In June 2021, Individuum, together with the Institute for Music Initiatives, released the Russian-language edition of the book How to Succeed in the Music Business. We publish excerpts from this practical work .
Why no one cares about your music
“People may like the music, but they will love you. You must be able to tell your story in such a way that they can feel connected with you on a personal level. ”
The most offensive thing is to release an album that you have been working on for the last two years (and in which you have invested much more money than you have), so that it just hovers here and there and disappears, never managing to attract attention. This plot is familiar to every small group on the planet. Some of them put out really brilliant albums with first-class performers and incomparable Movie Mp3 Songs. Why does no one care about them if everything is so perfect? Because there is not enough history.
Everyone has a great story in store, but many don’t realize it. People love to keep their finger on the pulse so that they can tell their friends the backstory of their new favorite band. Radio stations like it when they can briefly explain how you differ from other bands. Jimmy Fallon needs a couple of phrases to present the guest in such a way to hook the audience. And journalists all the more need a story to write about.
When was the last time you read your local publication (or Pitchfork) for a review of a band that discussed music: song structure, guitar picking, harmonic and melodic choices, drum sounds, teamwork, groundbreaking syncopying, size diversity, sonic fantasies, unusual studio tricks they heard on the recording, but not indicated in the press release? What musicians, journalists and average listeners admire, as a rule, do not care.
This is where the misunderstanding lies, my friends, and why there are press attachés and managers. These talented guys are helping to create a compelling story that non-musicians will really want to read.
You need something that every newspaperman wants to write about. A story that will sweep all other albums off the front page
But for the time being, you yourself will be both your press attaché and your manager. You will have to find the most interesting story for your project and not deviate from it. Never. It should be embedded in your band biography, included in all press releases, told in interviews, and described wherever possible. It’s a story like: “He was discovered when he was a street musician in Los Angeles – now his hits are topping the radio charts.” Like Adele’s breakup album. Or Taylor Swift’s personal life. Confusion in The White Stripes: brother / sister, husband / wife, ex-husband / ex-wife. Bruno Mars, Meghan Trainor and Their Untold Songwriting Careers. Album Bon Iver, recorded at a hunting lodge in the north of the woods in Wisconsin. Incognito Marshmello with a bucket on his head.
You need something that every newspaperman wants to write about. A story that will sweep away all other albums from the front page. Which each of your fans will tell their friends by uploading your videos to them on YouTube. Some bands resort to gimmicks such as performing in costumes or attracting attention with strange instruments. And that’s okay. If only there was a specific story that people can talk about. A cool song is one thing, but a cool song with a great backstory is something that will really grab attention and be remembered.
So what’s your story? Everyone has it. In fact, people have millions of different little stories that define who they are. But your band’s biography doesn’t have to be about everyone’s backstories: how you all started taking piano lessons from an early age and then gathered at school to found “the greatest band of all time.” It is so depressing that there is not enough anger. It doesn’t make you special. Maybe you have overcome some personal difficulties? What do you do besides music? Are you an avid reader of science fiction novels? Do you play college football on the weekends? Is John Coltrane your great uncle?
Your story should help your project. When people hear it, come to your concerts, flip through your Instagram, listen to albums, watch YouTube videos, follow the Stories on Snapchat, they should all add up to a single picture. So think about your story ahead of time. Frame your biography with it and weave it discreetly into everything you do. But only sincerely.
Whether you like it or not, history is as important as music. This is very painful, I know. I can already feel how your blood pressure has jumped. Breathe. Breathe in. Exhalation. So do you want to be successful as a musician? Then you have to accept this truth. It used to be that musicians could delegate to the marketing departments and PR agencies the creation of the story and its reinforcement with the help of albums and promo tours. Today you yourself must own this craft.
Did you think you were a musician?
Now let’s move on to the main disappointment with which every musician sooner or later has to come to terms: you can never make money only with music.
The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can build your musical career. It sounds obvious, but I meet a huge number of musicians who think that you can succeed just by making great songs and albums and doing good concerts. It is , of course , important to make good music. This is the foundation. The backbone of all the basics. You should have it before you start following the advice in this book. But this is not all (and in fact never was all) that musicians should worry about.