Jason Spitz is a consultant who has been helping everyone from the Grateful Dead to the Frank Sinatra Estate to harness the power of the internet. Here’s Jason with a short article about making it in the music business.
This week, Music Think Tank published an interview with Ian Rogers where Ian delineated different “classes” of artists – Emerging, Middle-class, Mainstream, and Legacy – and talked about how it takes a long time to move up the chain of success. He’s absolutely right, but “a long time” is a pretty nebulous period. Soul singer Charles Bradley had to plod along as an Emerging artist for almost 40 years, while Mumford & Sons toiled for less than five. Yes, success takes time, but it also takes work – and different levels of success require different types of work.
To go from Emerging to Middle-class, you’ve gotta put in good old-fashioned Work with a capital W. Pound the pavement, play ceaselessly, and promote yourself mercilessly. Go for the snowball effect. Build your audience one fan at a time and give people good reasons to pay attention to your music. This might take one year or ten years, but if you work hard and smart, if you build a solid team, and if your music is high quality, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to build a sustainable business on it. When you can quit your day job and live off your life as an artist, you’ve reached Middle-class.
Moving to the Mainstream level requires a different type of work. When you’re squarely entrenched in the Middle-class, you should be searching for opportunities to catch a big break. Some might call these breaks pure luck, but I see it differently. Yes, there’s some elements of uncontrollable fate involved, but “luck” is simply what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Be prepared to capture lightning in a bottle when it strikes. Have a plan for capitalizing the mass exposure that can come from a viral video, a major TV performance, or an unexpected hit single. This type of effort is different than the long hard slog it took to get to Middle-class, but it’s still work. The timing is often unpredictable, but if you are ready for it, you’ll have the best shot at making the leap.
After you break into Mainstream territory, your work becomes less about your business, and more about you as an artist & a human being. Once you achieve this admittedly rare level of success, dangerous pitfalls will appear. It’s easy to lose touch with your core fans and get caught up in the spiral of fame and the rush for more explosive growth. Others will try to leech off your success or steer you towards bad decisions that aren’t in your best interest. You must work to stay humble and maintain a clear sense of where you want to go. Success can change your world drastically. It’s important to keep some perspective and humility. Trust your gut, your fans, and listen to the people who know you best. This is a different type of work then pounding pavement – it’s more psychological than it is labor-intensive or strategic. But it’s important for your long-term, sustainable growth. Fans can tell when an artist is shallow and dishonest, and they respond with backlash. Likewise, they sense it when a musician retains his humanity, and they will respect you & remain loyal to you if you do.
By Jason Spitz
Jason Spitz is a consultant who helps artists make money on the internet. He has run web stores and merchandising for The Grateful Dead, the Frank Sinatra Estate, and dozens of bands, comedians, filmmakers and other artists. To see his work or contact him, visit www.jasonspitz.com or follow @jasonspitz on Twitter.