Stating The Obvious

Indie musicians and songwriters surely need a list to remind themselves about things that need to be accomplished in 2009. Without a team of people to keep it all on course, indie musos of all genres should strategize and plot for 2009 RIGHT NOW. Sure you’re hung over from last night’s gig/party/loneliness. That’s no excuse for not getting your act together, today.

What worked for you in 2008? Double that effort immediately. Nothing succeeds like success, that old cliche´reminds us. Probably truer than most cliches concerning music matters. Did you tour effectively? Write on a regular basis? Update your public persona everyday? PRACTICE? Let’s assume you’ve done all the right things and made a little headway in 2008. How can you step it up for ’09 without a team to move it all forward?
Here are some of my suggestions:
  • Setup or upgrade your web presence.
If you don’t have a website and think the freebies like MySpace or Facebook solve all your needs, YOU ARE WRONG! Revisit the plight of Mobile from a while back for starters. All of the free servers and social networks are great for spreading the word and developing your fan base but you need your own website. Pictures, music, free downloads, video, gigs, stories, fan-generated content, etc., etc., etc. You know I’m right. DO IT!
  • Practice as much as possible.
When I had my own band and we were trying to break the music barriers of the late 1980s, we practiced 3-4 days per week as a band. Some days were for writing. Some days were for building sets. And some days were just for solving problems. Regardless of the agenda, we financed our own rehearsal HQ and met there as often as possible. Our social lives suffered but we went from zero to radio airplay and prime gigs in six months. It was the work that got us there. How has this changed for 2009?
No one wants to pay to see your unprofessional and unpolished band suck live. Not at their expense no less. And if you suck you probably won’t generate interest for your current or upcoming release. The indie excuse that practice kills spontaneity is pure rubbish. No one wants to see you solve your own personal weaknesses onstage. Practice. And that doesn’t include your own PERSONAL practice time in order to be good enough to go to band practice. Your band-mates don’t want to waste their time waiting for you to catch up either.
  • Develop a work schedule and stick to it.
I know, this sounds like an Oprah episode. But it’s true! Developing a work-week schedule, organizing jobs and duties for band members and staying on that path is extremely important.
What jobs you ask?
Well, it not much of a secret that all aspects of this artistic endeavor require interaction with people that will control or impact your effectiveness. When is the preferred call time for the club bookers you are trying to reach? Same goes for radio and press. All of these folks have an agenda/schedule and you will need to follow their requests/demands in order to play the game.
  • Maintain your gear.

This sounds like a no-brainer, right? It is!! And yet, it’s amazing how many musicians I encounter don’t take care of their instruments, let alone perform routine maintenance to keep gear performing at the same level your fans expect.
I know I’ve even taken a little grief from a few musicians I’ve recorded for not having a particular museum piece ready at their whim. My 1968 Fender Telecaster comes to mind. But, it’s my vintage guitar meant to be vintage. It’s not my workhorse and was never intended to be hauled down off the wall for yesterday’s session, let alone tomorrow’s gig. Poor excuse? Well, yes. All instruments should be playable and I’m guilty as charged. But…
Guitarists routinely perform with dead strings, bad connections, humming pickups and crackling tubes. I guess if you’re using a vintage piece from 60 years ago, you get a little leeway? Of course, your audience won’t give that to you. Who wants to pay for sonic crap? Do you think your prized Fender Tweed amp from 1956 is creating fan glee when it spits and pops throughout your show? Making sure your gear works is just as important as every other aspect of your show.
When you go into the studio to document your vision for posterity, change your strings and maybe even drum heads for Pete’s Sake! The lifeless thud of a dead string does nothing for the listener. Acoustic guitars suffer more than almost every other instrument since harmonics become muted and subdued in ways that affect the psycho-acoustic realm. The beautiful shimmer of a great sounding acoustic guitar really adds a luxe element to your mix. And this notion applies to ALL instruments.
Unless your artistic aesthetic involves the actual sound of worn-out deadness, change the components that need to be changed and do it at a regular interval. Not only will this sound better, it helps your performance. Dead strings break more often and impact your show in many unprofessional ways. And, anyone who truly loves their instrument knows — your guitar/bass/drums/horn/etc responds better to your coaxing when it is played and maintained often.
OK, enough for now. Nothing here is earth-shattering let alone new information. And yet, whether on the web, in the studio or on the stage, I can’t believe how many musicians/performers I’ve worked with haven’t followed any of these guidelines. So here is my shortlist of things you should resolve to do for 2009 if you’re hoping to gain any headway let alone listeners and fans.

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