A Dead Fish Can Float Downstream
By Johnny Dwinell
“Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream” – W.C. Fields
I love this quote. If you think that money and the right connections equates to “easy street” for your career or that you need these things before you can begin seriously working on your career, you’re a dead fish. If you are working your backside off every day to write, record, play, making mistakes and learning this business, then you are a live fish swimming upstream; I’m quite sure you feel the pressure of the current as you constantly swim against it. I was reminded of this quote when I had a conversation yesterday with an artist friend. We went on a long walk with Scooter McGhee (My Great Dane) and my artist friend was venting some frustrations he was having with the business (I get that a lot), and I feel like he is finally beginning to turn from a dead fish into a live one.
During our walk in the course of his listening and venting he asked me a question. He asked what I thought about a strategy where he would finish the video he just shot and then pay to have a “showcase” of sorts where he would play the video followed by a live show. He asked me if I thought we could get him “in front of some people”.
“In front of some people” is a phrase he has used quite often throughout our friendship.
“Johnny, I’ve never really gotten in front of some people before” he would say, “I just need to get in front of some people”. You see I believe that in his mind, and probably many of yours (which is why I am writing this post today), he feels like if he just got “in front of” the right person everything would be puppy dogs and ice cream; he would have his break and it would be downhill from there. He is super talented by the way and I believe that if he keeps fighting, he will begin to make a solid living singing and writing songs, but he has to stay in the game (which I’m proud to say he has ramped up his game plan as of late)
I answered his question, “What if we get everyone that is important in this town to your showcase?”
“What if we get you ‘in front of’ all the necessary people and they like you? What do you think happens next?”
Knowing me well, he wisely avoided an answer and replaced it with a question, “Johnny, what happens next?”
Florida Georgia Line Story
I went into describing the broad strokes on the story of how Florida Georgia Line got their deal. These 2 guys got “in front of the right people” and somehow landed a production deal with Craig Wiseman who is one of Nashville’s most successful writers and businessmen with his publishing company Big Loud Shirt. Craig and the producer he chose named Joey Moi (Joey produced the Canadian rock group Nickelback) recorded an EP with Florida Georgia Line and went around town with their massive influence and connections to get a record deal for the duo; everyone passed.
How can that be? ALL the record labels passed?
YES! Even with a proven hit songwriter and proven producer behind the group, the labels didn’t get it. There was no social proof to ensure that the duo’s music and sound had any value in the market place, so they passed.
So Wiseman, Moi, and the group hunkered down and launched an incredibly effective marketing campaign/tour of sorts that resulted in 100,000 downloads of “Cruise”. Boom! Now, all the record labels that passed on the pair were clamoring to sign them. Here is where I quote my friend Rick Barker, “Only 1 thing changed.”
- The songs didn’t change
- The melodies didn’t change
- The lyrics didn’t change
- The production didn’t change
- The producer didn’t change
- The record didn’t change
The ONLY thing that changed was the perception!
Listen guys, even with all the right people behind you, the work still has to be done. In the new music business record labels DO NOT DEVELOP TALENT, they buy small businesses. You are going to have to prove you are marketable with numbers, not dreams. So if you’re “waiting” to begin working until you “get in front of some people” or if you’re waiting to begin working until you get “discovered” you’re a dead fish floating downstream.
Don’t be a dead fish, they’re boring and they stink.
Attack this new music market and make a place for yourself because it’s never been easier!
Swim upstream and watch the world come to you!
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