December 9, 2010

Week 12: Where’s Your Glass Ceiling?

Where’s Your Glass Ceiling?
Photo from Flickr by Christopher Baird

By Sean Claes
Some people flip burgers, some work at a retail store, and some may work security at night to make a little extra money. You play music. The difference is, “promotions” in music is 100% in your hands. You create your own glass ceiling. The amount of work you put into it = the amount of success you can have.

Now, I’m going to assume one thing. I’m going to assume you are talented. I know that’s a big assumption, but in order to make this article make sense that has to be a prerequisite. You have to have a certain skill set to take your craft to the next level. If you don’t have the talent to make it, nothing else in this article will help you. We can’t all be doctors. We can’t all be sports stars. And, we can’t all be musicians. And that’s fine. God created us with a certain skill set. If music isn’t yours… it’s best to accept that and move on.

Got it? OK, we can go on.

Here are five ways a talented musician can create their own glass ceiling.

1. Don’t Practice – Practice is key. Stevie Ray Vaughan didn’t roll out of bed in the morning the first day he picked up the guitar and jam “Rude Mood.” He practiced. A lot. You can’t become good unless you practice as much as you can. You don’t become great unless you do that for many, many years. So, practice.Take lessons. Always strive for improvement.

2. Don’t Play In Clubs – Clubs is where bands cut their teeth. It’s where you develop your performance style, it’s where you can play to a room full of people and test out your music on virgin ears. Many times you’ll hear about popular bands that play small clubs in order to hone their sound when coming out with a new album. THAT is how important it is to play intimate venues. You simply can’t make it to the next level (or stay there) without considering the listener. If you can get a crowd who doesn't know you jamming along with your music, you’re doing something right. You can’t go straight from the garage to the big venue and expect that.

3. Don’t promote yourself – The bands you hear about most are the ones people are talking about. Yeah, that’s a bit of a circular sentence there, but it’s true.

Think about the last 3 new bands you’ve heard. Now… how did you hear about them? Was it from radio? In a magazine? Online? From a friend? On Facebook? On Twitter? How did it get to their hands? Someone created a buzz that got to the right person who made decisions or someone reached a blogger you trusted. It’s all about promotion and with an indie outfit that’s got to start within the band.

4. Piss people off – Who you are as a band comes down to your most pissy member. Be genuine, humble and thankful wherever you go. You never know who's watching or listening There is a popular local band I won’t mention by name who puts on appearances that they’re all about the fans. I had a conversation with a person who was designing their album art and this individual told me the lead singer said something to the effect of “I don’t give a (crap) about the fans, this is my music and my vision and if they don’t like it, (screw) them.” From that day on, I’ve never gone to see them, never listened to one of their songs, and ignore all contact with them. (In case you don’t know, I own an entertainment magazine in Austin).

I’ve heard of quite a few bands blacklisted from certain clubs, or bands that refuse to play with certain other bands, or booking agents who refuse to book bands because of attitude. Put it this way, there’s only one W. Axl Rose and he became a self-centered ass AFTER he got famous… and it was the 1990s so it was acceptable. Now, with social media, bands are so transparent that if you piss someone in power off, the world can know about it in 30 seconds. So, every time you piss someone off, you’re lowering that glass ceiling.

5. Depend on critic’s opinions – At the end of the day, if you’ve giving it your all, done your best, and you’re happy with the result, that’s all that matters. Who cares if a critic compares your music to two drunk cats fornicating in an elevator? What good does it do to take THAT to heart? There’s always going to be negative people out there writing entertainment reviews who are waiting to get hold of your music so they can pick it apart (or be able to use the word “fornicate” in a review). Some people get paid really good money to tell people what they thinks sucks. That’s why music critics get a bad rap (because stereotypes are based on truth). That’s why I’m not that kind of reviewer…. But this isn’t about me. It’s about you. And at the end of the day a little person who feels they must demean someone in order to be read should me met with sadness for that person, not anger. If you’re proud of your work then stand behind it and don’t give the naysayers the time of day, much less a piece of your heart.

You’ve got to have the talent, will power, desire, thick skin, and ability to represent yourself in a good light in order to have the chance to make it in the music business. No guarantees. There are plenty of amazing musicians I know that never broke through. Sometimes it’s not in your control. But, you have to make sure you’re dong all in your power to make the right decisions about the things you DO have control over.

That’s what the glass ceiling is all about.

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