August 17, 2011 by DJ Elroy
The New Rules for all aspiring artists. These are a few general things everybody would be wise to follow, but I’ve expanded on them a bit to fit our underground scene. Some are more relevenant than others, but all are important.
1. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you make.
“You build your own audience. There’s an established niche for every genre. Don’t worry about playing to everybody, just play to somebody.”
Some music will be aimed at mainstream crowds and the commercial market, but most will be targeted at the underground scene. In theUS, anyway. Know what you want to do, what you want to sound like, then do it.
2. You’ve got to be good.
“This is about practice. We’re in a music era, not a marketing era. Ignore those who
tweet and Facebook their goings-on instead of focusing on the music.”
DJs are a dime a dozen nowadays, and producers aren’t far behind. But you need something that sets you apart. “Good” isn’t good enough anymore. You need to be great! You can’t go into the club expecting to win them over by mixing two records. Not anymore. You need to have something they can’t get from anyone else.
And it takes practice. I’ve seen a lot of new artists hunting for gigs before they’re ready. Don’t waste your time in the field until you’ve spent the time in the bedroom. Save yourselves (and us!) from a bad show.
3. Learn how to use Pro Tools/Logic.
This applies differently from the rock and commercial music scene, but it’s pretty much a given for electronic dance music. Learn to use studio software, not only for making your own originals, but to clean up your own promo mixes. Make your projects professional and presentable.
4. Fans are your best friends.
“This is the essence of pay to play. Instead of bitching that the club owner won’t
let you play unless you bring fans, bring those fans and generate so much cash that
the booker will be dying to have you back. It’s your responsibility to make it, not
someone else’s. The days of limited exposure that pay dividends are over. If you
play a gig without bringing your own fans there’ll be no one there, or those who are
just don’t care.”
5. Fans start with friends.
“Your friends are your street team. Don’t enable them until your music is ready,
until they can turn someone on without losing credibility. You build from those you
know, not those you don’t.”
Word of mouth is key to getting your name out, and it starts right here.
6. Play live as much as you can without losing money.
“If people aren’t coming, stop playing out live and retool your act.”
You’ve got to know when something isn’t working. Don’t blame the gear, the club, the promoter, or the dancefloor. Recognize the problem and fix it. You may not get it right on the first try, or the second, or the third. But keep trying until you hit your groove.
Another biggie: Listen to you critics. Oft times they’re just hating, but below name-calling there may be something legit. Find what it is and work to improve.
7. Have something to sell at gigs.
This goes more for rock shows than night clubs. But instead of having something to sell, be sure you have something to give away. People love getting mixtapes (or demos or whatever you want to call them now) so have a stack handy for your gigs. At the very least have a professional looking business card to hand to interested parties.
8. Social networking is for fans.
“Twitter and Facebook are irrelevant until you get traction. They’re rallying points
for those who already believe. Once you’ve got fans, feed them information about
gigs and goings-on. Once you’ve got a plethora of true believers, tweet and post
about your inner life. No one cares until you approach stardom.”
It’s important to have an online presence, but don’t spend so much time there you neglect what really matters: the music. Be available, but don’t beat people over the head with your social persona. Remember how annoying the Myspace wall-spam got?
9. Stardom is on your own terms.
“No chart can define stardom. Don’t compare your career with others. Don’t lose your
Set goals for yourself. It may not be to become a professional at all. Maybe you’re just there to have fun. But be honest with yourself. Have fun, be yourself. Compromise but don’t sell out.
Experiment. Get a monthly podcast set up and stick to it. Do guest spots on web-radio shows. Post up live mixes. Make your music available.
11. You want an album for the gig.
Maybe for rock or more commercial music this is sound advice. This used to be true in dance music, but to me a commercially released mix is irrelevant today. Fuck making a mix and selling it. Make a new one each month and put it online. For everyone to hear. For free.
12. Once you’ve gained huge success, release a steady stream of music.
You’ve got to keep your name in the spotlight once you’ve made it there. You see these DJs that are releasing monthly podcasts or mixshows? Be like them. Do it free. Always be producing. If you’re not good enough to get your music selling on the digital market, you can at least make your own bootlegs, edits, or mashups and leak them online.
“Your fans will post clips. Imperfections work for you. Amateurishness is in your
favor. Same with traded live shows. This is fan business, which you must enable.
Allow photos, recording and videotaping. This is your marketing. And don’t deliver
authorized live shows, whether video or audio, until you have haters. That’s when
you know you’ve truly made it, when you have vocal haters. These haters can be
pointed to the high quality live stuff to be proven wrong.”
Video is another tool to bring your fans together; another totem for the tribe.
14. Don’t sell out to anyone unless you’re in it for the short haul.
Don’t get stuck in any contract you’re unsure of. Don’t give up what you like to play what people want. “Sell Out” can mean different things. Here it means don’t become anyone’s bitch for a payout. Simple.