There are a few mistakes that the modern DIY band makes, in such harsh repetition, that it requires my special attention, here, now, in this article. For sake of reference and absolute clarity, I’ll address each in list form.
1. Your uncontrollable urge to play a show every weekend makes you look desperate. Crowds for live music are few and far between, these days. If you’ve got one, treat it right. Asking a group to show their support on such a consistent basis makes it easy for your fans to say, “I’ll see them next time” or worse yet, actually get annoyed by your moaning. If your complaint is that you’re not getting paid for all the time your putting in, than put in less time, play less frequently, and make it a real, worth-my-time-and-money event when you do. Booking shows with the right people is key, but I’ll let you determine who those people are.
2. Treat social media like the novel your’e writing, not your constant stream of thought. Realize that at the end of every post you make there are people, usually frustrated at their work desks, reading your nonsense. Posting the same thing over and over again is more likely to flood a few people’s feeds than it is to reach new users. If, in the end, your only creative idea is that you’re creatively being yourself, get in line. A strong intellectual backbone, something to tickle the readers mind will go a long way in differentiating yourself from every soulless star-fucker on Youtube. Remember, just because something is far enough down on your feed, doesn’t mean it’s gone; try not to be foolish.
3. Do not employ B-List publicists. This job should be obsolete by now. There is a whole genre of music publication specifically dedicated to covering the emerging musician and they hate getting press releases. If your publicist isn’t booking you to open for LCD Soundsystem’s reunion tour, don’t waste your money. Getting your name out there, especially through the Internet, is a job you can do in your free time. Email some bloggers, not with fancy press releases; just send them a link to the music. I’ve never met a music blogger who stops to read your four-paragraph biography, so why are you wasting your time writing it? Doesn’t your music speak for itself? Or do I need to know the details of your broken upbringing to get it? If we want to know, we’ll ask.
4. Stop trying to sell us garbage; you have a very real commodity you’re ignoring. You were deceived in the first place when they told you that you’d make money off an MP3. Does a painter make money off a Jpeg? The reality is, with easy access, I download somewhere between five and fifteen albums daily. I listen to them all, mostly just once; if I couldn’t do that, the musicians on the other end would not benefit from my purchase, they would simply lose me as an audience altogether. So, give me your mp3 for free, gain some brand recognition, weasel your way onto my Ipod and then convince me to buy your vinyl, tape, merch, show tickets, etc. These are the true products of your hard work, and the reason why music should never lose physicality. Charging for sound is a fleeting concept.
5. The 90’s aren’t retro YET. The band pictures you take staring off, slightly to the left, or posed in front of some urban scene, make you look stupid. If you’re going to take a band picture, then just be straight up about it, lose the gimmicks and you’ll gain a lot of respect. If you take your music seriously, then you take the visual art that surrounds it seriously. Employ someone talented, someone who’s passionate about visual aesthetics, even if you are, if only for their opinions. If you do want to go the whole route of 90’s-band-self-absorption, because you’re “going to make it retro”, at least go for it completely.
6. Know your demographic. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten press releases from some California girl who’s just recorded her song about heartbreak and moving on in a beautiful studio that her daddy paid for. If you’re band is simply recreating some washed up sound (at your parents expense), half-heartedly and, as you would say, “just for fun”, sending your music to a pretentious music snob, like myself, will more likely end up getting you publically lambasted. There are plenty of publications out there that eat up your similar sounding “alternative pop”- if they’re not writing about you, what makes you think Pitchfork, or any blog with a similar attitude, will. The fact that I have to listen to a hundred terrible projects before I find one worthy of critique means that there are ninety-nine of you who are too blinded by your own ego to compare your music to the market standard quality. Realize that music is not just something you pick up and do without natural tallent or intense knowledge. The 99% of self-releasing musicians are not musicians at all, and if they stopped pretending to be, those of us who treat composition as a career would be taken far more seriously.
That’s the end of it, for now. I’m sure round two is brewing. I hope you, and your band, enjoyed reading my thoughts. These common mistakes are more like symptoms. Realize that the vast majority of music, posted online, deserves to make these mistakes because it truly is desperate. But, your band, the one in one hundred, is merely suffering from a collective syndrome the DIY community must face, formed from existing in such a large sea, filled with so much pollution.