Are You Any Good? Social Media Vs. The Woodshed

Well? Are you? Oh, you are, you say? Well, prove it to me. Go ahead. I’m waiting. We’re ALL waiting.

       VS

Recently in an ongoing (failing) attempt to avoid the news feed on my personal facebook page, I read an article about T- Bone Burnett. If you don’t know T-Bone, look him up HERE. T-Bone is a major player in the american music industry. Famed producer. He has definitely done work you have heard. The article/blog (Don’t worry, there is a link at the bottom of this page to that article)  I read was written (i think) because T-Bone made some kind of comment like “self promotion is a horrible thing. As soon as an artist self promotes he ceases to become an artist, he becomes a salesman.”

Boom. That’s hard to read isn’t it? On many levels. It hurts because some part of me feels like it’s true. It hurts because some part of me wants to say “you’re crazy Mr. Burnett, technology helps, hell…makes it POSSIBLE!”.  Though I suspect that thought is really from the same part of my brain as the initial reply.

Thing is, I DO think he’s right. But I live on the other side. I can’t lie to you, I feel like a whore about it most times. Nagging, flogging, begging…HEY…look over here! I annoy my own damn self. Surely it annoys other people. Most of the hard core, major, “artists” I dig today lean towards T-Bone’s side. They aren’t on their damn facebook or twitter all day yammering at people. They’re writing, playing, singing, or on their way to do so. I once heard one of my favourite guitarists, and major influences, say something like, “If you live in a cabin and you’ve spent your life learning to play, and you’re good but no one knows about you, you’re still good.”  Does that mean if you’re on the other side…if you are on those evil social media thingys, then you AREN’T good?!? That, because you don’t have someone doing that for you, because YOU’RE the one telling us you’re good, you can’t be?!? Is that the equation?

What I perceived T-Bone’s point to mean was this:  Make good art. If it’s good, someone else will promote it. They’ll want to. IF other folks are talking about it then it’s more likely to make peeps check it out.

That’s what I hear all my heroes say. They’re all about only making great art. And that’s all they have to do. That’s their JOB. It’s hard to argue with that. If you only do one thing you are bound to get good at it right? And if it’s good, it will get out. In theory. PROMOTIONS. That’s an actual job. It’s a different Job than being a songwriter, performer, manager or agent. Those are all different jobs. Let someone else do that. You pick one of the other jobs

Hmmmm….

…I do all of those things. I would rather only write, record and perform music. If I had an agent then I wouldn’t have to deal with Johnny-music-biz-guy would I? I would only show up and rock out and then get paid and go back home to writing and recording. I think that’s the heart of T-Bone’s lament. Let musicians/artists be artists. Let managers be managers, agents be agents etc. Lord knows, I would prefer not to do any of those other jobs.

But…

…if I didn’t book gigs and promote them, I would have to get a job doing something else to pay my bills. Then I’d still be in the same boat wouldn’t I? I wouldn’t ONLY be writing, performing and recording music.
What to do, what to do?

A friend of mine once said ‘I think I’m done with the music industry. I’m just going to write songs, make records and tour’.

Man, I’ve sure been thinking of that lately. I feel, as an independent musician, I must:
- post music
- be in contests
- ask for votes
- apply for awards
- kiss the anus of the alphabet societies and associations
- join said alphabet societies
- yammer some more at you.

Do I? Do I REALLY? Do I really need to do all that or have I been tricked into thinking that I need to? I don’t know! It’s hard to figure out isn’t it? Should I say fuck all that and just grind it out? Job it out till my dying day? What’s wrong with that? At least you’d have dignity and have done it your own way.

But….

…then I start going down that road farther and another voice pops into my head…. it’s a wise woman…I’m giving her a ride home from a music festival…I’m telling her about another musician who lives how I described above…not self promoting. Only working on music…she says… “ya gotta play the game”…  So should I play the game? More? Less? How much?

