So Now You Get It, But Do You Really?
Too many bands take the wrong steps after they realize they were hurting their careers in the first place, creating a vicious circle
It's a hard thing to admit when you're wrong. Whether it's in an argument or approach, at work or at play, it can be incredibly challenging to suck it up and admit that it's not someone or something else's fault, but your own. You know the people who have a thousand reasons for why they're not getting somewhere, and the reasons always have to do with all these other people and all these other things, but let's be honest: the world at large is seldom solely to blame. Fortunately, the sentiment can have a motivational flip side: whatever the situation, it's clear that the approach or the execution is not working for you and not making things happen the way you want, and you're ready to change it. You're ready to examine what you can do to effect the desired outcome. This is a great place to get to, but it's important to figure out exactly what you need to make it right, so you're not just putting a Band-Aid on the crack in the boat.
Realization Translating into Action
So you realize that something or some things are not working. It's time to identify and analyze what has happened and what hasn't. You haven't been getting all that many shows. The places you play are not drawing. Maybe your sales are on the decline or you've never really sold that many downloads or CDs at all. You took an approach and it's clearly not working. So you blame the venue, the economy, the people who "just don't realize how incredible the songs are and are fools for not buying." No bullshit, got that in an email from an artist. This guy was insulting the entire music buying population because his music was "astonishing" and "industry changing." For me, it sounded like a mix of Motley Crue and INXS. Not bad, though very poorly recorded, but the point is that this guy took no consideration of how he was distributing, how he was marketing, promoting or pushing his product. It's about figuring out what was being done and how it isn't working so you can begin to identify the problem as well as have a basic understanding of what it's going to take to fix it.
What do you have to toss and what can you keep?
To start with, take stock of what you can use and what you have to toss in the methods and plans you have used thus far. This might mean a new logo or changing promotional items. It might mean a new attack plan when it comes to internet marketing or soliciting for gigs. You have to be honest with yourself in this phase. While it's good to look at things that have been effective, don't sugar coat it. Twenty great reviews from MySpace but no sales means something is not working. Knocking the socks off an audience for a night but not being invited back to play or not being offered another booking could be your fault and not theirs. Maybe you are playing too often in an area. That may need to be fixed. Maybe you're getting great bookings but not selling anything at shows. Then the booking method is working and the things that need to be fixed relate to the sales at shows. Maybe you're not working well with the venue or doing things wrong that you might not be aware of. These may need to be fixed as well.
Now, this is not to say that everything is your fault. Some things that you're doing might be successful. If so, make sure to look at how and why they're working and keep them on track while you concentrate on the parts that aren't. It boils down to this: if you take the view of "it may be you and not them" instead of the usual "its not me, its never me," you might find out some important information that will allow you to make things better for your shows, your sales and your overall career and profits.
Fix it Right the First Time
Take this seriously. For the things that aren't working, it's about an overhaul to make them right. Don't use those small or rare successes as an excuse to short cut or only partially repair. In some ways, it's like a tire with a hole in it: putting air in it constantly is going to be taxing and won't actually take care of the problem. It may fix it for a moment, but the problem will only reappear later.
The most effective approach is to identify the problem and solve it for right now, next week, next month and next year. It might take some time, some investment, some changes, but the work and the effort will be worth it. When things are more fluid and consistent, it allows you to spend time on your creativity, your music and the things you enjoy most. A little more work to make it right in the now will save you the time later.
What path to choose and what person to listen to
Figure out who can help you or what method might best suit you. When people have issues, they go to lawyers for advice and guidance. If it's something that has to go to court, they might hire that lawyer for a longer period of time. When people have car troubles, they go to a mechanic. When people are sick, they see a doctor. The same goes for musicians: maybe you need that lawyer, that mechanic or that doctor to help you out in the form of a music producer, a music business consultant or an entertainment lawyer.
Find the right pro who can help you get on the track you want to be on. Make sure it's someone who knows what they're talking about and has a track record, especially a track record with the issues that concern you.
In a lot of ways, solving problems can be seen as a learning experience, whether the issue is in the recording, the marketing, the sales, the shows, the bookings or anything else. If you can truly gain expertise from a situation, then the experience--no matter how good or bad--is not all in vain.
Don't half ass, don't cut corners. More than likely, that's why it went wrong the first time. Avoid the easy fix; those often are the ones that cause the most problems down the road. Take the time, have the patience and put the work into doing it right this time.
Organize and plan. You are not starting from scratch, but you have to scratch the previous start as well as the things you did or used that were wrong. Reset the plan to fix the problems completely and as best you can instead of just putting more air in a tire that already has a hole. Whether it's a new tire or a professional patch, it's about making the fixes and repairs to get you back on the right track toward the results you wanted in the first place.