I know that with this article series I frequently talk about how you need to do things that involve spending money. It may sound and start to feel like I believe that you need to be spending money on everything as a band. I actually don’t believe that at all, my own life has been living proof that you can get very far with stuff if you are only paying percentages or just taking the time to do it yourself. This is vitally important to realize and act on. It’s hard to pay for everything a band could need. The possibility is still there, though it does seem to be diminishing with every passing year. I wanted to talk about how you could DIY everything yourself to build your career but I also want to talk about how straight up spending money on goods and services can get you to skip a bunch of steps in order to get to where you want to be faster and give your band the advantages that you will need if you want to have the long term success you likely crave.
In the simplest possible terms it’s a basic formula, time plus expertise equals success. What they don’t tell you is expertise is something you can build on your own. This is actually a part of why I have shifted away from a ‘done for you’ model with my consulting. While I will create assets and resources for a band, my focus is now much more on creating opportunities for bands to be able to learn how to raise themselves up so that they can be set up for long term success and so that they can actualize on the opportunities I might be able to get them hooked up with. It means better results for the bands and labels, but also less work on a per client basis for me. I gotta spend more time building up the expertise but that’s a part of the fun. So the point is, you can build up your expertise and then grow from there. It just takes a lot of work.
Regular readers know that a lot of my favorite bands to reference in these articles, groups like Amenra, Full of Hell and KISS are bands who really taught themselves how to do it. This is a really interesting approach and it requires folks who are addicted to the hustle not just the music. That is a big part of why those bands have gotten long term success, they figured out how to build it up themselves. I think that if you are a band trying to learn everything yourself, then fucking learn all of it and don’t let anything fall by the wayside. A lot of bands will not learn a crucial part of the game and then find themselves with a crippling weakness when the person who was supposed to be handling that leaves their organization. So many bands, even big bands don’t have a thorough understanding of their business. I’m not saying you need to be super deep in everything, but seriously, Jesus Christ, at least learn how the interlocking parts work!
I’m not like those other smarmy folks writing about the music industry though. I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass. There are no shortcuts and it’s going to really suck if you try to do everything on your own. It’s exclusive information that is hard to learn. Not only that but the odds of you actually getting to where you want to be if you’re handling stuff on your own are infinitely smaller. You need to have people who are on your side and pulling for you. You need to have people who understand the value of their expertise and then try to deploy it in the most effective way possible. When you are paying for people though look for people who are doing things that not only could you not do yourself but things that the amount you are paying is not worth the time it would take to learn it. That is to say, if a booking agent wants $200 for a tour, would it take you more than 15–20 hours to learn how to do that thing? Probably. So it’s worth paying them. Just try to learn and understand it, even if you keep paying them because they make your life easier, it’s a good life skill to have.
That being said, there is a reason you invest in people. They have relationships and know how. It’s the same reason anyone hires anyone. Keep pushing your way forward on relationships and know how and you will start to get somewhere. Try to have people who are bringing you clear terms of agreement. This also involves you having a clear understanding of what you want. So often bands will say, “I want to get big” which doesn’t really count as a reason to hire someone. What you want is to clearly know what you are looking for management or someone else to pay you and help you out. Once you know that then the success is going to come more easily. If professionals know what is fucking expected of them, why wouldn’t they be able to do more and bring greater value? It’s a simple equation but one that too few bands understand.
Learning how to do stuff yourself is cool and people will think you’re a badass. No man is an island though and you are going to need to spend a ton of time learning if you want to get to a point where things are actually moving forward in a productive and interesting way. This is the key. If you are willing to take the time you can do it. Elder did. They still had a booking agent though. Along with Full of Hell they are among the most successful DIY driven bands in the world. Still, they spent time learning and that was their passion. You can do this too, you just need to suck it up and put in the work to find the success you are looking for.