I’m going to let you in on the secret music success formula behind making it in the business. It’s super simple and if you stick by the ‘three C’ rule, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals.
It’s a formula I have developed over many years of being in the music business – seeing artists come and go, succeed and fail. Almost always this formula has played a part in some way.
The music business has been rapidly evolving over the last few years and many things have been changing along the way. Some for the better, some not so. But I have observed one constant thread in my 30 years of being a musician that has not changed, and I suspect probably won’t.
The three C rule applies to anything in life, actually. I don’t care if you’re selling insurance, making furniture or cutting hair, it applies to almost everything. It’s not rocket science but it requires you to have focus, patience, and a desire to succeed in whatever you choose.
My three C formula will seem on the surface quite simple. And it really is, but behind each C is a sub-structure that involves work and perseverance that only you can do. It’s that simple.
So let’s take a closer look at what the three C’s are:
That’s it, pretty simple, hey? Well, maybe it looks simple on the surface. But if you summon up the energy to master each of these C’s, there is virtually nothing that can stop you from achieving your goals. But for all their apparent simplicity, the three C’s are very difficult for some to conquer.
The bands I’ve witnessed that let’s say, never made it, mine included, had one or more of these C’s missing in their game plan. Let’s look a little closer at each C.
Your craft, simply put, is your area of expertise. I don’t care if it’s drums, bass, keyboard, singing, songwriting or FOH engineering. It’s what you do in the world of making music.
You have maximum control over your craft and how amazing you chose to be with it. You don’t need to be technical virtuoso. You might just be musician who gets fabulous sounds and has great feel.
It might be that you specialise in blues, jazz, or reggae. It might just be that you’re a great teacher and mentor for others. But you DO need to specialise.
In other words, you have to be to the best of your abilities at your chosen craft. Tommy Emmanuel, Chris Cheney, and Jeff Lang are geniuses and highly sought after as guitarists because they lived and breathed playing guitar their whole lives, making the guitar their thing.
They are incredible players and continue to be incredible because they keep working at it, even after they hit the top.
They are incredible players and continue to be incredible because they keep working at it even after they hit the top.
These three all had a guitar in their hands every minute of the day from when they woke to sitting on the toilet from a young age. They are incredible players and because they deliberately made playing guitar their area of speciality. They are all, at the top of their game.
The Next Morning
This of course is not about being a guitar virtuoso, it’s about what you specialise within your discipline. The Morning After Girls were a Melbourne band all about being hip, cool and had no end of street cred.
Their spectacular live shows were off the scale and they were known for their fuzzy droning soundscape accompanied by a full blown lighting show which was often backlit so you never actually saw the bands faces.
Were they great songwriters? Probably not. Were they incredible players? No. But they had theatrical art-rock down pat better than anybody. They cared about the details and their fans, and wanted every show to be special for them.
This was their craft and you had to see them live to really appreciate how extraordinary the experience was.
This is an area of music where I see musicians failing most. For whatever reason, perseverance and consistency is never high up on the ‘to do list’ for aspiring upcoming artists. Yet it has to be!
Without consistency or perseverance, you’ve got no hope. You can’t expect to be hanging around waiting for the big break if you’re only a part-time muso or have other things in your life that are much more important to you.
But if you do, that’s fine because the hard road isn’t for everyone. You have to make a serious start and stay with it, over and over again, until you see results. There really is no shortcut, and at times you’ll feel as though you’re gong mad chasing it.
Here is a sneaky little disclaimer: I have to be completely honest with you. Not everyone is cut out for this game. It’s brutal, unforgiving and full of cowboys (see the Andrew Parisi interview IC10). You can spend most of your life being consistent and still not make it, because of reasons beyond your control.
It could be anything from the having the wrong look to writing bad songs. It’s just the way it is. That’s why I say, be in the moment and enjoy yourself, because that might be all you ever have.
Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule? I’m not sure if this rule is the same for everyone. However, what it suggests is that you need to spend at least 10,000 hours on any one discipline to become master of it.
