It’s simple, really.
I’ve spent the last 8 years of my life as a songwriter and a touring musician. I’ve had a lot of things go my way over those years, but I also watched as a lot of things didn’t go my way. Most of the time, this happened when the cards were completely out of my hands— when others were in charge of my career. I accepted that things had to happen that way because the business in which I had chosen to participate told me things had to happen that way.
That I needed a manager. A record label. A booking agent.
All of those things exist, in a financial sense, because they receive a percentage of a musician’s wages. In the case of a record label, it exists financially because of a musician’s talent and the label’s ability to market it.
And all of that is okay— there are some incredible people serving some incredible musicians in all of those roles. I just didn’t seem to have any of them working for me.
That’s when I decided to take things into my own hands.
I realized a little over four years ago that what I had witnessed was the near killing of my career.
And that was a good thing.
It took me a couple of days to work out all of the reasons why things hadn’t worked for me. It took a couple of more days to figure out what was at the heart of most of those failures.
It was during this two week span that I realized the value of seeing things fail, and then figuring out why they did so: I didn’t have to repeat those mistakes.
Failure, in my case, was much more valuable than success would have been over the long term. If things had worked out with the record label, the manager, and the booking agencies I would have been left with the notion that success was some sort of mysterious thing— that it took the combination of several forces (none of which I knew very much about) to achieve it.
And so began my life as a living, breathing network within the music business.
I recognized that there were things that I could actually do for myself without having to rely on others to do them for me. And then, there were the things that I wholeheartedly could NOT do.
Things I couldn’t:
- design my own website (but I COULD maintain one that was designed for me).
- I couldn’t pay for my next record (but I COULD put together figures based on the sale of my previous album and present a business plan to an investor).
- I couldn’t create the artwork for that record (but I COULD hire someone with those skills and work in concert with them to create something that I saw in my head).
Things I could do:
- Record: I knew how to write the songs. I knew how to produce them in the studio. I knew which players would fit into my sonic makeup.
- Tour: I knew the owners or the talent buyers in hundreds of venues, and I knew their email addresses and numbers. I knew how to read a map, and so how to route a tour that could take me from one end of the country to the other, if I so desired. I knew who was on my level, success-wise, and who I could turn to for advice if I was heading into a previously unplayed market.
- Press: I knew which shows could benefit from media coverage, and the outlets I could easily approach to garner it. I also knew who I needed to get my music to come record release time, and I knew I could come up with a creative way to do so.
- Fans: I knew how to get in touch with them and how to keep them engaged.
- Management: I knew how to make a budget and keep track of both my pay and expenses. If I didn’t know a key industry individual that I needed to contact, I knew someone who did.
- Supplementation: I knew of a few businesses that might be interested in sponsorship opportunities, and presented them with feasible (and ultimately successful) plans that would benefit both parties involved.
- Me: I knew how to sell the most important feature of a musician— the musician him or herself. In this case, it was a himself: me. This aspect my solo foray into the music business has been the highest-yeilding investment out of all of the do-it-yourself investments that I made. By following a few simple rules— be open, be honest, let people get to know you, be hardworking, be nice, be sincere, and for God’s sake work as hard as you can to put out a solid product, recorded or live— I was able to generate a decent following of hardcore fans.
And hardcore, devoted fans— whether you’re in the music business or the making widgets— make the world go ‘round.
I would find people— people that work as hard in their field of expertise as I was working in mine— to do the things that I couldn’t. I was pretty excited when I tallied up the “Could” and “Could Not” columns. I could do a lot more for myself than I couldn’t.
And how did it go? It went well. Very well, I think. In the last four years I’ve played over 1,000 shows in nearly half of the states in the Union, toured 7 countries in Europe, released 3 records (on top of my previous two), and I’ve become friends with a huge number of people who, I learned, will support what they like but unfailingly support what they like and know. And what they knew was, simply, me.
I’m not writing any of this to inflate my own ego. I’m writing it to prove one of the basic pillars of Arch + Cypher: there are a lot of things that can be done in-house. I was, and continue to be, passionate about music, and when someone is given the opportunity to work on something they are passionate about, the sky is the limit.
More on this later. Now it’s time to explain where this all came from.
Arch + Cypher began before it even had a name. It started with a fellow musician asking me for some suggestions as to how he could go it alone as well. Then came a friend who had just started a business and who wanted to see if I could help him with branding. Next, it was another musician, and then another businessman. And it didn’t stop there.
I found that, overall, I enjoyed the challenge, and more importantly, I enjoyed the work.
What has always just been a side business, a labor of love if you will, now has the chance to grow on its own, and I’m excited by the prospect of growth. I’ve learned a lot of things over my 8 years in music, and I’ll continue to learn. Hopefully for the rest of my life. If I’ve learned one thing that has served me best, especially during the last 4 go-it-alone years, it’s this: if you wish to make a living from your creations, you have but one thing to build— your brand.
And with this notion in mind, I present to you: Arch + Cypher.
This blog will be conducted as a conversation. I’ll share things that I find interesting and relevant in the field of branding and marketing. I’ll share things that I’ve learned, and things that I still need to learn. It is my hope that you’ll find some of my insights valuable, and moreover, it’s my hope that you’ll find those insights valuable enough to think of Arch + Cypher if you ever begin the process of looking for help in these matters.
And so, as the rain falls outside of my window, I say to you:
Hello. I believe in you.