I’ve had these thoughts for a while after reading the book Big Bucks by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. While this (great) book is about making lots of money it totally corresponds to young musicians and how to make a career in music. I wish I had heard something like this when I was starting out. Of course I might have not done anything with the information but it would have been nice to have heard it anyway.
Basically the book takes 3 ideas as the way to progress.
1. Don’t get into the business of music unless you love playing/teaching music more than anything else in the world.
2. You need to want to make a career (ie make money) more than anything else. This sounds like a contradiction to the first point but what the first point does is give you focus while getting on with the job getting gigs etc. You need this original love of music to keep you going through the hard times trying to get gigs etc – stay the course.
3. Decide your goals. You have to plan your career, work out where you want to be in say – 10 years and then act on it. The metaphor the book uses is like standing at the bottom of the cliff face with no toe holds but as you study the cliff you start to see edges that will give you a lift up. The further you climb the more toe holds (ie options) that come apparent.
An example for a band could be that in 10 years you would like to be performing the major concert halls in the UK. How would you achieve this? Well you might decide that the best way would be to play floor spots at UK folk clubs for 6 months, then move on to your own folk club gigs bringing out a CD. You would market this through various chanels including live gigs, youtube, myspace, facebook etc building up a following and an interest. You would use this interest to get more gigs, festivals, media interest and when you need better contacts and larger gigs you get an agent to help you take the band to the next level and other countries. After another couple of years of working hard with a new CD you think you are ready to move to mid-size concert halls like Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall. In order to do this you might have to change to a new agent who works more in this sector. You might also decide that this is the time to release a CD on a major label with great distribution and marketing capabilities. You might also want to release a DVD at this stage. Again working hard with a large mailing list and following with major label finance this might be time get on a decent support tour with a famous band. This momentum can bring you larger audiences allowing you to finally achieve your goal of playing the major concert venues in UK and around the world.
Of course this is a simplified version of a plan but when though out properly and discussed as a band with everyone pulling their weight it can bring cohesion and together to a lineup. Again none of this is easy and the caveat I would add is that if it doesn’t work at least you’ve tried. I always think you can have no regrets if you’ve given something a go.