[Note: This article was a collaboration with hip-hop emcee Praverb the Wyse, based on a discussion that started with his Twitter followers and continues here. Some of the thoughts and words below are his, and some are mine-- but, much like the book Braided Creek by Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison, we'll leave it for you to wonder which belong to which writer.]
These days, venues, ink, and listeners are limited. You’re always going to be competing against acts with bigger budgets and better publicists. So what can you do to get ahead in this music game?
The most important thing you need, even above money, above connections, above good press, is energy; it’s easy to feel drained when you’ve taken control of your own career. Keeping track of so many things at once can zap your energy, drain your battery, burn your fuel, or whatever other metaphor you might like to use. Things can easily slip into cruise-control, grow stale, and stall-out.
Here are 4 tips to give your music career a shot in the arm:
1. Make new music-
If your career is on life-support, maybe you need to create new music. Meaningful music. Make music that reflects your current place in life.
Playing the same old songs can be a drag. If you’re feeling like you’ve run your set list into the ground, even adding one or two new tunes to the mix can give an energy boost to your whole show. And when you’re excited about your music, you’re excited about your music promotion.
2. Revamp your website-
Like set lists, websites can grow stale pretty quickly too. Even your die-hard fans are probably only checking your site a couple times a month, but you— you have to look at that thing every single day. Freshening up your website involves more than pressing “refresh,” but you don’t have to get carried away with a major overhaul either.
It’s amazing how just a few design tweaks or color changes can make your existing site feel brand new. And when your website feels brand new, it’s almost like you’re a brand new band– with the energy to get out there and share content, engage with your audience, interact on social media, etc.
Which brings us to…
3. Create collaborative content-
If you play a lot of shows, if you spend hours a day on social media, if you record a lot in the studio… maybe it’s time you took a break from those activities and worked with some friends, peers, or professionals on another kind of project: music videos, new T-Shirt designs, a fan-funding campaign and video, paint your touring van, stencil limited-edition posters, etc.
By switching gears a little, you can recharge the batteries, while still putting equal time and effort towards your musical goals. And the creative energy and enthusiasm of the people you’ve enlisted to help with this new endeavor will be infectious. If they’re excited, you’re excited. If you’re excited– then you know you’re doing something right.
4. Interact with fans-
You don’t just want to create a feedback loop of good feeling with your collaborators; you want that kind of back-and-forth with every fan.
Interaction, both virtual and real, leads to relationships, and relationships lead to word-of-mouth promotion. Whether you use social media or make a point to stay out late after every show to talk with fans, the more willing you are to meet the folks who appreciate your music, the more they’ll appreciate your music– and the more energy and support you’ll get in return.
Remember to step out of the artist role and talk about things outside of your own music, too!
What do you do when you need to put your rally-cap on and get back in the game? How have you jump-started your career? Let us know in the comments section below.