So, you’ve got a band, or maybe just some songs you play all by your lonesome. We’ll assume you’re not doing this just for kicks. Most creative endeavours begin as private explorations, but eventually you realize that to breathe life into a project, it has to be acknowledged by the outside world. You have to rip that heart out of your ribcage and thrust it, bloody and beating, into the culture, with hopes of it connecting somehow, somewhere, with someone. It may even be that making music is what you love most, and want to do for the rest of your life.
Another assumption: you’re not headed for major labels and stadium rock stardom, but the indie circuit—which, in the age of Feist, the New Pornographers and Chad vanGaalen doesn’t necessarily mean small potatoes.
One last assumption: quality songwriting and music-making comes first.
“There’s never enough money and tons of competition, and that’s a lot of pressure,” cautions Mark Feduk. Over a dozen years, the songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has been in several projects, including dearly departed country-roots stompers the Uncas. Feduk was the Uncas’ de facto manager and now oversees Edmontone Studio and the career of Doug Organ (the Whitsundays, Wet Secrets and more), while nurturing his own band, Red Ram (also with Organ).
“A band is four or five people with different goals and lives—obviously, you want to have fun, but if you decide it’s a career, at least for a time, lay out the plan and make sure everyone’s committed for that time,” Feduk advises. “Watch those relationships; take care of them. It’s easy to have hurt feelings for something you care about and worked hard on break up.”
He also recommends hitching responsibilities to bandmates. “Figure out each person’s strengths,” he says. “Not everyone’s the manager type. You need someone willing to work the crowd when you play. Figure out who the techie or mechanic is. Who can keep travel arrangements straight? One Uncas was a great cook—on tour, he’d make sandwiches in the back of the van and a healthy meal from a rice cooker in our rooms at night. That saved us time and money. Look beyond the obvious.”
Ok, you have songs, relationships and roles. Now what?
“While you’re playing shows, you’re recording demos or an EP, writing grants, building your mailing list, doing research, talking to media—everything has to be happening at the same time,” Feduk emphasizes.
We picked Feduk’s brain, along with those of independent producer Terry Tran (Shout Out Out Out Out, Theresa Sokyrka, Social Code) and publicist/manager Ken Beattie (his Vancouver-based company, Killbeat, works with several Canadian labels and artists), for advice on how to approach a career through three broad categories: gigging, recording and promoting. (Vue also threw in, where applicable.)
Continue this story in these 3 articles about the surviving the music industry: