Chatter: Carl Verheyen - The "Now What?" Factor

Set Your Goals Before Your Project Even Begins
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Michael Bloomfield didn’t sleep when he was recording an album. He would have slept even less if he was living today and had to promote and market his own releases.

Set Your Goals Before Your Project Even Begins

IN THIS DAY AND AGE OF social networking and YouTube, there seems to be no boundaries to a musician’s sphere of influence. Factor in direct contact between artists and audiences for those acts that go on tour regularly, and you can build quite a nice fan base. For example, I’ve been fortunate enough to reach musicians all around the globe, and, as a result, many fellow guitarists and singer-songwriters have asked me to produce their CDs. But before accepting any production gig, I run through two essential questions.

The first one is, “Do I like the music?” I need to consider whether I feel the songs are worthy of recording, and if the music is something I really want to spend my energy, expertise, and time on. After all, helping an artist document his or her best songs, arrangements, and studio performances as their producer is a major commitment on so many levels.

The second question is, “Is this artist different enough from all the other guitarists or singer-songwriters out there? If an artist doesn’t have something unique to say, then my interest level typically wanes. No sense on spending valuable time doing something that has already been done to death, right?

If the answer to my two self-posed questions is “yes,” then it’s my turn to ask the artist a question that involves what I call the “Now What?” factor—something I find very few new musicians ever give any thought to.

It’s really a simple, yet critical query: “Now that you’ve written the songs, spent time with a producer to arrange them, rehearsed with your band, booked studio time, tracked the basics, hired musicians to overdub the rest of the instruments, cut the lead vocals or lead melodic instrument, mixed the tracks, remixed the tracks, sequenced and mastered for CD and/or vinyl, conceived the album cover, done the photo session, completed the layout and design, and finished pressing the final product— now what?”

After all, the day will finally arrive when you have 1,000 or more copies of your new release boxed up in your garage or residing in various online stores. How do you plan on recouping your investment? How will you promote it? What strategies do you have in place that will enable you to monetize this music that you’ve worked so hard on? How will you get it out there? In short, now what?

Remember, the creative part—the writing and recording of your music—is often hard, but it’s also fun and fulfilling. Michael Bloomfield, one of my favorite guitarists, couldn’t sleep when he was involved in a project. Although I don’t subscribe to using the drugs he used, I can relate to his insomnia. In the midst of a recording project, the music is running through my brain non-stop. During the recording phase of the project, we live the songs 24/7. But as great as it is to create good music, the real hard work will begin in phase two, when you have to become a music business person, and promote, market, strategize, and build an audience—and a revenue stream—for your finished product. So unless you plan to spend significant time, energy, and dollars making something that never leaves those boxes in your garage, I highly recommend that you address the “Now What?” factor before you even write your first song.

Carl Verheyen is a critically-acclaimed, Grammy-nominated guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, producer, clinician, educator, and tone master with 12 CDs, two live DVDs, and two books released worldwide.