The Music Industry Through The Eyes Of An Independent Band

Hello and welcome to the second ‘Advice’ column of the week. This one is a bit different than others that have come before, as it is a guest post covering a wide array of industry topics. We never know what our guest contributors will deliver, but we are always impressed by the results, and this entry is no exception. If you have an idea for this blog, or if you would like to learn more about the digital distribution services we offer, please do not hesitate to email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. If you prefer social media, feel free to reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.

A couple weeks back, I was watching our news ticker here at Haulix HQ when I say an exclusive on Billboard from an up and coming pop rock band I did not know existed. The photo accompanying the article showed three young and, admittedly, my mind instantly jumped to comparisons with the recent resurgence of boy bands. Then I heard their music and realized that was not the case in the slightest. No, these young men were (and are) onto something real. Something people can dance to, yes, but also connect with again and again.

The name of the group from that article is King The Kid, and they are currently watching their career ascend like a rocket through the various levels of underground stardom. They are indeed young, but that in no way means that have not learned the proper way to navigate the often tumultuous terrain of the music industry, and in the paragraphs below they share their recipe for success. From getting started, to touring, infrastructure, and goals, this may be the most wide-reaching guest article we have ever hosted and the information contained is absolutely indispensable. 

If you would like to stay up to date with everything King The Kid have going on, make sure you follow the band on Twitter. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

Introduction

On the surface, King The Kid, our band, is a group of three best friends that not only write and record music but also travel the country playing for our rapidly growing fanbase. But behind the scenes, King The Kid, LLC. is a well-oiled machine/ independent band that tries to effectively leverage our skills to maximize growth and potential opportunities. At all times, we are focused on both the Art and the Business of what we are trying to accomplish.

The Band Infrastructure

Our team is small. The three of us do everything. We delegate when we need to or where we don’t have the expertise. When we met in Los Angeles, the musical chemistry was remarkable, and we quickly learned that our success depended on the passion behind our music. We decided to leave our friends and connections in LA and move to Oregon, where we could develop our synergy and our music without distraction. We set up the band as a Limited Liability Corporation, entered into a partnership agreement with each other, and hired a lawyer and an accountant. With that out of the way, once in Oregon, we deliberately and strategically prepared the band for its introduction to the world. We wrote and recorded our first album, Start Something, as well as produced numerous covers and videos that helped us develop our production skills even further (and made us a few new fans along the way). We learned basic photography and design and we set up our merchandise infrastructure that allowed us to manage our costs to sell and distribute our merch completely by ourselves. By keeping the production and development “in-house”, we were able to manage the costs that would have been a part of setting up the band, and in a matter of months, we created a vast foundation of content that would both satisfy “old” fans and convert “new” fans into die-hard advocates. 

Content is King

-Music

It is the life-blood of the band. And guess what… as an artist in any genre, it is an equal playing field. You are competing against everyone from Katy Perry, Daft Punk, Imagine Dragons to The Beatles. With the entire musical discography available for FREE to anyone, your music needs to compete or you will not break through the clutter. Everyone is in the “big leagues.” Push yourself to find your own sound. Think outside the box. Imitation will get you nowhere, however through the right combination of inspiration you can find your unique voice. People respond to what is DIFFERENT. Think Lorde, Macklemore, Adele, Gotye. 

-Social Media

You need to connect with your fans with the resources available to you. We live in such a fast-paced world, that if you are “out of sight, you are out of mind.” From Twitter to Instagram to YouTube, you need to be constantly updating your fans. They want to connect with you. They want to participate in your journey. They want to feel like they have access to you! Be yourself. Much like the music, they will fall in love with you in your most honest, authentic and genuine moments. 

-Talent

“Your ability to play exceeds social networking” – Bob Lefsetz

There is currently a shift in music back to true musicianship. The Top 40 charts are changing. As an artist, you need to be a triple threat. You need to be able to sing, to write, and to perform. And for us, it has been beneficial to also record, mix and produce. Not only do you need to be the best you can be, you need to be better than everyone else. An honest song that is true to YOUR heart is the way into the audience’s heart and that will only come through years of honing your songwriting chops. Anyone’s recordings can sound good, but when it comes to a live performance, you need to WOW the audience. 

Traditional Media vs. Social Media

Nothing is more powerful than a person-to-person connection. Giving someone a hug after a show is more valuable than responding to someone’s tweet. Fans want to look you in the eyes. It is very important that you never neglect that. This is the reason Amanda Palmer raised over 1 Million Dollars on Kickstarter. She was the master of the fan-artist communication. This was built through years of touring & personally meeting people, AS WELL as utilizing social media. It is important that you balance both of these tools. 

Drive

This is our job. We are on call 24 hours a day. When the band gets an email, it is our personal responsibility to read it and stay informed. We hold each other accountable. We are homeless for this band. We have sacrificed relationships, jobs, sleep and countless other opportunities in pursuit of our dream. Sacrifice and persistence are the key elements. Wanting to make it is not enough. We NEED to make it. 

Decisions

We don’t make any decisions without truly thinking them through. Every business-move the band makes is strategic and calculated. We aren’t afraid to take risks. And we always have at least a 3-month plan.  

The Team

Build your team based around trust and productivity. Anyone can talk the talk, but it’s the people that actually get shit done that you should keep around. And always compensate everyone for their work! Treat your employees well and they will exceed your expectations.

Goal

Our goal is to be true to our fans, our music and us. We strive to do as much as we can ourselves, to get expertise where we need it and to make some great music along the way and release it in the smartest way possible. 

Extra Pointers:

  • Practice your ass off. There is always room to improve and progress will only come through being self-critical.
  • Look for every opportunity you can find. 
  • If you make a promise to your fans, follow through. 
  • Stay Hungry.
  • Be smart about fundraising. Kickstarter, Pledgemusic, merch bundles, sales, preorders are key. 
  • Subscribe to Bob Lefsetz. Read Donald Passman’s “All You Need to Know About The Music Business”.
  • Carefully balance your use of social media tools (like YouTube) and traditional media/promotion tools. In person interaction is more valuable than online. 

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.