Sure, it’s a shit load of time, but you get the gist of it. You must invest lots and lots of time, into your craft and that means being consistent.
If somebody is interested in you or your act, and they are prepared to invest maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in developing and promoting you, they’ll want to see some serious commitment and consistency in your work ethic.
You’re a big risk for an organisation to take on. So show them you’re worthy by being a hard working and consistent musician.
Connections refers to your relationships and network. There’s probably nothing more important than the relationships you make in the business. It takes time, so you have to begin early and build relationships up.
They will be what opens doors for you, as you will for them as you move up. This is how the world goes around.
Almost everything that came my way in the business was through a person I knew or had some kind of relationship with. There are exceptions of course, but the really big opportunities will come through your network nearly all of the time.
The people you surround yourself with will move through the industry like you. However, some may take a different path: management, publicity, and record label executive positions, for example.
If you remain close and look after these relationships, you will be rewarded will big breaks. Take it from me, I’ve seen it so often it’s just mind blowing.
Work The Room
You must always be aware of who’s around and be available to talk to industry people to make yourself known! Yes it is a lot of work. An email or text is not gonna cut it, I’m afraid. You have to look someone in the eye, shake their hand, crack a joke, and attempt to connect without looking desperate.
Four or five hooks-ups later, you might begin to build a relationship with that person. But it’s important to note here that you need to take the time to cultivate trust with other human beings. You need patience and to look at the long game, because that’s what it takes. Like everything in life, it’s all about people!
You have to be out and about most of the time! Yes, you have to be at the venues, clubs, bars, and cafés where industry people hang out. You have to be seen. I’m sorry, it does sound challenging, but your competition are out possibly working it harder than you.
So step up, and begin being part of the music network.
Bring on the masseur
I’ll give you an example. In 1997, Andy, Paul, and I were hard at work building our music industry relationships in the band Alcotomic.
I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t that good at it. I’m quite shy and I never liked casually shooting the breeze with a stranger, and basically being seen an opportunist.
I recognise that this is one of my personal failures and that alone contributed to many failures. That aside, I had organised for the three of us to meet with the head of A&R, one of Australia’s biggest record companies and publishers.
We arrived at her office at around 6pm, ready for the hustle. She was a lovely, fun person and was very warm toward us. Shortly after arriving at her office, there we were, Paul and I had our feet up on the desk drinking beers.
Andy was behind her, giving her a neck and back massage. Lucky for us he was a masseur.
Our music was pumped up on her stereo, and it was slowing turning into a riot, with all the laughing and joking around. I could see all the staff looking through the glass door, trying to work out what was going on.
The three of us worked well as a comedy team, and she was having great time – just as we were. It was totally innocent and honest.
Within the hour, she offered us a development deal on the spot. Her offer involved the label paying for recording demos, with a view to signing the band, if they were indeed good tunes.
She really liked us and we liked her a lot. We had made the effort to turn up and have some fun, and just be real people – to be ourselves.
We had built the relationship over a couple of years, just casually hanging out with her at gigs. No email or text can ever do that! Just as a footnote, we never took up her offer.
The three of us pulled this stunt on many occasions, and it simply confirmed to me, the importance of your relationships and connections. Face to face connections.
If you follow this route you’ll be one step ahead of the competition, because very few people will go to these lengths nowadays. Just do it.
Begin the work
I have seen my three C rule work time and time again. It does take work. However, if you want to be successful and be at the top of your game, have a career in music and maybe even make a living, you have no choice. Start by checking out my release your music series.
You can stand back and watch others plough their way to the top, or you can step up and make your dreams come true. What will you do?
What are you thoughts on my three C rule? Can you handle being the best at what you do? Tell me if you have any tips and tricks on getting noticed and busting out. You can leave your comments and any questions below.
The next episode of Indie Confidential will be all about the naysayers and the killjoys. And isn’t our world full of them? I have to deal with them on a daily basis, so tune in next time.
I’ll catch you soon.