Here's a great post from Andy Othling (Lowercase Noises) about expectations and realities of music:
Besides the obvious reason that you’ll have the opportunity to try beers from 50 different breweries in a single afternoon, I have 3 reasons why you should attend Hopfest in Albuquerque on Oct. 26th.
It’s well organized. If you’ve ever been to a festival (wine, beer, cheese, etc.), you know that the ticket lines can get out of control, or the lines to try the vendors’ wares can stretch for what seems like miles. Hopfest has been well organized the last 3 years that I have played, and I don’t hear the normal complaints from patrons that lines are too long or that certain places are overcrowded. You exchange your ticket at the beginning of the line, get your tasting glass, and go.
The bands each have stages that separate and isolate sound. When you like a band, you want to hear that band play. Unless you have an unprecedented capacity to multi-task, you don’t want to hear other bands at the same time you’re listening to a band you like. Hopfest separates each of the stages by putting them in two separate large ballrooms, and they have an outdoor stage. The good news is, if you want to hear one band play while you’re enjoying a tasty beverage, nothing besides your overly outgoing friend who talks too loud will get in the way of your listening pleasure.
You can stay at the hotel. I’m not ignorant – when people are trying beers from 50 different breweries, there can certainly be a tendency to over-imbibe. While I (and Hopfest, I’m sure) encourage responsible tasting, if individuals find out that their responsible tasting limit is lower than they originally thought, they can stay at the Isleta resort and not endanger themselves or other people by trying to drive home. Or, if you’re just one of those people who get tired after you’ve had some beer, you can just go up to your room and rest after you’ve done your tasting.
Hopfest is a blast. If you’re in or around the Albuquerque area, drop by and say hey – I’m be playing on the outdoor stage at 4pm!
Here's a message I received a couple of weeks ago - it's great to have support like this.
"Driving in the car yesterday with my teenager and we hear a commercial on the radio and immediately look at each other because we know it's your song..... We turn it up to try to find out what it's for.... It was Sandia Casino advertising your show this weekend. My daughters response still makes me smile "Mom, he's popular now! He's come a long way from that time we saw him playing at the small coffee shop in El Paso." Following your journey from when I first saw you open for Ryan Holley in Amarillo, TX in 2005 through today always brings a smile to my face.... I just had to drop you a small note to thank you for your beautiful music and let you know you have a loyal following. And Yes, both my daughter and I have a "Matt Jones" station on Pandora. Thank you!!!"
Onward and upward guys - thank you to everyone who has come alongside me on the way.
The tools are available to everyone. Worldwide distribution, digital recording capability, social media accounts to stay connected with fans…these all level the playing field as far as musicians who are trying to record, release, and distribute their music. So, why isn’t every musician successfully living the dream of being a full-time musician and having their music support them?
Creativity. While the tools have made it easier than ever for musicians to succeed, it has also made it easier than ever for musicians to be lazy. You no longer have to work for a record deal to make a recording; you just make it at home. You no longer have to hunt for a distribution deal, you’ve got worldwide distribution available (in any format), available just a click away. It is possible now for any artist to put the least amount of effort ever into writing, recording, and releasing a record, and that’s the part that can make us lazy. There’s no producer breathing down our neck to say, “You can play that part better” or “That phrasing on that line you sung was weak – do it again,” we just do it until we feel like we don’t want to anymore. There’s no engineer telling us that the EQ in our mix is unbalanced or that a bass track is over compressed. There’s no accounting department telling you that ordering 5000 vinyl records may not be the best investment for you; and there’s no marketing department telling you that your best market is in digital sales in the UK, not in Canada with vinyl.
I realize that some artists still work with record labels and some of those resources are still available to them, but for the majority of artists, you’re doing all those roles on your own. As daunting as that sounds, there is a huge creative opportunity there. What are you doing to create music that is unique and appealing? How are you practicing to make sure that you are mastering your instrument instead of just keeping the status quo? Who amongst your other musician friends are you running your lyrics/guitar tones/melodic choices/percussion sounds by? When do you set aside time to be inspired by other music/art/nature/beauty/faith/friendships/love? How do you search for opportunities to reach your fans above and beyond what other artists are currently doing?
