​Progressing, Taking to the Next Level

If you look back and read some of our previous posts, we mention how it’s so important to determine your goal. While this is the first step, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what the next step is, the one after that, and so on.

The path varies immensely from artist to artist, but it should always be one that is growing and expanding, rather than staying stagnant or falling behind.

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After you’ve been writing, playing shows, releasing your music, touring a bit, building online and building a fanbase, it is also super important to stop at times to asses which goals you’ve met and the progress that’s been made. This will help you figure out the next step. Just because you made one main goal, doesn’t mean you can’t consistently make new ones! And doing so will only help you achieve more of them.

One of the most challenging things for artists or bands is to stop and see things from an outside perspective. To be able to observe yourself and your product constructively is a very valuable skill. This needs to be done in order to make changes and to asses what’s working and what’s not. It’s also important to asses that everyone (if in a band) is on the same page with goals - that way the band can move forward as a unit.

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If you begin to realize certain songs aren’t going over with your crowds, you’re not seeing any growth online or you feel a lack in enthusiasm from your band mates, maybe it’s time to look at what needs to change for everyone to feel re-inspired again. Some bands change their look with each album cycle, some change genres even, and some just change their haircuts - either way it’s about establishing something new and fresh that keeps yourself and others interested.

Sometimes putting yourself in front of different crowds can re-inspire you or take your music to the next level. Try playing a venue that is out of your comfort zone, put together a new type of live show or relating more to your audience between songs. Utilize technology and go “live” on a social platform and get feedback on new songs. Take a look at social media numbers & seeing who and what fans are actually coming to shows, returning and engaging with you. Also, maybe asses whether or not you’re taking enough risks - send out some music to some industry folks (Management, booking agents, labels etc.) if that’s a direction you want to go in. Whatever it is - in order to keep growing and achieving your goals, you are going to need to push your comfort zone and challenge yourself!

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Tips:

⁃Try writing a song about something entirely new, or on an instrument you’re not familiar with to get new sounds.

-Try writing one song a week if you really want to up your writing skills.

⁃Don’t stray away from taking a moment to look at things and assess where you’re at - it may be hard in the moment, but in the long run you’ll be glad you did.

⁃If you feel a lull or a feeling of boredom, it may be because it’s time for the next challenge and it’s time to change things up a bit. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new sounds or collaborate with other people. It could actually help push you along further than you’d imagine.

⁃Take polls - ask your audience their thoughts on their favorite songs or shows of yours, see what resonates and why they connect with what they do - then focus more on those aspects of your music and brand.

⁃Writing down your visions helps make them a reality.

⁃Reach out to some dream venues of yours or a favorite touring act that’s coming to town that you want to open for - pitch to the booker why you should open and see what happens.

⁃Make sure your online content is strong and engaging, and that you demonstrate a positive outlook and vibe with your posts, it will bring more positivity.

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Press Photos

Press photos are a must when establishing your band online and elsewhere. We live in such a visual day and age, and they matter now more than ever. Press photos give your audience an idea about your music. They should excite listeners about hearing your songs and should represent you and your sound as closely as they can.

Last week we talked about image - this image that you’ve created for yourself will carry over into your social media and all marketing (online & off), which often includes press photos. No matter what level you’re at, blogs, podcasts, radio, contests, labels, PR, social media sites, and venues will use your photos for promotion and a whole lot more! Even pitching your band for particular things will often require one. Your fans will recognize you by these photos as well.

So where do you begin? First, think - what do you want to come across through your look? Intensity? Chaos? Peacefulness? Friendliness? Frustration? Openness? Color? Clean cut? Distress? Glamour? Beauty? Seduction? What is your music about? Be the visual for your sound so people don’t get confused! Make it clear and cohesive. This visual will last and evolve as you do - whether it is a live shot by a professional photographer or a photoshoot somewhere. Be mindful of the whole frame - what is the background? What is the vibe? Does it match your music? Try to get creative & think beyond cliche (think more than railroad tracks, brick walls, etc. - expand!) Be inspired but also original and be sure to capture your true essence. If it’s not right the first time… Do it again!

You will want various shots to choose from and fresh ones to use to keep your audience engaged (they will be used for different content: social media to post over time or online marketing/building, cd covers & merch items, fliers, posters, various press and profile pictures). Use shots that are relevant to you now. Your images and press materials should be cohesive and relevant with your current album cycle.

Photo Tips:

- look at your favorite bands or artists in CDs, Magazines & Books. What makes their image connect with you and why do you connect with their music immediately? Look at everything! (background, wardrobe, stance, angle, emotion, etc.)

- look at the most successful bands & artists (regardless of if they’re a favorite of yours or not). How does their image correlate with their music?

