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Leveling Up Your Music Brand

The CAB Portal blog provides articles on tricks of the trade and best practices, as well as news, interviews, artist showcases and recommended products/services, that emerging artists can utilize to take their music brand to the next level of success.



How To Make It In The Music Business (Or) How To Willingly Ruin Your Life

Hunter S. Thompson

Everything has a formula and algorithm, whether you know it or not. Success in various business endeavors is no different. While some may look at the idea of making it in music as an impossible dream, it genuinely isn’t. Is it easy? Hell no. Will you survive it? There is a decent chance you won’t. Will the fame stay? Oh, fuck no, you get fifteen minutes unless you’re on some Radiohead shit, and let’s be honest, you are not on some Radiohead shit. But the business of music and top selling artists is just that. A business, and its model to follow is actually kind of straightforward, believe it or not. The problem is, the fine print, as mentioned before, will probably kill you. In that sense, be careful what you wish for.

BUT (and there is always a butt in music, usually clad in spandex)....

If you want to make it in music, this is how you do it (which is also a song, by the way, proving I know what the fuck I am talking about).

For those questioning what I know and how, I’ve hung out with Danger Mouse, my cousin formed one of Syracuse’s most famous indie bands and I can play 11 instruments. Why am I not famous, then? Well, I am in my own head. Just not for music, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have been. I just didn’t want that. I like being able to go to the grocery store without
being raped, but some of you want that, so let me help you achieve that dream!

Study the Number Ones (of Last 20 years)

Not a joke at all. Do you want to know how a band as shitty as Nickelback got rich? The lead singer was smart enough to follow pop and alternative music for ten years and noted the chords, melodies, and compositions most likely to get a reaction from people. Spoiler alert, write your song in the key of G-major. But he did that, wrote a handful of songs around those simple chord progressions and, WHAT DO YOU KNOW, people who reacted to the last 5000 songs that had those progressions and went number one reacted to theirs as well, even though they genuinely do suck. And even if they are a joke to you and I, they are, but they are STILL MAKING BANK. Explain THAT! I kind of just did, actually.

But yes Virginia, there is a “standard chords”. Again, for those curious, it is G major to C major to D major. Also, D major to A major to G major. Those three are EVERY FUCKING POP SONG AND SUCCESSFUL SONG EVER MADE.

Think I am lying? Look, you can even get fancy and add a fourth chord and STILL make it:

By the way, yes, this works even for rap. Just because some DJ cum producer is hitting a keyboard and drum machine and using chunky beats instead of guitar chords doesn’t mean that song still isn’t based in G-Major (though in all honesty, rapper-producers love songs in B tuning as it is more easy to “talk” over and sounds less harmonious than a G, which is ironic cuz rappers used to call themselves G’s.)

*Drops mic and then picks it up cuz I have more to say

Have a Modicum of Musical Talent

Whereas once this would have been the main point here and more than a modicum would be suggested, all you need in 2017 to get famous as a musician or rock star is a WEE bit of talent. Now keep in mind, there are artists out there who have TONS of talent (Bruno Mars, Adele etc) but you need to understand, in our current state of pop music, acts and artists like that are VERY few and far between. 


Because labels are now more interested in the brand then the band. Is your band talented as fuck? Cool, but guess what? If they are not marketable, that talent is going to be seen by exactly no one. 

Now you will have better luck the more talent you have, but it also boils down to shitty things now like looks and brand. Proof of this is Beyonce’. She is no longer looked at like a single person. She is looked at as a money making entity. Granted, she has talent, but if that bitch was buck toothed you are TRIPPING if you think she would have the social status she has right now, straight up.

This leads us right into the next point….

Build an Image/Brand

Oh, this is the part of music that has changed dramatically over the last 40 years. You used to be able to be kinda ugly and still get famous (looking at you, ugly-but-super-talented Janis Joplin). But if you think cats like Janis Joplin would make it in today’s pop culture, looks-obsessed society as a popular musician, you are smoking crack out of a methhead’s asshole. 
Truth is, right now image is bigger than talent. Look at a lackluster band like the Chainsmokers (yup, I just fucking said that) as a perfect example. They have a look (every dude who has ever worked at a coffee shop and every girl who ever worked at a Forever 21 seems to be their ‘thing”) but besides that, their music is trash, it really is. “Lemme Take a Selfie.” That is not a fucking hook, that is something someone says right before you punch them in the face. Yet they got famous, huh? Yup. Branding. Even right down to the name. Grabs your attention and makes you wonder.

You can even take a far better band like 21 Pilots and STILL POINT OUT THE SAME THING. Yea, cool, you guys wear ski masks to connect better with your audience and shit, cool.
But guess what, people? THAT, in itself, is a hook. THAT is branding. For further proof go look up their very first music video and compare it to Heathens, their most recent. What difference do you see? A band that got progressively more successful as they got cooler and better looking (and better branded).

And once you are branded and made into a dehumanized symbol that sings hooks ad-nauseam and can no longer even go to the store without being accosted by some starfucking teenager, there is one final and crucial step in all this…

Sell Your Soul and Sacrifice Everything You Love

Now if you’re thinking this is literal, like “some red guy with horns shows up in nice suit with a contract”, you might just be the stupidest person alive. No, fuck all that Satan-Illuminati bullshit, only because it is not literal, but it IS real. By selling your soul I mean just that. You no longer make your choices. You are binded to a (frankly, disgusting and rape-ish) contract that tells you how you can dress, if you can be in a relationship, where you will be traveling and what you will be doing, down to every minute of every day. 

Once you reach that tier will you potnetially have the societal pull and money you want? Fuck yes, but guess what? You thought about that social influence and money and applied it to your life NOW. Do you know what those things are like in the music business? First of all, YOU get less than EVERYONE around you (even the most famous artists get cuts at around 30% of their total revenue). You have to then pay out your payroll, which you have bodyguards and engineers and producers on. Once ALL that is done and you pay for all your cars and your rent and insurance and taxes and take care of those you love, guess what? You end up broke. They all do (which is why most bands are going indie now, so they can actually make their OWN money, finally).

On top of all that, any NORMAL life you wanted is GONE. You married with kids? Bad news, you won’t be seeing them much, maybe 3 times a year. You will be touring to keep the money coming in for the fat cats who get your check. Add to that, the “call of the wild” (all the drugs and sex a celebrity can suddenly have that they never could before) and you suddenly are a cheating, drug addicted, piece-of-shit pawn in a business you thought was your dream but if you listened to ANYONE in it (Prince and Michael Jackson being two perfect examples), you would have known better. It ruined both their lives, robbed them, and the drugs they got PRESCRIBED killed them way too young. 

So if that life is still alluring to you, by all means, best of luck to you. Just follow the above steps and watch as you waste away to a rich, lifeless nothing.

Also, seek therapy because if you do still want all that, you need serious help.