May 18, 2010
Breaking an act ...
Just read this post from Mike McCready. I like the way Mike thinks about a bunch of things, but I think he's on slightly the wrong track with this one.
To start with, the whole notion of "breaking" and act (not in a physical sense) is a little outmoded. Mike may be right about what's needed to break an act if that's what the act wants to do - but there's no need to "break" most acts in the modern context. There's a pretty good living by playing to your core audience without attempting to go stratospheric in the mass market. A lot of acts have burned up a lot of cash trying to go stratospheric and still failed.
Of Mike's four points, I most take issue with point 2 - professionally record your music. Again, if you want to impress people who are plugged into a mass audience, Mike's right. Those guys only want highly polished, totally market-ready product - and make no mistake, that's how they think about it. It's not music and they don't care about the artist. Radio programmers care only about whether their market segment will want to hear this recording again.
My advice to Indies is to record everything as often and as cheaply as possible. Record your rehearsals. Record your live shows. Make demos with different arrangements and substitute verses. Release them all. Give them to your subscribers as "fan-only" welcome MP3s. Let your fans see your process of artistic development and seek their feedback. Most importantly, LISTEN to the recordings and find out what works and what doesn't. Use them to improve your writing, arranging, recording and performing skills.
Then, when you think the product is ready to go to a mass audience (IF you ever get to that point), get a professional recording made ... That's the only way you're gonna get close to Point 4: get the right people to hear your music.
But don't fall for the dream factory line that your act needs to be "broken" or you might find that your love of your music and you will to continue get broken first.