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What Bands Who Broke Up Made Me Realize

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Most music companies around America participated in #TheShowMustBePaused movement and gave their employees the day off to do THE WORK. But some did not.  Last Saturday I attended the Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in Los Angeles. It was very inspiring. For the first hour in Pan Pacific Park right by CBS studios and The Grove (and Canter’s Deli - my favorite), we listened to speeches by black community members. Namely, we heard from family members of people who had been killed by the LAPD and have yet to see justice. We all said their names together over and over again. There were so many names I didn’t know. 
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

I’m sitting at home listening to bands I love who broke up before the world realized their brilliance. I knew it. The local scene knew it. Some even had major record deals. Some got their album out to the world. And some were “shelved” until they broke up. See, signing to a major label doesn’t guarantee success – despite what your uncle Joe thinks. In fact, you have a better chance of succeeding on your own than with a major. Over 98% of acts that sign to major labels fail. Meaning, 98% of new acts don’t recoup the costs of their advance (if they even get an album out) and get dropped and they inevitably break up before anyone knew who they were.


If you want a chance at quick superstardom, yeah, a major is how you do (did) it. But this is changing. We’re changing it. Within the next 5 years we will start to see more and more self made stars. We’ve already seen it in the YouTube world. In fact, the most influential figures among Americans 13-18 are names you’ve probably never heard of – because they’ve all made their names on YouTube. Acts like Smoosh, Ryan Higa KSI and The Fine Bros rank above Katy Perry and Jennifer Lawrence in popularity.

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But they’re not household names….yet. The labels and the old guard still have lots of power and control. But it’s changing. Millennials navigate the new industry quicker and more effectively than international conglomerate corporations could ever dream of. This new generation of creators are leap frogging the very organizations they thought were the keys to success. And these gigantic corporations just can’t pivot fast enough. Too much red tape. Too much money at stake.


But when you have nothing to lose you can take risks and chances and reinvent yourself over and over again.


Everything is so transparent these days. If you don’t play by the new rules you will be left behind by acts who do. Acts who feed their fans as they expect to be fed. It’s not enough to just put out great music anymore. I’m literally listening to great music that has changed my life more than Bob Dylan, more than the Beatles and more than all the other obvious players. But you’ve never heard of these acts because they tried to play by the old rules. They thought putting out great music was all you needed to succeed in this industry. They thought signing a record deal was the key to success.


Am I upset? You’re fucking right I’m upset. These bands deserve much more fame, acknowledgement and accolades than most of the crap on top 40. These were true artists who cared more about their art than success. They created brilliant art that affected a few lives on an incredibly deep level. They are the reason I am the artist I am today. And they are part of the reason I started Ari’s Take. I don’t want any more brilliant art to go unappreciated. To go unknown. Great art deserves to succeed.


So if you’re creating great art. And you believe in it. You have to work hard to make sure it gets out. There is so much noise out there that breaking through is now more difficult than ever. Just because you can put your album on Spotify, iTunes and YouTube doesn’t mean anything anymore. Everyone can do it. And just because you’re great, doesn’t mean people will find you.


You have to work harder than everyone else. You have to surround yourself with honest, hard working, dedicated, and trustworthy people who are just as passionate about your project as you are. It’ll first be fans. Those fans turn into friends. Those friends turn into co-workers. And if you’re lucky, those co-workers help propel you to the success you deserve.


Eventually you will get to the point where every major player in the industry is BEGGING to work with you. Wait for that. Don’t jump at the first person who spouts some impressive accolades at you because you’re tired of waiting or tired of working. Want to know a little secret? The work never stops. It just changes and evolves.


See, the thing is, when you put out great music and put on great live shows, you affect people on a level you may not understand just yet. These people may never make themselves known. But know that there are a few in the back row having a spiritual experience at your show. There are those at home on their beds with headphones streaming your album on Spotify. There are those who are so excited to share your music with co-workers. These are your fans. Respect them. Honor them. Feed them with more great music, photos, snaps, videos, Likes, Retweets and hugs. Build your army fan by fan.


Don’t hand off your art to a money hungry corporation (or person) who doesn’t care about you. It’s better to go at it on your own a little longer and grow a bit slower than buy a lottery ticket for fame and fortune. Control your destiny.


Photo is by Mike Minehart

About the Author

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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