I have always been a passionate advocate of original creative music. As Nick Cody, I have also blogged extensively about those artists who have inspired me over the decades. Many of these artists I have followed forty years on with equal enthusiasm and genuine appreciation. Most of these folks stuck to their guns and “played the long game” in terms of “the music business” This meant taking risks and not simply going along with the latest musical fad.
In 2017 its clear to me that creating great music in itself is not enough. I’d love to believe otherwise, but its definitely not the case. Of course in days gone by artists needed promotion to reach a wider audience, but now more than ever its crucial for artists to develop a public profile which means aligning many other elements. These include good social media presence, strong visual image, using video and making sure that anything that is released is of the highest possible quality. This means not blasting out low quality audio or video online. To quote the old adage “you never get a second chance to create a first impression” In this “X Factor” era I lament how the quality of music seems to very much be second place behind many other factors, BUT creating great music is not enough, if you want to reach any kind of audience.
Differentiation is essential to stand out from the crowd
There’s an old phrase in marketing “difference dictates” If you are not different, then you essentially get lost in the crowd. Of course getting attention can be achieved in many ways. On TV shows often acts will have a backstory or a gimmick to stand out. I have a personal dislike for gimmicks, but appreciate that many folks in the ukulele world love acts who frame performances this way. My own preference is to create smart provocative original music, but I appreciate that I am probably in a minority in this respect!
I set up the Original Ukulele Songs platform to promote those artists interested in creating original ukulele based music. To date I have been blown away by the quality and delivery of a lot of the material that has appeared from these artists. With my own band The Small Change Diaries I have spent a considerable amount of time investing in making the band’s online profile. This requires a great deal of energy and some funding. It took a while to get the best band line up and find the right producer for our sound.
The importance of visual image
I have also previously blogged about having great photographs and a strong visual identity. Karen Turner is our band photographer and Max Wootton is our illustrator. Max’s designs are very distinctive and wonderfully compliment the music and lyrics. Karen knows how to capture expression like no other photographer I have come across. Many artists don’t get the importance of having good professional photos. You don’t need to spend a fortune, just get some really good photos if you want a better chance of being noticed above the noise.
Another key element is to have a good well constructed website and to regularly blog about band activity. This can be massively time consuming, BUT is essential in this day and age. Aside from playing live gigs, regular rehearsals are essential. The core of the writing for The Small Change Diaries are myself and Jessica Bowie. We meet 2 – 3 hours at a minimum every week and have done so for the last two and a half years.
Underexposure v Overexposure
In recent times as Nick Cody, I have chatted to many UK artists. Two of them lamented the lack of good paying gigs commenting “Its perfectly possible to get lots of free shitty gigs” Any effective artist promotion means getting the balance between underexposure and overexposure. This is always a judgement call. Our producers manta is “One gig is worth ten rehearsals” and I 100% agree. Live appearances give instant feedback on the band’s performance, whether positive or negative. With The Small Change Diaries last year’s festival appearances in the UK and overseas were invaluable in developing the band’s sound.
Make connections and have good manners
In my other life as “the other Nick” I teach communication skills globally in the USA, Japan and various parts of Europe. The core principals I teach in workshops definitely apply to the musician model. Any business requires good investment of time and energy as well as financial investment. Its important to seek out like minds and find people who have skills that you many not have. I groan when I see people talk about building their own websites “to save money” not realizing that a small investment will usually result in a much better end result. Similarly there are all kinds of possible playing platforms and audiences. In the ukulele world the quality can be like night and day. The best ones of course are massively popular and are like South by South West in Austin. Others will struggle creatively and financially and are not always such a great association for performing artists.
Most people have good manners, and its important to never underestimate the power of good will. The Small Change Diaries have an inquiry to play in New York. I’m there next week, so I’m going to talk to the promoter, especially as there are a number of logistical considerations when playing overseas. I have no idea if this will be viable, but its always worth exploring opportunities and taking the time to talk to people.
Creating and playing great music is not enough. If you want to reach a significant audience you need to address all the points mentioned here as a minimum requirement. My observation is that artists who play the long game generally do the best. This means having a strong work ethic, good organisational skills and of course the ability to create great music, BUT creating great music alone won’t cut it, if you want to reach a more substantial and long lasting audience.