How Musicians Can Come Together To Create Momentum For Their Music

There’s no doubt that today’s music industry is fiercely competitive. Because an insane amount of new music comes out each and every day, it makes sense that musicians often adopt a winner-takes-all mentality when it comes to promoting and advocating for their work. But rather than fighting each other and entertaining jealousy when another artist’s music succeeds, musicians should be working together to create momentum for their work.

“I don’t support anyone else’s music because no one supports me.”

This is something lots of musicians have probably thought to themselves at some point in their careers, though most would be hard-pressed to admit it. We often approach the communities we make music in with a jaded “what’s in it for me” attitude, and that’s understandable when you consider just how difficult trying to build a meaningful musical career is. Low pay, long hours, sparsely attended shows. Musicians can and often do pour everything they’ve got into their work for years with no tangible results to show for it.

But getting upset that the other musicians in your scene aren’t actively supporting you doesn’t make sense if you’ve done nothing to support anyone but yourself. If everyone had this attitude when it came to supporting others in music, then things would be much tougher than they already are.

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The truth is that plenty of musicians actively do support each other now, whether they receive any benefits or not. These musicians are much better off than their non-supportive counterparts. These are the folks who hold up music scenes, inspire others, and create opportunities in their communities. To put it simply, they are the music community they wish to see in the world. Rather than sitting around and waiting for good things to happen for their music, they engage with other musicians in their community first without expecting anything in return.

Big things can happen when musicians take things into their own hands to create momentum for their music. When musicians stop fighting each other and start supporting one another, they have the opportunity to build opportunities for themselves. Some of music’s best labels, festivals, and venues started with musicians having conversations about what was lacking in their communities and what they could do to change things.

Big things can happen when musicians take things into their own hands to create momentum for their music.

But today, artists are having a tougher time connecting and building opportunities for their music. Petty jealousy and laziness have always served as hurdles for musicians, but isolation is the biggest modern problem musicians face. Entire musical careers are now being built and sustained on the internet, and though we’re doing plenty of commenting, messaging, and statusing, important face-to-face relationships are now harder to come by in music.

Yes, a music scene can be built over the internet, but there’s something hugely meaningful about showing up to someone’s show and talking to them after their set. Music largely lives on screens these days, but it’s created by human beings in studios, hotel rooms and basements. Music and the people who make it are better off when musicians come together and have conversations about how to further their work.

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

RebeccaHow Musicians Can Come Together To Create Momentum For Their Music

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  • Ken Lawyer - August 28, 2018 reply

    Patrick, I understand your reasoning in your article. It is always better if we work together to get our music out there. But you know as well as the rest of us, it is not those of us who are trying to get our material heard that are the main problem. It is those who have established themselves as the only ones who can evaluate good music and it is they who limit the amount of material that is wanting to be sent in. Once upon a time most of the material sent to artists was heard. Now it is extremely difficult to even get your material heard unless you have “special” permission from the music brokers. I have talked with several songwriter’s who have shared their frustrations in not getting their material heard much less rejected. I have also talked to one top songwriter who says it is a “crapshoot” nowadays to get your songs heard. It has become a chess game of trying to figure out who to send your material to and hoping you are sending them what they are looking for and this is only if you belong to an organization like ASCAP, BMI, NSAI, etc. This has brought about the so-called our not getting along with one another. The majority of us are frustrated and angry at the fat cats controlling the music industry. Maybe it’s time a group of us start our own music industry basically like Americana has done over the past decade or so.

    Crypto Musician - August 31, 2018 reply

    Speaking of starting “our own music industry,” have you heard of Choon and Musicoin?

    Also, Atomic Collector records has an excellent program where musicians work together listening to each other’s music etc.

  • John - August 31, 2018 reply

    Yes, I fully understand the content of the article and agree with it. Supporting Open Mics is one way of socializing with a lot of local musicians. Admittedly from all phases of the musical journey, but you can mingle with a lot of good folks, and hear what they are doing, and share whatever you wish with them in a no pressure environment.

  • Lori Lynn - August 31, 2018 reply

    We all have something to offer as musicians and creative artists. We should support each other. Do unto others as you want them to do unto you. I love meeting other musicians at open mics and hearing their creative spark. I also love hearing what other people put out worldwide on the internet. If music is good, it will find an audience.

