20 Things You Should Know About You (The Artist)
For most of us, being on stage is easy, fun, and relatively stress free… at least when all the equipment is working, ticket sales are good, the crowd is having fun, the band is sober, there is a good engineer, and all the cables on stage are taped down so I (I mean you) trip and break my (I swear I mean your) Gibson headstock again. It’s really when we are off stage, on air, or on camera that we trip up and trade our cool smooth demeanor for an insecure quirky one.
I highly recommend grabbing a piece of paper and pencil and writing down your answers to these questions. Rewrite them. Commit these answers to memory and you will become a rockstar even when you are offstage.
THE BASICS ABOUT YOU:
This stuff is easy, but I see people trip up on it all the time.
1. What’s your stage name?
Are you Mike & Kelly? Kelly & Mike? Kelly B. & Mike? It doesn’t matter, but it does need to be consistent.
2. Where do you live?
Hopefully this is an easy question.
3. Where did you grow up?
If you moved from city to city like me, pick one city or a creative way to explain your traveling quickly. You are at the beginning of an interview here. The more time you take on this question leaves less time for the good stuff.
4. Who are your influences?
Pick a few, three to five, not 20. Have a longer answer to one in particular. Example: “My influences are Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, and my favorite… nothing’s better than pulling out my guitar and playing a little Stevie Ray.”
5. Why did you move to Nashville? How is Nashville? (or LA, Austin, New York, London, etc.)
Keep this about the positive aspects of your experience. Don’t turn this into a negative. Think of this like a show. The person asking this question is requesting you play something upbeat and rocking. Don’t turn this moment into a ballad.
THE BASICS ABOUT YOUR MUSIC
6. Do you play covers or originals?
If you are the spirited artist that writes originals about everything in your life including brushing your teeth and going to Wal-Mart, this is not the time to trash cover bands. Just say you love to play your originals.
7. What genre is your music?
Again, think before you speak. Your music is not a mix between country, pop, blues, folk, and Armenian rock. If one of your band members plays spoons, you are probably “Americana.” Simplicity is best.
8. What’s the instrumentation of your music?
Simple. Call it how they see it, not how you imagine it.
9. Have you recorded an album?
If you are in the process of recording, talk a little about this. I would still recommend writing it out first, so you have bullet points. If your album is "old", or if you feel it doesn't represent who you are now, don't apologize for it. The moment an album is made, it's in the past. Usually, everyone but the brooding artist understands this.
10. Which platforms can we find your music?
Please don’t list all the platforms. Pick two or three that are easy and that you want to focus on. “You can hear our music on Sirius Satellite Radio, Pandora, and you can purchase our music from iTunes.”
THE BASICS ABOUT YOUR SHOW
11. How long have you been touring professionally?
There’s been debate about this. Just don’t lie. These all may be true:
- I’ve been playing for 10 years.
- The bands been together for 3 years.
- We’ve been touring regionally for 2 years.
Pick one and stick with it.
12. Where do you tour?
Short and sweet. 2-3 areas is sufficient.
13. Do you every come to ____ city?
Ok. When someone at a show asks you this, they want you to say yes. This city is close to them. If you don’t play in this city yet, get their name and phone number. They will be able to tell you all the venues that you would be good to play at. This is a fantastic way to break into a new market. Please don’t ever say, “No, we never go that far West.”
14. How much do you charge for a show?
This is a difficult question, something that you need to decide amongst your powers-that-be. What ever the proper answer is, write it down. In fact, have it in a contract. Know your numbers, be confident in your numbers, and be prepared to say no when someone offers your scraps instead of a main course.
15. Do you have a manager/booking agent/label?
Simple stuff. If the answer is no, say it with a smile.
THE BASICS ABOUT CURIOUSITY
16. Is that a Taylor/Martin?
This is not a guitar question. This is someone who is interested in you. Take 5 seconds to answer this question, and ask a question back. For instance, “This guitar is actually a Stonebridge, I had it built for me last year. Do you play guitar too?” Conversations like this will increase your hard core fan base.
17. What do you do for your day job?
This is not an insult. At least, it’s not meant to be. If someone asks this, they are from the tribe of people who work 9-5 jobs and collect a salary for their effort. They just don’t understand the artist breed. They are curious. Keep calm and carry on.
18. How do you make your money?
This is a time sucker of a question. I am happy to answer this for people, but not at a show or next to the merch table. If I’m at the merch table, I politely say “By selling merch. Here’s our newest CD.”
Even away from the merch table, this question is too in depth for most people. They just want to hear a simple answer. So for everyones sake, keep it short.
19. What are your goals?
Ah! The most confounding question ever! Most musicians don’t even have a good answer for this. People ask this a lot, and it doesn’t need to be a huge philosophical question. Don’t think big picture. Here’s a good answer: “This venue was great, we’d like to find a couple more like it within 100 miles.”
20. Why haven’t you “made it” yet?
Grrr. Good luck. My answer is simply that music has provided us a sustainable career, and we are satisfied with our progress. (rant avoided)
Danika Holmes wrote a blog specifically on this question. Click here to check it out.
Think like a PR person. You have an image. You can only sell your image when it's consistent. Try to keep in mind that people want to like you. If people ask you questions, they want the answers to be in your favor. Stay positive, polite, and focused. Now, go be a rockstar!