progress in your career.

Forming A Band

Forming A Band

Forming A Band

Choosing your band members is one of the most important decisions you can make and not one that should be rushed or taken lightly. You need to look correct together, blend musically and also be able to spend long periods of time in each others company while writing, recording, touring and promoting. There are bound to be clashes during a band’s lifetime but by getting the correct blend of people you can ensure that you can create great musical output and to overcome many of the issues and challenges that will arise.

Many bands are formed between childhood or college friends and this can work very well as you already know each other’s humour, moods, musical tastes, etc. However sometimes it’s necessary to audition band members in order to get the right mix. Don’t feel obligated to pick the first person that shows an interest or make any hasty decisions, work carefully on getting the right team together.

It’s important for a band to make decisions democratically and to all contribute equally. You may have different skills but everyone needs to pull their weight in order for a band to be able to work as a unit. Decide from day one how things will be run, whether you will have a PayPal account for all band funds, whether you will initially put all earnings back into the band to help you grow, who will do which tasks, etc to avoid any arguments and complications further down the line.

Forget the instant fame that you see many artists trying to attain nowadays, instead aim to create something artistically credible and with the potential for longevity. Spend as much time as possible jamming and writing together and see what kind of sound starts to develop. Do as many gigs as you can to hone your performance skills. Don’t rush into the studio too soon, make sure you are operating as a unit first, sort out the intros and endings, the dynamics – create interesting arrangements, push one another to be better musicians.

If you work hard to grow as a band in this way then it will show in your live performances. You will know the songs inside out and trust your team members so much that you will be able to give a much more relaxed and fun performance and the audience will notice this and react accordingly.

All bands are going to have ups and downs but by selecting a strong team, laying down the ground rules and developing a strong work ethic, you are much more likely to achieve success in the business and to attract the attention of the people that can help to advance your career. And above all else, have fun!