I’ve found that reading several books on the music industry has helped me look back on my experience in a band in the 90’s (called Rhombic Void). In the greater scheme of things it’s all about learning the lessons of life and striving to better oneself from one’s mistakes. But I’ve realised only just recently that the more you do your research, the more you’ll capitalise from these lessons, otherwise you can just continue on with your bad habits and ignorance.
If there’s one regret I have, it’s why didn’t I do my homework back in the day. In all probability it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, as none of us had discussed about really going for it career-wise. In a sense we were typically ‘middle-class’ coming from backgrounds where any consideration to go into the entertainment or culture industries was frivolous, vain, even embarrassing and almost definitely futile. I suppose the others treated it as a serious hobby, while I dreamed about making it something more without really communicating and discussing it.
Furthermore, I think I wasted a lot of time, effort and energy because I didn’t have an understanding how the industry worked. Like building a fan-base for a band, or developing the appropriate contacts. And like the typical amateur I was, I readily sent out home-made demos to every record label address I could find without considering if it was an appropriate genre and who I could contact personally. I just thought (or assumed) that the music industry was this tight little family (in Australia anyway), and if you got one contact, then you were ‘in’, and it wouldn’t be long before a record company would come along, patch up all the band’s inadequacies and send you on the road to a rock’n’roll career.
So, looking back now with ’20-20′ hindsight, there are certain things I would’ve done. I would have invested in every ‘how to’ book on the music industry I could get my hands on. Heck, I could gone to the library and probably found useful stuff. Back then I just relied on the local mags, but the band needed more direction and background input.
And it’s not just about trying to make a ‘career’, (it was super competitive back then as it is now), but giving yourself the best shot. There still may have been no way to give up our day jobs, but building a modest fan-base of even a 100 fans would have been a rewarding experience.
And other things on the business side I would do (that I had no idea about back then):
<> Draw up split letters so every member is clear about the copyright splits.
<> Communicate with other band members about what we specifically want out of the band and how we can go about it, rather than just float along vaguely.
<> Go to available music-biz conferences and showcase events (appropriate to budge and genre)
<> Actively seek bands of similar circumstance and genre that we could gig with (and allow greater chances down the road to support bands just ahead of us).
<> Research indie labels and publishes appropriate to our genre and location, rather than just send demos out unsolicited to every address willy-nilly.
<> Along side the band, do other music projects (accompany singers etc) and build up a network of other musos, so if the band needs a new member or falls through I already have a network to work with.
<> Given more thought to my presentation and be more sociable.
I suppose back then I thought it was just simple: get a band together, write songs, do demos, get gigs. That was what it was all about. You do it because you enjoy it, right? Why waste time reading up on business stuff anyway? Well, looking back on it, doing the homework would have allowed me to work smarter, rather than just harder, and allowed us to get more out of the band even if we couldn’t make a career of it. Rather than a handful of friends and family for fans, we might have got a hundred or a thousand people who enjoyed our gigs and paid for our recordings. Rather than find a gig once every blue moon, we may have got a gig or two a month (it was a time when venues were closing and poker machines were taking over). Rather than doing a demo live-to-DAT, we might have launched a professional sounding EP or two. We might have got a write up in the local music mag, and we’d be better musicians for it.