Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Getting Signed - part 1 - Wanna Bet?

Betting it all on a Million to One Odds:

For the record, my oldest daughter is interested in music. (hasn't mentioned "the R-S word" though) What I am telling you is what I would tell her. Ultimately, as a parent, I would hope that my daughter would choose against betting her youth and young-adult-hood on something that wasn't going to happen, but at least if she did, she'd know what she was up against.

Never lose the perspective that the music business is like a commercial blood sport.  Do so at your peril. You'll start thinking you can lay back and still make it. The reality is that there are 10 000 other musicians just like you with the same aspiration. One of them will make it. What are you going to do to set yourself apart from them to make sure that YOU are that one person?

Being a corporate bloodsport, and a high-stakes one at that, it's like high-stakes gambling. Don't bet $5 because you're afraid you might lose, so you still have $50 in your pocket for later. You have to bet the farm, knowing that you will almost certainly lose. But if you win.... you'll be able to buy ten farms.

When I use words like betting, I mean explicitly that it is a gamble.  The odds of getting signed are probably comparable to the odds of getting struck by lightning. It happens every day, but to so few people, that most of us don't know anyone who has ever been struck by lightning. Mind you, when someone in your town does get struck, it's pretty exciting news.

Now, some people are more likely to get struck than others. If you stay indoors all the time, you'll never get struck. If you travel around the continent chasing severe thunderstorms and getting on top of really tall office buildings with your tin suit and 15m telescopic aluminum pole and wave it around... hell, you just might. No guarantees, though.  In other words, you have to create your own luck.  

Wherever you live now.... finish high school, and then move to a major music city. I don't mean major like Dublin or major like Atlanta. I mean pack your sh!t and go to LA, New York, Nashville or  wherever the industry in your genre is.  Let's say it might be advantageous to meet Bob Rock or Quincy Jones or whatever. What do you think the odds are of meeting someone like that in Iowa? None. You want to get noticed? You have to be in their faces and on their radar. What if you go and live in the city they live in and travel in the same circles where they frequent - the same music stores, the same clubs, the same coffee shop, etc. Volunteer to wash their car or cut their grass. They HAVE to notice you. You pretty much HAVE to go there.

If relocating sounds extreme, consider this: Many, many people pack up a car-load of belongings to move off to college, right? Why? Because what they want to learn, and the people they want to learn from are based in another town! Same thing! Instead of spending 4-5 years attending college in South Carolina or Ottawa or whatever, you're going to spend *at least that long* developing your network of connections, establishing a reputation, and developing your craft.

Still sound like too much? Then don't bother. You're not cut out for it. Stay close to home, go to a local college, and get a job in your hometown, marry your highschool sweet-heart and be happy.

See, this is such an unlikely path to success that you will need to do this as a full-time job 24/7/365. Any time you spend away from music is time spent away from your goal. It's really an 'all or nothing' proposition and you can't be willing to settle for anything that doesn't put you forward.  In the pop music game, there is no time to screw around. If you don't make it by 25 or 30, you won't - at least not in the wide-sweeping 'pop' genre that cranks out the top-10 hits. Subgenres are another matter.

Sure, it's a gamble. Odds are, you'll find yourself at 40 with very little resembling employability skills and being too old to play the young person's game. But if you're trying to get struck by lightning, you have to do *everything* you can to make sure that YOU are that one person in a million who is at the right place at the right time when it strikes.

If you win the proverbial lottery and get struck by the Lightning Fairies of rock-stardom, it will all pay off. If you become just another statistic like the other 99.99999% of those with the same ambition, well, at least you gave it what it took. You didn't cut corners and you did everything right. Now, it's time to go back to college when you're ten years older than almost everyone else around you and work towards that "real job" your parents always wanted you to get.

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