#171: 10 mistakes you might be making with your music right now

Big mistakeWe like to think we’re unique as snowflakes, but we musicians can be pretty similar when it comes to the mistakes we (continue to) make. In this episode, Kevin and Chris discuss 10 common errors and oversights many DIY artists are guilty of. Are you guilty too? Plus, news about SoundCloud albums, Spotify playlists, the DIY Musician Conference, and more.

  • JJ Neville

    Cool music at the end, yeah that’s what I’m talking about! I mean the guitar solo!

  • kbreuner


  • Leslie Karen Krafka

    Yes, please do a podcast about Spotify…I admit, as much as I have tried to educate myself, I don’t understand how it get my music heard, how to get people to follow me, and most of all to get an a playlist…other than the ones I make. Thanks—LKK

  • Rhyme Or Reason

    There really isn’t much actionable advice for musicians, anywhere. This is no exception.

  • @Rhyme_0r_Reason:disqus – what kinds of things would you like to see/hear/learn? Is there a type of instruction (book, podcast, web series, etc.) that you see for other industries that communicates the type of actionable advice you’d like to see in the music community?

  • Rhyme Or Reason

    Genre-specific instruction would be a good place to start. Techniques, approaches, and attitudes for whatever type of genre. Localized information from those who’ve toured all over, as to what is popular where. The problem with podcasts like these is that it’s all so very GENERAL, like “Hey guys, go out into your community and make friends with musicians” doesn’t really help, as most musicians ARE TRYING to do that already and not realizing why they’re not getting anywhere. What makes a local artist well-known? it’s got nothing to do with musical ability, I can tell you that. It tends to be a popularity contest.

    As to my first point, how many different types of musicians do you think have listened to this cast and turned it off because it doesn’t talk about metal/rap/rock or whatever? There are different rules for different genres and musicians all have different goals, and unlike any other industry where the goal is to MAKE MONEY alone, such is not the case with art and therefor there is no catch all.

  • I think you’ve got some excellent points there. What works in the folk world won’t fly with EDM, and vice versa. Though a John Prine show where everybody is wearing glow sticks and smashed out of their minds would be kinda fun to see… I digress.

    The “popularity contest” is real. I was frustrated to no end by that until I realized what was really driving it. There’s a business principle that people prefer doing business with others they like, know, and trust. If someone needs a plumber (or a bulk glowstick salesman!), they’ll almost always choose a guy they know, or who has proven himself to be trustworthy and dependable, over his competitors, even if he’s a bit more expensive. Same applies to music.

    I had friends who weren’t very good musicians, but they could fill out a bar with “fans” (who would even admit the band wasn’t that great), because they were just a blast to hang out with.

    So if you’re good, AND you can network and build positive relationships with the decision makers/bookers/venue owners, you’re much more likely to get gigs in any genre or segment of the industry. That’s why those are the kind of things these general sources promote. Making money or not, having an impact on an audience is something all artists are vying for, whether they want to admit it or not, and getting more of the right kinds of gigs is likely to get both money and attention.

    I do think the CD Baby Podcast is intentionally crafting this podcast to be general though. It’s designed for all “DIY Musicians”, as the name implies, thus the tips are general, and even the news items are based on wide-reaching platforms like Pandora, iTunes, etc., instead of genre-specific items. If they got too specific, they’d alienate a lot of their audience. They’d have to make 20 different podcasts (at least) to get very specific.

    I’m not familiar with the hip-hop world, but I would imagine that somewhere there’s a podcast aimed at how artists can become more successful in that genre. Same would go for metal, folk, cinematic instrumentals, etc. But those are going to be smaller-scale, due to the niche they cater to. A major organization like CD Baby probably wouldn’t put the time and dollars into that and then set up 20 different conferences for those specific genres. And most people who have “made it” are focused on keeping their career afloat… or they’re busy sipping Cristal and snorting blow off of hooker’s bottoms. Drake isn’t gonna do a podcast on how to get your mix tape picked up on college radio.

    But CD Baby does cater to those groups in different ways – at the DIY Musician Con, they had genre meet-ups, breakout sessions focused more on niche styles, and were even talking about ways to improve upon that at next year’s event in Nashville. I’m excited to see what comes of it.

  • Rhyme Or Reason

    Doesn’t sound like we’re in disagreement really. Some other things I’d talk about if I had a podcast like this would be along the lines of “get lucky”. I’m only half joking when I say this. Another topic would be how to keep your ear to the ground and know what trends are rising and which are already on the way out and act accordingly. We all know how genres and subcultures have a shelf life and there are always tell tale signs when it’s peaked and thus has lost its significance in the ‘counter culture’ sense of the word. Undercurrents, if you will.

    I agree that yes, the podcast DOES have to be very general, and thus is not really useful, or as I stated in my original comment ACTIONABLE, for anyone who already knows the basics. It’s all rather self explanatory stuff that these guys are saying. I really didn’t learn anything and I listened to several of these before tuning out.

    If I could offer a tip to amateurs it would be ‘get people TALKING ABOUT YOU no matter what they’re saying’. I remember popular groups locally that had half the audience talking shit about them but that didn’t stop them from showing up. So it really does not matter what people say, it matters what they do.

    Another thing; know when you’re not meant to fit into a “scene”. This has been the majority of my projects. If you’re being a trendy musician and there’s a built in niche community that you want to glom onto, more power to you. That isn’t how I choose to operate so I’ve had to adapt. I can recall going out of my way to support other acts and go to their shows only to have them snub me and/or not return the favor. So know when going your own way is best.

    To be honest, the idea of “musicians look out for one another” or “support each other” is a load of horseshit in my experience. It’s a pretty lie that people tell each other in order to feel better about themselves and their lackluster community. It’s more of an oligarchy in most cases where the popular artists get the accolades, and don’t have to return the sentiment to the people on the lower end of the totem pole, who, in turn are also acting in their own self interests (not that theres anything inherently wrong with that it just is what it is) because why would they?

    You don’t hear about famous bands going out of their way to support up and coming artists unless they have a vested interest in them.

  • Rhyme Or Reason