Rock Band Heavy AmericA – Finding Your Road in Today’s Music Industry
Article by Michael T. Seguin, lead vocal / guitar for Heavy AmericA, engineer / producer at Room 19 Studio
I often wondered why our band would show up on a curated playlist with bands that sound nothing like us, or be featured in the press next to an Americana band when we’re a rock band. Is it because we have America in our name? Didn’t you see the first word? Or better yet, get booked with a techno DJ, an emo band and a metal band all on the same night! But when I looked closer, I started to realize why. We were all using the same compass.
Seems easy right?
Write an awesome song, point your compass at success and follow it.
But what is success? What does it mean to you?
This needs to be defined early in your trip or you can find yourself broke & depressed. Truth is, success means something different to each of us. Therefore our compasses should all point in different directions but we often share the same roads to get to our destinations.
Never before has it been so easy for an artist or band to promote themselves and get their music in front of an audience. The internet is alive with PR companies and playlist curators who will, for a fee of course, give you a boost on any platform you wish. The tools many record companies had a monopoly on are now available to any DIY artist or band who is willing to educate themselves on how to use them. But what used to act as a filter has become an open flood gate, creating bottleneck traffic jams making it extremely difficult to be seen or heard.
Without a clear goal, a trusty compass and an uncluttered toolbox the road to “success” will undoubtfully be a painful one. I’ll share with you from my own experience and how my definition of success changed once I determined what my end game was.
Like most young artists, in the beginning, it was all about fame, fortune & all that comes with it. I pointed my compass at Hollywood and followed it. Only to find out that thousands of others had the same idea. After a few years of knocking around the L.A. music scene I became aware that this was not what I had in mind and not at all what I was looking for. Being in close proximity to the already famous gave me a chance to peek behind the curtain and see the grand facade and it’s ugly truth. This game was more about how much can I make off of you instead of how can I help you succeed. It was time to reset my GPS.
I took some time and dug deep into finding what fuels the fire that keeps pushing me forward. It wasn’t fame (I don’t play well with plastic people), fortune would be nice but it wasn’t that either. The simpler the equation became the more apparent the answer was. I’m in it for the songwriting. Creating something tangible out of nothing, sharing it with the world and knowing that someone out there can totally relate and made my song part of their life’s soundtrack. Success!
Did I make a pile of money? No. Does the planet know who I am now? No. But a song I wrote moved someone emotionally and now has become part of my legacy. That is my definition of success and it never gets old because it happens with every new release.
The industry got easier to understand because I found my goal in it and was happy with my place in it. I now knew where and how to spend my time and money. I could educate myself on the aspects of the industry that applied to my goals. Helping myself to become a great songwriter and not relying on someone else to do it in return for half of everything I’ve achieved or my dignity. I wasn’t being distracted anymore by what every online PR firm is telling me I need to do because everyone else is doing it too. If the GPS is telling everybody on the highway to get off at the same exit because of an accident ahead, sometimes it’s better to wait the half hour for it to be cleaned up and move ahead on an open highway than to sit in another traffic jam in a different place.
Being such a monstrous industry with so many facets, without direction and sometimes blinders, it’s easy to get talked off the trail by someone looking to make a buck off your hard work. Feeding on the desperation of the artist. Don’t let them! Education is your key to not being taken advantage of and creating a clear path. That PR company that promised you six playlist placements for $30.00? Look into them a bit more and you may find those are collaborative playlists. You can add your songs to them yourself for free. Just type “collaborative playlists” in Spotify’s search bar & Bam! You just saved thirty bucks that can be used for something to actually move your career forward and remove that useless tool from your toolbox. Electricians don’t carry plungers because they don’t need one.
I have spent months and thousands of dollars writing, recording, releasing and promoting an album before and I’m glad I did. Not because it was a huge success but because it taught me some valuable lessons on how things work in the industry, what to avoid and how to use it to my advantage. I realized soon after the release of our first album that the music industry would only consider that album as “new” for about six months. This left me thinking, “you had one shot, released all your recorded music and now you’re done until you can write new music and afford to record and release again. That could take months!” Now, I would take those nine songs that would make an album and release them 3 months apart as singles with a video and a budgeted campaign for each track. Why? Because I will be getting way more exposure for my money and remaining fresh in the industry by consistently releasing new music. That’s twenty seven months worth of material I can release while I’m writing more! This also gives me time to tweek our campaigns with each release making it easier to find and reach our audience with every following release.
This has been our band’s model for the past few years and it’s worked great for always remaining “fresh and new” in the industry. A valuable lesson indeed. Once you’ve determined your own definition of success, draw your map and set your compass. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing and stay true to your compass. Make small calculated moves that bring
results and be hungry for knowledge. Your checkbook will thank you and you’ll find it easier to accomplish your goals when tackled in bits.
Remember, this isn’t a race. Being a muscian is a lifelong journey and all music eventually finds it’s audience. I’ll say it again because it’s true, all music eventually finds it’s audience. And when it does, everything will begin to fall in place, have patience. So the next time your indie pop band gets paired up with a stoner rock band, remember
“We are all just travelers with different destinations who’s roads are crossing.”
Enjoy the moment and don’t question why, you already know why. You’re educated with a clear goal and a trustworthy compass. It’s ok to share the highway with others for a while because we all get off different exits. Just stay clear of the crazy drivers with no direction and worry about getting to your exit safely.
Boston Rock Band Heavy AmericA Crushed steps outside the box with a sexy vibe