Today wraps up the 2015 New Music Seminar, and I've probably learned more in the past three days than I did after two years of college. For everyone who couldn't attend, I've broken the conference down into one of my favorite mediums for education-- a top ten list.
Lesson 1: Fans Are Friends
The first panel of the conference was a how-to on DIY, which sounds contradictory but ended up being really rewarding. The enduring theme of the panel was how to treat your fans-- the same as how you treat your friends. Fandom births a two-way street and both sides are required to maintain the relationship. People would rather hear from the artist and their closest team members than from PR teams and label executives working a thousand miles away. Reply to people's snapchats, acknowledge shout-outs and art from fans, know who loves you and love them back. Even if you just take an hour a day to interact with fans, you still have the power to make someone's day.
Lesson 2: Know Your Contracts
A band is a business. A creative, art driven business, but a business nonetheless. If you don't have a band agreement legally declaring the band as a business, you're going to get lumped into the general population of "general partnership," which means everyone involved has the same liability and rights, so when your keytar player decides to quit because you won't give him a ten minute solo, he's probably going to be taking a good chunk of your money away with him. From the outset, you need to determine who is responsible for what, who owns what, and and who gets what. That keytar player never did anything but drink you beer, so he better not be getting an equal cut of song ownership.
Lesson 3: "Copyright. Yo. Shit."
This lesson, exact spelling and all, comes from Robert Celestin (RAC Law Offices). And there isn't much explanation necessary. If you don't copyright your music, you don't have any right to it. Period.
Lesson 4: Melanie Martinez Is A Gift From Above
This city is full of semi-inspired pop acts with whispy, inauthentic voices. Melanie Martinez is a miracle prescription-- her bubblegum exterior is just the candy coating on a pill that will tear all the cobwebs off your soul. She's Debbie Harry's lovechild with an angel. She's a wind up doll that became a real girl and owes nothing to noone. I was floored by her voice. Struck absolutely dumb. She goes deeper into herself than you would think possible. She isn't afraid to hurt and break open and scream-- she's a rock star in pop clothing.
Lesson 5: There Are No Right Paths
Everyone at this conference got there by following a different path. You can go to NYU and major in music business and do internships and get a degree, that's fine. You can drop out of college to go on tour and never get any "official" experiences. You can start booking shows and managing local bands as a teenager, that's fine too. You can spend your life working an office job and then decide you want to go to law school and become an entertainment lawyer at age 50. Every single one of these paths can lead you to success, every single one of these paths is one I saw in the flesh at the seminar.
Lesson 6: Bring Your Own Snacks
If you're like me, you lose steam really quickly when you get hungry. I personally get cranky, tired, and kind of annoying. Sometimes lunch breaks are built into your day. Sometimes they aren't. Those free pitchers of water can only do so much. Hotel diners aren't especially cheap, and Starbucks isn't either. I like Starbucks, but I also like being able to pay rent. A box of granola bars is cheap and easy to stuff into your backpack. And it'll keep you going after three or four panels in a row.
Lesson 7: "Just Do It" Is Great Advice
If you want to do something-- if you want to be a band manager or a photographer or a musician, then do it. Approach a local band and offer to help them out, snap photos at a show, meet up with other musicians and write music. There's no golden door for you to walk through, but there's always a window to climb in.
Lesson 8: "Just Do It" Is Terrible Advice
If you're a man in a room full of female professionals having a discussion about their difficulties in the music industry and how to address them, maybe don't stand up and say "I never let anything get in the way of my success, just go and succeed." Because, you know, experiences are nuanced.
Lesson 9: The World Is Small
First day of the seminar, I ran into an RA From my freshman year of college. He was headlining Monday's concert at The Delancey. A couple years and our relationship has changed from him busting my roommates for underage drinking to me photographing his show (which was fantastic). People you meet today may be small players in the game, but a few years down the road they could be the one standing between you and a record deal.
Lesson 10: You Can Be Successful And Still Panic
This year is my first time getting press passes and press releases regularly. I'm doing everything I dreamed of doing when I started this blog. And yet I found myself in the middle of day two with all the color draining from my face, saying "What am I doing with my life." And I'm okay with that. I'm allowed to panic. I'm happy but I'm not content to just let things going at the same pace they are now. I'm going to keep working and keep hustling because that moment of panic means I know I can do even better. And I'm going to.