Here in Nashville, I try to stay as connected as I can to the music scene. I go out to see as many shows of different genres as I can. Because of that, I meet a lot of different artists and bands. I do pay special attention to the hip hop scene and also the electronic music scene, since those are the pockets that I mostly easily fit into myself as an artist. Within these two scenes, I’m often asked my thoughts on what we can all do to make the music scene better.
I try to entertain these discussions as best I can. However, I have experienced a philosophical shift in my own music scene beliefs. Let me explain. Here’s how most of these conversations go.
Maybe some of this is true. However, I think we’re missing the point. We’re especially missing it as artists, musicians, & DJs. In addition to the music scene here in town, this blog attracts a lot of DJs, rappers, musicians, bands, and producers. They all have similar questions about what software to use or how to get started & mainly how to impact their music scene immediately.
I try to answer whatever I can, but I think this is a great chance to sum up what I think is the greatest thing that you as an artist can do for your music scene.
You ready? This is the secret!
(This probably can extend beyond music scenes and just apply to life as well.)
The #1 thing I think all musicians, DJs, producers, rappers can do to change their music scene is…
That’s it. Change lives. Create an experience. Blow people away with your awesome awesomeness. Be freaking awesome.
Only after you are awesome will your music scene change. Let’s examine the artists’ cry for unity. When I hear that “artists need to support each other” I hear “they need to support ME.” When I hear that “venues need to book different artists,” these artists just mean “they need to book ME.” But all the unity, support, & promo in the world won’t help if the music, bands, or artists aren’t awesome.
Or if they suck.
And I didn’t say “Be mediocre.” Mediocre is everywhere. Don’t waste your time or other people’s time by doing the same thing everyone else is doing. I understand that this is subjective, so…
I’ve been thinking about how I can apply this very simple yet complicated principle for my own life and my own music career. That’s right, this advice is for me too. No one is safe. No one is exempt. So few musicians, bands, & DJs do this; the ones who do will stand out very quickly.
I have come up with these after considering my time in the music scene here in Nashville (Music City) plus my time studying music business, and additionally my time on the road touring with Mutemath.
Make Awesome Music.
Yes, those other things absolutely matter, but only when you make the music as good as it can possibly be. If you have great music, than great branding, design, &social can give you a huge advantage and push you to the next level. It can help you stand out from the crowd and make it easier for you to become popular. But without great music, the best marketing, branding, or even meetups won’t matter at all.
I’m not saying you should start out without thinking of marketing. If you have time and resources to make videos, get merch, & get all the other stuff right, then do it all. But if you only have time to do one thing really well, there’s no question you should be focusing on your music.
The same goes for promotion. Once you’ve created something epic, you need to make sure other people find out about it. But if you really write awesome music. It won’t take much effort on your part to get the word out. Your new fans will do most of the work.
I’ve seen it happen here locally with people like Wick-It or Cherub or Mike Floss. Every time I’m tempted to get down in the dumps about how I am not getting the gigs I should get, then I have to look in the mirror and ask if I’m making awesome music.
Perform Awesomely Live.
Don’t mistake length of your set or how much time you put into it for how awesome something truly is. I’m sure you’ve seen the way-too-long-and-completely-boring sets out there. Awesome doesn’t necessarily mean long. It also doesn’t mean how many people are on stage at once. I’ve fallen into this trap before. Every time I’ve been inspired at a show, it’s because the performer showcased their skill in a way that no one else can. Blow people’s minds. Look at this KDSML video below. No one else can do this. So he stays booked. What can you do that no other performer can do?
Throw Awesome Shows.
I’m not even talking about your set anymore. I mean the experience you create at your shows. Are you booking your own shows to build credibility? Great. Now who is doing the show with you? What’s the vibe you’ll create? What’s the venue? Can people really hear your music there? Can they see you? Is it well lit? Is it a raised stage? Is it all ages? 21+? Can people easily park there? Do people need to BYOB?
Don’t make the mistake of trying to throw awesome shows without outside inspiration. Get out there and go see some shows. Get inspired yourself, then infect your music scene with that inspiration. Locally, This is Art does this very well. I’m going to see his show tonight.
Use Awesome Professionalism.
You might not have to be professional if you are strictly booking your own shows and they are all house parties and you never have to deal with people who are doing business. But chances are, you’re going to have to work with other people. I’ve found that in my own music career; it’s been much better to be courteous & on time whenever possible. Not only that but also if you’re in charge of a show, you have to make sure everyone knows what they’re expectation is. Let people know how long your set will be. If you don’t know, ask. Is it a paying gig? If you don’t know, ask. If you know it’s not paying, tell them. Do you not have a huge draw? Be realistic about the show expectations. Or be honest if you don’t plan on promoting. (Psst… why aren’t you promoting?)
Have an Awesome Web Presence.
We can’t be everywhere at once. Having a web presence is the next best thing. Do you have your own site? Your own place to let people know about shows? Your own spot to host your music? Your own place to spread your ideas? You can’t just rely on Facebook. What about other social media? Where are you? Where does your music scene hang out? You should be there. But really, it’s not the one social media site you’re using. It’s everything you’re doing.
Have an Awesome Mindset.
This is the one I struggle with the most. Yet it’s the most important and it’s the one from which all these others will spring. Your mindset will absolutely determine your actions. Your belief in yourself and your music scene will inform and inspire all the moves you make and also informs what the rest of your scene will do. It’s hard to try and get everyone on the same page about what you want to do for your music scene but then when you get together, all you do is complain. I’ve done this and I have seen this especially in hip hop and electronic music. Guilty as charged. No one wants to get behind cynicism. People only will get behind awesomeness.
The next time you start wondering why you aren’t getting tons of fans or people at your shows, the next time you wonder why no one is sharing your stuff, don’t start looking to Twitter or Facebook for the answer. Instead, start by asking yourself one simple question:
Am I being awesome?
A big thanks to Corbett Barr who inspired this post many years ago with an epic post of his own.
Quiet Entertainer (that's me) is a DJ/Producer that blends ambient electronica with hip-hop. I'm based in Nashville, TN.
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