Let me start off by stating the obvious: enthusiasm is key to success in any industry. Whether you are a banker, a musician, a lawyer, a carpenter, a doctor, etc., a strong passion for your craft, be it your livelihood or simply a hobby, can be what separates you from your peers in a sea of formulaic mediocrity.
This is, however, especially true of the music industry, where the rules at times make no sense, the results are unpredictable, the risks are great and rewards often negligible, and where the success of an artist or company can in many instances rest on the initial support and backing of an enthusiastic few. Though the importance of enthusiasm permeates pretty much every facet of the business, my own experience comes from the perspective of a label, musician, and/or manager, and how crucial I believe it is to build the team that can make or break you.
If you are setting up a release, a promo campaign or perhaps just starting the development of a new artist, chances are that at some point you will have to look to a third party to assist you in the process. A DIY artist can only handle so much on his/her own and whether it be promotion, live booking, management, or distribution, some aspects of one’s career will simply need to be outsourced. Of course the options out there are plentiful. A handful of agents have shown interest in your band, but which one is right? A few publicists and radio pluggers would love to take on your promo campaign, but who will get you or your band the best results? In the case of an artist, this also applies to labels, managers, distributors, and the list goes on… One wrong turn, one weak link in the chain, and your campaign can crumble (well… maybe that’s extreme but I have seen it happen).
Merriam-Webster defines enthusiasm as a) a strong excitement of feeling and b) something inspiring zeal or fervour. Can you apply this to everyone on your team? I genuinely believe this is one of the most important questions you will need to repeatedly ask yourself during the course of a campaign an artist and manager, during the course of your career. You would certainly hope that commission-based contacts such as agents, managers, labels (to a certain extent), etc. do their utmost best for you. If you don’t get paid, neither do they, simple as that. However, they may not always have your best interests in mind. As for fee-based companies such as publicists and radio pluggers, how can you be sure that they genuinely love your band? After all, in most cases they get paid regardless of what results they produce, and no amount of “progress reports” will make up for a poor promo campaign.
When choosing your teams, do your research. Someone says they love the band and they love the album, but can they describe some of the tracks for you? Have they properly listened to the material? Can they chat about the bio/press release, or can they reference a couple of the songs, either by name or at the very least by track number? Can you feel any passion? Ask them questions; challenge them; follow it up with a couple of emails and test the communication. Regardless of how quickly one responds or the quality of their email/phone skills (everyone has their style and I respect that), what does your gut tell you?
Even if someone comes highly recommended to you for what they achieved for another band or campaign, it doesn’t mean that they can replicate it for you. Even if a company has a reputation of being the “best in the biz,” it doesn’t mean they are the best for you. The little man who absolutely adores your band and whose enthusiasm is undeniable will probably fight for you much harder and with more more tenacity than the big dog who simply thinks you would “fit” his roster nicely.
This perhaps goes without saying but is so crucial: once you have found the right people, stay on their case! If you don’t show enthusiasm and proactive drive yourself throughout the duration of your campaign, they could quickly lose theirs.
To artists and bands: How are you portrayed? Do you play every show like it’s your last, do you always give your fans your all? When speaking to journalists or radio presenters, do you come across as passionate, or jaded? After all, your most valuable fans, whether they be the 14-year old at your gig or a media contact, are your most enthusiastic ones. Convey that enthusiasm to them and they will replicate it ten-fold.
In a manager-to-label or label-to-distributor scenario: Are you confident that your day-to-day contact gets what you are about, knows your type of music and genuinely gives his all to the project (within realistic expectations)? If not, then perhaps there is someone else in the organisation better suited to your band or label. All is takes is a simple phone call which could potentially make a big difference.
The bottom line is, the music business is too tough a place to not be 100% certain about all of your decisions and not be convinced with all the pieces of your puzzle. As a general rule, surround yourself with enthusiasm and you can’t go wrong. After all, enthusiasm is infectious. If someone can’t convey passion and enthusiasm to you, how are they supposed to convey it to others?