You know the fastest way to get to Carnegie Hall, right? Practice!
That may be an old joke (and a bad one), but there’s a lot of truth to it. Music photographer Russ Robinson’s blog post doesn’t show the way to the famed venue, but it does give excellent suggestions on getting noticed by today’s music industry. The halcyon days of a cheap, badly recorded demo catching the ear of a big-time record producer are over, he says. Instead, bands need to:
- Write and record stellar music. Good music just won’t do: it has to stand out, yet not as much as a sore thumb. And since everybody and his brother has access to good recording software, the recording quality must be on point as well. To make sure that it is, seriously consider hiring a good engineer. Fresh ears can mean the difference between good and fantastic.
- Manage your money. Robinson points out that you can’t live the lifestyle of a rock star until you have the income to back it up. Until then, show the big boys that you can run a business – your band – effectively and on a budget. Why would a label want to invest in a business that burns more cash than it makes?
- Play lots of gigs. Not playing out is like Steve Jobs building the Mac, then keeping it in his garage while waiting for the crowds to come. You have a product – your music – that you have to advertise. The world isn’t waiting for your CD, especially if it doesn’t know you exist. Gig often, and don’t discount free gigs completely out of hand. (For a discussion of free gigs, click here.) There’s no faster way to establish yourself as a brand than frequent gigging. Besides, playing out often makes you a better performer and helps boost your confidence.
- Develop a social media plan. Robinson has a good bit to offer here, but his main point is you should create a catchy social media presence, post meaningful and interesting content, and maintain a regular maintenance schedule. This is an excellent way to interact with your fans, who can tell potential fans about you.
- Get great press photos made. We shouldn’t judge by appearance, but we do all the time. And often those making judgments about you are looking at a photograph of you, not the real you. Your demo music may be stellar, but if your photo is a self-portrait taken in a bathroom mirror, better count on not making it to the big leagues. Ditto if the band was photographed against a brick wall. Don’t go cheap here – invest in a good photographer who shoots a lot of bands, and listen to the artistic advice.
All this advice does not come with a guarantee, by the way, but if you’re a working musician, I’m sure you’ve noticed the complete lack of guarantees in this business. But ignore it and you’ll be guaranteed not to get noticed by the music industry – or by anyone else.
Russ Robinson is a commercial band & music photographer based in Tampa, FL specializing in high-end artist promos, cd/album covers, composites, and custom-designed digital artwork. Visit him online at http://TampaBandPhotos.com or follow him on Twitter: @TampaBandPhotos
Article updated May 26, 2013