Re-New Rules

Re-New Rules

From: Mike Vial

Here’s 11 for the newbies:

1. Learn to self-record:

It’s the one missing skill that’s holding me back. Recording may be cheaper than decades ago, but doing a record for 5K, 10K, 20K is still a lot of money to self-fund those first releases before being able to leverage; and it’s harder to break even on those releases with sales diminishing. At least track some elements at home or DIY spaces.

Even Sufjan Stevens recorded Illinois unconventionally, and got great results. (Pitchfork article)

2. Recognize crowdfunding has peaked:

It’s a one time shot, and it’s not an exciting topic now that everyone is pestered by multiple campaigns every month. If you try to do two campaigns, expect your friends and family to be annoyed; expect your fans to hesitate.

3. Pave your own way:

Studying other artists’ successes is hard to replicate. Most independent musicians who had success through the Internet leveraged previous major label promotion and/or were early adopters to a platform before it peaked. Don’t look at an artist’s history from 2007-2012 and try to replicate it exactly in 2015.

4. Learn time-management more than ever:

There are so many distractions interfere with what’s really important: writing, practicing, gigging, being present in life.

5. Focus on having the time, not the title:

Don’t try to be a full-time musician for the title; focus on being available, and not living in debt. It’s the time that’s important, so one can jump at an opportunity, can practice, can compose. Musicians want to be “full-time” thinking it’s a secret to success, and then go full time before they are financially ready, before having the contacts to get work, or even the skills… What if a day job doesn’t take 40+ hours a week, pays most of the bills, and offers chances to travel Thursday through Saturday? That’s a great job!

6. Know your numbers, manage your money:

Artists often say, “I’m not good with the money, that’s why I need a manager.” No. You don’t have a choice to ignore finances as independent musicians. Open up Excel. Keep track of every cent earned from the beginning of your music business. Make reasonable decisions.

7. Pay attention to hidden costs:

Gigging has hidden costs: Car repairs, insurance, fret-work on guitars, equipment replacement, lost time rehearsing or driving, gas mileage, investing in your retirement–a musician should look beyond the monthly bills for the hidden costs, and budget for them.

8. Remember, not all gigs are created equally:

That wedding gig might require 6-10 hours of additionally rehearsing before it. That decent paying bar gig might not generate any fans. Some students we teach are more demanding than others… Consider all the hidden hours that go into jobs. One might not be able to demand more money from a client, but declining work is just as important as accepting it.

9. Pay attention to your body:

You need to know yourself to stay at your best health, to perform well. Your sleep, your caffeine intake, your stimulant or alcohol consumption, your time recharging, your time exercising–keep your life in order. Advocate for your needs; don’t party when you work. Avoid spending money at the bar during your gigs. And remember, you will feel emotionally down at times; regroup mentally and avoid making big decisions when you are run-down.

10. Look out for yourself, especially if you are a solo artist:

If you are paying session players, doing all the booking and generating the gigs, but not making any money, you aren’t doing anyone any favors in the end when you give up. You need to make more money than the rest of the contractors you hire to stay afloat. It’s not selfish, it’s how a business survives. If you can’t afford it, then reevaluate your options.

11. Ask yourself why you need to be a musician before you jumping with both feet into the water:

Are you doing this because you have something to say? Because you love to travel? Because you have a ego that needs affirmation? Seriously, why do you need to be a touring musician; are you ready to embrace the difficulties of full-time gigging? Be honest with your answer; it will guide your future.



From: Jake Udell

Hey Bob, this is a response I wrote to one of my clients’ fathers who wanted to get my perspective in response to your New Rules e-mail yesterday. Since you’re always encouraging music industry leaders to speak up, I figured I’d share my thoughts with you!

Hope all is well!




In this article, he heavily favors the live business – for the average artist, the live business is where 90% of their revenue is generated. However, despite Bob’s emphasis on the live experience, this piece specifically gives little credit to the building blocks that create loyalty toward a musician – the songs themselves.

