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I just returned from a great week in France, where Sonicbids hosted the Music & Brands part of MIDEM. During the week I was asked to lead some artist mentoring and expert sessions for MidemNet, which I was happy to do. Basically, I spoke with artists or entrepreneurs during 15 minute conversations or roundtables. In most of these sessions, I found myself continuing to give the same advice, and it all centres around focus.

In the entrepreneurial world, we talk about focus a lot. The general advice to a startup is to focus a single core problem/solution and really nail that one before building a big set of features. Since most startups have extremely limited resources (little money, small team), this is important, because trying to build a ton of features right away most likely reduces the quality of the whole set. I even talked about this in a previous post for this blog.

So that’s the advice I always give to entrepreneurs, but it applies very closely to artists as well. Whether an artist is trying to find a manager, get on the radio, book more gigs, or even build a presence different country, the ability to focus will make an enormous difference.

If you’re a folk artist and want to start playing in new cities, you might think to pick the most populated cities and call the popular clubs. But what if those aren’t the types of places folk fans hang out? It would be a lot more valuable to do your research and find the cities and venues that bands like you play. Maybe a small suburb outside of San Francisco has a thriving folk scene, where the city itself doesn’t. And maybe the there’s a tiny coffee house that only fits 40 people that are crazy about folk music. You might be surprised to find out that although it doesn’t have the capacity of the 1000 person club in the big city, those 40 people are hoping to be exposed to music like yours, and probably will be more valuable fans in the long run.

The same goes with radio. Don’t just send your songs to the most listened-to radio stations. Do the research and learn who would be most interested in your music. Then reach out to them and explain that you’ve found that people who love [similar-artist], which the station plays, tend to enjoy your music. Chances are, if you sound like an artist their listeners like, they’ll give your music a shot.

Here’s the thing: music venues and radio stations are in the business to make money. Most will book/play whatever it takes to get people through the door or to turn on their station. If you can make a logical argument that your stuff will appeal to their customers, they are a million times more likely to book/play you, at least once.

We see this at Sonicbids all the time. Bands that come on and just submit to everything without understanding what the promoters are looking for rarely see success. But the bands that carefully pick the gigs that fit their genre, following, etc… see a ton of success.

So do your research and find the right targets. It’ll go a long way.

Brenden Mulligan is a technology entrepreneur from San Francisco who founded ArtistData, which was acquired by Sonicbids in May 2010. Follow him on Twitter: @bmull


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