Startup Artist: Documenting What It’s Like Starting a Band in 2015

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Do you remember the board game Perfection?

I used to hate that game as a kid. Here’s the premise: There’s a board with a 16 holes in it, each with a different shape. Square, triangle, star, half moon, etc. Each hole has a corresponding shape that fits only in that hole. To play, you start the timer, and begin to put the shapes in the holes. If you get all the shapes in the correct holes before the timer is up, you win! But if the timer beats you, the entire board shakes and with one big motion it throws all of your hard work in the air, and laughs at you (ok, maybe it just feels like that). Pop goes Perfection! (This was the theme song) You lose that round, wind up the timer, and try again.

Do you understand why I hated this game as a kid? It’s a hard game to win, and at any moment everything you’ve worked on could be completely undone.

In 1999, the music industry’s game of Perfection went to hell (you saw this analogy coming a mile away). Pieces were thrown all over the place. (Napster, Limewire, Bit Torrent, iTunes, Pandora, Spotify) Some people tried to stop it, but there was nothing that could be done. You can’t outsmart the game! The internet threw everything all over the place.

Perfection Sucks

Before this analogy completely derails, let me just say this: The music industry as a whole has spent the last 16 years frantically trying to force all of the previous shapes into where they think the holes should be. But it’s not that simple anymore. The game has changed. Now there’s more pieces and fewer holes. The star shaped hole moved to the bottom left, while the half moon hole is nowhere to be found.

Rather than take a step back and assess the mess that we’re dealing with, we’ve been trying to force things on music consumers (like suing 8 year olds for pirating music), or giving them impossibly good deals that aren’t sustainable (virtually every song in recorded music history, for free).

For 10 years I’ve been doing the freelance bass player thing. People call me (well, mostly text me now), say “I need a bass player, this day, this time, this music, this much money” and I say yes. I learn their songs, show up, play their music, take their check and go home to prepare for the next gig.

It’s exciting, random, unpredictable, fun, at times unstable, exhilirating, and it’s the primary way I’ve made a living the past 10 years. Other things help fill in the gaps financially (teaching, recording, etc), but live freelancing has been my main jam for a while.

Well, I’m thrilled to tell you about a new thing that I’ll be working on. It’s equal parts exciting, motiviating, frightening, awesome, and financially unsure, with lots of hard work ahead.

I’m starting a band.

First, there’s someone you need to meet. Her name is Faith, and she’s awesome. We met in college, she was a singer-songwriter, and I played bass for her. She plays piano, ukulele, and sings, and she’s really great at what she does. She writes beautiful songs, and is generally just a very creative person.

She’ll be my bandmate.

So when I say, “I’m starting a band” it’s really “we’re starting a band” and mostly “she’s the songwriter and mastermind, I just have a few ideas to contribute, and am ok with the online stuff.”

Oh, I should mention, we’re married.

Make No Assumptions

You know what happens when you make assumptions? You make an “ass” out of “u” and “mption” … or something like that.

It’s 2015. Since the music industry game of Perfection has changed, we’re not going to make any assumptions on how being in a band works. We’re going to be testing things, trying them out, failing, trying again, and I’ll report all of right here on the blog.

Maybe the square hole moved to the bottom right, maybe there’s no more crescent shaped hole. We’re about to find out. It’s time to play another round of Perfection.

Startup Artist

I’ll continue blogging about freelancing, the music industry, and general musician life, but I’ll also be documenting our journey of starting a band in 2015, and trying to earn a living from it. These will all be part of a series called, “Startup Artist”, so be on the lookout for those posts.

The main difference will be that for Startup Artist posts, this is uncharted territory for me, so it’ll be lots of trial and error: trying new things and reporting the successes and failures back here. This is not an attempt to promote my own music, but to document the business that happens behind the music.

Here’s Where You Come In

If you’re a solo artist, in a band, or have just written a few songs, follow along with my journey. I’ll be sharing everything I can, in as much detail as I can. But just as important, I want to hear from you! I want to hear about things that have worked, have tanked, and have helped you along your own journey as an artist. Let’s make this an open discussion to help each other as we play this wonderful, frustrating game. Leave comments, share this on social media, email me, and let’s get this discussion going!

Why Not Play Scrabble?

If you’re reading this and thinking, “this is dumb, Perfection sucks!” you’re right, the game of Perfection sucks, but when you get all, or even some of the pieces in the right holes, it’s the greatest thing in the world.

Why don’t I quit Perfection go play Scrabble instead? Because I don’t know how to play any other game. Sure, Mousetrap looks cool, but I’ve been playing this game so long, I have to see how far it takes me.

More Coming Soon

There’ll be many more Startup Artist posts in the coming weeks and months. I’m really excited to share all of it with you.  In the meantime, if you want to check out our music, we’re called Hello, Dear, here’s our website and you can stream our music from pretty much any music streaming service (yes, including Spotify and Apple Music, I bet you didn’t see that coming).