Music is extremely competitive, and it’s a fight for attention. How does one break through? Being attentive to how others have done it is very useful. For instance, local artist John Mark Nelson put his music on bandcamp and it was discovered by 89.3 the Current. They do a weekly search for Minnesota music and since John’s album was regionally tagged, they found him. Lesson: how you tag matters.
Little Falls singer-songwriter, Michael Shynes, used a job-for-hire website and recorded vocals for a cover of “Dying in Your Arms Tonight” by Cutting Crew. Komodo, the Polish group he worked with, used the vocals in a remix which was instantly successful in their home country. Shyne was then flown to Poland to perform in front of 50,000 people. Lesson: success can come from unlikely places; don’t be afraid to try new things.
One more example. Cloud Cult is a successful Minnesota group whose shows have the unique addition of live painting. Throughout the show, Connie Minowa and Scott West paint beautiful works of art that are later auctioned off to the audience. I’ve been to their shows and it’s a lot of fun to see. Lesson: find creative ways to add excitement to your performances.
Successes like these aren’t common, and when a new song fails to gain attention, there’s poor attendance at a show, or you’re not able to book the gig, you can feel like a failure. Fortunately, these are chances to learn. Why didn’t it happen? What can you do better next time?
Producer and musician, Brian Eno says, “As soon as you externalize an idea, you see facets of it that weren’t clear when it was just floating around in your head.” When I first started making beats, I thought the process would be pretty easy and straight forward, but when I began checking mixes in the car my short-comings were obvious. Now there were problems to solve that I hadn’t expected. I had a similar experience playing live; I didn’t consider the importance of monitoring (being able to hear myself) until I played to a crowded room of talking people. After that I always set up a monitor in loud venues. We learn by doing.
To summarize, pay attention! What works for others can work for you, and success comes down many different paths. Know yourself and improve. There are more possibilities to learn online, more people to connect with, and chances to take. Let’s get to work!