The Facebook ads in my newsfeed have gotten scarily tailored to me. At least half of the ones I notice these days are trying to get me to buy online courses on the music industry. Here’s their average idea: a independent musician (that would be me) pays the creator of the course a fee (usually upwards of $500 USD) for permission to access pre-recorded videos of them teaching them How To Make It In The Music Industry™
Now obviously, they can’t guarantee everyone (or anyone) who buys their course a long and successful career in this business. But then, neither can a big university an acoustic guitar player just spent four years getting a “Bachelor’s Degree in The Art of The Contemporary Singer-Songwriter” at – so that’s not a problem I have with them. Nor do I object to the idea that absolutely anyone can call themselves experts at teaching the secrets of the music industry for money; that would be pretty hypocritical of me. These “music industry experts” have qualifications that range from having started the career of a current world superstar, to simply being full-time musicians, and I’m happy for all their success and love for teaching. Hey, I wouldn’t be completely opposed to starting my own course a decade from now, after I’ve done a lot more stuff!
There are many different experts with opinions and information out there, it’s basically the Wild West of the independent music business: anything goes. So, I wanted to give a quick tip: research the music industry expert before you trust/pay them. They need to know and be able to teach quality, up-to-date information that actually works. The best way someone can do that it by currently working in the music industry. If they’re a successful artist, are they still actively writing, recording and/or touring? If they’re a business person, are they currently managing an artist you’ve heard of? You don’t want to be wooed over by someone who did important things 15 years ago, but now whose only music industry involvement is selling e-books and courses that haven’t been updated by real world application since.
But back to the Facebook ads. These music industry experts recruit by placing sponsored invitations to (free!) online seminars in the Facebook newsfeed of musicians. We get intrigued, and click the link to sign up. So we give them our email to get an invitation, which then signs us up for their almost daily mailing list. The day of the webinar comes, and we sit down for an hour to listen to this music industry expert showcase their expertise, display their impressive resumé, and sell their product at the end – some do this better than others.
For an example of not doing this well, here’s a real-life quote: “If you’re still on the fence about purchasing my course, remember: you do not want to look back five years from now, when your music career hasn’t gotten anywhere, and think ‘if only I had invested in my career…’ So pay the first instalment today!” I actually laughed out loud and closed the tab upon hearing that. Yes, every artist wants to “make it” in the music industry (in whichever way appeals to them), and worries at night about not achieving their goals or being able to pay their bills. Unashamedly preying on that fear to sell a series of videos for $500 without any guarantee of results is kind of low, if you ask me.
In the case of this particular webinar, the music industry expert (salesman) opened up the conversation by teaching us a revolutionary new way of deciding whether or not to accept a gig offer. The thing is, this thought process has been around so long that it’s on the curriculum of brick and mortar music schools, you know, ones regulated by the ministry of education. It’s called “The Three Pillars of a Business Deal,” and I’m going to use the rest of this article to explain it for free, as it is mainstream knowledge that obviously isn’t exclusive to anyone.
(Although, if any of you are ever so grateful as to want to pay me $500 for this lesson, please contact me HERE) 😉
There are three factors that need to be considered when being offered a business deal: Good Money, Good Time, and Good Strategy.
The names are pretty self-explanatory. Good Money refers to what you’re being paid – only liquid assets count as payment in this category (so, exposure or free drinks amount to zero). Good Time refers to the overall experience – who you’re working with, the quality of the location, and how the talent is treated. Lastly, Good Strategy refers to the long term benefits that come with doing a good job here – so the likelihood of getting invited back, or being noticed by someone important in the crowd who will offer you a future opportunity that aligns with your long term goals.
The idea is that someone weighs each of the three factors in a binary 0 or 1 option, then add them up. I do this all the time with writing deals, and it can be applied to virtually any opportunity presented that has a relatively short, set time frame. It makes it easier for performing musicians to wade through gig offers and only choose the ones that benefit them in one or more of these categories (like, who would want to play a show in a dirty, empty venue where none of the strangers are paying attention, let alone going to invite them to a better opportunity, and they’re not getting paid?). 3/3 is golden, 2/3 is good, 1/3 had better be very worth it, and 0/3 gets declined in an instant.
So, for example, here’s a scenario to see the technique in action:
An old friend from high school is getting married, and wants you to play some classical guitar love songs at the reception. You are not only invited to the wedding in your city, but you’ll also have a seat at the banquet table and paid a reasonable amount for two 45 minutes sets, PA is supplied.
Good Money: Yes. Not only are you being paid a reasonable fee for performing, but since you two are in the same city, you don’t need to worry about travel, or renting sound equipment. 1.
Good Time: YES! This is an old friend from school, and you’ll likely recognize a few friendly faces at the event. You’ll be an official guest too, with access to the catering, and two 45 minute sets is not very exhausting compared to other shows you’ve played. 1.
Good Opportunity: No. Unless the wedding is being televised live (think: The Royal Wedding), no one in attendance is going to “discover” you, and unless the happy couple are big-name celebrities with a good reputation, it’s considered bad taste to name check them in your artist bio. As for getting invited back? The bride is definitely not going to call you up in case of her second wedding in a few years, but you might get invited to play a grandpa’s birthday lunch. 0.
Now, every situation in different for every artist, and every factor is valued differently at every point in their career – but that’s how it works. The Three Pillars of a Business Deal. Now, go watch music industry webinars with a grain of salt.