OOOOH EEEEHHMMM GEEEEE

Should I delete the comments up there!!!? What if I offend johnny-music-soceity-guy??!! Will I ever get to play his club or festival?!?! Egad! (yeah, that’s right, E frigging Gad).What to do? What to do?

Where’s the line? what do we do? where do we stop? Should we?

What to do? What to do?

I guess I’ll continue to do what I’ve been doing. I don’t know if it’s working. People tell me it is, but that’s another blog for another day. HELL, I barely know what I’m doing. Some days I can do it, others I can’t. Somedays I feel good about how I’m doing it, other days I don’t.

No one knows HOW to make it in the music business. All my friends are in the same boat. I know this. I’ve spoken with many of my peers over coffees, late night drinks and candy wines. Most seem to be struggling to get that next festival or manager or agent or make that next record. I guess for now we just “keep pushing up on it”, as the great Morgan Davis would say.

So that was pretty rant-y, I know. I’m not trying to complain or whatever. I’m in the line of work I choose to be.  I’m just trying to figure out stuff I don’t understand. I want a little dialogue on it. Anyone else feel like this? What do you think? Social media vs. the hermit genius? A balance? Talk to me. I’m curious about where you stand on it and why. Leave a comment and let me know. Don’t be shy or hold back. Let’s have a little truth in 2014 shall we?

Life is a big mystery and it’s DARK out there in the world right now.

Meet me at the light switch.

Ross

PS – if you read the blog that inspired this one, be sure to read the comments. that’s where the goods are including commentary from T- Bone himself.

PPS – If Johnny- music-society-guy is reading this and is offended…don’t be. It’s not about you.  ; )

PPPS – To answer my very first question…for me the proof is in the pudding. I don’t care if you spend ALL DAMN DAY online. If I go and see you live and you melt my face or break my heart…You’re Good.

PPPS – watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPZ4Maaed_w

 

Comments

  1. Jo Schieck says:

    As a music lover and a bit of a small scale promoter as well as a busy person in general I find social media very helpful. It comes down to saving time, a reality in this age. Most of us “regular joes” wouldn’t know where to start when looking for new music to listen to. I shamelessly look at what others are listening to. Especially artists whose work I already know I like . I don’t think I have time to sit in front of “the youtube” for hours surfing or browse the practically non-existent record stores.
    When it comes to selling seats at house concerts, I find if people (at least the people I know) have never heard of you it is a much harder sell. Even if they don’t know the music, if they have just heard the name mentioned or seen it pop up (maybe in their news feed) it is easier to get them out.
    Just because something comes up n my newsfeed, it doesn’t mean I will read it. It doesn’t take long to figure out what is a waste of your time and that is a personal choice.
    Keep doing it , it’s all good , at least for my generation ;)
    Jo

  2. Keep grinding it out and keep doing what you are doing. I look forward to your posts on all the social media sites even if I don’t respond all the time. I vote. I listen. I play your music in my car. I recommend people have a listen, and your storytelling in your blogs I read it. and most of the time, excellent grammar!

    I lot of those who “go south” really have their art go south as well. Ya, they may get the fancy holidays and shit..but they lose rawness. I like that in indie music-in you. It’s real.

    Anyhow, thanks for signing my cd. I didn’t ask you to do it, but you all did.

  3. Michele Bateman says:

    Hi Ross

    As a Publicist/small scale concert promoter and one who has been kicking around the industry for a long time, I have to say that you go about promoting your career beautifully. You are not pushy or aggressive, you are professional and at no time do I feel “sold” by you when I agree to a booking.

    You have much to teach others in the way that you use social media and just in how you go about your career in general. T Bone Burnett is at a career level where he can look up on other artists and make comments as he did, but for those not that high up the ladder, keep on doing what you do. There are more people at our level than at his.

