By Quinton J Sheer, Esq.
The secret to a successful music career is free, easily available, and most artists want nothing to do with it. That statement is surmised from many industry professionals sharing that the questions they get asked the most are music business basics. Without getting the basics, the dream of making a living playing music will remain a dream.
The best illustration of someone who learned the basics and continuously worked the steps like he was earning chips is singer/songwriter John Taglieri (J.T). The current tally is 10 CDs selling over 20,000 copies and he hasn’t seen a day job since March 10, 2005. This New Jersey native resides just outside of Boston but spends every other month performing in Key West, FL. When he’s home he either gigs locally and/or puts on his producer hat for clients he books in his studio. In this series of articles, I try to tap into his firsthand experiences in hopes of finally cracking the hard nut that is the human ego and to get more artists fruitfully working toward their own “retirement” from their day jobs.
Put the Ego Back in the Box
At some point, every musician wonders why they’re not successful yet. The answer is simple. “The simple things are the hardest…and I finally figured out what the problem was – me and my ego” said John Taglieri (Wiki). Ego fuels the entertainment business but it is best served on stage. Off stage, artists need to make good business decisions. They can’t make good business decisions when their egos make all their choices. “You just set yourself up for failure.”
John Taglieri’s shows make every bar and backyard he plays, a party. It’s a mix of known favorites and original music. But he was once scoffed at by other bands for being ‘a cover guy.’ “Even unbooked, I went on the The Rock Boat for 8 or 9 years and jammed everywhere I could, meeting people.” Many artists have a chance to get booked on land gigs after performing on the Rock Boat. “But a lot of guys didn’t take them because covers were beneath them. I always say yes. And the way I can do that is to put my ego away.” Now those bands who passed on the gigs he took are asking him for advice on gigging so much. “There was just a lot of work between then and now that their ego just didn’t want to do.”
J.T is the first person to say that he’s not the world’s greatest musician. But he is very successful and very good at what he does. “I do what I need to do. If anyone does what they need to do, eventually they can get what they want.” Don’t wait for the easy path to come down from the sky, light up with a giant arrow pointing the way to a new tour bus driven by Clive Davis. That doesn’t even happen in Spinal tap.
Wanna Retire? Work For It.
Put the work in where the want is. If the majority of thought and effort goes into getting a good annual 360 review for that coveted 2% raise, then it’s not going towards playing music. Ozzy Osbourne used to pack his gear and wait outside clubs in case a band canceled and his band could play. Harrison Ford was a carpenter on a movie set before he was Han Solo. Follow their lead and get involved in the business.
Although he wanted to be a touring musician, he left a full time day job to work 3 days a week touring with a sound company. It wasn’t exactly what he wanted but it was in the business and gave him a chance to use all that schooling in audio engineering. But that left 4 days a week he could use to work on his music while keeping a hand in the business and making connections the other 3 days. The better he got getting music gigs, the less he needed his sound gig. “So I got my boss to fire me. I never looked back.”
It should be noted that J.T is a solo artist and plays with a band for select gigs. Is it easier to set off on a musical adventure for a solo musician than a group act? “Nope. A group means more people are working towards the goal.” Everyone in the band should have a job. A real job. A band related job. Assign jobs to each band member: booking, promotion, finance, etc. No one is above the grunt work.
“The practices I use are Business 101.” While playing music to crowds is addictive and the party life is really the fun it’s made out to be, those are for the ego. Success in the music business is the science (yes – science!) of selling. Sell your product. “And find a way to outsell everyone else.” Don’t worry about fame or being a big rock ‘n roll star, that’s just ego. Leave the id on stage.
When ego is finally put aside, you can finally do the work you need to do to get where you want to go. Then artists can finally retire to their own little paradise.
[Watch this spot for a continuing talk with John Taglieri and his Tips for touring and why Sweet 16 parties rock more than bars with Goldschlager ice slide.]