Footwork

 

Footwork in this context does not mean the true meaning of the word – it is more of an association. Footwork is the easiest aspect to present as one of the most important phase of a career in the early stages. Footwork is synonymous with the responsibility of everyone their own career. In the music profession, the business of an artist is typically first a presentation, especially by the professional groups supporting the artist. There is nothing wrong with this technique, however such a presentation is likely to mislead people in terms of footwork, which is the artist’s own responsibility. Footwork entails things done by the artist themselves, either being onsite or otherwise ensuring that the project under construction is moving forwards. One important starting point to consider in the music business is that your dreams are yours – not anyone else’s. Generally, outsourcing is usually needed to achieve them – but not as a matter of course.

Professional thinking assumes that self-titular authorship manages its plot with the same intensity that the necessity of a task requires. It would be an ideal situation if that were the case. Everyone would simply choose their goals and concentrate their full energy and passion on it. Everyone would be well prepared and practiced in their skills so that they can respond to each request of help coming out of the box. With such an equation comes structural problems. It would require each participant to experience the operation as their own, with financial benefits. Only a real professional can concentrate and engage with the necessary care when dreams and work-related compensation are not met, which is perfectly understandable.

Hence, a professional thinking only dictates what should be done and whose responsibility it is. Because we all have our own dreams and goals, and we cannot always implement them ourselves, we must compromise and rely on the help of others. In this context, agreements will be entered into in exchange for these mutually important elements. As an example, an individual may be a social media master that with correctly timed operations and feeds that support the artist’s career, the artist and their existence may become quickly known to the general public. This requires continuous monitoring and analysis of input power. It is not enough for the first feeds to be done impressively, and then deteriorate, which is the most common mistake in this case. Another big mistake is to assume that an expert would willingly continue working without any incentives. It is quite possible that, without a reply, the aid provider sees no other possibility than to continue in other contexts than with the story of the artist. Commitment is sometimes difficult to achieve when it comes to other peoples’ dreams. Each dream must be somehow included in each pattern of effort so that the goal of success is maintained throughout.

Most often this motivation is acquired with money. The obvious problem being that there is rarely enough capital at the beginning of a career. That support therefore needs to be acquired in some other way and when nothing large is on offer – you are not able ask a lot. The artist should also note that even a couple of unfinished projects can attract remarkable interest. Bringing the artist and their production to a point where it really begins to produce takes time and resources. Even though such cynicism is fortunately not always true, it should always be taken into account. At the time when there is nothing to offer to the public, projects cannot be left to someone else, at least not entirely.

At this stage it is good to return to the idea of your own responsibility. It is not realistic to expect anyone to do the lion’s share of the project if they are not entitled to a share of the resulting income. The previously mentioned master of social media showing their flavor through the production of an artist, combining their own personal motives – bringing the knowledge into a favorable environment and raising awareness to the public in a professional manner. Nothing prevents these ‘free employees’ from using their contribution as a springboard for their own personal dreams.

A social media master needs something that reflects his or her skills. This is also the case with other professional groups supporting the artist. In the music business, it is difficult to be a relevant factor without music and artists.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with this. The music industry’s livelihood is based on independence and free will. On the tactical side however, problems arise if the artist’s success counts on such cooperation. Thus if such an attempt to move forward fails, the artist will be in trouble.

The artist easily relies on those who provide feedback and encouragement. It is not uncommon at all for someone to comment on the first demos on a regular basis. Because industry circles are a difficult equation, or at least the belief is such, the artist can become locked in a challenging trap, both in fact and mentally. This should also be understood by professional groups that support the artist.

The person who evaluates the demos may actually be at a point in their career/situation where nothing available at that moment is interesting. From the artist’s point of view, one should consider whether such a person is the right person to give feedback in all matters. It is a completely different matter to give feedback from a general point of view compared to putting one’s own assets into a project. Such a situation, and especially the longer it continues, is bad for the artist – particularly in light of footwork. The artist likely goes astray wasting energy to assure the ‘feedback agent’ with a new demo. This kind of motivation may in turn make it harder to continue the work. It also excludes a lot of other options and closes other doors to the artist. The time that an artist should harness their social skills in other forums, is now wasted on this single judge’s opinion. Worst of all, it is perfectly possible that the recipient of your demos may one day find the artist/project he or she has been looking for and thereafter have little or no time and energy to provide even the slightest feedback.

These two situations are educational examples of what happens when footwork and self-responsibility fall short. It is completely polite to answer questions and give feedback, even though a commitment might not follow.

A man I did not always like told me to always trust your stomach. I cannot confirm the accuracy of that assertion but quite often in my own career it has held true. Not all people are meant for each other in such a delicate branch as the music business. The sooner this fact is accepted, the easier it is to move forward. The pursuit of a meaningful career can sometimes be in the midst of work and pain, and there are no shortcuts to it. You also have to remember that only a few compositions will last forever – people change. It is quite possible that some unexpected event might even bring you together with your worst enemy.