I agree with almost everything Bob says in this, but it’s important to recognize there are two sides to the coin on some of the topics he mentions –

1. You’re a musician, not a recording artist –

Without records, what would you play? 🙂

2. Festival gigs are the leg up –

Yes, festivals are an amazing opportunity for exposure, especially for young acts, but the highest grossing acts in the world make the most significant income selling hard tickets. Festival plays will always be important, but if you prove you can sell hard tickets, the festival needs you more than you need them.

3. Agitate for better streaming payments, but don’t focus on it –

Agreed. It is worth mentioning that I personally believe records will be worth more, not less in a few years, but it’s not worth agitating over.

4. Transparency –

He’s spot on.

5. Hits don’t guarantee live business –

He’s right. It’s worth mentioning that while they don’t guarantee it, artists that have hits are more likely to be in the public eye and more likely to have a successful live ticket business. Radio is still important to the majority of artists. When groomed correctly, many of revenue streams of an artists business grow on trajectory together and often times one can trigger the other – i.e. records doing well triggering live business or vis-versa

6. Live is freedom –

You can ALWAYS do it your way if you’re good enough and believe in yourself enough to know you are! Labels have their way of doing things and are at times difficult to work with because of their preconceived notions of what works. When you look at the biggest hits of the past 3-5 years, they were all extremely unconventional and from unconventional artists i.e. Lorde – Royals, Macklemore – Thrift Shop, Sam Smith – Stay With Me, etc. However, as the industry’s power continues to give way to the internet everyday, the labels understand the freedom that they have to grant the artist because the artist in many ways controls their audience. It is a constant back and forth – I would agree that live is freedom, but I do believe labels ultimate intention is to empower artists creatively – whether they can hold to it or not can at times be another story.

7. Talent is more important than looks –

Yes. Differentiation is very important even with talent and often times differentiation can come via image. Differentiation enables an artist to establish an unfair advantage for themselves by creating (their own lane) instead of competing (with others).

8. Live lasts. Hits don’t –

Hits enable the live to last.

9. Summer/Schummer –

Agreed with this example and realize it was an extreme, but for an artist like the Weeknd a summer hit can be the difference between selling out the Hollywood Bowl and Staples Center. It depends on who the artist behind the hit is, as well as the loyalty they’ve already built with that audience. Carly Rae Jepsen came out of nowhere! Her song was bigger than she was. Kudos to Carly, Scooter, and their team’s hard work of giving her the attention that an artist deserves these past couple years regardless of her one hit. We’re still talking about her. They’ll find a way!

10. Chops are everything. –

Definitely – and it’s as much mental as it is skills. Artists have to be ready for what it means to be a superstar or they’ll fizzle or worse…

11. Michael Rapino, not Lucian Grange –

They’re both brilliant. Michael fights for artists. Lucian loves breaking artists – but are major labels fighting for new artists or their catalog? What would you do differently if you were in their position and generating more income from your catalog than from new artists?

It’s worth mentioning the majors’ position on digital rights makes it extremely challenging to market new artists. For example, the cost of allowing any one artist to use soundcloud is minimal, in fact the opportunity cost of not using the platform as a marketing tool is far superior, but it sets a bad precedent for their catalog and its value. This is unfortunate for both artists and music technology entrepreneurs. The best results will be had when every stakeholder begins to think about what’s best for the future of the music business, but those perspectives are extremely different depending on whether you’re a new artist or own a significant portion of all music recordings ever created. The battle continues…

12. Music is everywhere! – Online presence is extremely important –

Art will always speak the loudest though.

13. Know who your fans are –

Yes. My friend and mentor Creighton Burke, the head of digital at AEG, has taught me so much about data and the way its being used to pave the future of the music industry. Platforms such as Sirius, Pandora, Spotify, Apple, iHeartRadio, etc. have been extremely supportive of my clients and been extremely influential in determining whether a record is a hit and furthermore in creating the best scenario for it to become one. These platforms are willing to take chances on artists and songs they believe in. And that’s what the music industry is all about!

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