If there is anything an aspiring musician should be working on as hard as the quality of their product (be it songs, performance, productions, recordings, management services) it should be this: Building your team.
Just because we live in the age of Do-It-Yourself doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to try and do everything yourself. When you think of all the things a successful artist must do to actually create a life in music, the variety and complexity of tasks (both artistic and managerial) is mind-boggling, and no one person can do it all.
The good news is that help is readily at hand if you look for it; building your team must be a priority. Music can and should be a social art. It’s simply great fun to make music together, to share music you love with your friends, to experience it together in concerts or clubs, and to work together with friends and colleagues to accomplish the numerous and critically important tasks required to promote a band, a song, a venue, a recording, or whatever aspect of music career you wish to pursue.
An interesting example of this principle in music making is the emergence of artistic “collectives.” There are plenty of examples of successful collectives that tend to be of two types, either a collection of artists who collaborate and are associated by a single record label (such as the Twin Cites Hip-Hop label Rhymesayers Entertainment), or a loosely associated group of artists who have individual careers but come together for special group projects (such as Broken Social Scene).
A few weeks ago at McNally Smith College of Music, we hosted a really interesting and unusual performance by a new collective in the Twin Cities that is devoted to making improvised music. The group is called Coloring Time and is different every time they perform, but always includes spoken word/rappers, singers, rhythm section, violin and cello, sax, and whoever happens to be available that can perform up to their high standard of musicality and spontaneity.
Selection from an improvised group performance by Coloring Time at McNally Smith’s Deepwinter Bonfire
It is clear that these musicians love working together, that they inspire each other, push themselves and stretch their artistic boundaries, and enjoy the pure adventure and discovery in this shared experience. The results are often stunningly successful, though there are a few moments that are less inspired. But that’s to be expected no matter what activity one pursues. No one excels constantly and without some uneven results. But by working together, supporting each other, taking advantage of the strength in numbers and variety of personalities and skills, the overall experience is rich and rewarding.
What’s true for Coloring Time and other collectives is true for any group working together whether it is a baseball team, a management team, or you and your friends splitting up the tasks and creating new career paths as artists and entrepreneurs. Don’t do it yourself — do it together!