If you are in a band it is very likely that you greatly enjoy the genre of music your band plays. This is very valuable because it means you have opinions and ethos that are in alignment with most of your fans and potential audience (read: customers).
Because of this, you should constantly be looking through your “fan lens” as you think about what you do with your band. By that I mean you should look at what you are doing from the perspective of someone that loves the genre of music that your band plays. Do this when deciding on what kind of merch you will be producing, how you will engage with your audience online, etc.
As a fan of punk music would branded shot glasses be something I would like?
As a fan of New Orleans jazz am I usually looking for information on Twitter or artist/venue websites?
New Idea X
When you get excited about new idea x it can sometimes blind you and make it difficult to remember who your audience is and what they actually want. The easiest way to test the viability of any idea is to pause and ask yourself, “is this something that I as a fan of this genre would want/use/buy/watch/enjoy?” You must be honest with yourself in your assessment of x. If you aren’t sure it doesn’t hurt to gather additional data by asking a few fans.
Never lose sight of the fact that your ability to view at your band as a fan of the genre is of incredible value.
There is nothing more desirable than fast growth. It takes less time which means less energy and resources are spent on a long, drawn-out campaign for the affection of your target audience.
Startups call this hockey stick growth:
Do you see the resemblance?
There are months of slow growth and then in the span of one month there is an enormous explosion.
The reasons for this explosion in the startup world can vary greatly:
- You were covered in TechCrunch or had a popular post on HN.
- A new hardware device was released that allowed many more people to benefit from your software.
- You released a new version of your application with a feature that many people were looking for.
Bands and other types of creators (filmmakers, comics, etc) would benefit from working towards ambitious inflections points for their endeavors. Hockey stick growth is a common occurrence for some of the most popular new bands. An example is the Alabama Shakes, whose NPR article in October 2011 set off a perfect storm of events that generated the exact type of hockey stick growth startups aspire to.
Some “triggers” for explosive growth in the music industry:
- Positive coverage on respected websites and blogs (NPR, Pitchfork)
- Placement on a well-viewed TV show
- A remarkable music video that people cannot help but share
The harder and smarter you work in the beginning the more likely you will be able to make it to hockey stick growth. The longer you exist, the less likely this will ever happen. Avoid becoming stagnant. Move fast and make big things happen.
One of the greatest challenges in any creative industry is being yourself.
“We’re like Pinterest but for audio.”
“I sound like Bob Dylan meets Jimi Hendrix.”
It has been engrained in us to use the like x but with y formula to describe ourselves when we meet someone new. This makes sense because it is an easy method that quickly conveys what we do to others.
While this formula is effective, we must be careful not define ourselves by it. We are much more than the sum of our parts. Thinking of ourselves like this is caustic. It is important to acknowledge our influences, but if we are creating something new we should think deeply about who we are.
A Boston band I work with called Charlie the Most has a very unique sound.
One could describe the band as Soulive meets James Brown and the Allman Brothers Band, but it would be doing everyone in that equation a great injustice. Most people know what those groups sound like but the combination of the three does not define Charlie the Most. The band’s sound is a combination of influences both intentional and subliminal on top of emotions that come out when the 10 musicians play together. They cannot reduce themselves to a simple amalgamation of well-known concepts.
When I describe Charlie the Most I say they play, “flash-fried funk and soul,” and I leave it at that.
Take care to define yourself intelligently, but in the end let your creations define you.