Advice: The Advantages To Focusing On Music Over Image

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the first of what will be eventually two new Advice columns this week. We are always on the lookout for new ways artists have found to navigate the industry, and whenever possible we do our best to have them share their journey in their owns words. If you know of an artist or group currently doing something unique in music, please contact james@haulix.com and share their story. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

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If your band is a business and your music is the product your efforts produce, then all the artwork, photos, and merchandise you create to promote that product falls under the category of packaging. The problem many bands face today is that they become far too obsessed with the packaging aspect of things to focus on the quality of their product. The results of these misguided efforts, unfortunately, is that many of these artists must learn the hard that no one buys a well packaged product twice if its contents are underwhelming.

Your image is only as good as the music behind it, and that is exactly why you need to put your music before everything else in your career. You need to create the best product you possibly can, and only after you feel that is accomplished should you set your sights on finding the best way to share that product with the world. The instant gratification that comes with earning new followers from witty messaging and eye-catching imagery via social networking can only build and sustain your transparent ‘buzz’ for a small amount of time, but a well-written song can live on forever. Music hooks people in a way basic marketing tricks never will because it forges an emotional connection that goes deeper than surface level interest, and it’s in forging those connections with listeners that lasting, sustainable careers in music emerge.

Recently, our friends at The Catalyst Publicity Group turned us on to a rising alternative rock band known as REACTIONS. For more than a year after inception the members never showed their face, choosing instead to focus on building awareness online with the strength of their music. When the time did come to tour, they were met in cities across the country by lines of music fans ready to support people they had never met or even seen, and that trend continues today. People follow REACTIONS because they have a quality product, and that product is catchy rock music that keeps you coming back for more. They don’t need a trendy look or obnoxious artwork to sell people on their band because the music does the work for them, and in the paragraphs below you will learn from the members themselves how it all came together.

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The title of “musician” has taken on more and more responsibility in recent years. Due to a rough economy and tanking industry, those who seek a career in being an artist have to face many challenges. From starting out being your own manager and booking agent,to being the face and voice of a brand. It seems like these days, musicians cling to what “works”

Unfortunately, with any sort of entertainment career, trends and gimmicks are inevitable. These can sidetrack and derail from the true nature of being an artist: create, perform and inspire. 

Reactions has been a band for a few years and through our journey we have had our fair share of drawbacks. Just like many bands, we have been suckered into trying things and persuaded to change. Although we have gone through our fair share of setbacks since forming, recently we have taken a step back and reevaluated what we want. On our upcoming self titled EP, we have tried to focus more on the music and what we want, rather than fit a trend or a look inside the music scene.

In 2011, when first starting REACTIONS, we decided to have a band mission statement. This statement was simple, “REACTIONS is about the music, not the image”. We were determined to start a band strictly about the music. We launched a “faceless” campaign within REACTIONS, never showing our faces online and changing our online names. From 2011 to 2012, we did not play any shows and remained “faceless”, focusing on our online presence. After reaching thousands of people online and launching what we called “The Rebellion”, we decided to start touring. The response to our first tour was incredible.

 As we played in cities we had never even been to before, kids were coming out to see us with lines down the street. As we continued, it became evident that we had a connection with our fans. We connected with our music, as well as on a personal level. We were reaching kids that were the “outcasts” and the kids who didn’t fit in. When we were driving home from our last date, we decided as a band, we needed to become role models for our fans. We wanted to show them that it was okay to be yourself and you don’t need to “fit in”. That is when we decided to release what we looked like and stand up with them, by their sides. 

The “faceless” campaign helped us connect with a lot of fans, online and on tour. Although, ir also helped REACTIONS grow and become better musicians and people. We realized that we need to be true to ourselves. Play the music we want to play and never try to fit the trend or latest fashion. The REACTIONS EP is the most honest music we have put out as a band. We wrote and worked on songs for over a year, perfecting each song until we were completely happy with them. We believe that being true to yourself and not “looking like that band” or “playing shows like this band” will help you become more successful as a musician and person. 

In the recent years, we have seen the music scene go from bad to worse. It seems that fans are so hung up on the looks of band members and artist crushes, they don’t even listen to the music. REACTIONS main goal is to bring the fans closer to the music. We want them to connect with the music. At the end of the day, the music is the only thing that matters. Everything else is extra. 

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.