The grass roots approach to success
Corey Smith made headlines when his independent music career slowly grew into a multi-million dollar business, selling out large venues normally reserved for those with chart topping hits. No, it was not some sort of internet trickery that built his following, Corey simply toured diligently and worked hard to make honest connections with his audience. As his fan base grew, he stayed focused on building that connection and being intentional with his business decisions. To hear the entire podcast go to cdbabypodcast.com
You’ve made some pretty big headlines for the amount of success you’ve achieved as an independent artist on your own without the industry machine. Where did you start this journey?
First of all I would say I haven’t done it entirely on my own. I have a great manager. I have an attorney, an accountant, and a great group of people with me on the road. I owe a lot of it to talented people who are passionate about my music, being a part of it, and building the infrastructure that we needed for it to grow. We have done it without the assistance of a major label. We have done it without radio. It has largely been based on touring and grass roots market development, just getting music out there and encouraging people to share the music whether they burn a CD, download it for free, or buy a record. Obviously, we would prefer that they buy a record, but either way, we want people to share the music with one another.
Back in those early days when you would play a bar or club what were you doing to connect with the audience?
I definitely learned early on that there were certain techniques I could use to grab peoples attention. I was playing in a lot of bar settings and I didn’t want to play cover songs. I tried to minimize the amount of covers. I wanted to be able to play my own material. I started figuring out ways in my own writing to grab peoples’ attention even though they have never heard the song before. Using images that are familiar to them. Using a catchy hook. Using the techniques that commercially successful songwriters use. I did a little bit of studying in that and tried to incorporate it. I think since then I’ve moved on and focused on being authentic and writing what is true to me.
Do you have some advice for up and coming artists?
Looking back, there are times when we probably should have been very happy with what we had. We could look at particular markets where we were doing really well at say a 1000 capacity club, for example. We would go in and sell it out. We would feel the pressure to move up to the next level and go to the bigger club. We would make the step to the bigger club and we might bring out more people, but it’s not as profitable because the expenses of that next club go up. There’s a lot more pressure involved in it. There has been a big learning curve in regards to how to approach development in different markets. At the end of the day, we could be happier that we are at the 1,000-cap club and know we’ll do well, as opposed to constantly feeling the need to up ourselves and get bigger. Bigger is not always better.
You can find Corey’s music on CD Baby here http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/coreysmith