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01 March 2012

Musician Identity: Define Who You Are

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The vision for our band Eclectic Verve has changed over the last year. Initially, like so many musicians, we did not clearly define our band vision. For the band’s second year, we have clearly defined our goals. We will continue to refine our focus as the year unfolds.

As a solo performer or as a member of a band, I recommend you do this exercise. Who do you want to be? What are your goals? By defining exactly what you want (and do not want!) and translating that into who you want to be (and who you do not desire to be) a clear purpose and direction will come to you.

If You Could be Anybody….
Is there a person or group whom you admire? If so, determine what you admire about them. Is the reason you admire them because…

  • …their band performs in huge venues with complex stage productions?
  • …they are working with the biggest record label and that is your goal?
  • …their lyrics are thoughtful and insightful?
  • …their videos are clever?
  • …the band members seem to be down to earth people just like you?
  • …you heard their music as background on your favorite TV show and now they are your favorite band?
  • …they have gigs every weekend at the bars you frequent?
  • …???

The Best Form of Flattery…
Once you determine on what basis you have assigned your admiration, consider if you want to follow in their footsteps and if you are willing to do the necessary work to do so. Although sometimes it seems like a performer became an overnight success, that perspective is very rarely reality. Behind most success stories you’ll find a lot of hard work—sometimes many years of hard work.

Research the Musician or Band Whom You Admire
Most likely you’ll be able to find plenty of material on-line about the person you admire if they are a well-known personality. If you admire a local band in your area, try to get in touch with them directly. Regardless of the career, everybody was at the bottom at one time. With the exception of those who have an entourage and security detail and really cannot meet with you personally due to practical reasons, most people will make the time to meet with you. Many people are happy to share what steps they took on their career path. If you are not able to speak with the person or band that you admire one-on-one, look for industry conferences that have guest speakers. Maybe your idol or another comparable musician is a guest speaker.

Focus, Focus, Focus…
Once you have determined what you want and have defined your associated identity—either by emulating another artist or by creating your own unique package—be brutal about only doing the things that will help you move down your path. Do not waste your time dabbling in things outside of your newly minted identity.

  • If you don’t want to be known nation- (or world-) wide by becoming a 300-day/year touring band, then don’t tour. Ever.
  • If you don’t want to play in bars regularly, then don’t bother establishing relationships with bar personnel.
  • If you want to become a household name, then you need to brand yourself (or your band) and plaster your likeness everywhere on the internet (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) and make yourself accessible to your fans. Start in your own back yard—within a 100 mile radius of your hometown is a nice start. Perform at bars, festivals, private parties, or whatever makes sense to introduce yourself to your community.
  • If you want to collaborate with other musicians, then you need to network. Join music-related associations (e.g., NSAI, ASCAP), attend performances of other musicians, and introduce yourself to other musicians at events.

Enjoy molding and shaping yourself (or your band) into a musical entity of which you are proud and that can help you achieve the goals you have set for yourself. Life is a journey. It is wise to draw a map to assist you in arriving at your intended destination.

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