In my “other non musical life” I train people globally about human behaviours and many of my private clients are artists. I’m personally fascinated at how some artists are super smart in identifying and capitalizing when making good decisions and others have an uncanny ability to snatch failure from the jaws of success…

Many creative types have a difficulty in managing time and are terrible at making good strategic decisions. I’ve lost track of the number of performers who can be on the verge of some really good success, who then swerve to go in another direction. There can be all manner of reasons for this of course. Here are some of my observations about those who snatch failure from the jaws of success!

Figuring time and money

Many musicians I have met often struggle to maintain predictable income. In these tougher economic times I have some sympathy but my business background has taught me the value of balancing time and money. Its really easy to play for free and for “exposure” but this can lead to all manner of problems.

People have different ideas about how to charge for time. I have a policy of always paying performers for their time whether in rehearsals, studio time or at live events, regardless of whether I am paid or not. Not paying artists is IMO a slipperly slope although many will still run “pay as you feel events” which can (not always) mean artists receive minimal payments. A basic cinema price for a movie is 5 – 6 quid these days, so 7 – 8 quid for three hours of live music is IMO not a big ask. I have looked extensively at pricing and relialised that those who value and love live music don’t usually consider price as a primary consideration. I have run my band events at 12 quid a ticket, pay as you feel and for free and there’s not a massive difference in uptake.

Many artists don’t price theit time well and I’ve recently met superb artists that are travelling hundreds of miles to play for expenses. In some cases IMO they are taken advantage of and respectfully its their own fault. In contrast I know some excellent musicians who better define this time and money ratio and I have massive respect for such performers. These are the ones who will do far better as they are thinking about what they are doing and and more grounded in reality!

This dream of a musical career is of course not new and these days the endless talent shows endlessley promote the idea of stardom. Of course in reality the expectation and the realty can be very different. In the same way many authors aspire to be the next JK Rowling, but very few authors generate even a sustainable living from their work. Like every other business, in order to create any kind of success you need to find this ability to balance time and money.

“I have known from the beginning one thing you need to know. That is, the music business is a business.”

Steve Brown

“As for the music business itself, the key things have not changed that much. It operates like any business and money still keeps things moving.
Tom Jones

When I set up Music for the Head and Heart I interviewed a number of promoters, producers and artists. This has and continues to be a fascinating process and I keep hearing the same story. As a behavioral specialist I’m always on the lookout for patterns in human behaviour. Often (not always) many music students are sold a dream of a musical career in college that is very different to the reality of what happens in real life.

A cynical person might argue that its in the interest of the colleges to promote a positive image for their own business needs, but increasingly I hear producers comment that many new artists have “over optimistic” expectations of what they can expect.

10 years to become an overnight success?

There’s an old saying “It takes 10 years to become an overnight success” Essentially, success in most professions require a great deal of stamina and perseverance as well as skill. In my non musical life I have a good life presenting my own work in Asia, Europe, USA and Russia and its taken many years to build this reputation.

When I started to explore the world of music I could see many parallels and have often pointed out that “the music business” follows the rules of “business” Often artists really don’t get this and I’ve met some really talented individuals who are clueless about music promotion. Some don’t even have basic elements in place and others dream that “being signed” or “getting management” will solve all their problems! Some new artists imagine being located in London, LA or New York will solve all their problems, forgetting the financial cost of being in such cities and that countless others have imagined that this is the magic solution to artistic growth, which of course it is not.

Music for The Head and Heart experience

I’ve approached many artists to appear on the Music for the Head and Heart platform and am blown away by the response. These include some very well known international performers including Martin Simpson, who have agreed to be interviewed. The central idea is to build a portal for music lovers showcasing great creative talent from new artists to seasoned performers. To my amazement some new artists than are constantly lamenting a lack of financial and creative success, either don’t even respond to offers or respond but never book the time for the interview. Let me be clear, I 100% appreciate that its a personal choice to appear or not to appear, but its basic good sense at least to respond to an offer! I don’t chase people and usually offer once and then give a reminder. After that point, I move onto other performers and of course there are many to choose from.

On Music for The Head and Heart, artists appear for free and then have free promotion on the platform and on social media. The more artists that join, the more momentum for the whole platform. Despite explaining this, may performers don’t get it, but then the same artists often don’t have good online presences and are not paying attention to this key aspect of performer promotion.

Smart collaborations

I set up Music for The Head and Heart with the belief that its possible to bring like minded artists together in a way which helps everyone. My own experience is that some performers and promoters are totally self obsessed and its always one way traffic when interacting with them. I generally now avoid such characters and only look to work with people who have shared values. Other artists are walking disasters when it comes to any kind of planning and then finally there are people who have shared values and good strategic thinking, BUT we are stronger as a group than as individuals. Jon Gomm made a very interesting point in a recent yet unpublished interview –

“if you find yourself wanting to compete with other musicians and prove how good you are and that you’re better in some way and you know that you have that in your ego, you need to wind that down if you can. That’s the thing that will make it very hard for people to work with you.”

Jon Gomm

Performers like Jon Gomm give me some hope for the future of music.

Artists who snatch failure from the jaws of success…

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