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Navigating The Gauntlet

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Your opinion counts. But if you express it, expect blowback.

There is no center. You are in charge as much as anybody.

Theoretically you can reach everybody, but it’s nearly impossible. Be thrilled you have followers/fans at all. If they’re bonded to you, they’ll spread the word on you. But it will be an ultra-slow process.

No one helps you on the road to fame without payment, other than your fans.

Mainstream media means less than ever before, and it really only reaches oldsters, who tend not to react. If you’ve got an oldster audience, a publicist will take your money, might even get you some ink, but you’re better off knowing who your audience is to begin with and e-mailing them.

Everybody believes they’re powerful and count. So, if you try to imply that you’re more powerful than they are, bigger in any way, expect blowback. This is what the internet has wrought, everybody’s got a voice, and just like politics are divided, every issue and everybody has a take. If you’re playing for everybody to like you, you’re doing it wrong, that just means you’re blanding it down to nothing.

Skill is underrated but ever more valuable. If you know how to play your instrument, that counts. But, the studio is also an instrument. As are turntables, creating samples and working synths.

The hit parade is dominated by the young, but never has the hit parade meant less.

Spotify hits don’t necessarily translate into ticket sales. Proving, once again, that listeners are fans of the track, not the act. Everything moves ultra-fast in today’s society. So, you’re big today, and forgotten tomorrow.

The channel is cluttered. You can cheat, by aligning yourself with someone with a bigger audience, but it’s going to be a long hard slog.

If you don’t rap, if you’re not hip-hop, if you don’t base your music on the 808, you will be considered second class, the recording industry and the media that feeds on it will laugh at you. But the laugh is on them.

Careers are made on the road. I know, I know, for most of this decade careers were made on the internet. But with so many tracks and so few genres exposed on hit charts, the best way to make it is by slogging it out on stage. Also, it used to be festivals were only about the headliners. Now, the smorgasbord is a key attraction. You don’t want to play at noon to nobody, but if you can appear in the middle of the afternoon or later, there are a lot of grazers who will check you out. Be sure to play every festival extant. Other than the biggies, like Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, ACL and Outside Lands…the festivals tend to be local. In other words, your music will be new to the audience. You might get complaints from business people you’re overdoing it, but not from people who are just discovering you.

The Covid-19 era is about recordings. Now is the time to dig deep and do your best work. Don’t lose touch with your audience completely. Do the occasional live stream. But if you can afford it, pull back and double-down on your material, maybe even release some rehearsal tapes or some video from the studio, assuming it won’t inhibit your creative process.

If you make your living on the road and you’re struggling, don’t complain, get in bed with your audience. You’re now on their level, worrying about your job, whether you can make it through, whether the government needs to send more money. Don’t worry about offending anybody. Turns out most at home are on the same page. Just look at the polls. The protesters on the Capital steps get a lot of ink, but most people are at home and are scared.

Sympathy, not outrageousness, unless outrageousness is your stock in trade.

You can always learn. Now is the time to get better at your skills.

3-D. A musician is a person. You have interests. The more you talk about them, the more people will bond to you. Sure, some may ignore you, because they just don’t care, but those who do will be stunned that you’re just like they are.

Fantasy music about a superior lifestyle doesn’t work today. Covid-19 knows nothing about wealth or skin color, we’re all in the same boat. If you can structure your material around humanity, now is the time.

Don’t keep telling people you’ve written your best song ever, that it’s your best work. No one believes that tired trope anymore. Sure, reporters reprint it, but no one is reading the words of those reporters. Let the material speak for you.

Instant notoriety means less than ever before. You dropped the track and everybody’s talking about it! But is everybody listening to it more than once? Sales metrics are irrelevant. Now it’s all about long term acceptance.

The landscape is no longer cohesive. Every genre is its own lane, more and more. Because the other genres don’t appeal to listeners, they want to go deep into what they’re into. Yes, there are those in the younger generation who hop genres, but as the world has become more cluttered, this happens less and less. We see this evidenced in the world at large. You’re pro-Trump or anti-Trump, no one is in-between. No one is wishy-washy, everybody’s got an opinion. People want someone to believe in, hopefully it’s you.

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