Monthly Archives: July 2009

Indie band Business Tip | Safe is the Enemy

Here’s a business tip for any band or musician that wants to achieve any form of success in their career – avoid safety, and I’m not talking about asking you to start running around with scissors!

Let me backtrack for a moment and apologize for my lack of posts . As usual, I’ve been working on oodles of material that nobody has seen. It seems like I’m always working away on something that doesn’t see the light of day…but more on that later.

Okay, so what do I have against safety? Well – safety is often another form of conformity and mediocrity; its where fear to potentially offend others with your opinions, lyrics or music has you spend more time censoring and second-guessing yourself than actually creating. You end up neutering the original spark of your ideas resulting in an inferior product, song or blog post in the hopes of pleasing more people.

Here’s a newsflash: you can’t please all of the people all of the time so don’t bother. The other thing that can happen is that when you attempt to make your music more suitable for mass consumption – it ends up appealing to nobody at all! By contrast, edgy and even controversial material can garner devout followers and plenty of attention.

Remember the old adage – there’s no such thing as bad press. You can profit from controversy if you’ve got a good website, some products and a shopping cart ready to go. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not recommending that you go out of your way to be controversial, but if it happens as a result of not trying to be safe then you’re on the right track.

Otherwise you end up being more of a politician instead of an indie band – doing you’re level best to say nothing at all in the hopes of appealing to more people.

However, part of what makes you unique are your opinions, your music influences and your sound. While these things will repel people, they’ll also attract others to you. If you’re in a Death Metal Polka band you’re going to have a very limited audience, but chances are they’ll be extremely loyal because they can’t get that style of music from just about anywhere else.

Safety can also ruin a live show if you play the same rehearsed set all the time and deliver a canned performance. You want a fiery show that engages your audience – you need to interact with them and throw in an element of surprise from time to time, shake things up. The audience will feed off the added excitement.

Play a song you haven’t performed in a long time – do a last second jam session, invite someone up from the audience to sing on a song. It could blow up in your face or it could work out amazing – the uncertainty is what makes it magical. The audience will pick up on the nervous energy and become more involved as a result.

The need for safety is due to fear. Everybody has fear in them; it’s been instilled in us from a young age to protect us from doing harm to ourselves by our well-intentioned parents. However, fear is often irrational and stands in the way from us achieving success. If we’re not willing to face the fire and walk over the fiery coals, we lead a safe and uneventful life…wondering why our dreams never came true.

Two major fears for people in general and musicians in particular are:

  • Fear of criticism
  • Fear of failure

These fears get in the way of just about any form of success. They result in procrastination and perfectionism. We end up taking too long to write and release new music, stifling our creativity and destroy any chance at creating momentum that is crucial for making a career in the music business.

My advice – just do it. Who cares if some people don’t like it. Who cares if it’s not 100% and who cares if now is not the right time. The truth is that nothing is ever 100%, there is never (or very rarely) a good time and as I’ve already stated – you can’t please all of the people all of the time so don’t bother.

Having said that – it’s also time for me to take my own advice.

The Indie Band Alliance site is coming up to its second year anniversary in a few weeks. I came up with the idea of building a community of like-minded musicians that could work together to succeed and in the process help revitalize music scenes across the continent at a grass roots level.

For whatever reason, I haven’t come anywhere close to making this happen. While there are numerous reasons and excuses that I could dust off and present in my defence, I believe that some of the fear I’ve written about in this post is at the root of it all. Acknowledging it is the first step, but what ultimately matters is what I plan to do about it.

I’ve been working on a series of reports that I feel will help Indiebands everywhere, these will be made available in the coming weeks – hopefully before the two year anniversary of IBA comes around. I’m looking to create a true community and membership will be limited.

I’m also creating a true online learning course that will be a brain-dump of every indie band insight I’ve learned over 17 years of playing in an indie band. There are some ‘out-there’ concepts that I think every indieband needs to hear in order for a fighting chance at succeeding in the music business today.

If any of this sounds good to you, please keep watching this space and leave a comment below. What fears have been holding you back? Are you guilty of being a little too safe with your music career? Let me know. I promise that there will be some fantastic info coming out soon that may cause you to rethink your whole approach to succeeding at music.

By the way, the reports will be 100% free, and the membership will have at least one free option to it as well – so nobody is being left behind.

Thanks for reading my indie band business tip regarding fear and safety in the music business – more to come soon!