All of these are huge opportunities to be creative. They all require time and hard work to do. The artists who leverage their creativity are the ones that we listen to each day because they’ve created something that no one else has. Let’s be those artists.
I got married almost six months ago to the day. Besides the absolute beauty and wonder of the wedding and the following months of marriage, there’s been an incredible amount of introspection and change that’s taken place in me (which, to an extent I was expecting, I just wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to unfold). It’s been an incredible journey thus far, and I can’t wait for the rest of it.
Of course, to say that life is compartmentalized and love doesn’t affect work, that work doesn’t affect hobbies, and that hobbies don’t affect love (and we could continue with examples), would be shortsighted and naïve. The last few months have given me an unexpected opportunity to reflect on where my music career has been, and where it’s going. Just as two people in a marriage will change over time and the dynamic of a marriage will look different, so will artistic visions and the environments that house those visions.
Just to make sure I don’t get too esoteric with this topic; I'm going to go through some takeaways that I had about the state of the music industry and the state of my own artistry. I will list them in a series of posts, over the next few weeks. The first, for me at least, is that national touring should probably wait...
National Touring Should Probably Wait – I spent the greater part of the last 7 years trying to play a live show in every corner of the United States. While I can look back on this as one of the most enjoyable times of my life, it made little sense in the way of developing a real listener base. I would do a two week tour in the Pacific Northwest through the major cities and a few of the smaller ones, and I wouldn't make it back up there for at least another year because I was trying to book shows throughout the rest of the country for the next 9 months. So I was essentially living on the road, and I was always trying to promote for my next tour of shows while I was on a tour already.
This remained difficult even when I had a booking agent that took over a large part of the booking process, because most of the new cities where I played, I was a completely unknown artist. As an unknown artist, I had no radio exposure, and no nationally syndicated press clippings, and my agent was not booking shows that were part of a bill with other bands/artists in the region, so very few people knew that I was playing in their city even if they would have liked to come to the show. I was limited to playing for the people who just happened to be in the venue during the time when I was playing.
Even social networking promotional value had declined greatly since I first started touring back in 2005. In the time of Myspace (remember that weird thing?), artists could contact unreached fans directly and invite them to concerts. It wasn't unusual at that time to show up to play a concert in a city where I had never played before and have a solid 50 fans come out. But with Facebook and Twitter being the primary social networks that have gained prominence, artists have little opportunity to contact unreached fans in a new city where they are playing because both networks don't feature that same kind of personal interaction with unreached fans.
So – where have all these observations led? 3 ideas:
- Play concerts in cities that are easy to come back to. This one seems like a no brainer, but it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of traveling and playing every show that’s offered to you. If you play consistently in a city, and know that you can come back soon, you will almost inevitably build relationships with the fans in that city. As those relationships grow, they can lead to introductions to friends of those fans, places to stay in the city, introductions to other venues in the city, and the list of benefits goes on. I plan to play shows regionally throughout the major cities in the Southwest until they grow to the same size crowd I can draw in hometown.
- Go for quality over quantity. People like to be blown away. If they attend a concert by an artist a handful of time times, and each time they walk away with the response, “That was alright,” more than likely, they’re not going to be long-term fans. My planning for concerts has changed drastically, because rather than trying to hit people with as many shows as possible, I try to hit them with the best show possible. That’s not to say that if you have a quality concert prepared that you can’t play somewhere 3 or 4 times in a year, just make sure that each time the focus is the best effort you can put forward, and not a phoned-in, obligatory gig.
- Use finances wisely. Most independent artists have a limited amount of money. Actually, most artists on a label have a limited amount of money too. If an artist is going to spend thousands of dollars on a two-month long tour across America, he/she probably better make sure it’s going to provide some sort of return on the investment; either on growing a fan base, or providing new opportunities to play, or generating ticket and merchandise sales, etc. The easiest way to use your finances wisely is to ask the question, “If I’m going to spend money on this, what is the real benefit to my music career as a result?” Though it’s glorious to state that you’re going on a nationwide tour, it’s not that glorious to say that your van got repossessed two months after that tour was over because you’re broke.
Obviously, there’s much more to be said, but those were my big three takeaways from touring. Thanks for reading, and tune in next time for A New Beginning Part II.