“Be the flame that attracts the moth, not the moth that chases the flame.” – Giacomo Casanova
Its only right that I begin this post with such a profound quote. Sadly, I used to be one of those moths. Blind, confused, and eager to share my talents. I like so many others, allowed myself to be taken advantage of by sleazy venue promoters and booking agents. When I was 19 years old, one so called major “producer” actually tried to get me to co-sign a luxury car for him just based on the fact that I had a squeaky clean credit score. I think I may have to write a whole other post on that one!
Finally one day, it all clicked. I don’t chase women, so why am I chasing the industry? I realized that I have enough talent. All I need to do is build a movement, and people will catch on organically. With social media and the internet becoming such a prevalent instrument, I decided to stop chasing and start attracting. So here’s how I got booked for my first international show without trying.
I INVESTED A LOT OF TIME INTO ARTIST DEVELOPMENT
Let’s face it – everyone’s “talented” these days. Almost every person you meet (especially in New York) does something related to music. They’ll hit you with “Oh you sing? Yeah, yeah, I sing too” Or my favorite, “Oh you sing? I rap and shit. We gotta work fam!” Haha okay enough of that, but you get the point. The reality behind all of that chatter and noise is that most of the aspiring artists, rappers, and producers you meet are amateurs. They are so eager to get out into the world and chase their dream, but they didn’t invest enough time and effort in developing their craft. You must have a rock solid foundation before you can build a house…
Many people do not know how far I’ve come. I used to suck. Well, maybe not suck, but surely not as polished as I am now. I promise you, I didn’t just step into the studio one day and start recording full records. I also promise you, that I definitely didn’t just pick up a guitar one day and start ripping solos. As we all know, labels used to have an artist development budget. That is super laughable to think of now in 2015. You have to invest and develop yourself.
On the singing tip, I’ve invested thousands of hours (and dollars probably) of my own money and time into professional vocal training. Fortunately, I was able to learn from one of the greats, a legend in the game, Craig Derry. On the guitar tip, I’ve never had one lesson. That was all passion and drive. When I was a kid growing up, my boys on the block would be playing football and stick ball in the streets. Guess what I was doing? I was in my room teaching myself how to play the “Eruption” guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen.
VISUAL BRANDING – CREATED AN OFFICIAL WEBSITE
This is the easiest way for a booking agent to know you’re the real-deal legit. Mine, in the example shown above, is nothing really too extravagant. It’s simple, slick, effective, and communicates my musical style within the design elements. Websites are very affordable and easy to create in today’s advanced technical world. There’s really no excuse if you don’t have your own website in 2015. The reason why so many artists fail to have their own official site is either because they are flat out lazy, or because they don’t have any valuable assets to put on their website to begin with. For me to create my site, I had to do a lot of work first.
- Get a professional bio written
- Take a professional photo shoot
- Create a full EP
- Shoot music videos
- Find a designer to create a logo and visual branding elements
So let’s get back to the amateurs for a minute. Aside from their music being bad, there’s a dozen other things that are bad too. Bad visual branding, no personal website, inconsistency across social media profiles, low quality videos, non-existent online following, no e-mail marketing, etc. Being on point with all of these digital assets are what sets you apart from mediocrity. Before I started blasting my music out, I made sure that I had all of these assets ready to go.
Just think of it from a booking agent’s perspective. There needs to be a central online hub where a regular person can go to learn everything about you and your artistry. It has to be highly professional and modern. You’re competing with hundreds of thousands of other artists out there. Don’t expect to get booked for anything if you’re using your personal Facebook page as your primary method of displaying your art to the world.
SOCIAL MEDIA – INSTAGRAM
Let’s just be real right now – numbers matter. Booking agents and venue managers want to see that you have a movement. They’re gonna check your following. That’s not the only thing that matters though. They also want to see that you’ve been on your grind. They’re gonna meticulously scroll through your photos and videos. They want to see activity – things like posts of your recent performances, music videos, studio sessions, covers, interviews, press mentions, etc. You can have a few off posts here and there, and by that I mean things that aren’t directly related to your music. One of my favorite things to do is post pics of cool locations that I’m visiting, or a family pic every now and again. The trick is to be consistent, yet without being too overtly promotional. And don’t forget to engage back with your supporters!
YOUTUBE: INVESTED IN HIGH QUALITY VIDEOS
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s often a big fat goose egg for a lot of artists. The reason why YouTube is difficult to utilize is because you can’t just throw random 15 second video clips up there. It doesn’t work like Vine or Instagram. You actually have to put a lot of effort, time, money, and work into a high quality video production. Booking agents are likely to check out your YouTube to see what kind of action you have going on. Please don’t have an iPhone video of you singing in your bathroom as the featured video.
Also, notice my YouTube banner. I just released a new project, “Acoustix,” so my YouTube banner reflects the album artwork. YouTube channel branding is an important aspect that often gets overlooked or lost.
For YouTube, timeliness is also super important. For example, I released my Ed Sheeran “Thinking Out Loud” remix way after the original song came out. By the time I put out my video, all the organic search freshness was lost because too many other high authority YouTube channels with more views and more subscribers already put their covers out before me.
PROMOTION THE SMART WAY: UTILIZING BLOGS
If you’re going to take away anything from this article, this is it right here. Please don’t be one of those “check me out” spammers on Facebook and Twitter. Nobody cares.
Imagine if Starbucks came out tomorrow for the first time and started blasting “Drink Our Coffee” on their social media. Besides mentioning that it’s $4.00 for their smallest size latte, who in their right mind would care to go and drink their coffee just based off of that? Music is no different. You have to present a story first. Get to know people and build relationships! Then and only then, will they MAYBE start to care about you.
Through genuine and professional interactions in person and email, I’ve built a great relationship with a lot of press & media. With YouKnowIGotSoul being one of the best relationships I’ve made, their mentions and features of me on their site and social media has boosted me into the limelight far beyond anything I could have ever done with my own social platforms. Suddenly, I’m beginning to feel like that flame I mentioned earlier…
I BECAME THE FLAME
I’m not a multi-platinum artist by any means, but I’ve made it to the point where I don’t go looking for that many opportunities anymore. I’ve built up a credible reputation, and payed a lot of dues. Opportunities just seem to be falling into my lap somehow. One day, I get an email from a booking coordinator that I’ve never met or heard of. Here’s what the email to me looked like:
Not gonna lie, I thought this was a scam at first. I’m the ultimate skeptic, and someone offering to pay me to go to Canada and perform is not something that happens everyday. I ended up doing my due diligence, and it all checked out. These guys were legit. It ended up being an amazing experience and I’m really glad it happened. It was super refreshing to receive so much LOVE from an international crowd. I guess I’m just so used to the grump and bitterness of New York, but this was the first time ever that I performed and not one person from the audience approached me with “Let’s Work.”
Special word of advice: Learn some of the native language wherever you’re performing at! Being that Canada is largely French speaking, I practiced a few phrases in French so I can speak to the non-English portion of the audience, and it payed off. They really appreciated the fact that I was cultured and respectful enough to attempt a few sentences in French.
My heart still pounds against my chest cavity like a drum whenever I walk onto that stage. It still feels like I’m about to make love to a woman for the first time. It’s an intimate moment – Just me, my guitar, the mic, and the audience. My hands are creating real vibrations through the guitar strings which are electrically amplified into the stands. There’s nothing like it. I’m blessed that I don’t need a full band, background singers, audio tracks, or a huge production to do my thing. All I did to prepare for this show was grab my passport, pack some clothes, throw my guitar over my shoulder and hit the road.