  • David Nyro - August 31, 2018 reply

    Responding to Ken Lawyer and John. Agree! It’s a closed door. After 3+ years in the trenches, going to conferences, researching, and speaking with literally hundreds of industry gatekeepers, decision-makers, colleagues, and pretty much every actor involved in this infrastructure, the chances for any aspiring singer/songwriter/performer to get a placement/licensing/synch/publishing/label deal, etc., is about one in five million. You have a better chance of being hit by lightning. Or getting killed in a plane crash. And this is regardless of how talented one is. You have a handful of songwriters like Max Martin being the go to for most of the contemporary hit songs of the day, country and christian music dominating in Nashville and where most of song publishing deals go, and on and on. As one industry insider/grammy-award winning songwriter recently shared with me:
    “To get a hit single, a writer needs to have songs that are better than those the “go-to” writers with strings of #1 hits can deliver by co-writing with other hit writers and artists. They (publishers) need songs that are not only perfectly crafted (that’s easy), but songs that push the envelope; songs that will be chosen over songs (depending on the genre) written Max Martin, Ashley Gorley, and others who deliver dozens of #1 singles.”
    Btw, some context: I was a program and music director in radio for years. And I’ve been represented and pitched by 360 firms/song pitchers, so I’m not completely outside the gate. I know some things. I’ve seen some things. Again, practically, financially, emotionally, spiritually, psychically, it makes far more sense to spend one’s precious time/talent/dollars doing it the way it’s always been done: writing songs, recording, releasing music, promoting, gigging, touring, hustling, etc. Do it yourself! DIY. But, to me, DIY also absolutely means teaming up with other musicians and support each other – on social media, go to each other’s gigs, share space on merch tables, cross-pollinate, get creative, plug each other from the stage, and more. Form a cooperative, even a casual, loose one. And don’t expect quid pro quo. Just do it! I’m doing it. It works.
    We need to really wrap out minds around stuff like this: the relative handful of tastemakers/gatekeepers have millions of songs to choose from. Many of them are great, well-suited to the situation, from talented artists.
    But when one is talking about:
    # literally, 300 – 400 placements a year in TV, radio, vids, commercials,
    # AND a handful of decision-makers who already have their “go-to” artists who will save them time and effort (and who doesn’t want to save time and effort? These people have lives, y’know?),
    # and, as we all know, we have a couple of hundred industry pros being besieged by hundreds and hundreds of thousands of hopeful songwriters…
    well, need we draw a diagram?
    These avenues are really dead ends to all but 0.0000001% of songwriters. Frankly, I’m surprised anyone with any integrity in the industry isn’t just coming out and telling everyone not to bother. Some actually are. I’ve had several professionals – and these are professionals who make their living from songwriter/musician clients – tell me the best thing, even the ONLY thing to do, is keep working on making your songs better, release songs, tour, build up your fan-base of regular people who will NOT close their doors to you and not return calls/emails, etc. Grassroots. The old-fashioned way. Yes, it’ll take time and blood, sweat, and tears, but at least you’ll control your own destiny. And doing it with others who are in the same boat – and that’s 98.5% of us, so it’s a really, really, REALLY big boat – will help and be rewarding. As one of the insiders told me: If you do that and keep at it, and build a big enough fan base and get on enough playlists, maybe (emphasis on “maybe”) some industry VIP will approach YOU! And hasn’t that always been the way? Of course. We have to build it first.
    So, my strong advice, honed from actual experience and guidance from hundreds of music professionals: forget trying to get placements, publishing, etc. I would also say don’t hire pr, marketing, 360, labels, promo entities, blah blah. (There are a lot of names and niches for these services.) I totally realize that many songwriters/musicians/performers don’t know HOW to do marketing, pr, promotion, etc. And don’t WANT to do it, but this can be where the co-operative model can help. And there are fans who might be able to help. A super-fan of mine who also does music blogs, etc. is doing my epk. These people are out there – young, or old, hungry, not famous, not industry insiders, not jaded and besieged by people waving frantically, pleading “pick me, pick me, pick me.”
    Well, this is a novel. We know books have been written on all this; on millions of artists trying, and mostly failing, so valiantly to “find the keys to the kingdom.” It’s made music no fun. So get back to the fun, as John Lennon once said. And get back to success and control your own destiny.
    Write, collaborate, perform, meet the people, build your email list, tour, think about playing smaller markets where they are hungry for talent and appreciative. And they pay! Think about touring the EU or some place other than the Motherland. The number of artists who achieve widespread, or even cult-like, success abroad is legion! Point is: don’t put any eggs in these baskets that we’re all pathetically chasing after. Those baskets are gone, if they were ever really there. Put all the eggs in YOUR basket, your sympatico musicians’ baskets, and your fans baskets. GOOD LUCK! (Thanks Ken and John for your thoughts. It really is high time we all turned out backs on those who will never help us. Not because they’re mean or anything, but because they don’t HAVE to help us – they have their small circle of “go-to talent” – and they simply don’t have the time, stamina, etc. to listen to 1% of us, let alone all of us!!!)

  • Rob Roper - September 6, 2018 reply

    I completely agree. I’ve been preaching, and practicing, this gospel for years. I tell friends in other bands in other cities, “I’ll help you get gigs in my city and you help me get gigs in yours.” But unfortunately, most don’t want to do that, which is a shame. They’re not just hurting me, they’re hurting themselves, because I could help them get paying gigs in my city. But a few get it.

    I’ve gotten paying gigs for other singer-songwriters, inviting them to open for me. I do all the promotional work, and bring all the people, and give them half the pay. Afterwards, they don’t thank me, and don’t invite me to open for them. That hurts. I’m tempted to stop being cooperative. But I won’t let that change me. I believe in the cooperative approach. Like you say, the ones who practice the cooperative approach are successful. The ones I mentioned who didn’t even thank me? They’re nowhere to be found today. I’m still going, and my fan base is growing.

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