25 Mistakes Music Artists Make
By Eric Alexandrakis
A rogues’ gallery of slipups every recording songwriter should avoid!
They’re everywhere, like cheap wine in a crinkly brown Mini-mart bag. Some think they look cool walking around drinking out of it, but in the end, it shows no control... no discipline... no clue. Yes, you know what I’m talking about. Or do you?
I see them every day: those constant mistakes that artists make without thinking. Some are minute, some are grand, some are just so incredibly dumb—but all can be avoided with some simple logic, and restraint from laziness.
WARNING: The things you are about to read are real. They have been taken from real examples of bad promo campaigns and bad career decisions. If you happen to recognize yourself in any of these examples, I apologize, but... No I don’t. If you haven’t fixed what you’re reading about yet, here’s hoping you’re now embarrassed enough to do so!
1. I’m going to make a living from music and be rich and famous... and the best part is, I don’t have to do real work!
You know how you go to college to train, work toward a major in order to get a full-time job to support yourself, and work for years to build your profession to make a better living and to improve, blah blah blah? Yeah, guess what!
Making music a profession requires the same attention to detail. It’s a full-time job which requires daily investment, generally until the day you die, or until you have enough niche success to sustain you so that you don’t have to work anymore. Don’t read past this line until you come to grips with this scary reality.
How cool, you kept the crinkly brown bag from the Mini-mart, I’m glad. Now keep breathing into it... that’s right... sloooowly... don’t pop it, because you’ll need it for the rest of your life. Or for the rest of your musical career. Or both.
2. Who needs a plan? I’m just getting started here, I can wing it...
Start with a two-year plan with monthly goals. Design it like a business plan. If you have to make a bar chart with pictures of girls stacked on top of each other for measurement, so be it. Without a plan, you’re spinning your wheels and I’m wasting my time writing this.
3. A bio? I can handle that, I just have to tell everyone I’m a genius!
No, you can’t write it yourself, and neither can your English major cousin Miri. Yes, yes, Auntie Grizelda is always raving at family get-togethers about Miri’s wonderful grades... as her department-head boyfriend 20 years her senior sits next to her looking posh in his bowtie, asking you to pass the yams.
Sorry, I got carried away... No I didn’t—get a proper bio written. Comparing yourself to every major rock star and hit album in a bio does not make you relevant. I see this all the time. “With a voice like Bono and a stage presence like Michael and a political awareness reminiscent of Lennon...” Yeah, and just a hint of cinnamon. You have to leave it up to the critics to call you the next Kevin Federline. (Assuming that’s what you want.)
If you need help with your bio and absolutely don’t know where to turn, I’ll let you in on someone I’ve personally worked with successfully. Have a look at the website for Katy Krassner, www.katykrassner.com, and if you like what you see, commission her to write you a bio. She writes bios and press releases for major artists, actors, brands, and indie labels.
4. Website? You’re kidding, right? Everybody just uses Facebook!
I’m a bit of a hypocrite on this one, as for the last few years I’ve been using Facebook as my hub, but I am now constructing a proper site. FB has worked well with a lot of EDM artists and labels, for example, but ultimately it’s a trend. What if it went away tomorrow? Do you really want all of your content to live only on Facebook? It’s just best to be able to have your own separate hub, where you can control your content entirely, and not be subject to weird rules where suddenly a picture of you taking a bath is owned by some corporation and ends up on a billboard on I-95.
By a “proper” site, I don’t mean use a free template from some random business site or whatever. Hire a reputable company via word-of-mouth/research (yes, even this takes effort), and do it right. If you must use a service that offers template sites, at least use one like HostBaby, one that understands what musicians really need in their web content and won’t leave you with a site that doesn’t deliver.
5. The world will recognize the genius in my every note.
Just because you can make music, doesn’t mean it’s good. I know a guy (one of many, actually) who has all the right intentions, but his ego is out of control. He has money and thinks that just because he has the means, his music is good. It’s average, and worst of all, he can’t sing, but thinks he can sing and doesn’t take criticism.
Take the criticism, it’ll save you money in the long run, but don’t take it from Auntie Em. She’ll always love your singing. My Aunt Pauline loves my piano playing and tells everyone about it, but she’s never heard me play.
6. I’m on Internet Radio!
No one cares if some random internet radio station inIndianais playing you. Your mother might, but she already got her copy of the album for free. Focus on the greatest audience, with the most practical and realistic means.
7. We’re growing our brand organically!
Organic food rots faster because it lacks those evil preservatives. Remember that. Do it right.
8. My music’s available on iTunes!
Don’t sell your music on iTunes, unless you have a good cover or can get into the “New Releases” section. What’s the point of creating a middleman? Why invest in a publicist, radio promoter, etc. so that iTunes can prosper? Just direct everyone to your site and sell direct from there.
