This Article Originally Published March 2003
by Bobby Borg
In his book Wild Thing, Ian Copeland, founder of Frontier Booking Agency and talent agent to Sting, The Police, and No Doubt, says,"Doors were usually closed to newcomers in the industry. We decided to stop beating on them and create new ones."
It's not enough to simply give someone a business card or demo tape and then sit back and expect to gain employment or procure a record or publishing deal. No one's going to hand you success on a silver platter. You need to take more control of your career and create your own destiny. Whether you're an individual musician, a songwriter, a solo artist or a member of a band, ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF THOSE WHO CAN HELP YOU BY FIRST HELPING YOURSELF!
If you're a musician who wants to be known as a great player rather than simply as a member of a band, and you want to perform with successful artists and play on lots of recordings, then get out there and be heard! Don't wait for the phone to ring. Try starting your own band first. You'll have the opportunity to showcase your individual style letting people know what you do best and most comfortably. Attend local jam sessions to find other musicians whose personalities and abilities you admire and then perform together everywhere you can. Eventually, more successful musicians and bands will begin to notice you, and may even ask you to play on their records or tours. Get to know the producers and managers of these acts. Your reputation and opportunities can build from there. For instance, when Guns N Roses was looking for a replacement drummer, GNR's guitarist Slash happened to attend a concert at which drummer Matt Sorum was performing. Slash liked Sorum's heavy/solid style, and without auditioning thousands of candidates, Slash offered Sorum the gig. Sorum worked hard at putting himself in situations where he could shine. As a result, he got a great job. At the time, Guns N Roses was one of the greatest rock bands in the world.
If you're a songwriter (and not an artist/performer), who wants to get a publishing deal and get his or her music placed with successful artists and in television commercials and films, you can start off by contacting some of the more popular bands in your area yourself and see if they'd be interested in performing one of your songs or co-writing one with you. If the group ends up getting a record deal, you're in business! Some writers go as far developing their own artists, writing songs for them to perform, and then producing them and helping them get signed to a recording contract. It's a long term approach, but you have to start somewhere. You can also try contacting the film departments at local colleges to make your music available for student films. The film may go on to win an award, or that student may even go on to become a successful director one day and you'll be one of the first persons he or she calls. Try contacting some of your local radio stations to see if they're interested in using your material for their advertising spots. Start with the smaller radio stations and work your way up from there. Keep your eyes open for the number of songwriter's workshops and events and songwriter's competitions offered by the performing rights societies (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC). This is a great way to gain some exposure and even earn a few bucks. Check out www.ascap.com, www.bmi.com, and www.sesac.com. Other organizations to check out include the Songwriter's Guild of America at www.songwriter's.org, AIMP Association of Independent Music Publishers at www.aimp.org , and Society of Composers & Lyricists at www.filmscore.org. The opportunities to take charge of your career are endless. For over 8000 more places to promote your music, try checking out the Indie Bible, now in its fourth edition, at www.indiebible.com.
Solo Artists and Bands
If you're a solo artist or part of a band that wants to get a record deal, cut your own record first! Digital technology has greatly reduced studio costs and has made home recording equipment more practical to own. CD manufacturing has also become more affordable. You can sell your CDs at live performances or over the Internet (the Internet provides a number of marketing opportunities through online stores and MP3 sites). Create a buzz! Build a following. You'll be surprised at how many people in the industry you'll attract once you set the wheels in motion. Everybody likes a winner and will want to be part of your success by associating themselves with you. Singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco was actually able to by-pass the record companies altogether by starting her own label out of her parent's garage. She was only twenty years old when Righteous Babe Records began. At the time of this writing, sales of her albums are known to reach up to 30,000 copies per month. Though DiFranco is a rare example, it shows what you can accomplish when you take the initiative. In yet another example, both Guns-N-Roses and Motley Crue were selling out Los Angeles clubs before Geffen Records A&R man Tom Zutaut "discovered" and then signed the bands. There we're literally lines around the block to see the band's performances. As Zutaut says, "YOU DON'T NEED EARS TO BE A TALENT SCOUT; YOU NEED EYES."
Copyright 2002 Bobby Borg. Excerpt from "The Musician's Handbook: A Practical Guide To Understanding The Music Business," which is scheduled for release in the Spring 2003 by Billboard Books. For more information, visit bobbyborg.com, or write:
or Bobby Borg, PO Box 18564, Beverly Hills, CA 90209.