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Will Too Much Growth Kill Your Band?

Growth consumes resources.
Whenever an opportunity arises, you have to make an honest assessment not just of the benefits, but of the costs to following through.

Although money is the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about affordability, that's not all we have to consider. Credibility, motivation, man-hours, and even sanity are all limiting factors to growing your band.

Even if you do have the funds and credibility to play a festival show on short notice, would your drummer have to cancel her first vacation in six years?

Burnout is a very real issue, especially for a DIY band that can't offload extra work to a management team. Pushing people beyond their burnout threshhold is dangerous. Push too much and you risk losing band members's effort or, even worse, band members. (Made this mistake.)

Remember how hard it was to find and audition new members of your band? There's a limited supply of musicians who would be a good fit for your band, so constantly churning through members is rarely in your best interest.

As you begin to grow your music career, more and more opportunites will begin to innundate you.

Not every opportunity is a good one; 50 fans in a 50 capacity room is better than 75 fans in a 150 capacity room.

Are you pursuing good growth or bad growth?


Credibility Dollars

Let's invent a currency.

We'll call it Credibility Dollars, CD$, and it represents the credibility of your taste and recommendations.

Each time you recommend something to someone, you're risking a little bit of your CD$.

It's an investment.

If they like your recommendation, people being to trust you. You get your investment of CD$ returned, plus some extra. Great success.
Lead friends to a crappy show, however, and you don't get any CD$ back and you've wasted that investment.

How selective are you when spending your credibility?

In the last month, have you gained or lost credibility?


You Don't Need More Gear

I've been critiquing lots of local releases as of late, and I'm noticing how much time is wasted chasing phantom progress. Some recent examples I've heard as of late:

"I'm not ready to start playing more shows. I don't have pro gear." 
"Once we get signed, we'll start building a fan base."
"We just need more exposure!"

Sitting down and creating is hard. With each artistic effort we face nebulous goals, irregular progress, hazy feedback, no deadlines, mercurial collaborators and an endless list of setbacks. We may get better, we might not. One of the awful realities of creative work is that it's possible to spend six hours writing and still get no useable ideas. It's easy to feel like you're held hostage waiting for a slim visit from the muse.

The only way through this resistance is hard work.

However, it's much easier to say that something else is holding you back. (If only I had a $1200 guitar, I'd really be able to shred!)

By laying blame elsewhere, we rationalize the fact that we're not doing work by saying "There's no point in doing the work, because _____ is preventing me from succeeding." Believing that your success is subject solely to forces outside of your control is a lot less stressful than facing fear of uncertainty. 

I'm not saying chance has no part, far from it. Luck very clearly factors into many, if not all, success stories. What I am saying, though, is while we have to deal with the hand we're dealt for variables such as luck and inborn talent, hard work is one of the variables related to success that we can actually influence. We have only so much mental energy we can expend per day before becoming less and less productive. As such, it's paramount that we focus our energy on what we can change instead of wasting precious effort complaining.

So what's your excuse?

Bonus points: Here's a great read on Internal vs. External Locus on Control i.e. whether you believe the outcome of events is more related to personal effort or external influence.


Killer DFW Bands: Playdough

I haven't been this blown away by a local group in at least a year.

Playdough, a local MC, joined forces with Heath McNease to spit over Wu-Tang beats.

Brilliant flows, exquisite production, and superb lyrics. It's hip-hop bliss.

(Full disclosure, I'm a sucker for the Wu-Tang Clan)


What IS Exposure?

"Getting your name out there."

Some are willing to give away their entire catalog for free in  hopes that the extra exposure will build loytalty and gain fans.

Other artists insist that every piece of music should be paid for and don't care about exposure.

What, exactly, is exposure worth?

My thoughts:

A) The exact value of exposure-for-exposure's sake is nebulous at best.
It's difficult, if not impossible, to calculate an exact value for each additional unit of exposure, so to speak. Much like advertising, the benefits are only visible over the long-term and are often difficult to directly quantify.
For example, how many additional fans would you expect to get for making an album available for streaming online for free? Would these additional fans buy enough of your music, merch, or shows to make this trade-off a net benefit for your band? This great post by Frank Woodworth does the math to estimate profit per stream, but attempting to discern the value of increased fans and their propensity to purchase is strictly guessing. 

As much as I'd like one straightforward answer, it seems justifying a decision based on the value of exposure is a subjective choice. In the case of streaming, I choose a blended approach. 

B) Some types of exposure are more valuable than others.

Hypebot: I understand you gotta get paid,
but both you and I know this ad you run isn't
worth anything to 99% of DIY artists.
Paying your own tour expenses in order to tour with an internationally popular band that fits your genre would (probably) be worth it. Paying to get your music tweeted about by a local music blog may be worth it. Paying to get your music available on a Chinese web store if you're a Tennesse-based funk band will not be worth it.

C) Opportunities that tout "exposure" as their primary selling point should be looked at skeptically.

Often, the word exposure is a red flag that a service or person is trying to take advantage of you. We've all had fantasies that if we get our music in front of the right A&R person / magical wizard, our entire musical career would be solved forever. Companies who base their value proposition on offering bands exposure are playing to this fantasy. 

In our early days, my own band bought into one of those compilation CD rackets where we had to pay $200 for a box of compliation CDs which one song of ours would be on. We were going to be taking baths in exposure-flavored champaigne!

After dropping the cash and getting the compliation, we quickly realized that the other tracks on CD were awful and didn't have any rhyme or reason as to why they were all included. It was a mess and we couldn't, in good conscience, charge people for that collection of debris. I'm pretty sure we ended up throwing the box out.

Our email inbox is so flooded with these kinds of "opportunities" you'd think we were one email and a thousand dollars away from a world tour. That exposure must be some pretty powerful stuff!
How do you feel about the concept of "exposure"? Does your band give away free music or not? Why do you make the choices you do?