Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Who Can You Trust?

Who Can You Trust
by Christopher Knab (copyright 2009) all rights reserved

I am what is known as a 'Music Business Consultant' and I was just talking with a former student of one of my Seattle-based music business courses I give several times a year. It is a 6 week course that meets once a week for 3 hours. It is a primer course created for musicians and bands who are new to the independent way of marketing and promoting themselves. I often use the analogy that I am the first stage of a potential 3-stage rocket, and my work and passion is to help new acts get 'launched' so to speak. And if they are fortunate through a lot of hard work, talent, and luck to begin to attract more and more fans to their growing email lists, then I feel I have done my job...pure and simple.

But not all consultants, teachers, or even potential managers have the same goals as I do.
Sadly there are a lot of music business professionals, (or former music business professionals) out there who do not share my goals or ethics, and can be very aggressive about promising young acts the world.

" Hey kid, I really think you got something there, and I really want to help you get to the top. For only $600 a month I can promise you that you will have my full attention, if you agree to let me help you and sign this simple contract with me, that will protect both of us."


" I have been to several of your gigs now, and you are, in my opinion, just a few steps away from stardom. I have so many connections in this business that I know I can really help you out.,,,sure there's going to be some costs involved, and I am willing to reduce my usual fee from $1000 a month to only $750 a month. Now you have to understand. I am going to be here for you and help you fight the good fight, but I have to make a living if I am going to be spending most of my time focused on your career. So check out my contract and don't worry about things...Your music is great, and I'm not just saying that, so whad'ya say...lets find a way to help each other out and get your career kick-started."

I have heard variations on the above examples for years.

So, what should you do? How can you tell if someone approaches you and overwhelms you with flattering comments?

1. Check their backgrounds out.
2. Who have they helped become a star? AND what do people who have worked with the person have to say about their experiences working with that individual?
3. What are their real intentions as a consultant, or manager? What is THEIR motivation to be working with new acts?

What I tell people is what I said above: I like to help inexperienced artists and bands learn that there is a business surrounding any popular music. That the music industry is business oriented, and these days start-up acts should take the time to learn some basics about the business of music. More than any time in the last 100 years, musicians and bands MUST learn how to promote, market, and sell themselves mainly to a focused or niche group of music fans that might enjoy their unique style of music.

Also, these days, it is all about making and keeping relationships going. I say that over and over. Many independent and alternative acts get this and are using the Internet and all the amazing tools available to them, but not enough new acts are doing this.

Another thing I want to point out... When I am asked by a musicians "What do you think of my music", I cringe when I hear that question. I turn it around and ask the act " Why do you care if I like your music, I am not your customer, or potential fan" Too many start-up bands and solo performers get disappointed when some current label guy or a veteran of the music business wars tells them that they don't get their music. WHO CARES IF WE DON"T LIKE IT!

The point is... too many young acts think 'old school'. What they should be doing is playing a ton of live shows wherever and whenever they can,,,,THEN they will find out if their music is "good" or not.
Your audience will tell you if you are good or lame, and they are the only ones that matter me on this. If you get a good response from an audience and your gigs attract more and more fans, guess what? .... Now you have something to build on. The same goes for any online
promotional activities you experiment with. Whether it be a growning number of hits on your website, or more downloads or ' listens' you get on social networking sites, Those are the responses that REALLY matter these days.

And that is how I like to work. This is just me, but getting a career started should begin with attracting a fanbase, and as you do so, a funny thing happens...breaks start to happen for you. Things begin to happen!

So how does this rant apply to me and my career as a music business consultant or how does this rant apply to finding a great teacher. There is an old saying:" When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive"

This is how I try to talk to my students and clients. I like to " pop their balloons" so to speak. Just talk straight with them about this crazy business and what their expectations are. If I can convey that in a consultation or a class I am teaching, I feel I have done my job to help them get that first stage of a career-rocket off and running.

You many think this posting has only been a long ad for my services. Believe me or not, but that is not the case. I just get fed up with too many jerks out there promising the moon to new acts.
These types of 'Flim-Flam' men and women are more into exploiting young acts rather than trying to nourish them. They speak with righteous gibberish about how they value their clients so much, they are like 'lost sheep' and the Flim Flammers are the act's shepard....

Yuck! gives me the chills just writing about these folks. I say this: carry a fully charged 'bullshit detector' on your person at all times!! That will pay off more than handing over $600 or $750 dollars a month to someone you don't even know.

This goes for checking me out as well, why should you trust me if you don't know what my philosopy is or what my intentions are?

Good luck and trust your gut. It rarely lets you down.

Chris Knab

1 comment:

  1. Hi
    I'm an indie musician from Jakarta, Indonesia, and thanks to Internet, I've accidentally found your great writing while browsing.
    It is very informative, and I can feel a lot of honesty in what you've written.
    and especially, this coming from the "industry" person, as admitedly, many musicians -including me, admitedly- have often thought too 'negatively' sometimes about these "label/industry" people trying to 'exploit' us too often (like you said).
    But your writing and your blog has made me changed my mind today, and convinced me that there are actually "good" industry/label people who really MEANT it when wanting a new band/musician/artist to succeed! (especially indie musician).
    thanks a lot!
    I'll be following your Blog from now on.
    Keep writing, as it would surely nourish & educate a lot of aspiring musicians to be able to keep creating, and sharing their unique & beautiful musical works to enhance the culture of our planet!

    Jakarta, Indonesia