Artists must understand that some things must be done themselves, even if they have external help. The most effective artist organizations are when participants are aware of the special skills and available resources of each member. If a manager handles 70 percent – you should consider whether they can also handle the remaining 30. It just slows down the operation. The organization can find another operator who performs the task easier with less effort. For reasons of professionalism, it is not worth increasing the workload over resources – no matter what professional titles say. An artist’s affiliates tend to admire the artist’s organization as a whole – not always whom it belongs to. Such a thing may be left uninterrupted because other things are so well taken care of. An operator who is working hard to do something is not the person you want to blame.

Solidarity is good. Such implementation requires an open discussion. A group is may be unknowingly ignorant of the motivation and resources of the participants. Due to copyright, the artist and other copyright holders are ultimately held responsible for everything – whether these tasks are delegated or not. Many things are related to career advancement elsewhere and are often a prerequisite for success. Since the artist does not yet enjoy public awareness, it is difficult for an artist to make a break unless the matter is first presented to the public. The question is when you should seriously consider outsourcing activities and become lazy. The answer is certainly never – but the idea is clear. In an ideal situation, the artist’s organization would work in a differentiated manner, with each department performing in accordance with the artist’s wishes and instructions, so that the story of the artist remains consistent.

Let us consider a social media master getting hype in Australia with some ingenious post of his or hers. If the artist does not have anything more important on, the artist’s management should take advantage and already begin to make inquiries about a possible Australian visit, for example TV-shows and gigs. It is extremely important to take a stand whether the performances will promote the success the artist has achieved or something else, for example related to the initial hype created by the social media master. The answer to this lies in whether the artist takes part in the cost itself, or are they already aiming for an income stream when visiting. In general both occur, but in the first phase of promotion this decision is of great importance. Sometimes it is worth taking part in the costs yourself if the expectations are realistic or the visit otherwise fits the artist’s story. Quite often such a project is left unattended or is not even seriously considered, because the artist or management feels they don’t have the resources to make the vision possible. This is a big mistake. Simply emailing rarely leads to any desired outcome, but is preferable than doing nothing. A trip can be made at your own cost if it is expected to be favorable. The promotion of the artist is about reacting.

The main rule is that hype should be utilized, or at least the artist needs to become mobilized in some way. That moment will never return in the same way, and it only lasts a short time. A new artist needs a story and the audience’s interest is the best way to get people to listen it.

A horror scenario of this situation would leave the Australian hype situation totally ignored or not used to its full advantage. The resulting hype is mainly enjoyed by the band’s inner social circle and bragging to friends and domestic media. Perhaps the artist’s management comes to the conclusion that no visit should be made, which can be a sensible decision due to analyses showing resources and interest were in fact not sufficient to make the visit profitable. But let’s think about it from another point of view.

What if the artist had taken advantage of the Australian hype opportunity?

Let’s think about this matter from a passive situation. An artist’s actions should be internally aligned so that outsiders can also detect it, making it easier for people to contact the artist. Even if the artist has outsourced management, the artist’s website should also have the artist’s contact information, especially at the beginning of their career. This is not a no-confidence motion for management – it is just that contact may concern a variety of things and the artist should be aware of all possible contact opportunities. Hence, if the artist has reassigned operational responsibility too early, or is simply lazy and/or careless and ignores potential advantageous situations, many easy-to-follow or act-on things may be completely missed and not implemented.

In the situation where the artist is directly contactable, the Australian trip can be accomplished at a later date and the situation still be taken advantage of, even after the initial hype may have died down.

These situations tend to occur when the artist’s activities associate with economic value, or at least some kind of expectation value that the industry acknowledges. Before this, the artist does not want to make any far-reaching plans with anyone without justified grounds. It is also unwise to grant any rights at any level until it is clear that the music will be released and the organization is set up enabling passive income entry. Up to that moment the artist should be self-sufficient, even if supported by other people. Someone’s commitment cannot be defined if there is no guarantee of desired outcome, thus this is the period in which the participants are living in more or less uncertain circumstances.

The main rule here is that if you question whether something is being dealt with on time or proposals or initiatives are reaching the recipient, you should take care of primary contact yourself. During the time when no one has economic motives acting for the project, many things can be easily left untouched.

In the promotion of an artist, the most important thing is to connect the music with the artist, so people know who they are when they hear a song. The wider this knowledge spreads, the more successful the promotion. Footwork should not be stopped or neglected before this position is achieved. It is up to the artist, how they ensure this is happening, which also requires monitoring of the situation. Here we come to the area where the limits of responsibility for requesting and providing support are met. What is reasonable? When very strong commitment from others is awkward to expect, the artist should be mainly responsible for the progress of projects. It should also be noted that although the operation works together, the horizons are the combined personal goals of everyone involved. These are not always consistent even if cooperation has already begun, which is the reason why it is important to study the basics of the industry carefully. Then it becomes easier to evaluate what to expect from others and what to pay attention to when mapping the need of external assistance.

© Mika Karhumaa 2018

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