    See you March 1st

    Michele Bateman
    1/2 of The Blues Babes Guest House
    Decent Exposure Publicity & Promotions

  4. Hey Baby Cakes,

    No. You shouldn’t have to “- post music – be in contests – ask for votes – apply for awards – kiss the anus of the alphabet societies and associations – join said alphabet societies – yammer some more at you. “, but if you don’t you’ll be left behind because any jo blow out there has access to the internet and recording devices and can make any sort of recording and “- post music – be in contests – ask for votes – apply for awards – kiss the anus of the alphabet societies and associations – join said alphabet societies – yammer some more at you. “,…

    If you don’t keep up and play the game then you may just end up like some people I know who still have their dignity, but no money and not many gigs and live a life that is not fun and difficult. You can thank all of the other musicians who are out there soliciting for votes and kissing ass and playing the game for paving the way for the rest of us. But they have to do that in order to make a living.. its a catch 22. For as long as we legitimize these awards and societies and all that shit… the longer we will need them to have a career. You guys are the hardest working act I know of.. you have been doing something right.. I don’t know how you have kept your sanity this long.

    I can’t play along, which is why i’m in school trying to find another way to keep my mouth fed. If it was all about the music, then the best musicians that you and I mutually know wouldn’t be in the position they are in. Its obviously about a lot of other shit than music and being good. A fucking shame if you ask me. If I understand correctly, I wish that this T-bone guy was right, but he’s not. You are right. You need to be out there kissing ass and soliciting every damn second.

    When people tell me that they play music for a living.. I know understand it as being good at twitter, Facebook, kissing ass, soliciting for awards, trying to get votes to win competitions and whatever the fuck else there is out there. Playing music is not how musicians make a living or spend their time… its a lot more than that. Notice how the integrity of popular music has dissipated over the last 100 years…. She’s not about being good anymore.

  5. I gotta say I feel like T-Bone’s comment came from the current T-bone, not the T-Bone that was out looking for his first gig.

    There is a point that we all have to put ourselves out there to be heard and noticed. Does T-Bone have to do that himself? No. Is he paying somebody else to do it? I would wager yes, and no doubt paying them a heavy amount of money. Any interview he’s done or awards show he’s been on, he’s promoting him self. Just because he didn’t make the call to set it up doesn’t mean he’s any further away from it. He’s part of the same machine we are all in.

    He’s not recognized just because of his talent. He’s recognized because he has somebody making us all aware of his talent. T-bone is the CEO and head of “T-Bone Inc”. He has a team of people putting his accomplishments in out there. You are not only CEO of “Master Bastard Inc”, you’re the agent, manager, promoter, secretary, publicist and any other job that is involved with what we do.

    It’s been said already. He’s in a different level of the industry. He’s not on the front lines anymore, he’s commanding from the back of the field.

  6. Rick Given says:

    After reading your words I can only say this, If you don’t do it, then who will? At this stage of your career you are (and I’m only speculating here) not financially able to pay “the man” to promote you. So where does that leave you? We both know where, you have to get out there and show the people your (and I absolutely hate this fuckin’ word) “brand”. I love to get a hold of the arsehole that coined that one.

    All musicians and artists, anyone really who is self employed have to use the medium to their full advantage, for the most part it’s FREE. Yes it can be very time consuming and time is certainly worth something, but it’s certainly cheaper than a “suit”. As far as T-Bone’s comments go I agree with what Matt has said (hmmmm could that be that little fella from Bairdsville commenting). T-Bone is like everyone else who is famous….There famous!!! They don’t need or require the medium, everyone already knows who the hell they are. I have discovered so many good acts from the medium and through friends that it goes to show that it does work. One guy in particular a buddy of mine introduced me to was a guy by the name of Jason Molina (RIP). He was another guy just out there doing his thing and I never would have heard of him if not for the medium. Check him out if you’ve never heard of him, he was brilliant.

    In your comments you say that you are confused by it all, and you should be as none of us can give you the answer you seek. Fuck… I’m starting to sound like one of them motivational speakers….lol. Ross, keep steering “your” ship man… stay the course, your one hell of a musician and your talent will get you there. Anyway man in the words of Neil “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World”. Stay true to yourself and your vibe.

    Rick Given
    Saint John, NB

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