The Gig Kahuna pokes yet another hole in the "conventional wisdom"...
by David Himes
For the most part, the angle I’ve taken in my articles and my book is smashing through the barriers of common wisdom. Of course, you can believe what you want, but common wisdom will pretty much guarantee failure in the pursuit of your dream.
One little common gem in particular is the mindset of musicians being bad at business. For a long time, I used to sympathize with this pearl of common wisdom. Over the years, as I became more and more savvy about the real music scene, I almost forgot about that axiom.
But just recently, I was talking to a friend about the common mistakes most people make in the music scene. My friend then brought up that age-old logic about musicians being bad business people. However, after thinking about it, I’m not so sympathetic these days.
Yes, musicians are most likely terrible at business. But the same holds true for everyone, not just musicians. The failure rate of any business is 95 percent, and that includes bands and artists. This means your odds of success are only five percent.
It’s no different than opening, say, a restaurant. Just because you’re a good cook doesn’t mean you know the restaurant business. And just because you’re a good musician doesn’t mean you know the music business.
If you play the “musicians are lousy at business” card, you are more than likely doomed to failure before even starting. There are lots of people out there who will see you coming. If you think hating business because you’re a musician gives you integrity, you better start liking business real quick. There are bands and artists—probably right in your town—running circles around you. Instead of hating on the successful bands around you, get with it on the business end. The top bands already have.
The “musicians are bad at business” mentality is nothing more than another excuse. It’s a sign of people who want to do what’s fun and easy, but not what’s hard and necessary.
Predictable response in 3…2…1…I know, you already know the music biz. Yeah, right. If you knew the music business, you’d be playing for hundreds (or thousands) of screaming fans. You’d be getting (at least local) airplay. You’d be going viral online. You’d be selling merch. I seriously doubt if any of this is happening for most of you.
Yes, it’s possible for things to happen from sheer dumb luck, and my congratulations if you do get lucky. But if you’re banking your dream on luck, or waiting for some industry power-that-be to whisk you into stardom, you are delusional. Your odds are about the same as winning the lottery.
If you think someone such as a manager, promoter, agent, or whatever will help you by taking care of the business end, think again. Most bands on a local level don’t have the luxury of high-profile scenesters. And more often than not, “managers,” “promoters,” and other amateur “professionals” will put you on the path to disaster.
So how can you learn about the music business? Well, as a shameless plug, reading my articles and my book (click here for a review of same) is a good start. But there is also a wealth of information online. All you have to do is seek it out. It’s out there for those who want it. Bottom line: if you don’t embrace the business end of the music scene, don’t cry that you’re “getting screwed.” You are screwing yourself.
David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, click here. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.