56 | How to Stand Out & Be a Leader in Your Music Scene

We all know it’s hard to stand out in your local scene. You feel like the market is oversaturated, you’re forever competing for bigger support slots… Well, this concept is going to completely change your perspective, and with it, your visibility in the local scene.

It’s easy to get stuck in the trap of looking at your peers to see what they’re doing in order to figure out how you should move forward. 

But this isn’t the best strategy and I’m about to tell you why.

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Stay Positive & Think Outside the Box

Typically within local scenes, there’s a lot of talk about the fact that bands don’t make money. You get those couple of bands who’ve been doing it for a long time and just go round-and-round on the local level without ever gaining any traction. They haven’t been able to hit the goals they wanted, never made it past that glass ceiling, and they get a negative attitude. 

You start hearing: “you don’t make money in music”, “everything’s rigged”, or “the music industry isn’t what it used to be.”

Sound familiar?

Well, that kind of negativity can kind of rub off on newer bands coming through. Those sorts of beliefs are going to be detrimental to your productivity, you’ll start to accept that’s just the way it is without ever looking for alternatives or ways around some of these obstacles. But you’ve got to be savvy and try to think outside the box.

Do What Your Competition Isn’t

A turning point for me was when I noticed a band that I was close with, hire a professional videographer to do a super professional video clip. A lot of the local bands that I had been hanging around with had been doing DIY video clips or didn’t even have a video clip. So the fact that one of my peers had invested in a professional videographer was impressive, 

and I was like: “wow, this is amazing, I can totally see that my band should be doing something similar.”

Don’t be part of the status quo. Try to do what the other bands aren’t doing, it’s going to set you apart.

When I was first starting I hadn’t really heard of a lot of bands in my local scene touring. So I went out on a limb, spent months planning a tour to a neighboring state, organizing the shows, lineups, and nitty-gritty details like public liability insurance and security… It was very stressful, but then we went on this tour and it was so much fun! We had an absolute ball of a time and we did something that separated us from our peers.

After that, a lot of our friends’ bands started to book their own small tours, which was really really cool to see. That was definitely one point in my music career where I felt like a leader in the local scene.

Keep a Bead on Trends

If you want to stand out amongst the other local bands you really need to stay on top of trends. I don’t mean you have to do what’s fashionable, or what’s cool, I mean staying on top of trends in terms of marketing trends and ways to make money within the music industry. 

For example, one of the trends that I’ve noticed recently is print-on-demand merch. Bands aren’t touring, and they aren’t playing shows, so merch has become the backbone in terms of how a lot of bands and musicians are making money now. Artists are putting out seasonal collections of merch using print-on-demand websites and that’s keeping them afloat. 

You also need to keep on top of the latest streaming platforms and the way that people are consuming music. TikTok has absolutely blown up – especially during isolation. It’s on people’s radar now. I know I was late to the TikTok train until COVID hit and I’m now utterly obsessed (you can follow me there on @MonicaStrut). 

It’s those bands who don’t settle for mediocrity who stand out the pack.

If you really want to stand out the pack you have to be looking to bands that are ahead of you, who are bigger, and see how you can use the things they’re applying in their music career to your music career. 

Now, there’s obviously going to be a lot of things that aren’t applicable to smaller artists or smaller bands. Such as Taylor Swift did a surprise drop recently, which I 100% do not recommend for smaller artists, even bigger artists sometimes can’t get away with surprise drops. But Taylor Swift is a rockstar of our generation and can totally get away with it. 

So sometimes there may be stuff that isn’t applicable to you, but there’s definitely a lot of stuff that can be applied.

Up Your Aesthetics

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: one of the best ways to stand out is to up the quality of your content. The quality of your promo photos, your videos, your lyric videos, visualizers, – all of your aesthetics that go along with your music.

The better quality your aesthetics are, the better the impression your music is going to make. It’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things where a lot of local artists or bands get caught in the trap of settling for something mediocre because the other local bands don’t photos or videos that really “wow” you. So they opt to save the money and just get something that is… adequate. 

I’m not saying that you have to spend a lot of money to get high-quality stuff, but you do have to spend a little bit of money. If you’re just paying a couple hundred dollars for a video clip I can’t imagine that that will be up to 2020 standards. 

Play Your Strengths

For those who don’t know, I’m a marketing and release strategy consultant for up-and-coming bands, typically in the heavy/ alternative genres. I help bands plan their releases or their marketing, I come on as a consultant for (usually 3 months) and guide them through the process so that they can get the absolute most out of their new music. 

You can spend all the money in the world on a great video, great recordings, you can write the best songs in the world, but if no one hears it there’s absolutely no point. So that’s what I do: I help artists get their music out into the world as effectively as possible.

When I started my business I didn’t know anyone that was doing what I wanted to do. I didn’t know anyone that wanted to coach bands in marketing, release strategy, social media, branding, and that sort of thing. I had no one to kind of look up to and be like “I want to do that”, but I did have all this knowledge from my experiences. I have a 7-year background in music journalism, I used to have a day-job as a digital marketer, plus I’d also been in a band that started to break through that glass ceiling and get some really cool opportunities and industry interest. 

With all these powers combined, I wanted to help other bands break through as well. 

But when I first started, I didn’t have any mentors within the industry to tell me that I was doing a good job. This was purely stuff that I’d learned, then trialed and tested, or information that I’d gotten from going to industry events and networking with people. 

I put faith in myself and what I knew I could do, even though I never had a mentor to guide me or validate my work. I really had to back myself and put myself out on a limb in order to kind of pursue the path that I wanted to pursue, which was to help local bands reach the next level. 

You’ve Gotta Back Yourself

It can be really scary when you try something new or start standing out from the crowd. Other artists may even look at you and think “who the fuck do they think they are?” but at the end of the day, you have to back yourself. 

I’m telling you now if you compare yourself to other people you are doomed to fail. The only person I compare myself to is myself. I know the standards that I am capable of. No one knows what you’re capable of except for you, so don’t compare yourself to another band in the local scene or another business. 

Because I backed myself I’m now at the point where the bands that I’ve worked with have gotten Spotify play listings, signed management deals, booking agency deals, or labels. They’ve significantly increased their presence on social media and are absolutely absolutely slaying it. 

In the past year, I’ve had so many of my colleagues within the music industry, managers, and people that I looked up to (people I was actually little bit scared of what they might think of me) reach out to me just congratulate and encourage me. I got on the Daily Music Business podcast and the Jabberjaw Media network which is an incredible milestone and a huge validation. 

But I would have never gotten any of that if I didn’t first back myself. 

Be your own competition

The point of this episode is really just to let you know that if you want to stand out you have to be a leader. You have to think outside the box and the only competition that you have is yourself cause only you know your potential.

If your band wants to work with me on your next release, hit me up via email too on Instagram.

If you’re interested in being a part of the beta round of my new business coaching program, hit me up at contact@monicastrut.com! 

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