Are you a musician? Are you trying to figure out how to succeed and how to make in the music business? If you have, you’ve come to the right place.
I’m going to help guide you through the tricky procedures and unlevel playing field that sometimes stands between you and your dreams becoming a reality. I hope to steer you away from the pitfalls and the traps that for ME, was a painful reality.
The clandestine music business can be a hostile, fickle, and ever-changing beast but with some planning, common sense, and guidance it can be an amazing and life changing experience as it has been for me!
Learning the tips and tricks on miking a guitar cabinet or placing overhead mics, writing a hook lyric or editing your video is simply a process of a YouTube search nowadays, but the real life, behind the scenes challenges will be tackled in this series, from someone who has been around the block many times.
We’ll cover the psychology, machinations, dynamics, rituals, interpersonal relationships, and decision making that is rarely spoken about. Yet, it plays an such enormous part of being a successful career musician and keeping your head above water so that you can keep ahead of the pack.
I’ve been pondering creating this series for a couple of years now. I wasn’t exactly sure if this podcast thing and digging up my history was for me, and on a number of occasions, I walked away from it altogether.
But I believe in my heart of hearts that through decades of my trials and tribulations, I’ve got some information of value that will help you achieve your goals. Those close to me have encouraged me to proceed. So here I am.
30 years and counting…
I’ve been in the music game for over 30 years now and it still feels like only yesterday it all began. As a 7 year old, music was my first true love, and still to this day, nothing excites me more than writing and performing music.
In that time, I’ve seen dozens of people come and go through the musical turnstile, only to give up their dreams and return to their day job when things got tough. And believe me, they do get tough.
I’ve witnessed the most incredibly talented artists univserally ignored and seen stunningly average musicians with the right connections getting all the breaks that the rest of us never seem to get.
It’s such a rock n roll cliché I know, but I’ve suffered the typical excesses of sex, drugs, and alcohol, the epic failures, depressing lows of sometimes incessant rejection, and living in near poverty.
Now, none of these things are acceptable, but every experience – good and bad, shaped me as an artist and as a human being, and I carry every scar as a reminder of my journey.
Throughout this series you’ll get facts and honesty, from my very private and at times, painful experiences, in the hope that you can learn something that will benefit your own career.
A bit about me
I’ve been in this game as a singer, songwriter, and producer since the late 1980’s. Most of that as a full time touring singer and guitarist, although many times I had to go out and find deadbeat day jobs and cover gigs to feed myself and pay the bills.
That included packing boxes and making basketball rings. We’ll dig deeper into the importance of that, later in the series.
I continue to produce, record, and release my music with my most recent band Five Mile Sniper wrapping up in 2017. I’m about to begin a new project with an album to be released in late 2019 that I’ll roll out in conjunction with this series.
I’m not the kind of person who runs a score sheet or keeps tallies as I’m always looking forward. Dwelling on the past is not my thing. But in order to give you some assurance of authenticity here, I’ve had to dig through 28 years of records, which quite frankly shocked me and made me feel old!
So, as of 2018, [excluding cover bands] I’ve been in 15 bands, performed over 1000 live shows, been in 3 record deals, released 18 records, written two top 20 independent albums, done countless national tours, managed 4 bands, owned 2 recording studios, and produced and mixed countless rock bands.
Back to school
Between all of this, I even went back to university in the late 1990’s to become a graphic designer, which allowed me to work for part-time for the street press, such as Beat Magazine and MX, so I could keep my focus on music and pay the bills.
So much has changed over the last 15 years when I was on the road in Melbourne 4 piece rock band called Prettymess. That was just before the internet blow-up with Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Relatively speaking, there was still record company money available that was dished out by innovative and risk-taking A&R people for developing new and up-coming artists. Weird concept, hey?
Well, a lot has changed now, and we’ll go through that in more detail later in this series. But, there are still a number of things that remain the same, that you, as an artist wanting to reach out with your incredible music, still have a measure of control over.
I’ll share some stories with you throughout the series. They won’t always be uplifting or pleasant, but they will provide insight, and just maybe give you some small assistance in navigating your way through your music career.
Who are you?
So you must be thinking, who is this person who is clearly no rock star, giving me advice on what I should and shouldn’t be doing?
Fair question. But it’s really important remember how many artists actually DO become famous and make a full-time living from their music, particularly in a country as small and competitive as Australia, and this country pretty much reflects other markets around the world. It’s tiny – single digit percentages!
The majority of us, for whatever reason, just won’t get there, and that’s fine. Really! Cause it’s not always about the destination, it’s the journey that matters here, and he further you get in, the more you might wanna get out.
It might be as simple as a style issue, timing issue, mediocre tunes. You’re too tall, too short, too old, or unattractive. Sadly, even I’ve fallen victim to some of these unfair and discriminatory standards that exist in the business.
I’ve witnessed some of the most extraordinarily talented people who just don’t have that “thing”, only to be brushed aside for a younger better looking act.
Add to that, the music business is small and incestuous, and if you piss somebody off, they won’t forget. Consequently, they’ll never cut you break! Worse still, they’ll tell everyone they know about you. And that’s just the way it works, unfortunately.
There’s no Australian Idol or X Factor here either. I come from the grog and drug fuelled 90’s and 00’s Australian music scene, where you had to cut your teeth in the vicious, unforgiving, sticky carpet, pub scene. Where you had to learn your chops and battle every band in town to get on a bill, and play like mad to win the crowd over.
In the process, I’ve destroyed my voice, suffer migraines, have constant ringing in my ears, and sacrificed many relationships. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
There’s no guide book or map to getting you where you want to be and I’ve read all the books on songwriting and making it big and sadly, most are BS or written from inexperience. Even so, I don’t have all the answers, cause there’s just too many subjective variables involved.
But I can offer you some simple logical tips I learnt the hard way that can help you throughout your journey.
And remember, and this is important for all those naysayers out there, there’s always a multitude of ways to tackle every problem, and what worked for me may not be what works for you.
So, hang in there and we can overcome some hurdles together. Hopefully you can teach me some things, cause I’m still learning everyday!
Where to from here?
The next episode will be available shortly, which will cover the most interesting subject of managing egos in a band. From there we’ll go through business, songwriting, pre-production, tracking, engineering and production, marketing, promo and publicity through to advertising, socials, websites, career planning, playing live, and everything in between.
I’ve got a bunch of people lined up from the entertainment industry, including booking agents, managers, label owners, publicists, DIY experts, luthiers, mixers and music lawyers who I’m going to be interviewing on the show.
These people are on the frontline and are considered to be the tastemakers in the music business. I’ll give you the heads up when they’re scheduled to appear on the show so you can submit questions, if you have any.
If you want to check out my backstory, you can jump on fivemilesniper.com or prettymess.com or alcotomic.com to check out the last few projects I’ve been involved with as singer, songwriter, and producer.
How can I help?
Is there something you’re having trouble with making music? Is there a subject you like me dig deeper into? If you do, jump on my site at indieconfidential.com and leave me your comments and questions, and don’t forget to sign up for updates and giveaways.
I’m compiling samples that are taken from the last Five Mile Sniper EP, Slow Moving Traffic, that’ll be part of a giveaway I’ve got planned for you in the next few episodes plus a bunch of other handy music making tools.
– Cheers John