Being Humble as a New Artist

The following is an article I wrote for Street Knowledge Entertainment‘s Knowledge Blog.  It’s regarding the importance of being humble in the music industry.

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Being Humble as a New Artist
Eric Phillipson of SpeakYourMusic.com

New artist’s listen up! We need you! The industry needs you! You need you!  Over the years, through the declining industry, there is one trend that I’ve seen grow more and more.  That is the disappearance of the humble artist and the larger and larger presence of the big-ego artist.  It’s not that I don’t understand your swag or the fact that you’re the artist.  I get that.  What I don’t understand is all of the hating going on in the industry.

I can’t tell you how many artists I once worked with (keyword: once) who felt that they were above others when it came to certain promotional tactics or just working with some people.  Now I’m not talking about your somewhat established people, I’m talking about the ones who are trying to build a fan base or who are not yet making money off of this music they love (by the way, check out Q’s post on giving your music away for free).  These are the artists that need to come down, be humble, and take the “all promotion is good promotion” road.

Now being humble applies to many different things, these are what I’m going to cover:

  • Management
  • Promotion
  • Fans
  • Networking

The first one I want to talk about is management.  I see a lot of artists who hear that they should get a manager and then don’t even use them.  When someone wants to book a show, they give them their number or book the show themselves; they cut their “manager” out of all of their deals.  Don’t do that.  If you tell someone that they can be your manager, set up an agreement for compensation, and let them be your manager.  It’s aggravating when you’re told to manage someone so you put effort into them only to have them start cutting you out of the deals.  The being humble part comes into play just off of the simple fact that you need to trust your manager if you’re going to have one.  If you don’t trust them, get a new one.  Management is there to take a load off of you so you can focus on making music, and take yourself to the next level.

The next thing I want to talk about is being humble in the promotions you do.  I’ve seen brand new artists, who had no buzz in an area, who were not willing to go out and hand out CD’s or hang up fliers for a few hours during a late-night promo run. That has to stop!  If you have no buzz, you need to pull all stops and get out there and get yourself a name until you get to the point where you can hire street team help to handle that for you.  I know there are tons of artists who feel that lying about their fan base will bring in more fans or add to their swag; it won’t. If you know you have no buzz in an area, be honest with yourself and get out there!  If people haven’t heard of you at all, they will be more willing to listen to you if you’re actually out there rather than having someone else out there trying to pitch your music.

The fans! Answer every single one of them.  Even something as simple as “thank you” is perfect.  I’m talking to the people who get the MySpace messages or the Emails or have a few people come up to them after a show.  Not the ones who have mobs of people coming up to you.  There are too many artists who get sidetracked and read messages from fans without ever replying.  You’d be surprised how much fans are willing to promote artists who are willing to recognize them.   By the way, make sure people who receive your CD’s during handouts can contact you!  Just set up a “fan” Email address and slip it inside of your CD’s so that fans can contact you.  Fan mail is always a rewarding feeling.

The final aspect of being humble that I want to talk about is being humble while networking.  I’ve known some artists who don’t give others who are trying to come up the time of day.  I’m not even talking about on an artist level either.  Don’t always try to network with bigger people, sometimes networking with others who are trying to come up will work wonders for you.  Be sure to network with people coming up in other aspects of the entertainment industry, not just music.  For example, network with new clothing companies, people breaking into acting, graphic artists, TV people, people who are trying to start their own next big website, people who are trying to break into radio, etc.  Some of these people are bound to do great things, and even those who don’t become huge will still be willing to help as long as you can help them.  Plus, these people would love for you to support their new ventures and it always looks good when you are sponsored by someone.

In the end, being humble as a new artist can take you far.  Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some fake people out there who will try to take advantage of you, just always be sure to check your ego and remain a humble person,  you never know who you might meet because of it.

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Be sure to check out Street Knowledge Entertainment home to Philly based artist Trel Mack.

-Eric Phillipson

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Booking is in the Details

“I’d like to perform at your venue, how do I go about doing that?”

“Send us a press-kit”

End.

I’ve heard this exchange MANY MANY MANY times.  The truth is, a lot of beginning artists don’t know how to go about trying to get booked for shows.  I like to liken getting booked for a show (in the early stages) to job hunting and job interviews.

When you are trying to get booked for a show a lot of times you are trying to find the venue that has the right fit, just like a job that is the right fit.  If you are a BRAND NEW artist your first venue should be in your area.  A little basics real quick, capture your market (city) first. Once you find the venue that you feel is a good fit for you, there are a few options to explore.

One, you could try to book a show on your own night, this is good for people who have a decently established fan base.  But, here I want to talk to the young artists.

The other way is to try to book as an opener for a larger act.  This is where it is also like a job interview, going in to speak to the booker, you should already know the date and who you are trying to open for (i.e. know the company).  Also, a lot of times promoters are the ones who determine who is at the concert, so find out whether the venue is booking the acts or if an outside promoter is.

