David has been involved in music marketing since 1995, and this new book is filled with tons of helpful information for musicians. You can follow him on Twitter at @DavidHooper
People who have won a big lottery prize (between $50,000 and $150,000) are twice as likely to file bankruptcy than the general population. That’s what a 2010 paper published by researchers at Vanderbilt University, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Pittsburgh says.
The researchers in this study looked at two groups of lottery winners: those who won between $50,000 and $150,000 and those who won more modest prizes of $10,000 or less. Five years afterward, the big winners were the ones more likely to have filed for bankruptcy.
How is that possible?
Lack of financial literacy. In other words, these people simply lacked the skills to effectively handle money.
If you’re looking to be wealthy, odds are that you’ll be much more successful with a “get rich slow” method, such as consistent saving or investment, since doing things this way will allow you to develop the skills needed to keep that money.
The same concept applies to your music business.
We’ve all seen the “YouTube sensations,” the reality show winners, and the one-hit wonders who seemingly come out of nowhere. They’re everywhere. Then they vanish.
Like most lottery winners, very few of the musicians who come out of nowhere with viral videos or promotion thanks to mass media have the things needed to keep that momentum going.
• more than one good song or funny video
• knowledge of who their fans are or what motivates them to
• the experience to know what works (and what doesn’t) when it
comes to marketing music
These are the things that automatically come with time while you’re working on getting noticed. So while it might seem like there are periods in your career where absolutely nothing is happening, the skills you’re learning during these times are actually some of the most important ones you’ll need to help you forge a long-lasting career.
For example, experience dealing with the media, building long-lasting fan relationships, and doing business tasks are all skills you will need for a sustainable music career. You don’t automatically get these when you have success straight out of the gate. The majority of the time, they are earned through hard work—usually during the early stage of a career.
For an up-and-coming artist, every media opportunity is important. Even the small, seemingly insignificant interviews are what will prepare you to handle the future interviews that will be seen or heard by a large audience. Like what an open mic night or talent show is to performing on stage, an interview on a small podcast or radio or television station is a great place to learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to working with media.
Want to see something painful? Some of the best examples of interviews gone wrong are YouTube sensations and reality show contestants who, without any training or experience, suddenly find themselves on major talk shows like Ellen, whatever Anderson Cooper is doing, or Live! with Kelly and Michael.
Be thankful you have the opportunity to get your media skills together before the whole world is watching.
Beyond developing the skills to work with media, as a “get rich slow” artist working your way up, you learn how to work with and develop relationships with fans. Fans are the foundation for a solid career, and your relationships with them are paramount for a long-lasting career.
Like any relationship, the best relationships with fans are those built over time. While a big radio hit can bring a lot of people to your shows or sell a lot of albums in a short amount of time, long music careers happen when fans have an opportunity to experience your music in several different ways, over a long period of time.
For example, if a fan hears your music at a high school dance, sees you play live while in college, then hears you again a few years later at a wedding, your music is being attached to several memories this person has. Th at is much more powerful than hitting big via a television show or short-lived radio hit, where you and your music connect in a very limited way.
Going about your career in a slow and steady way also lets you learn various business skills you might not have the opportunity to learn if, at the very beginning of your career, everything suddenly takes off . This will help you to hire quality people for these jobs when you eventually start to outsource them, because, having done the jobs yourself, you’ll be able to assess who is capable of doing them.
There are exceptions to every rule. While there have been some very successful artists born from reality television shows and contests like American Idol who have gone on to build strong music careers, this is not the norm. If a long-term music career is your goal, you’ll have a better chance of achieving it through slow and consistent improvement over time than through anything else.