Perhaps the most direct financial benefit that you can find in the music business is having good art. I know that sounds crazy. I know that a lot of you reading this will talk about how different pedals, guitars or amps might make you sound better. How you think that if you can just master one more marketing idea or method of growth you would be able to have the success you so desperately crave. When it comes down to it – a lot of those things are tied into this and a lot of those things will actually help you grow and make money with music. When it comes down to it though they are pretty much all secondary to that primary human sense, vision. If you are not investing in art that caters to the visual senses then you are not going to be able to get anywhere, because unfortunately no one is going to care. While we as a culture may say that you can’t judge a book by its cover, we do it all the time, so how do you get the best cover?

Now of course I can already hear the protests to this notion that you need to put so much focus on art. After all, the legendary White Album is perhaps the Beatles greatest artistic statement. Meanwhile Metallica’s Black Album continues to sell thousands of copies a week to this day. So wouldn’t it stand that art isn’t actually as important as I am saying? Well sure, but those are two examples in a sea of thousands, if not millions of records. Not only that, but both of those were albums by well established bands who already had a distinct aesthetic going for them, meaning that these album covers actually slotted in to what the bands were all about, In and of themselves the covers are a part of a greater narrative, and furthermore, they actually made sense in context. You putting up a half assed photo that your girlfriend took of the band as your art is not going to get you noticed nor is it going to succeed in making anyone care.

I want you to look at the macro artistic direction of bands in your genre. The biggest bands, aren’t they the ones that, broadly speaking, have the best album art, the coolest shirt designs and all that jazz? Aren’t they the bands that invest in their artwork because they want people to understand what they are about and what they can do in order to help grow things the further along that they go? I thought so. The visual component, and perhaps more specifically logos and band photos, are the frequently the determining factor on if your band gets clicked on or not. If you have a strong presentation then people will think to themselves ‘Oh this band is cool and look serious about their work, I should invest some time in listening to them.’ After all, do you have any clue how many bands come out every day with new music? Shouldn’t you be looking at every possible opportunity to break through and get the attention of potential consumers?

Think about this in a purely financial sense then. I think it is pretty well established, for example, that logo shirts don’t really sell, unless your logo is exceptionally badass. Well that’s fine, but now we need to think about the next component. If logo shirts don’t sell, what does? Well, usually it’s shirts with a nice design. Those usually cost like a hundred and fifty dollars for something half decent. Well if that shirt with a hundred fifty dollar design sells just eight more units than the logo shirt you’re already in the net positive. And if the design is any good then you are just about guaranteed to shift more than eight more units. Why? Because you got peoples attention and got them a piece of clothing that they actively wanted to wear. Remember, people only care about themselves. They want to wear a band shirt to look cool. There is nothing cool about wearing a shirt that has the shitty logo of a band no one cares about. Big bands get away with it because there is already a ‘thing’ associated with the band. Right now though, you’re just a name.

So seriously, think about this. If having better art is the thing most likely to move another few units and make you that extra gallon of gas for the next stop why not go all out? Look – I know you want that new pedal, and I agree it will make your band sound better, but will it sell an extra eight shirts right now? This is part of why the album cycle is a thing, so that you can space out your expenses and ensure that yes you are investing money in improving your gear situation, but then also able to invest in the things that concretely move more units. I think it’s really hard, but crucially important to differentiate between the stuff that makes for creative fulfillment and the stuff that makes for financial benefit. If we are talking pure economics though, then odds are your band is being fueled by t shirt and merch sales. The thing that drives t shirt and merch sales is the shit actually looking good. Once that’s the case the money starts to roll in.

All of these things represent the difficult balances to strike They speak to the simple fact that a lot of musicians want to invest all of their money into cool things like gear and expensive studios and then not spend any money on the actual marketing of the record, or choose to ignore the marketing plan that they have put forward. It’s actually pretty doable to generate income and grow your band with your music. The difficult thing is more to grind it the fuck out whilst taking advantage of your community in a way that you are all able to grow together. If you are funding the visual artists in your world though then profits will mount all around and we can ascend to the next level together.

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