In this industry it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the information being blasted at us 24/7. Do this, don’t do that. This works, that doesn’t. It can be tough to know which advice to follow, and which to stay far away from.
As someone who has been in the industry for the last 10 years as a writer for my own and several other publications, a music publicist, an occasional booker of local shows, and an all around observer, there are a few myths that I see bands still living by, despite any proof they actually work—most of them end up actually being detrimental. Here they are:
If your music is good enough, the labels/managers/festivals will find you
This is the number one belief that I see most artists still hanging on to, despite any proof that it’s actually been the case over the last say, 20 years or so (at least). Long gone are the days where you can have nothing going for you except talent and a catchy hook and have a label come by, scoop you up, take care of all the marketing/booking/fan experiences, and just sit back and play your music. It’s just not going to happen.
Labels want to see strong proof that you’re actually marketable (IE: you’ll make them money) before “taking a chance” on you, which means before they’re even remotely interested you need to have proven yourself through engaging social media pages, successful tours, fans that are willing to support you, etc. Once you’ve done all of that, then people start paying attention.
Which brings me to…
I don’t need social media
I hear variations of this one all the time. It usually comes in the form of an artist saying they only use Facebook and Instagram because they don’t “get” Twitter, or that they know their social media is lacking but just don’t have time/don’t know what to post/etc. I hate to break it to you, but if you don’t “get” Twitter (or Facebook, or Instagram) you need to amend that, because not being an active and engaging user on any of the three major social platforms is a huge problem for most writers, labels, and festivals. They want access to your audience to increase theirs, it’s part of the deal. So if you don’t have an audience, or you only have an audience on one platform, and it’s not very good, that is dramatically decreasing your odds at success. If you’re thinking “I don’t need any of those things to be successful” please refer back to point number 1.
Similarly, just saying that you know you’re not good at social media doesn’t make it ok. If you’re not good at it, either figure it out or hire someone to help you. I know this is tough to hear, but great music simply isn’t enough. Complaining about how it should be and neglecting the business side out of confusion or defiance won’t change that—it will only hurt your career.
You can be totally DIY forever
Look, I get it. Bands don’t have money. But along the lines of what we just talked about, there comes a point where just saying “we don’t have money” won’t give you a free pass to continue sucking at PR or marketing or booking and hope somehow you still land a label deal, or sell out your hometown show.
At some point you have to stop saying “we don’t have any money” and start thinking “how do we come up with this money?” Because while you can DIY a lot of things for a long time with enough dedication, it’s eventually going to become unsustainable—especially if you don’t actually know how to do the thing that you’re trying to DIY.
Your hustle should be 24/7
There is a LOT of value in having a strong work ethic, discipline, and the desire to hustle for your art, or anything else for that matter. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the most important pieces of becoming successful, is the ability to work through the tough times and have enough grit and passion that you can see past the sucky stage and to the light at the end of the tunnel.
But there’s a myth in this industry that you must work 24/7 to reach your dreams, and what this so often does is not create success stories, but instead, create burnout. I don’t need to tell you how detrimental burnout is for your career (but I have already, in this article), suffice to say there’s a balance between hustling and working smart, and just running yourself into the ground. Trust me, so much more will be accomplished when you work smart, balance your tasks, delegate, and give yourself time to rest, play, and create. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy, after all.
You can do it alone
This was a mistake I made when I first entered the industry and not only did it land me in burnout land, but it didn’t do my career any favors either. The music industry is full of amazing people willing to help one another out, and to try and do everything on your own is to do a disservice to yourself and your career.
Even if you don’t have the money right now to hire someone to help out with the tasks you aren’t great at, there are so many groups on Facebook as well as in your own community where people will be willing and able to offer advice, tool suggestions, productivity tips, and more, just because they want to see you succeed. I could never express how much these communities have changed my life, but I will say that without them my business likely never would have launched, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to keep it going like I have.
Just knowing you’re surrounded by others who are there to help, and likewise, being someone who can help others in their time of need is what makes this industry so special. It can be so cutthroat out there, that having these little pockets of support can really make a huge difference, especially when you’re feeling lost or unclear on next steps. Having a support team, people who have your back, who want to see you succeed—it’s the most affirming feeling. People want to help you—so let them.