August 29, 2011

Week 46 - The Plan

3 Plans for Musicians

What do you want to do with your band’s life? I know.. you wanna rock. Thank you Dee Snider. But, really, if you’re serious about music, you should make a decision. You should make a plan. Are you just playing to play, or is this something you’re counting on doing for a long time, and/or as a career?

Ozzfest 2007 You want to play to THIS crowd? It takes a PLAN. (Ozzfest 2007)
Maybe you're not out for the big festival scene... that's OK.

It doesn’t matter if you got into music because it was anti-authority. It doesn’t matter if you picked up a guitar to piss off your parents, to win a girl, or because you have a special gift you need to share with the world. You’re sitting in the position of being 1 piece of a puzzle that is the size of your band. It’s no longer just about you. It’s about the band now. It’s about contributing to the one great song that is music.

The way I see it, there’s three basic plans that bands can embark upon. Argue all you want that there’s more… but for the sake of this blog, I’m limiting it to three.. and I’ll bet your argument, no matter how valid it may be… can fall into one of these big buckets below.

There’s the band that just wants to play music, in a garage, dive bar, someone’s party, empty parking lot… anywhere. This band doesn’t care if there’s 1 person or 1000 people in the crowd. They focus their energy into having a good time and playing music with friends. This band will likely never play in front of 1,000 people, though, because it’s not about that. It’s not about getting their music to the masses, distribution, labels, getting on MTV (or whatever station actually plays music these days), or fame. It’s more about having a good time with some friends, and everyone is welcome to the party. It’s just about the individuals who are in the band playing the music they love. You know, that’s fine. As long as everyone in the group KNOWS that’s what the band is about and is happy with that decision.

There are many, many bands out there that aren’t trying to grab the brass ring. Most of the bands in Austin would fall into this category. Some of my favorite bands fall into this category. They’ll never be famous, but they throw a heck of a good party.
  1. Write and learn songs that make the band happy.
  2. Play when invited to play.
  3. Find a few clubs that caters to your sound.
  4. Record CD of originals.
  5. Goal: Make enough money to supplement the money you spend on your music, and remain happy about playing.

Some bands have something loftier to prove than just playing music. An example of this type of band would be Rage Against The Machine. They had a political motivation. They were trying to change minds, get people plugged in, and make a difference. If you’d like to prove a point and use music as your tool… that’s fantastic. Make sure everyone in the band is on board… then pull the trigger.

Please do me a favor and have something worthy to say, and be informed about the machine you’re raging against. Don’t do it for shock value or just because you heard Public Enemy once and thought it’d be fun to rattle some cages. Nothing is sadder than an ill-informed drunk front man trying to pontificate on a subject he learned about by watching Fox News.

  1. Get informed and know the subject you’re talking about
  2. Write informed songs about subject.
  3. Use songs as a platform to voice your opinions.
  4. Find groups, clubs, and individuals who will support your right deliver your message.
  5. Find controversy, find injustice, find your niche in the world
  6. GOAL: Play until you’re heard. Play until you see the change you are trying to achieve. Play to shine a light on the things you wish to see changed. Then play through the change.

This is what most people think a band’s mission is. To become wildly popular. To sell a million records and land on the cover of Rolling Stone. In order to do this, chances are you’re going to have to “sell out” in more ways than one. You have to promote, pander, pucker-up and parade around until the whole world sees you and invites you into their lives. You are likely going to have to work your way up the ladder and change and adapt at each stop along the way. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking this track if you know this is where you’re heading.

Of course, you have to be moldable. You are working to get into a position where someone is going to “help” you achieve the sound and look that may propel you into mega-stardom. This is why I mentioned that most of the bands I know are in the “Just Play Music” category. You’ve got to be OK with losing your soul a little.

Now.. this isn’t how every star is born, but the wheels of the music industry are always looking for another band they can turn into another Katy Perry, Coldplay, Garth Brooks, or Taylor Swift. Heck.. Imagine if they found another cash cow like KISS?
  1. Find out what music is selling.
  2. Write to the largest demographic of fans.
  3. Make videos, play benefits, eat, sleep, and drink the band.
  4. Cut a full length album and promote it like it’s the new Bible and everyone’s soul is going to hell unless they listen to it.
  5. Find similar bands, more popular than you and open for them.
  6. Bother booking agents, talent agents, labels, magazines, newspapers, and blog writers until they see you live… and have a favorable reaction.
  7. Be prepared to change your music, ditch band members, do special “favors” and completely give yourself over to a person who will turn you into the music superstar you never knew you wanted to be (i.e. become a sellout).
  8. Do everything you can to avoid being spit out of the wood-chipper that is people’s waning taste in popular music.
  9. GOAL: Sell out major stadiums worldwide, make millions of dollars, and get the cover of the Rolling Stone.

So, which plan do you fall into? Do you like it there?

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

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