- Look at Art, Fashion, History & beyond music.

Example: The Beatles, Adam Ant, and Freddie Mercury have all worn military jackets - that image is so implanted in our minds that when some of us see that jacket elsewhere we may think of them.

Other examples: Think about some classic 70’s harder-edged bands. Their music was slightly darker but still accessible - most of the successful ones wore mostly black and were even influenced by historical things or religious symbols. (Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin) or even think of 90’s/2000’s contemporary Marilyn Manson. He mixed his image with these aspects and make up - similarly to 60’s/70’s artist Alice Cooper. Both Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson could’ve been influenced by flamboyant women wearing make up in the 1600’s, as well as classic clown make up.

- If you’re inspired by other artists, be inspired but also try to do something that’s not exactly the same and expand on the idea! Meaning, bring something else in visually because people want to connect with you! They already have that other artist :)

New bands:

Consider doing shoots where you make direct eye contact with the camera since people are just getting to know you! Consider waiting on the sunglasses unless it’s your thing/part of your image. People can connect a great deal by looking into your eyes. That’s where a lot of the emotion is!

Side note: If you’re going to use a live shot that someone took - always be sure to credit them. They are artists just like you! This goes for when using a shot someone else took for your social media posts, magazine write-ups, newspaper articles, posters, etc. Communicate with the photographer about their rate for non-watermark photos if you need something without a watermark to use online.

Lastly, don’t settle for a lousy photo just to have one up! A lot of times aspiring photographers need subjects to shoot - and a lot of times it’s for free or for a low cost. There is no excuse to having lousy photos! You can even set up your own camera on a tripod, find a location, and take a press shot. You are worth it. If you want people to take the time to experience your work - take the time so you can give them something great. Create something beautiful, powerful, inspirational, and something that will last the test of time! Why wouldn’t you?

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Intro to Imaging (on stage & off)

In this day and age of music, things are constantly evolving and moving fast. It’s happening so quick that it can be hard to catch up with social media sites and all the new music avenues constantly popping up. It can be overwhelming to some artists, especially for those who are just comfortable being songwriters that would rather perform than brand and market themselves. Either way you can’t afford to just get up on stage and play your song. You have to give people an experience—you can’t afford to be shy about your music or your message - you have to get it out there and stick out of the crowd!

Artists today have to create their own path and have a very clear vision. One must re-invent themselves constantly in order to keep up. As hard and as challenging as the world of music can seem, it can also be looked at positively to those who adapt and move with it like a chameleon. It’s an opportunity to make your own career whatever direction you want and find your own nitch. 

Your perspective is important. It is helpful for one to look at his or her art as a “brand.” Although things are not how they were in the 60’s, 90’s, or even ten years ago, one thing has stayed the same: people still go to live shows. Live music will never go away! With the pressure of these new times, artists and bands should be creative because they have to be more than just a band or artist playing their instruments. Be conscious of how you’re presenting yourself on stage, off stage and online. Pictures, content and activity are important as they help with momentum. Keep the engagement with your crowd and audience as it is a necessity!

When it comes time to play live, make sure that your band looks like a band! Be yourself, but put some extra time and care into how you present yourself. Audiences want to connect with you so please show you care. If you’re performing later on in the night you want to make sure that the crowd sticks around to see you.

When it comes time to do photo shoots or posts, keep your goals in mind. Think about the moment someone hears your song… what might they envision you to look like? If they see you at a club at your merch table before your show, what might they imagine your music to sound like?

Live Show Tips

- Put thought into what you’re wearing and have fun with it! Don’t just wear your everyday clothes. Set yourself apart.

- Make eye contact and open up in an authentic way (this may take time).

- Acknowledge the audience, say hello! You don’t have to do it after every song but at least twice during your set - let them know that you see them.

Press Photos / Video Tips

- No matter what genre, in photoshoots try to do at least one photo where you make direct eye contact.

- Make sure the camera you are using takes good, clear photos! No one wants to see a blurry press shot!

- If you’re a new artist or band make sure you’re featured or present in the content so people can connect. Of course there’s exceptions... if you wear masks or if it’s an animation, etc.

- If you come up with a particular way you or your bandmates dress that is signature to you and your music, you may want make sure it’s always carried over to your videos & photos.

In conclusion: By putting care into how you present yourself and by wearing your art just as much as you sing it, people will want to stick around and experience it. When your music and your look go hand in hand it is easy for an audience to instantly connect with you. Think about the artists you’re inspired by… how do they look and present themselves? How does their sound match their look? Be yourself, be clear and simple, and the right people will resonate with you!

(photo credit: Concretegrey & Carissa Johnson)     

(photo credit: Concretegrey & Carissa Johnson)