9. Singles are the new Albums!
Why are you selling singles? If you can’t write a decent album, you have no purpose. Don’t listen to this nonsense about the album being dead. Make a good one, and sell it as such. If you’re going to put marketing efforts and dollars into one song, sell an album as a whole and make $10 instead of 99 cents. Just don’t stop promoting it after two months. 10 songs = 10 months of promo possibilities. Duh!
10. I’m looking for a label and manager...
How nice. Have you sold 20,000 copies on your own? Because if not, they aren’t looking for you. If you’re not willing to do the work, no one of value or credibility will either.
11. On social networks, posting the same posts promoting the same songs over and over again will eventually get people to buy the music.
No, people will start deleting you, and you will look desperate and lame.
12. I can tell folks I’ve sold 2 million albums even though the RIAA says I haven’t. Who’ll know?
Don’t think people won’t check riaa.com. I always do.
13. I’m too cool to pay bills on time... or at all.
If you couldn’t afford it, you shouldn’t have ordered it. Don’t blame it on the fake accountant.
14. What do you mean, that’s not what the contract says? That’s not how I read it!
Read and understand your agreements, and blame yourself for not getting what you thought you were getting. If you paid for one month of promotion, don’t ask to Skype with the promoter every month for 4 months, after your month has expired.
15. My new producer had two Grammies and a platinum album... in 1985!
Just because a producer has some decent credits...from 20 years ago, doesn’t mean they are worth your hard-earned cash. I’ve seen some ridiculous deal points in my day. Everything from $10K/song production costs, to 3 points + 10% of all placement fees on top. Stay away from this nonsense. I’ll hook you up with a great and affordable mixer. Just ask.
16. There’s nothing wrong with my image!
Yes, well. We can tell you’re really 50 and not 25, Madame. Dude, about that beard—ZZ Top was cool 20 years ago. Even a poor musician can afford $3 for a razor and shaving cream. I don’t care if it’s part of your vibe, what would you say if your mother saw you?
Tattoos are overdone and usually done badly, and you can’t take them off if you decide you hate them. And unless you’re in the iTunes top 10, you shouldn’t be wearing leather pants.
17. Wait. Image? What’s that? Do I need one?
And please don’t dress like a bank teller and pose with a guitar looking vaguely dissatisfied. I’m mystified at how imageless some artists can be. Did you not have posters of your favorite musicians on your walls when you were younger? Like, ever?
18. Faking people out is edgy, folks like to be fooled.
Deception is not a marketing tool. If you lie, it will always come back to bite you. You don’t have to disclose your debit card PIN, just be realistic.
19. I’m too cool to have a budget!
Pretending you have money when you don’t is beyond idiotic. Have more confidence in yourself and write a good song.
20. I got straight to the secretary of this big guy inHollywood, piece of cake!
Good for you, bub. When’s the premiere?
21. Yeah, I post more pictures than songs, so what? It’s all about image, right?
We get it, you’re in love with yourself, but if you spend more time posing for pictures than writing and releasing music, people will notice just that.
22. Meh, who cares what I tweet, as long as I do it a lot?
It’s called “social” networking for a reason. Be social, entertaining, charming, interesting and most of all, engaging.
23. I’ve got 100,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter!
Yeah, but between 0 and 10 impressions per post. No sucker will believe you really have that many people interested in you with those numbers. Social networking is an art and a science, and it seems that brands are finally starting to realize its importance. A great example of how social networking is supposed to work is at facebook.com/DuranDuran. The aforementioned and wonderfully talented Ms. Katy Krassner runs it.
24. This is serious stuff, man! Don’t you dare laugh at me!
Martin Solveig is a really cool electronic artist fromFrance, and he has a really fun sense of humor and is willing to laugh at himself. Have a look at some of his videos on YouTube. It’s about music and entertainment, not about trying to show off the fake jewelry or Bugatti you borrowed for the shoot.
25. Play every day? Why?
That’s what you’re supposed to do, remember? And don’t just play. Be a music student, not a rockstar wannabe. Learn everything you can, because ultimately it will come down to how good the music is, not how much of a poser you can be.
(Reprinted by permission from Recording Magazine)
Eric Alexandrakis is a highly successful songwriter, producer, and recording musician. He has had several Top 40 hits on the Adult Contemporary charts, has licensed hundreds of songs for film and video, and recently completed a remix of Depeche Mode’s new single “Should Be Higher”. Learn more at www.ericalexandrakis.com. And he’s recommending Katy Krassner because he likes her work, and thinks you will too.
For more information on the 19th Annual USA Songwriting Competition: http://www.songwriting.net/enter