The reason I say booking is in the details is because the more you know, the less you’re asking the booker to research.  If you know the name of a group performing, the date they’re playing, and you think your style compliments them, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the new guys who call up and say “I’d love to play a show, what do I need to do to do this?”

By knowing exactly what you’re after you are taking out a lot of guess work.  Most bookers are still going to need music, so also try to find out when the person booking the acts will be in so that you can deliver a sample of your music to them.  This will raise your chances of booking a show a lot more than the person who decides to just leave it at the venue for booking to pick up when they get a chance.

Remember, it starts with one.  Once you get that first show booked and you can build a following of people to show up, you’ll keep building your leverage for other shows.  Just make sure when you’re doing shows, you capitalize on the opportunity!

-Eric Phillipson

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They shut the power off but they can’t stop the party

Wow, so I don’t know if any of you all heard about Kentucky getting KO’d by the winter ice storm, but after about a week with no power except in one area of my house (I was lucky), I finally got my power back up and working.

I’ll be honest, after the storm hit, I was freaking out because I didn’t know how I was going to get everything done that I needed to get done.  I had music marketing and networking conference calls to be on, but seemingly no place to charge a phone,  plans to write but no computers to write them on… blah blah blah.

That was until I stopped to think about it, I do this music stuff because I have fun doing it.

Honestly, thats what it’s all about, it’s all about having fun.  Sometimes we get caught up in the business aspect of music so much that we forget why we’re in the industry in the first place.

There was an artist the other day who approached one of my partners and I to buy his CD.  We got to talking a little bit about his presentation, and who he is.  Finally, my partner came out and said it “So, are you doing this cause you have a passion to make music, or is it because you want to make music?” to which the artist replied “I wanna make money.”

Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make money from your passion, but we quickly told the artist we would be unable to help him.  Not because we can’t help artists make money, but because I can’t help people make money who are only in it for the money.

Here is what I have learned over the years, if you try to make money with something you don’t have a passion for, you’ll be discouraged quickly.  When all of your luck is down and your back is against the wall, sometimes a passion is the only drive you will have to propel you over the barriers.

Ask yourself if you’re having fun as an artist, because you always should.  This blog is a lot about the business, but its also about the lifestyle.  Being an independent artist is HARD!  There will be times when you get screwed over, when people turn their back on you, and when you feel like you can’t deal with chasing the dream anymore.  Its times like these when the passionate and the ones who are having fun survive.

Be fun, have energy, be passionate… thats part of how you make it happen.

-Eric Phillipson

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If Ya Scared Go to Church

What’s going on, everybody?

Its been over a week since I last posted, reason being that I was in Minnesota and now, my internet went out.  Ok, it didn’t just go out, the cable line to the house snapped due to the cold.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking A LOT about peoples reasons for not being go-getters, for not being grinders, for not chasing their dreams, for not taking their music seriously enough to make a business out of it.  Here is the conclusion that I’ve come to for why some people just get lazy:

THEY’RE SCARED!

Yep, simple as that.  People are afraid of having to pull the trigger on things.  Despite all of that tough talking a lot of artists do, they’re terrified.  I’m not saying that they’re terrified of the risk of going the entrepreneurial route, because too many people have talked about that, and entrepreneurship is a scary leap to take.  What I am talking about is the fact that many artists are afraid to talk to the big guys, they’re afraid to network.

Networking is scary if you don’t know who you are.  Thats why you should always know who you are and what you do.  Know what kind of music you play, what kind of audience you appeal to, and what makes you unique.  For example, if I am meeting someone new who I am trying to build a business relationship with here is how I’m going to start the initial conversation.

Me: Eric Phillipson, nice to meet you (hand shake)
Them: (insert name)
Me: What projects are you currently working on? (this keeps you from asking awkward questions like “so uhhh what do you do)
Them: Oh, I have such and such going on, getting ready to do so and so.  (This is where you look for something you can relate to)
Me: Nice nice,  I have a buddy getting into that, I’ll have to connect you sometime, let me get your contact info.
Them: Definitely, (insert contact info), so, what is it you do?

Boom, now depending on what that person said they have going on depends on how I pitch myself.  If they were an artist I’d tell them about the Speak Your Music side of me.  If they were a manager or DJ I might tell them about the branding side of what I do.

Here is a key about networking…

DON’T BE FAKE, LISTEN TO WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING!

In that above example, before I contacted that person about anything that I do, I would make sure I plug them up with my contact who has similar interests.  You have to keep your word and stay true to your word.

Once you know who you are, dealing with the business people in the industry will not be scary, because you will have all of the answers to all of their questions.  People who are about business do not like to have their time wasted by others who don’t know what they’re talking about.  Be genuine, be true to your word, and you will be fine.

However, if you’re afraid of taking the leap, maybe this isn’t the industry for you.  Music business is very detail oriented if you’re doing it right.

Quick little side note, there is no such thing as “fashionably” late.  Being late is irritating, and I have seen many a artists lose out because they thought being late or not showing up was the right thing to do.

As always, appreciate ya, hit me up if you have any questions and I will do my best to address them!

-Eric Phillipson

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