It’s good to know some things don’t really change in music. We all talk about new business models and the diverse ways to make money and survive within it, but sometimes we forget that what it really comes down to at the end of the day is that the music has to be great.
When you have good songs with a good band, the proof of the pudding is getting out on the road and creating your career. Essentially you are building a loyal fan base that will support you through all different methods and revenue streams. If you deliver a great live show, play well and form a good connection to the audience, this is your lifeblood as a band. These are the very people that are going to buy your merchandise, buy your records and stream your music on a more regular basis with more loyalty than just a passing viewer on YouTube. Also, as we all know, there’s a lot more money in people buying tickets to shows than there is when you are sitting at home releasing stuff digitally!
What fascinates me about life on the road in 2017 is the fact that it is not really much different from when I first started touring in 1993. In fact most of the gear I use is still the same stuff! A lot of the venues are the same, and the crew and the microphones we use never seen to change either! It’s very reassuring to know that there is a long musical career here; touring, playing shows, selling tickets, selling merchandise and surviving well as a musician.
Yes there is a big DIY ethic, but it’s a lot easier to do that stuff for yourself anyway with easier access to merchandisers, digital marketing, making your own record label and your own publicity via social media and so on. It comes down to the old cliche of hard graft. It’s not rocket science; it’s about having enough knowledge to take the bull by the horns and work hard in all different areas to make a profitable functioning touring entity.
At the moment Skunk Anansie are on a six week tour of Europe. We are playing shows from around 3,000 to 11,000 people per night, including a sold out show at Brixton Academy (pic below). We finance the tour ourselves, take all of the gear including the PA and lights, and employ our own crew and rent the buses ourselves. I personally oversee all of the merchandise from artwork generation, ordering stock, delivery, to the product being sold at the shows. I also work with a couple of students to plan our digital presence and get social media out there. We create our own content for the screens that are playing behind us. This is done by our drummer Mark Richardson. We we have our own record label that we license our self-funded LPs and we even now make our own videos directed by Mark as well.
We could get other people and record labels etc. to do all of this, but we wouldn’t make enough money to do these great productions and still be able to survive as musicians. Also, it is great to be able to control everything yourself and do what you want when you want to do it.
The key is to assign different jobs to different members of the band applying to their personal skill sets and just get on with it. Just look at other bands that are doing it and try it yourselves. When you’re on the road there are many spare hours that you can use to make your career really happen instead of playing iPhone games or lying around with a hangover…!
As my dad said to me when I was a kid “If someone else can do it. YOU can do it!”.
He was right, it works…
See you all back at the base.
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