Getting Stuck On The Local Level

Posted on September 3, 2010

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Have you ever seen artists with great career potential and aspirations, but they remain on the local level? If you find yourself stuck in the same old groove, here are some things to consider as to why some bands never break out of the hometown status.

To start with, many bands haven’t defined the goals they want to achieve. When a band gets together they often says things like We’re going to take over the world or I think we should tour the country.  Nicely considered in a statement, but realistic focus on actual potential and a step by step map of what to do first, second and so on will clearly make a difference. From the day a band decides the line-up and musical style is etched in stone, setting goals should be a priority.

It’s important to spend time after rehearsal, or outside of the band room to talk about each member’s individual goals too. An old band I knew recently got people together in an effort to create a resurgence of music that really never once was. In doing so, they took pictures with their five members, performed a launching show and just a month or two after – they fired the bass player with a text message. Poor taste in my eyes, but looking at the situation – each person in the band most likely had a different idea of what they wanted. They most likely didn’t communicate from the start.

Even if band’s do talk and discuss wants, some lack a focus on where the music should go. It’s great to have individual creativity, but reliving the high school glory days with 3 chord songs won’t get you out of the local scene. People want to hear things that resonate with a niche, if not the mainstream. Few bands can have a set that touches on more than one genre. Hard and heavy into poppy and choppy is just plain sloppy. The inconsistency will not get the recognition a band needs to capture airplay, club interest or a strong following. Be sure to spend time deciding on a focus with the music. Christian Death Metal is not a well-focused concept.

Some bands just linger on the local map due to poor work ethic. They ramp up for the next show, but don’t spend time outside of rehearsal practicing, writing, promoting or maintaining a fan base. They just book into a showcase and play to the other band’s fans. This kind of low energy work ethic is rampant in the industry and leaves a lot of bands without notice or mention in any forum. Wasting time waiting to be discovered is never, never, never going to happen. The days of a label executive walking into a club and discovering that one hook you wrote are long gone. No following, no press, no fan base? No Deal!

Listening to the successes of other people and digging into the dirt of how they actually did it can help too. Listening to effective managers, reading articles what offer advice, talking to other successful people – all this will help you focus your direction. Beating the same drum is a great way to stay local. If you haven’t tried something new – it’s a great time to do it.

I’ve also mentioned in previous articles, including the one on attracting a promoter – having a following is essential to getting to the next level. You need to do everything you can to build and maintain a good fan base and following. The bands that don’t do it well don’t do much else than play locally. How are your networking skills? Do everything you can to kick them up a notch – then another notch, then another. As my dear friend Drew Carey (Writer of the Hair Up There) always says – EVER FORWARD! This is so true I don’t know why he hasn’t tattooed it on his arm. Thanks Drew!

Another thing people do too often is settling. They settle on the piss-poor recording being circulated, the low quality pictures they use on-line and they settle for being number two when they could be number one. If something looks like it would be better with a little more effort – a lot of people decide it’s just fine the way it is. This is a sure fire way to fail. Guaranteed!

Okay, here’s one you see a lot. Hanging on to ineffective band members is like tying a boat anchor to your ankle. You need to remember that you re only as good as your weakest component and keeping someone around who can’t carry the weight is going to slow you down. Get up the nerve to sit and talk to that person and explain the situation. Give them a chance to pick up the pace and then if they can’t, at least it was discussed rationally before hand and they didn’t get a slap in the face later.

Another element that keeps bands local has to do with family, wives and husbands who don’t get on board and obligations to children. These blessings in life will surely hinder your growth potential in the music industry. If you plan on making it to the top – plan on either taking it all with you, or leaving it behind. You can’t have both when you are starting out.

Now, drum roll please – one of the biggest reasons why bands will always be local! Lack of radio friendly material and dated musical style. Playing the same old music that made the local scene 25 years ago is only, at best, going to play the local scene again. When you aspire to be as great as you never once were, chances are – you will only be that great again. If you wrote poor music in your teens and never got out of the basement and now decide it’s time to relive the failure of your past – you are guaranteed to learn that history will repeat itself.  Learn your instrument and learn new material. Catch up with the times and give the music scene something new and exciting. The end results without it include a band doomed to local success, and only local success at best.

My friends, I don’t pull punches. The professional music industry is hard and people who just dabble in music shouldn’t consider it to be a career move. It’s filled with every conceivable hindrance to drive down your potential and dancing around the issues is a complete waste of your time.  Strip back your misconceptions of artificial fame and lean into what is necessary to succeed and you will have a better chance of achieving your dreams. If not, you will look back over decades of repeated failures and wonder what you could have done to make it different. Don’t be that person. Determine your goals, talk to your loved ones, work with your band mates on united issues and push on – EVER FORWARD! You can get there; it’s just going to take time.

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