Alas, we reach the end of Muze’s “The 10 People Musicians Need On Their Side” series, and of course, the show must go on. Everything we’ve explored over the past few months has been nothing short of crucial expertise and advice from professionals in the business who want the best for you and your bandmates, so be sure to refer back to some of this stuff as you trudge your way to the top. Still, we have one more person of interest that we need to discuss before we lay this saga to rest: the collaborator.
Thus far, Gerard Longo and I have covered a lot of ground, and some things I’m going to unpack might sound slightly redundant, but the bottom line is that these are details you can and should apply to everyone who appears eligible for some form of collaboration with you. Whether you’re cowriting, shadowing, or booking/performing shows together, you’re going to run into a lot of people on the Muze app, and some people are going to stand out above the others.
No matter who you’re looking to meet (a bassist, a drummer, a producer, a manager…), there are certain constants to keep an eye out for that denote distinct value and a solid work ethic. Why waste your time with anybody who doesn’t exhibit such things?
Company You Keep
Remember when you were growing up and your mother was always cautious about the company you kept? She wanted to make sure you weren’t hanging out with troublemakers (or becoming a troublemaker yourself). Well, she was right to do so. If you hang out with the burn out kids, you’re going to become a burnout, and make no mistake, even as a grown adult, there is no shortage of burnouts in the world. The only difference is that there’s not an army of teachers, parents, and babysitters criticizing their every move and punishing them for their bad decisions. Instead, they’re doomed to live with the aftermath of their own choices, and so do you. Don’t be a burnout.
It should go without saying that surrounding yourself with wholesome go-getters who have their lives together is a far better option. Good collaborators who are worthy of your time offer encouragement, inspiration, friendship, and an overall sense of growth and mutual respect. The best ones will also hold you accountable and provide healthy criticism when it’s needed. If you’d rather substantiate the bulk of your company with people who like to drink all night and sleep all day, that’s on you. Really, this principle speaks for itself.
A few things to keep at the forefront of your quest:
All In The Neighborhood
Let’s start at the base level. Muze allows you to set your location and adjust the maximum distance in order to narrow down your search – just like with Tinder or Hinge. It probably goes without saying, but the closer your collaborators are to your permanent location, the better. For example, I live in Nashville, so options for excellent musicians on Muze are virtually endless and they are rarely more than 15 minutes away.
However, if your living conditions are a bit more rural, you’ll want to make sure that whomever you’re deciding to take up with isn’t any more than 45 minutes away from you (give or take). Otherwise, it just becomes a cumbersome burden to try and meet consistently enough to actually get something done.
Of course, this entirely depends upon what role this person is playing in your life of music. If it’s a stellar producer who is sure to knock your songs out of the park, a series of scheduled visits are definitely worth the trip. On the other hand, if it’s a prospective band member whose presence is bound to be more consistent and indefinite, cut your losses and look for someone closer to home.
I’m no stock broker, but I know a thing or two about how money plays into your relationships within the musical world. Some simple rules on when to pay your collaborators:
First off, DO NOT pay someone to teach you how to write songs. While controversial, my years of experience has shown that this is never necessary (bear in mind that this also gives them a default writing credit). The most effective songwriting techniques you’ll learn will be in those casual scenarios where you and another person agree to link up one afternoon and see what you come up with. I once met a guy who offered a “songwriting service” of sorts that cost hundreds of dollars and gave little back in the way of real expertise. If you run into someone on the Muze app who says they want to schedule a writing date and then they follow it up with a series of prices/time slots, move on. It’s not worth your time or money.
- For more Muze songwriting tips, click here
However, you should ALWAYS pay engineers, visual artists, or managers. They possess an ability you do not and you are unlikely to learn without paying for some intensive crash course/equipment to take care of it yourself.
Also, if you’re hiring a band to play your own music, be prepared to shell out a few bucks. That’s standard. On the other hand, if you’re part of a band that collectively meets and has a common goal, you’ll all make money when you ALL make money. If your bass player is demanding compensation every time you play or practice and he considers your band to be his own, find someone else. Unreasonable demands are most always rooted in ego or desperation, neither of which you should tolerate.
As your relationships develop and you become closer with different people in the industry, you’ll find that prices are negotiable and your associates will be willing to help you out. It’s a constant cycle of give and take, and money is an inevitable part of the equation.
Goals, Goals, Goals
It’s crucial to align yourself with people who share a common vision with you. For instance, if you’re looking to start a folk band and your drummer has aspirations of starting his own metal project in the spectrum of things, consider looking for someone who is more devoted to your own creative endeavors.
That’s not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t collaborate with people with different tastes, but understand that everyone has goals, and if someone’s ultimate goal is separate than your own, be prepared to part ways with that person in some degree or another after enough time. However, great musicians are great musicians, so keep those connections in case you need a stand in or a session player for temporary purposes.
This is true in the immediate sense as well. Let’s say you meet a producer who specializes in pop, but you’re a prog rock guy. Sometimes, the creative visions just don’t line up and both of you are more accustomed to staying in your own aesthetic lane. That’s okay. Just have an honest and open talk about what you realistically want to achieve in any prospect and you’ll save yourself an unwanted lapse in partnership later on.
Pro Tip: ask someone you run into on the Muze app where they want to be in five years. That’s always a solid base topic to start a conversation – and maybe even a collaborative relationship.
Where Credit Is Due
Someone can beef up their Muze profile with fancy photos and images of themselves standing in high end studios with expensive instruments, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have much to offer. Whereas presentation is definitely important (we also discussed this), take your vetting seriously. Do they really have 10,000 monthly Spotify listeners? Have they really toured the country three times? Do other people in your community know who they are? Can they actually play that $5,000 Gibson Les Paul they’re posing with?
Of course, some of these truths inevitably won’t come to pass until you actually meet with someone and try to create art together, but there are preliminary measures you can take as well.
Definitely take a look at their social media. If they really are everything they claim to be, they’ll likely be posting about it, and you’ll also see if you have friends in common whom you can follow up with and ask any questions about that person you may have.
Again, this is also related to goals. If they have the same drive and potential for growth as you, it’ll quickly become apparent. If it all checks out, ask them to meeting up and getting a feel for one another.
Just a few more things that might keep good people in your corner:
- Are they available consistently enough?
- What’s their lifestyle like?
- Do they not answer their phone until 4pm most days because they’re up all night and they sleep all day?
- Do they come to support you at your shows after you come support them at theirs?
- Are they actually trying to develop a relationship or are they just trying to use you to get closer to someone else in your circle?
- Are they trustworthy?
- Will they show up for a gig or drop out at the last minute to hop on stage with an act they find more promising?
You get the idea.