How To Establish Yourself In Music: Start Small, Dream Big

The idealized version of being a young band on the rise in America is becoming more and more of a myth with each passing day. The market for talent is more crowded than ever, and the number of venues looking to take a chance on a low-to-no level band just starting to cut their teeth in the business is at its lowest point in recent memory. Music has always been a buyer’s market, but these days you don’t even have to be an actual consumer to set the rules for engagement. There will always been an artist willing to play for less, and there will always be people willing to give away their music, but the number of artists and groups who actually establish themselves by doing everything for free is pretty low. Like, so low you probably can’t think of more than 10 artists you enjoy who made their career that way. A free release or two, sure, but somewhere along the line they had to start making a living through their art before a label or management company would pay attention. That’s just the way things work in the music business. You have to be, for better or worse, a business.

With all this in mind, it’s easy to understand how an artists starting out in 2015 or 2016 may be completely lost on how to establish themselves in the world of music. Anyone can upload a song online and anyone can email blogs with links to said content, but the likelihood of breaking through the vast array of wannabes and never-gonna-bes that exist today through strictly promoting online is again, very low. You have to follow the saying about rolling up your sleeves and doing, day I write it, actual work. You have to build your career one step at a time, just like the vast majority of musicians big and small who have ever existed throughout all recorded time. You have to start small and dream big, striving daily to make your reality more closely resemble the future you envision for yourself.

Claiming to know the right way to establish yourself is easy enough, especially when using vague words and tired motivational phrasing, but proving your knowledge is far more difficult. No one at Haulix has been in a band or musical project that ever made an impact on the world at large, but we do know a few people who have, so we’ve turned to them for additional insight. Joey Genovese, vocalist for Maine based pop punk group Friday Night Lites, was kind enough to write something for our readers on the topic of establishing yourself that we feel really puts into focus the elements of marketing that matter most. You can enjoy his thoughts below.

Theres a certain reality in becoming an established band. Where do you want to be established? Some establish themselves heavy in their hometown. Starting off strong as a cover group. Then trying their hand with originals. Unless you’re Our Last Night, doing both can be stressful and damn near impossible to succeed in. But if you start from the bottom, write your own material, and  keep a level, humble mind.  You can succeed. You don’t necessarily need to be “the next big thing.” Rather, focus on what you do know, as the future is just so flooded with unknown(s), in this industry. Who’s ears you may land on, and what may come of that. Fight for a chance in the spotlight. Love what you do and how you do it. If luck is on your side and the hard work pays off, then there’s a future in this. With luck you can “skyrocket” onto the scene. Making waves in a huge pond, isn’t easy. But, there’s a chance. There’s also the  "slow steady climb"  method. That may seem more of a reality for most.

With the ever so crowded & growing Internet and social media outlets being mobbed with bands that also want their chance. How do you stand out? Get original material that speaks to people. You have to stand out. My guitarist Matt and I have been writing music for almost a decade together. It’s work. We put in the hardest of work. You have to. We didn’t even have a band for a long time. But we kept creating. The Internet and social media is full of thousands and thousands of bands. Where does it end? It doesn’t. Kids are brilliant these days.

Gigs/promoters aren’t paying some “nobody” tons of money to be on their bill. So you have the classic “you have to spend money, to make money” business model knocking hard and loud on your door. Requiring you to travel down wherever and whenever, as much as you can, to bust your asses to impress the hell out of promoters and potential “authentic” new fans. This will cost you. But that’s where you decide, where’s your commitment? How much sacrifice do you have in you?

Being in a small band is HUGE! You have to start somewhere. With all the small bands out there, there’s gonna be some amazing acts breaking out into the scene. It’s important to get your local scene up and running and as much alive as you can. Hit the streets post up fliers go to local shows that I have bigger acts. And to talk to the local kids. A small band in your town could be the next BIG thing!

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.