I am pleased to announce that my long-time friend Nik Bartunek, of Picture Atlantic, is now an official contributor to the new Blacklight Findings. Each Friday, Nik will share his advice for bands as his own column. Here is his first publication, titled The Hustle – enjoy.
The one frustrating thing about doing music for me lately is the unofficial forum on how to “make it”. Nothing gets more complicated, than thousands of people giving their two cents (AKA their “professional opinion”) on how to make the magic happen as a musical artist. On top of a declining orthodox music industry, online piracy, shabby royalties, and eighty billion bands in the state of California alone, more people with ideas on how to get yourself at star status with some cunning new gimmick or approach, is kind of like that extra rock in your pocket that makes you sink to the bottom of the lake. It’s simply weighs you down unnecessarily, when you really should have been focused on swimming all along.
Lets face it, what may work for one person, won’t translate to everyone. Arctic Monkeys selling 10,000 copies of their first album over Myspace in 2003 is not going to be so easily replicated for everyone in 2012. Yet, there remains this need to stay ahead of the curve, and keep that razor sharp game plan rolling that all musicians seek. What could that be? What does it look like? How does it sound? Given that people like Rebecca Black can get “famous”, it’s hard to say that there is a solid formula that equals success. From my shoes, there is nothing in that equation that makes the song ‘Friday’ a winner. Yet, somehow we managed, as a society, to help Ms. Black get on everyone’s radar. Who would have guessed?
So with that at the forefront of my little musing, I thought about what does work, and my humble advice in that department. Albeit, I am in a very specific area of the music industry: California. This state is probably nothing like New York, or Portland, each with their own little quirks and nuances. Yet, I see this continuing trend in success stories. From my perception, and most important to remember, opinion, it really comes down to The Hustle.
Don’t let that word fool you! Some of us still have this idea that somehow promoting yourself, hustling, or getting your name out there somehow portrays a quality of artistic weakness and shallow creative spirit. Sometimes I see this logic explained as “If your music isn’t good enough to catch people on it’s own, then you have failed artistically”. Not at all people. Bands have been hustling their art since day one. Monet and the Impressionists making their own Salons just so people could see their art. The Beatles shopping their music to every label and getting turned down. Speaking of The Beatles, if you think they just popped out of nowhere, you are mistaken. Read their early history before they were the Fab Four, and you’ll see they were probably more Indie than any of the Indie bands today. Back to back shows every day in total dives for hecklers and drunks for four years, in a nation that wasn’t even their homeland. Sounds pretty modern right? But the point is, that this persistence paid off. Now we wear shirts with their faces on them and hear other bands lift their melodies. But I digress.
It still stands to say though, that no matter what art you are doing, I truly believe hard work and consistency, especially in this day and age, is really key. Touring, passing out free downloads, flyering, consistent recording, building community, and creativity in how you execute the aforementioned, are such an important part to where you go with your music. Whatever formula you think you need, keep in mind that without hard work driving that formula, your chances for take off are pretty slim. Now, where your landing is located, is really up to fate and your piloting. Still, at the end, being airborn is better than being grounded, waiting for someone else to pilot the plane for you.