Artists who suck

Downloaded a few more talks from the AMBConference. Great stuff.

One thing that struck me was Lefsetz’s talk, with one main point to 99% of musos out there hoping to make a dime in music: you suck!

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 And it’s true for most of us as amateur musicians. We suck. And all those musos out there on Myspace and Youtube etc… We all suck.

He talked about who the greatest bands are among teenagers today, and came up with the three dinosaurs: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and ACDC. (I’m guessing not far behind would be Metallica and U2).

Since everything is available at our fingertips, in one sense we’re all compared to these top bands, so we automatically suck anyway. But as struggling musos we’re starting at the bottom, and Lefsetz’ main point was, work on getting good. It’s not about vying for the A&R attention or hoping you’ll be discovered by a music exec, or even so much about hard online marketing.

Just get good, and friends will do the rest.

He took himself as an example. He has tens of thousands of fans (in a blog or ‘online letter’) he writes each day. He never asked one of those people to listen to him, but he’s built up a following by his passion and by getting good at what he does.

I think the biggest danger for musos these days is getting distracted by online promotion and marketing. Sure there are things you can do to get your music out there, but it’s better to practice three hours a day and spend one hour online than three hours online and one hour practicing.

Jon Satterly also gave advice in his speech: don’t be crap, and be awesome. That’s the only advice really, because only 0.01% every make it (in the old system).

Something I remember from seeing an interview with Leonardo DiCaprio which he said roughly: don’t have any expectations, or don’t hold on to expectations, and you’re therefore unburdened to have a go at an industry that can so easily disappoint.

That’s something I’ve decided to take on board, and wish I had back in the 90’s trying to play in a band. It’s the problem with most people wishing they could ‘make it’ in the music business, because it’s the sort of hopeful thinking that leads to misery and frustration.

But in the new media environment, that doesn’t matter so much. You do what you do, and what you can, and put your music, your thoughts, your talent out there. In a way, you’re only limited by your own efforts and resources, and even if you only impact 10 people, that’s still a privilege to contribute to art in public domain.

Down the line you may be able to monetize it, and if you persevere maybe even make a living. Even if not, it’s still an avenue of your talents, whether  via a blog, Youtube or Myspace etc…And it could lead to other opportunities.

And the other plus about being an amateur musician, you’re not under pressure from record companies or managers or even album buying hardcore fans… You can change genre, be as experimental as you want, record a ten minute song, write about any subject your want, incorporate any instrument you want. It doesn’t matter, you have that freedom and you can still let people out there hear your stuff. So what if it’s only a few. It’s a form of self expression.

Ten years ago you couldn’t do that so easily. You may record in your bedroom, but only friends and family would hear it, or an empty pub. And then you’d send out hundreds of demos from addresses you picked up from the music industry directory, only to have absolutely no reaction. And that’s just soul-destroying, because it’s all wasted. There was no avenue back then for self expression, and it made you feel like a loser. Now you can express your music online, and if only a few come back and say ‘hey, I dig that song’, then it’s worth it. And it motivates you to keep trying, to keep writing songs, even as a hobby. There’s a way for it to become a serious hobby, rather than feeling like the amateur songwriter/performer who will never get anywhere because the industry is ‘all or nothing’. Now it’s more like we have the resources to say, ‘we can make of it what we will’.


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