Leverage: Are You Creating Any In The Music Business?
Creating leverage is mission critical to all communications between business relationships, familial relationships, romantic relationships, platonic relationships, and the coveted artist/fan relationships.
Leverage is paramount to solidifying the outcome that the communicator wishes to create.
Leverage, when wielded benevolently, can foster an openness from the receiver to accept or at least strongly consider the message the communicator is attempting to send.
In plain English, the more clout you have, the more the receiver is willing to “give you a shot” and/or succumb to your wishes.
Some of you have inevitably painted the picture of a gross, forceful, one-sided power situation in your heads already (probably because you’ve been on the receiving end of such a nasty exchange) so now the subject matter of “leverage” disgusts you.
Y’all utilize leverage every single day of your lives. While the world is always full of assholes, most of us are compassionate, generous, and come from a good place while we try to influence the outcome of our lives; but we all try to impact our futures don’t we?
For instance, if you meet a person you are sexually attracted to, your odds of “closing the deal” increase significantly if you begin the relationship with leverage, like an introduction from a trusted friend of your future conquest.
In this scenario, you incorporate implied familiarity via a referral into the equation which vastly improves the weight you bring to what will ultimately become a negotiation.
How many of you have cleverly and expertly orchestrated a scenario that would improve the leverage you had in a relationship for the purposes of getting laid?
You’re smiling, I thought so. Y’all are evil manipulators! (I’m kidding but you get the point)
How about when you are artistically pining for that awesome musician you MUST have in your band but you don’t know him/her?
Some kind of influence is going to be required to sway the decision of your target, yes?
That effect could come from your artist track record; maybe you’re kind of a big deal. It could come from the art itself, maybe your project is the right “artistic pair of pants” for your target. You could convince your target with a paycheck. Maybe a simple referral, once again, is apropos.
When you think, “How do I get so-and-so into the fold”, you are architecting leverage.
So you see, we unknowingly do this every day, in all parts of our lives. Hell, something as simple as politicking to convince your friends to see the movie YOU want to see is an exercise in creating leverage.
So why then, if you are so good at this application in EVERY OTHER part of your lives, are you so negligent about the use of this dynamic to your music and your music career?
Proper, prior, planning prevents piss, poor performance when it comes to introducing consumers to your music and making the kind of deals that will advance your career in the business side of it.
Let’s compare different circumstances with regards to how a consumer is exposed to your music for the first time.
If you hit them up on social media with a “Check me out, I’m the hottest new thing” message your chances of the receiver being open and willing to consider your communication are far less than if you are performing a live show (and killing it) when the receiver first becomes aware of your existence.
You have more leverage onstage, than you would as a digital “door-knocking salesman”.
The influence increases again if the consumer reads about you in a reliable blog or magazine and then immediately has the opportunity to download and experience your music.
Creating Leverage in the Music Business (C.L.I.M.B.) is what it’s all about and most artists are completely missing the boat.
Most artists are focused only on the outcome. They want to envision themselves staring down the barrel of a major game-changing opportunity, but they seem to always avoid emphasis on constructing the circumstances that would create the opportunity (usually because that requires WORK…but I digress).
Milton Berle was quoted as saying “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
For instance, y’all want your record deal I get that.
It makes total sense.
I did too.
How much thought have you put into dreaming about what that conversation, process, and ultimately the deal would look like?
Do you want to be on your side of the negotiating table with your hat in your hand, fingers crossed, putting all your hopes, dreams, blood, sweat, and tears into the hands of a label executive who may or may not be in a good mood the day you get your shot?
What if the label exec was having a really bad day on the day of your meeting?
What if you were at that same negotiating table and the label executive was worried about your mood?
What if you made yourself in to such an undeniable business opportunity that the label had their proverbial hat in THEIR hands?
This won’t happen because your music is awesome by the way. It will happen because you’ve targeted your audience, you’ve connected with this audience, you’re already making money and the label wants in.
Steve Martin said “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” These days that quote is just as much about business as it is about talent in the entertainment industry.
All the major companies that you will need to climb the ladder of success in the music industry are run by people.
Behavior in people is somewhat predictable.
We all want what we can’t have.
We all get drunk with power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
We all want real opportunities to advance our own agendas.
Consider these ideas when you are putting your master plan together.
A statement like “My music is amazing and I’m going to give YOU the opportunity to help me for a piece of the pie (on the back end)” is asinine.
YOU wouldn’t accept an offer like that, would you?
If some unknown rookie player came up to you and said, “I want a job, I want to be your guitar player. I’m awesome! I’ll need $1 million dollars and I will make a killer deal for you to recoup your investment on the back end because the world’s gonna stand up and salute your artistry once I’m your guitar player.”
C’mon, you would think that person was an idiot and probably obnoxious.
I mean, what data would you have to support that musicians claim, #1, and #2, you aren’t in the business of developing guitar players, are you?
Leverage is also a self-esteem head game. If you feel inferior inside your own head, you will undoubtedly project those secret sentiments into your presentation very naturally.
You are what you think.
Thoughts are things.
Realize and articulate your REAL value in the relationship before you open your mouth.
There was a time, right after the financial meltdown, that I was considering putting my engineering skills to work at a studio in L.A. I loved producing and I was a good engineer, but I realized that I had ZERO leverage. I would, at best, start off as a runner and 3rd string engineer which made any possible opportunity in a studio not opportune for me.
Sometimes a situation occurs where you or some other player may be unsure of the value you bring to the table.
In this case I will share with you one of the greatest lessons my parents ever taught me, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid, then to open it up and remove all doubt.”
Keep your mouth shut and listen. Open it only to ask questions. Questions keep them talking and people love to hear themselves talk. The more they talk, the more you learn. In real business, nobody is impressed with bullshit. They may find bull-shitters entertaining, but I promise they are acutely aware of what they will require in the deal, if you bring it great, if you can’t bring it don’t pretend.
Better to discover and mutually recognize that the situation isn’t going to work than to pretend it is and be butt-hurt that you didn’t get it.
That just makes you cynical.
Honesty and humility create leverage in these situations too. Sometimes you’re a good fit, albeit a greenhorn, and their willing to give you a chance. Knowing that you’re honest not just with them but with yourself is going to weigh heavily in their decision.
All this sets up some GREAT NEWS! In the next week I will be launching a new podcast/video series entitled The C.L.I.M.B. with hit songwriter Brent Baxter who is my good friend and the mastermind behind the Man vs. Row blog and video series. These episodes will focus on songwriting tricks and strategies as well as marketing tricks and strategies to help singers, songwriters, and indie artists like you create more leverage in the music business.
FYI I will be shooting out 1 video each week via the same channels as the blog. These video episodes will be short and tidy (around 20 minutes). So the video will be available on a YouTube channel, your email, and the podcast will be made available as well if that is easier for you to consume.
Please let us know what you think of these episodes and, of course, tell us what you want us to talk about.
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