The days of musicians just worrying about music are over. Back in the day, you got your big, 360 record deal, where labels provided not just the money to record your hits, but the machinery to distribute it, publicize it, and market it - and you - all over the world. These days, nah.
In our new music industry, artists have to take control over every aspect of their career – as your audience (and income) grows, you can bring on a team of people who will specialize in certain areas, but in the early stages, you gotta do it all yourself. No longer can you just make good music and hope for some mythical “Label Guy” to swoop in and deliver you to the masses. That’s why Treble exists, frankly, because today’s artist needs to make their own connections and build their own businesses.
It sucks that we can’t spend all of our days just doing the thing we’re best at – making music – but here at Treble, we like to help out. So here are four things you absolutely need to help elevate your career...that have almost nothing to do with music.
1. A Good Website
Alright, I’m starting with this one because I think it’s the most disputed. A lot of people these days have foregone the whole website thing because we have a million other free options for presenting ourselves. We have Facebook pages, Instagrams, SoundClouds, Bandcamps, ReverbNations, and even Trebles out there all providing a potential “home base” for your music business, as well as quantifiable metrics that show off your career. But you do not own any of those things.
A website is entirely under your control: its URL says your name, its homepage has your face, and its layout has endlessly customizable options for you to tell people what you’re trying to say, and direct them to what you’re trying to sell. When the day comes that you are introduced to that “Label Guy” who likes your sound and wants to learn more, do you want to send them to an Instagram account full of pictures of you and your dog, or do you want to send them to “MyBand’sName.com” that immediately shows a picture of your sold out crowd, a link to your latest single, and buttons that direct them to your preferred social media accounts? It simply looks more professional and does a better job of presenting your brand. End of story.
Sometimes you gotta spend money to make money, and an $8/month SquareSpace website is one of the first and best investments you should make in your career.
2. Press Photos/Visuals
Your brand is not just your music. We all know this. Your brand is also your image, how you send out your music to the world. And if you’ve got a bunch of janky ass, grainy lookin’ screenshots from 2015, you’re not presenting yourself very well. Fancy cameras are expensive and take skill and training to use. It’s not always feasible to do it all yourself. But one of the first things you should look for when building out your network is someone who can help take photos of you.
Whether they’re traditional portraits or hand-drawn animations, you need good looking visual representations of you and your work to post on Instagram, to turn into album art, to throw on your website, or to send to venues/blogs/people posting about your music.
And just like there are lots of musicians out there looking to collaborate and meet new people, there are plenty of photographers out there looking to collaborate, build their portfolio, and meet new people. (Coincidentally, you can find them on Treble.) It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to get some great photos – hell, look at all those billboards shot on an iPhone 7!
3. A Logo/Graphics
Similar to the point above, your image isn’t just your music, and it isn’t just your picture. It’s also the font you use, and the colors you choose, and the imagery that goes along with that pretty face of yours. Maybe you don’t have to go as far as Prince who turned his whole brand into a symbol, but think about Kanye’s Teddy Bear or The Rolling Stone’s tongue logo – you instantly associate that image with that musician. And it’s not just association, but the communication of something very visceral and important about the music itself, but in graphic form. That Dropout Bear is sleek, sharp, and fly as a motherfucker...just like Kanye and his music.
Even if it’s just a cool looking presentation of your name, some good graphics are key to controlling your image and linking it to your music. Sites like Dafont.com provide thousands of free fonts to download, and there are endless free apps for logo design. Plus, there are a whole bunch of designers out there looking to make your shit pop. Don’t just write your name in Comic Sans...you wouldn’t just record your album on Voice Memos.
As we’ve come to learn, music isn’t just about the audio. It’s about the visual as well. And how else do you capture a combination of the two? Bingo! Videos. Of course, we all want our Dropout Bears and our Runaway short films to show off to the world, but even if you’re not as rich and famous as Mr. Kardashian, you should still seek out solid video content to share your stuff with the world wide web.
Video is king these days – look at how much money and marketing Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube have put into it – so being able to show people what you can do is essential. It can be a live performance caught on an iPhone, a music video directed by your pal who’s into filmmaking, or even a selfie of you and your producer working shit out in the studio. Show the world!
You put all this stuff together, and you combine it with your music, and what you have is a business. You have a brand that establishes who you are as an artist, and tells the world why they should pay attention. Not only will you look more professional, but you’ll have better control over your career. So put em all together, (throw ‘em on your Treble profile,) and voila, you’ve got a virtual business card you can give to any fan, fellow artist, or industry contact you meet.
Feature by David Rothschild
Treble is a platform that helps artists find new collaborators and expand their creative networks. Our app is out in the App Store. Download today.